Tag Archives: little bar

Favourite Gigs 2016

Construction and redevelopment has seen Chengdu’s cultural landscape (read: the places we go to drink alcohol and listen to music) change dramatically. But as old places close and new ones emerge, great shows from bands, performers, DJs and collectives continue to entertain and inspire.

Along with the loss of Bowie, Prince and George Michael, we lost many of our local stars this year. Morning Bar 早上好 on Minzhu Lu was demolished and construction of the new Music Conservatory concert hall began, Machu Picchu I closed after over a decade of business in the backstreets of Yulin and Soul Kitchen shut up shop just as renovations were completed. But it’s not all doom and gloom, laobans have gone on to open 2.0 versions of their former bars.

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The fall of Minzhu Lu. Video: Unknown WeChat source.

Not ones to be phased by forced demolition, the Zaoshanghao crew came back in style with the incredibly epic Morning House in Flower Town, taking over the old Xiwo swimming pool bar and fitting it out with an outdoor-stage, hot pot and rehearsal spaces. The Dojo crew took over Soul Kitchen in the Soho Building and established Berlin Haus, bringing much needed day vibes, strong coffee and workspaces to the inner city. Yulin also saw the opening of Yabany 牙半厘, a smoky little bar fit out with retro neons, cult film screenings and despite lack of any backline, the occasional jam night.

Perhaps the venue making the biggest waves this year has got to be NU SPACE. Freshly renovated at the back of Mintown, NU SPACE is kitted out with a minimalist, concrete design, banging sound system and some of the most diverse billing in the city.

When I first came to Chengdu as a backpacking language student in 2013,  I was greeted with jungle fireworks and Drum N Bass and Rammstein blasting from a shopping trolley in the magazine aisle of 7Eleven. Friends took me to Morning Bar, Lantown, Hemp House and Xiwo, vibrant venues tattooed with psychedelic murals and scented with herbal inspiration. Now, more than three years later, none of those venues exist anymore, but the shows certainly go on.

“…when the world outside is scary, boring, ugly, and hateful, what do you do? You either drown in it or you drown it out.”

– Brian Chippendale for The Creative Independent

Music is the gateway, it elevates us above the mundanity of everyday life. We choose to participate in it and represent who we are. Live music is the beating heart of a community, where the performer and audience meet like minded spirits, enter a space of their own creation, and be free.

Without further ado, here are my favourite shows of 2016 in chronological order.

Chinese Football

Little Bar, Chengdu

8 January 2016

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“NI HAI PAAAAAAA – WO HAI PAAAAA!!”

Man, how good are Chinese Football?! These Wuhan emo kids came through Chengdu on their album release tour way back in January, playing to a sea of woollen cardigans and thick framed glasses. No support act, didn’t need it. Super 爽 guitars, vocal melodies and FEELS. Chinese Football also probably have the strongest merch game in the country. Subsequently invited them to play NUART Festival in October which was also highly dope (see below).

Check out their album on Bandcamp.

Mike Shannon

.TAG, Chengdu

19 March 2016

It was a packed house for Berlin-based Canadian producer Mike Shannon and .TAG’s 2nd birthday. A six-hour long set of fresh, cutting house and techno, masterful hypnotism of the dance floor and the delivery of positive vibes. The excellent support slot was Beijing bro Yang Bing, who kept things popping till Sunday lunchtime. Much rave!

Chunyou 春游

Morning House, Chengdu

22 April 2016

Chunyou is like Christmas for music fans. With the introduction of an electronic stage, rental tents courtesy of Steam Hostel and a new abundance of sofas, this year’s Chunyou at Morning House saw many punters stay on site for a memorable weekend of debauchery. Memorable moments include:

  • Hiperson on the main stage live with new bassist Ming Ming for the first time in Chengdu.
  • Someone setting off a fucking FLARE in the middle of the Stolen mosh pit.
  • CDC inviting all the white people up to dance on the stage and all the white people being really excited.
  • Playing guitar with atmen at the electronic stage on Day 1.
  • DIO was sick.
  • Pascal Pinon putting a spell over the main stage
  • HELEN TING IN THE DJ ROOM ON SUNDAY MORNING. Rolling out of my shitty tent after passing out for two hours and stumbling into the DJ hut with no pants on to find this insane Hong Kong lady with an afro, coloured shades and enormous Aladdin pants absolutely slaying the decks with a mix of afrobeat, soul and funk, a dedicated crowd of ravers grooving strong, mystically attaining sunglasses as the sun came up. Fuck how good was Helen Ting?!
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atmen live. Image: 仙人张
Aus-atmen Festival

Dongli Juyuan, 三圣乡, Chengdu

21-22 May 2016

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Rain rain rain. More rain. Stage closures, mud, the gear getting soaked, the police shut down… As dysfunctional as Aus-atmen ended up being, it was a testament to DIY culture, a love of electronic music and thinking big. It was also completely unforgettable. Check out the review here.

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16:30 – 18:00   Hao (Chengdu, CN)
18:00 – 19:30   May (Chengdu, CN)
19:30 – 21:00   Bchir (Rabat, MA)
21:00 – 22:30   Ewan (Chengdu, CN)
22:30 – 00:00   Xiaolong (Chengdu, CN)
00:00 – 02:00   Mike Ravelli (Amsterdam, NL)
02:00 – 04:00   Su (Chengdu, CN)
04:00 – 06:00   Xiang (Chengdu, CN)
06:00 – 07:30   Chamberlain (Beijing, CN)
07:30 – 09:00    Hiroshi (Hiroshima, JP)
09:00 – ??????    CA1XR (Chengdu, CN)
??????  – ??????    Su

Hiperson + Lonely Leary

NU SPACE, Chengdu

10 June 2016
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Chen Sijiang of Hiperson. Video: LittleNew

This was the first show I put on at NU SPACE and is also my favourite poster of the year, a  collage we made of clippings from an old flipbook featuring a flying decapitated head. We posted it around the city on cheap A4 print outs.

Hiperson Lonely Leary poster

Lonely Leary have two speeds: fast or faster. Bass heavy rhythms drove the blitzing pace like a schizophrenic roller coaster. There was no looking back for Hiperson, who played a killer set of new material, confident and self-assured. May have shed a tear.

NU SPACE had just opened and we were working a lot of shit out… the lighting really wasn’t great, but these two bands together in concert for a home crowd was in my eyes a real triumph.

Yue Xuan: Entrance and Exports Remix Project
feat. Cvalda + VJ PLGRM

NU SPACE, Chengdu

24 June 2016

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Beijing-based pianist Yue Xuan 岳璇 came to Chengdu as part of her Remix tour to perform with Cvalda, one of the producers who remixed a track from In & Out (2015) that formed the Entrance & Exports remix album. Comprised of three sections; contemporary piano, electronic collaboration and drum n bass, this was a unique and creatively curated live show from one of China’s biggest talents.

Also a composer for film, Yue Xuan’s concert was suitably accompanied by incredibly beautiful visual pieces by PLGRM on the big screen for us in this intimate performance. Oh, and we got to see Cvalda in “formal dress” as she laid down some serious bass.

Neverland

Fairy Mountain, Wulong, Chongqing

8-9 July 2016

NUTS Livehouse and Morning 早上好 have done it again, Neverland 2016 was bigger, better and more well organised than ever – no deadly mud slide between stages, and a quarantining of the psy-trance stage to it’s own little hill commune in the forest. The addition of more food stalls was a welcome relief (shout out Baker Street for giving us the last pasta scrapings on Day 2), a big improvement from the food options available in 2015.

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Wild animals, beautiful landscapes, hand built teepees and jamming instruments providing pleasing environments for those on acid and co., while the downside was an influx of loud, obnoxious tourists who killed the vibe from about 9pm – 2am both nights with yelling, beer showers and general fuckwittery at the Main Stage.

Metope and Yang Bing were highlights on Day 1, as Dusk Till Dawn proved their namesake. We were treated to the best of Shanghai, with MIIIA and MHP making appearances on the second night. Raving on a mountain in the early morning as the morning mist slowly glides in from the hills – YES. Go Neverland!

Punk Fest CDC

Morning House, Chengdu

6 August 2016
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One of the many stage dives at Punk Fest. Image: YRL

How many punk bands are there in Chengdu?

According to Punk Fest CDC, actually quite a few.

It was an absolute scorcher in Flower Town and hoards of people turned up for a good time, enticed by the free entry ticket price. A ferocious mosh pit fuelled by copious amounts of beer, Morning House was buzzing for a day and night of recurrent stage diving and comic pool throws. Stink Mouth threw a bunch of condoms into the crowd. Good times.

The Others Way Festival

Galatos, Auckland

2 September 2016
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Nick Johnson from Cut Off Your Hands. GIF: Kiwese

BOY am I happy about Cut Off Your Hands coming back this year. Their performance at The Others Way was a total throwback to 2008’s You & I and even Takes Slowly Over from their first EP, finishing up with Nick Johnson jumping on guitar for their new tune Hate Somebody. Brilliant band, incredibly energy and everyone was going ape shit like it was 2006.

The Others Way coordinated all the venues on K Road into a night packed full of back to back shows and it was impeccably well organized. I also caught great performances from Nadia Reid, Fazerdaze, Purple Pilgrims, Mermaidens, Shocking Pinks and the inimitably chaotic King Loser.

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JC Satàn

NU SPACE, Chengdu

17 September 2016
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Image: Kiwese

Powerful women rocking out, YEAH. Paula and Ali totally rock. French imports JC Satàn were an unexpected delight. Bathed in red light, the band jumped and lurched and grooved their way through an set of throttling, kerosine coated garage punk somewhere between The Ramones, Thee Oh Sees and Queens of the Stone Age. A two-metre tall keyboardist thrashed about like a barely caged giraffe while guitarist Arthur kicked and shook like an electrified rock and roll Bruce Lee.

The bassist and guitarist lost their guitars in transit (ouch), but took kindly to borrowed instruments which I was surprised to find intact after the show, not pummelled into a fine dust. A mighty gig that brought out all the head bangers, stoners and more than a few devils horns. Rock is not dead, thank god.

NUART Festival

Kuixinglou Jie, Chengdu

1-3 October 2016
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Image: John Yingling

Three days of sunshine, four stages, hundreds of market stalls and thousands of punters – 2016 was the first year I’ve been on board at NUART Festival and man, what a trip. Chengdu community vibes and street culture combined with some of the most innovative alternative acts in the country. A cohesion of genres, with a smorgasbord on the Main Stage, experimental/electronic music in NU SPACE, a DJ stage and a vinyl record zone run by Marco Duits himself.

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I feel this festival brings the community together, young and old, the livehouses and the clubs. Absolutely amazing and completely exhausting. Too many highlights to mention! Marco closing the festival with an Always on the Run 7″ by Lenny Kravitz was pretty amazing though.

This year’s line-up:

WHAI, Chinese Football, ChaCha + DJ Aivilox, Wednesday’s Trip, South Acid MiMi Dance Team, CDC, Sulumi, Biggaton + Blood Dunza (JA), Hu Yang, iimmune, Taiga, Charlie Tango (FR), Starcardigan (RU), Wanmei Daoli, Fake Swing, Jahwahzoo, Sound and Fury, Zhang Xiaobing and Friends, U M U / Microsoft Voices (NZ), Faded Ghost, 3000, Xiang, Su, Kaiser and May, Lao G, Just Charlie, Jovian and Marco Duits.

mr sterile Assembly

Support: Die! Chiwawa!Die!

Loft345, Guangzhou

15 October 2016

mr-sterile_guangzhou

This year Kiwese was pleased to tour with mr sterile Assembly across Guangzhou, Guiyang, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan and Beijing. While each show was unique, Guangzhou was my favourite.

Hauling gear up four flights of stairs paid off as Loft345 came alive with dancing and general limb flailing. Despite a bass amp meltdown, Chrissie ripped through a set of chest pummeling tunes through a tiny guitar amp with no overdrive, while mr sterile, having upgraded from the drum-less venue in Shanghai, happily smashed away on his melange of cymbals while yelling out pagefuls of lyrics to those bafflingly brilliant time signatures.

The night was a success thanks to our hosts QiiiSnacks Records and Die! Chiwawa!Die! – an inimitable Guangzhou  hardcore noise/screamo/chiptune band which frontwoman Jinbo bouncing up and down like a possessed Pokémon while guitarist Howie and the other screamo vocalist thrashing across the ground as if it were being tilted and shaken by an omnipotent overlord.

Sabu Toyozumi + Li Jianhong

NU SPACE, Chengdu

26 October 2016

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In a tour named 耳舍 (lit: ear tongue), acclaimed experimental guitarist Li Jianhong 李剣鴻 and legendary Japanese free jazz drummer Sabu Toyozumi treated us to a two hour display of skill, stamina and imagination.

Toyozumi, now in his seventies, was like a playful kid in a sandpit, pushing the house kit through its paces – smacking, dismantling and scraping it together, even whipping the snare with his sock at one point. Li Jianhong deftly cast out a palette of colours with his effects board, the scrape of his guitar and slamming of wah pedals sounded as if he were fishing for frequencies in an ocean of sound – calm, patient and free. A journey through tone and timbre that constantly reached into new territory, furthered by local multi-instrumentalist and improv king Kun jumping on violin for the last segment of the show.

Afterwards, the promoter said Sabu only played for 30 minutes in Chongqing, which made us feel even luckier to be treated to such an epic long set. Sabu was also super happy to chat with fans afterwards and sign CDs. Super swell guy! Stay tuned for his NZ tour with the Sound and Light Exploration Society next year.

Michael Rother

Support: Chui Wan

Little Bar Space, Chengdu

31 October 2016

michael-rother

VICE have brought quite a few touring acts to Chengdu this year (Ratatat, Tonstartssbandht) but Krautrock king Michael Rother from Neu!, Harmonia and Kraftwerk with Beijing psych/no-wave band Chui Wan took the cake. Little Bar Space is a cavernous monstrosity when half empty and even Rother himself politely commented on the small crowd in between songs.

Chui Wan is like LSD for the ears. Michael Rother and band were uplifting, melodic and joyful. Lovely, though with that number of people (100-150 ish), I couldn’t help but think how great and intimate it could have been at NU SPACE…

Eagulls

Support: Sinkers

NU SPACE, Chengdu

18 November 2016

eagulls3

When Eagulls took the stage my heart stopped.

Was it our newly minted fog machine that cloaked them in a turquoise haze of gothic mystery? Was it frontman George Mitchell’s post-punk nonchalance and lyrical wordsmithing? Was it the bass line from Skipping that echoes the refrain from How Soon is Now? Was it that I’d witnessed their metamorphosis into an immensely professional, polished and powerful live act directly after Tsingdao cans, rollies and toilet banter?

Sisu (Acoustic)

Berlin Haus, Chengdu

22 November 2016

This was a really special show for me because:

a) we threw it together last minute

b) it was Sisu’s first time ever playing an acoustic show

c) it was the first ever Berlin Haus show.

Shout out to the chick huffing a qiqiu (balloon) at the back lol. Classic Tuesday night Soho.

Octopoulpe, Le Crabe, Digou, Klaus Legal

NU SPACE, Chengdu

13 December 2016

gigs_trump

Two aliens slithered on stage and blasted into a set of garbled bass/vocals hardcore before Donald Trump emerged bearing hot dogs and hamburgers then was skinned alive and left for dead. The show went on until Trump was revived by the sound of Chinese pop and destroyed by a glowing orb where he and the aliens were forced to evacuate by dragging themselves along the floor out the door, leaving Earth forever.

The All Seeing Hand, Womb, Unsanitary Napkin

Meow, Wellington

23 December 2016

gigs_ash

Wellington disciples of the A.S.H order convened upon Meow to praise their latest auditory offering Sand to Glass with support from Unsanitary Napkin, Womb and artist Georgette Brown. A feast for the eyes and ears! The All Seeing Hand are in a class of their own, the shamans of sound, the Triptych of Trippy – stay tuned for their China wanderings in 2017.


Commended:

  • Caspian @ Little Bar Space, Chengdu
  • Noise Temple @ .TAG
  • Audible Area:SunWei + 16ways @ NU SPACE, Chengdu
  • Dizzy Love + Wednesday’s Trip @ NU SPACE, Chengdu
  • DJ Sodeyama @ Here We Go, Chengdu
  • Street Party Rain Out: Marco Duits @ Hakka Bar, Chengdu
  • U Brown + Blood Dunza @ Jah Bar, Chengdu
  • Tobias @ Here We Go, Chengdu
  • All the Yang Bing raves @ .TAG in the first half of 2016

What will 2017 bring?

I’d like to see shows make there way out into the public, in found locations or reconverted spaces. DJ Marco Duits is someone who constantly leads the way with this in his ‘Street Party’ concept, though even these shows are becoming few and far between. No one wants to get in trouble, or worse, have their gear confiscated, but how can we branch out into different spaces and create something new for ourselves? I look forward to the new year of new shows and new adventures.


Full disclosure: I work at NU SPACE so saw a lot of shows there and missed those at other venues.

This year, Kiwese was lucky to be invited to Going Global Music Conference and The Others Way Festival in Auckland – many thanks to Dylan, Kath at the Independent New Zealand Music Commission for the opportunity!

Header image by John Yingling @theworldunderground

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

Favourite Shows 2015

What makes a ‘good show’? The artist? The venue? The crowd? Here is a list of ten shows in chronological order that left an impression on Kiwese this year.

“Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.” – Frank Zappa

To me, live music is a symbiotic relationship between performer and audience, they need each other to exist. There is an unfiltered bond between the artist and the crowd at every show, an unrepeatable experience in time and space. The shows I tend to enjoy most are the ones where the crowd is engaging somehow with the performers, whether through dancing or cheering or stage invading – letting the performers know they are not alone.

With the increase of computers in music production today, old expectations of live music have shifted to accommodate these new digital elements. While some critics believe computers detract from a live show, artists are creating and embracing interesting new ways to perform with digital technology. In China, going out to a gig in 2015 no longer means bass-drums-guitar, but rather something that echoes the digital world we live in.


 

2015.01.31
South Acid MiMi Dance Team @
MAO Livehouse Kunming
南方酸性咪咪领舞队在昆明MAO Livehouse

I stumbled into a South Acid MiMi show in Kunming in January and never looked back. Officially indoctrinated into the girl cult of face masks, weird music, freaky dancing and lots of whiskey. Very stoked to have been able to collaborate with them and Lady Lazer Light in October. This early MiMi show was filled with lots of experimental instruments and props, which have since been refined into three keyboards, a laptop and percussion.


2015.04.17
Noise Temple @ Little Bar Chengdu
黄金+绵羊在小酒馆

Noise Temple is hypnotic, digital, dark – the syncing together of VJ Mian’s visual projections and Huang Jin’s razor sharp drumming abilities makes for a unique pulsating of the senses. This show featured contemporary dancers (thought I’d see pigs fly at Little Bar first) and vocal/instrumental cameos from various musicians. Unfortunately, Huang Jin has since moved to Beijing to join Re-TROS so Noise Temple no longer play with the blessed regularity we had gotten used to in Chengdu.

Video below is from another show at Morning Bar in April.


2015.04.25
Aus-atmen @ Xiwo, Chengdu
Luna, Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang, Su

New techno/minimal/ambient music label Atmen had their debut party in an empty swimming pool in the leafy outskirts of Flower Town. Featuring Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang and Su, playing to the early morning. Enough said.


2015.06.26 – 2015.06.28
Neverland Electro Music Festival @ Wulong Fairy Mountain, Chongqing
山谷露营电子音乐节 仙女山 武隆 重庆

Two days, two nights, two stages – Neverland 2015 returned to the misty mountains outside of Chongqing, following their first festival in 2013. Neverland is a collaboration between NUTS and Morning Bar, attracting fans and friends from Chengdu, Chongqing and surrounding regions such as Guizhou. Camping festivals are few and far between in China, and Neverland beautifully fills the need.

The location is sublime – rolling green hills, white flowing mist and cloudless skies. The main stage saw DJs from around the region bring everything from swing to techno, while the psytrance community stayed entranced with their own 24/7 party at the stage on the flat. A very low key and awesome festival, with only a couple of hundred punters and no security. Amped for next year!

Neverland poster


2015.07.03
Hiperson @ Little Bar Space Chengdu
海朋森在小酒馆空间

When Hiperson set out to tour ‘No Need For Another History’ 《我不要别的历史》, they returned as a different band. Several hundred friends and fans turned up to the new big Little Bar (the new/old/big Little Bar thing is gonna get confusing) to welcome them home, and they sure as hell delivered. Kiwese became the first person to ever stage dive at a Hiperson show – life achievement unlocked.

Chen Sijiang, who’d shaved all her hair off in Shenzhen, completely commanded the stage with guitarists Ji Yinan and Liu Zetong thrashing about in the wings and Tao Ge bopping with conviction on bass. When the band went silent for Sijiang’s monologue and the spotlight lit her shaved head and wide-open eyes, you could hear a pin drop as the entire crowd sat in the palm of her hand. A mighty performance from one of Chengdu’s favourite bands.


2015.08.01
Stolen ‘Loop’ Album Release Show @ U37
w/ Dead J and Noise Temple
秘密行动《循环》专辑首发演出

Chengdu turned out in droves for Stolen’s album release show at an empty warehouse in U37. Perhaps some of us were a little TOO excited – I almost broke my ankle in the mosh pit and had to be carried husband-bride style to a taxi by my flatmate. Nevertheless, an epic show from a band that has become one of the most talked about acts in China this year. That synth-bass break in A Glossy Flirt has become my official pogo beer shower anthem.

Managed to catch Stolen on tour in Guangzhou and Beijing as well, but the energy at this album release home show was unparalleled.


2015.09.18
Shocking Pinks @ School Bar Beijing
震惊粉红色在北京学校酒吧

Kiwese caught an overnight train from Chengdu to catch Shocking Pinks first show in China at the notorious School Bar in Beijing. The formula of Ash Smith (bass) and Cory Champion (drums) that was concocted last year at Puppies is still solid, as Nick Harte led them through a selection of songs from his previous albums to a responsive and dance-ready crowd. Check out the interview at live performance of ‘Smoke Screen’ in the video below.

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Shocking Pinks, School Bar Beijing. Photo by Kiwese

 

2015.09.29 – 2015.10.11
Orchestra of Spheres + Lady Lazer Light China Tour
星迹乐团和女士拉泽光中国巡演

Dreams do come true! This year Orchestra of Spheres (Xīngjī Yuètuán) came to China, YEAH HARD! In a twist of seriously awesome timing, their hometown partner-in-crime Lady Lazer Light was in Beijing on an art residency and brought her cosmic visions on tour! Crowds in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Dali, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Wuhan were given their first taste of OOS magic.

In addition to OOS, special side-shows included Cave Circles + Globular Synthesis at Brothers BBQ in Feijiacun, The Niubis in Chongqing and a Cave Circles + Su live techno set at Morning Bar Chengdu.

Big love to Baba Rossa, Mos Ioccos, EtonalE, Woild Boin and Lady Lazer Light putting their faith in Kiwese and being incredibly rad people.


2015.12.17
múm @ Little Bar Space Chengdu
在小酒馆空间

A band that uses cello and melodica – I was prepared to hate this. Pronounced miooyyuujm, Icelandic atmospheric-music-to-have-sex-to band múm gave us a spiritual show of delicate vocal harmonies and careful layering of instruments, alongside slow panning lights and dramatic hisses of fog – the singer’s pixie sigh of ‘xie xie‘ the only thing that would break the audience out of their sonic incantations. At times I felt like I was sinking into the ground, no one was moving. My favourite part was when the singer started to theatrically rip her own head off – see video below.


2015.12.18 – 2015.12.19
Ein-atmen @ Chengdu Air Raid Shelter
在成都金里西路放空

And finally, to round off the year, the crew from Atmen and Morning Bar hosted a two-night techno party in an air raid bunker in downtown Chengdu. Music wise – the first night featured Tanzman, Su, Ewan and Haozi and the second night continued with Xiaolong, Xiang and Hiroshi. Visual artists projected their works throughout the shelter all weekend. The air raid shelter is like nothing I’ve seen before – long corridors of old concrete rooms and rusty steel fittings.

With Chengdu undergoing so much construction and change, it was beautiful to be part of something so fresh and innovative in the underground chasms of the city. This is what it is all about – people coming together to build events in new spaces.

Read the Zaomengshe interview with Su and Xiang here.


 

Want to find out about events before they happen? Many of these events sold pre-sale tickets on Zaomengshe, download the app to keep in the loop! www.zaomengshe.com

Happy new year to all! See you next year!

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

Not just a girl band: Interview with Ming Ming from The Hormones

It’s that time of the month! Local Chengdu indie-rock band the Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐乐队 will kick off their first ever national tour tonight at Little Bar 小酒馆.

Bassist and lyricist Ming Ming 明明 invited me over for dinner to talk about vengeful elephants in Yunnan, menstrual cycles on tour and the new EP.

The Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐乐队, are a five-piece indie-rock band from the land of abundant greenery Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan.

Keyboardist Xiao Lijing 小李静 and guitarist (plus amazing cheesecake-baker) Xiao Xue 小雪 first had dreams to start a band as kids at primary school. The conglomeration of Juan Juan 娟娟 on drums, Ming Ming 明明 on bass and finally Zhu Meng Die 朱梦蝶 as lead vocalist, the Hormones entered the bloodstream of the local Chengdu music scene in 2011.

The band are about to embark on a fifteen date tour of China to promote the release of their debut EP ‘Elephant’ 《象》 starting tonight at Little Bar, Chengdu and concluding down at VOX, Wuhan on 11 November. You can check them out on Douban.

H
Juan Juan 娟娟 (drums), Zhu Meng Die 朱梦蝶 (lead vocals/acoustic guitar), Xiao Xue 小雪 (lead guitar), Ming Ming 明明 (bass) and Xiao Lijing 小李静 (keyboards)

KIWESE: Hey Ming Ming! How did the Hormones start out? 

MING MING: We formed back in 2011. People in China hear a lot of Chinese pop music growing up, ya know? So when we first started the band, we did Chinese pop music, but it had absolutely no meaning whatsoever.

2011年开始成立了。向中国人,他就是听很多中国pop music 长大的,你知道吗?所以你就会去搞,然后我们刚开始我们就去做Chinese pop music 但是一点意思都没有。

The singer we had before worked at a serious bank job and had no way of continuing in the band. So we searched for a new lead singer and found Zhu Meng Die! When we heard her sing and play acoustic guitar, she did Rolling in the Deep by Adele and changed it from 4/4 to 3/3. We could tell she had a unique feeling, and all completely agreed on her. She just gets it – she understands the music and has a feeling for it.

然后主唱因为她work for bank, 很正常很严谨很serious, 所以她没有办法搞乐队。然后我们就再找主唱,search search。。。朱梦蝶, 可以!虽然当时我们听她弹木吉唱歌的时候,她唱的是Adele, 《Rolling in the Deep》, 是四拍, 但是她自己把它改变了三拍。我们听她有一种不一样的感觉, 所以真的觉得她可以。她会懂这种音乐,她会了解,她会感受到。她想干什么就干什么,他觉得没有关系.

How do you compose songs as a band?

I write all of our lyrics. So often it’s the lyrics first, then we will create the music around them. The keyboard could run a loop, then the bass and drums, guitar, and vocals will join in.

我们的歌词全部都是我写。然后,我们就会根据这个歌词来做。所以先写歌词,然后再有keyboard会给一个loop,然后bass, 然后鼓,然后吉他,然后唱。

How do you write the lyrics?

The ideas just come from everyday life. For example, you are having to stand on the bus and there are no seats, you can imagine the bus is like a skateboard! Chinese society can be kind of depressing sometimes, you know? People eating smelly food on the bus or whatever, it’s kind of dirty and gross – but if you keep thinking about how uncomfortable it is then it will be worse. So you may as well make it interesting for yourself!

你去感受你生活,你就会有idea,你就会有感觉。比如说:你做公交车,没有座位了,standing, 你可以把那个公交车它想像是一个skateboard. 中国的那种社会就是很压抑的,你不得不做一辆巴士,然后有可能那个车上的人他可能吃东西很丑,或者很怎么样,很dirty 你很难受,但是如果你想你自己难受你会更难受,你还不如把它有趣一点.

When did you first start getting into music and playing guitar?

Junior high school. I played guitar, then moved to Chengdu [from Leshan] to play guitar at Sichuan School of Music during high school. But I thought the exams were meaningless and I didn’t really like to play the stuff they gave me. I wanted to do my own thing. Like Tan Dun. He uses a violin to make erhu sounds. He uses water and paper. It’s very cool.

初中。我弹木吉他。然后我到了高中我住在成都,四川音乐学院的一个 high school, play guitar. 但是我考的时候不考怎么样。。。我觉得没意思。因为你去copy 没有用。我想做自己的东西。比如说谭盾. He uses a violin to make erhu sounds. He uses water and paper. It’s very cool.

Some of your songs are written in English, tell me about that. 

I think that within a song, English pronunciation is easier than Chinese. There can be strange melodies when you sing Chinese in a song. But eventually I want all our songs to be in Chinese. It’s not a pride thing, it’s that Chinese is our mother tongue – I feel I am in complete control of the language. So I don’t think our songs in English are written that well. Using your mother tongue gets you closer the the meaning you want to convey. I think Chinese is a lot more direct.

我觉得英文的要字儿比较easy,不象Chinese很难。放到歌曲里面有可能这个melody 不好,还是很奇怪。我决定以后所有的歌都用中文。我不是为此感到proud of this,很骄傲。中文是我们的母语。我觉得I can control this language. 完全知道。所以我们的英文歌词写得不好。用你的母语更能接近你想表达的意思。我觉得中文更直接一点。

Why is the new EP called ‘Elephant’?

An elephant can remember everything, if you hurt him, he can remember your smell. 在中国,在云南只有一次,一个村庄 [in Yunnan, China, out in the countryside] people killed a little elephant.

In Xishuangbanna?

Yes, bingo! Xishuangbanna. This baby elephant got lost in the countryside and walked into a village and trampled the maize and wheat crops, so the villagers beat it to death. After some time, a big group of elephants returned and destroyed the countryside.

对!Bingo, 真的在西双版纳。他们傻了一头baby elephant, 因为那个baby elephant 迷路了,它走到了一篇村庄里面去。野生的. 它踩到那些村庄那些麦子,粮食,然后那些村民就把它打死了。打死了过后,过了一段时间,然后那片野生的elephant destroyed the countryside.

Wait, what???

The person who killed the baby elephant went to jail, but his wife still had his scent. So one day when his wife was out in the fields, a group of elephants came and trampled her to death. They could smell the man’s scent on her. She was with her sister at the time, but they only attacked the wife, not the sister.

他去监狱了过后,但是他的妻子有他的气味。他的wife 有一天。。。一群大象就把她踩死了。因为他们闻到这个气味。而且他的wife 和她的sister在一起, 它们没有攻击她的sister, 只攻击wife.

Wait, what?? 

REALLY. I’m still not finished. After that, 在墓地 [at the cemetery], the elephants came and trampled over where she was buried.

Wow. Why does ‘Elephant’ only have three songs, seems a bit short?

I want to do a surprise when our tour ends, I will put all the songs on the internet. It’s actually six, like on the CD.

What expectations do you have of the tour?

When I write lyrics, I hope they will resonate with people. Like when I watch Foals live videos, I am so moved – they make me want to pursue my dreams and never give up. I want [our music] to touch people in the same way, and to have them remember this feeling. I think this is more important than people knowing who you are. I don’t care if people like us or not, if I cared, we’d just play pop music.

我期盼能够。。。因为我写很多歌词,我期盼很多人能够有共鸣。 For example when I see Foals live, 我就会觉得我被感染了,我想我应该有一个梦想,我应该去这样做,我不应该放弃。我要让别人被打动。I think this is more important than people knowing who you are. 他可能记住了这种感觉。我不在乎别人喜不喜欢。如果我在乎别人喜欢的话我就做pop music。

Tell me about the Hormones’ new songs.

One of our new songs is called ‘Red Teardrops.’ You are a red tear drop, turning young hearts red. I think this song is interesting, every person is a red tear drop.

我们有一个新歌,我觉得非常感人的那首歌,《Red Teardrops, 红色的眼泪》 “你是一滴红颜泪,染红青年人的心脏。” 而且Red Teardrops这首歌很有意思,就是我觉得每一个人是一滴红颜泪.

What do you mean by ‘red tear drop’?

At the School of Music, there was a teacher who accused a cleaner of stealing 1000RMB. The cleaner denied it, but obviously the college sided with the teacher. The cleaner was in a helpless position, cleaning toilets for a living, and had no way of paying the money back. So she jumped from a building. When someone accuses you of doing something you did not do and you have no way out. All you want to do is cry. This is red tear drops.

好,我先给你讲。 四川音乐学院有一个工人, a cleaner, 然后有一个teacher 说这个清洁工偷了我一千块,那个清洁工说我没有,然后这个学院肯定需要更爱这个teacher一点,所以这个cleaner 就到了一个不好的一个去打扫卫生,她就很生气,其实这个前的数目不多,然后他就跳楼了。她就为了证明她。 This is unfair. It is not human. For 1000RMB. People pushed her to her death. So I wrote some lyrics about this. 冤枉了你,就说你做你没有做的事情有吗?从小到现在,有吗? 那个时候就是你红色的眼泪。你没有办法说出来,你很生气只要哭。就是这个意思。

Woah.

Yeah.

Any cities you are particularly looking forward to?

I’ve heard VOX Livehouse in Wuhan is very good. I’ve been friends with Liangyi, the singer from Stolen 秘密心动,  since we were classmates in high school. He told me the sound techs at VOX are very quick and professional.

What is the connection with New Noise?

Jeff from New Noise has helped us a lot with contacting livehouses, he sent me the information and let me contact them.

“Yes, we are girls – but it’s not a style!”

horm

How do you feel you are received as an all-girl band?

A lot of stuff comes up. Like a lot of venues have booked girl bands as the warm up act just because they are girls. It’s really strange. Why have they got a heavy metal band opening for us? It’s like when Lydia (Zaomengshe) was working at that company. She’s a foreign woman. Then they sat her with another department because they are all foreigners. WHY??

Some people are stupid but you don’t have to talk to them. Someone on Weibo said “show us your underwear!” It is very stupid.

But an all guys band could go on tour and not have to worry about five girls having their period [laughs].

Who are some of your favourite bands at the moment?

FoalsSavagesGajinSnaplineStolen, Toe.

Thanks, Ming Ming!

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The Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐 National Tour:

Fri 17 Oct           成都 Chengdu, 小酒馆 Little Bar

Sat 18 Oct          重庆Chongqing, 坚果 NUTS Live House

Fri 24 Oct           西安 Xi’an, 光圈 Aperture

Sat 25 Oct         兰州 Lanzhou, 葵 Kui Live House

Wed 29 Oct     郑州 Zhengzhou, 7 Live House

Thur 30 Oct     北京 Beijing, Temple

Fri 31 Oct          北京 Beijing, XP

Sun 2 Nov          天津 Tianjin, 13 Club

Tues 4 Nov        上海 Shanghai, 育音堂 Yuyintang

Wed 5 Nov        杭州 Suzhou, 酒球会

Thur 6 Nov        厦门 Xiamen, Real

Fri 7 Nov             广州 Guangzhou, TU凸空间 T-UNION

Sat 8 Nov            深圳 Shenzhen, B10现场

Sun 9 Nov           长沙 Changsha, 46 Livehouse

Tues 11 Nov      武汉 Wuhan, VOX

You can buy tickets and merchandise on Zaomengshe! Support independent music!

The latest episode of the Sound Stage features the Hormones!