A little bit about Muscle Snog

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Musclesnog.jpgA couple of years ago Muscle Snog's Meng Noize album, recorded live at 4Live, confirmed them as one of the leading experimental rock groups in Shanghai. The group - comprised of Mai Mai, Vivien Fan, 33, Zhong Ke and Xiong Mao (Panda) - were all excellent musicians in their own right with their own side projects and other bands. This meant that when they were together, Muscle Snog gave fantastic performances, but getting them all on the same stage at the same time was difficult. Nevertheless, this year the band have been recording a full studio album thanks to the Miniless/Maybe Mars collaboration. So, they must be back together and ready to reclaim their mantle as one of Shanghai's most interesting bands right? Err, not quite. Indeed, from what Mai Mai and Vivien say, this record is far from a new beginning and instead may signal the end of Muscle Snog.

>>> You must get asked this all the time, but Muscle Snog - what's that name about?

VF: When we first started, Muscle Snog was just me and Mai Mai. He asked me if I wanted to be in a band and I said I did. He said I could choose the name and I came up with two for him to choose from: Muscle Cat and Crystal Snog. He thought about it, then said let's call ourselves Muscle Snog and I just thought 'genius'!

>>> How did you guys meet?

VF: Back in 2005 when we were both at university, he was in a band called Pillow Walker and he was looking for a keyboard player. At that time we had a mutual friend who told me about this and I decided to try it out. I was also in a band at my university at the time, but it was just a cover band. I spoke to Mai Mai and the other band members online and we got on really well so I went to see one of their rehearsals. After I'd seen them rehearse a few times, they broke up and nothing really happened, but I kept in touch with them online. Then one day in 2006, Mai Mai asked me if I wanted to form a band, like I say, and I told him I did. After a while we found a guitarist, Panda, and then we started practising. We had our first performance on March 9th 2007 at Live Bar.
>>> How do you guys write your songs?

VF: Most of the songs are written by Mai Mai. He'll record something at home first and then send it to us to listen to. Then we'll meet up and practise it and we'll play around with our own parts a bit.

MM: We write songs in lots of different ways really. Some of them take a long time and are really seriously written, some are just pure nonsense, some are just chaos. 
>>> How do you describe the band's sound?

MM: Sometimes it sounds good, sometimes it sounds delirious.

VF: That's hard, it's really difficult to describe our sound. Buy our album and listen to it! Ha ha!

>>> Was it an important step completing the album?

MM: I wouldn't say it was especially important. We had some songs so felt we might as well record them. Now that they're recorded, it's like they're done with.

VF: I think it's really important, it's like an overview and a commemoration. We've not performed in ages, so want to capture the Muscle Snog state. I feel like it's unlikely to happen again because everyone is so busy now - our drummer Zhong Ke has gone abroad - and our favourite types of music are constantly changing so there's no way to bring back the old Muscle Snog. Mai Mai is doing more of his experimental and improvisational performances now, Panda and 33 have their own bands now and often have performances. I've got my own small plans too - it's kind of difficult to get us all together. So recording this album has special significance for me. 
mindshop.jpg>>> Given the problems with getting everyone together, did that make recording difficult?

VF: Somehow the recording all went really smoothly, though to be honest, it's best to ask Mai Mai, I didn't take part in too much of it, just recorded my bits. All the post-production etc was done with Mai Mai and Zhong Ke.

MM: Yeah, everyone's so dispersed that it was difficult to get them all together to record. That, and we had no money. Apart from that, there were no real problems - we had a lot of help from the producer. 
>>> How did you feel once you finished the record?

MM: Relieved.  

VA: When I first heard the finished album, it was really exhilarating. The mixing is excellent, I felt it was a really professional recording.   
>>> So given what you've said about everyone being busy and being in their own bands, is there a future for Muscle Snog?

MM: Well our original drummer has gone abroad and at the moment we haven't found a suitable replacement. Everyone has jobs now too so a tour or something seems unlikely. Also, it's really hard for us to perform the same songs over and over.  

VA: To be honest, I think there could be a long time with no activity from Muscle Snog. Even with performances, there may be some improvised performances but probably without playing our old songs. We don't have a drummer right now and suitable drummers are hard to find in Shanghai. Then again, who knows? Perhaps if we find a suitable drummer Muscle Snog will comeback once more.

>>> There's still no word on an official release date for Mind Shop, Muscle Snog's first studio album, but it is being pressed at the moment so hopefully it won't be too long. Given the above comments, any release gigs seem unlikely. You can hear two tracks from the album, Fuzz Rabbit and Think and Shit, here. Mai Mai's artist page on Douban is here with links to his other projects. You can also see a video of him collaborating with Ben Houge, Hans and Xu Cheng here. Vivien's page for her solo project The Curry Soap is here with streaming and downloads available (if you haven't listened to her stuff before, I recommend you start with Little Northern Europe).

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