Results tagged “china” from Andy Best

One year off, ten years on

subs old days
Pictured: Kang Mao and Zhu Lei playing with Subs around 2005

This month marks a year off for this blog. During which time I've done some thinking. It is also late 2014, making it about ten years since the Shanghai music scene, the band scene, got going properly in the downtown area. 

Just to throw in all the info, I've been here continuously from 2001 and hanging around the band scene since about 2003. I just didn't start writing about it until the spring of 2008. 

What prompted me to write about this was a recent quote from Dostav Dixit of Splitworks, who used to run Vox in Wuhan for a time. He mentioned that 2004-2007 is starting to emerge as a kind of golden time for China bands. I started to think about if there was any real difference in amount and quality of local bands with local members. Then I realised there wasn't ... and that this simple fact was very revealing. There should be a difference: there should be a lot more now. 

After that golden age was cemented, by very simple things such as the existence of venues and rehearsal spaces that were affordable/viable for locals without tons of money, we came to the dubious period of 2007-2009. Actually, the scene went on much the same at first, but the roots of 2009 were appearing in 2007. Across this time, the following things started to come into play:

Involvement of brands and ad agencies
Brand/mall/corporate shows and festivals as a model
Bringing over more foreign touring acts
Large and sudden influx of ex-pats, audience or otherwise

All of these came with issues and impacts. In a smaller scene, it was immediately apparent that their activities were not adding to the scene but replacing things in the scene. What's interesting though, in the case of the first three areas I mention, the people involved went out of their way to claim that their activities would help local bands and the scene develop - and they argued that this was a sincere part of their intentions. I could go on and give examples but it's all moot now ...

1984: New album from PK14

Beijing based band PK14 have released their new album. Let's start with the links:

Stream or buy at Maybe Mars' Bandcamp page right here

Listen to the album at the Chinese language site Douban right here

1984 is their fifth official full album. Together with the side projects, production work and the general influence of frontman Yang Haisong, PK14 are perhaps the most important band in the China scene. This album represents a serious work by serious artists whose development can be tracked across a series of excellent releases. They transcend simple genre conventions and have produced a work of real depth, in a sound and style that is their own.

The album is on the Maybe Mars label, was recorded at Chicago's Electric Audio with Steve Albini and produced by long term collaborator Henrik Oja.

Ready made China tour plan

PK14 have just put their tour details online and it's awesome - not only because they are touring and they are great, but because the map image and list of dates / venues is basically a ready made tour plan for anyone else who wants to do it. Here's the photo and the venue list (in Chinese) ... and look, they are even playing in Xi Ning, Qinghai Province. 

click for larger
tour map

时间 城市 演出场所 
8/28/13 济南 盒子酒吧 
8/29/13 青岛 Downtown Bar 
8/30/13 南京 古堡 
8/31/13 上海 Mao Livehouse 
9/1/13 无锡 大门文化 
9/2/13 苏州 Wave Livehouse 
9/3/13 宁波 CMK 
9/4/13 杭州 酒球会 
9/6/13 武汉 Vox 
9/7/13 南昌 黑铁 
9/8/13 福州 海峡摇滚 
9/9/13 厦门 Real Live
9/10/13 珠海 现场酒吧 
9/11/13 深圳 B10 
9/12/13 台北 The Wall 
9/13/13 香港 蒲吧 
9/14/13 广州 凸空间 
9/16/13 长沙 4698 
9/18/13 重庆 坚果俱乐部 
9/21/13 成都 小酒馆 
9/23/13 兰州 葵Livehouse 
9/24/13 西宁 南墙 
9/25/13 银川 铜管 
9/27/13 西安 光圈Club 
9/28/13 郑州 7 Livehouse 
9/29/13 新乡 Ark Live House 
10/1/13 北京 愚公移山 
10/3/13 大连 赫兹 
10/4/13 长春 重走青春音乐酒吧
10/5/13 哈尔滨 开往春天的地铁酒吧
10/6/13 沈阳 旋转木马俱乐部

Hardcore in Shanghai now includes straight edge

hardcore tour pic
Update: Tyler says: "all the guys in my band are as straight edge as they come!"

Pic: group photo in Wuhan from the Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013

It's way past time for a catch up from the world of hardcore music in Shanghai.

I'm going to run through two areas here: The Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013 and the band xLost in Painx. Let's start with a bunch of relevant links.

So. Shanghai hardcore band Spill Your Guts recently played on the Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013. Also with them was Loudspeaker a punk band from Shanghai who have been around since 1999 and who were the first band I ever saw live in China. Here's a video of Spill Your Guts on the tour:

In other news: Spill Your Guts drummer Tyler Bowa has joined a Chinese straight edge band called xLost in Painx. Yes, a Shanghai based straight edge band. It's interesting for me because I am technically straight edge by default due to my general life habits. We're probably talking musical style only here, or are we? Why not check them out. Here's a bootleg vid that Tyler shared today.

Youtube: Subs in 2008 blast from the past

Here is Aric's video from the legendary best show ever in Shanghai, when The Subs played at Windows Tembo in 2008. Tembo was such a runaway success as a music venue that they immediately moved to a bigger location, Windows Underground, then the boss came down to see it directly for the first time and complained that 'no one wanted to see Chinese playing rock, westerners do it better' and it came crashing to a halt. The boss is Chinese, by the way.

The video is shitty, constantly going out of focus. The sound is tinny, like a tin can, and doesn't capture what it was like ... and the interview part at the end is so trite. Also, you can't see how insanely packed it was, included a balcony, until at the end of the song you get a brief glimpse of the hands and jumping. 

But it's fine, check it out.

Video: Nova Heart My Song 9 (Live)

Here is a well produced live video of Nova Heart playing My Song 9 live in Beijing. It comes courtesy of Live Beijing Music, who also shot it. 

Nova Heart is the latest project from former Ziyou and Pet Conspiracy singer Helen Feng. It has evolved into a full band. Strangely, it has re-united Atom and Bo Xuan from the original Hedgehog line-up too. If you click on Nova Heart but are not a Chinese reader, the music is in the second tab along, under the band name.

Jia Hui Zhen: Beijing electro-pop

jia hui zhen
If electro-pop is your thing the Beijing scene gives you Jia Hui Zhen

The selection of songs there give you the pop, the electro and hints of the ol' Bjork too. All the tracks are really great production, check them all out. Also she's from Ningxia, look that up. One thing people who've never been to China don't know, and can't see through official channels, is how diverse it is. 

Also, here's an interview from the Live Beijing Music site:

It's short but includes a couple of videos too.

Happy New Year: Snake 2013

Happy New Year everyone. Dragon out, snake in. Posting will resume in ten days or thereabouts.


Skip Skip Ben Ben album on Bandcamp

smh cover.jpg
Taiwanese singer/guitarist/songwriter Ban Ban is one of the true talents of Asia's underground rock and pop scenes. She started out young in an industry/mainstream act but then came over to the dark side with her shoegaze band Boyz and Girl. They were so tight when they played YYT on tour and blew our minds.

Then she decided to relocate to Beijing full time and go further down the underground route, taking her lo-fi side project Skip Skip Ben Ben and fleshing it out as a Beijing style dirty noise-indie / post punk band - but with her trademark dreamy J-pop vocals.

We saw them at YYT too and were equally blown away by the combination of underground / avant garde sensibility cut with solid playing chops. 

This has all culminated in their new album Sacrifice Mountain Hills on label Maybe Mars. You can get the CD in China and also listen/buy on bandcamp. Mine's in the mail now.

Video: SKSA Insomniac's Song live at XP

China post punk band Streets Kill Strange Animals playing live at Beijing's XP club. The sound seems a bit mushed at first but stick with it, when the main refrain comes and the vocals kick off, it's all there.

There is another well-produced SKSA vid about but it's made by an ad agency to promote a computer seller so fuck that. I'm sure readers can track it down if they're not bothered by that sort of thing.

Photo: F.A.F. triumphant EP release show

It is important to remember that the shows I go to or blog are not the only shows and the success of some does not diminish the success of others. For me though, it is always satisfying when something you choose to follow through on works out. The F.A.F. show was a highlight and it also gave perspective. The scene is still underground, we are still up against it when it comes to 'da man' and there is still no proper framework or industry to aim for.

Success, for many bands here is when everyone fights and works hard for two or three years to get to the point where we can fill a 200-300 people venue with real fans of a local band and spend a night enjoying a 'real' packed out and emotional rock show. The recently emerged festival silly seasons and the relative success of some international touring acts have not changed that basic reality for young local bands who live here.

click photo for large size

FAF ep wow

Video: Chinese Football 飞鱼转身

Wuhan band Chinese Football play somewhere between jangly Brit indie and older post-rock. I'm no good at classifying. Check out their page and demos here. And watch the vid.

Video: Skip Skip Ben Ben @ Beijing's XP

XP is a new venue in Beijing. It is the latest incarnation of the now closed D22 Club. The people behind D22, and label Maybe Mars, are focused on the feeling and community behind their Zoomin Nights at the old club.

Here is a video of Skip Skip Ben Ben playing there. Skip Skip Ben Ben play an interesting mix of  dreamy J-pop ideas and a distinctly China-scene sounding dirt-noise-indie. Singer Ben Ben has 'got the rock' too, which anyone who has seen them live can attest too.

Video: Duck Fight Goose Glass Walls

Duck Fight Goose have just posted up their new video for the track Glass Walls. Check it out.

Video: Hedgehog The Burning Sun in the Morning

Here is a new video from Beijing's Hedgehog. Hedgehog started off as a grunge inspired power trio and have had an interesting journey adding many influences via legendary live shows. I also ran into them at the NYL Vinyl release the other week which was a bit of a fanboy moment for me having been to all the Shanghai shows since Happy Idle Kid.

Video: Full live set from Fuzzy Mood

Beijing based band Fuzzy Mood play a mix of styles falling somewhere in the range of dream pop, post rock and shoegaze ... I dunno. They are good anyway, and liked. A cheer goes up when the first vocals begin. 

They are nice enough to have put up a whole set from this month. Enjoy.

Video: Da Bang cut cut cut

Beijing band Da Bang, previously also known as Bigger Bang, have posted up this official music video to their track Cut Cut Cut. 

Video: Smegma Riot Fire Fighters (with bonus book)

Smegma Riot are real unsung heroes. They are based in Kunming and have been there a while. The band are traditional punk style and I saw them when they came to Shanghai on a tour once. It's not hard to imagine some Italian guys in Shanghai putting on obnoxious/funny/anarchic punk rock shows, but in the farthest reaches of Yun'nan? 

Now they have a book all about it. It's only in Italian, but I can think of two people off the bat who can read that and read the blog so here you are: Punk Road in China

And here's a Kunming based video for their song Fire Fighters.

Tis the season to be angry

Well. Here at Kungfuology Towers we are not unaware that a lot of you are about to enter a period of rest and reflection. You will have your feet up and some time off.

So, if you were going to pick a Chinese band to listen to, you'd have to pick this one. I'll be imagining Michael Buble actually being roasted over an open fire. Have a punk holidays everyone.

Big Deal in China: New ReTRoS video

Update: Brad Ferguson points out it was uploaded to Youku a couple of years ago. So it was only newly uploaded to Douban, but is not a new video.

This band are a big deal on the scene here. The ReTRoS are a more experimental post-punk band based in Beijing. Their gigs are packed and they have everyone's respect.

Here is their new video out on Modern Sky ... "TV Show (hang the police)"

Youku: Fengyi (The Fallacy) full live set

Here is a video of Henan post-punk band The Fallacy (疯医乐队) playing live at Ark in Xin Xiang, a town to the north of Zhengzhou. Watch through the first few minutes and it becomes a straight unedited taping of the show. 

The band also have a full album out now on Beijing label Modern Sky called The Terrible Silence.

My book: an early look

amazon pic
Alright then. 

Err, so, I wrote a book. It's a regular novel. 

Close friends know that I write books all the time. But this was the first one to get feedback that encouraged me to get it published. Actually the publishing/marketing process is still ongoing and in early stages but it's now up at Amazon for Kindle and other eBook readers. Here:

(Mail me at the blog addie for review copies, writer people)

The cover illustration was done by Ivan Belcic at Twin Horizon.

It's a fictional work about vigilante heroes in modern day Shanghai and people who live here will see that most of it is either true or very closely based on true Shanghai stuff. Just not the costumed hero battles. There's a synopsis thing at the Amazon link. For non-Shanghai people, this will give you a look at modern Shanghai that's completely out of the mainstream. 

It's also full of action and genre stuff to please all fans of heroes and whatnot.

This is still very much DIY by the way. I just happened to find someone who believed in the book and was willing to sponsor a kind of assisted indie publishing method.

And for those that read it and know me or the scene ... no the real Zack Smith is not a vigilante hero on a team with Parkour Girl and Lightning ... or is he?  

Following Chinese bands on Douban

ann douban
All images click for larger

Update on Douban's ongoing changes and motherfuckery when it comes to following bands. Some good news, in fact. At the bottom.

So, previously. And for those who are utterly new to this. All active Chinese bands use Douban's xiao zhan 小站 for their homebase. 

It used to be that following the band page would put all their updates into your main newsfeed/timeline and then there was a filter that showed only musician pages - then called 音乐人 yin yue ren. Sweet. You could add in all the active bands on the scene and get continuous updates and links to shows, demos and videos. 

Then Douban took out the filter and combined all stand alone pages to be the 小站. For a while, we had to go individually to each artist page. That meant over 200 for me and Jake. Then they introduced the 喜欢 like button and following a band's feed became a separate, hard to spot, option. This option: 关注Ann的广播. Guangbo 广播 is feed. See the first picture.

So you could create a new profile. Add only band pages and no friends. Then go to each page and follow the feed. Finally you'd have a time line of band updates again. Of course, band pages are fully 'editable' now so the band may have hidden the feed, and thus the option to follow it.

But now, Douban have finally added back a feed of sorts. Now we have the My Mini-sites 我的小站 tab which shows a chronological list of bands who have updated and their last two updates. See the photos below.



6000 photos in Rock in China Flickr group

yang hai song
Photo by Flickr user Martin Star

Over at the blog of the Rock in China Wiki comes this news:

The Rock in China Wiki has all kinds of info and is generally inclusive, although I'd say their area of expertise is Beijing and heavy music.Their Flickr group now has over 6000 pics.

And don't forget - it's a Wiki and the photo group is open too, so if you do see something is missing: upload it. Give the guys a hand.

Zhenjiang Midi announce all-metal headliners

Midi have announced the headliners for the Zhenjiang festival.

News courtesy of Max at the Rock In China Wiki blog here:

These are the bands:

Midi are already famous for being hard-rock/metal oriented, in part because it came out of a rock school that produces technical guitarists and musicians' musicians. This happens all over the world. With this announcement though they have kind of painted the festival with the metal brush. In some ways this is good as there's so many wishy-washy festivals this year and this gives them a clear identity. On the other hand, despite all the tall tales, not that many people go and these bands surely put off non metal people. I guess I'm wondering if there are enough hardcore metal fans to support a festival of this kind in China. Midi have already done one festival this year, with a similar flavor and didn't do so well out of it.

Are you a metal person? Do you know that Soulfly is Max Cavalera's band that he formed after leaving legendary Brazilian outfit Sepultura? Does listening to Inner Space take you back to the classic days? No? Then you're not really a metal person. If you are then this is good news for sure.
festivals shot
I'm sorry for all non-Chinese speakers. I have to blog this as it's massive on Douban right now and relevant. 

Zinging its way about China's most used site for underground music and arts at the mo is a note on 2010's boom in music festivals here. It comes from Pet Conspiracy's band page and is called, loose translation by me, All the festivals we played were trash.

The gist of it is that there were a massive bunch of festivals suddenly this year as investor fever trumped gov arts policy, as they are all investors themselves. The band played twenty and found that they were all let downs due to a culture of third-rate business man's tricks. 

China Music Radar have been following this carefully.

Here's the full text of the note:

2010年中国大大小小的音乐节有一百多个,就象90年代,一个城市就有一百个迪厅一样,政府好象突然对摇滚乐宽容了起来,主办方都成了乐队的救星,midi 摩登 热波 西湖成功了,然后大家都觉得自己可以,最后才知道自己根本就控制不了局面,为什么?投资方是政府,是企业,是景区,很少有能站在一个角度去思考问题的。今年大大小小我们参加了20个音乐节,刚开始的时候真的觉得是个好事情,但演着演着,这种好心情就没了,两个问题要不是策划人根本对音乐不感兴趣,要不就是策划者控制不了局面,最后这一切就都成了闹剧,乐队乐队埋怨你,主办主办埋怨你,观众观众埋怨你,还赚不了太多钱,理想也没实现,你说这是何苦呢?这些音乐节策划人都应该向midi 摩登 热波 西湖取取经,不是问你们怎么赚着钱,怎么营销的,应该问赌注是什么?今天有个哥们的哥们打电话说要办个音乐节,哥们的哥们问:你们是宠物阴谋乐队吗?虎答:宠物同谋。哥们的哥们问:你们是有两个外国人吗?虎答:是的。哥们的哥们问:那你们挺国际化的,我们想做个国际化的音乐节,再找几个中国知名乐队一起,虎答:好,哥们的哥们问:你觉得唐朝黑豹多少钱,虎答:不知道,应该很贵 哥们的哥们说:某某景区出钱,还会有一些当地企业赞助,怎么才能让乐队和这些赞助很好结合再一起,虎答:让我好好想想吧,想好了通知你再见。哥们的哥们说:好想着点,大家都有钱赚,再见。 三分钟后虎短信给哥们的哥们:让唐朝穿上唐装,让黑豹穿上皮草,宠物阴谋我和晕晕可以带个假发,装外国人。半小时后们的哥们回复:好。。。让我想想。 操我们参加的音乐节就是一个垃圾场,我们热爱音乐,热爱音乐节,但是我们讨厌三流商人的戏法。 希望你们2010年听到你们想听的音乐,享受到你们应该享受的音乐节,因为你们花钱了。

Beijing DIY goings on with Pangbianr

Up in Beijing you can now tap into the DIY side of things via this blog called Pangbianr.

It's well good. It's actually a collective/indie label/everything, it just happens that the blog, by Josh, is well laid out and full of interesting stuff. They are now looking to start some projects in the DIY mould.

For example, check out this excellent post on Beijing's Raying Temple venue/studio.

So follow this and try to support it any way you can. When you show support for things, they tend to do more.

This blog has been on holiday

Hello everyone. Sorry. Last weekend, on very short notice, I buggered off to the place you can see in the photo for a week on the beach. 

You should be able to click on the pic for a massive version. I took that one on the trip.

It was great.

That's one of the two beaches with swimming and chair/beach-umbrella rentals on China's famous Putuoshan: an island national park by the Hangzhou Bay. Back to gigging next weekend. See ya all there.

andy temple

evening view

AV Club crosstalk on festivals

candy monster
Before we get going with this link, let me remind you that the place to get all your China festival news is China Music Radar. So check it out.

So. I don't really like festivals.  They are shit for seeing live music and the other aspect - the experience / hang out - rarely comes together as it should for many reasons. 

But, instead of ranting about it, I'm going to link this amazing AV Club discussion (text) on it that just came out:

Here's the opening:

Every summer I face the same no-win situation: Do I man up and set aside my instinctual aversion to outdoor music festivals, which I've come to associate with overstuffed and B.O.-heavy crowds, wallet-killing concessions, poor sound, and even worse sightlines? Or do I surrender to sanity and stay home, which will inevitably make me feel like I'm missing something, especially after I read all the reviews online about how "mind-blowing" and "awe-inspiring" such-and-such band was. Really? You really thought it was that good after standing in flip-flops in the punishing sun for eight hours in a sea of awful, inconsiderate drunks? Is it possible that I actually hate live music?

Video: White Eyes @ Mao Beijing

Not so long back I posted a bit about T**w*n based punk group The White Eyes. They came over to the mainland but only played Beijing. Boo hoo. Recently they have stuck up three videos from the show at their Douban page. By the way, their Douban page has their latest album in its entirety, so go and listen to it now.

So here's two of the vids:

Post-punk from the boonies: The Fallacy

Having already been tipped off lately about metal bands from Zhengzhou, another friend, Zoe, put me onto this band from her hometown of Xinxiang, just down the road from Zhengzhou in Henan province. Well, across the river, technically. Google this 河南省新乡市.

Fengyi 疯医 The Fallacy are a post punk band in the tradition of P.K. 14 or The Retros. They are hoping to tour sometime during the summer break once university is out.

Bands from Xinxiang usually had to play in 7livehouse in Zhengzhou but there is now a newly opened livehouse called Ark in the city itself.

China metal mania - the rejoinder

metal horns yuyintang
After commenting on a previous post about metal bands from other Chinese cities, and after my call out, Erik has come up with the goods, so check these out.

Everything after this line comes courtesy of Erik, thanks man.

Chaotic Aeon: very influenced by Morbid Angel, but still incredibly exciting on their own right. Should be even better with a live drummer. Would desperately like to see them live in Shanghai sometime this year.

Zuriaake: like a cross between Burzum and Summoning "with Chinese characteristics". Good music to relax to. 

Varuna: same guys as Zuriaake. Going towards a more spacey direction reminiscent of Arcturus and maybe Oxiplegatz but they definitely have a sound of their own. 

Hellward: yet another Zuriaake side project (at least I belive Zuriaake to be the main band). This is pure 80s black metal like Bathory. Some songs are a bit off but there are a few real headbangers on that album. 

Be Persecuted: they play suicidal black metal, not a favourite sub-genre of mine but they do it well enough and are actually pretty big in that scene. 

Explosicum: sounds like your standard throwback thrash metal mixing Kreator with the bay area influences. These guys have serious skill though and the debut hints at greatness, much like Japanese Fastkill. 

I have to mention some of my favourite bands from Beijing as well. Beijing might, next to Singapore, be the most exciting scene for Asian underground metal outside Japan right now. 

Ritual Day: the kings. So what if they sound a bit Swedish (Dissection, Sacramentum and Necrophobic come to mind), they are too damn good to write off as copycats. Don't know if they're touring or anything, would be amazing to see live. 

Tengger Cavalry: mongol folk music meets black metal, a totally unique concept. Sometimes folk metal sounds way too tacky but this totally works. 

The Metaphor: evil and super heavy thrash inspired by the very darkest American bands, like Morbid Saint. Their theme is a bit juvenile ("Evil rulz!") but it's easy enough to ignore. 

Skeletal Augury: black/thrash with a heavy horror theme. It feels like half the album is taken up by horror movie samples but when they actually play they're tight and vicious. Did a gig together with Chaotic Aeon in Beijing last December. If you're interested in picking any of this up the main labels to seek out are Pest Productions and Areadeath.

Boojii and DFG going on the road

boojii one
Me and Jake are huge fans of Shanghai's experimental rock scene which includes the Shanghai based Miniless collective among others. The genre and people involved in it have produced some of the best albums of recent times here including Muscle Snog's Mind Shop, Boojii's Reserved and our CD of 2009 Lava|Ox|Sea's Next Episode.

Now it's time for far away readers of the blog to rejoice because two of Shanghai's best bands in that genre are hitting the road. Duck Fight Goose and Boojii will tour every other week across the next two months.

Here's the dates:

Thu May 6 - Nanjing, Castle Bar 
Fri May 14 - Beijing, D22 
Sat May 15 - Beijing, Mako 
Fri May 28 - Chengdu, Little Bar 
Sat June 12 - Beijing, Mao 
Sat June 26 - Wuhan, Vox 
Sun June 27 - Changsha, Freedom House

If you want to make the guys feel at home show up at Boojii wearing rabbit masks.

Batshit crazy Taibei band White Eyes invading

white eyes
Sensational Ta*wan underground rock band White Eyes are coming over, to Beijing only it seems though. So why am I posting this? They have set up a Douban page and it's starting to grab attention.

Go there right now and listen to the track No No No. It's amazing and if you like Bigger Bang you'll probably dig this.

They have a nuts live show which seems to inspire their fans in ways most bands would kill for. 

May I present article one for the prosecution, a (admittedly low quality) video of a festival appearance where the local fans (Taibei) just cant stop getting on the stage.

youtube Tudou: Zhang Qianqian on TV

I recently posted about the rise of indie-folk artists on the pages of Douban. You can read that here. I featured an artist called Zhang Qianqian.

She has been on the TV in a documentary that features two intercut stories. One person comes to Shanghai from the west of China, the other goes back to Qinghai. That second person is Zhang Qianqian, who popped back to her home area to shoot a music video. 

It's all subtitled in English and her MV is shown in full right upfront from just before the three minute mark. 

Double Control Where: new demo, the next big thing?

double control where
Update: Hmmn, "Some just want everything" may be the newer demo. Doesn't change my take on them and the hits on the other track are good. But it may be an indicator that my brain is ageing like wine (turning to vinegar).

Ah, I'm am positively beaming at the thought of the looks on 80% of reader's faces when they listen to this demo. You see, it's normal for me. One of the defining moments of my late teens was seeing Kreator live.

So, me and Jake talked a bit on the podcast about a new trend among Shanghai bands. Young bands are taking emo and screamo and stretching it. The verses are thrashy to the point of speed metal and Carcass like gargling while the choruses bounce to the hooks of Chinese pop. Jake calls it extremo. It's a welcome one in the face for those who label Shanghai's scene too commercial.

Double Control Where are one of two of these bands that are about to breakthrough. Forget and Forgive are the other.

Please go to DCW's page and immediately play their new demo called Say Goodbye

Double Control Where have been playing a round of shows lately and this new demo tops it off. They supported the Mushrooms at Mao but seemed a little out of place, despite the Mushrooms being fans. They came into their own recently at the Emo Band Party 2. At that show they conceded the headlining slot to F.A.F. but the new demo shows me clearly who is out ahead now. Within the first few hours of being on their previously quiet Douban page, it has racked up nearly one thousand listens.

Douban band pages (音乐人) are still very much used only within the scene and its diehard audiences. It's important to understand that. It's only very recently that some bands have broken through a bit and lifted the indicators. Carsick Cars and PK14 have listens in the thousands. The Mushrooms are the first Shanghai indie band to break similar numbers. But for a completely new band with no release, label or history to get nearly a thousand listens off the bat is a strong indicator of buzz within the (small) scene. 

Did I tell you to listen to Say Goodbye?

Why Aren't Chinese Rockers Political: A Primer

poverty lines from World Bank study
Click image for clearer version

Update: I urge you to also read some excellent and lengthy comments at the end of the post.

Since the post-sars underground scene started to take off and gain international notice, there have been several articles written in the English language press asking the question Why aren't Chinese rockers political?

There's an easy answer to that, they are political. Just like other music scenes. Just like people in a society.

But today, via China Music Radar, I read the next generation of article which appears to up the bar by modifying the question to Why aren't Chinese rockers political enough? It seems to me that by adding more depth to the previous articles, they have simply increased the amount of biased writing and skewed premises. But, before I get into that you should read the article yourself, in full. You may like it, who knows?

Where can you start? The article itself it fully loaded with blanket statements and contradictory ideas. It starts by declaring that they aren't 'political' and then continues to give examples of how they are, but not enough. Look at the title. If people are pampered they won't complain about politics? That's ludicrous and untrue. Sorry folks, Ayn Rand was full of shit. What are it's premises? For a start, that Chinese rockers are all pampered. And to such a degree that they forget about societies ills. Utterly ridiculous. I'm loath to take apart all the classic fallacies as it would be ultimately pointless. What is political apathy? Someone once said, "withdrawing in disgust is not apathy."

I have to stop there, the problem is with the writers of these articles and their lack of awareness. Through a set of dodgy premises they then extrapolate out to an article full of nonsense. So I think the best way to illustrate my own point of view is to do just that - illustrate my own point of view. 

Here are some questions and statements of intent:

* We are one human race.
* We have one human culture with variations. Similarities that bind us, not differences that are irreconcilable. 
* What does 'political' mean?
* Who can comment on 'politics' and what is enough or too much?
* Can culture be apolitcal or neutral?
* How is our world defined?
* What does pampered mean? What is the true state of money and class in the world today?
* How 'political enough' are bands in our own countries?

I think it's best to start with a clear picture of the world we live in and how it has 'developed' in the post WW2 period. Click on the picture above. Those are the figures provided by the World Bank's development indicators. They were completed in 2008 and they reflect the year 2005, before a crash widened the gaps further. It's adjusted for purchasing power too. Click here for all kinds of stats.

So 80% of the world, or 5.15 billion people, live on less than $300 US dollars a month and that's the top percentile of that group. Most of my readers are based in China. That's less than 2000 RMB a month for ALL needs and that usually covers the whole family. The remaining 20% are what we think of as the 'middle classes' and the tiny super-rich. 

Look again, 3.14 billion people, or half the world's population, live on less than $2.50 a day ... or 500 RMB a month over here. Half. China's most recently touted statistic was 300 million internet users. Hey, that's only a billion without and it brings them in line with the global averages of 20% - just like the wealth distribution pictured above. 

Did you notice something? I make way above the poverty lines but ..somehow ... i'm drawing attention to the plight of others and getting all 'political' ... something does not compute in the world of mainstream discourse. 

It's important to note that this has actually been a time of unparalleled  poverty and no-peace for the vast majority of young people in the world and apathy doesn't come into it for them. Take the conflict centred around the Congo, if that was happening in Europe on that scale it'd be called World War Three.

So what is politics? Are you ready?

* We live in a society, as long as you interact with anyone except yourself, you're in one and compromises take place.
* Those interactions and compromises manifest as relationships.
* The managing of those relationships, at any level, is ... 'politics'.
* Don't confuse power and politics. Although they rarely come apart except at the abstract level.

We are all political and everything we do or say has some impact on society. No matter how big or small, or what the perception of it is. 

Who can comment on or affect 'politics'? All of us. We just do. Think about freedom of speech or thought. They just are. It's what we naturally do. When people talk about human rights what they actually mean is human un-rights or supression. 

So what is happening when anyone suggests that some people can or can't talk about politics? That's power.

Also remember, people use words for all kinds of their own meanings. The most common use of the word 'politics' is to describe the business of our leaders. The most common use of the world Political, in English, seems to be a negative slur that suggests the receiver mind their own business about things that are above them. There are many many others.

What kind of relationships do we have in society? Well, as I said before, we have a single culture with variations. Global society is ordered by the idea of nation-states. The world is fully carved up into territories with closed borders. You need a passport to leave, Your life and identity is governed by this arrangement. They claim to be a natural manifestation of the people, they are both state and nation, despite clearly being an abstract that came into being across colonialism. This is a recent part of history and not fixed in any way.

Importantly, across this one system, the spread of development and wealth mirrors that of the World Bank stats with people in the upper 20% enjoying the most freedoms. After the financial crash of 2008, even the most disinterested punter is now aware that apparent wider mobility of lower classes in developed countries is falsely propped up on debt and loans.  

Before we get back to being 'political enough', lets throw in one more thing, the environment. What the use of being a millionaire in Shanghai if all it gets you is a 150 sq metre concrete box among the smog and light industrial sprawl? And, what's it like living on 2.50 a day if you also have no land to grow things on or any clean natural water source? Hello, half the world.

So I want to ask a question. What does it mean to be 'political enough'? It doesn't make sense. It's a none concept.

These writers never ask this question of their own scenes. They see China's situation as unique and yet at the same time hold them to a standard based in their own country. The only references appear to be to bands that are 'political enough', as examples. But that's few and far between. Also, My experience is that mainstream writers in the UK and USA tend to sneer at anything 'political' in art and write it off as preachy or heavy handed. They lack a coherent set of values and they lack a coherent worldview. They see parts of the world as relative or uniquely separate as it suits them, to justify illogical and undeveloped threads. In the article, the word political means about ten different things at different times. 

So, really, what does Alice Liu think is 'political enough'? I think in this case she, and the other writers, are substituting 'political' for passionately campaigning for the overthrow of the current power.  

And here's the rub, by saying China and by saying rock she is implying a standard that exists outside of China. That rock musicians have a special place in society for overthrowing governments and that they have fulfilled that previously. Obviously that's balls. Rock has many bands and genres, most of which do not engage in social criticism or direct action. Where's the post-war authoritarian society that was toppled by the people with the help of rock music?  And what is enough? Because the article thinks that saying it is not enough. And why choose Carsick Cars and not someone actually political like The Subs? And be careful here, I myself do believe in direct action and activism but I'm not talking about if it's possible or desirable - I'm talking about the implications of the article and their relationship to reality.

But as I said, this is all obvious nonsense because ask a stupid question and you'll get a ... you know the rest. Lets conclude with a conclusion.

In the article Alice says:

On his blog, Shouwang wrote about a dawn trip by him and a friend to the square, where they milled around for a while. The police noticed them, saw them as suspicious-looking characters and placed them in the back of a police van, from where Shouwang looked miserably at the square in the rising morning light. The result was one of the most popular songs on their debut album, in which he sings: "This is a square without hope."

... and then ...

One of the things that Shouwang reacts against is Internet censorship. On Carsick Cars' second album, there is a instrumental song with the classic title of "The Firewall Killed My Cat." Without lyrics or any particular sentiment, the song may be beautiful, but it is hardly talkin' about Shouwang's generation.

Well he kind of is. In fact, he did. 

Endnote: if anyone would like to know my own personal idea of music and 'politics' they can go here, thanks. 

The History of The Subs

Wu Hao and Kang Mao
Whilst talking to YLK in the comments at Jake's blog I made this comment and realised afterwards what an impact the band has had on me.

Their live shows have been pretty much the highlights of my eight years in Shanghai and though I was a bit distant at first, way back when in Harley's, I have grown to love this band. 

So, checking in at their Douban group I noticed that they have a kind of potted history of the band. It's a kind of convention to list up all your gigs in the description box of your Douban group, but they add in CD release dates and some other stuff too. It starts thus:


Feb 2002 The band formed in Beijing.
In May the current bassist joined and there was a stable line up.

Click into the post to see the full list. Chinese only for now. Maybe people could translate their highlights in the comments? Can we see the early Harley's gig there, where I bought Subs Life?

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to

china flag
Update: Over at the CMR a reliable commenter has said that: 

This would not be a government directive - it was specifically requested by Modern Sky of the organizers of the International Noise Conspiracy shows that the band not play any other shows...

Having first brought us the line up for the Modern Sky Festival this year ... and having expressed astonishment that it would go ahead despite the China 60th anniversary national day celebrations ...

... takes breath ...

... China Music Radar now bring us the news that the festival has been told that no foreign acts can play. This done in the usual way, extreme last minute and with no source or law quoted. 

However, I will match your news, CMR, and raise you a no foreign bands will play anywhere.

That's right, Yuyintang got the call today (30th) putting the kibosh on The International Noise Conspiracy gig. In a group message issued over Douban today, YYT say the show will go on featuring the local acts only at a reduced ticket rate. They keep it guarded but mention it affects all the band's shows including Chengdu and Modern Sky, and say to check the Modern Sky group to see the reason.

I'm sorry, but I won't reproduce the original Chinese message here in case of attracting aggro. If anyone doubts my sources or wants to see the original message, please contact me by e-mail.

Just a thought. A certain elephant in a certain room will run for over three months.

Douban: Brain Failure

brain failure cover
Regular readers will probably notice the drop out in posting lately. There's many reasons, but fear not ... i'm doing my best :(

Here's some good news for fans of Rancid style punk and ska. If you click into Beijing scene band Brain Failure's Douban page they have six quality tracks there now. And they all rock.

Also, if you click on the albums under the MP3 player, you'll see a lot of those are availble to listen to online.

For overseas (not in China) readers, you might be pleasantly surprised to find their excellent stuff on Amazon, including a joint CD with Boston's Big D and the Kid's Table.

Ah, memories. In front of me ... a picture's worth a thousand words and i've got three, wait a minute, err ... fucking Big D! Thanks Trisha, wherever you are (Boston) for sending me their demo back in college and changing my life. 

Quick listens: experimental & 'post-'

I listed up a bunch of upcoming shows in the last post and have been listening to some of the bands in anticipation.

I have to be a little self aware on the blog and temper my own tastes with some different stuff. So, check out these bands, all of which are playing here soon.

First I'm going to link a Neocha page and I want to take the opportunity to remind everyone that it's an excellent site where local artists and musicians post their work and network too. It's an amazing tool for delving into local culture directly without the various annoying mainstream media China-isms. 

Also - Neocha have the Next player that gives you desktop access to the entire database of songs. I'm getting excited about version 2.0 which is very close to release and will allow sorting by genre and some other stuff. Watch this space.

So first of all:

Check out the Nanjing based experimental rock outfit Fading Horizon: listen here

Also playing with them that night will be Shanghai's Booji. Read a review with music links here.

Finally. The excellent and original Ourself Beside Me are coming to town with their latest CD. Check out the mindblowing-ly-good single Sunday Girl here. The CD intro is in with the track together at that page so listen on a bit.

Once more unto the breach ...

racismRegular reviews resume tomorrow as i'm 99% over my recent bout with tonsillitis. But first I'm going to throw in another 'other' post on the Chinese blogosphere. Considering this is 99% a music blog, let's not have any more laughable claims that I post these to draw attention to my blog. If anything I'm alienating readers.

There's a debate going down over the picture that is displayed here. The debate was kicked off by a blogger pointing out the racism in this China net meme.

Original post:

Follow up by the same blogger:

C. Custer pointed out that this blatantly racist picture was on some major and respected China blogs without them passing comment on the racism. He then framed it as a discussion about racial awareness in China which touched the nerve, so to speak.

I would like to just go back to basics without making it China specific. The following applies to everyone.

The Africa line stops at the gorilla. The American one shows a dark monkey in clothes. This picture is disgusting in it's outright racism which goes beyond words and jokes and draws on the weight of our fucked up history. But what does it mean if anyone reposts it without framing it as racist? 

Yes, if you don't notice that racism or don't think it's a big deal then you basically agree with the sentiment, you don't see anything wrong with it. 

I think Custer made a mistake in framing it as 'about China' as these issues are global but at the same time was brave and exposed, for me, the fact that a lot of this stuff just gets explained away or ignored here by people who know better under the excuse of realpotik or being apolitical. Read the comments there.

This is most clearly shown by the initial replies by famed and oft quoted blogger Hecaitou, "but, black people do look like monkeys," whose various responses have shown him to be just plain racist. Non-racists with professional and personal relationships with Hecaitou need to be challenging him on this or at the very least registering their own feelings with him. Just like we all should to each other generally on clear cut cases like this meme.

And, no, it doesn't ingratiate you to anyone to refer to yourself as 'Laowai' either. Snap!

China Blogosphere: PR firms are not nice

Further Update: Salil in the comments has pushed me about specifics on BP so here is a clarification. BP is a nasty company and their rebranding by Ogilvy PR is greenwash, and they were involved in Nigerian abuses.

However, the company directly implicated in the arms scandal were Shell. Shell appear on Edelman's site, not Ogilvys.

Update:  "T" says in the comments: 
"I'm actually only a former PR company employee, and not nearly one as accomplished of as Messers Imagethief and Kuo above, however, 100% of the work I did, oversaw and even saw/heard about in the almost 2 years I was in the business was about trying to get people - whether consumers or other businesses - to buy services or products."

Same issue of trust, be it 'crisis control' or Greenwashing ... or trying to sell us stuff.

Original post:

Among the most read 'experts' in the China English language blogosphere is journalist Thomas Crampton. And his latest post is announcing that he will join PR firm Ogilvy which also happens to be the home of another oft quoted blogger Kaiser Kuo.

The way in which they are linked and quoted without qualifying statements makes me wonder if half the people out there getting excited over them know exactly what an international corporate and governmental PR firm actually does?

Two helpful words: spin, evil.

Oglivy PR have many case studies and clients for browsing at their flashy website. It's all there in public. How about the rebranding of British Petroleum as a green friendly company? Yes, the oil company. Yes, the same one that responded to international actions against Nigeria military dictatorship following the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa by gifting them arms sales. That's called greenwash. What about their work with drug giant Pfizer and their work against HIV. Is that Pfizer who, along with others, tried to sue the government of South Africa when they tried to buy affordable medicine for poor AIDS sufferers? Pfizer one of many companies whose cynical policies hold the sick to ransom for modern drugs that should be easily affordable while getting all their r&d paid for by the state?

These people are not grassroots sources or trustable experts - they work in international PR and what's worse - their focus is how to manipulate social media. They may occasional have insights or something worthwhile to report, sure, but let's please keep it in perspective.

Chinese New Year: the show and the holiday

new year gig flyer
The Year of the Ox is almost upon us. For non China residents I should explain that this means a week long public holiday and also half the people you know going back to their home cities for that time. Also, the holiday is only really three days and rather than just give you the rest of the time, you have to make it up by working weekends and overtime right after. It's either dead or nuts or up and down between the two.

So. Tonight is the night before the big one and Yuyintang are putting on a show. heres' the line up:

Banana Monkey
Cold Fairyland

It starts at 9.00 p.m. Yuyintang is directly next to the Line 3 station Yan'an Xi Lu. This will be the event to be at if you love alternative/DIY culture made by a community for each other. This is where you should be if holiday music makes you want to stick forks in your ears. 

I should also mention that I will be taking a holiday too. I know how bad this sounds, but i'm going to use the time to concentrate on finishing a novel (s). No - really. I have a professional set up for this and have been slack in handing stuff in. There won't be any new blog posts for twelve days, when YYT hold the 8th Rock 0093 showcase. So Happy New Year to all and I'll leave you with my own specially penned line for the Year of the Ox:

牛year,牛B !

China Blogosphere: Shame on us

chinalystI have been inspired to write one of my 'other' category posts. Not, as some might imagine, by the continued hijacking of progressive ideals by pretenders or by ongoing global abuses but by the English language China blogosphere. 

I first came across Chinalyst via Ispyshanghai. It aggregates feeds from English language China blogs and makes them available in one string of posts. You can also get info on the individual sites/feeds. It's not half bad and I added my blog's feed in there. 

So, Chinalyst run an award whereby everyone can vote for their favourite blog on the site in several categories. Of course, this system reflects the readers/voters more than it does Chinalyst. It's not quite that simple mind you, as we'll see.

The winner this year by a large margin, picking up over 500 votes, is Wo Shi Laowai, Wo Pa Shui by Mylaowai. Now it's not unusual to see blogs where people rant on for 90% of the posts about how annoyed they are with China or how funny/weird they find it. But it has to be stated clearly: there is a gulf of difference between highlighting important issues in China (like a politics or rights blog), a humour blog that is good natured in it's ribbing (the same as you would about your own country) and outright racism/chauvinism

As is the norm for hateful diatribes, the author prefers to use an alias (mylaowai). Here's an excerpt from the poetry page The Bus Dialogues, which Mylaowai brushes off as venting on bus rides:

Dirty bodies stink of must
Hair is covered with scaly dust
Ugly xiaojies with fuck all bust
Peeps as useful as iron rust...
Kill 'em all: I'm not fussed.
Go to the page and read the lot. And why not check out a recent post highlighting Mylaowai's general attitude to women Kappa Slut, here's an excerpt:

There's this Shanghainese (presumably) whore with a face like a box of frogs who has all the warmth and charm of a lemon that lost a fight with a mangle. She runs naked into the room, and proceeds to suck off a very young boy - judging by the size of his cocktail stick, he's probably a kindergärtner. I've seen bigger dicks in J-Porn, honestly. It's pathetic.
This is Chinalyst's top blog of 2008. A continuous stream of hate and insults with zero analysis on the subjects it claims to care about. The owners of Chinalyst seem to have no problem with this and don't even add a disclaimer to the announcement congratulating Mylaowai on the win.You've got to assume that's because they have no personal problem with the content. But even if they pull the we-just-collect-the-feeds or free-speech defense - it was voted the best by a large margin: Shame on us.

In Pleasure To Be Here (Boys Climbing Ropes), Shanghai based Indie vocalist Jordan Small sings "out here we don't have to believe in anything" and he couldn't be more right. When we see clear-cut extreme hate like this it's not enough to think it's harmless and to ignore it. I'd like to think that the people I read in the blogging community would never accept talk like the above quotes if it was said out at the dinner table and it's even less acceptable in a published form. 

Of course we don't have to ban it outright or mete out punishment so spare me the faux-logical defenses of bigotry. But surely when hateful trash like that blog gets an 'award' it is our moral duty to at least pass comment on it. In the eyes of observers, silence is surely acceptance. 

Back from Hong Kong


hong kongI just got back from a hectic VISA run in Hong Kong. I got my VISA with relative ease and from the CTS branch right in the train station, however, people around me were getting knocked back or restricted to one week single entry.

The Hong Kong papers are reporting a 40% drop off in business and tourism in Beijing already as a direct result of the new policy. This more than cancels out the expected revenue from hosting the olympics in the first place, leaving it as what it is - a bunch of boring non-spectator sports used to rouse a bunch of patriots.

Also, the whole trip made me miss three QF games in Euro 2008 and the Demerit gig at Logo in Shanghai. What's more, I've a sneaking suspicion the immigration official entered me on my old VISA by accident (it's still got three days) as there's a large slash drawn through my new L visa - perhaps to show that its single entry has been used? I'll find out Tuesday when I go for my upgrade in Pudong.


banyan treesBanyan Trees on Nathan Road 


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