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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.

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.

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Beijing Noise Rockers Head for Chengdu: Interview with Lonely Leary

Lonely Leary are a Beijing-based three-piece post-punk/noise rock band from Shandong. They incorporate fast drums, muddy baselines and rough guitar noise in a pursuit to create a relatively violent sound. 

NU SPACE has invited them to Chengdu to play a show this Friday 10 June with local favourites Hiperson!

Kiwese caught up with the band members Qiu Chi 邱驰 (bass/vocals) Song Ang 宋昂 (guitar) and Li Baoning 李保宁 (drums) to find out more… 

Lonely Leary photo

Back in 2012, three college students entrenched in boredom were practicing their instruments alone in the secluded district of Changqing, Jinan. Initially the band set about covering a few simple punk songs, as well as post-punk bands such as Joy Division. They adopted the name “Lonely Lili” while playing spontaneous rock shows on campus. Later due to job changes and academic activities, the band was suspended.

In 2014, all three members moved to Beijing and Lonely Leary was reborn, trading ‘Lili’ for ‘Leary,’ a tribute to Timothy Leary, the creator of LSD. With a new name in a new city, the band began rehearsing and writing songs in pursuit of their own punk-oriented style. During the summer of 2014, the band performed prolifically at School Bar, XP and other rock clubs, gradually gaining a small and loyal following within the grungy confines of the Beijing underground.

I took a 19 hour train ride from Chengdu to Beijing last September for two reasons: see the first stop of the Shocking Pinks world tour with Wellington-based independent touring label A Low Hum and pick up Orchestra of Spheres for their epic China tour with Lady Lazer Light.

The Shocking Pinks show took place at the notorious hutong dive School Bar and was supported by two local acts – one of them was Lonely Leary, and they totally kicked ass. Scatty basslines, frantic drumming, possessed vocals, screeching guitar… A week later, I saw them play again at Temple Bar. Again, excellent.

Beijing has provided the Shandong-born trio the perfect environment in which to hone their songs and their live performance, with what seems like endless bars and livehouses to play at on a regular basis.

NU SPACE is proud to present LONELY LEARY, the post-punk/noise-rock trio tipped by critics as the most exciting new band out of Beijing this year.

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Playing support for Shocking Pinks. 18 Sept 2015. Photo by Kiwese.

KIWESE: You guys are from Shandong. Can you describe what Jinan is like for those of us who don’t know?

SONG: Changqing is basically a beautiful place. I think it’s more suitable for old people rather than youths to live there.

QIU: There was originally a village or wasteland. You know, the university and college downtown couldn’t take so many students after enrolment expansion over the years, so the government transformed the villages into campuses and sent a large number of students there. The campuses are isolated by mountains and we have to take illegal taxis to go to other places. There is also a commercial center with many low-cost shops, stalls, internet bars and small hotels for lovers.

Music hobbyists can learn to play guitar and drums in some instrument shops. They used to form bands and cover “Beyond”. There were over a hundred Beyond cover bands I think.

LI: The first time I met Song Ang he was playing guitar in a cover band in an instrument shop. He hated the songs they played, so we began to play together while learning our instruments. Qiu Chi joined us after graduating, then we became a trio and began to cover some punk bands. Our playing technique was poor then.

You started out covering punk bands. What were some of the first songs you covered?

Under Baby, Joyside and Ramones. Including some “punk songs” by Hedgehog.

What is up with the drummer situation?

We have some drummer adjustments recently. Wang Jianan played drums for the last half of the year. She is a student at Beijing Film Academy with a good sense of drum playing. She created many amazing drum riffs in new songs. The only problem she has is technique – it’s a little hard for her to play the fast songs perfectly live and in recording, after all, she hasn’t played for that long.

So she will study and practice the basic skills and techniques, and the original drummer Li will take the place of her at present. Li plays fiercely like a drum machine.

Li Baoning on the drums at XP. Image from XP's Douban.
Li Baoning on the drums at XP. Image from XP’s Douban.

You moved to Beijing in 2014, how does the city influence your music?

QIU: I simply took playing in a band as pastime in Shandong. At that time, I didn’t know much about making music as an amateur. After graduating and being in Beijing in 2012, I separated from them because they were still in Jinan. I think Lonely Leary was about to dissolve then. However, I saw lots of lives in Beijing and was attracted by its dynamic rock’ n roll atmosphere. There are so many fresh bands who studied and vied with each other – they created the scene together. I was encouraged by them and got the enthusiasm to continue Lonely Leary. Then the other guys came to Beijing soon after, so I had no excuse to stop the band any more.

SONG: I think Beijing is a high-speed city with bad environment and people here are restless. I knew nothing about the city beside music before I came here. I didn’t know what to do then and always felt anxious and confused. In fact, three of us all get this feeling and deeply affected. The violent sound of our music has close connection with the situation. Sometimes the bad moods also get the band into trouble. That’s terrible.

LI: Beijing has more bands and lives than I had ever known in college. You know, most bands in Jinan are metal and pop, as well as some folk singers. However, in Beijing, there are many bands whose temperaments are quite same as us, especially in XP Club. I can learn from them at close range. At the time, I thought I would die without regrets if I could perform in XP, ha-ha!

2015.01.24 China Lonely Daydream Night Lonely Leary in XP. Image from XP's Douban.
2015.01.24 China Lonely Daydream Night Lonely Leary play at XP. Image from XP’s Douban.

Tell us about the new album, how is that coming along? Where are you planning to record it? Will you release it independently or with a label?

Qiu: Making an album has been our dream for a long time. We decided on it at the end of last year as we think we have enough songs now. In fact, we didn’t think too much on writing songs at first, no uniform style or concept was carried through. Many songs didn’t sound the same because they are written in a different period. It really troubled us then! So we tried to preset a theme for the album to keep our creation in a controllable range. It makes the new songs clearer. We also changed some old songs based on our preset concept. Some old songs have been abandoned.

SONG: Some of our songs have been in an indeterminate state for two years before we reached our preset concept. Fortunately, they finally morphed into the shape that we’ve described in our introduction.

LI: Our demo recordings are very simple. We used an iPad to record and mix to get the finished product that you hear on Douban. They have no details or good tones, just a standard of “clear enough to hear.”

Our ignorance towards “real recording” caused this undesirable lo-fi sound. Now we are learning and rehearsing a lot to be ready for the formal recording. Then we probably try to contact labels which are reliable and have interest in us.

You play fairly regularly in Beijing. What are your favourite venues to play?

SONG: We all love XP Club. We can often perform with the bands we like there. I prefer to Old What after XP closed. I feel comfort in its simple and rough environment.

QIU: I would like Old What better if the sound is improved. I like School Bar most now.

LI: We used to play XP a lot because it was close to where we lived. Now we go to School Bar most often.

XP. Image from XP Douban.
XP Club. Image from XP Douban.

Who are some other bands you really like in Beijing at the moment and why?

QIU: We all like P.K.14 and Snapline. Alpine Decline is my recently favorite.

SONG: I like Alpine Decline as well. I also recommend Death Narcissist and Bedstars.

LI: I like Re-TROS and Supermarket, also Dr. Liu and the Human Centipede and Soviet Pop.

Your music reminds me of Joy Division and The B52s, as well as more recent bands like Thee Oh Sees and Re-TROS. What bands have had the biggest influence on you?

QIU: David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, P.K.14 and Sun City Girls have a deep ideological influence on me. SavagesMars, DisconcertsSleaford ModsMika Miko are my favourites recently. I love their basslines.

SONG: I recommend A Place to Bury Strangers for their destructive lives, firm basslines and manic guitar noise. Sonic Youth brings me inspiration on playing guitar, I’ve learned their tuning and tone a lot. I also like the teen spirit sound of Big Black and Spacemen 3’s psychedelic guitar.

LI: Old post-punk bands like Joy Division, Sort Sol, Talking Heads have influenced so many people for their tension of contradiction.

Have you come to Chengdu before? What impressions do you have of this place?

QIU: I went four years ago. I think People’s Park is a funny place and I love “LengGuo ChuanChuan”.

LI: I went last year. I didn’t go to too many places, but I think some temples here are very good.

SONG: I have never been to Chengdu. I think it may be a wet place.

Anything you want to say to people coming to the show in Chengdu?

QIU: All I want to say are painted on the poster. Really fantastic design ha-ha!

LI: Hi, Person!

SONG: We are three plain dealers from Shandong. Welcome to come and see us!

Lonely Leary’s alcohol of choice?

QIU & SONG: Jingjiu. Absolutely!

Li: I prefer pineapple beer.

Welcome to Chengdu, thanks guys!

We’ve never been out so far for a live show before. Thanks NU SPACE for inviting us!

Hiperson Lonely Leary poster

WHEN:
Friday 10 June 2016
Doors: 8pm
Lonely Leary: 8:30pm
Hiperson: 9:30pm

WHERE:
明堂创意工作区·NU SPACE
成都市青羊区奎星楼街55号
NU SPACE, MiNTOWN Studio Community
55 Kuixinglou St, Qingyang, Chengdu

TICKETS:
Pre-sale: 60RMB
Door: 100RMB
http://www.zaomengshe.com/c/325233

们可以给我们介绍济长清是一个什么样的地方吗?

宋:长清是一个山清水秀、环境优雅的地方。适合养老,不大适合青年人居住。

邱:其实这里原本是村庄或荒地。前几年大学扩招后,市区里的学校装不下那么多学生,于是偏僻的村庄就被改造成校园,大学生们都被送到了这里。大学被山隔开,各自孤立,出行要靠黑出租。中心地带有唯一的一个商业区,非常热闹,分布着许多商店、地摊、网吧和家庭旅馆,都特别便宜。这里也有几个琴行,教音乐爱好者们弹吉他或打鼓;他们其中有的学成了就开始组乐队,以翻唱Beyond乐队为主。大学城里应该有过上百支Beyond翻唱乐队。

李:我第一次遇见宋昂就是在这里,他当时正在一个琴行给某个乐队弹吉他,他不喜欢他们当时翻唱的歌。我们认识了之后就开始一边学乐器一边玩。邱驰快毕业的时候才加入进来,这才凑齐了三大件正式排练。我们当时技术有限,就翻唱一些朋克乐队。

你们一开始翻唱那些朋克乐队的歌?

地下婴儿、Joyside以及Ramones。还有刺猬,我们翻过他们一些比较朋克的歌。

们现在的鼓手情况怎么样

鼓手目前有一些调动。最近半年在打鼓的是王迦南,她还在电影学院上学。虽然打鼓时间不久,但是她的意识很不错,在新歌里编排了很多有趣的段落,带来了新的节奏。只是她目前基本功要欠缺一些,应付现在快速的歌的演出和录音有点吃力。所以她现在会先去练习基本功和技术。现在在打鼓的是我们最初的鼓手李保宁。他打得比较凶狠,像鼓机一样。

2014年从山搬到北京去。北京的音格有什么样的影响?

邱:在山东的时候,我玩乐队的心态其实还是自娱自乐的成分多一些:当时一方面对做音乐不是很懂,比较业余,再加上我2012年就毕业来到北京,和仍在济南上学的他俩两地相隔、没法排练,所以本以为之后乐队差不多就解散了。不过到了北京之后我经常去看演出,才知道这里的摇滚乐气氛是多么活跃:这里有很多年轻的好乐队,大家互相学习、竞争,共同创造了这个场景。我很受鼓舞,就重燃了做乐队的热情。正好他俩很快也毕业来到了北京,再也没有什么不继续玩下去的理由了。

宋:我觉得北京的生活节奏很快,城市挺脏,人们也都挺躁动。刚来到北京的时候,对这里我除了音乐之外一无所知,也不知道要做什么,经常会感到无所适从和迷茫。这种情绪其实我们三人一直都有,也在一直都在影响我们的创作。音乐中暴躁、焦虑的成分都和这些有关。但一些时候颓丧的情绪也会让乐队陷入困境,这就比较糟糕了。

李:北京有更多的乐队和演出,让我了解到很多上大学的时候未曾了解的东西。在济南的时候大部分乐队是金属或流行摇滚,还有民谣,而北京和我们气质相同的乐队就要多很多,尤其是在XP,可以近距离学习很多东西。我当时觉得要是可以在XP演出一次就一生无悔了,哈哈。

们开始创造一张全长专辑,可以给我们介绍一下这个过程吗你们安排在哪里录音?要独立发布或者跟一个厂牌在一起?

邱:做一张专辑一直都是我们的愿望。考虑到歌曲数量似乎差不多够了,所以从去年底开始正式计划这件事情。其实最早写歌的时候想得很少,只是比较无意识地从当时零碎的音乐喜好、动机或生活经验出发去写歌,没有考虑太多关于统一风格或概念的问题。这使得不同时期的歌听起来好像差异会比较大,我们也经常陷入苦恼。所以我们之后开始尝试先预设一张专辑应有的主题和概念,给自己一点限定。这样,新歌创作的目标会更加明确,同时旧作也被重新编排,也有一些直接被舍弃掉了。

宋:之前没有明确想法的时候,一首歌可能两年都处于不确定的状态,改个十来种方案也没有结果。还好最近的修改都在基本朝我们所设想的风格发展,就像我们的介绍中描述的那样。

李:我们之前的录音方式多少有点草率,基本是用iPad进行录音和混音,成果就是豆瓣小站上的那些歌。它们顶多能达到“听清”的标准,谈不上细节和质量。之前我们对真正录音知之甚少,对音色的把握也比较欠缺,准备不足。这是一种不得已的Lo-Fi效果。现在我们正通过学习和排练为真正的录音做好准备。当我们准备充分以后,会尝试联系对我们的作品有兴趣,同时也值得信任的厂牌。

们经常在北京演出。你最喜演出的地方是那些?

宋:我们都很喜欢XP,那里好像跟我们的气质比较贴近,也经常能有机会和自己喜欢的乐队同台。XP关门了以后现在喜欢老What多一点,那里原始粗糙的感觉很好。

邱:老What要是声音能好一点我也会更推荐。现在最喜欢去的还是School。

李:XP当时离住的地方近,我们就经常去。现在是School去的最多。

你喜欢的居住在北京的乐队与音乐人有哪些?

邱:P.K.14和Snapine是我们共同喜欢的乐队。Alpine Decline我最近很爱听。

宋:我也喜欢Alpine Decline,还有Death Narcissist和Bedstars

李:我喜欢重塑雕像的权利和超级市场,然后就是人体蜈蚣和苏维埃·波普。

的音乐让我想起来Joy Division, TelevisionThe B52s, 有比较现代的乐队Thee Oh Sees和重塑雕像的 最大的影响的乐队是那些?

邱:David Bowie、The Velvet Underground、Joy Division、P.K.14以及Sun City Girls是在思想上对我影响很大的乐队。Savages、Mars、Disconcerts、Sleaford Mods、Mika Miko是最近影响我比较多乐队。我喜欢这些贝斯声音靠前的歌。

宋:我最近很喜欢A place to bury strangers,他们有破坏力的现场表演、结实的bassline还有狂躁的吉他噪音;然后是Sonic Youth,他们在吉他弹奏上带给我很多灵感,我也研究了很多他们的调弦方式和音色;Big Black傻冲楞的少年心气我也很喜欢!还有Spacemen 3,我喜欢他们厚重的带药味的吉他。

李:Joy Division、Sort Sol、Talking Heads这类老的后朋克吧,他们影响了太多的人。我认为他们的音乐有种矛盾的张力,在内部爆发,在外部控制。

成都?你们对成都有什印象?

邱:四年之前来过一次。我觉得人民公园有趣,冷锅串串很好吃。

李:我去年来过,去的地方不多,有几个寺庙我觉得不错。

宋:我没来过,可能会比较潮湿?

们想对来看Hiperson x Lonely Leary NU SPACE演出的人

邱:想说的都画在海报上了,很棒的设计!哈哈。

李:Hi, Person!

宋:实在山东人乐队,值得来看!

Lonely Leary最喜的酒是那

邱/宋:中国劲酒!

李:我喜欢喝菠萝啤

欢迎你们来成都!谢谢!

我们第一次到这么远的地方来演出。谢谢NU SPACE的邀请!

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!

She Bangs the Drums: Interview with Atom from Nova Heart & Hedgehog

What do Nova Heart and Hedgehog have in common? They’re both from Beijing and both have Shi Lu 石璐 aka Atom as the driving force on drums!

Kiwese got the chance to ask Atom a few questions about what it’s like being a drummer in two of Beijing’s most well-loved indie bands.

Atom playing with Hedgehog. Image from Creative Asia.
Atom playing with Hedgehog. Image from Creative Asia.

KIWESE: Hey Atom! How did you first join Nova Heart in 2012? It seems like the band has known each other for a long time, and you used to play with Box in Hedgehog [刺猬乐队]. 

ATOM: Yep, Box and I were good partners in Hedgehog. I was initially part of a special Nova Heart concert in 2012 and was really shocked and surprised by them. I love electronic and synthesizer music so much, and there weren’t many bands like them in Beijing at the time – if there were, they were all 80s new wave or experimental.

“There is some dark and sunken evil power within Nova Heart. I immediately fell in love with their music and can’t rid myself of it.”

Can you tell me about the electronic equipment you use in Nova Heart? How has using electronics with the drum kit changed your performance style?

I use a DAW [digital audio workstation] live on my Mac and a Nord drum pad for some songs. It’s different from playing drum sets in a rock band – I have to listen to the click in my monitor earphone when I play in order to be precise and steady. If it’s not exact, you will hear the kick drum sound like a short delay or double rhythm, which is awful, isn’t it?

When I see Nova Heart performing, you all look like you are having so much fun! What are your most memorable moments from touring with Nova Heart?

There are a lot of funny moments touring with Nova Heart. The last stop on this tour was in Wuhan. Before we got ready, I rushed to the stage and asked our guitarist: “Yan Shuai, are you feeling ready?” He replied: “Wow! There is so much distance between the stage and life! I was digging mud from my toe in a hotel ten minutes ago, but now I’m like a rock star standing on the stage!”

Atom playing with Nova Heart at Yugong Yishan. Image from Live Beijing Music.
Atom playing with Nova Heart at Yugong Yishan. Image from Live Beijing Music.

I remember during another show, Box had some trouble with his bass, so the rest of us played a jam. But then there were some electronic problems, so we began to send some signals and waveforms to communicate with the aliens. I started a drum beat first, Yan Shuai came in with some outer space guitar effects and solos. Then Helen started to sing. I really adore her jam ability, she is like a colourful beautiful feather, floating lightly in space, smoothly in every and any direction.

You have recorded seven studio albums with Hedgehog, what was it like recording the new Nova Heart album 《新星的心》with Italian producer Rodion at Wong Studios Berlin?

Very different. I have never recorded an album like《新星的心》. Rodion let me play a whole song first, then try to play another rhythm with a different picture and emotion in my imagination. Then he cut and mix the different parts into a whole new song. I was so surprised when I finally listened to our song after it had been mixed. It’s unbelievably creative. The feeling is fresh and wonderful!

I thought it was amusing that the Red Bull poster on stage said “新能力” (New Talent) when you guys have been performing in bands for like ten years. In saying that, are there any new bands you’ve seen this year that have particularly impressed you?

You mean Chinese bands? I like The Big Wave [大波浪]. They are quite young but powerful, insane and have loads of potential. Sometimes I play drum pad as a guest for them.

How do you balance your commitments to both Nova Heart and Hedgehog?

I’m so interested in playing music, I think it’s easy to being a musician in two bands. I have energy to play in other bands, more bands even, and have a lot of other things to do.

WATCH: Interview with Atom in 2008 for SexyBeijingTV

What advice do you have for young, aspiring musicians in China and New Zealand? 

Do what you want to do, follow your heart from beginning to end, trust yourself all the time, and your love will set you free.

Thanks, Atom!

Me and Nova Heart at Little Bar last month.
Me and Nova Heart at Little Bar last month.

Hedgehog perform in NYC:

READ: Review: Nova Heart at Little Bar in Chengdu 11/15 and 17/12

Review: Nova Heart at Little Bar in Chengdu 11/15 and 17/12

Nova Heart have graced Chengdu with their presence twice in the past two months, touring their hotly anticipated debut album,新星的心and drinking the whiskey cabinet dry.

Image from Nova Heart's website.
Image from Nova Heart’s website.

Word has spread about the spellbindingly evil electronica of this four-piece supergroup, masterminded by the inimitable ‘Queen of Beijing Rock’ Helen Feng 冯海宁, formerly of Ziyo/Free the BirdsPet Conspiracy, on lead vocals and lead chaos – as well as co-founder of the band’s label, Fake Music Media. Well known and adored Hedgehog drummer Shi Lu 石璐, known to most as Atom, steers the beat on drums with her former bandmate Zhu Bo Xuan 朱博譞 aka Box (The Gar) on bass and Wang Zong Can 王宗灿 (Ziyo/Free the Birds) on guitar.

Nova Heart runs like a well-oiled machine, executed by a group of experienced musicians who are respectably at the top of their game, so it was with great anticipation that I went down to Little Bar to check them out, having seen them play at Yugong Yishan’s 9th Anniversary last year w/ Carsick Cars, Whai and Long Shen Dao. 

Nova Heart tour

SAT 15 NOV 2014
小酒馆, 成都    LITTLE BAR, CHENGDU
W/ THE HORMONES

Little Bar was packed for Nova Heart back in November. Local electro-rockers The Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐 played a blitzing set to warm up the crowd, adequately electrifying the atmosphere for the main act to take the stage on their album release tour.

The dark, hypnotising rhythms and electric warblings of the opening song ‘A Drive to Our End,’ had the crowd nodding along as if under a spell, before Helen took the stage to raucous applause and began casting her own concocted brew of dark magic and spirits.

Nova Heart’s live show is an exercise in both anarchic mayhem and effortless precision.

Helen leads the pack onboard a speeding train full of TNT with a battle occurring on the roof; the prospect of explosion and death present at all times. A shamanistic whiskey ritual sent the spell into play, Helen’s maniacal spoken word ramblings intertwining with electric kicks, hits and throttling bass lines. A cover of Patti Smith’s ‘Dancing Barefoot’ has made it into the live set and the new album, which ironically wasn’t available at the album release show.

This intimate viewing in self-destruction encapsulated in Helen bailing off the Little Bar stage and climbing back up, unscathed and microphone wielding. In lieu of the new album, fans snatched up copies of Nova Heart’s ‘Beautiful Boys EP‘ (2012), the seductive gold, black and white 7″ shaped sleeves being hotly contested items after the show.

THUR 17 DEC 2014
小酒馆, 成都    LITTLE BAR, CHENGDU
PRESENTED BY RED BULL

Chengdu’s Nova Hearted converged on Little Bar last month for a much less publicised show on a Thursday night, sponsored by Red Bull. After a cheesy pop act reminiscent of the college prom rock band in every American teen rom-com ever finished their set, the Red Bull go-go girls were pushed aside and the enthused crowd moved in for Nova Heart.

The band’s second show in Chengdu in the space of a month did not disappoint. This crazy electro disco party compels more people into dancing, which China could always do with more of. The songs from the EP sold at the previous show now garnering pre-woops and sing-a-long status in the set.

Helen’s whiskey is brought to the stage, with a quip in Chinese along the lines of “just whiskey, thanks, hold the Red Bull.

Helen’s crowd banter in Chinese swiftly transposes into haunting and enchanting lyrics in English, receiving more laughs from the crowd than a proportion of stand up comedy shows. Songs from the new album like ‘No Controversy’ show off Nova Heart’s wild unpredictability underpinned by the airtight rhythms and melodies of four seasoned musicians who are clearly enjoying themselves on stage.

Red balloons were deployed from above and Helen incited an all out balloon massacre, the crowd grasping at them and stomping them underfoot in a somewhat symbolic popping of corporate interests.

When the band came back for an encore, the microphone was let loose into the audience – Helen’s ‘anything goes’ mantra inspiring an already hyped up, pogo jumping crowd to yell swear words and bullshit down the mic at full volume, eventually recoiling back to its master who sang the last song of the night, accompanied by the crowd’s boisterous approximation of the melody and flying beer showers.

The new album《新星的心》was ready to go this time and the band happily signed copies, took photos and hung out with fans after the show.

Having toured over five continents on the back of their first EP including an extensive tour of Australia last year where Helen took the phrase ‘break a leg!’ to new realities, we can only hope Nova Heart make it to New Zealand in 2015!!

Atom, Helen, me, Bo Xuan and Zong Can
Atom, Helen, me, Bo Xuan and Zong Can after the second Little Bar show in December.

READ: She Bangs the Drums: Interview with Atom from Nova Heart and Hedgehog