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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Interview with Andrew Wilson from Die! Die! Die!

Genjing Records and Maybe Mars are bringing New Zealand noise punks Die! Die! Die! for their second ever tour of China! This year we are very happy to welcome them to the south-west, including shows in Guiyang, Chengdu and Chongqing.

Kiwese had a chat with frontman Andrew Wilson over the phone a couple of weeks ago in Auckland, where he’d just finished class and was preparing to head to London…

Guitarist and vocalist Andrew Wilson and drummer Michael Prain started playing together in bands in high school, forming Die! Die! Die! in 2003 and immediately shaking things up with their fast-paced, abrasive sound in the New Zealand underground. Once they released their first EP Die! Die! Die! recorded by the legendary Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, Shellac, Big Black) in 2005, the band found themselves touring the world for several years, and have basically been touring, releasing music and creating seas of aggressive mosh pits ever since.

London-born Rory Attwell brings a healthy dose of British badassery to the line-up on bass guitar. Having been active in bands and recording studios for over ten years, Attwell has worked with bands such as Yuck, Palma Violets, Veronica Falls and The Vaccines and also recorded Die! Die! Die!’s latest EP aboard his boat recording studio moored off a wharf in East London.

Die! Die! Die! 乐队2003年成立于新西兰南岛第二大城市达尼丁。吉他手兼主唱Andrew Wilson和鼓手Michael Prain在中学的时候开始一起玩儿音乐,也做了几个噪音和车库乐队。在成立了Die! Die! Die!乐队后,他们以快节奏和粗厉的声音震动了新西兰地下音乐场景圈;并且迅速在国际舞台上引起了关注)。自从著名录音师Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, Shellac, Big Black)录制了他们的首张同名专辑,Die! Die! Die!就在巡演、发布新专辑和创造令人着魔的疯狂现场中一直前行。

来自伦敦的贝斯手和制作人Rory Attwell把他的英式风格带进来。他十年多一直活跃在各种乐队和录音室里面,也录音和制作了一百多个乐队包括Yuck, Palma Violets, Veronica Falls和The Vaccines。2015年在他的位于在一个伦敦船上的录音室Attwell Recordings,他录了Die! Die! Die!最近发行的EP.来自伦敦的贝斯手和制作人Rory Attwell把他的英式风格带进来。他十年多一直活跃在各种乐队和录音室里,也录制了一百多支乐队包括Yuck, Palma Violets, Veronica Falls和The Vaccines。2015年在他位于伦敦的一艘船上的录音室Attwell Recordings,他录制了Die! Die! Die!最近发行的EP.

Hey Andrew! What are you studying at university?

I’m studying a degree in sustainable business. Basically learning about making business ethical and sustainable, how we can achieve long-term economic, environmental and ethnical benefits. Its something I’ve gotten quite interested in, I’m concerned society has gotten pretty wasteful, pay gaps and gender inequality…

It is quite funny though, going to university now, I didn’t finish high school. I just wasn’t into school at the time, but was into playing in a band.

What kind of environment did you have as a teen playing music?

It was amazing really. At first we practiced in my mum’s basement, and the neighbours would never complain. Dunedin was quite empty at the time and we managed to get our own studio at this record label called Arclife, which was a giant open warehouse above a café. These things we took for granted at the time. The places to practice were ample, which is quite different to Auckland, though we are really lucky here too.

Me and Michael live here in Auckland. Rory who plays bass lives in London. Me and Michael get together and write music every week.

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How did Rory end up joining the band? 

In 2012 we were booked to do a European tour, we had Michael Logie playing bass, who was in Opossum with Kody Nielson and couldn’t do both at the same time. I’d been good mates with Rory for a couple years and he joined on bass so we could still go on tour, it was really fun!

Can you tell us about Rory’s recording studio on a boat?

Quite a small world actually – Rory works on this boat with the studio in the hull. Huge – same as the Tug Boat in Wellington. My cousin used to live on this boat in the UK and the guy who owns it is my cousin’s kid’s godfather! We will record in London before coming to China.

My cousin’s band is gonna open for us in London on this tour. He runs a record store in England called Hot Salvation – DIY punk stuff.

The first time I saw Die! Die! Die! play was at CALH 2010, it left a huge impression on me. What are some particularly memorable gigs that come to mind for you?

Definitely the first HDU show in Dunedin. Around the same time I saw The Dead C when I was really young, about 14 or 15. Then I guess seeing shows in Wellington like The Coolies and The Mint Chicks when they first came down from Auckland when I was like 17 or 18. Blonde Redhead, we had the same manager. I remember seeing The Boredoms in New York. Seeing Mogwai for the first time was a really amazing experience, because I’ve been listening to them for years and have heard about how great they are live. To have a band live up to expectation was very validating and cool.

 

I remember when Shihad mentioned Die! Die! Die! as an exciting new band in Rip It Up like ten years ago. That comment gained a lot of traction and switched a lot of people onto your band. How do you think the internet has changed the way people discover music?

Music has changed dramatically and people are making really diverse music everywhere, touring network and the internet. There are so many bands and so much music, people share their own music a lot now too. I personally get into music if trusted friends recommend it to me. Rory got me into a lot of cool bands that he’s recorded such as Evans the Death and Veronica Falls.

You are pictured wearing a The Future is Female t-shirt in a recent band photo. How do you think the music industry could do more to get behind feminism and LGBT issues?

Diversify your audience and your line up bills. I think that’s a massive part of it. That was quite an important thing with Die! Die! Die! when we started. We got so busy and kind of forgot about our core values. When you choose what bands you play with you diversify outside your scene. Some people are really anti multi-genre shows. But coming from a punk background, I used to go see hardcore shows which were just five hardcore dude bands. That’s what got me into seeing other kinds of bands, because I was feeling quite disassociated with that kind of thing.

欢迎到中国来!Michael Prain (drums), Andrew Wilson (guitar, vocals), Rory Atwell (bass)
Michael Prain (drums), Andrew Wilson (guitar, vocals), Rory Atwell (bass)

You guys came to China in 2011, what were your impressions?

That was probably my favourite tour ever, which is why I’ve been so excited to come back. The food was amazing, it was culturally different to where we’d been touring, like the US, NZ, Australia and Europe. In China it was cool to play to a whole new audience who had never seen a band from where we were from. It felt like we were doing something quite new. My favourite thing I’ve ever done, musically.

It seems many fans have accessed your music through live shows. What draws you to touring?

We definitely were a touring band for a lot of the past ten years. I think touring and playing live is a really good way to communicate. I think it’s what we always thought a band was supposed to do, obviously we were really inspired by Fugazi. We didn’t really have much else to do really when we started out. It is fun playing to new people in new places.

Anything to say to the fans in China?

Please come! I think we’ll have a really good time!

Cheers Andrew!

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Die! Die! Die! have toured internationally many times and graced the stages of festivals around the world, including Incubate (Netherlands), SXSW (USA), CMJ Festival (USA), Generic Festival (France), Soy Festival (France), Tour De Chauffe Festival (France), Phono Pop Festival (Germany), Immergut Festival (Germany), Maifeld Derby Festival (Germany), XYEAHX SOMMERFEST (Germany), Deaf Row Fest (Germany), Great Escape (UK), Homebake (Australia), Meredith Music Festival (Australia) Offset Festival (USA), Off The Radar Festival (NZ), Camp A Low Hum (NZ), Homegrown (NZ), Big Day Out (NZ), Rhythm & Vines (NZ), Southern Amp (NZ), L’incourt Festival (Belgium), Hefei Music Festival (China) and soon to be Concrete and Grass in Shanghai.

Die! Die! Die! 已经在新西兰,澳大利亚,法国,西班牙,意大利,克罗地亚,德国,斯洛文尼亚,斯洛伐克,荷兰,英国,爱尔兰,中国,日本,美国,奥地利,捷克,瑞士,比利时,卢森堡,丹麦,希腊,挪威举办过巡演,把他们很强烈的声音带到过很多国际著名的音乐节包括包括Incubate(荷兰), SXSW (美国), CMJ Festival (美国), Generic Festival (法国), Soy Festival (法国), Tour De Chauffe Festival (法国), Phono Pop Festival (德国), Immergut Festival (德国), Maifeld Derby Festival (德国), XYEAHX SOMMERFEST (德国), Deaf Row Fest (德国), Great Escape (英国), Homebake (澳大利亚), Meredith Music Festival (澳大利亚) Offset Festival (美国), Off The Radar Festival (新西兰), Camp A Low Hum (新西兰), Homegrown (新西兰), Big Day Out (新西兰), Rhythm & Vines (新西兰), Southern Amp (新西兰), L’incourt Festival (比利时), Hefei Music Festival (中国) 和将来的上海混泥土音乐节。

They have released the albums Die! Die! Die! EP (2005), Die! Die! Die! (2006), 7” split with High Dependency Unit (2007), Promises, Promises (2008), Form (2010), Harmony (2012), S W I M (2014) and What Did You Expect EP (2015).

他们发行首张专辑《Die! Die! Die! EP》 (2005), 《Die! Die! Die!》 (2006), 《7” split with High Dependency Unit》 (2007), 《Promises, Promises》 (2008), 《Form》 (2010), 《Harmony》 (2012), 《S W I M》 (2014) 和 《What Did You Expect EP》 (2015).


Die! Die! Die! play NU SPACE Chengdu tomorrow night!

Die! Die! Die! (NZ)
Support: Stink Mouth (Chengdu)

Tues 12 September 2016
9pm start

NU SPACE
ADD: 成都市青羊区奎星楼街55号

Tickets 60/80RMB
Presales on Zaomengshe, QR code for tickets link.

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What Did You Expect? Die! Die! Die! Return to China in 2016

Die! Die! Die! 来!来!来!Hold the press, New Zealand noise-rock / post-punk trio Die! Die! Die! are returning to China for the first time in five years for a ten date tour!

It’s a sweltering Thursday afternoon here in Chengdu and I am still nursing a strained neck induced by overly aggressive head banging at the first annual Punkfest CDC 成都朋克音乐节 at Morning House 早上好 last weekend. Speaking of overly aggressive head banging and sweatiness…

DDD_chinataiwan_poster CN

Die! Die! Die! are such a great band. Their live show is an almost cathartic experience, the relentless thrashing and collision of flying bodies, the unpredictability of vocalist/guitarist Andrew Wilson as to when he will careen off stage. Just thinking about Michael Prain’s drum intro to A.T.T.I.T.U.D. makes me feel like sporadically pogoing into people.

The band first toured China back in 2011 with Tom from This Town Touring, paving the way into the unknown for other NZ acts to follow. This time, with London-import Rory Attwell (Test Icicles) on bass duties, the band will be brought over by Beijing-based punk tour overlord Nevin Domer from Genjing Records and Maybe Mars for ten dates across Taipei, Hong Kong and the Mainland.

With the new high speed rail from Guiyang to Chengdu making things possible, the Die! Die! Die! train is storming west to play Guiyang, Chengdu and Chongqing, plus the main southern and eastern centres! YEAH!!

DIE! DIE! DIE! CHINA TOUR 2016

09/07 (WED)
Revolver, Taipei
Support: Slack Tide, Wayne’s So Sad
NT500 (presale and student price) / NT600 (at door)

09/08 (THU)
Focal Fair, Hong Kong

Support: SECTS, The Bollands
150 HKD

09/09 (FRI)
B10, Shenzhen

Support: Atta Girl
60/80RMB

09/10 (SAT)
Loft 345, Guangzhou

Support: TBC
40/60RMB

09/11 (SUN)
Power Livehouse, Guiyang

Support: MiChe
50/70RMB

09/13 (TUE)
NU SPACE, Chengdu 

Support: Stink Mouth
60/80RMB

09/14 (WED)
NUTS
Livehouse, Chongqing
Support: The Wallflowers
60/80RMB

09/15 (THU)
VOX Wuhan
Support: Birdstriking, AV Okubo
60/80RMB

09/16 (FRI)
Yugong Yishan, Beijing
Support: Birdstriking
80/100RMB

09/17 (SAT) 
Concrete and Grass Festival, Shanghai

DDD_1
欢迎到中国来!Andrew Wilson (guitar, vocals), Rory Attwell (bass), Michael Prain (drums)

Some TING! 听 #004 P.K.14 & Die! Die! Die!

Feel the sweat-dripping, head thrashing angst of post-punk/experimental local heroes P.K.14 and Die! Die! Die!

>>>>>P.K.14 formed in Nanjing in 1997 during the Rotten Generation movement. Their permanent move to Beijing in 2001 and regular slots at D-22 could be said to have sparked the rite-of-passage pilgrimage to the capital that has seen the Beijing music scene grow over the past few decades. Frontman Yang Haisong 杨海崧, who is the only remaining founding member, leads the formidable quartet of guitarist Xu Bo许波, bassist Shi Xudong 施旭东 and drummer Jonathan Leijonhufvud with their dance-inducing, razor sharp rock music laden with the flying saliva of disillusioned youth and urban life.

Photo by John Yingling from 'Touring the China Underground' in Impose Magazine. READ THIS.
Photo by John Yingling from ‘Touring the China Underground‘ in Impose Magazine. READ.
Yang Haisong. Photo via Lost at E Minor.
Yang Haisong. Photo via Lost at E Minor.

Check out their albums 上楼就往左拐 Upstairs, Turn Left (2001), 谁谁谁和谁谁谁 Whoever and Whoever (2004), 白皮书 White Paper (2005), 城市天气的航行 City Weather Sailing (2008) and last year’s incredible 1984 (2013), arguably their finest album to date, to see why P.K.14 are often hailed as the most influential, enduring, ground breaking indie band in China. P.K.14 are signed to Maybe Mars and are part of the Tenzenmen whanau.

Check out this Vice piece on them, includes interviews and subtitles.

Video for ‘Behind All Ruptures’ from City Weather Sailing (2008)

‘1984 II’ live at Yugong Yishan in 2012!

>>>>>Die! Die! Die! are about as abrasive as the name suggests. They are a three-piece noise-pop/post-punk/hardcore band from Dunedin, Aotearoa, the home of Flying Nun, their former label. Guitarist and vocalist Andrew Wilson and drummer Michael Prain are the original members of the band, while Michael Logie (formerly of the Mint Chicks, F in Math) has been onboard as bassist since 2012. I’ve seen them a bunch of times over the years and they never fail to put on a fucking incredible show.

A.T.T.I.T.U.D!! Live in 2008.
A.T.T.I.T.U.D!! Live in 2008. From the band’s Facebook.

Big Stage at Campus A Low Hum 2010, the first time I saw Die! Die! Die!

Video for ‘Crystal’ off their upcoming album S W I M, out 15 August! 

Their first release, Die! Die! Die! EP (2005) was followed by the full length album in 2006, along with Locust Weeks EP (2006) in the same year. The band have toured relentlessly through Europe and the US with the albums Promises, Promises (2008), Form (2010) and Harmony (2012), with another tour lined up for S W I M, which is set to be released on 15 August.

Die! Die! Die! L-R: Michael Prain, Andrew Wilson, Michael Logie. From their Facebook.
Die! Die! Die! L-R: Michael Prain, Andrew Wilson, Michael Logie. From their Facebook.

P.K.14 and Die! Die! Die! have a link through the notorious, now defunct D-22 in Beijing!

Die! Die! Die! were one of the first Kiwi bands to officially tour China, back in 2011 with the help of Tom Matessi from This Town Touring.

Die! Die! Die! – June 2011 China Tour:

6.3 – Beijing, D22

6.4 – Wuhan, VOX

6.5 – Changsha, Vigor Bar

6.8 – Ningbo, City Gate

6.9 – Suzhou, Wave Livehouse

6.10 – Nanjing, 61 House

6.11 – Shanghai, Yuyintang

6.12 – Hefei, Hefei Music Festival

6.16 – Shenzhen, Hot Sugar Bar

6.17 – Guangzhou, 191 Space

6.18 – Hong Kong, The Wanch

Enjoy! Some TING! 听 else for you next time.

Carb on Carb, Rice on Rice

Got munchies? Aucklanders (奥克兰人 Àokèlán rén) Carb on Carb completed an epic eleven date tour of the Middle Kingdom back in November with good buddies God Bows to Math. Kiwese followed them from Beijing to Suzhou and recently we reminisced about their first foray into Asia and how Chinese cabbage and eggplant dishes are exponentially more delicious than in New Zealand.

carb heart

I first met the duo behind Carb on Carb, epic diva (天后, tiānhòu, lit. ‘Heavenly Queen’) Nicole Gaffney and handsome guy (帅哥, shuài gē) James Stuteley in the grungy merch area at MAO Livehouse in Gulou, Beijing. I quickly scrawled the phonetic pronunciation of “da jar how” [大家好, Hello everyone!] on Nicole’s hand before they took the stage for the first show of the tour when it struck me: these guys, fresh outta the Auckland underground, are here playing their music around China. That’s gotta mean something. It is awesome.

Carb on Carb are the kind of people you wanna be mates with. Their outlook is fresh, fun and friendly, they are really nice, keen to chat and down for whatev. Their music is like Crunchy Peanut Butter machine-gun fire that makes you wanna thrash about like a voodoo doll, yet its stripped back in a way equally suited to lying on your bed with headphones, dreaming about your crush.

Self described as post-punk/noise pop/pop-gaze, Carb on Carb do most of their shit themselves, from the recording, mastering, poster design, album art and photos. They embody a genuine DIY spirit, not in a Mitre 10 Dream Home sense, but in a similarly inspiring way that shows what can be done if you put your mind to it, work hard and do it for the luv of it. From seeing them sell their CDs for a criminally low price, to the “All content is free for you to enjoy and distribute as you please” message on the Papaiti Records website, it is clear these guys are playing music just cos they wanna play music. Word.

After we drunk a bottle of báijiǔ chased with beers, I made the executive decision to follow the bands to Zibo, a small town out in the wops of Shandong. Waking up on a friend’s couch the following morning with no information about Zibo (ie. where da fk da venue??), I decided to push ahead and catch them down in the river town of Suzhou instead, known as the ‘Venice of China.’ Despite the small, sedentary nature of the audience at Wave (New Zea-land hip hop / stand the fuck up!), Carbs were well-received, scored some free booze and made some choice mates after the show, which is the point after all right? 

You can/should download and emo out to Carb on Carb’s EPs no body perfect (2012), Ladies Mile (2013) and their single Eden Terrors, which was released just before coming to China. All their songs are free to take but koha where you can aye! Also the new video for Eden Terrors features some exxxclusive China footage and is the best thing on YouTube right now.

James and Nicole aka Carb on Carb
James and Nicole aka Carb on Carb

Hey guys! You’ve just spent quite a lot of time in China and South-East Asia, any weird reverse culture shock back in Nu Zilland?

J: It was strange to not have such overloaded senses all the time, no bike bells and horns, people and noise. To come back and feel like your senses are deprived cos its not loud and it doesn’t smell [laughs]

N: After being in Asia for so long we’d gotten used to not understanding the language around us. I found myself getting really annoyed when I heard the way people were talking about others, like “hey don’t be so mean!”

How did you guys get involved in the China tour? GBTM says they had a connection with Pairs. 

N: During the Pairs tour of NZ, Rhys talked about China as a really achievable kind of goal after doing Australia. We thought that instead of doing America or Europe we may as well do China, because it’s closer, cheaper, we can get by with contacts and play to a hungrier audience.

J: I guess also once Die! Die! Die! and So So Modern had done it, the idea became more realistic.

So how was it? Did you have any expectations going into it?

N: Having the time to go sightseeing was incredible, but obviously I loved the shows too.

J: I had some sort of expectation but actually being in China made me realize how little we know about it. Coming from a Western culture and not knowing much about the history of the hugest country in the world, then seeing all these crazy castle complex things like the Forbidden City which have immense histories, but we just think of them as sights. I studied the Manchurian invasion in high school but that was it. I really didn’t know about the Nanjing Massacre.

N: Yeah, the Nanjing Massacre Museum was pretty intense.

Carb on Carb rocking a symmetrical pose at the Forbidden City
Carb on Carb rocking a wonderfully coordinated pose at the Forbidden City

Is there a community of local NZ bands that are looking towards China? 

J: I don’t really think there’s a ‘community,’ but there’s certainly bands interested in doing it.

N: It seems like mostly Wellington bands have done it in the past, as well as Die! Die! Die! from Dunedin. But for a small band like us to tour China, we can talk to other bands in Auckland about our experiences and help them to see China as a doable thing. We are telling people they should do it! Why not!

The ~*Internet*~ seems to be an important tool for getting your material out there. How’s your online presence in China?

J: We made a Weibo page which Nicole has recently updated. We also got Rhys and Tom [This Town Touring] to make us a Douban because working out the Chinese was just way too confusing. Thankfully Bandcamp isn’t blocked in China.

N: We have a Youku as well! We tried to research a bit about it just to put our stuff out there. Even if it was in terrible translated Chinese, at least people would get the general idea: that we were a band and we were coming.

Carb on Carb discovered that this is how Shenzhen perceives New Zealand
Carb on Carb discovered that this is how Shenzhen perceives New Zealand

I know I’ve said it before but I love the tour poster! Got a signed copy from all you guys from the Beijing show.

N: Thanks! I drew it when I was at work [laughs]. My boss was pretty excited though, she’s from China.

The tour poster. Art by Nicole.
The tour poster. Art by Nicole.

I saw some pretty impressive use of dramatic hand gesturing and sign language from you guys in China. How did you find the language barrier?

N: The language was really hard. But having our tour manager Vivian with us made it a lot easier. I wish we learned a bit more, it would have been really cool to communicate with the people who liked us at shows, even just to be able to thank them properly and understand what they have to say. I used the ‘Da Jar How’ at every show!

J: It was interesting to experience what its like to not be able to speak the dominant language, it helped us understand how other people might feel. In New Zealand we just expect everyone to speak English. Very educational to be on the outside.

How was it coming from the NZ scene where you are quite familiar with the crowds to China where no one knows you?

J: It was pretty bizarre being presented as ‘Kiwi Rock Night’ in Suzhou.

N: That’s what I love about touring, just getting to meet new people and not playing to the same crowds over and over again. So it was really exciting to see fresh faces and have people react freshly to our music when they haven’t even heard it before.

Mao Mao billz yo
Mao Mao billz yo

So you guys hit up some pretty niche places, tiny towns in Shandong that no ones ever heard of. What’s the scene like down there?

J: At the show in Zaozhuang there was a big group of about fifteen friends and they were real keen to talk to us – they’d try out their English with a few words, then we’d say a few words, and all of were just cracking up. These guys were crowdsurfing and moshing with no one else in the bar. The people were really cool, they just had less barriers. They would spend more time talking with us and taking photos with us, generally way more excited to see some bands.

N: Yeah, they kept buying us loads of beers, being almost forceful with it! Hanging with them was really fun and different from other crowds we’ve met. The bar owner in Zaozhuang also took us out for an amazingly delicious dinner before the show and shouted us the meal! He even drove us to the train station in the morning! People at all of the shows were so generous – it was pretty overwhelming.

Stage antics with the fans in Zaozhuang
Stage antics with the fans in Zaozhuang

Were they actually into your music?

N: We were selling our EPs for 20RMB and they literally bought all our merch! The people we met were having a good time and having the experience of meeting us and talking to us. The same was with Randy who gave us the wine in Suzhou! He was just as keen to meet us as we were to have free wine [laughs]

Red wine/watermelon/assorted mixed nut platter after party with Randy in Suzhou
Red wine/watermelon/assorted mixed nut platter after party with Randy [far left] in Suzhou
As far as touring and performing goes, did you guys have any issues?

N: At our first show in Beijing I found the indoor smoking quite intense from a singing perspective. Before coming to China, we pretty much knew there were gonna be loads of bikes on the roads, but with the smoking in bars I wasn’t quite prepared!

J: It was quite hard not playing with support bands at every show, though we did play with a few locals like Illness Sickness. Next time we would definitely try have a local band play at every show.

Sound checking at Wave Livehouse in Suzhou on a v. high stage
Sound checking at Wave Livehouse in Suzhou on a ridiculously high stage

Any little things in China you found yourselves appreciating?

J: It was really cool to be able to take food and drinks anywhere, I was surprised how much I enjoyed that, in NZ if you walk in to a place you cant take your food in. Hot water was available everywhere too… we just used it to make noodles and drink tea.

N: Ohh I miss it so much! Buying a beer at a bar here and your like “WHAT? $8?!” You feel like a king in China.

Cheesy question – what kind of advice would you provide to other NZ bands hoping to come to China.

J: Talking to you probably [all laugh].

N: Learning a bit of the language would be good. Mentally prepare yourself. Eat as much as you can. Drink as much as you can. Yep, those are my tips.

Next time? Is there a next time in China on the cards?

N: We definitely wanna come back. I know God Bows are planning another tour for 2015!

J: I’d like to visit Xinjiang, the Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Three Gorges Dam. It would be great if bands started coming to New Zealand as well, it’s only an extra hop more. If anyone asks to play in NZ just tell them to email me: carboncarbband@gmail.com

You’ve just gotten back from a mean beach holiday up north, but what’s the plan for Carb on Carb this year?

N: We’re hoping to put an album out in the next year or so and just wanna keep touring where ever we can.

J: We’re doing a tour around New Zealand with Bare Grillz from Australia in a few weeks, just around the time of Camp.

[Excited Camp discussion]

"Prolly won't make no money of dis - oh well." - Beyonce/Carb on Carb
Let’s tour China! “Prolly won’t make no money off dis – oh well.” – Beyonce/Carb on Carb

What do you think of Beyonce’s new album?

N: Ugh amazing. Love it.

Fave track?

N: Jealous. Love Jealous. Oh and ***Flawless.

I fucking LOVE, ***Flawless.

N: It’s so good, I cried when I listened to it.

END

Now check out the interview with Martin from God Bows to Math.