100 SPIRITS draws near. In the dark night of Tuesday 4 April, this beastly display of souls will be unleashed!! For one night only, the ancient tomb of Jah Bar will mutate into a crazed crypt crawling with ghosts, as the stage alter is graced by five of Chengdu’s most forward-thinking and innovative live acts.
Behold, the princely masters of SPLORTCH SELECTOR will kick the night into gear with a psychedelic mash-up of robot synthcore and chunky prog basslines, enslaving you into either your greatest dream or worst nightmare.
I dare you to Google the word ‘splortch.’ I double dare you to see what that word means when it is turned into a electro-prog-rock-synth-fused musical project.
I first met Michael, the band’s mastermind at Aus-atmen last year. He was one of the last people to leave and partied right through till the soggy rain drenched mud fest of Sunday afternoon, just before the cops came. From then on, I knew he was one of the good ones. He also played guitar and was making beats on his laptop. Since those humble beginnings and a killer set at Blah Blah #003, this bedroom music project has evolved into the three-piece live monstrosity SPLORTCH SELECTOR, which will explode on Jah Bar this Tuesday. What can we expect from this band? Word on the street is their singer is going to throw up on the audience. Get in.
After a long hiatus from performance, the celestial sisters of cellular synthesis THE HORMONES are back for their highly anticipated return to the mortal world! Blasting their infectious brand of electro dance rock, prepare to have these synthesized hormones secreted directly into your blood.
It must’ve been September of 2015. This super badass chick walked into the old Morning Bar 早上好 with a bunch of fliers. “这是我的乐队，” she said, handing me a flier and sitting down to light a cigarette. THE HORMONES – CHINA TOUR 2015. This is how I met Ming Ming – and I immediately liked her.
The Hormones are a collective of likewise badass chicks who rock seriously uplifting dance music and quite simply do not give a fuck what you think. Wisps of Karen O, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Foals, delivered with pure power and precision. They are such an important band and I am so excited to see them play on Tuesday night, their first Chengdu show in over a year!
KAISHANDAO will take us deeper into the night with bass heavy drum machine smashing and techno-flavoured frequency modulations, wielding an electric guitar and a mystic mixture of brain-warping effects pedals.
Kaishandao got it’s name from a 成语 that Xiaoxin a.k.a LittleNew, the illustrator behind the 百鬼夜行 100 Spirits poster, messaged to me several months ago. She’s fond of a good 成语，but I often have to look them up in Pleco. A not-so-long story short, I came across the word 开山刀 and it just clicked. I love it’s simplicity paired with brutality, the symmetry within the characters and the unified first tone throughout.
“Do you think Kaishandao would be a good name for my music?” I asked.
“Yeah it’s cool! But you’re music will have to be really cutting edge to use it,” she replied.
I’ve been organising shows in China for two years now, but I’ve played guitar since I was 10. I’m not sure Kaishandao is anywhere near as cutting edge as the friends I will perform with on Tuesday night, but for the first time in many years, I am now proud to perform my own original music for an audience, and in what better place than right here in this crazy city that has brought us together from all corners of the world – Chengdu. Bringing together my dual loves of rock and techno, this is Kaishandao.
As the clock nears midnight, the patron saints of post-punk HIPERSON will materialize for a rare and glorious performance. Known for their fierce vocals, ear-thrashing guitar assaults and thundering rhythmic prowess, Hiperson’s presence will ensure the spirits are well and truly awakened!
When I was a student living in Beijing, I came across a band from Chengdu who had put some demos on Douban. Just several seconds into 《他打定主意做一个游客》and I was completely hooked, put the demos on my iPod and biked around the city listening to them on repeat at full volume for what seemed like days.
That band? HIPERSON. And they are basically the reason I moved to Chengdu.
It was outside the little Little Bar after The Hormones EP release show when I first met Chen Sijiang.
“Uhh ni hao, ni shi Hiperson de Chen Sijiang ma?!”
OH MY GOD.
Since then, they have signed to a big indie label, released their first record, toured the country in a van and even toured Europe. Sijiang shaved off all her hair along the way. Through it all, they have remained 100% humble and dedicated to their music, with a DIY attitude that their heroes Fugazi would admire.
I am honoured to call them my friends, and I am in disbelief that I will play on the same bill as them at Jah Bar this Tuesday. They are the greatest and I can’t believe this is even happening.
Finally, elevating us to the spiritual homeland of techno, SU will provide a digital nerve massage of hard-hitting, Berlin-inspired beats, taking the DJ decks for a rhythmic full body cleanse right through till the early hours.
I can’t remember the first time I met Gogo, but I am almost certain it was over a doob at the old Morning Bar 早上好 several years ago. She asked what star sign I was.
“Sagitarrius,” I said.
“Cool, what date”
We are bound in an inexplicable bond by the astrological power of the number 12. Techno is what she lives and breathes, and each time she returns from Germany, she brings with her a wave of new energy that washes over those who hear her play.
The first time I collaborated with her was for the NUART Festival after party at 早上好 in 2015, where I brought Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light for a renegade show and trippy visual installation. She’d just formed atmen with Xiang and had returned from a long trip to Germany. The night culminated with Riki Gooch (Cave Circles) jamming the drum kit to Su’s DJ set with a bunch of greasy shaokao sticks. It was beautiful. Since then, along with Xiang, we’ve played together at clubs and festivals in an improvised manner.
In a way, this Tuesday night is a coming of things full circle with the return of Lady Lazer Light to Chengdu and Su taking the decks for the closing set of the night. She is the spirit that floats the dance floor, let the frequencies set you free.
Overseeing this ghostly procession is the high priestess of visual overstimulation Lady Lazer Light, who has been summoned all the way from New Zealand. Known for hypnotising her audiences in China with Orchestra of Spheres in 2015, she will be floating through Jah Bar and spraying her kaleidoscopic rays throughout the night!
The first time I experienced a Lady Lazer Light show, I can say with utmost certainty that everyone was tripping on acid. It was the closing set of Camp A Low Hum 2012 and Thought Creature were playing on a stage that had materialized out of nowhere. Hypnotic mirroring of hot pink gorillas and dancing Indian women scattered across the screen, amplifying the psychedelic drone of guitars and synths, and sending the remaining punters into that special state of mutual derangement which is so often reserved for the last night of music festivals.
“Woahhh, this is buzzy,” I uttered to no one in particular.
The first time I actually met her was on the Orchestra of Spheres China tour, while she was on an art residency in Beijing. This month she returns to Chengdu, on the back of her second residency at Red Gate in Feijiacun, Beijing, and we are so excited!! Sklenars is our distinguished guest, a total party animal, the queen of buzzy visuals, and we are beyond privileged to have her grace Jah Bar on Tuesday for an all out audio-visual assault of the senses.
Kindred spirits, the time is nigh to sweep the tomb of your wardrobe and unearth your most GHOULISH garb for an unforgettable night of genre-bending audio-visual madness not seen before in these lands. Abide by the ghosty dress-code and be part of the movement! We beseech you, this is a night not to be missed.
This show is possible due to a culmination of great friends, an incredible local music scene and the desire to create an unforgettable moment in Chengdu music history – a night of barely contained mayhem in one of the most legendary and long-standing venues in town. It exists beyond the confines of genre, background, label, or any of the noise that can get in the way of what is truly important – the music.
Owing to the wondrous power of the innernette, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ricky Maymi for a few years now. Known to many as guitarist of the notoriously volatile Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Imajinary Friends, Maymi is also synonymous with the promotion of Chinese indie rock abroad, specifically the Beijing bands that emerged in the late-2000s and have since taken off in a cloud of cigarette smoke on Maybe Mars.
I first came across him when I was living as a student in Beijing, astray in the #wednesdayfreeshotsforladies, all you can drink KTV, shopping mall wasteland of Wudaokou, which post-D22 had become a cultural black hole. Beyond the Katy Perry club remixes, I was ecstatic to discover some of the city’s most cherished acts such as Hedgehog, P.K.14 and Carsick Cars on websites such as Josh Feola’s pangbianr, Tenzenmen, and of course Ricky’s blog Far Out Distant Sounds. Even better, all these bands were just hanging out downtown. Salvation.
Years on, in collaboration with Genjing Records all round GC Nevin Domer (who I met at Carb on Carb and God Bows to Math’s Beijing show in 2013), Far Out Distant Sounds has developed into a distribution, promotion and touring agency for some of Beijing’s finest acts.
We’re comrades as such, music nerds that geek out about Chinese indie rock on the internet all day. As such, it was only a matter of time he was featured here on Kiwese. There just had to be something… remotely… relevant… to New Zeal… oh, yes, here it is!!
Birdstrikingfrom Beijing are in New Zealand this week playing two shows in Auckland on Friday 17 February and Wellington on Saturday 18 February.
The jewel of the Maybe Mars crown, this triple guitar, noise-punk five-piece have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, releasing their banned in China album Birdstriking (2012) on Anton Newcombe’s label A Recordings and heading abroad to tour the U.S. and UK alongside the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
As remote as you can get, New Zealand seems to be the optimal next stop for Far Out Distant Sounds, meaning things finally seem to be heading south for Chinese indie rock – and I mean that in a purely geographic sense.
We caught up with Ricky to find out more about Birdstriking’s Australian / NZ tour, how he got involved with the Chinese music scene and whether he likes pies or not.
Spoiler: Ricky Maymi loves pies. Thank god.
KIWESE: Where are you right now?
RICKY MAYMI: I’m in South Fremantle, Western Australia. Visiting with my son, Otis and producing an album for a guy named Michael Savage. I’m pretty sure if he was from NZ, Flying Nun would be all over him! He’s got elements of Shayne Carter and Andrew Brough (Straitjacket Fits), David Pine and Matthew Bannister (Sneaky Feelings), James Milne (Lawrence Arabia) and a touch of maybe Alasdair Maclean (The Clientele)… This is our second time making an album of his together. The first one is called Used To Write. Look it up!
Maymi is an interesting surname, where is it from, can you talk a bit about your heritage?
It’s a Corsican name, though my Father was from Nicaragua. He was the kind of guy that shouldn’t be talked about too much, if you know what I mean…?
They made a movie about one of his old business partners, George Jung, entitled Blow. The one with Johnny Depp. Anyhow… I’ve heard there are also Maymi’s in Russia.
You are from San Fran. What was it like growing up there, how did you first “get into music”?
It was always a diverse environment, in every way, in the 20th century. I was raised to be an open minded, accepting person and in SF it would completely work against you to be any other way.
My uncle, Vince Welnick was in a legendary SF band called The Tubes (famous for “White Punks On Dope” and “Don’t Touch Me There.”) He would always be coming back from places like Japan or Europe after touring with someone like David Bowie or The Stranglers and him and my aunt Laurie would always have exotic toys and gifts and cassettes like Hunky Dory (Bowie) or Country Life (Roxy Music) for me and the family – and this obviously made a lasting impression. Vince later joined Todd Rundgren’s band, and The Grateful Dead after that.
My other uncle, Ed Dorn was also a working musician who had played in some fantastic bands like Zolar X and The Aurora Pushups (later The Pushups) and he went on to work on studio projects for bands like True West and many other Bay Area greats. Ed had me listening to things like Bill Nelson and The Human League back in the very early 80’s.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in SF through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s
I believe I caught the tail end of a great cultural renaissance of the 20th century.”
My mother was a huge Beatles fan so there was also no avoiding the British Invasion bands for me as a young child. Her partner after my father is a real folk music lover and exposed me to Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Paul Simon and all the rest. He also has a huge appreciation for classical music, so I had a fairly well rounded musical upbringing.
I also played Clarinet, Saxophone and Double Bass in school from an early age.
Prior to getting hooked on Chinese indie music, what kind of awareness and exposure to Chinese culture did you have? I know there is a deep-rooted Chinese community in San Fran and a huge Chinatown.
Looking back, I had very little knowledge before getting involved with the music scene in China and visiting there, which I have now done several times. All of my life in SF I’d always been drawn to Chinatown – for the food, the art, the people and the culture. Some of the most beautiful people on Earth. A glimpse in to another, older world.
In college in SF I was exposed to more of the history of Chinese American culture through either my theatre classes or my writing classes.
How did Far Out Distant Sounds come about and what was your inspiration for starting it? Does it basically operate as a booking agency/distro for Maybe Mars?
It started as a scrapbook style blog (www.faroutdistantsounds.com), with links to hear the music – just somewhere one could go online and get a sense of what was happening. Not a comprehensive list of Chinese indie bands but a good selection of the stuff that interested me enough to investigate further… Like a gateway drug.
I had hoped the blog would inspire people to do the same, and to some degree, it appears to have done that.
What do you look for as a US-based promoter of Chinese talent and how do you go searching for it, with the firewall and all, and various language barriers?
I am not exactly US-based. I’m Earth-based. Also, there is no real scouting going on from my end. I work closely with Maybe Mars in Beijing and when they have a new release to promote and a band they want to tour outside of China, I become involved through a more organic process as this is all done out of love, admiration and respect.
“Everyone involved understands that this movement is distinctly, extraordinarily significant.”
How often do you come to China? Had you visited China prior to being exposed to bands like Skip Skip Ben Ben, Birdstriking and P.K.14 in 2012?
I had never been to China before 2015. I have been there four times now. Can’t wait to go back! I would absolutely live there if I could – I am in love with Beijing!
Beijing is political centre of China and the undisputed mecca for indie music. How do you view this relationship between politics and alternative music?
It definitely plays a hand in informing the artist’s way forward. Gives them something to rail against, but they don’t do that in obvious, trite ways. They are more clever than that…
What’s your personal connection with NZ?
My first trip to NZ was in February, 2008. I was visiting Shayne Carter, who I had become good friends with after his band Dimmer toured with my band in the US. He arranged for us to go to Dunedin as he knew how much the music from there had meant to me. I got to see Martin Phillipps play a solo set in the park at midday by surprise. I got to know Robbie Yeats and stayed with Graeme Downes for a few days. Caught up with some folks I had already come to know in America, David Kilgour and Bob Scott. I got to see Bachelorette, Die! Die! Die! and Ned Collette all for the first time. Also heard Lawrence Arabia for the first time. It was an epic visit! I had an amazing time and every moment was like walking through a dream.
I’ve been back several times since, mostly to tour with BJM, but once with Steve Kilbey from The Church. Him and I went to Napier as well as Dunedin to perform in addition to Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
I’ve had the odd relationship with women from NZ as well. Unfortunately, it’s always been just that… Odd! Small country… 😉
Do you like pies?
I, of course, love pies!
In an interview with Slinkrat in 2013, you said “Unlike the rest of the world, [Chinese indie rock] isn’t preoccupied with fitting in to something pre-existing in the entertainment world, which is why it reminds me of Flying Nun in the 80’s.” How do you respond when critics say Chinese indie bands are just imitating Western rock standards, something that could never be directed at Flying Nun bands?
Well, they clearly aren’t listening closely enough and they are judging through the context/filter of Western standards which simply do not apply here.
It’s a bit of passive-aggressive, xenophobic elitism playing in to that perspective as well. Alan McGee said himself that there is no such thing as Chinese rock. So did the NOFX dude. They clearly do not know what the hell they are talking about, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. They see it the way they want/need to see it to suit whatever agenda they have – that’s fine because enough people know otherwise.
“Even The Beatles had to start somewhere, the most innovative pop band on Earth were covering Chet Atkins and Motown hits of the day when they started.”
The bands from China I work with have obvious Western influences such as Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, modern composers and experimental music.
None of these kids had the luxury of “growing up” with the Beatles or Bowie the way I did, for example. Or the critics, for that matter and that’s what they need to understand when critiquing this stuff.
Context. It’s from another world. You could hand the same influences to a Western band and they will never come up with the melodies Chui Wan or Birdstriking come up with.
Or have the sonic, aesthetic sensibility of Zhang Shouwang (Carsick Cars, White+), because they are a product of a different world who’s culture is largely unknown to the Western masses.
They aren’t really thinking about it enough or taking these prime factors in to consideration, so I believe their criticisms are lazy and uninformed.
I guess an extension of the above question, and I may be projecting here, but in the past, Chinese acts that get chosen to play internationally are ones that possess some kind of quintessential Chinese characteristics recognizable by international audiences or purveyors of “world” music. Those who do not fill this oriental role are labelled imitators of Western music. Comment.
Again, lazy journalism. The safer stuff that is a truer representation of pure, traditional Chinese culture is always going to be prioritized and given the green light for grants funding or government approval. There is nothing subversive about it. Overtly, if at all. It will be more easily accepted in the West because it doesn’t compete with Western art in any way. Its it’s own thing.
Again, the views of these so-called critiques on Chinese rock stem from a Western Capitalist (capitalism=racism) perspective. The white man lives in fear of China, period. Think about it…. That is one reason I love doing this. Challenge what it is people believe they know about an entire culture that they actually are too afraid and pre-programmed to ever learn anything about. Everyone is mad at China for buying everything up but no one is getting mad at the people pushing the product.
God forbid those evil Chinese would take a Western folk-art (rock music) and serve it back in a fresh, not jaded, more intriguing way. It’s just impossible, right? Wrong! 😉
Tell us about your relationship with Birdstriking. Do you remember the first time you heard them, or saw them live?
I first heard them in Melbourne in August 2012 with my friends Julian Wu and Shayne Carter. Julian is a Chinese Australian and he had just returned from China with a suitcase full of CDs of all these great Chinese bands. Shayne and I happened to be both staying at Julian’s at the time. It really struck us how much Birdstriking had this 3D’s/Die! Die! Die! thing going on!
I first started to communicate with Wang Xinjiu from Birdstriking around this time. He was on Facebook and was studying in Cardiff, so no firewall. After being in touch with Maybe Mars and helping them to sell a bit of stock in SF, they asked me to help set up shows for Carsick Cars, White+ and The Gar in SF and LA. We did this and it went over pretty well.
At the time, Birdstriking’s vocalist, He Fan was also playing bass for Carsick Cars. He was the first one I met in person. In 2014, Carsick Cars were booked to open for Brian Jonestown Massacre in the UK. Shouwang was ill at the time and couldn’t make it, so we had Birdstriking take their place. This was advantageous as Birdstriking’s album, which was banned from release in China for it’s lyrical content was licensed by BJM’s label and his since been properly released worldwide (excluding China) on A Recordings on CD and vinyl.
Since then, I’ve booked and tour managed an extensive North American tour for Birdstriking in 2015. I went back to Beijing in ’15 and ’16 and produced Birdstriking’s new, upcoming album to be released this year.
It is very exciting, a Chinese band playing in NZ without representing the Embassy or playing at a Chinese cultural festival covered in bank branding! How did this Australia/NZ tour come about? Can we consider it a recon mission for future tours?
Talk to Andrew from Die! Die! Die! – they’ve just recently toured in China with Birdstriking. When I was in Auckland in December having lunch with him and Mikey telling them about the AU dates, they offered to help with NZ. Now it’s all happening. Bless ’em! They are solid guys and kindred spirits. BJM were lucky enough to play some gigs with them in Europe in mid 2008.
Hoping to send Chui Wan, Gate To Otherside, Bedstars, Hiperson, Future Orients and Dream Can to the Southern Hemisphere over the next 18 months or so.
What advice would you give to bands (Chinese or otherwise) wanting to look outward, and/or tour internationally in future?
Create a demand for, and culture around your music and make friends with people in the places you want to play in ahead of time. People who can actually help you set up worthwhile shows. Your hometown is bottom priority.
Thanks and happy new year!
Same to you!
BIRDSTRIKING were one of the most important bands to emerge from the Chinese DIY scene based around the legendary D22 venue. The Noise Punk band have been likened to a Chinese Surf City, highlighted by their unflinching obsession with Sonic Youth and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Birdstriking will play only two shows in New Zealand before their Australian tour with label mates Carsick Cars.
2.17 BIRDSTRIKING W/ CARB ON CARB, DAILY KENO @ GOLDEN DAWN, AUCKLAND
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.
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.”
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.
Little Bar, Chengdu
8 January 2016
“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).
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!
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?!
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.
Hiperson + Lonely Leary
NU SPACE, Chengdu
10 June 2016
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
2 September 2016
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.
NU SPACE, Chengdu
17 September 2016
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.
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.
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.
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
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 RotherSupport: Chui Wan
Little Bar Space, Chengdu
31 October 2016
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…
NU SPACE, Chengdu
18 November 2016
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?
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
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
23 December 2016
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.
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
Brace yourselves – in the second ever Kiwese tour, Wellington outsider punk duo mr sterile Assembly are making their way to China to freak some people out and devour various vegetarian fry-ups.
Last month I found myself waiting for some friends outside Baobab Cafe. Despite a two year absence from Wellington, everything was overwhelmingly familiar – the tangy scent of South Indian curries in the breeze, rows of faceless mannikins posing in op-shop windows and bright yellow public buses trundling past with a mechanical groan. Lofty signs for QUICK AND EASY PERSONAL LOANS remained latched to the sides of cheap bakeries. Not much had changed in Newtown, an inner-city suburb dotted with ethnic restaurants and a growing number of hipster hangouts.
After work traffic kept me waiting by the side of the road. Conversation floated by among those clasping fish n’ chips or Keep Cup lattes to their puffer-jacketed chests. A cold wind blew as gutters were scoured for cigarette butts and spare change by the chapped hands of the less fortunate.
The income gap in New Zealand has continued gape wide open in the two years since I’ve been gone. A suit scrolls through his iPhone while a homeless man rolls a used durry. This is the reality of urban Aotearoa – no glossy tourism pamphlets, no rare and endangered birds, no hobbits or wizards.
There is, however, a pair of performance punk musicians whose music speaks to the experiences of the poor, marginalised and ignored members of our society, who believe in telling stories that belong to the current cultural conversation, who believe “indifference is the death of the heart.” They are mr sterile Assembly, dubbed as one of the most unusual live acts in New Zealand, a band who have reached out to Kiwese seeking a way through China.
At a little past half five, my ride arrives.
Three years since the last break, not a single day off since Paradise is busy by the bay In orbit of the corner store, seven days a week Seven through to seven every day
Upper flat, inner city, such a long, long way from home Double cleaner’s wages pay the rent In a tiny condensed world, make do in a single room Quiet touch only, beside the daughter’s bed
Living third world in a first world city
Employer brands the loyalty, keeps the manners nice The old bloke at the front desk, bites down the bitterness Stress value first impression, try to smile with missing teeth Fight for slight promotion and pass the urine test
Living third world in a first world
A state house by the motorway, a tiny condensed space How many can camp down, into a single double bed Fever likes the company, attracted by rheumatic heart Win the prize of penicillin, or a surgeon on your chest
Loud hear them Lucky them Who were there And who got out Don’t hear them Other them Who are there Who can’t get out
– ‘Othering Heights’ from It’s All Over by mr sterile Assembly
A car pulls up in the middle of the road and a man with the most fantastic moustache in the South Pacific gestures for me to hop in. It’s the ringmaster Kieran, the drumming and singing mr sterile himself, with the other half of the Assembly, bassist and vocalist Chrissie, behind the wheel. Car troubles aside, we are soon cruising around the South Coast as the sun sets behind the hills, tinted orange and pink.
We soon arrive at their Happy Valley home – mr sterile gets to work on reheating a veggie curry for tea and Chrissie fires up the brazier. Their kids have all grown up and moved out, leaving the cat to prowl around the cozy living room stacked with a staggering array of books, CDs, records, cassettes and paintings. A drum kit and bass amp sit next to the sofa. It is a home full of music and information.
I’d received an email from mr sterile Assembly several months prior, who had seen the Orchestra of Spheres Rockumentary on YouTube and were themselves long intrigued by the possibility of touring China. A few more emails, a Skype and a serendipitous trip back to New Zealand for Going Global, I was now sitting in their living room hearing tales of Levin bogan basement gigs, the touring circuit in Indonesia and the travels of DIY punk duo Sabot.
It is with much pleasure that I announce the mr sterile Assembly China Tour 2016, kicking off this Friday in Shanghai.
MR STERILE BIO:
The mr sterile Assembly is a bass and drum duo of explosive proportions from Aotearoa New Zealand. With one foot in the world of punk, and the other dancing between noise, math rock, free-form squall, they are not easy to box, and are quite happy about that. Known as much for their wordsmithing as for their impressive live performance, sterile’s fierce delivery has been described as “oppressive and delightful both at the same time.” Organ Magazine, UK.
After 15 years, five albums, and several excursions to Central Europe and South East Asia, Sterile are looking forward to this 20 date tour across 2 continents.
The band will be traveling with their latest album, It’s All Over released through the band’s label skirted Records. International distribution is through Portland based Metal Postcards. Take a listen on Bandcamp to “A jolt of pure creative spirit married to social commentary, and damn good fun!” NZ Musician.
KIWESE PROUDLY PRESENTS:
MR STERILE ASSEMBLY CHINA TOUR 2016
Shanghai @ Space-631
NOIShanghai LXXIV X Space-631 Vol.8
Support: Torturing Nurse, 反方向的钟(上海) 白梦薇(上海))
Guangzhou @ Loft 345
In Collab With: QiiiSnacks Records
Die! Die! Die! 来！来！来！Hold the press, New Zealand noise-rock / post-punk trio Die! Die! Die! are returning to China for the first time in five years for a ten date tour!
It’s a sweltering Thursday afternoon here in Chengdu and I am still nursing a strained neck induced by overly aggressive head banging at the first annual Punkfest CDC 成都朋克音乐节 at Morning House 早上好 last weekend. Speaking of overly aggressive head banging and sweatiness…
Die! Die! Die! are such a great band. Their live show is an almost cathartic experience, the relentless thrashing and collision of flying bodies, the unpredictability of vocalist/guitarist Andrew Wilson as to when he will careen off stage. Just thinking about Michael Prain’s drum intro to A.T.T.I.T.U.D. makes me feel like sporadically pogoing into people.
The band first toured China back in 2011 with Tom from This Town Touring, paving the way into the unknown for other NZ acts to follow. This time, with London-import Rory Attwell (Test Icicles) on bass duties, the band will be brought over by Beijing-based punk tour overlord Nevin Domer from Genjing Records and Maybe Mars for ten dates across Taipei, Hong Kong and the Mainland.
With the new high speed rail from Guiyang to Chengdu making things possible, the Die! Die! Die! train is storming west to play Guiyang, Chengdu and Chongqing, plus the main southern and eastern centres! YEAH!!
DIE! DIE! DIE! CHINA TOUR 2016
Revolver, Taipei Support: Slack Tide, Wayne’s So Sad NT500 (presale and student price) / NT600 (at door)
Focal Fair, Hong Kong
Support: SECTS, The Bollands
“A dream of a shopping cart left in the street in a desolate wasteland is stuck on repeat,” sings Jonathan Zeitlin on Alpine Decline’s latest album Life’s a Gasp, a record that echoes the dystopian smog world of Beijing.
Alpine Decline is Beijing-via-Los Angeles husband and wife rockers Jonathan Zeitlin and Pauline Mu. Self-described as “psych, shoegaze, noise rock and ’90s indie, without sounding too much like any of those,” Alpine Decline are currently touring their seventh album Life’s a Gasp across China with long time confidante, producer and bassist Yang Haisong.
Kiwese caught up with Jonathan ahead of their gig in Chengdu to talk about touring and synthesisers in a WeChat conversation littered with baby smoking Hitler emojis.
KIWESE: Hey Alpine Decline! Where are you guys?
JONATHAN: We’re driving up from Nanning to Guiyang right now and it is fucking gorgeous. Pauline and I are essentially nature-oriented people living in a city that is the antithesis of natural, so this lush landscape really moves us.
Rad, how was the show in Nanning?
Nanning was great. I think in places that don’t get as many touring acts coming through, the thrills are a little bit more palpable. A strange room and a strange feeling, like someone might bar the doors and some shootout might happen, or evil spirits descend… this is the perfect vibe for us to play.
“Playing for ten people ready to freak the fuck out is often more fun than 200 people who are only listening with one ear.“
Can you tell us about your tour bus and crew? Sounds huge!
We’ve been on the US get-in-the-van trip quite a few times and will be doing it again in October with Carsick Cars and Chui Wan, but this is the first time we’ve had a van to tour in china, instead of riding the rails. It completely changes the nature of the expedition – in a way we are temperamentally well suited for.
We brought our baby and a babysitter, so that adds two bodies. There’s the three of us in the band, Xiao Bao running sound, our old friend (and veteran of the earliest P.K.14 van tours) 黄师傅 minding the details, and our very trusted driver. For awhile Nevin from Genjing Records/Maybe Mars came along. Little Monster rolled with us from Shanghai to Nantong and that was max capacity.
Logistics aside, I love ripping down the road. I like stepping out of the car in the middle of nowhere. I like the whole ‘Peter Pan leading a pack of gypsy children out into the wilderness’ vibe.
This is not the first tour Alpine Decline for little Roland, right? He must be almost ready to join the band as the fourth member haha
This is his fourth tour. He did Australia when he was six months old, then the China tour for our last album GO BIG SHADOW CITY and the subsequent US/Canada tour. He’s pretty natural at it. He gets on really well with everyone and can tolerate the dirty language and rough living pretty well.
With kids, I find you create reality for them… they don’t come into the world with a set of expectations of how things are gonna be. So taking him on tour at first was about us being brave, not about him understanding what’s up. We just felt like it was a bad narrative in the long term to say “we used to tour and make albums and then you were born so it all stopped.” We felt like he could have warmth and support and a reasonable measure of stability and safety while still coming into Pauline and my world, joining our lives and our family.
What’s the best thing about being on tour?
There is a lot of wildness on tour; wild thoughts, the crazy feeling of being cut loose, the daily encounter with my fight-or-flight instincts. You meet crazy people and seem to be endlessly celebrating something, I don’t know what. For us, we are very focused on the shows, because getting in a room with people and playing music every night, there is a possibility we will get somewhere interesting, and that’s really the only reason to tour.
Of course we get tired, nerves frayed and maybe lose perspective of reality a little bit. But I’m going to reach a place every night where the moment opens up and freezes and we are all intensely present for some fleeting interval. so 辛苦? 辛苦我可以收。(hardship, hardship I can take.)
Welcome to Chengdu, what’s your impression of this place?
Chengdu and these western parts always leave a very deep impression on us. Of course in Chengdu as everywhere you witness the crush of development, but there is a kind of frontier vibe that comes on this far from the eastern seaboard that strikes me as romantic.
Would be great to have an Alpine Decline synth set in Chengdu!
Aw, I would have loved to do a synth set in Chengdu! When we were planning the tour and figuring out where we could do the synth stuff, I just didn’t know if there was a community interested in that kinda thing…
I wouldn’t say there’s a ‘community’ but certainly individuals who have an interest.
Yeah, I find on tour there is pretty intense interest in the modular synths and people just trying to contextualize asymmetrical music in general, so that after the synth sets we are basically spending about a half an hour talking to the crowd, showing them the synths and explaining stuff.
We use the synths during the rock set too, so we also have gotten people who come out even though they aren’t interested in guitars or rock, but read somewhere about the synths.
If it’s not too mafan, are you able to tell us about your synths for all the synth nerds out there?
Ah, so basically we built two boxes and filled then with different modular synth components from a variety of sources. Eurorack is basically a format, a set of standards, so people can build synth components that will be compatible with other peoples modules. so we have basically a collection of oscillators, filters, VCAs, envelope generators, utilities, etc that we can patch together to create any sound we imagine.
We don’t have any presets or memory banks, it is nearly impossible to perfectly recreate a sound, so every night on tour the synths are slightly different, their ambience a little slippery and sorta every variable. plus they are a lot lighter than lugging around big vintage synths like the last tour haha.
I read in an interview that you recorded Life’s a Gasp in a makeshift studio in the mountains?
I think the place was originally going to be like a western style residential neighbourhood in the mountains past Badaling, northwest of Beijing, but the government moved some factories out to the adjacent valley and the place was more or less abandoned by the ten or twelve people that built houses there. Surreal, kind of ghostly, maybe some abandoned dogs, but with the ruins of unrestored Great Wall snaking along the ridgeline. We kinda had a sound design in mind and wanted to find a very big room where we could record drums, guitar and bass live together, and one of these houses became available to us. So we moved there for a week and were able to create a really different, closed-circuit kind of habitat for this part of the recording process.
So you guys are rolling in Guangxi right now, a far stretch from L.A. You’ve been in Beijing for a decent few years now, do you still align yourselves and your style with the L.A. scene at all?
No, we don’t align ourselves with the L.A. scene at all. Actually, I don’t have a clue what’s been going on in L.A. the last five years at all. Even before we moved here, we were feeling very disassociated with the music scene, pretty aware of the distance between what we were looking to do and the territory around us.
It might be a little different on a personal level for Pauline, because she grew up there, but especially for me just kinda drifting through from more remote parts, L.A. just seems like a fantasy to me, even when I lived there.
I’m originally from a small town in north-eastern Ohio, a sort of farmland about an hour outside of a big collapsing steel town.
There are brilliant musicians in L.A… I’m in disbelief I had the opportunity to call them my friends and whip up some music together… but we had a different plan when we started Alpine Decline and after about a year knew it wasn’t right in L.A.
L.A is known around the world as the mecca of music and film production, so no doubt full of people trying to make it big. Do you find any parallels between that and Beijing?
The scale is really different. People seeking to make art come to Beijing, but the leading industry in Beijing is politics, not art. In L.A., its almost exclusively entertainment, like a coal town with screening rooms instead of mineshafts. Truthfully, L.A. is really just film and TV, so playing music there is still a little outside… unlike New York or Berlin, perhaps.
I don’t know what “making it big” would look like in China. We didn’t think that was an option here, which was part of the appeal.
Alpine Decline play NU SPACE Chengdu this Saturday with support from the almighty Hiperson!
购票请长按下方二维码:Press & extract the QR code below for tickets on Zaomengshe:
Lonely Leary are a Beijing-based three-piece post-punk/noise rock band from Shandong. They incorporate fast drums, muddy baselines and rough guitar noise in a pursuit to create a relatively violent sound.
NU SPACE has invited them to Chengdu to play a show this Friday 10 June with local favourites Hiperson!
Kiwese caught up with the band members Qiu Chi 邱驰 (bass/vocals) Song Ang 宋昂 (guitar) and Li Baoning 李保宁 (drums) to find out more…
Back in 2012, three college students entrenched in boredom were practicing their instruments alone in the secluded district of Changqing, Jinan. Initially the band set about covering a few simple punk songs, as well as post-punk bands such as Joy Division. They adopted the name “Lonely Lili” while playing spontaneous rock shows on campus. Later due to job changes and academic activities, the band was suspended.
In 2014, all three members moved to Beijing and Lonely Leary was reborn, trading ‘Lili’ for ‘Leary,’ a tribute to Timothy Leary, the creator of LSD. With a new name in a new city, the band began rehearsing and writing songs in pursuit of their own punk-oriented style. During the summer of 2014, the band performed prolifically at School Bar, XP and other rock clubs, gradually gaining a small and loyal following within the grungy confines of the Beijing underground.
The Shocking Pinks show took place at the notorious hutong dive School Bar and was supported by two local acts – one of them was Lonely Leary, and they totally kicked ass. Scatty basslines, frantic drumming, possessed vocals, screeching guitar… A week later, I saw them play again at Temple Bar. Again, excellent.
Beijing has provided the Shandong-born trio the perfect environment in which to hone their songs and their live performance, with what seems like endless bars and livehouses to play at on a regular basis.
NU SPACE is proud to present LONELY LEARY, the post-punk/noise-rock trio tipped by critics as the most exciting new band out of Beijing this year.
KIWESE: You guys are from Shandong. Can you describe what Jinan is like for those of us who don’t know?
SONG: Changqing is basically a beautiful place. I think it’s more suitable for old people rather than youths to live there.
QIU: There was originally a village or wasteland. You know, the university and college downtown couldn’t take so many students after enrolment expansion over the years, so the government transformed the villages into campuses and sent a large number of students there. The campuses are isolated by mountains and we have to take illegal taxis to go to other places. There is also a commercial center with many low-cost shops, stalls, internet bars and small hotels for lovers.
Music hobbyists can learn to play guitar and drums in some instrument shops. They used to form bands and cover “Beyond”. There were over a hundred Beyond cover bands I think.
LI: The first time I met Song Ang he was playing guitar in a cover band in an instrument shop. He hated the songs they played, so we began to play together while learning our instruments. Qiu Chi joined us after graduating, then we became a trio and began to cover some punk bands. Our playing technique was poor then.
You started out covering punk bands. What were some of the first songs you covered?
Under Baby, Joyside and Ramones. Including some “punk songs” by Hedgehog.
What is up with the drummer situation?
We have some drummer adjustments recently. Wang Jianan played drums for the last half of the year. She is a student at Beijing Film Academy with a good sense of drum playing. She created many amazing drum riffs in new songs. The only problem she has is technique – it’s a little hard for her to play the fast songs perfectly live and in recording, after all, she hasn’t played for that long.
So she will study and practice the basic skills and techniques, and the original drummer Li will take the place of her at present. Li plays fiercely like a drum machine.
You moved to Beijing in 2014, how does the city influence your music?
QIU: I simply took playing in a band as pastime in Shandong. At that time, I didn’t know much about making music as an amateur. After graduating and being in Beijing in 2012, I separated from them because they were still in Jinan. I think Lonely Leary was about to dissolve then. However, I saw lots of lives in Beijing and was attracted by its dynamic rock’ n roll atmosphere. There are so many fresh bands who studied and vied with each other – they created the scene together. I was encouraged by them and got the enthusiasm to continue Lonely Leary. Then the other guys came to Beijing soon after, so I had no excuse to stop the band any more.
SONG: I think Beijing is a high-speed city with bad environment and people here are restless. I knew nothing about the city beside music before I came here. I didn’t know what to do then and always felt anxious and confused. In fact, three of us all get this feeling and deeply affected. The violent sound of our music has close connection with the situation. Sometimes the bad moods also get the band into trouble. That’s terrible.
LI: Beijing has more bands and lives than I had ever known in college. You know, most bands in Jinan are metal and pop, as well as some folk singers. However, in Beijing, there are many bands whose temperaments are quite same as us, especially in XP Club. I can learn from them at close range. At the time, I thought I would die without regrets if I could perform in XP, ha-ha!
Tell us about the new album, how is that coming along? Where are you planning to record it? Will you release it independently or with a label?
Qiu: Making an album has been our dream for a long time. We decided on it at the end of last year as we think we have enough songs now. In fact, we didn’t think too much on writing songs at first, no uniform style or concept was carried through. Many songs didn’t sound the same because they are written in a different period. It really troubled us then! So we tried to preset a theme for the album to keep our creation in a controllable range. It makes the new songs clearer. We also changed some old songs based on our preset concept. Some old songs have been abandoned.
SONG: Some of our songs have been in an indeterminate state for two years before we reached our preset concept. Fortunately, they finally morphed into the shape that we’ve described in our introduction.
LI: Our demo recordings are very simple. We used an iPad to record and mix to get the finished product that you hear on Douban. They have no details or good tones, just a standard of “clear enough to hear.”
Our ignorance towards “real recording” caused this undesirable lo-fi sound. Now we are learning and rehearsing a lot to be ready for the formal recording. Then we probably try to contact labels which are reliable and have interest in us.
You play fairly regularly in Beijing. What are your favourite venues to play?
SONG: We all love XP Club. We can often perform with the bands we like there. I prefer to Old What after XP closed. I feel comfort in its simple and rough environment.
QIU: I would like Old What better if the sound is improved. I like School Bar most now.
LI: We used to play XP a lot because it was close to where we lived. Now we go to School Bar most often.
Who are some other bands you really like in Beijing at the moment and why?
QIU: We all like P.K.14 and Snapline. Alpine Decline is my recently favorite.
SONG: I like Alpine Decline as well. I also recommend Death Narcissist and Bedstars.
LI: I like Re-TROS and Supermarket, also Dr. Liu and the Human Centipede and Soviet Pop.
Your music reminds me of Joy Division and The B52s, as well as more recent bands like Thee Oh Sees and Re-TROS. What bands have had the biggest influence on you?
QIU: David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, P.K.14 and Sun City Girls have a deep ideological influence on me. Savages, Mars, Disconcerts, Sleaford Mods, Mika Miko are my favourites recently. I love their basslines.
SONG: I recommend A Place to Bury Strangers for their destructive lives, firm basslines and manic guitar noise. Sonic Youth brings me inspiration on playing guitar, I’ve learned their tuning and tone a lot. I also like the teen spirit sound of Big Black and Spacemen 3’s psychedelic guitar.
LI: Old post-punk bands like Joy Division, Sort Sol, Talking Heads have influenced so many people for their tension of contradiction.
Have you come to Chengdu before? What impressions do you have of this place?
QIU: I went four years ago. I think People’s Park is a funny place and I love “LengGuo ChuanChuan”.
LI: I went last year. I didn’t go to too many places, but I think some temples here are very good.
SONG: I have never been to Chengdu. I think it may be a wet place.
Anything you want to say to people coming to the show in Chengdu?
QIU: All I want to say are painted on the poster. Really fantastic design ha-ha!
LI: Hi, Person!
SONG: We are three plain dealers from Shandong. Welcome to come and see us!
Lonely Leary’s alcohol of choice?
QIU & SONG: Jingjiu. Absolutely!
Li: I prefer pineapple beer.
Welcome to Chengdu, thanks guys!
We’ve never been out so far for a live show before. Thanks NU SPACE for inviting us!