Tag Archives: carsick cars

Far Out Distant Sounds in New Zealand: Interview with Ricky Maymi

Owing to the wondrous power of the innernette, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ricky Maymi for a few years now. Known to many as guitarist of the notoriously volatile Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Imajinary Friends, Maymi is also synonymous with the promotion of Chinese indie rock abroad, specifically the Beijing bands that emerged in the late-2000s and have since taken off in a cloud of cigarette smoke on Maybe Mars.

I first came across him when I was living as a student in Beijing, astray in the #wednesdayfreeshotsforladies, all you can drink KTV, shopping mall wasteland of Wudaokou, which post-D22 had become a cultural black hole. Beyond the Katy Perry club remixes, I was ecstatic to discover some of the city’s most cherished acts such as Hedgehog, P.K.14 and Carsick Cars on websites such as Josh Feola’s pangbianr, Tenzenmen, and of course Ricky’s blog Far Out Distant Sounds. Even better, all these bands were just hanging out downtown. Salvation.

Years on, in collaboration with Genjing Records all round GC Nevin Domer (who I met at Carb on Carb and God Bows to Math’s Beijing show in 2013), Far Out Distant Sounds has developed into a distribution, promotion and touring agency for some of Beijing’s finest acts.

We’re comrades as such, music nerds that geek out about Chinese indie rock on the internet all day. As such, it was only a matter of time he was featured here on Kiwese. There just had to be something… remotely… relevant… to New Zeal… oh, yes, here it is!!

Birdstriking from Beijing are in New Zealand this week playing two shows in Auckland on Friday 17 February and Wellington on Saturday 18 February.

birdstriking-tu
Birdstriking @ 凹 Club, Guangzhou, Sept 2015. Photo: Kiwese.

The jewel of the Maybe Mars crown, this triple guitar, noise-punk five-piece have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, releasing their banned in China album Birdstriking (2012) on Anton Newcombe’s label A Recordings and heading abroad to tour the U.S. and UK alongside the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

As remote as you can get, New Zealand seems to be the optimal next stop for Far Out Distant Sounds, meaning things finally seem to be heading south for Chinese indie rock – and I mean that in a purely geographic sense.

We caught up with Ricky to find out more about Birdstriking’s Australian / NZ tour, how he got involved with the Chinese music scene and whether he likes pies or not.

Spoiler: Ricky Maymi loves pies. Thank god.

12112259_10154267038438835_5360853433422976160_n
Ricky with his son, Otis. Image courtesy of Ricky Maymi.

KIWESE: Where are you right now?

RICKY MAYMI: I’m in South Fremantle, Western Australia. Visiting with my son, Otis and producing an album for a guy named Michael Savage. I’m pretty sure if he was from NZ, Flying Nun would be all over him! He’s got elements of Shayne Carter and Andrew Brough (Straitjacket Fits), David Pine and Matthew Bannister (Sneaky Feelings), James Milne (Lawrence Arabia) and a touch of maybe Alasdair Maclean (The Clientele)… This is our second time making an album of his together. The first one is called Used To Write. Look it up!

Maymi is an interesting surname, where is it from, can you talk a bit about your heritage?

It’s a Corsican name, though my Father was from Nicaragua. He was the kind of guy that shouldn’t be talked about too much, if you know what I mean…?

They made a movie about one of his old business partners, George Jung, entitled Blow. The one with Johnny Depp. Anyhow… I’ve heard there are also Maymi’s in Russia.

You are from San Fran. What was it like growing up there, how did you first “get into music”?

It was always a diverse environment, in every way, in the 20th century. I was raised to be an open minded, accepting person and in SF it would completely work against you to be any other way.

My uncle, Vince Welnick was in a legendary SF band called The Tubes (famous for “White Punks On Dope” and “Don’t Touch Me There.”) He would always be coming back from places like Japan or Europe after touring with someone like David Bowie or The Stranglers and him and my aunt Laurie would always have exotic toys and gifts and cassettes like Hunky Dory (Bowie) or Country Life (Roxy Music) for me and the family – and this obviously made a lasting impression. Vince later joined Todd Rundgren’s band, and The Grateful Dead after that.

My other uncle, Ed Dorn was also a working musician who had played in some fantastic bands like Zolar X and The Aurora Pushups (later The Pushups) and he went on to work on studio projects for bands like True West and many other Bay Area greats. Ed had me listening to things like Bill Nelson and The Human League back in the very early 80’s.

563181_10151702557603835_1986956270_n
Young Ricky (right) and friend. Circa 1981. Image courtesy of Ricky Maymi.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in SF through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s
I believe I caught the tail end of a great cultural renaissance of the 20th century.”

My mother was a huge Beatles fan so there was also no avoiding the British Invasion bands for me as a young child. Her partner after my father is a real folk music lover and exposed me to Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Paul Simon and all the rest. He also has a huge appreciation for classical music, so I had a fairly well rounded musical upbringing.

I also played Clarinet, Saxophone and Double Bass in school from an early age.

Prior to getting hooked on Chinese indie music, what kind of awareness and exposure to Chinese culture did you have? I know there is a deep-rooted Chinese community in San Fran and a huge Chinatown.

chinatown-panoramio
San Francisco’s Chinatown, view to Oakland Bay Bridge. Image: Panoramio.

Looking back, I had very little knowledge before getting involved with the music scene in China and visiting there, which I have now done several times. All of my life in SF I’d always been drawn to Chinatown – for the food, the art, the people and the culture. Some of the most beautiful people on Earth. A glimpse in to another, older world.

In college in SF I was exposed to more of the history of Chinese American culture through either my theatre classes or my writing classes.

How did Far Out Distant Sounds come about and what was your inspiration for starting it? Does it basically operate as a booking agency/distro for Maybe Mars?

It started as a scrapbook style blog (www.faroutdistantsounds.com), with links to hear the music – just somewhere one could go online and get a sense of what was happening. Not a comprehensive list of Chinese indie bands but a good selection of the stuff that interested me enough to investigate further… Like a gateway drug.

I had hoped the blog would inspire people to do the same, and to some degree, it appears to have done that.

13051521_10154754840108835_5757942203483686058_n
Ricky with Birdstriking, 2016. Photo courtesy of Ricky Maymi.

What do you look for as a US-based promoter of Chinese talent and how do you go searching for it, with the firewall and all, and various language barriers?

I am not exactly US-based. I’m Earth-based. Also, there is no real scouting going on from my end. I work closely with Maybe Mars in Beijing and when they have a new release to promote and a band they want to tour outside of China, I become involved through a more organic process as this is all done out of love, admiration and respect.

“Everyone involved understands that this movement is distinctly, extraordinarily significant.”

My main focus has been Birdstriking, Chui Wan, Carsick Cars, White+ and Gate To Otherside. Just a handful of the acts on Maybe Mars.

How often do you come to China? Had you visited China prior to being exposed to bands like Skip Skip Ben Ben, Birdstriking and P.K.14 in 2012?

I had never been to China before 2015. I have been there four times now. Can’t wait to go back! I would absolutely live there if I could – I am in love with Beijing!

Beijing is political centre of China and the undisputed mecca for indie music. How do you view this relationship between politics and alternative music?

It definitely plays a hand in informing the artist’s way forward. Gives them something to rail against, but they don’t do that in obvious, trite ways. They are more clever than that…

What’s your personal connection with NZ? 

My first trip to NZ was in February, 2008. I was visiting Shayne Carter, who I had become good friends with after his band Dimmer toured with my band in the US. He arranged for us to go to Dunedin as he knew how much the music from there had meant to me. I got to see Martin Phillipps play a solo set in the park at midday by surprise. I got to know Robbie Yeats and stayed with Graeme Downes for a few days. Caught up with some folks I had already come to know in America, David Kilgour and Bob Scott. I got to see Bachelorette, Die! Die! Die! and Ned Collette all for the first time. Also heard Lawrence Arabia for the first time. It was an epic visit! I had an amazing time and every moment was like walking through a dream.

I’ve been back several times since, mostly to tour with BJM, but once with Steve Kilbey from The Church. Him and I went to Napier as well as Dunedin to perform in addition to Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

I’ve had the odd relationship with women from NZ as well. Unfortunately, it’s always been just that… Odd! Small country… 😉

Do you like pies?

I, of course, love pies!

In an interview with Slinkrat in 2013, you said “Unlike the rest of the world, [Chinese indie rock] isn’t preoccupied with fitting in to something pre-existing in the entertainment world, which is why it reminds me of Flying Nun in the 80’s.” How do you respond when critics say Chinese indie bands are just imitating Western rock standards, something that could never be directed at Flying Nun bands?

Well, they clearly aren’t listening closely enough and they are judging through the context/filter of Western standards which simply do not apply here.

It’s a bit of passive-aggressive, xenophobic elitism playing in to that perspective as well. Alan McGee said himself that there is no such thing as Chinese rock. So did the NOFX dude. They clearly do not know what the hell they are talking about, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. They see it the way they want/need to see it to suit whatever agenda they have – that’s fine because enough people know otherwise.

“Even The Beatles had to start somewhere, the most innovative pop band on Earth were covering Chet Atkins and Motown hits of the day when they started.”

The bands from China I work with have obvious Western influences such as Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, modern composers and experimental music.

None of these kids had the luxury of “growing up” with the Beatles or Bowie the way I did, for example. Or the critics, for that matter and that’s what they need to understand when critiquing this stuff.

Context. It’s from another world. You could hand the same influences to a Western band and they will never come up with the melodies Chui Wan or Birdstriking come up with.

Or have the sonic, aesthetic sensibility of Zhang Shouwang (Carsick Cars, White+), because they are a product of a different world who’s culture is largely unknown to the Western masses.

They aren’t really thinking about it enough or taking these prime factors in to consideration, so I believe their criticisms are lazy and uninformed.

I guess an extension of the above question, and I may be projecting here, but in the past, Chinese acts that get chosen to play internationally are ones that possess some kind of quintessential Chinese characteristics recognizable by international audiences or purveyors of “world” music. Those who do not fill this oriental role are labelled imitators of Western music. Comment.

Again, lazy journalism. The safer stuff that is a truer representation of pure, traditional Chinese culture is always going to be prioritized and given the green light for grants funding or government approval. There is nothing subversive about it. Overtly, if at all. It will be more easily accepted in the West because it doesn’t compete with Western art in any way. Its it’s own thing.

Again, the views of these so-called critiques on Chinese rock stem from a Western Capitalist (capitalism=racism) perspective. The white man lives in fear of China, period. Think about it…. That is one reason I love doing this. Challenge what it is people believe they know about an entire culture that they actually are too afraid and pre-programmed to ever learn anything about. Everyone is mad at China for buying everything up but no one is getting mad at the people pushing the product.

God forbid those evil Chinese would take a Western folk-art (rock music) and serve it back in a fresh, not jaded, more intriguing way. It’s just impossible, right? Wrong! 😉

Tell us about your relationship with Birdstriking. Do you remember the first time you heard them, or saw them live?

I  first heard them in Melbourne in August 2012 with my friends Julian Wu and Shayne Carter. Julian is a Chinese Australian and he had just returned from China with a suitcase full of CDs of all these great Chinese bands. Shayne and I happened to be both staying at Julian’s at the time. It really struck us how much Birdstriking had this 3D’s/Die! Die! Die! thing going on!

I first started to communicate with Wang Xinjiu from Birdstriking around this time. He was on Facebook and was studying in Cardiff, so no firewall. After being in touch with Maybe Mars and helping them to sell a bit of stock in SF, they asked me to help set up shows for Carsick Cars, White+ and The Gar in SF and LA. We did this and it went over pretty well.

At the time, Birdstriking’s vocalist, He Fan was also playing bass for Carsick Cars. He was the first one I met in person. In 2014, Carsick Cars were booked to open for Brian Jonestown Massacre in the UK. Shouwang was ill at the time and couldn’t make it, so we had Birdstriking take their place. This was advantageous as Birdstriking’s album, which was banned from release in China for it’s lyrical content was licensed by BJM’s label and his since been properly released worldwide (excluding China) on A Recordings on CD and vinyl.

Since then, I’ve booked and tour managed an extensive North American tour for Birdstriking in 2015. I went back to Beijing in ’15 and ’16  and produced Birdstriking’s new, upcoming album to be released this year.

It is very exciting, a Chinese band playing in NZ without representing the Embassy or playing at a Chinese cultural festival covered in bank branding! How did this Australia/NZ tour come about? Can we consider it a recon mission for future tours?

Talk to Andrew from Die! Die! Die! – they’ve just recently toured in China with Birdstriking. When I was in Auckland in December having lunch with him and Mikey telling them about the AU dates, they offered to help with NZ. Now it’s all happening. Bless ’em! They are solid guys and kindred spirits. BJM were lucky enough to play some gigs with them in Europe in mid 2008.

00016a
Die! Die! Die! play NU SPACE, Chengdu, Sep 2016. GIF: c2.

Favourite Chinese acts at the mo?

Chui Wan, Carsick Cars, White+, Gate To Otherside, Dear Eloise, Mr Graceless, Duck Fight Goose, Streets Kill Strange Animals, Hedgehog, New Pants, Da Bang, Zhan Pan, Future Orients, Skip Skip Ben Ben, P.K.14... the list goes on and on…

Favourite NZ acts at the mo?   

Lawrence Arabia, Salad Boys, Surf City, Street Chant, Avoid!avoid, Prophet Hens, Shifting Sands, Bachelorette, Tiny Ruins. Then there’s all the more obvious ones. The new ones by Shayne Carter, The Bats, The Chills, I’m a long time fan of kiwi indie bands!

Are there any projects you are working on at the moment that you’d like to talk about?

My band The Imajinary Friends has a new album coming out this year featuring guest appearances by Marleen Nilsson (Death & Vanilla) and Stephen Lawrie (The Telescopes).

Also the other band I play in, Brian Jonestown Massacre, are about to release a new album as well.

Hoping to send Chui Wan, Gate To Otherside, Bedstars, Hiperson, Future Orients and Dream Can to the Southern Hemisphere over the next 18 months or so.

What advice would you give to bands (Chinese or otherwise) wanting to look outward, and/or tour internationally in future?

Create a demand for, and culture around your music and make friends with people in the places you want to play in ahead of time. People who can actually help you set up worthwhile shows. Your hometown is bottom priority.

Thanks and happy new year!

Same to you!


BIRDSTRIKING were one of the most important bands to emerge from the Chinese DIY scene based around the legendary D22 venue. The Noise Punk band have been likened to a Chinese Surf City, highlighted by their unflinching obsession with Sonic Youth and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Birdstriking will play only two shows in New Zealand before their Australian tour with label mates Carsick Cars.

birdstriking-nz-poster

2.17 BIRDSTRIKING W/ CARB ON CARB, DAILY KENO
@ GOLDEN DAWN, AUCKLAND

2.18 BIRDSTRIKING W/ PRIZEGIVING, MR AMISH
@ CAROLINE, WELLINGTON

TICKETS AT UNDERTHERADAR.CO.NZ for the OUTRAGEOUSLY 便宜 PRICE OF $7 A POP. GET IT.

Advertisements

Lest We Remember, Lest We Forget: Interview with Hiperson 海朋森

On a hot summer’s afternoon, the sound of birdsong and motorbike alarms chorus together in the warm air at Zaoshanghao on Democracy Road. 

Excitedly chattered about for the past few years and praised by Douban Music as “the true spirit of rock and roll” “amidst this increasingly conformist, fast-food generation,” Chengdu’s poetic post-punk band Hiperson greets you with their debut album No Need For Another History, out today on Maybe Mars!  

Surrounded by leafy green banana fronds and sunlit rooftops, Kiwese had the pleasure of catching up with vocalist Chen Sijiang, guitarists Liu Zetong and Li Yinan and drummer Wang Boqiang, four of the band’s five boys and girls, who exude the chill, friendly vibes of Chengdu.
Say “hi!” everyone!
在一个炎热的夏日午后,早上好民主路的暖空气中上充满了小鸟鸣叫声与摩托车汽笛声交相呼应而形成的交响乐。成都诗情般的朋克后乐队海朋森的首张专辑《不要别的历史》今天由兵马司唱片发行了。
 
唱片发行前的几年前,海朋森就被豆瓣音乐称赞为在 “在越来越模式化,快餐化的时代里,真正的摇滚精神。”
 
在被碧油油的香蕉叶与阳光照耀的老房子屋顶上,KIWESE有幸与主唱陈思江,吉他手刘泽同季一楠与鼓手王博强,与这个五人乐队里的四个成员一起,在成都轻松友好的城市氛围里聊天。
大家一起say“hi!”
Recorded last year in an underground car park with the legendary Yang Haisong of P.K 14, No Need For Another History includes new tracks and reworks of well-loved demos. Warm fuzzy riffs crash through curtains of amplifier feedback; young voices scream lyrics of a history, a past and a present, of leaving and returning; a state of memory and forgetting.

Hiperson are an exciting new band that will leave you feeling as Comfortably Numb as a Sichuan peppercorn.

海朋森去年在一个地下停车库里跟著名的P.K 14杨海崧录制了《不要别的历史》。在这部专辑里,包含了他们的新歌与一直备受欢迎的老歌重唱。这些歌曲后来是在一个排练室里录音完成并放在了豆瓣上的。历史就这样在反复的riff节奏里,在幕布后扩音器的回音里,在年轻的呼喊声里,在歌词里,在过去与现在的时空中离开又回来;并永远定格在了回忆与遗忘的空间。

可以说,海朋森乐队的歌曲就像四川著名的胡椒籽一样,能给你带来安逸的麻木感。
Hiperson in Chengdu: Ji Yinan (guitar), Wang Boqiang (drums), Liu Yitong (guitar), Huang Rentong (bass), Chen Sijiang (vocals). Photo courtesy of Hiperson.
Hiperson: Wang Boqiang (drums), Huang Rentao (bass) Li Yinan (guitar), Chen Sijiang (vocals), Liu Zetong (guitar). Photo courtesy of Hiperson.

Hiperson, hi!

HIPERSON: Hi! 

们乐队的名字有都意思,给一下。
The name 'Hiperson’ has a few meanings, how did it come about?

JI YINAN 季一楠我们一直想不到乐队取什么名字,然后突然想到这个名字因为当时才进大学的时候容易想很多事情,包括人和人之间的关系,然后发生在人生上的关系的一些事情 。Hiperson这个名字是描述一个你思考一个问题的角度,这样是在给person打招呼,感觉好像是另外一个非人类的东西在看一些人之间发生的事情。

We couldn’t think of a name for ages, then it suddenly came to us. We’d just started university, a time when you’re thinking about things like human relationships and events that occur in your life. The name describes the perspective you use when you are pondering a question; by saying ‘hi’ to ‘person’ it’s like a non-human entity viewing things that occur in the human realm.

所以我们有一个理念就是有很多事情如果跳出这个人的角度来看的话,他可能就会变化另外一件事情。 这样会得到很多不一样的答案,很丰富。

So our own philosophy behind it is that when examining particular issues, if you jump beyond a personal perspective you will be able to transform it into something else – you can find more answers, it will be more fulfilling.

LIU ZETONG 刘泽同第三方,God Vision. 

The third perspective. God Vision.

你可以给我们介绍 “海朋森”的中文名字?的“海”和的森有一种很自然的感是故意的And the Chinese name, Haipengsen 海朋森? The hǎi of hǎibiàn 海边 (ocean) and sēn of sēnlín 森林 (forest) has a nature vibe, was this deliberate?

LIU 刘:直接英译过来。是在一个开玩笑的环境里 !

It’s just a direct take from the English pronunciation, made up in a joking environment!

CHEN SIJIANG 陈思江: 然后选了几个字在排练室里。

Yeah, we just picked some characters in the practice room.

WATCH: Hiperson interview and performance of ‘He Made Up His Mind To Be a Tourist’ on The Sound Stage last year.

三年之前怎么开始?你们都在川音认识呢?
How did the band form three years ago? You guys all knew each other at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music?

LIU 刘最开始我跟吉他手季一楠是同学,我们两个人就一开始认识就很聊得来,然后我们想做一支乐队。我们找到一个鼓手跟贝斯,就是现在秘密行动的鼓手跟贝斯手。 然后老季他认识了陈思江,是经过朋友介绍的,然后我们就去她里玩儿,这样就慢慢的大家都在一块儿了。我们的贝斯手黄哥黄仁涛也是我们同学,我们就让她一起过来试一下。我们之前的鼓手是陈庆凯也是我们隔壁班的同学,后来因为一些其他的因素,他就没有跟我们一起做了。现在这个新鼓手王博强进来了,我们最早跟他认识是他跟另外一个朋友一起做了一个两个人的乐队。

It started out when Ji Yinan and I were classmates, we got talking and decided to start a band. We found a drummer bassist, who is now playing in Stolen (秘密行动). Then Ji Yinan found Chen Sijiang through a mutual friend, we went to her place and had a jam and it gradually came together from there. Our bassist ‘Tao Ge,’ Huang Rentao, was also our classmate, so we got her over to try out. Our previous drummer Chen Qingkai was too, but after a while some other stuff came up so he left. Now we have a new drummer Wang Boqiang, we knew him from another two-piece band.

CHEN 陈:我们是在同一个school, 然后我是另外一个油画学院,但我们在一个campus. 

We were all on the same campus and I majored in oil painting.

Hiperson
Image courtesy of Hiperson.
你们觉得正式的音乐教育是怎么影响你们的乐队?
Do you think having formal music education has influenced you as a band?

LIU 刘:我们反而没有受那种很正式的那种音乐的。。。

I wouldn’t say we’ve actually had a formal musical education…

CHEN 陈:因为他们都逃课!

Because you all ditched class!

JI 季:逃课的原因是因为学校里面的老师和教的那些课程都是和语文,数学,英语这些差不多。但是因为学院给我们还是会有一个环境,至少大家能够相互认识朋友。这个部分对我们的影响比知识和他教的东西可能意义更大一些。然后可能其他的都是依靠自己的兴趣去学自己喜欢的东西,自己了解,自己学习。

I think the reason we ditched class was that the teachers and classes were all Chinese, Maths, English and stuff. But in saying that, it gave us an environment where we could meet a lot of like-minded friends, and I think that has affected us more as a band than the actual classes. From there, it was more a case of relying on your own interests and working to understand them on your own terms.

去川音之前有没有自己搞音经验What kind of experience did you have with music before going to Music/Art School?

CHEN 陈:当时我觉得不算一个经验。我学了一个月吉他,因为我觉得好玩儿,就自己编了一些东西,然后放在豆瓣上,这就是我和他们为什么认识原因。那个时候就随意唱唱吗,胡唱,就编了一些,也没有学过。

I wouldn’t really consider it experience. I studied guitar for a month and thought it was fun, then wrote some songs and put them on Douban. That’s how I came to know these guys. Back then I was just randomly singing, just going with it, I never had training or anything.

JI 季:我是从初一的时候就开始,很神奇,因为我妈妈之前在电台在radio station 工作,然后她是管理那个碟库的, 专门放碟的仓库和磁带的tape 和CD的一个房子里面 。我初中的时候说我想学吉他嘛,然后她给了我一张CD的合辑,4AD的,是中文版的,上面配有很多CD乐队的介绍,歌词,照片,很好看那本书 。那个时候什么都不知道,就听了那张CD以后就想听更多的东西 。

I was in Junior High when I started playing guitar, it came about pretty miraculously. My mum was working for a radio station, taking care of all the tapes and CDs in the disk storage room. One day I mentioned I wanted to start playing guitar, so she gave me a 4AD compilation CD that came in a really beautiful Chinese edition book, with introductions to all the bands, lyrics and photos. At that time I knew nothing, then afterwards, I just wanted to listen more and more.

WANG BOQIANG 王博强:我是初中,因为我有朋友在身边学吉他,然后他说:“要不要我们就玩一个乐队吧?”然后我就随便去找了一个琴行, 不是乱选,那个时候感觉是自己对节奏也比较敏感,然后也挺有兴趣。那个时候什么都不懂,我们就在一起瞎闹。大学期间一直有一个做乐队的梦想,一直想把它完成。然后我也很高兴认识我现在的伙伴。

Back in Junior High, a guitarist friend said: “wanna play in a band?” So I went out and found a Tom Lee Store. It wasn’t just picking at random – I think I had a good feel for rhythm at the time, plus I was really keen on it. My friend and I didn’t know what we were doing and just made a racket. I’ve always wanted to fulfil my dream of being in a band, so I am really happy to be with these guys now!

LIU 刘:Hiperson 是我做的第一个乐队。我自己学琴还挺早的,也是初中开始,但我是读的那种封闭式学校,军校式的管理, 你不能随便进出,你只能待在学校里面,哪儿都不能去,后来我觉得很无聊,然后我就让我妈妈给我买了一把木吉他。当时有一本书叫做《吉他自学三月痛》就自己来学。

Hiperson is my first band. I started playing music quite early too, Junior High, but I went to a closed school with military style management, you couldn’t come in or go out, you had to stay within the school. I got really bored after a while and asked my mum if I could have an acoustic guitar. At the time I had this book called ‘Study Guitar Yourself in Three Months’ and worked at it by myself.

你们都是成都人吗?
Are you all from Chengdu?

CHEN 陈:都不是,除了贝斯是。我是德阳。

Our bassist is the only one! I’m from Deyang.

JI 季:我是绵阳。

I’m from Mianyang.

WANG 王:我是西安。

I’m from Xi’an.

LIU 刘:我是湖南郴州。

I’m from Quanzhou, Hunan.

JI 季:贝斯是成都的uptown.青白江。Almost another city.

Our bassist is from uptown Chengdu, Qingbaijiang.

你们对成都的感情很深,你们为什么喜成都?
It seems like you have a deep affection for this place, what do you like so much about Chengdu?

JI 季:有很多各式各样的原因。有吃。。。[笑话], 人也很好玩儿 。主要还是因为整个环境都比较适应 。成都那种环境特别容易让人沉下来,没有那么浮躁,你可以自己专心地做一件事情,周围外面的其他因素都不会打扰你。

So many different reasons. The food… [laughs], the people are really fun. The main thing is that the environment suits us, it’s really easy to feel at home here. It’s not complicated; you can just do your own thing without external factors bothering you.

LIU 刘:我们也没有很特意去选择一个城市去重新做,包括上海,北京,广州,去了这几个地方更不适合我们几个人的性格,成都就是更土生土长的环境。

We were never interested in going to another city like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou – those cities don’t really suit our us. Chengdu has a more grassroots feel to it.

你们在成都待了几年,在这三四年里,这个城市的发展和改变很多,你们觉得这种变化对你们的创作性有影响吗?
You guys have all been here for several years now, and in the past three four years or so the city has transformed remarkably. Do you think these changes have affected you creatively?

JI 季:对于我们来说,城市的变化可能是文化方面的,这几年的活动越来越多,包括project,party之类的,大型的小型的活动都越来越多,和前几年的年轻人的娱乐方式和生活方式都有变化。在这个变化里面,网络的影响也很大。

I think for us, the cultural changes have been more pronounced. In the past few years, there have been more and more events; projects and parties, small-scale and large-scale, it’s all growing because the way young people have fun and live their lives is changing. The internet has had a huge impact on that.

CHEN 陈:现在那种城市化的变化给了你更多可以去表现的东西,不管是你做音乐也好,画画也好,感觉比前两年画的东西更多了,因为有很多不一样的现象在发生,人们都在变,他们喜欢的东西也在变。从一个人的外表到他喜欢去做的事情都在变,有的时候有很奇怪的结合,在那种奇怪的场景里,你会觉得特别有意思。都是趋同的。

The changes in the city have given us more things to express. Whether it’s music or painting, I feel in past two years there’s been more to describe, more to depict, because all these different things are occurring. People are changing and their tastes are changing too. From a person’s appearance, to the things they like doing – all of it is in a state of flux, which sometimes results in really interesting combinations. Everything is converging.

思江,你怎么开始写歌词的?
Sijiang, how did you start out writing songs?

CHEN 陈:我感觉自己创作这些歌词有一定的变化,从一开始你写的仅仅是你感观上的东西,比如说你今天有一个感想,到了后来你感觉可能不仅仅是那种感想,可能会去从各个方面和各个侧面去描写这些东西,会变得更像一个故事,或者一个场景。

I feel like my creative process has changed a lot. When I started, I would just write about a feeling, like how I felt on a particular day. After a while, it’s sort of moved beyond these isolated feelings and turned into more multi-faceted descriptions that are more like stories or scenes. 

你全部用中文来写歌词,我觉得挺好的,因为有一些去国外的独立乐队,比如说刺猬,Carsick Cars都用英文来写。好像全中文歌作的乐队比较少,你们是怎么来看这个事情的?
All of your songs are in Chinese, I think they're great. Some bands that have been abroad like Hedgehog and Carsick Cars also sing in English, and the number of bands that fully sing in Chinese seems quite small. How do you guys view this?

JI 季:我觉得也不是说bad or good的问题,可能就是每个乐队的重心都不一样。

I don’t think it’s a question of ‘good or bad,’ each band just has a different focus.

CHEN 陈:其实我觉得挺正常的,因为摇滚乐是从西方到了这个地方,最开始它是这样来的,所以很多乐队他开始发于自然就想去唱英文,就是原装配置,很natural。

I think it’s actually quite normal; rock music originated in the west and has been sung this way since the beginning, so the fact a lot of bands are singing in English now is just a progression from the original prototype.

如果我的那种写中文的动机可能有两个方面,一个是很自然的方面,一个是很不自然的方面。很自然的方面就是因为它是母语,你用母语说出来的话的力度和英文相比是不一样的。不自然的方面就是你会觉得很赤裸,很naked,有可能你唱英文,因为它不是你的母语,你会觉得我始终隔了一层什么东西在唱的时候。

The reason I write in Chinese has two sides: the natural and the unnatural. The natural being Chinese is our mother tongue – so it carries a different weight than English. That feeling of being exposed, naked, might disappear because it’s not our mother tongue, which is the unnatural aspect. It could put a wall between you and the things you’re singing about.

“你用母语的时候就会是非常的直接,你唱出来对于你和听的人都非常的直接,我没有可以遮掩的余地。”
“Singing in your mother tongue is so direct for the performer and the audience,there’s nowhere to hide.

Image courtesy of Hiperson.

LIU 刘:如果唱歌的这个人,他是画画的,他就反而更容易写中文歌词,就包括木马,他是画画的,还包括欧老师欧波,他们都是画画的,他们就也很善于用中文的东西来表达,而不是用英文,就有一个这个现象。

If a singer is also a painter, they are able to write songs in Chinese more fluently. Like Muma, he’s a painter, and Ou Po [singer of Sound Toy ], too. There’s some kind of phenomenon where artists are really good at expressing things in Chinese rather than English.

专辑封面:陈思江,王旭。 Album artwork by Chen Sijiang, Wang Xu.
专辑封面:陈思江,王旭。 Album art: Chen Sijiang, Wang Xu.
在你们的歌词里,有一些主题是关于历史,过去的事情和还没有发生的事情,记忆和忘记,就是这两个方面,还有leaving和returning。There seem to be a few common themes in your lyrics, such as history, the past and present, remembering and forgetting, leaving and returning…

CHEN 陈:我觉得我创作歌词的时候,可能我会把这些东西全部放到一起来看,就是有很多层面,就是说politics and personal feeling,和你的生活经验, 它有可能是结合到一块儿的。

When I write lyrics, I tend to put all of theses layers together, encompassing politics and personal feelings, life experience, society, emotions – they all roll into one.

在中国,如果你要说关于政治的事情,要小心一点。在你们的歌词里有很多双关语,比如说在《幕布》,这是通往剧院的大路,这个大路,可能也是中国大陆?
One needs to be cautious when commenting on politics in China. The puns in your lyrics, for example in ‘The Curtain’ you say “zhè shì tōng wǎng jùyuàn de dàlù (“this road is turning into a theatre”), this dàlù 大路 (road) could also be be dàlù 大陆 (Mainland China)?

CHEN 陈:我觉得你好聪明,怎么说,可能我没有刻意去回避一些你对政治观点的表达,但是你在做一个艺术的事情的时候,可能你不会像在对社会发表观点是那么直接,那些东西就会包含在一些景象啊经历啊这些东西里面,有可能里面有很多的双关,有时候我自己也说不太清楚。

Ah, you’re clever. I guess maybe I didn’t make a deliberate effort to avoid this political pun you’ve mentioned, but when you are engaged in the arts, you may not want to express your views to the public so directly; though they can be included within descriptions of scenes or experiences. Perhaps there are a lot of puns in the lyrics; perhaps sometimes I don’t articulate myself clearly.

“我觉得不用说的非常明白直接,大家能感觉到,我觉得那个感觉比你传达那个观点更重要 。”

“I don’t feel the need to lay out my views in such a direct way. I think it’s more important to evoke a feeling than convey a perspective.”

WATCH: Hiperson perform ‘The Curtain.’ Video by Maybe Mars:

你们的专辑快要发行了,我超级期待啊!你们在Psychic Kong里面的时候是怎么样的经验?
Your new album is coming out soon, can't wait! How was recording at Psychic Kong?

CHEN 陈:Super cool, super tired. 我们去年8月待了10天,录音的话就是7天。后来我又录了几天人声。

We went to Beijing for ten days in August last year and recorded the album over a week. Then I did some extra vocals afterwards.

JI 季:它是我见过最underground的studio,在一个地下停车场里面,然后会走很久很久,里面很潮湿,很冷,没有任何光线,没有 fresh air,是在很热的夏天,进去以后就是另外一个感觉,就是很酷的设备和楼梯,那个地方你从眼睛看上去并不那么的专业,但是杨海松的态度和心是很专业的。很棒的一个经验,对我们的启发也很大。

It’s the most underground studio I’ve ever seen. It’s in an underground parking lot and you have to walk for ages to get to it, then inside it’s really damp and cold; there’s no natural light or fresh air. It was a really hot summer, but once we entered the studio it was a completely different feeling. It has really cool recording equipment, a staircase. At a glance, it looks really unprofessional, but Yang Haisong is an incredible producer. It was a really great experience and gave us a lot of inspiration.

杨海松是你们的制作人,跟他一起录音怎么样?
What was like recording with Yang Haisong as your producer?

JI 季:老杨给我们最大的一个启发就是你要如何自己去选择自己的声音。他在制作的时候不会去做很多修改,你是什么样子就是什么样子。在录音的时候他就会给你一种精神上的动力,因为我们在那种环境下面没有习惯,然后我们刚开始的时候会缺氧,大脑就会变慢,他就是一个很容易进入工作状态的一个人。他早上7点钟就会在录音棚里,我们是早上10点钟开始,他那么早就过去了。

I think the biggest piece of advice we took from him was that everyone needs to be in charge of choosing their own sound. He doesn’t tweak the original sound a lot – what you hear on record is the way it really is. During that week of recording, seeing him in his element gave us a kind of spiritual energy. We weren’t used to being in that studio environment and it was hard to breathe at first, our brains went slow, but Haisong could just effortlessly switch into working mode. He’d get there at 7am, we’d start at 10.

WATCH: The Maybe Mars preview of Hiperson’s debut album:

你们和兵马司怎么认识的?
How did you get involved with Maybe Mars?

JI 季:最早是和P.K.14一起演出。

We played a show with P.K 14.

CHEN 陈:在这儿之前还有The Gar. 就是很多兵马司乐队来成都演出,我们都去做opening,双方就看对眼了。

Before that we opened for The Gar. We’ve opened for a bunch of other Maybe Mars bands and got spotted that way.

LIU 刘:我们在读大学的时候,兵马司就有许多优秀的乐队,包括我们以前很喜欢的Guai Li。我们一直觉得兵马司不像其他的厂牌,他更有自己的精神在里面。

When we were at uni, there were a lot of excellent bands on their label, including Guai Li, who we’re big fans of. We’ve always thought Maybe Mars is different from other labels, they have their own soul.

CHEN 陈:有一天我们去兵马司签合同,就和兵马司的老板Michael开了一个会,他说的话对我的映象很深,他说“We don’t want to make money, we want to make history,”就很打动我们。

When we went to sign the contract, the label boss Michael said: “we don’t want to make money, we want to make history.” That really resonated with us.

我要问你们这个专辑的名字《我不要别的历史》,
对你们来说是什么意思?
Your new album is titled ‘No Need for Another History,’ what does this phrase mean to you?

LIU 刘:这个名字确实有很多层意思,每个人可以有自己的理解。

There are many different layers; everyone will have their own interpretations.

CHEN 陈:《我不要别的历史是我们又写的一首歌 。这个历史可以是个人的,可以是一个团体的,可以是一个国家的。

It’s from an old song we wrote. The history could be that of an individual, of a group, of a nation. 

LIU 刘:也可以是一个世界的。

Or the world!

你们新的专辑有CD和黑胶。在成都好像没有什么唱片店The album is gonna be available on CD and vinyl, though it seems like there are no actual record stores here in Chengdu?

JI 季:对,我和刘泽同正准备打算在成都做一个这个东西,主要就是想让它很便宜,每个人都可以有一台黑胶player,每个人都可以买自己的黑胶,这样就不会让人觉得黑胶离自己很远的感觉。

Yeah, Liu Yitong and I are actually planning to set one up, with the goal of selling them really cheaply, so everybody can have record players and vinyl won’t seem like such a distant a concept.

在中国,喜欢听音乐的人不一定去买他们喜欢的作品,所以你们有什么样的看法?对于你们的新的专辑出来?
In China, music fans are not necessarily going out and purchasing the music they like. What are your views on this ahead of your album release?

JI 季: 我之前看过一个我非常喜欢的乐队的采访,叫Fugazi,Ian MacKaye他做了一个讲座,说到了这件事情,他和他老婆做了一个新的乐队叫The Evens,他们去圣地亚哥演出的时候,他们还没有发过唱片,但所有人都知道他们的歌,所有的人都会唱,他一开始很震惊。不能避免我们就可以换个思考,就像我们的乐队的名字的理念一样,我们可以换一个角度去看这个事情,它也是很好的一件事情。

Recently I watched an interview with Ian MacKaye from one of my favourite bands Fugazi. He and his wife are in band called The Evens. They did a show in San Diego and despite not having released any records, everyone could sing along to all their songs. It was a total shock! So while we can’t avoid the issue, I think we can take the concept of our band’s name and change our perspective in order to turn it into a good thing.

LIU 刘: 我觉得还是有在转变,就是这个东西大家是去在网上下载还是去支持你的实体,包括现在国内有很多网站都还是有付费下载,就是一个慢慢的过程。之前我也玩游戏,我要去网上下载那种盗版或者是破解的,最近我玩游戏我都去买的正版,因为我会被那些游戏的工作人员感动,因为他们真的会花很多心血去做这个游戏,你为什么要浪费人家的心血你要去下盗版的。到时候也许10年之后,你会说我真的被这首歌感动了,我应该用实际行动去支持它。

I think it’s in a transition from downloads to support, including how there are Chinese websites now where you have to pay to download, it’s a gradual process. I used to download a lot of pirated games, but now I buy the real thing because I want to support the game makers. Why should they put their blood, sweat and tears into creating this thing if people just go and download it for free? Maybe in ten years or so, if people feel a song has really moved them, they will take real action to support it.

陈:     其实我觉得现在反而有一个启发,就是互联网的这种盗版现象,从某种角度上来讲是在弥补很多中国大众文化的缺失的那部分,可能通过那种免费的东西,你可能从来不会接触这些东西,它慢慢地吸收了这些文化的东西。

Actually, I think it’s been an inspiration, this internet piracy phenomenon. In many ways, it’s making up for deficiencies in Chinese pop culture, where these free things that we might never have been able to encounter otherwise are slowly being absorbed.

现在你们的巡演安排好了吗?
Have you finished planning the tour?

LIU 刘:我们巡演的计划差不多定下来了,加上我们后面加的两站,可能有29个站,可能会以开车的方式,是豆瓣的车。兵马司这一点对我们帮助很大,我们希望第一次就是以一个不一样的方式出现。因为中国大部分的其他乐队都会坐火车,飞机。可能就是从北,到东,再到南边,西南。

It’s pretty close to being finalised – we’ve just added two more dates, so about 29 shows all up. We are hoping to drive the whole tour with a Douban van. Maybe Mars have been a big help, we wanted to do something different for our first national tour, as most bands touring in China take trains and planes. Maybe we’ll start in the north, head east, south, then south-west.

JI 季:       因为开车可以节约开支的话,尽量就是两个城市隔得不是特别远,才能够更有效率,更节约成本,所以巡演就有很多小的城市,很激动。小到刘泽同的老家,很多很小的四线五线城市。

Driving could save a bit of money. We’re trying to plan it so we can drive between cities that are close together as efficiently as possible, so we’ll be playing a lot of small cities, which is really exciting. Liu Yitong’s hometown. A lot of small fourth and fifth-tier cities.

LIU 刘:还有惠州,东莞。

And Huizhou, Dongguan.

这些城市演出很少。
I guess these places would have very few gigs.

JI 季:       就算是一个小的城市,一个小的演出场合,只有五、六个人来看你的演出,也很不错,很朋克。

For a small city, having five or six people turn up is still not bad. Very punk.

CHEN 陈:我们在做这个乐队是和我们的环境息息相关的。当下的中国是最有代表性的developing country, 除了像你一样来到这里的人无法亲身感受到。传统文化的消失和复兴、激进的现代化和城市化进程,作用在人们身上产生了许多光怪陆离的现象。普通人们用血肉和商品相互摩擦。

因此我们更加地想到小城市去,那里有还没有完全城市化的人群,对于他们来说我们也可能是奇怪的,这令人兴奋!

The reason we’re in this band is closely related to our environment. Modern China is an exemplar of a developing country, which people don’t get a sense of unless they come here and experience it firsthand, like you have. The disappearance and revival of traditional culture, as well as the intensity of modernisation and urbanisation has confronted people with endless bizarre phenomena. It’s flesh and blood of ordinary people pressing up against commodities.

So we’re really looking forward to playing smaller cities, people there aren’t completely urbanised and they might think our music is weird, it’s exciting!

你们觉在中国得独立音乐有什么样的挑战What do you think are some of the challenges for independent music in China?

LIU 刘:受众面还有理解的一些方面,你选择是你的选择的问题,可能就是不被理解,包括不被家人理解,不被朋友理解,你做的是什么东西?你为什么要做这个东西?你没有钱,你以后能干嘛?你不能出名或者怎么样,你做这个有什么用?这些疑问是很多。

Audience and understanding. Some people don’t get why anyone would choose to do music, including friends and family who’ll ask: What are you doing and why are you even doing it? There’s no money in it, what are you gonna do after that? You’re never gonna get famous, so what’s the point? Loads of questions like that.

你们的家人都支持你们吗?
Do your families support your music?

JI 季: 他们虽然不知道你在做什么,他不了解你做的音乐和事情,但是他们会支持你,家人的爱就是这样。

Even if they don’t know what you’re doing and they don’t understand the music or the other things in your life, they will still support you. Family love is like that.

LIU 刘:其实家人,现在我们这代的父母更多的是希望你能更自在地成长,不像老一辈家长担心自己孩子吃不饱饭,温饱问题,但是现在可能没有太多这个问题,你能养活你自己,你能健康地自在地成长就可以了。

Actually I think this generation of parents are just hoping their kids grow up comfortably, it’s not like the older generation who were worried about their kids having enough to eat and being clothed properly. Those basic questions aren’t so common anymore, as long as you can feed yourself and grow up healthy that’s the main thing.

你们觉得你们是年轻人,你们去29个城市,可能在这个城市里面没有看过你们这种音乐,你们希望你们能给他们带来什么吗?
On your 29 date tour of China, there will be places who have never heard music like yours. As a young band, are you hoping to leave an impression on other young people?

JI 季:可能有一点我觉得面对这样的事情对我们还是有一点压力,但是这个压力让我们很快乐,然后有动力去做这件事情。

I guess we’ve put a bit of pressure on ourselves in that regard, but it makes us happy and compels us to keep doing what we’re doing.

Photo courtesy of Hiperson.
Photo courtesy of Hiperson.

CHEN 陈:     中国的年轻人应该更年轻化一些,有没有觉得大部分中国年轻人没有那么年轻。他们做着不是他们年龄做的事, 想的也不是年轻人想的事。

The youth of China should act more their age, it’s like a lot of them aren’t really young people at all. They act and think in ways that don’t fit their age.

就是有很多年轻人他们想的事情根本不是我们大家想的这样,喜欢摇滚乐,喜欢很多很刺激你的东西,一些很真实的东西,他们有可能会可以地去回避这些东西和问题,就像去追求一些老一辈的更想追求的,比如说安稳,钱,这样的状态。。。

There are so many in China who think in a completely different way to us, in that we like rock music and things that excite us, real things. They avoid these things and in favour of the pursuits of the older generation, traditional goals like stability, money, that kind of stuff…

LIU 刘:房子,一路顺风。

Buying a house, ‘plain sailing’…

你们的中国巡演之后,你们希望去国外吗?
After the China tour, would you like to tour overseas?

CHEN :当然,我们一直都很想去,但是有一个问题就是我们唱中文。有时候你会想,一个中文的歌,对于一个完全不懂这门语言的人会有什么样的感觉?

Of course! We’ve always wanted to go overseas, but singing in Chinese could be a problem. Sometimes you wonder what a Chinese song would sound like to someone who doesn’t understand the language.

我欢迎你们来新西兰,如果有机会的话。
I welcome you guys to New Zealand if you ever get the opportunity!

CHEN 陈:     我们很想去!我看过《鲸鱼士》电影,特别好看!

We’d love to go! I’ve seen Whale Rider, beautiful!

*Kiwese rant about serving Keisha Castle-Hughes a smoothie at Espressoholic one time*

Tour details to come soon.

Many thanks to the amazing Deng Yani and Faye Zhang for their help with transcription and translation!

感谢邓娅妮与张菲菲的翻译与转录帮助!

Some TING! 听 #001: Carsick Cars & Ghost Wave

Introducing… Some TING! 听 (tīng, ‘to listen’) sharing independent music from both China and Nu Zilland.

This week we’ve got Carsick Cars and Ghost Wave. Jangly guitars, surf rock, sunglasses and cigarettes.

>>>>>Carsick Cars are a guitar-bass-drum trio from Beijing that formed back in 2005. Despite a few line-up changes in recent years, the band have retained the catchy, guitar-driven melodies that have made them one of the biggest indie bands in China today. The band are signed to Maybe Mars and are part of the big Tenzenmen family. You can buy their third album from the Maybe Mars Bandcamp.

>>>>>Ghost Wave are a rock ‘n’ roll band from Auckland who describe their sound as ‘somewhere between the Flying Nun bands of the ‘80s, the British explosion of the ‘60s, and the wayfaring dubs of Lee “Scratch” Perry.’ They are currently signed to Flying Nun and Arch Hill and their first album Ages is out now.

Carsick Cars. Photo from Northern Transmissions.
Carsick Cars. Photo from Northern Transmissions.

^You may have heard this extremely catchy and endearingly repetitive song in the Ai Wei Wei documentary Never Sorry.

Ghost Wave. From their Facebook page.
Ghost Wave. From their Facebook page.

Both bands have toured their latest albums in their home countries and in the US, where their surfy psychedelic stylings seem to fit right in. Carsick Cars just wrapped up their tour last month, while Ghost Wave are working on their second record for independent release.

Shouwang, the frontman of Carsick Cars plays in the experimental electro outfit White+ (白+).

Ghost Wave’s drummer Eamonn is also responsible for the chill beats of Lightening and plays in the ambient electronic duo Team Cat Food with Liam aka Forest Spirits.

Enjoy! Listen! Ting! 听! There will be Some TING else for you to check out next week.