In the bleary eyed haze of 4am in the morning, I stumbled home from the after party at Morning Bar 早上好 and began mashing about on my phone trying to decipher a Chinese van booking app. Several hours later, a comedically large house moving van appeared, and we were ready to go. Chongqing, here we come!
With a lot of laughs and a bit of KFC, the OOS x Lady Lazer Light x Kiwese China tour bullet trained it’s way to the sprawling, hilly municipality of Chongqing, home to 30 million people, the most populated centre in China.
NUTS Livehouse Chongqing is one of the most professional venues I’ve been to in China. These guys have their shit down pat, from the lights to the sound to the promotion to the vibe. The venue itself is located in Deyi Fashion Mall, a bizarre building in Jiaochangkou full of different levels, sections, awnings and shops.
The crowd was electric, with more than 100 people turning up on a weeknight. Although there was no warm-up band arranged, the Spheres magically mutated into a mysterious New Zealand hip hop act called The Niubis™. Never before has Chongqing been so educated about multinational milk corporations, the uterus or breakfast condiments.
What makes a ‘good show’? The artist? The venue? The crowd? Here is a list of ten shows in chronological order that left an impression on Kiwese this year.
“Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.” – Frank Zappa
To me, live music is a symbiotic relationship between performer and audience, they need each other to exist. There is an unfiltered bond between the artist and the crowd at every show, an unrepeatable experience in time and space. The shows I tend to enjoy most are the ones where the crowd is engaging somehow with the performers, whether through dancing or cheering or stage invading – letting the performers know they are not alone.
With the increase of computers in music production today, old expectations of live music have shifted to accommodate these new digital elements. While some critics believe computers detract from a live show, artists are creating and embracing interesting new ways to perform with digital technology. In China, going out to a gig in 2015 no longer means bass-drums-guitar, but rather something that echoes the digital world we live in.
South Acid MiMi Dance Team @MAO Livehouse Kunming 南方酸性咪咪领舞队在昆明MAO Livehouse
I stumbled into a South Acid MiMi show in Kunming in January and never looked back. Officially indoctrinated into the girl cult of face masks, weird music, freaky dancing and lots of whiskey. Very stoked to have been able to collaborate with them and Lady Lazer Light in October. This early MiMi show was filled with lots of experimental instruments and props, which have since been refined into three keyboards, a laptop and percussion.
Weilin + Shishi
2015.04.17 Noise Temple @ Little Bar Chengdu 黄金＋绵羊在小酒馆
Noise Temple is hypnotic, digital, dark – the syncing together of VJ Mian’s visual projections and Huang Jin’s razor sharp drumming abilities makes for a unique pulsating of the senses. This show featured contemporary dancers (thought I’d see pigs fly at Little Bar first) and vocal/instrumental cameos from various musicians. Unfortunately, Huang Jin has since moved to Beijing to join Re-TROS so Noise Temple no longer play with the blessed regularity we had gotten used to in Chengdu.
Video below is from another show at Morning Bar in April.
2015.04.25 Aus-atmen @ Xiwo, Chengdu Luna, Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang, Su
New techno/minimal/ambient music label Atmen had their debut party in an empty swimming pool in the leafy outskirts of Flower Town. Featuring Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang and Su, playing to the early morning. Enough said.
2015.06.26 – 2015.06.28 Neverland Electro Music Festival @ Wulong Fairy Mountain, Chongqing
山谷露营电子音乐节 仙女山 武隆 重庆
Two days, two nights, two stages – Neverland 2015 returned to the misty mountains outside of Chongqing, following their first festival in 2013. Neverland is a collaboration between NUTS and Morning Bar, attracting fans and friends from Chengdu, Chongqing and surrounding regions such as Guizhou. Camping festivals are few and far between in China, and Neverland beautifully fills the need.
The location is sublime – rolling green hills, white flowing mist and cloudless skies. The main stage saw DJs from around the region bring everything from swing to techno, while the psytrance community stayed entranced with their own 24/7 party at the stage on the flat. A very low key and awesome festival, with only a couple of hundred punters and no security. Amped for next year!
2015.07.03 Hiperson @ Little Bar Space Chengdu
When Hiperson set out to tour ‘No Need For Another History’ 《我不要别的历史》, they returned as a different band. Several hundred friends and fans turned up to the new big Little Bar (the new/old/big Little Bar thing is gonna get confusing) to welcome them home, and they sure as hell delivered. Kiwese became the first person to ever stage dive at a Hiperson show – life achievement unlocked.
Chen Sijiang, who’d shaved all her hair off in Shenzhen, completely commanded the stage with guitarists Ji Yinan and Liu Zetong thrashing about in the wings and Tao Ge bopping with conviction on bass. When the band went silent for Sijiang’s monologue and the spotlight lit her shaved head and wide-open eyes, you could hear a pin drop as the entire crowd sat in the palm of her hand. A mighty performance from one of Chengdu’s favourite bands.
2015.08.01 Stolen ‘Loop’ Album Release Show @ U37 w/ Dead J and Noise Temple 秘密行动《循环》专辑首发演出
Chengdu turned out in droves for Stolen’s album release show at an empty warehouse in U37. Perhaps some of us were a little TOO excited – I almost broke my ankle in the mosh pit and had to be carried husband-bride style to a taxi by my flatmate. Nevertheless, an epic show from a band that has become one of the most talked about acts in China this year. That synth-bass break in A Glossy Flirt has become my official pogo beer shower anthem.
Managed to catch Stolen on tour in Guangzhou and Beijing as well, but the energy at this album release home show was unparalleled.
2015.09.18 Shocking Pinks @ School Bar Beijing
Kiwese caught an overnight train from Chengdu to catch Shocking Pinks first show in China at the notorious School Bar in Beijing. The formula of Ash Smith (bass) and Cory Champion (drums) that was concocted last year at Puppies is still solid, as Nick Harte led them through a selection of songs from his previous albums to a responsive and dance-ready crowd. Check out the interview at live performance of ‘Smoke Screen’ in the video below.
2015.09.29 – 2015.10.11 Orchestra of Spheres + Lady Lazer Light China Tour
Dreams do come true! This year Orchestra of Spheres (Xīngjī Yuètuán) came to China, YEAH HARD! In a twist of seriously awesome timing, their hometown partner-in-crime Lady Lazer Light was in Beijing on an art residency and brought her cosmic visions on tour! Crowds in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Dali, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Wuhan were given their first taste of OOS magic.
In addition to OOS, special side-shows included Cave Circles + Globular Synthesis at Brothers BBQ in Feijiacun, The Niubis in Chongqing and a Cave Circles + Su live techno set at Morning Bar Chengdu.
Big love to Baba Rossa, Mos Ioccos, EtonalE, Woild Boin and Lady Lazer Light putting their faith in Kiwese and being incredibly rad people.
Photo by Will Griffith.
Poster by Hannah Salmon.
Photo by Will Griffith.
Photo from Full Label Guangzhou.
Photo by American Apparel.
2015.12.17 múm @ Little Bar Space Chengdu
A band that uses cello and melodica – I was prepared to hate this. Pronounced miooyyuujm, Icelandic atmospheric-music-to-have-sex-to band múm gave us a spiritual show of delicate vocal harmonies and careful layering of instruments, alongside slow panning lights and dramatic hisses of fog – the singer’s pixie sigh of ‘xie xie‘ the only thing that would break the audience out of their sonic incantations. At times I felt like I was sinking into the ground, no one was moving. My favourite part was when the singer started to theatrically rip her own head off – see video below.
2015.12.18 – 2015.12.19 Ein-atmen @ Chengdu Air Raid Shelter 在成都金里西路放空
And finally, to round off the year, the crew from Atmen and Morning Bar hosted a two-night techno party in an air raid bunker in downtown Chengdu. Music wise – the first night featured Tanzman, Su, Ewan and Haozi and the second night continued with Xiaolong, Xiang and Hiroshi. Visual artists projected their works throughout the shelter all weekend. The air raid shelter is like nothing I’ve seen before – long corridors of old concrete rooms and rusty steel fittings.
With Chengdu undergoing so much construction and change, it was beautiful to be part of something so fresh and innovative in the underground chasms of the city. This is what it is all about – people coming together to build events in new spaces.
Read the Zaomengshe interview with Su and Xiang here.
Want to find out about events before they happen? Many of these events sold pre-sale tickets on Zaomengshe, download the app to keep in the loop! www.zaomengshe.com
Orchestra of Spheres are one of the most exciting and unpredictable live acts in New Zealand. With DIY homemade instruments and wide-ranging worldwide influences, the group have spellbound and tripped out audiences from Wainuiomata to Reykjavík, and developed an international cult-like following.
Like celestial sponges, they draw on influences far and wide: the hypnotic beats of Angolan kuduro, the chimes of gamelan music, free jazz and dance music. Their sound has been described as psychedelic disco and ancient future funk and the band have been compared to artists as diverse as Fela Kuti, Sun Ra, Can and Drexiciya.
Orchestra of Spheres are coming to tour China for the first time, with very special guest Lady Lazer Light. They only come out this way once every 2,000,000 years, so don’t miss out your chance to see them live!
Kiwese proudly presents...
ORCHESTRA OF SPHERES w/ LADY LAZER LIGHT
29 Sept – Beijing, School, w/ Baxian Fandian
30 Sept – Beijing, Temple 坛酒吧
3 Oct – Chengdu, Shao Cheng Fest 少城有明堂艺术节
4 Oct – Chongqing, Nuts 坚果 Livehouse
5 Oct – Kunming, MAO Livehouse, w/ South Acid MiMi Dance Team
7 Oct – Dali, Jielu Music Space 结庐音乐空间
9 Oct – Shenzhen, OCT-LOFT Jazz Fest 国际爵士音乐节
10 Oct – Guangzhou, 191 Space, w/ Full Label
11 Oct – Wuhan, VOX Hankou 汉口
More support acts TBA.
“Part Sun Ra otherworldliness, part Sublime Frequencies and part ESG… Orchestra of Spheres blew us away…” – Dan Snaith, Caribou
“Orchestra of Spheres must be the most out-of-this-world band in music today… sounds like they came from another planet, where nonstop dance and remarkable melodies are the norm” – Brian Shimkovitz, Awesome Tapes from Africa
With countless flights of endless stairs to tone those thighs and hot pot so spicy it will empty your bowels; those looking to lose weight might find a trip to Chongqing 重庆 is just the ticket.
Kiwese spent a few days in the south west mega city of Chongqing to see what’s up in a municipality population of almost 30 million people.
My first impressions of Chongqing were that it was eerie as hell. There is a spookiness about abandoned, decaying buildings in the night. The sheer amount of concrete debris and general trash that lay throughout the city was astonishing.
I guess it is worth noting that there are probably oceans of debris lying around every big city in China, concealed by walls of photoshopped blue skies and glamorous high rises, but the hilly topography of Chongqing means that you can view it from above.
Commentators from travel guides to political analysts to bloggers and international students will often say China is a land of great juxtaposition. Perhaps nowhere else can this contrast between new and old, decay and sparkle, be seen more acutely than Chongqing.
Meanwhile… up the road:
Chongqing is a short two hour high speed train journey from Chengdu. From Chongqing, you can get buses and trains to loads of different places in Guizhou, Sichuan and further afield.
The subway system in the city is well-planned, easy to use and just downright impressive. Chongqing subway ticket machines willingly accept wrinkled notes, unlike the unforgiving machines in Beijing, who will spit out any cash short of a crisp, clean bank note like a rude child sticking its tongue out. Humph!
1) TINA’S HOSTEL: If navigating your way through trash and human excrement is your kind of thing, look no further than Tina’s!
Tina’s is nestled away in an old, decaying building off Zhong Xing Road, about five minutes from the nearest subway station.
The dorm rooms are among some of the cheapest in town, albeit cold and musty. On the other hand, the staff are nice, they sell cheap beer and Tina’s unpopularity means the Wifi speed is second to none. Good on ya, Tina.
2) YANGTZE RIVER INTERNATIONAL YOUTH HOSTEL: Like finding a needle in a haystack, or a poo among rubble, Yangtze River was difficult to find amidst Chongqing’s winding streets and hidden staircases covered in debris.
While not the most ideal location, you can climb one of the narrow staircase streets, eat a bowl of noodles at a 45 degree angle and watch freight workers carrying gigantic loads across their shoulders up and down stairs three times the length of the Dixon Street steps.
Yangtze River Hostel provides a comfortable common area, a rickety fooz ball table and Chongqing Beer. The bunks are a bit tough and the nearby train line is a bit noisy, but the staff are super helpful and non-condescending when you speak Chinese.
3) GREEN FOREST HOSTEL: This is your best bet. Nice rooms, nice staff, nice location. Also known as Wa She 瓦舍. Offers a range of Chinese and Western food, taste factor somewhat lacking and subject to availability.
Walk Around and See Stuff
CIQIKOU 磁器口: Using Chongqing’s excellent subway system, one can visit this old porcelain trading hub on the Jialing River. We spent several hours wandering through the lanes and stairs of this old part of town, which while being a popular spot for tourists, has largely managed to avoid the cheesy ‘ancient town’ treatment of so many historic areas in China, see: Lijiang, Yangshuo etc. Cute coffee shops and tea houses are tucked into the laneways, while the main street caters to all sorts of street food hankerings.
There are many different areas to explore and get lost in. Across the river was a small village, where half the buildings were set for the 拆 and the other half were still inhabited by locals.
Women burning paper for their ancestors at the foot of colourful idols in the rock. Down at the river, women scrub their clothes and ducks waddle off a fishing boat over a wooden plank. Freshly killed pork skewered on a metal rod and slung over the shoulder, sold door to door. Sausages overhang the road, bai cai straddles the window. Abandoned wrecks of old homes dissolve into ferns and leaves.
Like many parts of Chongqing, the port area was undergoing large scale construction. Bulldozers and cranes clear land for development metres from where an elderly woman was tending to some crops. Buildings which looked as if they would collapse with a breath of wind have been marked off and left to rot.
1) I can’t remember what this fish is called, but you should eat it.
2) 小面 xiǎo miàn / little noodles. Nice, cheap breakfast or snack. And everyone else seems to be eating them, so why not.
3) 火锅 huǒ guō / hot pot. Hold onto your butts, Chongqing hotpot is renowned for being the spiciest in China! We got one with a broth in the middle to douse the flames. Feat. lotus, potato, various tofu, stomach and brain.
Drink and Dance Excessively
坚果 NUTS LIVEHOUSE: Established in 2007, NUTS is one of the oldest livehouses in the city. While NUTS is located in the lower part of a big fashion mall surrounded by the classic tacky bar zone of every big Chinese city, the music and atmosphere is notably different taste from its neighbouring counterparts.
Offers a range of decent beers on tap as well as lethally priced 10RMB tequila shots. Pool table and good vibes dance floor.
1) Don’t go swimming in the river. Graphic.
2) Be a civilised traveller.
1) New life mantra: Well, THE QUEEN AINT.
2) Padded pyjama two piece. This is a hot fashion statement in Chongqing across a range of ages, men and women. No image, but yeah, padded pyjama two piece. Day or nightwear.
Favourite quotes from Chongqing
Chongqing local: “I heard that the air in New Zealand is so clean that when you blow your nose it comes out clear!!”
Chongqing local: “We call Beyonce “菜场B” on the internet, cos her clothes are like the grandmas at the vegetable market.”
Woo, Chongqing! Special thanks to Mat for being a pal and coming along.
Chengdu. An old lady in slippers fossicks about in the bright yellow leaves for fallen nuts from the local ginkgo tree. Bananas on pedicabs roll past mahjong players and open air eateries. Bundled up babies flail about like pudgy starfish on the laps of knitting grannies. The pace is chill, the sun shines, the sky is blue.
This is the environment where Allan Xia 夏昊禹, theAuckland-based artist and founder of the indie arts festival Chromaconand the transmedia production consultancy company Kognika, spent his childhood years.
Hey Allan! What brings you back to China this time?
Hey! I’d originally already planned the trip myself, then was invited to be part of the Screen Delegation with the NZ Film Commission for five and a half days in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.
Thanks! Yeah, I can see future initiatives going in this direction, seen as we have a Consulate-General here now. Chengdu for me has always been a very creative and artsy city. The overall mood, environment and pace of the city is what I’ve always liked about it. Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing are very business orientated – everything moves at a rapid pace. Whereas Chengdu is full of teahouses – substitute them for coffee houses and its like Auckland.
I moved to New Zealand when I was eight. It was a massive culture shock, really. We moved a lot and I went to like eight different primary schools in West Auckland within three years. So there was the language barrier, plus not having time to really make friends.
I think the lack of social engagement pushed me to become more interested in reading. I read a lot of everything, fiction especially, in Chinese and English. I was reading stuff like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West and all the martial art novels. It definitely helped me keep up my Chinese reading skills.
I read a lot of comics as well: Japanese manga, Tintin, Astrix. I drew for fun, as well. I always liked it. I thought I was decent at it, in hindsight I wasn’t really, but it is good to be ignorant [laughs].
“Myths and legends and fantastical worlds with all these interesting characters… my love for storytelling was developed before visual arts.“
Your ‘Crossed Cultures’ remix of Renee Liang’s poem and Dylan Horrocks’ comic is amazing! I thought I was gonna cry by the end!
I feel like I was an observer in the whole thing – it came together so naturally. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever made. It was for a competition called Mix and Mash, which is all about Creative Commons and the idea of remixing work and generating new contexts for them. Renee’s poem and Dylan’s comic were put up under the Creative Commons License. Cultural identity isn’t something I always think about, but Renee’s poem encapsulated so much of my experience and perhaps even how I felt really deeply. It made me get over some stuff on a personal level, like I don’t think I ever need to make another piece of art about cultural identity [laughs].
How did you first go about pursuing your passion for art?
When you are in high school, you are thinking about your career path and that. I was really into indie web comics and games at the time. Once I decided I wanted to be a designer for film and games, I joined a lot of online arts communities like conceptart.org, CGTalk and CGHub, and started learning more and more. In high school, you’ll just get told what you need to do in uni, then the job you need to get. Whereas online, people are industry professionals who skip straight to the relevant information. That was really good for me because I quickly saw this pathway – and to get there I needed fundamental skill sets and knowledge. We don’t really teach drawing fundamentals in New Zealand, so if anything, swapping Science for Design taught me that I needed to NOT do seventh form. I spent a year in Chengdu and Beijing doing boot camp style art tuition classes.
Haha woahhh, how did that go down with your parents?
I was a typical Chinese kid – I had good grades in Science and Math… until fifth form when I decided I wanted to do art, then basically dropped everything else [laughs]. I was just drawing in math class. I went from A+ to D. It was a shock for my dad. Asian parents aren’t used to seeing D’s on reports.
How did the idea of bringing together local illustrators, comic artists, designers, animators and videogame developers in an event like Chromacon come about?
I did a group show with some illustrator friends at the gallery above Kfma few back. We had a really awesome opening. The whole “oh its low brow, but let’s try do a show, cos its K Rd!” vibe [laughs]. But after the opening, it was quite empty. I wanted the vibe of the opening expanded into its own event. Cos what’s the point of making art if people don’t see it?
For the first Chromacon in 2013, I thought it could be like twenty or thirty artists who I personally knew, but then word kinda spread and more people signed up. It just grew. It is a free event, but was still surprised with how many people came! Two thousand! Which is like nothing if you tell people about it in China [laughs].
Awesome! How are the plans coming along for Chromacon 2015?
It is gonna be from 18-19 April at Aotea Centre, with two floors this time. We went over capacity last year, which was positive but scary! The good thing was we had another room for talks and discussion panels and we didn’t have to turn anyone away.
How do you see creative outlets in China and New Zealand developing in the future?
I’m still trying to figure that out. It is also why the Kognika website is still quite empty. I want to co-develop a cross-cultural collaborative model with China, a strong and meaningful bridge between creative industries in New Zealand and China. One that is sustainable.
I think the most important thing at this point is to not make too many assumptions. Even I have. The more I engage with China, the more I realize I need to learn.
Ever find yourself wasting time by mindlessly scrolling through an endless stream of images ?
Disillusioned by the modern obsession with digital documentation, Chengdu post-punk/cold-wave band Stolen秘密行动are touring their new EP Stealing Our Lenses《我们遗失的视角》, which might make you think twice about updating your Instagram in the middle of a gig.
Kiwese caught up with frontman Liang Yi 梁艺 earlier this week for a mash-up English/Chinese interview.
While the world’s attention were focussed on Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, the first incarnation of Stolen was forming at Sichuan Conservatory of Music High School 四川音乐学院附中 in Chengdu.
The current line up of Liang Yi 梁艺 (lead vocals), Duan Xuan 段轩 (guitar, keyboard, samples, vocals), Fang De 方德 (guitar, vocals) Xiao Wu 小伍 (bass), Yuan Yufeng (drums) are now on their second national tour, promoting their new EP in eight cities around the country. The intensity of Liang Yi’s cathartic performance style combined with visuals by Herve, a French film maker, makes Stolen’s live show a powerful force not to be missed.
KIWESE: Hey Liang Yi. Ming Ming (The Hormones) says you guys used to go to school together in Leshan. What was it like growing up in Leshan?
Actually, three of us are from Leshan. Duan Xuan is from Xinjiang.
Leshan is a beautiful city – a travel city – many people around the world know the Big Buddha. It has beautiful mountains and rivers. Yeah, it’s a cool city!
Is there much of music scene in Leshan?
Small cities in China don’t really have good music scenes. People don’t really encounter rock music, electronic music, or whatever. They just know pop music.
People in Chengdu are generally open to a wide range of music. The music community is very peaceful – everybody is friends and there is good communication. I feel like Chengdu is onto something good right now, it has become another centre for music.
“There is a lot of pressure from the Government in Beijing – while things in Chengdu have a lot more freedom.”
I hear you used to share a practice space with Hiperson！
We were classmates with Hiperson at university. They are an awesome post-punk band.
“It used to be that bands would all flock to Beijing to try make a name for themselves, regardless of where they were from… but now it’s different – it is the Internet era.”
What does ‘Stealing Our Lenses’ mean to you?
Everyday, we are confronted with so much news. Good and bad. I think sometimes we lose our sense of perspective, we can only see our iPhones, iPads, screens. We forget to see the real world. When some people go to shows, they are just watching through their screens… I feel like recording audio or video should just be left to the professionals. The audience should just try to feel the show – the music and the atmosphere.
“More people should focus on the music, not just the stuff they can post on WeChat…”
Can you talk a bit about your connection with the support bands on this tour? A great line-up!
The Fuzz are really good friends of ours from Xi’an. They have been around longer than us. The first time we played in Xi’an, they were really welcoming and took us round. We have the same kind of brains, the same musical views and the same desire to create good indie music.
The Fuzz 是我们非常好的朋友。他们是西安人。他们是比我们早的乐队。 但是我们第次来到西安，他们对我们非常热情，过来跟我们说带我们一起玩儿，我们有一样的脑子，我们对音乐的想法，我们都要做好的indie music。
Snapline are a band who I absolutely love. When we first started, we didn’t know them. But on the last tour, we were at School seeing Soviet Pop, which is Li Qing and Li Weisi’s experimental-noise band. We met them at the door of School, had a really good chat and stayed in touch afterwards.
Snapline 是我自己非常喜欢的乐队，太喜欢。刚刚开始我们不认识他们，但上一次的巡演的时候我们就在北京的 School Bar with Soviet Pop,李青和李維斯做的这个实验的噪音的一个乐队。然后我们就在School 的门口跟他们遇到，聊得特别高兴，聊的特别多。然后回来之后，我们就一直保持联系.
We met Residence A at the Yu Gong Yi Shan show in Beijing that John Yingling (The World Underground) was doing for his movie. John followed P.K 14 on tour last year and Hiperson opened for them in Chengdu. The night before we did a show with EF (Sweden) and John came to the show to see us. This year he was back and called us and asked if we wanted to come to Beijing to do a show with Residence A, SUBS, the Diders and Chui Wan. Of course we said yes!
The Maples are a young band from Chongqing. They are influenced a lot by Sonic Youth and noise rock. I think they are a really good band. They also played at the World Underground show with us and Hiperson this year.
So… have you ever stolen anything before?
[laughs] No! Stolen has many meanings. One meaning is to steal something, while another is to quietly do something. (Stolen 有很多不同的意思。有偷的意思，还有一个意思是悄悄的去做一个事情：秘密行动.)
When I was young, I saw a Japanese painting with the word ‘Stolen’ painted into it. It was beautiful. In middle school, when my English was even worse [laughs], I searched the word ‘stolen,’ and found these two meanings. That’s when I had a dream to make a band called Stolen.
Cheers, Liang Yi! Good luck for the tour!
STOLEN ‘Stealing Our Lenses’ National Tour 2014:
Fri 7 Nov Lanzhou 兰州 葵 with A公馆
Sat 8 Nov Beijing 北京 XP with Snapline
Fri 14 Nov Xi’an 西安 光圈 w/ The Fuzz
Sat 15 Nov Zhengzhou 郑州 7LIVEHOUSE
Fri 21 Nov Chongqing 重庆 坚果Livehouse with The Maples
It’s that time of the month! Local Chengdu indie-rock band the Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐乐队 will kick off their first ever national tour tonight at Little Bar 小酒馆.
Bassist and lyricist Ming Ming 明明 invited me over for dinner to talk about vengeful elephants in Yunnan, menstrual cycles on tour and the new EP.
The Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐乐队, are a five-piece indie-rock band from the land of abundant greenery Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan.
Keyboardist Xiao Lijing 小李静 and guitarist (plus amazing cheesecake-baker) Xiao Xue 小雪 first had dreams to start a band as kids at primary school. The conglomeration of Juan Juan 娟娟 on drums, Ming Ming 明明 on bass and finally Zhu Meng Die 朱梦蝶 as lead vocalist, the Hormones entered the bloodstream of the local Chengdu music scene in 2011.
The band are about to embark on a fifteen date tour of China to promote the release of their debut EP ‘Elephant’ 《象》 starting tonight at Little Bar, Chengdu and concluding down at VOX, Wuhan on 11 November. You can check them out on Douban.
KIWESE: Hey Ming Ming! How did the Hormones start out?
MING MING: We formed back in 2011. People in China hear a lot of Chinese pop music growing up, ya know? So when we first started the band, we did Chinese pop music, but it had absolutely no meaning whatsoever.
2011年开始成立了。向中国人，他就是听很多中国pop music 长大的，你知道吗？所以你就会去搞，然后我们刚开始我们就去做Chinese pop music 但是一点意思都没有。
The singer we had before worked at a serious bank job and had no way of continuing in the band. So we searched for a new lead singer and found Zhu Meng Die! When we heard her sing and play acoustic guitar, she did Rolling in the Deep by Adele and changed it from 4/4 to 3/3. We could tell she had a unique feeling, and all completely agreed on her. She just gets it – she understands the music and has a feeling for it.
然后主唱因为她work for bank, 很正常很严谨很serious, 所以她没有办法搞乐队。然后我们就再找主唱，search search。。。朱梦蝶, 可以！虽然当时我们听她弹木吉唱歌的时候，她唱的是Adele, 《Rolling in the Deep》, 是四拍, 但是她自己把它改变了三拍。我们听她有一种不一样的感觉, 所以真的觉得她可以。她会懂这种音乐，她会了解，她会感受到。她想干什么就干什么，他觉得没有关系.
How do you compose songs as a band?
I write all of our lyrics. So often it’s the lyrics first, then we will create the music around them. The keyboard could run a loop, then the bass and drums, guitar, and vocals will join in.
The ideas just come from everyday life. For example, you are having to stand on the bus and there are no seats, you can imagine the bus is like a skateboard! Chinese society can be kind of depressing sometimes, you know? People eating smelly food on the bus or whatever, it’s kind of dirty and gross – but if you keep thinking about how uncomfortable it is then it will be worse. So you may as well make it interesting for yourself!
When did you first start getting into music and playing guitar?
Junior high school. I played guitar, then moved to Chengdu [from Leshan] to play guitar at Sichuan School of Music during high school. But I thought the exams were meaningless and I didn’t really like to play the stuff they gave me. I wanted to do my own thing. Like Tan Dun. He uses a violin to make erhu sounds. He uses water and paper. It’s very cool.
初中。我弹木吉他。然后我到了高中我住在成都，四川音乐学院的一个 high school, play guitar. 但是我考的时候不考怎么样。。。我觉得没意思。因为你去copy 没有用。我想做自己的东西。比如说谭盾. He uses a violin to make erhu sounds. He uses water and paper. It’s very cool.
Some of your songs are written in English, tell me about that.
I think that within a song, English pronunciation is easier than Chinese. There can be strange melodies when you sing Chinese in a song. But eventually I want all our songs to be in Chinese. It’s not a pride thing, it’s that Chinese is our mother tongue – I feel I am in complete control of the language. So I don’t think our songs in English are written that well. Using your mother tongue gets you closer the the meaning you want to convey. I think Chinese is a lot more direct.
我觉得英文的要字儿比较easy，不象Chinese很难。放到歌曲里面有可能这个melody 不好，还是很奇怪。我决定以后所有的歌都用中文。我不是为此感到proud of this，很骄傲。中文是我们的母语。我觉得I can control this language. 完全知道。所以我们的英文歌词写得不好。用你的母语更能接近你想表达的意思。我觉得中文更直接一点。
Why is the new EP called ‘Elephant’?
An elephant can remember everything, if you hurt him, he can remember your smell. 在中国，在云南只有一次，一个村庄 [in Yunnan, China, out in the countryside] people killed a little elephant.
Yes, bingo! Xishuangbanna. This baby elephant got lost in the countryside and walked into a village and trampled the maize and wheat crops, so the villagers beat it to death. After some time, a big group of elephants returned and destroyed the countryside.
对！Bingo, 真的在西双版纳。他们傻了一头baby elephant, 因为那个baby elephant 迷路了，它走到了一篇村庄里面去。野生的. 它踩到那些村庄那些麦子，粮食，然后那些村民就把它打死了。打死了过后，过了一段时间，然后那片野生的elephant destroyed the countryside.
The person who killed the baby elephant went to jail, but his wife still had his scent. So one day when his wife was out in the fields, a group of elephants came and trampled her to death. They could smell the man’s scent on her. She was with her sister at the time, but they only attacked the wife, not the sister.
REALLY. I’m still not finished. After that, 在墓地 [at the cemetery], the elephants came and trampled over where she was buried.
Wow. Why does ‘Elephant’ only have three songs, seems a bit short?
I want to do a surprise when our tour ends, I will put all the songs on the internet. It’s actually six, like on the CD.
What expectations do you have of the tour?
When I write lyrics, I hope they will resonate with people. Like when I watch Foals live videos, I am so moved – they make me want to pursue my dreams and never give up. I want [our music] to touch people in the same way, and to have them remember this feeling. I think this is more important than people knowing who you are. I don’t care if people like us or not, if I cared, we’d just play pop music.
我期盼能够。。。因为我写很多歌词，我期盼很多人能够有共鸣。 For example when I see Foals live, 我就会觉得我被感染了，我想我应该有一个梦想，我应该去这样做，我不应该放弃。我要让别人被打动。I think this is more important than people knowing who you are. 他可能记住了这种感觉。我不在乎别人喜不喜欢。如果我在乎别人喜欢的话我就做pop music。
Tell me about the Hormones’ new songs.
One of our new songs is called ‘Red Teardrops.’ You are a red tear drop, turning young hearts red. I think this song is interesting, every person is a red tear drop.
At the School of Music, there was a teacher who accused a cleaner of stealing 1000RMB. The cleaner denied it, but obviously the college sided with the teacher. The cleaner was in a helpless position, cleaning toilets for a living, and had no way of paying the money back. So she jumped from a building. When someone accuses you of doing something you did not do and you have no way out. All you want to do is cry. This is red tear drops.
好，我先给你讲。 四川音乐学院有一个工人, a cleaner, 然后有一个teacher 说这个清洁工偷了我一千块，那个清洁工说我没有，然后这个学院肯定需要更爱这个teacher一点，所以这个cleaner 就到了一个不好的一个去打扫卫生，她就很生气，其实这个前的数目不多，然后他就跳楼了。她就为了证明她。 This is unfair. It is not human. For 1000RMB. People pushed her to her death. So I wrote some lyrics about this. 冤枉了你，就说你做你没有做的事情有吗？从小到现在，有吗？ 那个时候就是你红色的眼泪。你没有办法说出来，你很生气只要哭。就是这个意思。
Any cities you are particularly looking forward to?
I’ve heard VOX Livehouse in Wuhan is very good. I’ve been friends with Liangyi, the singer from Stolen 秘密心动, since we were classmates in high school. He told me the sound techs at VOX are very quick and professional.
Jeff from New Noise has helped us a lot with contacting livehouses, he sent me the information and let me contact them.
“Yes, we are girls – but it’s not a style!”
How do you feel you are received as an all-girl band?
A lot of stuff comes up. Like a lot of venues have booked girl bands as the warm up act just because they are girls. It’s really strange. Why have they got a heavy metal band opening for us? It’s like when Lydia (Zaomengshe) was working at that company. She’s a foreign woman. Then they sat her with another department because they are all foreigners. WHY??
Some people are stupid but you don’t have to talk to them. Someone on Weibo said “show us your underwear!” It is very stupid.
But an all guys band could go on tour and not have to worry about five girls having their period [laughs].
Who are some of your favourite bands at the moment?