Tag Archives: interview

China’s trip-hop Queen: Interview with Wu Zhuoling

吴卓玲的⾳乐犹如⼀只变⾊⻰,舒适地在斑斓的⾊彩和栖息地间转换。作为⼀名歌⼿和作曲家,她常在烟雾弥漫的咖啡馆和酒吧演出。作为星期三旅⾏的主唱,她习惯把合成器和电⼦舞曲带到任何地⽅,如⾳乐节、livehouse、甚⾄保利中⼼的俱乐部。“⽐如我最初的梦想只是在⼀个摇滚乐队⾥做⿎⼿或者⻉斯⼿,”说到关于她⻓达15年的⾳乐⽣涯“结果被迫做了主唱。”在幕后, 她坚持⾃学直到27岁成为了成功的制作⼈和混⾳师,她制作的作品包括独⽴摇滚乐队荷尔蒙⼩姐的《象》和说唱歌⼿Kafe Hu的《27, The Code of Lucifer》。她现在也将和KUN以及视觉设计师⺩果⼀起组建⼀个“⼩计划”(Tiny Project),准备尝试⼀些跨界⾳乐和视觉⼀体的新艺术形式。卓玲将新的思路与之前较传统的⼈性化表达⽅式融合起来 ,她跨越电⼦和声学世界的创新能⼒源⾃多年的努⼒。

Wu Zhuoling is somewhat of a musical chameleon, comfortably shifting between a range of colours and habitats. As a singer-songwriter, she’s often found in smoky cafés and bars, performing original folk tunes on an acoustic guitar. As leader of trip-hop band Wednesday’s Trip, she’s used to storming festival stages, livehouses and even clubs in the Poly Centre with synthesizers and electric grooves.

“My initial dream was just to be in a rock band, as a drummer or bassist,” she says of her career that has spanned over 15 years, “then I ended up being kind of forced to the front.”

Behind the scenes, she is a self-taught producer with a staunch work ethnic and collaborations on local productions such as 27, The Code of Lucifer by rapper Kafe Hu, Elephant EP by indie-rockers The Hormones and ‘Tiny Project’ a live sound art group with violinist Kun and artist Wang Guo.

7yo-zhuoling-%e5%bd%ad%e5%b7%9e%e9%99%84%e8%bf%91%e7%9a%84%e6%b2%b3%e8%be%b9_ok

吴卓玲,7岁的时候,彭州附近的河边
Photo courtesy of Wu Zhuoling

吴卓玲是化学教授和基建工程师的女儿,她出生和成⻓都在成都⻄北的彭州。作为一个喜欢绘画极有创造性的孩子,她父母认为她会成为一个艺术家,但音乐在她心中扎了根。 “我最早的关于音乐的记忆应该是在80年代中期,上小学的时候听到哥哥带回家的音乐卡带,其中有刚刚流传到中国的“威猛”乐队(Wham!)的Disco歌曲,当时我就觉得非常新鲜好听,比在收音机或电视上听到的中国国内的音乐都更有活力,旋律过耳不忘。那应该是我第一次听到⻄方流行音乐。”

Daughter of a chemistry professor and an infrastructure engineer, Wu Zhuoling, also known as Julie, was born and raised in Pengzhou, north-west Chengdu. As a creative child who loved to draw, her parents thought she would grow up to be an artist, but music soon found it’s way to her heart.

“My earliest musical memories were around the mid-80s when I was in primary school. My brother brought home a Wham! cassette tape that had just come to China at the time. I remember feeling that disco music was so refreshing, so much more alive than the Chinese music on radio or TV. I’ll never forget first hearing those melodies, it was the first time I heard Western pop music.”

她同许多爱音乐人一样,吴卓玲最早的音乐入口来自90年代后期的“打口带”。 打口带通常在经过中国海关时就被切口处理了。“我会随便挑一些没听过的乐队,或者仅仅是被封面设计所吸引,胡乱买一些来听。后来逐渐发现了一些自己喜欢的乐队,比如爱尔兰的TheCranberries、 美国的REM等等。” 她开始听大量的录音带,并痴迷于那些MTV。还在成都电子科技大学读书的吴卓玲组建一支学生乐队叫“向日葵,” 开始在小酒馆玉林⻄路的老店演出,在当时成都的“地下音乐”圈中认识很多朋友也小有名气。

她开始感到北京在呼唤她:“2000年初期,全国的文化中心都在北京,每个做独立音乐的人都想去到北京。因为在那边能碰到更多同类,看到更多现场演出,也有更大的机会签约音乐厂牌。”

Like many music lovers of her generation, Wu Zhuoling’s gateway to musical discovery began in the late 90s with dakou cassette tapes, imported tapes that were cut to get through Chinese customs. “I’d randomly buy tapes by artists I’d never heard of or liked the album art of and gradually discovered bands I really liked – The Cranberries from Ireland, REM from the States…”

Between listening to tapes, obsessing over MTV and studying at Chengdu University of Electronic Science and Technology, Wu Zhuoling started her first rock band “Sunflower” and played occasionally at the old Little Bar on Yulin West Road, meeting other musicians in the circle and making a bit of a name for herself.

But Beijing was calling. “In early 2000s, the cultural centre of the whole country was in Beijing. All the indie artists wanted to go there to meet more people, see more gigs and have a better shot at a record deal.”

1999-%e5%90%91%e6%97%a5%e8%91%b5-%e5%b0%8f%e9%85%92%e9%a6%86%e6%bc%94%e5%87%ba-zhuoling
1999年,向日葵乐队,小酒馆
Photo courtesy of Wu Zhuoling

这个故事听起来更像是摇滚回忆录的一部分:“当时我的男友也是玩独立音乐的,恰好他的乐队已经签约了摩登天空,我便辞掉了我在成都优越的工作,义无反顾地投奔了他所在的树村。在那个被称作“摇滚乌托邦”的郊外村庄,和一大群来自五湖四海的摇滚⻘年们住在一起,跟随他们进城看演出,看他们排练,和他们一起赊账喝酒。”

千禧年初的北京,trip-hop这种音乐⻛格在那里的音乐环境中是非常有活力的,“身边很多在北京玩独立音乐的朋友都向我推荐Portishead,还有Massive Attack, Tricky那些乐队,或许是因为他们都觉得我适合玩这一类的音乐吧。” 不久后,星期三旅行便开始了。

“The rest of the story sounds like something out of a rock and roll memoir: “My boyfriend at the time was also doing music. His band got signed to Modern Sky, I quit my amazing job and defected to his ‘forest commune’ without hesitation. It was known as the “rock utopia,” a huge group of rock-and-roll youths from all corners of the country living together, following the band to their shows, watching rehearsals and getting drunk on their bar tabs.”

Amidst this nest of music at the start of the millennium, Zhuoling was introduced to trip-hop. “Friends recommended bands like Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky, perhaps because they thought I’d suit playing that style.” Wednesday’s Trip formed soon after.

2001-%e6%98%9f%e6%9c%9f%e4%b8%89%e6%97%85%e8%a1%8c

2001年,星期三旅行
Photo courtesy of Wu Zhuoling

但在2003年,非典爆发了,许多人逃离北京,城市的感觉也变的兵荒⻢乱。星期三旅行的首张专辑《秘密任务》拖延了很久才发行,因为2003年还在录音的过程中非典就爆发了。乐队成员四散离京,工 作停滞等状况不断。所以等到2005年它再发行时我已经是一种终于交差了的状态,它能不能火 我也丝毫不关心了。” 尽管专辑备受评论家们的欢迎,但卓玲已对北京感到失望,随即搬到了 ⻄藏去 。“我当时觉得不管怎样我都要去体验一下我想要的生活,以免以后老了会后悔。”

But in 2003 with the outbreak of SARS, many people fled Beijing for good and the city entered a health lockdown and disarray. Wednesday’s Trip’s debut record Secret Mission was delayed for years as a result. “The SARS outbreak came as we were recording – some of the band left Beijing and the whole process stagnated. So when it came out in 2005 it was this sense of final accomplishment, if it did well or not, I didn’t care.” Despite a warm reception from critics, Zhuoling felt at a loss with her purpose in Beijing and left for Tibet. “I felt I had to experience the life I wanted, so I could live without regrets.”

她从北京神秘消失了,隐遁⻄藏,一直在旅行和做零碎的工作。比如在酒吧看全英文小说,修电脑。 两年后,音乐创作再次进入她的生活。

Zhuoling stayed in Lhasa living a ‘reclusive life,’ working odd jobs like bar work, computer repairs and novel translation, only occasionally playing guitar with friends that came to her small courtyard. Two and a half years passed before doing music properly re-entered her life.

dsc01139

2006年,西藏
Photo courtesy of Wu Zhuoling

“有个朋友在我的电脑上安装了一款Fruity Loops软件,我出于好奇,将它打开玩了玩。”她说到关于电子音乐的开始,“呆在西藏的最后一年,我开始学习用电脑制作音乐。那时其实我非常穷,就买了一个便宜实用的MIDI键盘,ESI的keycontrol 25。”

电子制作是星期三旅行音乐的很大一部分,而卓玲对软件和硬件的使用非常客观。“我觉得新的技术对于我的音乐创作有着很大的影响,” 她说 “我在制作音乐和演出的时候主要还是会用到电脑软件,比如Logic Pro和Ableton Live,加上各种MIDI控制器、TC的VoiceLiveTouch人声效果器、Micro Korg合成器、Roland SP-404 SX采样器和一个小的混音台。”

“Early on a friend installed Fruity Loops on my computer and I started playing with it out of curiosity,” she says “then around 2007, I wanted to make computer music but was too poor, so bought a cheap MIDI keyboard and an ESI Key Control 25.” Lured back into the music, Zhuoling moved back to Chengdu in the late 00s and Wednesday’s Trip was revived in 2011.

Electronic production is a key part of Wednesday’s Trip’s spacious, groovy sound and Zhuoling is hugely optimistic about it’s potential to create previously unimaginable sounds. “I think new technology has a huge influence on my music,” she says, “I use Logic Pro and Ableton Live, MIDI controllers, TC’s VoiceLive Touch, Micro Korg synthesizers, a Roland SP-404 SX sampler and a small mixer.”

2015_03%e6%88%90%e9%83%bd%e5%b0%8f%e9%85%92%e9%a6%86

2015年,小酒馆
Photo courtesy of Wu Zhuoling

“自从今年年初我们更换了成员后,也做了一些比较大的角色和职能上的调整。”目前的星期三客场的阵容配备包括吉他手龚鹤龄和VJ吴騰琳。星期三旅行的声音保留了卓玲自从00年代初一直创造的黑暗的喜怒无常的groove 和Massive Attack的填充低音。 今年他们参加了腾龙洞迷笛音乐节和NUART艺术节,但并不急于在今年录制新的唱片。“希望最终能不辜负歌迷们的期待,推出一张令人满意的新专辑。”

“We made some big changes within the band this year,” she says of current Wednesday’s Trip line-up featuring guitarist Gong Heling a.k.a. Mao Mao and VJ Guo. Their sound retains the dark, moody grooves that Zhuoling has been crafting since the early 00s, eerie vocal harmonies, scratchy synthesizers and entrancing dub-filled bass lines reminiscent of Massive Attack. The band have made several festival appearances this year already, including Tenglong Midi Festival with Dizzy Trip and last month’s NUART Festival at Mintown but are not in a hurry to record a new album this year. “We hope we can live up to our patient fans’ expectations.”

虽然已经有了超过十五年的音乐生涯,但卓玲并不想要被当作榜样。“每个都有的路要走,我的式可能只能作为种参考。”她说,关于她的独乐的旅程,从唱公司到树村到录室再到俱乐部,“或许也是因为我不愿意依赖别,较勤学,耐得住寂寞,才会付出有所得。”因此卓玲更倾向于的式,做的事情,她觉得好的伙伴是创造乐的最重要的元素。

对于那些想要开始个乐队的建议?

“简单地说,就是要找乐上投缘的。这个要求不是很容易就能实现,所以要多耐尝试才可能碰到。”

“Everyone has their own path,” she says of her journey through the music industry, from record labels and boozy rock and roll communes to studios and dance clubs, “hard work and the loneliness that comes with it can eventually pay off.” With a tendency to do things by herself, Zhuoling is still adamant that good partners are the most essential elements of making music.

Any advice for those wanting to start a band?

Find people who love music.

Advertisements

“This is not a performance” : Interview with Joshua C. Love

Photo by 兀鱼横流

在过去十年里参与成都音乐场景的朋友们都会认识爱书华,迷一般的摇滚变色蝴蝶和Dizzy Love的神秘主唱,由长长的棕色长发绺,烟熏的眼线,纹身的胳膊抱着一群自由奔放的小孩子。 对于他的创作合作,包容性和灵性的观点而言,他的音乐产出众所周知,爱书华是一位在舞台上和舞台下散发活力和安静的沉思的人。

Anyone involved in the Chengdu music scene over the past decade will be familiar with Joshua C. Love (爱书华), the enigmatic frontman of prolific psychedelic rock group Proximity Butterfly and current electronic pop trio Dizzy Love, identified by his long brown dreadlocks, smoky eyeliner, armfuls of tattoos and free-spirited children. Known as much for his music as he is for his views on collaboration, inclusivity and spirituality, Love is a person who exudes a vitality and confidence paired with a quiet contemplation both on and off stage.

Joshua C. Love 爱书华, 2016.
Photo by 陈闵川.

爱书华和他的妻子,同时也是贝斯手、歌手和老师海珊珊以及他们三个出生在加拿大但在中国长大的孩子住在成都。 “我的母亲和父亲都是空军,我的继父一直待在军队,所以我小时候常来往于东海岸和新墨西哥埃尔帕索,”说到他在美国的成长经历,他说,“如果今天我回国肯定会感受到很多文化冲击,关于当代情况,关于电视上的东西,人们在谈论什么…”像他们的父母,爱孩子的夫妻们都是双语教学的,双胞胎只是最近才分清中英文的区别。

Joshua lives in Chengdu with his wife, bassist, vocalist and fellow teacher Heather Christine Love and their three Canadian-born children all of whom have grown up in China from infancy.

 “My mother and father were both in the air force and my stepfather was in the army, so I spent a lot of time moving around down the East Coast and in El Paso, New Mexico,” he says of his own upbringing, “if I went back today I would feel a lot of culture shock with the way things are, things on TV, what people are talking about…” Like their parents, the Love children are all bilingual, with the twins only recently picking up on the difference between English and Chinese.

Josh and Heather, Zebra Festival, 2009.
Photo courtesy of Dan Sandoval.

爱书华于2002年搬到成都当英文老师,不久之后认识海珊珊。“当时候成都就像《现代启示录》那部电影,”他说,关于当时理工大学的周围,“哪儿都能看到香蕉树,稻田,牛拉车,老太太在府南河洗衣服,对我来说,它们充满了灵性。”在这个环境里,变色蝴蝶诞生了。

2003年乐队在他们夫妻的客厅诞生,变色蝴蝶为成都的一个DIY摇滚乐队创造了无限可能。爱书华反映在乐队的第一次排练上:“原来的鼓手陈迪兮从来没有打过架子鼓,海珊珊也从来没弹过贝司。我们只是想用音乐讲故事。” 变色蝴蝶在国内不停地演出,他们赚到钱就用来添置乐队装备,巡演和录音。

Chengdu, 2002.
Photo courtesy of Joshua Love.

Love first moved to Chengdu in 2002 and met Heather soon after. “It was like Apocalypse Now,” he says of the area around Ligong University at the time, “banana trees, rice paddy hats, ox pulling carts, old ladies washing their clothes in the river – to me it had an enormous spirituality to it.” This was the environment in which Proximity Butterfly was born. Starting from humble beginnings in the Love’s living room back in 2003, Proximity Butterfly set the bar for what was possible for a DIY rock band in Chengdu. “Our drummer Chen Duxi had never touched a drum set before, Heather had never played a bass in her life,” Josh reflects on the band’s first rehearsal, “we literally just wanted to tell stories.”  The band performed ceaselessly around town, pouring what little money they made back into gear, touring and studio recordings.

变色蝴蝶海报, 冰石,四姑娘山.
Photo by Kristen Ng.

在2000年中后期成都经历很多变化,道路被建设得更加宽阔,有了二环和三环路。城市以惊人的速度开始发展,而当地音乐和艺术场景也变了。“我觉得从那时候起,成都有一种从根本上让人感到自豪的转变。”爱书华说,“人们开始结合资源把艺术和音乐的梦想变成现实。“ 开始有很多将音乐场景聚集在一起的合作活动,比如斑马节和Cookin’ Chengdu。When the roads were broken down, ring roads built and the city began to develop at breakneck speed around the mid-late 2000s, too came vast changes in the music and arts scene. “There was a shift in attitude that allowed you to be proud to be from Chengdu,” Josh reflects, “ideas to do festivals and art things became possible with the resources that became available.” Collaborative events that brought the music community together such as Zebra Festival and Cookin’ Chengdu came soon after.

“麻糖是很多人开始的地方。

Everybody that’s doing something today was at some point engaged with the Hemp House.”

 

麻糖 Hemp House, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Dan Sandoval.

“当时,麻糖是一个创意人的蜂巢,”他说,“不管是一场嘻哈演出,重金属或绘画的活动,大家都会去那里聚会,然后彼此结识。那是一个黄金时期,感觉像一个亚特兰蒂斯。

十三年来,变色蝴蝶发布了七张专辑,进行了好几次国内外的巡演,得到了许多乐队所渴望的成功。从小咖啡馆演出到成都最受欢迎和标志性的摇滚乐队之一, 这并不容易。担任了多年变色蝴蝶经理人和代理人爱书华说:“很多人认为做乐队只是喝酒和写曲,实际上你必须做一个能在凌晨5点的时候起来将事情安排妥当,又能在演出中保持狂热和活力的人。”随着他们去年的专辑《Medusae》在兵马司发布后,变色蝴蝶暂停了演出 。

“At that time the Hemp House was a beehive for creative people,” he says, “it didn’t matter if it was a hip-hop night, heavy metal or painting event, everybody would go there to hang out, everyone knew each others names, it was a golden period, it felt like an Atlantis.”

Over thirteen years, Proximity Butterfly released seven full-length records, toured both nationally and internationally and enjoyed a degree of success that many would aspire to, elevating themselves from café gigs to one of Chengdu’s most well-loved and iconic rock bands. But it certainly wasn’t easy.

“A lot people think being in a band is just about getting wasted and making new songs,” says Josh, the band’s manager and agent over the years. “You have to be that boring guys that wakes up at 5am and sorts the logistics, you have to be the crazy guy that keeps it real in the live shows – it just got too much.” Following the release of their latest album Medusae on Maybe Mars last year, Proximity Butterfly is now on hiatus.

Happy Ending by Proximity Butterfly
《美好的结局》变色蝴蝶

现在爱书华把他的音乐焦点转向新的乐队Dizzy Love,一个由居住在北京的丹麦制片人Jelly Soendberg和来自意大利的鼓手Cecche组成的三人组。尽管Dizzy Love今年初才组建,但他们已经被邀请参加国内各地的音乐节,包括红原草原音乐节,康定音乐节和Morning House早上好的 春游音乐节。“Dizzy Love是摆脱变色蝴蝶这个名字的一种方式,”爱书华说“如果不叫变色蝴蝶人们还会同样喜欢吗?

“Love has now turned his musical focus towards a new project called Dizzy Love, a trio comprised of Beijing-based Danish producer Jelly Soendberg and Italian drummer Cecche. Despite just forming earlier this year, Dizzy Love have already been invited to play at festivals around the country including Hongyuan Grassland Music Festival, Kangding Love Music Festival and Chunyou at Morning 早上好. “Dizzy Love was a way to shake off the name,” he says, “would anybody even like it if wasn’t called Proximity Butterfly?”

Jelly Soendberg
Cecche

Dizzy Love, Kangding Love Festival.
Photos by 满足视觉&明嘉影像

虽然爱书华还是担任作曲和主唱,Dizzy Love的声音有别于变色蝴蝶的重型摇滚 riff 和鼓。Soendberg丰满的键盘和数字制作,以及Cecche的电鼓节奏都围绕着他独特的人声展开。从《Medusae》的爱情歌开始,Dizzy Love 继续前行。新的组合品质宏伟而梦幻,一个成熟的新形电子流行民谣。“变色蝴蝶对我来说总是黑暗的,像不断投石的魔鬼… 而Dizzy Love如一个开放的阀门,通过各种不同的能量,让我谱写多彩的爱的篇章。

With Joshua still comfortably in the songwriting seat, Dizzy Love moves away from Proximity Butterfly’s heavy rock riffs and drum rolls as the fullness of Soendberg’s keys and digital production and Cecche’s electric drum beats encase themselves around his distinctive chorus-drenched lyrics. The musical direction picks up where love songs on Proximity Butterfly’s curtain call album Medusae left off, the new combination has a grandiose, dreamy quality to it, a mature new form of electronic pop balladry.

“Proximity Butterfly was always darker for me – throwing rocks at the devil and calling out the bullshit,” he says, “Dizzy Love is the opening of a valve that allows a different kind of energy to flow through – to write about love and colourful things.”

“这不是假象,这是最真实的
This is not a performance – this is the most real it could possibly be”

 

听着Dizzy Love的音乐,能很明显的感觉到充满了爱,坚定的信念和饱含的诚意使变色蝴蝶如此耳目一新。我们开始讨论他们的新歌《Bliss》:“一个人要做最真实的自我,爱情帮助我们做到。 当你爱上别人时,你毫无戒备的愿意接受一切。”

Listening to Dizzy Love, it is immediately apparent that Joshua has put the love back into his music with all the sincerity and conviction that made Proximity Butterfly so refreshing. “It is entirely okay to be as honest as you can be; and love helps us do that,” Joshua says of their latest track Bliss, an old song which has finally found its wings with Jelly’s production. “When you are in love with somebody, you put your guard down completely and are just willing to accept everything.”

爱书华和星期三旅行的主唱吴卓玲相识十多年。“我们之间有绝对的信任和尊重。”他说,关于这位歌手,吉他手和电子制作人“我们总是互相支持,有着一个非常良好的关系。”在最近腾龙洞迷笛音乐节,他们决定让这份友情在音乐中也开花结果。“希望这份诚意和积极的态度能够鼓舞到别人,让他们印象深刻。

Joshua has known Wu Zhuoling, frontwoman of Wednesday’s Trip for over ten years. “There’s always been a trust and respect between us,” he says of the singer, guitarist and electronic producer, “we always support each other and have a very positive relationship.” At the recent Midi Festival in Tenglong Caves, the pair decided to bring this long-running musical friendship into fruition. “Working together in good faith with positive energy will hopefully inspire people, let’s make it unforgettable.”

变色蝴蝶歌迷们可能会对乐队的暂停感到失望,但爱书华依然在这里,依然在创作着振奋人心的音乐。随着我们的咖啡将要喝完,爱书华沉思:“荣格说过我们生活就是重叠的反射自己。我的选择是回到起点,不再深入,而是回归。我开始意识到它既是终点也是起点。

While Proximity fans may be disappointed with the band’s hiatus, be assured that Love is still present and making music as uplifting as ever. “Carl Jung was talking about how your life is an overlapped reflection of itself,” he contemplates as our coffee comes to an end, “something happened recently which was a return point, there’s no point to go further into the cosmos, but to loop back through and realize that everything is already as it was.”


2016年11月11日,Dizzy Love和老朋友们星期三旅行要给大家一场星际演出从NU SPACE起飞!
 
On Friday 11th November, Dizzy Love will team up with old friends Wednesday’s Trip to present a show of intergalactic proportions at NU SPACE.

采访和文字:Kristen Ng 伍思婷
中文编辑:兀鱼横流
照片:Dan Sandoval, Joshua Love, 满足视觉&明嘉影像, 陈闵川, 兀鱼横流

Lady Lazer Light Casts A Spell Over China: Interview with Erica Sklenars

Wellington! 惠灵顿!

Erica Sklenars a.k.a. Lady Lazer Light is in the capital this week for two talks about her art residency in Beijing and touring with Orchestra of Spheres around China.

Kiwese caught up with her ahead of tonight’s first talk!


The last Lady Lazer Light show I saw before moving back to China was in collaboration with long time pals Orchestra of Spheres.

It was a cheap $10 gig at Valhalla – a grungy, hole in the wall on Vivian Street downtown Wellington, which having survived several different eras of management had remained popular among the metal, bogan and experimental community for it’s diverse billing, excellent beer selection and outdoor area provisioned with old car tyres and miscellaneous lounge furniture.

It was mid-2014, a rough time for Wellington music punters with the closures of popular inner city venues Mighty Mighty and Puppies. San Francisco Bath House had been renovated into ‘San Fran’ – a yuppie, tapas-catering ghost of it’s former self that had halved it’s capacity due to safety concerns – the packed out balcony and wall-to-wall mosh pit had become a thing of the past. The city was thirsty for a good show.

The Valhalla line-up included some of Wellington’s favourite acts, who were not greatly affected by the venue closures as they were accustomed to playing in unconventional spaces around town. Throat-ripping turntable noise trio the All Seeing Hand had arrived home from their national tour and were supported by their good mates Orchestra of Spheres, experimental folk yodeller Seth Frightening, and visually enhanced by the Queen of Psychedelic Projections Herself, Lady Lazer Light. The stage was a whirlpool of colour and sound and the bar was packed with familiar faces, with Valhalla regulars happily drinking alongside the refugees of less fortunate venues.

In the second set of the night, the Spheres took the stage in inimitable style – festooned with the finest eyewear The $2 Shop can buy, armed with one-of-a-kind wooden and tin instruments and oozing with the bizarre stage presence that has earned them a cult following throughout the country. The crowd surged forward, ready for the cosmic rhythms.

Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light. Valhalla, June 2014.
Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light. Valhalla, June 2014.

As Lady Lazer Light sprayed forth her kaleidoscopic beams and the Spheres chanted a mantra about iPhone chargers, the sensorily satiated crowd swayed shoulder to shoulder as one, united by a brilliant display of colour and sound. If the desired effect was group hypnosis – they certainly succeeded.

The show was a spiritual experience for the city – the buzz around Valhalla, the friendliness and happiness of all the people who had come to celebrate and support, it was a truly magical night. Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light were the gems in Wellington’s creative crown, and we all bowed down in ecstasy.


Around the middle of last year, things really started to fall into place. I was emailing Dan from the Spheres on an almost daily basis and we were gradually putting together the pieces for a national China tour. The dream was coming to life, everyone was excited.

KIWESE: “Are you guys bringing Lady Lazer Light?”

DAN: “Erica Sklenars is going to be in Beijing for three months on an artist residency!! So we’ll bring her along for the trip.”

KIWESE: *faints*

Last year, Erica was selected as the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange (WARE) artist-in-residence at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing, a programme jointly run by Asia New Zealand and the Wellington City Council. Visual artist/zine overlord Kerry Ann Lee and punk photographer John Lake are previous recipients of the grant and have both previously featured on Kiwese.

Kiwese had the privilege of working with Erica on several projects around China, including the epic Orchestra of Spheres x Lady Lazer Light China Tour, a techno party in a Feijiacun BBQ shack, an impromptu music video shoot with Kunming disco-punks South Acid MiMi Dance Team and a VJ show for Lost in Space at .TAG, an electronic music club on the top floor of one Chengdu’s tallest buildings.


The morning after the second Orchestra of Spheres show in Beijing, I awoke with a heavy hangover to find Erica passed out on the couch at my friend’s tiny flat in Beixinqiao, wrapped in her screen as a blanket and surrounded by noodles of projector cables and chargers. A Lady Lazer Light bomb had exploded in the lounge and ground zero was beautifully chaotic. This chick is crack up.

Despite being a fan of her work for years, I’d actually never met Erica Sklenars before she arrived in Beijing last September.

During my time with her in China, through all the madness, set-ups, pack downs, instant noodles, Jingjiu, overnight train rides, WeChat frenzies, gaffer tape, raves, laughs, cries and hangovers, she became a very dear friend, one who I have enormous respect and admiration for as an artist, improvisor, communicator and genuinely wonderful human being.

I am so pleased to finally feature her here on this humble blog.

Lady Lazer Light and Kiwese. Dali, Yunnan, China, October 2014.
Lady Lazer Light and Kiwese. Dali, China, October 2015.

KIWESE: Sup Sklen, how’s it going?

SKLENARS: Fab!

As Lady Lazer Light, you’ve been a staple visual collaborator in Wellington for many years. Can you tell us a bit about your current set up in Dunedin?

I’ve been living between Dunedin and Wellington a bit this year with various projects, but I’m technically based in beautiful Port Chalmers, Dunedin, living and making work in Chick’s Hotel.

What’s the deal with Chick’s Hotel at the mo?

They closed a couple of weeks ago, went out with a bang with a number of awesome farewell gigs, including Shifting Sands and The Clean sending us off on the final night.

I’ve been away since then, but word on the street says there is a killer recording studio developing downstairs…

You were based in Wellington for many years, how have you found the transition to Dunedin life? My only experience with the music scene on my trip there was a seedy late night karaoke bar, where I realised Seven Days by Craig David is actually really hard to sing.

Haha! I have only encountered YouTube karaoke down there… but may have heard something about such bars.

I’m finding it quite different, a bit more chill, a good place to reflect on my practice and on my high-energy, chaotic last few months of travel.

There are some really cool things happening there in the music scene, some awesome new and old bands, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to collaborate and perform. There is actually some REALLY great music happening there at the moment.

You’ve mentioned Élan vital before. Could you name some other acts you’re digging in Dunedin?

Yes, Élan vital are super awesome. A member from that band is also in Death and The Maiden, who I have worked with in the past and they rule. Another member has started an awesome band called Terrified. There are so many I love… Astro ChildrenOpposite SexEmbedded Figures, I’m missing some out I know.

I collaborated with Repulsive Woman recently, she played alone outside an old Free Mason Lodge and the audience watched/peeped on her from inside through a camera obscura I constructed. She plays One Direction covers.

You were in Beijing for three months and really thrived in it. Do you have any favourite spots for music and art in the city?

I:project Space is a super awesome artist run space. I went to a few cool events at Aotu Studio 凹凸 for art/book launch/music.

For music – School, Dada and Temple!

What do you miss about China now that you are back in NZ?

I miss the food of course! I loved it all. I miss being able to order a bunch of different dishes – I’m terrible at making decisions on menus.

I miss always having an exciting new place to go! There’s one particular dish I would get that was kind of an omelette thing with sprouts and noodles, it was soo good for late breakfasts. And the shredded potato!! So good.

I miss the friendly faces around where I was living, going on adventures through different villages to find art supplies, taking several forms of public transport to go somewhere, the amazing friendly people I would meet that would extend so much help and kindness despite us not speaking the same language.

Lady Lazer Light at the Poop Clothing Mall. Beijing, September 2015.
Lady Lazer Light at the Poop Clothing Mall. Beijing, September 2015.

The Spheres tour was so bloody fab. Do you have a particularly standout gig?

Too hard to choose! I loved the BBQ party in Feijiacun because that was in the community I was living in.

I loved the NUART Festival in Chengdu and the after party at Zaoshanghao, so much fun! I loved every city and show for different reasons, I can’t pick a single fav. I really want to come back and I’m working on some plans, watch this space!

When can we expect to see the South Acid MiMi x Lady Lazer Light music video?

Soooooon!

What would you say to other artists wanting to visit China?

Do it, it’s an awesome place to tour as a band and to make art.

Chur girl, you Sklegend!

Still of Erica and a fan in Chengdu from the upcoming Orchestra of Spheres: Te China Rockumentary series presented by Kiwese in early May.
Erica and a fan in Chengdu – a still from the upcoming Orchestra of Spheres: Te China Rockumentary series set for release in early May.


 

Erica will be speaking in Wellington tonight and tomorrow:

P-LAB: LADY LAZER LIGHT
/////////////////////////
Time: 7:00pm | Wed 13 April 2016 
Location: Pyramid Club
 272 Taranaki Street, Wellington, New Zealand 
Koha entry

For her P-LAB session, Erica will be delving into her world of projected visuals and speaking about her recent 3 month residency in Beijing on the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange.

The Pyramid Club is run by the Sound and Exploration Society.

Read more at the Facebook event page.


International Connections: An artist residency forum
Time: 5.30pm – 7.30pm | Thu 14 April 2016
Location: Adam Auditorium, City Gallery
101 Wakefield St, Wellington, New Zealand
Free entry

Hear internationally acclaimed visual artists speak about their practice and residency experiences in a panel discussion chaired by Courtney Johnston, director of The Dowse Art Museum. The artists – Marc Brandenburg, Etienne de France, Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington – will share their work and their thoughts about the world versus Wellington.

Berlin-based Brandenburg is the current Goethe-Institut Artist in Resident at the Bolton Street Cottage; Etienne de France, from Paris, is the Massey University Artist in Resident staying at Te Whare Hera; and Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington are both Wellington-based artists recently back from Asia.


Read more about Erica’s time in Beijing here!

Stay tuned for more from Lady Lazer Light on Kiwese!

http://www.ericasklenars.com

Blood, Sweat and Tears: Interview with Hweiling Ow

Comedy for stage, horror for screen; evil gnomes, fish tanks and everything in between. 

Kiwese caught up with PJ-born actor, producer and ardent coriander opponent Hweiling Ow about her life as a creative in Auckland, to play or not to play the Asian roles, and what makes her tick.

NB: PJ is Petaling Jaya in Malaysia, not Peter Jackson.


Hweiling Ow’s resume reads like a menu at a funky nu-fusion restaurant, where you confidently nod away at the dishes you understand while being discreetly disorientated by others.

While some loyalists to the nation’s longest running soap drama Shortland Street may recognise Hweiling as the help-me-I’m-dying token Asian patient Angkasa, it is in independent stage and screen productions where her talents truly shine; gore flick T For Talk is only for the strong stomached and brave hearted, while her multiple roles in Under the Same Moon have had audiences cracking up and theatre reviewers singing her praises.

Like many creatives in the hardly bounteous funding environment of New Zealand, Hweiling’s credits are punctuated with advertising gigs and commercials. However, with so many new projects and concepts on the go right now, she should be able to close out of those Looking for Work tabs forever!! Or at least just bookmark them for later.

Without further ado, here is the interview with the hilarious and wonderful Hweiling Ow.

Screen shot from the short film M is for Musical Chairs. Not suitable for children.
Hweiling in a still from the short film M is for Musical Chairs. Nightmarish stuff.

KIWESE: What up Hweiling! Genuine question, how do you pronounce your surname? 

HWEILING OW: Huwayling Ow!! Like if someone punches your arm and it hurts, or if you stub your toe, or if you walk into a wall. Anytime you are in pain, think of me.

As an actor/producer/creative, your work is far from a 9-5. Can you walk us through a day in the life of Hweiling? 

No day is the same. Like every bacteria, plankton, and snowflake. But like every artist – I think about where my next pay cheque might come from, and how can I make this work. I am great at stretching my dollar and am a better cook too because of that… silver lining!

You discovered acting in your twenties. What were you planning to do as a career prior to that?

Unlike lots of people, I didn’t have a plan. Having a ‘career’ is overrated. Life is measured in many ways.

In a previous interview, you said that as an actor you need to bare all your insecurities. That sounds TERRIFYING. How do you approach that level of honesty with yourself while working? 

I strip down and rehearse naked. Honour thy feelings to yourself – no matter how inappropriate society may judge it to be.

Can you share some of your life’s greatest cringe moments?

This time I was on a date, and I hadn’t realise how much my stomach doesn’t agree with fresh milk. The whole date was silently toxic.

Blue Cod in Bubblelands. Photo by Julie Zhu for Tearaway.
Blue Cod in Bubblelands. Photo by Julie Zhu for Tearaway.

You just finished Bubblelands, where you played a Blue Cod in a fish tank. How did you and your co-star Benjamin Teh prepare for these fishy roles? Visits to Kelly Tarltons having deep and meaningful chats with the fish?

OMG – how did you know I speak fish?! The Blue Cod Society are really unimpressed with the extent the Gloriavale community has copied their culture without any public acknowledgement for where they get their inspiration from.

You’re currently producing and acting in the web series AFK. Is there a deeper gaming nerd within you that drew you to the series?

My deeper nerd is alive and well in my everyday life. I am a recent proud owner of a BB-8.

The players are all stuck in bodies that they created online, is the idea of separate inner and outer identities something that interests you?

The writer/director of AFK, Peter Haynes, should be the one credited for everything AFK encompasses because it’s his baby. Very very clever, and so much potential. I love everything sci-fi and fantasy. My character is kooky and slightly psychotic, so I’m loving it.

Amy plays alot of MMORPG with her boyfriend Jack. Turns out he’s a douche and cheated on her with her best friend. So when she was trapped in the game, she’s pretty pissed off and very skilled. She ate dead fairies to keep alive, and plotted her revenge. She wields a huge hammer, and plays a gnome in the game.

Woah epic. You are also doing some writing. Are you thinking of putting on your own show, or making your own film?

Short answer is yes for film. I have started to write something for theatre, but found it hard to get my head around. My background isn’t theatre – I’ve only been doing it for about four years and I am still learning the ways.

I am great at horror concepts. Exhibit A:

Dude, that is fucked up. Reminds me a lot of Saw/Hostel/gore movies my sister and I used to be obsessed with. What are your favourite horror flicks? 

Hah – lots of people made that comparison. The IRONY is that I do not and cannot watch horror. I remember watching Blade and having to leave all the lights on in the house. I watched Brain Dead in two sittings. And just thinking of Poltergeist pushes my anxiety levels up. My brain is warped enough and the dark still freaks me out.

WATCH: Hweiling starring in 48Hours 2015 Grand National Finalist ‘Katy Harrison: Grooming a Superstar’:

The Internet is full of stupid black holes and click bait, a theme you and Peter played around with in your 48Hours entry this year, as well as the online world in AFK. I feel like the world is waiting for you guys to make a way-too-close-to-home internet based horror flick… Thoughts?

There’s plenty of real horror stories – we should just pitch for a reality TV series of that instead. Life is like the internet. There is great amazing stuff, and bad dark stuff. Choose what you click on – cos you never know how many pop-ups you might end up with.

What draws you to compete in 48Hours every year?

We’re not very sociable. So its becomes a bit of a marketing tool for our skills. We make good shit in two days. Also, we’re a sucker for punishment.

Woah. Polyglot alert! You speak five languages, four more than most other Kiwis. Can you tell us how you learnt all these languages? 

Lol, okay, clarification: England my first language is. Then Malay, it was in all the schools, then Hokkien, the only language my grandma could communicate with me in (with the help of sign language), kinda like a 5 year old. Then Cantonese – cos all my classmates were speaking it, and now I’m learning Mandarin just cos there are so many peeps speaking it.

I want to pick up the basics of Tamil and Arabic at some point. Sounds impressive, but you get Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thai people coming to Malaysia, and THEY pick up the local languages and dialects to survive and find low level work for a better life.

How did you fall in with the Liang sistahz? You have worked with Renee and Roseanne for stage and screen.

True story, I met Roseanne in a casual random hip hop class in Auckland Central fifteen years ago, saw that she was into making movies, and I’m like HEY I LIKE MAKING MOVIES TOO!!!! Renee came much later when she was writing for theatre, they ARE STUPENDOUSLY AWESOME BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.

WATCH: Trailer for Roseanne Liang’s film

My Wedding and Other Secrets:

Earlier this year, you took on the mammoth role of playing all the characters in Renee Liang’s play Under the Same Moon. Full on!! You’d playing two characters before in Two Fish ‘N’ A Scoop, how did you step it up in Under the Same Moon?

I had two personalities in Two Fish ‘N’ A Scoop. I invited another seven more into my brain, like Being John Malkovich. Baptism by fire is how I roll. I people watch.

Allan has designed the poster for Renee Liang's new play, Under the Same Moon.
Allan Xia designed the poster for Renee Liang’s play Under the Same Moon, starring Hweiling Ow. You can read interviews with all three of them here on Kiwese. Yes.

“I have turned down roles if I didn’t think the accent was necessary, or if I was having one of those – ‘nope, not doing an accented character’ days.”

I know Renee is more interested in writing more ‘non-cultural’ pieces this year, but using Cantonese on stage and even just seeing the NZ Herald publish the words ‘Por Por’ is awesome in asserting Asian voices into NZ theatre. 

What are your thoughts on playing roles where your Asian-ness is the focus, and how do you break away from that?

Non-cultural?! It’s got cultural. New Zealand needs that ‘transitional period’ of being offered stories of people from different cultures and races instead of default setting. It’s important these stories are more than just culture and race. As for Renee, I think her breaking point is Bubblelands, though I haven’t seen The Quiet Room. If having culture is relevant to the story, it needs to happen. Each person journeys through the transition of just writing humanistic stories – differently. I am happy to play those characters as long as it serves the story and the story is a good one to tell.

Have you ever had a showmance? 

On screen and on stage – yes.

Have you ever corpsed on stage? If so, what was it that set you off?

Yes! My sister blister sitting in the front row giggling. She’s been away and it was the first show she’d seen me in. After that, we agreed she should sit as far back as possible.

Which character that you’ve played have you connected with the most?

That requires knowing myself really well. Which is still a work in progress.

What is your ideal post-show celebration/commiseration feed?

Sweet and salty popcorn and sushi. Apparently being Asian, I should be in love with food. But I’m not.

“I get accused of being Malaysian and not liking coriander. If you want to see me puke, just bring me a bouquet of fresh coriander.”

Hath you any words of wisdom for aspiring filmmakers/actors/creatives?

If the timeline of earth was compressed into one year, humans wouldn’t show up until December 31 at 11:58 p.m.

Complete this sentence: New Zealand needs more________?

Unicorns.

Chur Hweiling!

Here, Hweiling shares with us her YouTube recommendations, so we can all spend more time in front of our screens.
  • House of Cards:
  • VGHS:
  • H+:
  • Amy Schumer:

He Tangata: Interview with Mayor Meng Foon

Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa, “the Great standing place of Kiwa,” formerly “the first city to see the sun” (jeez… thanks, Apia), whānau hometown Gisborne on the North Island’s East Coast is a very special place indeed.

Beaches, cicada song, 50c ice-blocks from the dairy, backyard cricket with the cuzzies! Those hot summers up at Por Por’s are seared into my memory, us Chinese kids barefoot biking the streets, bronzed brown and yellow… NB: Outdoor pursuits dwindled as we later adopted mahjong and beer.

For almost fifteen years now, tri-lingual local bro and cultural chameleon Meng Foon has been the Mayor of this predominantely Māori beach town. I’ve seen him confidently korero in Te Reo with Māori figureheads, slay games of mahjong in a single round, and even pose in photos with Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China.

Kiwese caught up with Mayor Meng recently about his goals as the new President of the New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA), what it was like growing up in Gizzy and why the town could be adding 吉斯伯恩 Jí sī bó ēn to it’s long-list of nicknames in the future.

Portrait by Nathan Foon. Image from Nathan @ Two Pumps.
Portrait by Nathan Foon, Two Pumps. Image supplied by the artist.


KIWESE: Kia Ora Meng. Could you tell us a bit about your whakapapa and settlement on the East Coast? 

MENG FOON: My Dad came to Gisborne, NZ, in 1947. Their family had fled Guangzhou to Hong Kong because of the Japanese War. Dad married Mum in 1959 in HK and came back to Gisborne to continue their market garden business. Dad is Seyip and Mum is Taishan – both speak different dialects of Chinese, so we know both. My kids are all grown up now: Amanda in London, Jessica in Auckland, Nathan in Wellington.

What was your childhood like growing up in Gisborne in the 60s and 70s?

We grew up knowing work and supporting our parents, we loved being kids as we could build fires, play in the drains, make bow and arrows, toys from my uncle… but most of the time if we weren’t at school we worked.

Dad would pick us up from school at lunch time, we would quickly eat our lunch in the truck and do an hour of garden work, then go back to school.

We worked in the shop, standing on a box to reach the till. And we had a horse called Dick who did some of our preparation work for our gardens. I started on tractor work at 8 years of age.

Gisborne's gorgeous Wainui Beach. Image from Wainuibeach.co.nz.
Gisborne’s gorgeous Wainui Beach. Image from Wainuibeach.co.nz by Gray Clapham.

Most Kiwis are monolingual, with a mere 18.6% listed as speaking more than one language in the 2013 census. It’s well known that you are fluent in Te Reo, English and Cantonese. Can you talk about your own experience with language learning, at home and at school growing up, as well as now in the community?

Working in the shop we had all sorts of dialects comes to our place, the many forms of English, from Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English customers fascinated me. Even customers told me that the north of London was different from the south of London!

Māori was also spoken by our customers and I would always copy what they said with their tones, they laughed at us sometimes when what we said was naughty. So gradually I learnt more Māori.

Our Māori customers were great they were very encouraging, I loved the stories of all cultures and Mum used to tell us Chinese stories – we just couldn’t get enough.

“I found out at an early age that my Māori friends didn’t speak Māori, which was odd to me as we spoke Chinese at home and sometimes to other Chinese kids.”

https://youtu.be/y5kkCwuj9oU
What motivated you to first get involved with local politics in the mid 1990s?

We bought a shopping mall in August 1997, one of the buildings we built was a Community Police Station. I made good friends with a couple of police men, Hemi Hikuwai and Allan Davidson. We would solve all the world problems over tea and biscuits. One day he said that I would make a good councillor. I didn’t even know what that was, after a bit more chatting he said, “lunch is good.”

Anyway, he introduced me to a councillor who presented the Patutahi Taruheru Ward, Crl Owen Pinching. He was a great mentor and showed me all the issues of the area introduced me to a number of people and we became good mates.

I could stand in the city ward or the country ward, I choose the later as it was where our gardens were, our shop and our home, most people knew who we were, most of them were our customers.

We got our voting strategy with Hemi and Allan and I won the seat in 1994. There were 2 positions and I was pleased to top the polls on my first election. In 1998 I stood for Mayor and missed out and was successful in 2001.

You’ve been Mayor of Gisborne since 2001, what is your ethos towards leadership?

Listening to the wants and needs of the community, support them,

It is all about people, people, people.

My own agenda.

Having and plan and executing it is very important.

Say what you do and do it well.

Keep focussed on the important matters.

Meng's campaign for Mayor was successful again in 2013.
Meng’s campaign for Mayor was successful again in 2013.

We are now seeing a gulf between the original old hand Canto Chinese, and the ‘new wave’ of Chinese to NZ. Culturally, socially and linguistically these groups differ greatly from one another. As the President of the NZCA, how do seek to appeal to the various needs of this ever changing ‘Chinese community’ of NZ?

Change is inevitable and it is a journey, there have been many waves of Chinese coming to NZ from gold miners, pre-WWI, WWII, Hong Kong Chinese, Colombo Plan – Malaysian Chinese, Taiwanese Chinese, now Chinese from China, we are all from the same womb.

We need to celebrate and embrace each other’s values. It is great to have such challenges. Meet with the various groups, learning Mandarin is a start.

Gisborne has the largest percentage of Te Reo speakers in the country, truly awesome! How do you see the preservation of Te Reo holding itself alongside the growing urgency for more Asian language education? There appears to be a growing narrative where Te Reo is labelled a ‘dying language,’ while Mandarin and other Asian languages are the ‘languages of the future’…

Māori is the native language and it unique to Māori and NZ, I still believe in Māori being compulsory in schools.

A few schools are now having Mandarin classes, which is great, I know more Kiwis are looking at the future.

Just like at a time when the Japanese economy was booming and Japanese was a key language in schools.

At the Bananas Conference 2014, I heard you speak on a panel with Dr. Pita Sharples about Maori-Chinese relations. As much as I dislike the ‘banana’ analogy, it would seem you are more brown on the inside than white!! How do you balance your support for the interests of various iwi, whilst also being an ambassador for the NZ Chinese community and new economic interests from China?

Always act with integrity and good faith and this will get us a long way in our relationship building.

READ: ‘Chinese and Māori business relationships are the future of NZ’s prosperity,’ by Meng Foon

For many young people outside of Gisborne, the city is now synonymous with Rhythm and Vines. Tens of thousands of party goers descending on Gisborne every year obviously bring pros and cons to the city. How have you seen this festival affect Gisborne over the years?

The festival has been great for our region, but bodes well for the future as this will help our future prosperity as a great place to live play and do business.

Just another day at Bay Watch. End of 2009, RnV campsite.
Just another day at Bay Watch. End of 2009, RnV campsite.

“Yummy yummy in my tummy!” – I know you are a passionate foodie. Could you talk about food culture in Gisborne? I’ve seen some really unique kai on your Facebook, Filipino roast hog, earth coal fired lamb tails…

We have the world food and sea baskets at our doorstep in Gisborne, so fresh so healthy and yummy yes! Food is a great door opener for us and a great ambassador to show our wares. I generally like plain food fresh from the sea with squeeze of lemon on my crayfish, paua, kina, fresh veges.

We have great wines which are made with love, for love.

Can you share your favourite spots in Gisborne?

We have so many special spots in paradise, my one favourite is on the beach with Ying and family sharing food.

The Dark Horse is a film that has brought a lot of international attention to the region. Were you acquainted with Genesis Potini? How has this film been received by the community?

We love this film and I have known Genesis for a number of years, he could speak perfect Mandarin, awesome. We had Whale Rider, Nati, White Lies, they are all great stories of our world view.

Cheeky one – Mum said back in the day she was blamed for stealing several pies at Sunday school and got the strap for it… but she reckons it was you!! Confirm or deny.

I love pies, I think stealing is an adult term, we just loved life.

Hahahaha crack up! Who ate all the pies? Thanks, Meng.

Kiwese and whanau VS. Meng Foon. Summer, 2010.
Kiwese and whanau VS. Meng Foon. Summer, 2010.

Click the links below to read more:

images (1)

nzca banner

Vinyl Destination: Interview with Cian O’Donnell from Conch Records

In this content-saturated Internet age of free digital downloads and infinite streaming, Cian O’Donnell is among those still repping the power of wax over at his well-loved shop Conch Records, which has been spinning records in the City of Sails for the best part of two decades. Kiwese caught up with the voice so familiar to George FM listeners ahead of his upcoming vinyl DJ sets at JUE | Music + Art Festival in Beijing and Shanghai next week.

KIWESE: Hey Cian! You are coming over to China next week, how did the connection with Lost Cargo and JUE Festival come about? CIAN: I met a lass called Olivia at Conch in Auckland last year. She never really told me what she did back home, but she’d come in, buy records and listen to a whole bunch of stuff in store, then came to one of the monthlies we organise called The Turnaround. Before she left, I invited her up onto my radio show [Earshot on George FM] to play a selection of young, fresh, Chinese beat makers. The stuff she brought up was so good! We got really good response on the text lines, so talked about doing some kind of collaborative promotion of artists in China and over here. Awesome! Who is she? Shanghai local? She is a promoter for The Shelter in Shanghai – which I’d heard about through people I know that have played there. It’s an old underground bomb shelter, definitely Shanghai’s underground (for use of a better word) alternative club, where different promoters come on and do different evenings, from hip hop to electronica to trap, footwork and whatever, with artists from James Pants to Kode9 and so on.

Listen up Beijing & Shanghai! Poster image from Wooozy.cn.
Listen up Beijing & Shanghai! Poster image from Wooozy.cn.

With JUE I’m gonna be speaking on a panel of four people, including Awesome Tapes from Africa, discussing the importance of communities that grow around important around music-related blogs, venues or events.

“A record shop is more than just a standard retail space – it ends up being a hangout, a communal meeting spot. Bands are formed, friends are made, gigs are staged.”

Can you tell us about the early beginnings of Conch Records? Living in Auckland in the mid ’90s, I was getting tired with finding the same records in every shop. So I started doing small orders with some of the distributors I used to work with overseas, mostly from Europe, then a friend who started the Aotea Square Markets approached me about doing a stall. I used to take down my turntables, two or three crates of records and a suitcase of CDs. It was a real success. After that, my now partner in Conch, Brent Holland, took a space in an old arcade on High Street, fitted it out with everything handmade timber and made it look amazing – it looked like a big packing crate. We stocked a really good alternative selection of Jamaican 7″s, independent hip-hop, quirky house, reggae, Brazilian, Latin… But although it was really loved and respected, it never really made any money. So we started looking for a bigger premises with more foot traffic. At our current premises on Ponsonby Road, it started with a small coffee shop and a few seats out front. Now we’ve managed to expand with a courtyard out back, its licensed and the whole bar and restaurant aspect has kind of overtaken the record store. This year the plan is to get back on track with the retail side. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Conch and thought the food and service was great. Do you think the gentrification of Ponsonby has resulted in a shift in focus from selling records to providing a dining experience? In some respects if we had opened up Conch right from the start eight years ago as a café/restaurant/bar, we would’ve smashed it. Because now, as you say, the whole area has been gentrified and there are just so many restaurants, cafes and bars competing along that whole area. The only reason we have recently changed focus is because we weren’t able to survive solely selling coffee and records.

“You hear all these stories about the resurgence of vinyl and the rest. Yes, maybe in a city of 20 million people where there is a history of vinyl; London, Tokyo, New York

But in little, old Auckland, where Serato was invented and where people like supporting homegrown products, more and more vinyl buyers are going digital.”

In saying that, all of Conch’s biggest sellers have been local releases. Our biggest selling 12” was Manuel Bundy’s Solephonic EP, we must’ve sold about 150 copies. We’ve also sold a lot of local 7”s. There is a label in Japan called Wonderful Noise which have signed up the crème de la crème of New Zealand beat makers. kitchen-slider-slide-3

Drool worthy meals from the Conch menu. Image from Conch.co.nz.
Drool worthy meals from the Conch menu. Image from Conch.co.nz.

You are originally from Hereford, England, how did you end up in New Zealand? I ended up here by mistake actually [laughs]. I was backpacking and travelling around when my visa in Australia was set to run out. That was 1988. I only had enough cash left to get to New Zealand and I had a contact in Wainuiomata. It was raining the whole time and I thought “what the hell am I doing here!” I managed to get a full time job at the old EMI store, where Rex Royale is now on Cuba Street, and got to meet Matt Poppelwell, one of the main DJs around town, who introduced me to what seemed like a third of the population of Wellington [laughs]. A lot of DJs will say they ‘play everything’ and that they are really eclectic, but this guy Matt really was. What were your initial impressions of the Wellington club scene in 1988? It was a bit scary [laughs]. If you went to a standard club, people were still listening to white boy electronic music like Depeche Mode, New Order and Fine Young Cannibals. I left just when the whole Acid House era kicked off in the UK. When I got over here, it still hadn’t really hit. So I would go with my Polynesian mates to some of the Poly clubs – they were playing modern RnB, Brit soul, American street soul… I loved those clubs. Much more black orientated than my white honky roots [laughs]. I grew up listening to Tamla Motown and that. What made you want to move to Auckland? The first time I came to Auckland I met a bunch of people who ran Planet Magazine and they really became my family over here. When I was over in London in the mid ’90s, they called me up and asked me to be the resident DJ in the space we used to live in for a new venue they were starting – the Khuja Lounge. This is back when Auckland was a much more interesting city and people used to live really interesting inner city spaces.

“We had the whole third floor on the corner of Queen Street and K Road for $50 a week.

There was nothing like it. We had old Indonesian furniture, a massive communal weaving table with scattered cushions around it. I’d start at 8pm and play till about 4am, Wednesday to Saturday. For any real DJ, that’s your dream gig, man. On the same floor, we’d opened up a talent agency called Saama Productions, which specialised in signing people from indigenous backgrounds. As a result, the Khuja was a real melting pot of all different styles and characters – everybody from models, actors, comedians and dancers were there. For about three or four years, we smashed it. It was the most enjoyable place I’ve ever played.

Image from George FM.
Selector and collector. Image from George FM.

Right now, Auckland could do with more…? Hmm… People that go on out and play more of a variety of music and take more risks. Venues that actually take time money and effort to put in proper sound systems and maintain them. Less of these kind of Pack Group bars and Mac Brewery Bars, with the same kind of soundtrack, the same kind of crowd. I don’t know if it’s the same in Wellington, but Auckland just feels like it’s been totally whitewashed. It feels like it’s the North Shore and Hamilton transplanted into the city on the weekend… Nowadays people become DJs overnight when their mate gives them a USB stick with 5000 records on it, with no experience or knowledge of any of the music… No time into digging, or money. Everyone’s a bloody DJ nowadays. What are you expecting from your time here in China? Never been to China before, I’ve always wanted to go. I fly out Tuesday night. I really hope this is the start of me being able to come out more regularly. I’m looking forward to everything! Shanghai sounds like such a crazy mix of the modern and old. I love big cities and what they have to offer and the whole energy. Any favourite Chinese beats at the moment? Favourite vocalist out of China is a lass called ChaCha. I’m not sure who is making her beats, but she rules! Favourite locals? Local stuff, whew! Coco Solid, Lord Echo, Julien Dyne, Electric Wire Hustle, Christoph El Truento, my mate Submariner, Stinky Jim (who doesn’t release stuff), Lawrence Arabia… so many, theres a lot of good music coming out of New Zealand! Chur Cian, hope you enjoy Shanghai and Beijing!

logo Read more about Conch Records, Cafe, Bar and Restaurant www.conch.co.nz Check out Cian’s weekly show Earshot Radio on George FM www.georgefm.co.nz | Every Sunday 10am – 12noon (NZ Time) The JUE Music + Art Festival program is here Next week Cian will play at DADA Beijing on Friday 13th March, followed by the Shelter in Shanghai on Saturday 14th!

Electronic Music with Chinese Characteristics: Interview with Howie Lee

It’s 1.23pm and Howie Lee has just woken up. He’s in Taipei right now working on his debut album, following a mega productive few years for this Beijing beat producer, producing a swag of EPs, party starting with his collective Do Hits and receiving sub woofing kudos from the likes of Gilles Peterson and Brainfeeder for his unique brand of guzheng, 808, bong-infused Chinese bass. Jah!

Kiwese spoke to Howie through the magic of WeChat voice messages ahead of his show with MIST in Chengdu. image

KIWESE: Hey Howie, you’ve decided to work on the album in Taipei instead of at your studio in Beijing?   Continue reading Electronic Music with Chinese Characteristics: Interview with Howie Lee

When the Chinese Kid Drops Maths for Art: Interview with Allan Xia

Chengdu. An old lady in slippers fossicks about in the bright yellow leaves for fallen nuts from the local ginkgo tree. Bananas on pedicabs roll past mahjong players and open air eateries. Bundled up babies flail about like pudgy starfish on the laps of knitting grannies. The pace is chill, the sun shines, the sky is blue. 

This is the environment where Allan Xia 夏昊禹, the Auckland-based artist and founder of the indie arts festival Chromacon and the transmedia production consultancy company Kognika, spent his childhood years. 

Mintown 明堂
Forgot to take a photo of Allan, d’oh. So instead, this is where Allan sat. Mintown 明堂.

Hey Allan! What brings you back to China this time? 

Hey! I’d originally already planned the trip myself, then was invited to be part of the Screen Delegation with the NZ Film Commission for five and a half days in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

Cool, what’s that about?

New Zealand was the first country in the world to sign a film co-production treaty with China. That was close to five years ago, but we haven’t actually made a co-production yet. Australia are already on their third one… Xi Jinping came over to NZ recently and signed another treaty for television co-production with ChinaSo the delegation is basically a drive to get things happening.

Welcome back to Chengdu! Your own side trip?

Thanks! Yeah, I can see future initiatives going in this direction, seen as we have a Consulate-General here now. Chengdu for me has always been a very creative and artsy city. The overall mood, environment and pace of the city is what I’ve always liked about it. Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing are very business orientated – everything moves at a rapid pace. Whereas Chengdu is full of teahouses – substitute them for coffee houses and its like Auckland.

A regular Saturday at People's Park, Chengdu.
A regular Saturday in People’s Park, Chengdu.

At the China in the Pacific Symposium at Te Papa, you spoke about your experience of moving from China to New Zealand as a kid. 

I moved to New Zealand when I was eight. It was a massive culture shock, really. We moved a lot and I went to like eight different primary schools in West Auckland within three years. So there was the language barrier, plus not having time to really make friends.

I think the lack of social engagement pushed me to become more interested in reading. I read a lot of everything, fiction especially, in Chinese and English. I was reading stuff like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West and all the martial art novels. It definitely helped me keep up my Chinese reading skills.

I read a lot of comics as well: Japanese manga, Tintin, Astrix. I drew for fun, as well. I always liked it. I thought I was decent at it, in hindsight I wasn’t really, but it is good to be ignorant [laughs].

Myths and legends and fantastical worlds with all these interesting charactersmy love for storytelling was developed before visual arts.

Image from Allan Xia.
Image from Allan Xia.

Your ‘Crossed Cultures’ remix of Renee Liang’s poem and Dylan Horrocks’ comic is amazing! I thought I was gonna cry by the end!

I feel like I was an observer in the whole thing – it came together so naturally. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever made. It was for a competition called Mix and Mash, which is all about Creative Commons and the idea of remixing work and generating new contexts for them. Renee’s poem and Dylan’s comic were put up under the Creative Commons License. Cultural identity isn’t something I always think about, but Renee’s poem encapsulated so much of my experience and perhaps even how I felt really deeply. It made me get over some stuff on a personal level, like I don’t think I ever need to make another piece of art about cultural identity [laughs].

READ: Crossed Cultures / Renee Liang x Dylan Horrocks / Allan Xia

Excerpt from Crossed Cultures.
Excerpt from Crossed Cultures. Image from Allan Xia.
Allan has designed the poster for Renee Liang's new play, Under the Same Moon.
Allan has designed the poster for Renee Liang’s new play, ‘Under the Same Moon.’

How did you first go about pursuing your passion for art?

When you are in high school, you are thinking about your career path and that. I was really into indie web comics and games at the time. Once I decided I wanted to be a designer for film and games, I joined a lot of online arts communities like conceptart.org, CGTalk and CGHub, and started learning more and more. In high school, you’ll just get told what you need to do in uni, then the job you need to get. Whereas online, people are industry professionals who skip straight to the relevant information. That was really good for me because I quickly saw this pathway – and to get there I needed fundamental skill sets and knowledge. We don’t really teach drawing fundamentals in New Zealand, so if anything, swapping Science for Design taught me that I needed to NOT do seventh form. I spent a year in Chengdu and Beijing doing boot camp style art tuition classes.

Haha woahhh, how did that go down with your parents?

I was a typical Chinese kid – I had good grades in Science and Math… until fifth form when I decided I wanted to do art, then basically dropped everything else [laughs]. I was just drawing in math class. I went from A+ to D. It was a shock for my dad. Asian parents aren’t used to seeing D’s on reports.

'Greed' Image from Allan Xia.
Image from Allan Xia.

How did the idea of bringing together local illustrators, comic artists, designers, animators and videogame developers in an event like Chromacon come about? 

I did a group show with some illustrator friends at the gallery above Kfm a few back. We had a really awesome opening. The whole “oh its low brow, but let’s try do a show, cos its K Rd!” vibe [laughs]. But after the opening, it was quite empty. I wanted the vibe of the opening expanded into its own event. Cos what’s the point of making art if people don’t see it?

For the first Chromacon in 2013, I thought it could be like twenty or thirty artists who I personally knew, but then word kinda spread and more people signed up. It just grew. It is a free event, but was still surprised with how many people came! Two thousand! Which is like nothing if you tell people about it in China [laughs].

Awesome! How are the plans coming along for Chromacon 2015?

It is gonna be from 18-19 April at Aotea Centre, with two floors this time. We went over capacity last year, which was positive but scary! The good thing was we had another room for talks and discussion panels and we didn’t have to turn anyone away.

Chromacon_website_logo22

How do you see creative outlets in China and New Zealand developing in the future?

I’m still trying to figure that out. It is also why the Kognika website is still quite empty. I want to co-develop a cross-cultural collaborative model with China, a strong and meaningful bridge between creative industries in New Zealand and China. One that is sustainable.

I think the most important thing at this point is to not make too many assumptions. Even I have. The more I engage with China, the more I realize I need to learn.

Thanks Allan! 

Check out more of Allan’s work here! As well as Chromacon and Kognika.

Allan_Xia_Chroma_poster_forweb

From Tuva to Chengdu: Interview with Sayan Bapa from Huun-Huur-Tu

It is cold tonight — but not a touch on the sub-zero Siberian winters that Huun-Huur-Tu have weathered in their homelands of Tuva, a remote region of Russia near the outer Mongolian border.

Proof that group huddles around a fire for warmth result in sing-a-longs, especially those that take place in a yurt.

Sayan Bapa founding member of the veteran throat singing ensemble shared his stories with Kiwese and friends around a slow-burning brazier in the leafy outskirts of Chengdu, after the group’s hypnotizing show on Saturday night.

“Close your eyes and listen.”

Sayan Bapa sits wide-legged and at ease with a cup of mulled wine. They have just performed to a tightly packed crowd from ages 3 to 83, of all cultural backgrounds and music tastes, where their synchronised voices rang out in harmonies across a sea of perked ears and raised cellphones, side-by-side before a backdrop of wispy blue horses, shattering and dissolving into the misty atmosphere.

The group of us sit around, warming our hands over the fire. Sayan’s deep hum of a voice and thickly punctuated accent resonates through the air, even in conversation.

In song, Huun-Huur-Tu’s voices make your body quiver, reaching a frequency that brings goats to a standstill in the grassy steppes where they hail from.

WATCH: Huun-Huur-Tu live at Zaoshanghao, Chengdu, on the ‘From Tuva to Beijing’ Tour, 13 December 2014, 

Visuals by Cha Fei 叉飞:

This masterful ability to achieve long, multi-pitched notes through the diaphragm, lungs, muscles and throat are unaffected by the singer’s penchant for the somwhat less salubrious aspects of life – and we all burst out laughing as Sayan is handed an additional cup of mulled wine.

“If you are singing you can just get everything out,” he says, sipping his initial wine. “Kaigal and I are smokers. And we also drink.” Having just downed a beer with eager Chengdu fans in Zaoshanghao’s tree clad outdoor garden venue, he remarks upon the secluded and intimate venue as “a lovely place.”

Sayan and his long-time musical bro Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, whom he started playing traditional Tuvan music with when he was 17, were part of the original quartet of musicians from the region that formed Huun-Huur-Tu during a trip to New York, a journey which came into fruition through an incredible cross-country, cross-cultural tale involving a cassette tape, an ethnomusicologist and a Nobel Prize-winning quantum physicist in the early 1990s.

Huun-Huur-Tu are legends of the inimitable khoomei sound; an art “which requires a lot of control and power,” but can be learned by listening, observing and trying, according to Sayan. I first heard the word ‘Tuvan’ when fine dining at KC with Jonny Marks of the All Seeing Hand, who mentioned the Tuvan style is often hailed as the archetype of throat singing success in the ‘World’ music world.

Album cover for '60 Horses in My Herd' (1993). Image from All Music.
Album cover for ’60 Horses in My Herd’ (1993). Image from All Music.

The members of the group are build, perform and repair their own instruments. According to one source, the group first visited the United States with a rattle made from sheep knee bones enclosed in an inflated and hardened bull scrotum.

As the fire crackles away, Sayan lights a cigarette. The allegories between humans and nature are everywhere, he says. A stringed aficionado, he discusses the natural materials of their home-made instruments, including his doshpuluur, a three-stringed box shaped banjo made of mountain goat skin on both sides and wood from a native pine for the neck.

“In our culture it is very important to be a multi-instrumentalist,” he explains. “In Tuva, we have many different instruments and a kind of Chinese guqin 古琴, but I use also a classical guitar with lots of different tunings to imitate these ancient sounds.”

“We met with one of the best musicians in the United States, his name was Frank Zappa.”

From shepherd life, to life on the road, Sayan and Kaigal have travelled the world by sharing their unique voice and collaborating with other musicians in improvised and often unexpected ways, including an epic jam session with the legendary Frank Zappa, to electronic producers such as Carmen Rizzo and even a Bulgarian women’s choir, naturally.

WATCH: Original members of Huun-Huur-Tu collaborate in a jam with the Chieftans, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and friends at  Frank Zappa’s house in 1993, shortly before he passed of cancer.

Despite the thirty years of touring and occasional rest periods at home in Kyzyl, Sayan is still overwhelmed by the mountainous urban terrain of skyscrapers and highways.

“Every time I see how huge this city is, how many people are here… wow,” he says of Chengdu’s vertical and horizontal sprawl. “We live in nature back home, surrounded by mountains, rivers and lakes. You still have families who live in yurts, who are still herders; nomads.”

Sandwiched between the Siberian to the north and Mongolia to the south, the remote grasslands of Tuva have endured many “hard times” throughout their long and turbulent history, the ‘Tuvan Autonomous Oblast’ and ‘Tuva ASSR’ among some of the less catchy titles bestowed during the Soviet era. Today it is known as Tuva Republic, a semi-autonomous region of Russia.

“We have a harsh story in our country,” he reflects, “it was kind of like the Cultural Revolution in China,” he adds. “The Government killed its musicians, destroyed its instruments, destroyed religion, all these good things in music were lost.” Sayan laments of the lost music during the enforced reduction of Tibetan Buddhist and shaman culture in Tuvan society during these times: “there used to be a Tuvan harp, but we don’t have it now.”

Revitalisation and protection of traditional Tuvan music and instruments is a core part of Huun-Huur-Tu’s reason for touring. “We are among the last people who know the real traditional music,” he gestures widely, their unique homegrown drone zone culminating with Turkic, Siberian and Mongolian influences, “we want to try and reproduce the soul and emotion of our homeland in our music,” he says.

According to Sayan, despite cultural and linguistic differences, there are far more commonalities than people might think in the creation and appreciation of music. “Like in jazz, if you know scales or chords or songs, you start to improvise around them. It is the same in our culture.”

“In our tradition, we don’t have real teachers, the young generation just sit with me and improvise – just play with me, look at what I do, and how I make instruments.”

“We used to have a taboo that khoomei was not for women – it was believed to be bad for their health, for having babies…” he trails off, responding to Ming Ming’s question about the traditionally masculine activity of throat singing, “there is a lot of tension, you know,” he gestures towards his wide chest with a cigarette in hand.

There are now a growing number of women who are performing the art, and doing it well, he says.

*cries*
Tuvan lyrics with English and French translations in the booklet for ‘Ancestors Call’ (2010)

Sayan touches on a “sad, deep song” the band did not perform tonight, called Orphan’s Lament. “Sometimes when we play this song, it makes us cry. It is about loss and life.”

Original version:

More upbeat, weep-free version, here.

Time is almost up. The band’s manager interjects in Chinese that the group need to rest ahead of tomorrow’s journey.

Lydia poses a question about the local music scene in Tuva, a topic which Sayan is positive about. “We have Tuvan Culture Centre in the capital city, we have a lot of concerts, a national orchestra, and lots of young groups playing different instruments. It is getting better and better.”

For those wanting to travel to Tuva? “You can first fly to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, then take another plane or taxi to Tuva,” he concludes, saying it is much easier to travel there than it used to be.

And as the embers burn away, Sayan is separated from his family Tuva by hundreds of kilometres and the Sayan Mountains, from which he takes his name, but there is no homesickness in his heart.

“Yes, we are far from our home, but if we close our eyes, we are there,” he says with a content grin, “and it doesn’t feel so far away.”

Thanks, Sayan!

Special thanks to Ming Ming (The Hormones) for inviting me to join in this rare and candid interview experience, as well as Lydia, Mat and Xiao Mei (Zaomengshe) for sussing tickets and supplementary questions. Thanks Tan Zhong and Louise Marques Pedro for video footage and photographs.

Extra shout out to the crew at Zaoshanghao 早上好  Morning Bar for post-birthday tequila shots. “不是明天。。。”

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 3.12.42 am

DCIM108GOPRO

Zaomengshe Turns 1: Interview with Lydia McAulay

While the Chinese Government plaster the streets with images of the ‘Chinese Dream’ 中国梦, there are quite different dreams being conjured in the belly of the Chengdu underground.

Zaomengshe.com 造梦社 is crowd funding website that provides a platform for the local creative community. Co-founder and Marmite enthusiast Lydia McAulay came over for a cuppa to talk about the website’s one year anniversary.

zms poster

The music scene in Chengdu is probably the main reason I wanted to move here (uh, I mean, the opportunity for increased trade ties with New Zealand…) Last summer, after being shown a street party blaring from a kitted out supermarket trolley on a foot bridge, followed by a drum and bass rave at a swimming pool with fireworks, I knew Chengdu was something different.

Around the same time last year, co-founders Lydia and Mat were working through the long-winded bào àn 保案 registration process for Zaomengshe, which has since helped fund over 100 local campaigns and raised over ¥117,000.

As the small, dedicated team, including two developers referred to as ‘the app guys,’ suss out PayPal payment gateways and release the ZMS Ticket Scanner App, allowing for pre-sale tickets QR codes to be scanned by several devices at once, the opportunities for the website abound and the dream factory at Zaomengshe are showing no sight of slowing down.

Diligently hunched over a Macbook while wrangling several iPhones and multi-lingual phone calls is the usual state in which one will find Lydia. Zaomengshe is the labour of love (from which she earns a whopping total of 0.00 RMB) that she hopes will bolster the independent music and arts scene in the face of meaningless vast corporate sponsorship, which has been jumping on the growing music festival bandwagon in China and steering it down a bleak road of profit and commercialisation.

Pool Party in Flower Town last summer.
Pool Party in Flower Town last summer.

KIWESE:  Hey Lydia, how did you first end up coming to Chengdu?

LYDIA: I’ve been here for about five years – but it must be coming up on six years now. I left New Zealand in 2005 and was living in Normandy and Ardeche in France for a bit over a year. I ended up moving to Guangzhou for a year, where I learnt a bit of Chinese from my flatmate. I lived in Scotland for a year and bit, then London – where I got a job in the IT department of a derivatives trading company, which sent me to Chengdu. They were really open minded and put a lot of trust in me. I learnt a lot working with them.

Did you have any prior IT experience?

No, I studied Politics and Art History at Vic [laughs].

So you are originally from Tauranga and lived in Wellington for a while. What generation Kiwi are you?

My mum is from outside Opotiki. She’s like fourth generation Kiwi. My grandfather’s grandfather was born in New Zealand. They came from Midlands England, and they were the typical settlers trying to find a better life: ‘farmland coming out your ears!’

My dad is from Scotland and lived at sea for like twenty years on cargo ships. He was in the Merchant Navy as the first engineer, second below the captain. He told me stories about going through the Suez Canal back in the day. They went up the river into Guangzhou quite a few times. There were walls along the river, he said their boat was slightly higher than the walls, so they could see farmlands and heard speakers blaring out Mao’s thoughts.

Coming to Chengdu, how did you see there was a need for a platform like Zaomengshe?

It was a long story. I left China for a year in 2012 – that’s when I met you in New Zealand – and one of my friends was living with Anna, who started PledgeMe. So I ended up having a good chat with her about crowd funding, and was thought “holy shit, this would actually be a brilliant idea in China,” because there are some real problems with artists getting funding here. The bottom line for artists is different to that of young people making music in New Zealand.

You mean creative arts funding sources like NZ On Air and that?

A lot of what happens here is traded in guānxi, 关系, relationships, so if you don’t have the right background, you are really hard pressed to get your ideas heard. Crowd funding is a way to break down those traditional barriers. I guess it’s the anonymity of the internet – on the site, people have a username to post their campaigns, you are just a person with an idea, so people will look at your idea – not who your rich daddy is.

What were your first impressions of the music scene back in ’09?

One of my first friends here was Li Lan, the owner of Lan Town 蓝堂, which was – and still is – the hub for folk music here.

First gig I remember going to was Zhang Xiaobing 张小饼 . He is really interesting guy, who used to be a liúlàng 流浪, how do you even translate that? Like a roaming musician. His lyrics are really poetic and he incorporates his local dialect, instruments and way of singing into his songs. He is also a shǎoshù mínzú 少数民族, it’s quite cool how he manages to bring these ethnic minority aspects into his music.

 

When you say shǎoshù mínzú 少数民族, ethnic minority, do you sometimes feel like a minority in China?

Yeah in someways. I guess it can be a little bit difficult here – being white. Because you feel like you will never be totally accepted, ya know what I mean? Peoples first reaction to you is that you are foreign. Whereas when I lived in France, you could almost mix in, especially in the small town I lived in. People wouldn’t realize right away that I was foreign, which was kinda cool. You feel like if you did actually stay there for a really long time, you wouldn’t feel like a foreigner your entire life.

“The thing is – people treat you like an outsider until they know you. It’s the same in any country. Once you get to know them, you stop thinking of them as ‘that person who is different.’”

What are the main platforms that people can use to share their campaigns on Zaomengshe?

People are much more used to doing things on their phones here. Weibo 微博, WeChat 微信, and we have QR codes. I talked to Xiao Xue 小雪 (The Hormones) about crowd funding an oven – she’s thinking of having an event where people come along and scan their QR codes to get a cake!

From an IT working perspective, what was internet censorship like in China when you first got here?

That was before Facebook got blocked. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all got blocked on the same day.

Is that day like a ‘where were you when Michael Jackson died’ kind of memory?

I think it was about May or the start of June 2009. I remember that day because my workmate who sat behind me was receiving distressing calls from Xinjiang, where he comes from, there were massive riots. They didn’t just block Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, they put the internet for the entire province on lockdown. My poor workmate – it was a really emotional time. We were all worried about what was going on out there.

Though I wouldn’t say that censorship has ever impacted our website. It doesn’t really affect people on a daily basis here. Well arguably the bào àn 备案 is censorship, but it’s just red tape. There’s a lot of red tape in anything you do here. But censorship is certainly not something that contributes to the story of Zaomengshe.

Dayi and Lydia modelling the new Hormones t-shirts, which you can get on Zaomengshe!
Dayi and Lydia modelling the new Hormones t-shirts, which you can buy on their Zaomengshe campaign!

What are your hopes for Zaomengshe, coming up to your 1st birthday?

At the moment, a lot of what we do is working with bars who want to use our ticketing platform – and it’s great that we can support them in that way. But it would be really cool to have more crowd funding based events going up.

It’s difficult, there is a different mentality towards crowd funding here. A lot of people think it is like tuán gòu 团购 -this concept where, for example, if you want to buy a cheaper hot pot meal, everyone goes in on it and you can all get it for a better price. It’s not entirely false that that is not crowd funding – it’s almost an offshoot, but what we are trying to do is get people to change their ideas about what it means to be supporting music and the arts here. It’s about supporting, not buying.

I guess in NZ if you wanna support a local act, you could go to their gigs, buy their album on Bandcamp, buy their merch or whatever. Perhaps here in China, people are not so accustomed to paying for music online, so that cuts off a big part of supporting independent bands.

I think it’s the same in a lot of countries, the music industry struggles with free downloads being a pretty common thing. It’s not just China. It’s really common to use streaming services like Xiami for free.

Check out Lydia’s recent Pecha Kucha presentation in Mandarin about Zaomengshe, as part of a Creative Minds session in Min Town 明堂:

[gigya src=”http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XODA4MDQ4NTEy/v.swf” allowFullScreen=”true” quality=”high” width=”480″ height=”400″ align=”middle” allowScriptAccess=”always” ]

“The scene exists here without our website. We are just trying to do something that contributes to it, rather than to push it in any direction.”

What has been your favourite campaign Zaomengshe so far?

Probably Beat Chengdu, the New Year’s party last year that crashed our server. The guys at Zao Shang Hao 早上好 who put it on thought it wouldn’t sell over 150 tickets. It ended up selling over 600 pre-sales on the website, with about 2,000 people attending on the night. It was an awesome – it showed them there was a demand for that kind of festival, while also showing Mat and I what Zaomengshe was capable of.

Any local favourites in Chengdu at the moment?

I don’t really have a favourite. I just like the fact that people are being creative, it’s the key to things changing here. I feel like I’m just observing.

…But in saying that, I do really like Qi Qi’s music, Cvalda!

Oh, how’s your Marmite supply at the moment?

Onto the second jar. Bit worrying.

Eek. What are your other main hankerings?

Cheese…

So you are planning to suss out a boat and sail the seas, how’s that shaping up?

It’ll take a bit of planning. Technically, I looked this up, you don’t have to have an international boating license to skipper a vessel that’s under a certain size – and the size is enormous. You’d be surprised!

Count me in! Cheers, Lydia!

zms logo

Zaomengshe will celebrate their first birthday at Zao Shang Hao 早上好 in Flower Town 三圣乡 this Friday 1st November! FREE ENTRY with a downloaded Zaomengshe app! Featuring Stolen 秘密心动, Proximity Butterfly变色蝴蝶, Zhang Xiaobing 张小饼, Zuo Yue卓越 and more.

Download Zaomengshe on the App Store.

“做一个梦,造一个理想

Keep Dreaming, Keep Creating!”