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Dying to Be Here: Interview with Alpine Decline

“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 Gaspa 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.

Pauline Mu, Jonathan Zeitlin and Yang Haisong.
Pauline Mu, Jonathan Zeitlin and Yang Haisong.

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.

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Riding in the Alpine Decline tour bus. Image / Alpine Decline

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks Jonathan!


Alpine Decline Poster small chengdu

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:

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Alpine Decline ‘Life’s a Gasp’ China Tour 2016

天津 Tianjin 6.1 周三 13club

合肥 Hefei 6.2 周四 On the Way(大摩店)

南京 Nanjing 6.3 周五 欧拉艺术空间

宁波 Ningbo 6.4 周六 CMK

杭州 Hangzhou 6.5 周日 酒球会

上海 Shanghai(模块合成器) 6.7 周二 Shelter

南通 Nantong 6.8 周三 The Void

义乌 Yiwu 6.9 周四 隔壁

上海 Shanghai 6.10 周五 育音堂

温州 Wenzhou 6.11 周六 米房cei

厦门 Xiamen 6.12 周日 Real Live

泉州 Quanzhou 6.13 周一 动物世界音乐公社

东莞 Dongguan 6.14 周二 红糖罐(769店)

珠海 Zhuhai 6.15 周三 九号仓音乐工厂

广州 Guangzhou(模块合成器) 6.17 周五 Loft345

广州 Guangzhou 6.18 周六 191space

深圳 Shenzhen 6.19 周日 B10现场

南宁 Nanning 6.21 周二 侯朋现场

贵阳 Guiyang 6.23 周四 劲 Livehouse

重庆 Chongqing 6.24 周五 MAO

成都 Chengdu 6.25 周六 NU Space

西安 Xi’an(模块合成器) 6.27 周一 光圈

西安 Xi’an 6.28 周二 光圈

洛阳 Luoyang 6.29 周三 喜堂

新乡 Xinxiang 6.30 周四 Sub Ark

北京 Beijing 7.2 周六 School Live Bar

北京 Beijing(模块合成器) 7.3 周日 fruityspace

襄阳 Xiangyang 7.8 周五 Vox

武汉Wuhan 7.9 周六 Vox(武昌店)

Beijing Noise Rockers Head for Chengdu: Interview with Lonely Leary

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

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

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

Lonely Leary photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

lonely leary school bass
Playing support for Shocking Pinks. 18 Sept 2015. Photo by Kiwese.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is up with the drummer situation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LI: Hi, Person!

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

Lonely Leary’s alcohol of choice?

QIU & SONG: Jingjiu. Absolutely!

Li: I prefer pineapple beer.

Welcome to Chengdu, thanks guys!

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

Hiperson Lonely Leary poster

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

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

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

们可以给我们介绍济长清是一个什么样的地方吗?

宋:长清是一个山清水秀、环境优雅的地方。适合养老,不大适合青年人居住。

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

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

你们一开始翻唱那些朋克乐队的歌?

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

们现在的鼓手情况怎么样

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

2014年从山搬到北京去。北京的音格有什么样的影响?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

们经常在北京演出。你最喜演出的地方是那些?

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

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

李:XP当时离住的地方近,我们就经常去。现在是School去的最多。

你喜欢的居住在北京的乐队与音乐人有哪些?

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

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

李:我喜欢重塑雕像的权利和超级市场,然后就是人体蜈蚣和苏维埃·波普。

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

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

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

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

成都?你们对成都有什印象?

邱:四年之前来过一次。我觉得人民公园有趣,冷锅串串很好吃。

李:我去年来过,去的地方不多,有几个寺庙我觉得不错。

宋:我没来过,可能会比较潮湿?

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

邱:想说的都画在海报上了,很棒的设计!哈哈。

李:Hi, Person!

宋:实在山东人乐队,值得来看!

Lonely Leary最喜的酒是那

邱/宋:中国劲酒!

李:我喜欢喝菠萝啤

欢迎你们来成都!谢谢!

我们第一次到这么远的地方来演出。谢谢NU SPACE的邀请!

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.

IMG_1935
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!

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

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

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

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

“Close your eyes and listen.”

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

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

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

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

Visuals by Cha Fei 叉飞:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original version:

More upbeat, weep-free version, here.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Sayan!

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

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

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DCIM108GOPRO

Put down your screens: Interview with Liang Yi from Stolen

Ever find yourself wasting time by mindlessly scrolling through an endless stream of images ? 

Disillusioned by the modern obsession with digital documentation, Chengdu post-punk/cold-wave band Stolen 秘密行动 are touring their new EP Stealing Our Lenses我们遗失的视角》, which might make you think twice about updating your Instagram in the middle of a gig.

Kiwese caught up with frontman Liang Yi 梁艺 earlier this week for a mash-up English/Chinese interview.

Camera men1

While the world’s attention were focussed on Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, the first incarnation of Stolen was forming at Sichuan Conservatory of Music High School 四川音乐学院附中 in Chengdu.

The current line up of Liang Yi 梁艺 (lead vocals), Duan Xuan 段轩 (guitar, keyboard, samples, vocals), Fang De 方德 (guitar, vocals) Xiao Wu 小伍 (bass), Yuan Yufeng (drums) are now on their second national tour, promoting their new EP in eight cities around the country. The intensity of Liang Yi’s cathartic performance style combined with visuals by Herve, a French film maker, makes Stolen’s live show a powerful force not to be missed.

KIWESE: Hey Liang Yi. Ming Ming (The Hormones) says you guys used to go to school together in Leshan. What was it like growing up in Leshan?

Actually, three of us are from Leshan. Duan Xuan is from Xinjiang.

我们乐队有三个人是从乐山来的。我们的吉他手段轩是新疆的。

Leshan is a beautiful city – a travel city – many people around the world know the Big Buddha. It has beautiful mountains and rivers. Yeah, it’s a cool city!

Is there much of music scene in Leshan? 

Small cities in China don’t really have good music scenes. People don’t really encounter rock music, electronic  music, or whatever. They just know pop music.

在中国小的城市都不会有特别好的音乐气氛。 小的城市几乎没有人去接触摇滚乐,很少的人知道摇滚音乐,或者电子音乐,各种音乐,很少。他们知道pop music.

In China, pop music and internet music is very big. Internet music is fucking shit. Like Phoenix Legend 凤凰传奇

I’ve never heard of them.

They suck. A lot of pop music from Hong Kong and Taiwan gets really big here. The only thing they sing about is love.

When did you start listening to rock music?

I started to learn guitar in middle school and my guitar teacher gave me a lot of CDs like PortisheadRed Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, as well as old rock and blues. I really liked them. When I got to high school, I loved this Chinese band called Muma 木马. Amazing band. That led me to discovering Joy Division and The Cure.

What is like being a musician in Chengdu?

People in Chengdu are generally open to a wide range of music. The music community is very peaceful – everybody is friends and there is good communication. I feel like Chengdu is onto something good right now, it has become another centre for music.

“There is a lot of pressure from the Government in Beijing – while things in Chengdu have a lot more freedom.”

I hear you used to share a practice space with Hiperson

We were classmates with Hiperson at university. They are an awesome post-punk band.

Passengers on the Beijing Metro, 2013.
Passengers on the Beijing Metro, 2013.

“It used to be that bands would all flock to Beijing to try make a name for themselves, regardless of where they were from… but now it’s different – it is the Internet era.”

What does ‘Stealing Our Lenses’ mean to you?

Everyday, we are confronted with so much news. Good and bad. I think sometimes we lose our sense of perspective, we can only see our iPhones, iPads, screens. We forget to see the real world. When some people go to shows, they are just watching through their screens…  I feel like recording audio or video should just be left to the professionals. The audience should just try to feel the show – the music and the atmosphere.

“有很多人他们现在看演出的时候,他们都在屏幕上看。”

“More people should focus on the music, not just the stuff they can post on WeChat…”

English version副本

Can you talk a bit about your connection with the support bands on this tour? A great line-up!

The Fuzz are really good friends of ours from Xi’an. They have been around longer than us. The first time we played in Xi’an, they were really welcoming and took us round. We have the same kind of brains, the same musical views and the same desire to create good indie music.

The Fuzz 是我们非常好的朋友。他们是西安人。他们是比我们早的乐队。 但是我们第次来到西安,他们对我们非常热情,过来跟我们说带我们一起玩儿,我们有一样的脑子,我们对音乐的想法,我们都要做好的indie music。

Snapline are a band who I absolutely love. When we first started, we didn’t know them. But on the last tour, we were at School seeing Soviet Pop, which is Li Qing and Li Weisi’s experimental-noise band. We met them at the door of School, had a really good chat and stayed in touch afterwards.

Snapline 是我自己非常喜欢的乐队,太喜欢。刚刚开始我们不认识他们,但上一次的巡演的时候我们就在北京的 School Bar with Soviet Pop,李青和李維斯做的这个实验的噪音的一个乐队。然后我们就在School 的门口跟他们遇到,聊得特别高兴,聊的特别多。然后回来之后,我们就一直保持联系.

We met Residence A at the Yu Gong Yi Shan show in Beijing that John Yingling (The World Underground) was doing for his movie. John followed P.K 14 on tour last year and Hiperson opened for them in Chengdu. The night before we did a show with EF (Sweden) and John came to the show to see us. This year he was back and called us and asked if we wanted to come to Beijing to do a show with Residence A, SUBS, the Diders and Chui Wan. Of course we said yes!

The Maples are a young band from Chongqing. They are influenced a lot by Sonic Youth and noise rock. I think they are a really good band. They also played at the World Underground show with us and Hiperson this year.

So… have you ever stolen anything before?

[laughs] No! Stolen has many meanings. One meaning is to steal something, while another is to quietly do something. (Stolen 有很多不同的意思。有偷的意思,还有一个意思是悄悄的去做一个事情:秘密行动.)

When I was young, I saw a Japanese painting with the word ‘Stolen’ painted into it. It was beautiful. In middle school, when my English was even worse [laughs], I searched the word ‘stolen,’ and found these two meanings. That’s when I had a dream to make a band called Stolen.

Cheers, Liang Yi! Good luck for the tour!

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STOLEN ‘Stealing Our Lenses’ National Tour 2014:

Fri 7 Nov          Lanzhou 兰州 葵  with A公馆

Sat 8 Nov         Beijing 北京 XP  with Snapline

Fri 14 Nov       Xi’an 西安 光圈  w/ The Fuzz

Sat 15 Nov      Zhengzhou 郑州 7LIVEHOUSE

Fri 21 Nov       Chongqing 重庆 坚果Livehouse  with The Maples

Fri 28 Nov       Shenzhen 深圳 红糖罐

Sun 30 Nov    Guangzhou 广州 SD LIVEHOUSE (无解音乐周末)

Sat 6 Dec         Chengdu 成都 小酒馆

Buy tickets and CDs on Zaomengshe!

Stolen feature in the latest episode of The Sound Stage!

Zaomengshe Turns 1: Interview with Lydia McAulay

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

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

zms poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you have any prior IT experience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your favourite campaign Zaomengshe so far?

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

Any local favourites in Chengdu at the moment?

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

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

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

Onto the second jar. Bit worrying.

Eek. What are your other main hankerings?

Cheese…

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

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

Count me in! Cheers, Lydia!

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

Download Zaomengshe on the App Store.

“做一个梦,造一个理想

Keep Dreaming, Keep Creating!”

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!