June 30, 2017
To use the first person in an introduction is something that should (apparently) be avoided, but today, me, myself and I all agree it's okay.
The first time ever I laid eyes upon the enigmatic Daniel Taylor, I thought “Who the fuck is this mod-revival pixie prancing around Dada at five in the morning.” Little was I to know that a) this would happen more than a few times more, b) soon enough the tables would turn, and I would become the sunrise prancer dancer, c) Dan Taylor would eventually become one of my closest friends in this city.
“Scratching Beijing” co-founder Thanh Le Dang was the first person to mention his unique, instrumental use of vocals (“I have no idea what's going on with those noises coming from his mouth.”), and if you listen carefully enough someone, somewhere within the second ring road will be both trying and failing to do an impersonation.
I've had the honour of joining Dan with The Harridans, Luv Plastik, and countless other one off musical adventures – but now it's time for something different.
With a focus on the melodic and harmonic foundations of what makes a song a “standard”, Dan's new musical offerings feature a string trio (who you'll probably recognize from the hundreds of other projects they've been involved in), acoustic guitar and piano.
Just because something is uncomplicated doesn't make it easy. With only a short time between first rehearsal and first show, the deadline was tight. Here's what happened one boozy rehearsal earlier this week.
Dan Taylor – Guitar / Vocals
Mathias Boegner - Violin
Heike Kagler - Cello
Dan Zylinski – Double Bass
DT: It started quite a while ago with me contacting Daniel, because me and Heike play regularly, on a weekly basis, and I had some new songs that I thought were not quite right for our duo project, so I thought about bringing in some new players, and contacted Dan, and we contacted a different violin player. We had a practice, and then we sat around for a year doing absolutely nothing. About a month ago, we thought “Why don't we just book the show and find another violin player?”, so we did that, found Mathias, Dan was still around, I came over for cocktails, we talked, and we started from there.
It started out with just me writing out some stuff with some keyboard playing the strings parts, and then bringing it to the guys. The majority of it so far is planned and written out, but already, even though this is only our second practice, already we are extending certain parts, adding new things, and it is actually a project that will hopefully build organically and we can add new parts and new ideas the more practices we get in.
H: Our duo, Dan and Heike is going very well, and these songs just require more strings, and also do have a bit of a different feel to them, but still, all the Dan Taylor goodness. I think we're all very happy to be kicking off this new project.
D: I think we all feel very chilled out about it. It's not some big “revealing...of... something incredible”, it's just a couple of songs we want to play and I hope people like it. This is the beginning. This is the start of something. The start of a project that I know can expand. We can bring in more influences, and it can change as well. I think booking this show, and booking it so close to our first practice gave us a bit of a kick up the bum to get out there, get on stage, and play these songs.
H: It's funny because it's something people would normally say “Oh yeah, it's our first concert, so therefore the pressure is on!”. We just chill and enjoy beautiful music, and making beautiful music.
DT: When I originally started this project, I wanted it to be, I just wanted to write some very basic, nice simple love songs, or nice simple pop songs. I don't know, like Paul McCartney or something you know. With The Harridans, and other projects that I played in, even the stuff with Dan and Heike, it can be quite contrived in a way that I want to build a world around the lyrics and the music. I want it to be very stylized. Whereas this, I just want it to be nice music, played with some string players. Nice chords, very simple lyrics, I didn't want it to be too bizarre, too out there, I just wanted it to be very pure, very nice, very easy, but I do think that it started off like that, but we can take it into maybe different territories. I just want it to be simple, nice, classic standards. Me and my friend Eric always talk about “standards”. I like this idea that something's not too focussed on the sound of it, not too focussed on the ability on the instruments or the instrumentation itself, I just want it to be simple tunes that hold up, and are very uncontrived.
H: I'm also a fan of just simple, beautiful melodies, and I think that's really a forte of Dan, to write these beautiful songs because it's not so simple or easy to write simple songs with simple, beautiful melodies that are just so catchy.
I'm looking forward to when we're really confident, and don't have to think about what's coming next, or the structure of the song, and won't be concentrating on not playing the wrong note. Then we can improvise at certain points a bit more, and just at the right moment hold, have that little hook, and then go back into that lovely melody that everyone has heard already and learnt to love.
DT: The songs are very early on in the stages, but I think this project is nice. I think that sometimes, I shy away from melodies sometimes, especially when I'm playing more rock music, or punk type music, I think that to do something that is unashamedly melodic, and romantic, and sweet, almost a bit charming, I think it's pretty fucking cool.
It's this one side of me that has to come out. We’re playing with The Peppercorns – me and Eric always take about this side of our music writing that is very romantic, and I don't think a lot of people, well they definitely don't see it with our other projects, particularly our bands, and it's this side of me as a songwriter that I have to get out and I think that Phuture Vulture and The Absolute is a way for me to just write something that is very untainted by any sort of image, or any sort of ideology behind the music. It's just writing very simple, very nice music. It's just bits of wood and strings and it's very simple and very relaxing for me to play this type of music.
DZ: I'm not as confident on the upright as I am on the electric, which is my forte, but I like taking myself out of my comfort zone, I've recently started doing hype-man hip hop stuff as well so whatever challenges you takes you to a better level after it. Whether it be a successful gig, or an unsuccessful gig, you'll learn from it either way.
DT: We all do different things. Heike plays in a lot of groups, Dan plays in many groups, Mathias is a professional expert of the violin he works in the classical world... I think actually we all play music full time. That's what we want to do. We're not just sort of hobbyists – we take this seriously.
H: We've all known each other for quite a long time, or played together. Dan and I have played together for a long time, and then Mathias and I have done various classical projects and classical music stuff. So we're all linked in and I do think it really makes a difference. Also, if on a personal level you don't get along or like each other or something, you can still be professional and make music, and maybe you can make good music, but it's going to lack a certain character. For this, we have an awesome group of guys together. Really happy to play with you guys.
DB: I'd say we're a bunch of babes.
H: I thought I was the babe in the group?
DB: We're all babes. You can't see it because we're on radio, but Mathias is wearing this tight fitting leather shirt, like The Hoff...
H: Playing together, communicating, and so on, I think it takes time to grow together as a group. With rock bands you would call that “tight” or something, but this also I'm looking forward to the moment we all feel super confident with these songs that we can really sway together, breathe together, well tight communication on stage musically.
M: I was introduced by Heike, I'm very grateful. I'm very happy she introduced me to Mr Dan, and Dan, and Dan, and they are so fantastic musicians, so thank you so much. It feels very good to do something like this. The whole rehearsing atmosphere STARTING with a nice cocktail is outstanding and inspiring, and I love it.
H: I think a lot of different styles of music all have their validation and they all touch people in different ways, and also different people have different styles they like or don't like, so really I don't think that everything just has to rock, and make people jump around or something. Yeah you can have that effect on your audience, or touch people in a different way. In the same way, quiet, beautiful music is also, even more so, or maybe in a different way, really can touch people and it's all valid.
Phuture Vulture and The Absolute are joined by The Peppercorns and Mimik Banka (previously known as 16 Minutes) at DDC, Friday June 30th.
June 29, 2017
If you haven’t seen those dirty bastard punks, Dirty Fingers yet then crawl out of that cave you live in and get thee to a music venue! With touring schedules like 8 gigs in 10 days or a 32-city album release tour, this “Beijing band based in Shanghai” plays everywhere, ANYWHERE, all the time! Even a crazy fan can’t stop them from replacing their guitarist with Bedstars’ Zhao Kai for the night and carrying on. You got no excuse! “But, Amy, I don’t know when they’re gonna be in Beijing…” August 5th at School Bar, silly! “But, Amy, I don’t even live in China…” Well, lucky for you these truly DIY punks are gonna take their crazy as hell touring schedule to the world – instead of crowd funding just to tour Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, they’re planning world domination in the form of a freaking 35-country tour hopefully by the end of 2019!!! Which means, they’ve got long-term plans. Which means, you’re gonna have a ton of opportunities to see them. And you’re not going to want to pass on the chance to witness in person their fun, high energy, craziness. And though they really couldn’t make it easier to see them live, if that’s not good enough for you, then keep your ears peeled for their next album release in November, out on Maybe Mars!
Zhao Zilong (ZZ): drums
Guan Xiaotian (GX): vocals
Hai Ming (HM): bass player.
Zhao Kai (ZK): (of Bedstars) - guitarist for the night
Do you want to tell us your temporary name for the band for tonight?
ZZ: It's called dirty Joe, or dirty Bed, or dirty Victor. Finger star. Anything.
You guys are gaining quite a lot of popularity – everybody's writing about you, and saying you're the “Punk band to see this year.” How do you guys feel about your fame?
ZZ: I think the scene is very boring, yeah? People get excited for any kind of shit that appears. That's my opinion. I mean, I just feel tired of playing our songs already. I just want to have a break.
ZZ: No I mean, of concerts, you know?
Yeah, you guys play a lot of concerts! Last time you were here you played like seven days in a row, right?
ZZ: Was it?
GX: Now someone's helping us stop playing you know.
ZZ: A special fan. She's giving us a hand.
HM - Because we covered the Psycho Killer song, so a REAL psycho killer has appeared.
HM - A real psycho killer showed up
Do you guys want to talk about that?
HM:...it's so fucking long
ZZ: Not really actually – she's helping us out in being aware of drugs and stage. Actually, she's helping us. She’s helping us. I have to thank her! If you're listening to us, Song Song, thank you very much.
She's helping create more demand, right? So you guys won't play as much so everybody will REALLY want to see you.
ZZ: It's a good way to see it, yeah.
And you guys tend to play in Beijing quite a bit, why do we get so much love over here?
ZZ: Because you guys gave us a lot of love, yeah. I think Beijing likes us more than Shanghai, I guess, totally, totally.
Really? Why do you think that is?
ZZ: It's just a fact.
HM: We never know that.
GX: -- I don't know why.
HM: After the first gig, like, we're tourists in Beijing. Lots of people told me, “You guys are amazing!” or “Come more to Beijing and play” and then we come here to play. We are not like people said - THAT amazing, or THAT talented; we just want to do our best every gig. But I guess it's the city or the culture, you know. It's different between Beijing and Shanghai; it's very different. In Shanghai, the whole big fucking city, people don't give a fuck about anything. Just like, maybe today you are a star, you are a rock and roll star, and tomorrow you're just nothing. Here in Beijing, people keep talking and people keep going, so it's like more...more serious. We have season 1, and definitely we have season 2. In Shanghai, you're a single one, it’s a movie, that's it.
So you think Beijing is more suited to your style of music then?
HM: All good. All good. Both of the cities, I mean - Beijing and Shanghai - all good, but just different.
ZZ: People say we are “Beijing band based in Shanghai.” I heard this more than once. The attitude, the sound, and the stuff, it doesn't quite suit Shanghai. It's very much Beijing, and I guess that's why people like to have us here. I feel.
GX: - We are out-comers. We are not from the scene. And we don't think ourselves as being friends of / making friends in the scene. We have a small circle of friends here. Only us four, plus this guy here. We don't really care about the scene.
Speaking of this guy, how did you get him to join you guys tonight?
ZZ: It's a love relationship yeah? We've been flirting with him for a long time!
ZK: Actually, our two bands - Bedstars and Dirty Fingers, we're like a brotherhood.
HM -Date all the time.
Did you have to buy him dinner first? Some roses?
GX:-- Yeah, four dates!
ZK -- Not a date. He just bought me a sandwich.
What a cheap date!
ZZ: That's how we roll!
ZK -- That's our style! That’s our style!
You guys just released some music. You just released an EP, right?
GX - Oh the live recordings!
ZZ: The live recordings. Yes, yes. We played with The Blue Man Group.
GX -- Actually it's the drummer from The Blue Man Group. One of the drummers.
ZZ: One of the bald blue guys, but not being blue, being normal. And he brought all of his band. He said, “It’s a side project of The Blue Man Group, they're a punk band.” And we were like, “Yeah! So excited!” And when we got there, they were just a cover band. It was such a bummer, you know. We opened for a cover band! From Las Vegas - at least they know how to play covers, yeah. Fuck. They play good covers actually. They play solid covers.
But that's where you got your recording for the EP?
ZZ: Yes! Exactly.
So something good came out of it?
GX -- It was actually not our idea. The organizers recorded the whole gig, all three bands, and the guy AHO just mixed us. The other two bands, he didn't do anything with.
ZZ: Yeah, he’s our friend. He did our first album, so he was just like, “Yeah I will do that again, for free. Take it.”
HM - So kind!
ZZ: He's a nice guy. He's a nice brother.
So do you guys have any more recordings coming up?
GX – We just finished recording with Maybe Mars in Beijing before the Spring Festival. It was like five days in Yugong Yishan.
With Yang Haisong?
GX – Yeah, he's the recording guy.
How was it working with him? Were you like a little bit star struck?
ZZ: He's very, very silent. He's a silent worker. It’s a killer vibe. He just doesn't say anything.
HM -- He concentrates on work. I like that attitude. If we ask some questions, like, “How can we record better?” then he'll give many suggestions. He's good. I think he's good.
GX -- He hated us. He hated our music.
ZZ: I don't think he's a big fan, I don't think he liked my drum style as well. Fuck, man.
GX -- That part is definitely no, he's like “Fuck these twenty year old guys."
ZZ: He was like, “This guy cannot play in time, he's always fucking it up. That's what I felt in his eyes.
Did it make you nervous?
ZZ: Nah, nah. Doesn't matter. It doesn't matter you know – we are paying him!
Awesome, well what else is coming up in the future for you guys? Tours? Albums?
ZZ: There is a tour for the album, yeah, with Maybe Mars.
And when will the album be released?
GX -- Hopefully the first half of the year
ZZ: The summer, yeah? The beginning of the summer, and then we are hoping to tour in the summer. Yes!
GX -- Hopefully, the end of summer would be great.
ZZ: And we tried to organize a crowd funding campaign to do Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. But this will be our stuff. They don't get involved in the organization, just promotion (Maybe Mars).
Well thank you guys, can't wait for the show tonight!
ZZ: You’re welcome.
It's that time of the year, and once again, Fete De La Musique has everyone buzzing about who's doing what, where, and how or why they're doing it. An overwhelming amount of talent are taking to an overwhelming amount of stages on the 21st of June. One could find oneself looking through the listings and saying “You know what, it's just too much. See you at Temple.”
Alas! We're here to help! You should definitely end up at temple! But before that, consider checking out some of the other performers at other events! Here's an inspirational quotation to further back my point.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." - Dumbledore, A.
One such event will be held at Meridian Space, kicking off at 8pm, at a reasonable entry cost of free. MengQi, Mohemann, anxt, and thruoutin perform, offering a large variety of electronic soundscapes for the evening.
Chapter 1: "The Introduction"
Brad Seippel, co-owner of Seippelabel, and neo-tradional-revivalist around town, has been making music under the alias “thruoutin” for over a decade. Whilst the music he makes has changed through the years in terms of genre, timbre and instrumentation, the focus has always remained the same: music.
Added to this, having known Brad as a generally encouraging and positive guy (people person) for a few years now, it came as no surprise when his name was popping up on posters all over the place after the release of his latest EP.
When we met, I only had the intention of asking how to pronounce his name, yet ended with an incentive and overwhelming urge to tackle an application that's been occupying valuable HDD space for a long time.
More information about the Meridian Space show, and where to listen to thruoutin's creations can be found at the bottom of this interview.
Chapter 2: "The Conversation"
It's three words in English: thru, like a drive-thru, out, and in, and it comes from a lot of, or some, MIDI enabled synths and stuff, they'll have a routing system. On the Microkorg I was using at university when I first started using electronic music I didn't have an artist name so I looked on the back of the synth and there was “thru”, “out”, and “in”, all in lowercase, and I just put them all together. I just used this name for everything I did after that.
I started in 2006, that was the first time I put out any music under that name, it wasn't really until I came to china that I started doing it more seriously.
It might be a sample that I hear, it might be a riff that i've written on a physical instrument, it might come from bass or pipa, but once it gets to the arrangement in Ableton, I like to start with drums, because I feel like drums are the lines in a painting. I like to get that backbone. A lot of my drums are coming from sounds that I make myself, real drum sets or a mix of some software drums, and I just try to get the drums where I want them. After that, I go for… it really depends. I might grab my bass, play something, then convert that file into a MIDI file, and then put a sub bass on there; using something real and then converting it to something artificial. From there it really just depends, it might depend on the sample I use, I use a lot of field recordings, so I might try to manipulate field recordings to have some sort of rhythmic aspect to it, but it's always something different each time I do it.
Even music you listen to, it changes over time. You always have the stuff that you go to as your source, but you're always influenced by new stuff, you're in different environments, so my music has been influenced by lots of different things. Different genres, different places where I've lived have had different scenes, and music that I was involved with in those scenes would have had affected me in some way during writing.
In the states I was touring, I was playing around in local scenes and putting out... I put out one EP and some mix tapes and stuff but I really wasn't putting out things as a cohesive theme as an album until I came here and had more of an idea of what I wanted to do and that was always changing as well.
I'm always open to hear new things and just hearing what's going on, different labels, what they're putting out, music styles change. Production changes. I think with any kind of artist, you're always looking to get that extra one percent, and I think it's okay to move with the times, but keep some things that worked. Things have changed in the music, but I think that's just a natural part of making music.
As much as people in grammar school have to go to a music class and sing, and learn how to somewhat read music, I don't have a lot of that. I did a bit of chorus in junior high, high school, and when I was in junior high I was also really into punk rock so I wanted to learn how to play guitar… I got a bass, so I learnt how to play bass. I had a guitar teacher that taught me how to read tablature, and then he kind of got bored of writing tablature out so he said “You know you could just like, listen to it, and figure it out?”
Picking up songs by ear was something that I think, you know, if you're playing with anybody, if you're writing, “matching notes” in that classical western way, is really important. I can't read music, I never had any training or anything like that, but I have an idea of what some music should do in my mind.
I'm using Ableton Live, and I've been using it for quite some time, but I had experience in simple stuff such as Audacity and Garage Band, and in university some Protools / Logic, and these are all different programs used for different things, and they're all good in their own way. Your use of them on a basic level to produce music is that it's basic. If you wanted to get a higher technique, it's worth time to go into that. So when people ask me about using software, it's not something that you just learn all of a sudden, it's a lot of little mini things that you learn through trial and error, through watching youtube videos, through hanging out at your friend's house and just looking over his back at what he's doing (what they're doing). You should know the ropes, but you don't have to know everything.
Mammals and Social Boar, and before that another band called Yantiao. It was a different experience because I'd played in bands here and there but it was the first time in Beijing that I stepped out of you know the full conductor of everything, and I was playing bass, and doing a bit of the song writing and singing, and that was all mixed together with other people that had you know, different ideas about time signatures and the way that the song should be written, so I miss it for that, I don't miss how much time it took though.
With a band, one practice...if you really want to do a good show, it's a lot of time that goes into practicing. I miss hanging out with the guys. When you play in a band for a certain amount of time, they're not just your friends, they're not just your band mates, they're like your brothers. So yeah I miss that a lot.
Well, you're compromising in different ways. Maybe something that you think is totally fine, “Oh, just keep it that way!”, When you're with somebody else you have to be open minded and think about what's easier for everybody. Working with a band is completely different, you think about things in a completely different way, they throw things out that you wouldn't have thought of and it has this weird growth that just makes something you just couldn't make by yourself.
I have a pipa, which is the Chinese lute, it's a four string traditional acoustic instrument, and next to it is another pipa, but it's a modified pipa, so it's got electric abilities with some modification through circuits, and that instrument was designed and manufactured by Meng Qi and myself. We made it together, and he took in the more technical aspect of making it work, and I had more of an idea. Yeah, that's the one I use most for live performance. I use lots of other Chinese traditional instruments as samples, or through field recordings, but that's the one I'll actually play if I play it live, or record it in the studio.
On the traditional pipa, I have a mic, and that mic goes into a couple of sound processing effects like reverb, delay and obviously a tuner to keep it in tune with the computer. It's through small guitar effects units. The other modified pipa has two outputs, one is a microphone, like a contact mic pick up, they both have contact mics, and the other one has a crackle box, and that's kind of like a noise generator. It can be joining circuits through your fingers. Those are all connected to the strings, and another board on the body of the pipa. That goes through a completely different line of effects and all of that goes into a mixer. It's kind of technical, but it's just different ways to get sound amplified.
With doing something live, I want it to not be a backing track, I want it to have as little pre-recorded stuff as a whole, so I can always be bringing out stuff. I would say a large percentage is improvised, even in the software, still being looped, taken in and out, and then on top of that I’ll do something that's live, I’ll have a synth, or something that oscillates noise or maybe a physical string instrument. It really depends on the live set.
That week before I’m about to play, I might be practicing, and I’ll just come up with a beat, and be like “well let me try that live...” and it'll be kind of half written, but once I play it live, I get an idea of how this song's going to be, and how it filled the room, and how I felt with it, so then I’ll maybe (the saturday morning after the show) open it up and be like “I like that section” so that will become the backbone of the song.
A lot of times with DJs, or people using hardware, it's hard to really understand what they're doing. Even if you're in that world and you understand these machines and might think it’s really complex, most people in the audience just see you over a computer or a controller. so when you have anything like vocals, guitar, or anything physical you can play, it just adds this live element that I always try to keep somewhere in my live sets. It adds the physical element that people can see and automatically understand.
It doesn't really change that much based on the people. For example if I'm DJing or something and I see that people aren't really getting into it, I might try and play something that's a bit more active, but with a live set you can't really change too much besides the vigour and emotion that you're putting into it, so I'll usually change my live sets depending on the venue. If it's a smaller cafe, I'm probably not going to play something with heavy bass, if it's in a club setting, I'm going to choose songs I've written that are more conducive to dancing, and if I'm play an all experimental or noise night, then it's going to go as follows.
I was doing a China tour once, and I played a small city called Xinxiang, down not too far from Changsha and Wuhan, and there's a punk band called "The Pumpkins", "XiaoNanGua" as they're named in Chinese, and I just knew them from seeing them play in Beijing, and I was like, well, i'm going to be in Xinxiang on tour, I didn't know anyone there, I basically knew the promoter, and them. There were like five people that came out, and these guys from the pumpkins, and I think me and the other touring act, we were the only electronic band that had come to that city. The first. They treated it like a punk show. They were jumping around, they got on stage, were cheering on the last song, so I think for a guy on a laptop to have that kind of thing was pretty unique, and pretty special.
(On a tour in Taiwan, 2014 with Dann Gaymer)
When you're touring, and trying to book these places, if you're with two acts it's a lot harder to book because you always want to have two or three local guys to help support. In order to combat that, Dann and I combined our set, so I did like a ten minute set, and he had at the end of his set ten minutes. In that midd le part which is like 15 minutes maybe, we jumped on each other's songs, so I learnt his songs, and he learnt some of mine, so it was one show but there were two artists, and the sets kind of blended together, and we were able to pitch it to the venues in a better way.
Not to pick, to choose, or to say one is better than the other, but places that are conducive to what I'm doing and the kind of music that I do, currently I really like Dada. It's got a bunch of different feelings with Dada, if you're going there to drink, or dance, or if you're going to see a good DJ, but they do a lot with left field stuff. Sometimes they're pretty open. Dada's up there, DDC, and fRUITYSPACE!
In the end, it's a technique. It's a type of study – you have to go and invest time. When you look at something like a trombone for example, there's wind coming out of there. I can make wind come out of my mouth, but when I pick up the trombone it doesn't make the sound sound that you make because you’ve spent time, you’ve invested time, you've aggravated your parents in high school when you're trying to learn it, the same thing goes with anything that you want to do. Software is one of those. You got to put in the time, and just because you put in the time doesn't mean it's going to be great, but you'll find some things along the way.
If you do it long enough, you figure out this is you know, where I am with it – you don't have to be prolific right away, it just takes time.
You have to look at what your aim and goal is, and if that's what you want then did you achieve it or not. That's how you can judge if you have exceeded in what you wanted to do.
There's a lot of really helpful people, I love Beijing, I think it's a very special scene, i've been to a lot of different places… I haven't been everywhere, i'm not an expert, but Beijing is super special. Is there one person? Not really. There's a lot of really cool people doing a lot of really cool stuff, and shout out to those people, and you’re doing something cool; it’s you.
Epilogue: "The Information"
Building 8, C&C Park, 77 Meishuguan Back Street
The Nekroma EP release show was fairly ridiculous. It was hard, it was heavy, and it was a hangover to end all hangovers the day after. The lords of underworld granted me the permission to once again speak with the crew post-show, as they were equally inebriated. I met with King Necro, Pumpkin Queen, and N!c0 to discuss the who/what/where/why/when, here's what they had to say.
(https://guiguisuisui.bandcamp.com/album/nekroma – listen loud)
King Necro - Diddly Board, Vocals, Synth
Pumpkin Queen - Vocals
N!c0 - Bass
How did the recording begin?
KN: From the beginning, we always had a plan to make an EP, because for GuiGuiSuiSui we've been working on a project in which we wanted to make three EPs – A trilogy, based on the three characters we play in our show. We'd already done one before, so then we knew we wanted to do one for the “Necro King” and “Pumpkin Queen” characters. When we got the offer to do the Nakoma collaboration we thought this would be a good opportunity to put it together, but I don't think we actually had a set deadline. We were kind of working along the lines of “some time in 2017...” and I think Linda leaving, pushed it on a bit.
N: Linda's company closed the department, so she said “I'm leaving in a month's time!”, so I said “Okay, let's record.”
Where did the recording happen?
KN: All of the instruments were recorded at FuDa, off of GulouDongDaJie, you know the big instrument shop, it's got the place behind there...
PQ: And all of the vocals were recorded in the UK
KN: In a place called Gold Dust Studios which is in Bromley, it's actually one of my dad's mate's recording studios. It's been there for like forty years or something like that. So, FuDa was fun, except we turned up and they didn't have a bass amp, there was a miscommunication there.
N: We went through two bass DI...
KN: ...But I think for the actual mixing, that worked in our favour, because everything got more isolated then. We had all this shit going on with the drums, not any vocals to worry about and just a little feeding back skateboard-guitar, and it went way better than we thought because we went in and just wanted to do four songs, and then we had extra time so we were able to just basically jam, and that's what became the introduction, epilogue outro bit on there. It's just us sort of fucking around. And then yeah, we didn't really have it together with vocals so we said let's do that in Bromley. We worked with this really nice recording engineer who had worked with Duran Duran in the past.
Was it recorded Live?
KN: The band was live, yeah.
N: Multitrack, but all played together. Basically, we wanted to keep the feeling of a live recording so we didn't go through click or anything, we played like it was a live show.
KN: I think if we had tried to do that, it would have first of all taken way longer than just the six hour session, and it would have just kind of killed the vibe a bit... I dunno. In the recordings, there are some “mistakes”, and might be bits “out of time”, but I listen back to it and it kind of gives it more character.
Was the live feeling of the EP something thought of beforehand?
N: It started as a collaboration, so in a way, also the previous Nakoma EP we didn't work with a click, the same idea, catching the live vibe.
KN: I've tried to record to a click in the past, and I find it really difficult. I have really weird internal rhythm... basically I don't count when I play, just base on when it feels good, so for me it makes way more sense to be in the same room with people I'm playing with, and just look at them.
Where do the differences lie between the EP and the live show?
N: We really try to keep the two things really close so the EP, the only things we added on were the tibetan bells for technical reasons. When you're in a room and there's drums and guitar playing at the same time, it wouldn't come out.
PQ: We actually came up with the idea during recording – before in “The Tower” we didn't have the...err...
KN: ...Tibetan Singing Bowl. That's always an important thing. You want to be able to make a song and play it live, well, not necessarily, unless you're doing The Beatle's Sargent Pepper's Lonely Leary Band, or something like that when you just make an album and think “fuck it we're never going to play this live”, but for us, and I think for a lot of bands it is very important to play live because that's how you engage with an audience today. You really need to do that. If anything, now, live, we can actually be a little bit more adventurous because I've been using the Push 2. When we were originally recording that I was making loops and loading them on to an RC30 Loop Station and then just using that as a sampler, and that's really limiting because you have to just stop the loop, click through, and then do the next one. It's really not what it's designed for. Now we're able to do more, put more samples in there and things, and that's an interesting way around it.
Are there plans to have "that song" recorded? (The one with Kris)
KN: That new song, the one called “Ocean Of Eyes”, I actually started that with a new band I had with Jared and Nick last year called “Forbidden Zone” - we had various incarnations, one of those become their band “The Puking Unicorns”, because that kind of morphed out of “Cat Aids”, me Mike and Filthy Bill's punk band, anyway, I think it would be really cool to record that, I think it would be really cool to do something with that, it's just finding the right vehicle for that. If I was to record that song for example, I wouldn't just want to do a practice room one, I'd want to do it justice... but then it's like, if you're going to put that much time and effort into it, sometimes it can be a bit of a let down if you just throw it on Bandcamp. You need some kind of vehicle to put it out, whether that's a label, or you know another band you can do a split with or something like that.
It would be nice to get that and a few other tracks out, maybe do another EP, I'm very much on a high after that show; I'm very optimistic. It was a nice turn out. It was funny – I was standing by the door for quite a lot of the night, and there were quite a lot of foreign guys who were going to come in, and the first of all tried to walk in without paying the door ticket, and they kind of came back and were like “We have to pay fifty kuai for what? We don't even get a free drink?!” and walked out! We'd rather play for people who want to be here.
...On the CD release
N: They might come back as vintage at some point...
PQ: We can make everything, and before we also had a USB release.
KN: As we did with the last EP, even though it was different, we did a CD because it's still good to have a physical product to sell. I'm one of the guys behind Nasty Wizard, we do tapes, but that's even more obscure... it's even harder to get a tape player. It's nice to have something physical at the merch table, and it's nice as well that when you tour different countries, different merch sells better in different places. For example, in Singapore and Germany vinyl goes super well. CDs go super well in other places. What we've done before is USB versions, and that's kind of the best of both worlds. A physical artefact with digital files on it.
...On the design of the CD and its cover
S: Dan's friend Jon Cook (a really good photographer from Dartford, UK) did the photos. We went to get married, where was the place?
KN: In Kent, somewhere near Canterbury. It was a “de-consecrated abbey”, and I love that term “de-consecrated” because it makes it sound so; Satanic. There was actually a nun who committed suicide there...
PQ: It was our wedding day, and we were wearing our wedding clothes, and there was one room called “The Ruby Room” - the room you can see on the cover. Two chairs, and other very old furniture. When I looked at the environment, I thought “This is a good place to take a picture for the cover!” In my mind, I'd already thought it would look nice for both of us to just sit there, looking very calm, and elegant, but also wearing the creepy masks. I told the photographer and he said “Okay, I can do this for you.”
KN: So yes, that was actually taken on our wedding day... we had it pre-arranged. We'd do the ceremony, say our vows, everyone would eat and then we'd sneak off to take some photos. We took normal pictures of us being the bride and groom, everything pretty and whatever, but we also had our creepy masks and straight up banged them out, closed the doors and took the photos.
PQ: People actually like these photos more than the wedding photos!
KN: There's a shit load more we took above the hall where we were having the ceremony. There were these dorms in which the kids used to live, it used to be a boarding school at one point, and they looked fucking creepy; straight up like a scene out of Silent Hill or something. Boarded up doors, empty bunk beds, and us in the dark with creepy masks, which of course is what you do on your wedding day.
...On improvisation in rehearsals
N: We have a different approach, there were some parts, like from “The Tower”, that came up after the original demo, kind of from jamming around. Linda's always been focussed on... “let's think first”. The side of the improvisation of the introduction, interlude and epilogue was because we were like “Oh, we've got half an hour left? Let's do an improvisation!”
KN: “Hemlock” is the same riff over and over, it's basically verse – chorus – verse – chorus, it gets a little bit limp so that's where we came up with the harmonic passage, and I enjoy that as well. Even though I came up with the original seeds for the songs, it's no fun to just go in and dictate what people should play. When you've got very very competent musicians around you, you have to let them put they're own parts in there. There's only so many ideas that one human brain can have, but if you put four brains together then, wow, suddenly you can have something really amazing out there.
“Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Was it a man in a hoody riding a tiny skateboard?”
These are questions you might ask yourself on first encounter with the straight faced, straight laced man that is Michael Cupoli as he nonchalantly zips past you on the way to somewhere really cool.
Co-founder of tape revivalists “Nasty Wizard Recordings”, and mastermind behind the infamously inconvenient and OCD sufferer's nightmare “Too Much Shit On The Table” themed events, Michael holds a place in the Beijing Underground Elite (if that didn't already exist, it does now).
You may know him as “That guy that hit the drums really hard with those noisy bands back then!” or “That nob fiddler with quite frankly too much shit on the table!”, maybe even “Noise Arcade”. To me, he's “That refreshingly honest dude with too much shit on the table...but that dude's got his shit together.”
Posted June 9th, 2017
My performing alias is Noise Arcade, which is the main thing I do, it's a solo electronic live act, which most of it is improvised, some of it is pre-made, (like the drums might be pre-sequenced but I usually change the sequences anyway live) so, yeah even that's not pre-made.
I guess it's a combination of IDM, ambient music; I'm really bad with the categories for music because there's so many of them and I have no idea. I've been told I sound like a lot of different things and it's kind of interesting because it's very rarely the same people so I've heard a lot of references, and half the time I’ve never even heard of the people.
Originally I'm a drummer and then I started having the problem of bands not being too reliable,.
I did actually play marimba and vibraphone and stuff before, man I studied music theory so it's not just purely drums, but a lot of the stuff I was originally programming on the drum machine was stuff that I wish I could have been able to play on drums because you know it's one thing when you can sequence it, it's another thing to actually play it. There are people that can play some of the things I'm programming but I can't, and I'm actually a better drummer now so I can play these things too but some of them's hard... Playing the keyboard, that translated well into playing synthesizer, and figuring out how I wanted things to move.
I went on Douban (the website) and I found a Korg ER1, like the old 90s drum machine they had, and it was cheap so I bought it, then you know on Taobao I bought some cheap second hand Boss pedals from the 80s, and then I started doing more droney stuff and beat based stuff and then somebody gave me a Casio keyboard, maybe I don't know a year or two later I guess… I started playing that and started developing from there.
Three years ago now, I did a tour with GuiGuiSuiSui in the South of China, and we went to Korea. We played, I want to say six shows in five cities, three of which were in Seoul, Daegu, Pusan, Zhengzohu, drawing a blank on the last one, then we went to Japan, played a bunch of shows in various cities there as well.
Touring's not as exciting as most people might think because you have to carry everything, and y ou have to set up, and you're tired because you've been travelling the whole time and if you have a couple of drinks you're not getting proper rest at all. Most of the craziest shows have happened in Beijing I'd say.
Beijing's a great place because, you know, America, from my understanding England as well, a lot of the venues are pay to play, so you know China is nice, there's a lot of places in Asia that are not pay to play, Europe as well. There's more options. It's a great place to cut your teeth, but you know, some people think they're going to change the scene, but they don't realize there's already a scene here, so they kind of have to realize that there's something already established. Whether you like it or not, it's already here, so you have to work your way through that. If you really want to get to a big level, like, sign to Modernsky or something, you're going to have to do something a little bit more. There's a lot of musicians in Beijing now. There's quite a few venues too, I'm always surprised when people are like “Wow, another venue closed!” it's like, well, two opened up last week.
When I went down to Shanghai, most of the time I was playing in The Shelter, which was probably the best club I've ever been to in my life, that place was amazing. Obviously Dada Beijing is an equivalent of that place as well. So some places are live houses, some places are club systems, I'd say probably live houses slightly more, because it is slightly more on the experimental side. A lot of people they want to hear whatever’s popular, like house, or trap / bass music?
A lot of the live houses, they tend to cut down the bass a little bit, when you have that thumping kick drum, and a pounding bass-line, the heavy bass-line, because my bass-lines are usually kind of a drone, so when you have that strong bass then you really feel it. And then you see people reacting to it and dancing, even though it might be a form of experimental music, it's also a form of dance music so when I see people dancing I can tell they're having fun. If people are sitting there and mesmerized by whatever's happening, I mean I love that as well but you can't really gauge how into it they are until you finish. I've played some shows where I thought the audience wasn't into it at all and then afterwards I got an encore or heated applause and was just like, “I thought you guys hated me but alright, this went much better than I thought, thank god I wasn't drinking too much beforehand
If I'm recording, I mean, I record every practice I do, so there might be I dunno twenty some recordings a month, and if there's really something that stands out maybe i'll release it in some format, but the live thing is more important because I do more live shows and I mean it's just nice to have things online, or tape, or CD, maybe one day vinyl if I can find somebody that wants to do that for me. The live show is more important because I can do it a couple of times a month.
Live, I always use the Arturia MicroBrute because it's portable, it's a nice synth, it's not my favourite though. Usually when I'm at home I might use my Roland SH101 which is an old synth from the 80s, sounds amazing, and then I have the Korg MS20 mini re-issue of the Korg MS20 which I love, those are probably two of my favourite synths, and all three of those are analog. Then I have the Waldorf rocket which is digital but has an analog filter, drawing a blank of some of the stuff I have. I don't bring everything out to the shows, my collection is much larger and I tend to bring out the smaller pieces when I play live, just because it's really impossible to carry some of that stuff out conveniently.
Everybody's different, I mean personally I get bored sitting behind a computer and writing everything out, like, a month ago I was trying to, well I did, I wrote a couple of songs – I was trying to use Ableton to control the synths using the Ableton sequencer, it sounds nice, it's just not interesting to me to be using the mouse pad, I personally get bored, I know some people like it, I think live though if you see somebody with a mac book you have absolutely no idea what they're doing. They could be doing something live, and very intricate, but you can't see it. They might have something pre-made, but you can't see it, you can't tell the difference. So, if you have a couple of different things going on live, people with a controller of some kind, visually, I think that adds a lot to the audience because even with all the gear that I have people think I'm just Djing which is mind boggling to me because I always thought it meant disc jockey, which, you know the word disc means there's a... thing... but I guess terms have changed?
The group I have Cloud Choir, before, when the other guy lived in Beijing, we would swap equipment a lot of the time while jamming but since he left it's more me just in my place, and I've jammed with various people over the years. Equipment wise, I don't know I think everyone's got their own thing. If I need something new, I try out their equipment but I don't usually do it with them playing along with me, it's usually like “Hey what does this do? I'm kind of curious.” I buy the things I buy because I actually like the sound of them, and then you can add pedals and effects onto it which will change the sound.
The Eurorack is becoming so popular now and people are like “I need this module, I need this module, I'm going to sell this module I bought last week to buy this new module.” It's cool, it's kind of like trading baseball cards but costs a thousand times more. I'm in some groups like that, you listen to the products that they're doing, and you realize that's what they're doing – they're more concerned about the technology.
I’m not calling anybody out but there tends to be... I found there's a tendency with electronic musicians and DJs where they fall into two categories. One, they might not have had a musical background of any kind, so they're doing something and they think it's cool but they don't really think about the whole thing as a concept which is one of the takeaways I get from it. Because I've heard things and I'm just like “Wow you managed to switch keys in ten seconds a couple of times there, nice one. You do realise the arpeggiator is there for one function and you're using it for a couple of different functions.” And then there's the other kind of camp where maybe they have a bit of a background, but they're so involved with the technology that they forget about, again they forget about the composition as a whole. I guess it's the same thing, but two different ways to look at the same problem.
Buy all the expensive stuff then sell it to me second hand cheap when you get bored. Now I got that out of my system, it's funny but it's true. So many people buy stuff, like “Yeah this is a really cool synth, this is a really cool pedal!”, and then they realize they don't actually understand what it does.
When I first started it definitely did not sound like it does now, even a year ago it did not sound like it does today, and that's because i'm just constantly going at it. Not to say what I was doing a year ago is bad, you just fine tune, you find new ways of doing things, or maybe I just remember something I did four years ago that was really good, but because it was four years ago I forgot and I'm like “Oh wow, that's kind of a cool sound!”, so you just have to start playing with it. I tried to do other types of music, so when I do that then I incorporate into the main project, add something new to it.
Start slow, I think if you want to go from being a nobody to being whoever your hero is in like a day, it's impossible, and if you don't have the music background you're going to have to start learning. Really the answer to this question is the same as the last one, it's practice, and study and practice and study and practice, and just keep working at it because like any other thing in music, if you don't work at it it's not going to get any better.
Posted June 8th, 2017
In the Beijing music scene, especially the expat side of the Beijing music scene, it's not uncommon for musicians to switch between bands and projects. It's a scene that allows for self expression, musical freedom, and ultimately some real tongue in cheek fun. With this in mind, it's not surprising that the premise of a man and his wife dressing up in all sorts of dark-and-demonic-related costumes, screaming through all sorts of modulation effects and playing the skateboard is... not surprising. What does however come as a surprise, is that it's also not tongue in cheek.
When you take this, and combine it with the technical precision and general awesomeness of what used to be Nakoma (R.I.P.) something magical happens. Into the cauldron goes over one hundred combined years of musical experience, wisdom and woe to create the spectacle that is Nekroma.
Taking influence from pretty much everywhere, and creating something that's quite difficult to pinpoint on the ever changing genre spectrum, Nekroma have recorded a debut EP that in my entirely biased opinion is genuinely brilliant.
In the lead up to their EP release show (DDC, June 9th, 2017), I swore an oath to protect their identities in return for a chunk of their time.
The band have requested anonymity for this interview, as they are only rarely given permission by the lords of the underworld to surface and walk amongst us mere mortals.
Further interviews to follow, pending underworld approval.
Posted April 14th, 2017
One of the first televised instances of the infamous “Brown Note” was aired in the year 2000, January 12th. The sound was discovered after a long search during rehearsals for Yoko Ono and Kenny G's collaborative project “The World Wide Recorder Concert” led by South Park Elementary's Eric Theodore Cartman. A gargantuan ensemble of four million elementary school pupils simultaneously played “My Country 'Tis of Thee” on (you guessed it) the recorder.
Anyway, if for some reason you can't recall this historic event, Cartman and his friends added the pesky pitch to the end of the piece, and the combined power of four million recorders created a sonic-weapon of sorts, and caused a worldwide scatastrophe. Since then, only a few people have come close to finding the fabled frequency. The “Mythbusters” claim to have the myth “busted”, but many others believe it's still out there; hiding in the airwaves, lurking in your speakers.
One man who is rumoured to have accidentally come close to discovering this dissonance of doom is one half of Beijing based noise duo, ATELIER II. The improvised-sound-scape-generators Alex Damboianu, and his girlfriend Huang Huan have been haunting live-houses in Beijing for the last year. Whilst paying homage to influences across the artistic spectrum, through the use of synthesizers and audio manipulation techniques, they manage to create an immersive environment for the listener.
Their show is a true representation of music in its purest form, music as the organisation of sound, in time and space.
For more information, you can find them on Facebook HERE.
We call ourselves ATELIER II because we are two, and we have a workshop where we live and work. We do many things there, amongst which we do music.
It begins with having some free time, and some passion for sound, because we do also painting, photography, architecture, but sound is the one that has immediate reaction for the listener or for the visitor in a place where you have some sound. The only concept that we have at this moment is to create an environment for the listener. So you just sit down. You can close your eyes or whatever makes you comfortable, and then you use your own mind and your own feelings to just travel wherever you want. I will just try to create an environment that will just keep you going somewhere, but it's up to the listener where it's going.
Because I started playing music recently, I don't have any knowledge about analogue gear and stuff like this, and I know I'm losing a big part of electronic music, because you can build your own set up, you can build your own synthesizer even, you can build your gear, but in a way you can do that with digital applications. I use one application that is like a mixer, and on that I will build my instrument. I will put synthesizers, effects, samplers, all kinds of things that will help you to have a clear and loud sound...compressors, limiters, whatever.
AUM… that application will give you a structure. It's the structure of your instrument some how, so you put there a thing that makes a noise, and on every channel you put some effects that you can control however you want with your MIDI controllers, or... I don't even use midi controllers, I just play with my fingers, that's all.
I will use samples, I will use field recordings, I will manipulate them in such a way that will make them abstract from the place I took them, and I will just use them as raw material for something that I will create and present to others. I did some paintings that I don't have anymore, but I took some pictures, manipulated them a little bit, and made a symmetrical image, and blended it with my work.
Yeah, I mean, this is a kind of clue of what is in my mind, but you don't need to go there if you don't want. But, every time when I play with my partner, it's about space, time, somehow an existential anxiety that we try to deal with, and then we put it all in our performance, but we don't want to impose this on the listeners so they go wherever they want.
But we just create this dark...because, it's more dark than light. We just think it's more light because our atmosphere is glowing, but if you go out it's darkness.
I'm hoping that people that are listening are making their own films or whatever they imagine in their own mind, so yeah, it is connected with visuals sometimes, but I don't want to provide the visual. I just want to provide the sound, and then you have your own way to enjoy it... or hate it.
Because we don't use rhythm or melodies or things like this, it seems like it's not intended, but it is intended! So, even if you only hear abstract noise, it's still music because we arranged it in some way. But yeah, there is an order there, there is an organization there, even if it seems messy and abstract.
So, we use four kinds of reverbs, together at the same time, and we use two apps made by some Swedish company that will manipulate the vocal sounds in such a way that it's unrecognisable. We want to use the voice as an instrument that creates sound – not necessarily for transmitting a message, distinguished words, or meaning.
Atilla. I know this guy from a long time ago. I don't even know his face or what he looks like, I have no idea, but I know his voice every time I hear it. I was listening to that guy when he was playing with Mayhem, I just had like, an old cassette that was recorded from a floppy disk someone downloaded for me, it was a live show or something like this. It was very messy. And then, his voice is fucking dramatic so it impressed me. So that was the first contact. And then I knew Sunn O))) separately, and then I found out they will play with this guy, so it amplified my interest somehow!
I get a lot of influence from Sunn O))) and Lustmord. Their stuff is in my mind constantly, although I try to ignore them, but somehow they influence me.
I never play with people that are playing the same kind of music actually. I play like the last band from a group of rock bands, or indie bands, I'm the curiosity of the event! All the time. And I never got a bad reaction. Sometimes, they ask me to play more. In the beginning I made it very short, like, twenty to thirty minutes, so they say “Do you have more?”, and of course I can improvise until the morning, but it will get boring after a while. Thirty (minutes) to one hour is enough. The reaction is positive all the time, although I am just misplaced all the time, with my girlfriend.
I want to play in Tango because I want to play very loud. All the time I have problems. I broke one thing in Mao when I played one time, and someone got “sick” because of the low frequencies (he told me later). I was playing some very long drones, very loud and very low frequency – you feel it in your stomach if you have big speakers. I said “What the hell? These people, they have big speakers, I'll just play as loud as I can...” but yeah, I would like to play in Tango here in Beijing because they have a huge... and I've been to Godspeed you! Black Emperor concert twice, it was great! It was one of my favourite bands. This one, Swans, Lustmord and Sunn O))) – these are my top five / four / whatever.
I can explain how we do it. For example, she's just playing and finding some interesting sounds. I will do the same thing, but we have the same world view, the same kind of vision, the same kind of taste in sound, so this makes it a lot easier. And then, I say “Okay do you want to play together, or shall I play solo this time?” If we have an idea, we play together.
So, I start building my sound. I will have a set of sounds, and I will say “Look what I have”, and she shows me what she has. We play, I think, one time combined before we play live together. That's all. It is very instinctual, all the time. I do something, then I give her some space then she does something, and she gives me space and I intervene with my sound, so altogether we try to keep it as an interesting composition.
It involved a lot of study... on youtube. I spent in the past two years at least four hours every day studying what is a synthesizer, what is everything.
HH: He's a geek! He's a geek! He can learn everything from youtube, by himself.
Although I don't have formal education, I studied a lot, to figure out how I can use the technology... to apply it what ideas I have.
We will exchange information in such a rudimentary way, such a... we just talk a lot. “What do you want to say? How do you want to sound?”. Then she will tell me, and I will immediately figure out what kind of app we can use on our iPad so we can make a conversation in our music. At this kind of level. She's trained as a musician, but we cannot touch this... we cannot make a melody.
HH: And also, when we talk, even our English is not good, and I tell him... We organize what we want to show in the music; what sound I like, what sound he likes, and we understand each other, because I think this is from our art work. We understand each other, (what art we did), actually from a lot of talking.
Just have the balls to do whatever you think is cool, and whatever you think is interesting for yourself first of all. And if they don't like it, this is not your problem. That's all. You just do what you like, you try it, and if they don't like it, next time you play by yourself that's all.
Posted April 6th, 2017
Gerald Van Wyk, AKA Anxt is probably the least angst-y of guys. His music can sometimes get a little moody, but not him. He's one of those guys you want to be friends with. You may know him as “that guy that plays synth for that loud band without a singer”, or “that dude with the flashing light box that makes sounds”, or you may not know him at all as he spends most of his free time at home on said flashing light box.
After shifting a minor obsession with video games to music production, he began his journey into the deep, dark, depths of Ableton Live. A few years later, he found himself moving to Beijing, a decision which later lead to his researching of, and immersion into the local music scene. Finally, after cutting his teeth with local neo-post-math-rock-core band Macondo, Anxt was born.
With an ever increasing number of gigs in local venues already under his belt, Anxt has set his sights on “taking things more seriously” this year, in the form of multiple releases, collaborations, and even more shows on even bigger sound systems. In the mean time, you can catch Anxt supporting local electro-indie duo Nocturnes for their “Dust Into Glory” EP release show on Saturday the 8th April, at School Bar.
I think the whole concept with starting Anxt, is to use ambient sounds or to go out and find some sounds that I think are interesting, so I would usually do that, and sort of get a feeling from that, and from there on I'll build around that sound. Sometimes I'll just leave it as long, ambient pieces, other times I might slice it up and try and use it almost as an instrument, or to create a pattern, or yeah, like a flow... I dunno.
I relate this music that I'm writing now... it is because I'm in Beijing, and I'm using that as my main influence and the sounds that I find around me.
Most of my tracks are built around the field recordings that I do. I would either record, like, five minutes or ten minutes of some sounds, i'd either play it right t hrough the track and use it as a background noise, or I might end up slicing it up and using it in some sort of pattern or as an instrument.
Basically, my background comes actually from Church! I grew up in a Pentecostal Church household, and so I was always surrounded by instruments. My dad plays guitar, piano, and there was always instruments lying around our house... although my dad never felt the need to teach me any of this, I mean it was always lying around. I've been playing drums for about twenty years, so that's my main instrument. I can play guitar... I actually started quite late I think, I only started playing guitar when I was about sixteen, although I've always had instruments around. In church I used to play tambourine, or some shakers you know, and that's basically my background. Most of my keys...I'm not really good with it. I'll start with some triads that I know, and most of those notes I find by listening to adding keys and layering things, so that's basically my background when it comes to music, and instruments.
A lot of my training comes from listening I guess.
So yes, Matthew Byrne who runs “Spittoon” had this idea of doing an evening of collaboration between poets, and musicians / bands, and I ended up collaborating with a poet called Matias, and I just sort of read the poem, well, I saw the poem, I chose it, and wrote the majority of the song, 90% of the song at home, sent it over to him and he basically did spoken word over it but we found a way that it worked nicely. We added some guitar to that, it sounded pretty good.
I think you're always learning when you work with other people, because people see things very differently to how you see it, so, Matias would come, and he had some ideas which I would use structurally, and I would adapt the set or the song to whatever changes he had in mind, so I think from that point of view... also because spoken word is a very, actually a weird thing, I've never actually, like, to hear spoken word poetry over music, that's a weird combination to be honest, but in the end I think it worked out alright.
My inspiration comes from listening, and feeling, so that's basically what I'll use. I mean if you go and listen to the electronic music that's out at the moment, it's like everybody's working from the same template, everything sounds the same, so in the beginning that's what I did. That's what you try to do; you mimic other people's music, but I think in this case, when you start growing, you try and create something unique because I think that's actually how people end up hearing your music.
Ableton is a deep, dark pit that you can fall down into, yes, a lot of times I get lost in it but I've been working on it since 2006 or so, training myself with it, and back then it was quite, it was very different from all the other DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation), and how it worked, yeah I just trained myself using that. In the beginning it is daunting because, as I said, you end up getting stuck in loops, endless synthesis, layering things, but I've got a method I use, otherwise I would probably get nothing done.
I think from a rhythmical point of view, yeah definitely it influences. I think like a drummer when I program, although with electronic music obviously, you know there's a sort of preset way that you program drums, so you know the four to the floors, those kind of things, but I would play around probably with my hi-hats and my snares to make things a bit more interesting, or add swing and also try and think like a drummer in that way. So... I'm not...If you go listen to the tracks there is some elements that's like traditional dance, but then there's also a lot of elements that just...comes from my background in drumming, so I will try and program the drums almost to sound as close to or authentically sounding like drums as opposed to a machine.
Through Anxt, I've been starting to meet some people, 4 Channel Club I played with, like 8-bit music, I've seen at Yue Space there was a guy called Noise Arcade, I've seen some of his stuff, and yeah all those things, those are the kind of electronic artists that I find interesting, and I find their music interesting because, like I said it's not just DJ-ing, there's a process. They're doing things live.
I know there's some electronic artists out there, Thruoutin I think, I've listened to a couple of his tracks but haven't seen him live, he seems to be doing some interesting things... who else.
I was thinking of doing some remixes of Macondo songs, but that would be terrible! I haven't really thought about it, I know Eric from Peppercorns, I spoke with him about possibly collaborating because he also loves his synths and yeah. I think as I go along and meet people, I'll probably like choose a couple of people and lay some ideas on them and probably bounce ideas off each other, and write some tracks.
When I came to China, I did some research about the scene here before we came here, and I was quite excited to come over here and become a part of the music scene.
I play synth in Macondo, and i'm the vocalist. Scott would love that. That's a joke of course because i'm not the vocalist, we don't have a vocalist, yeah it's a post rock band. Any case, I went to their first show ever, and they were basically a three piece then, they still had their old bassist playing for them, Sebastian, and it was basically just the three piece. I think when they took their break I went up to them and introduced myself and said “Hi Matt, I'm Gerald, I'm staying in your old room, I found some old love letters of yours in the drawer, I still have them, when must I bring it, and you need a synth player!”, I think almost something like that, and I sort of wriggled my way in there I think and they gave me an opportunity to come and prove my skills, and having to add synth to it was sort of a different element.
Any case, yes, that's Macondo, and I went for the audition and yeah sort of got given the job and that is now all in the past!
At the moment I've got some short term plans, I've got four tracks at the moment that basically is in the mix you'll be listening to, and I've just sent out one of my tracks to be mastered, and I think the aim is to put our an EP and take things a little bit more seriously.
I'm going to try and see about maybe there's a label that will go out to do the distribution of the tracks, and I definitely want to play more shows. At the moment I've been playing in live houses which is not ideally what I want to do. I probably want to play more club systems because a lot of my music is very low end bass on the frequency spectrum, so some of the live houses doesn't have the sound systems with the right fidelity to be able to reproduce those sounds that I want people to hear. The idea is that you shake the club.
Buy some software, or buy Ableton, start playing around, do beat-making, just, if you've got a passion for music I think it's especially when it comes to using software, there are so many things available out there now that you can play around with and, basically, it's limitless what you can do in those things. You don't really have to be musical to be able to do that I guess, yeah I mean it's all about self motivation. If you want to do something, you set your mind to it, you'll do it, and it's enjoyable. I get lost in it. It's my therapy I guess. When I come back from work, or I have time, I basically sit every single day round about four to six hours on Ableton, playing around and learning things, sort of exploring. Like I said, Ableton is a bottomless black pit.
Like I said, I'm going to probably quite soon drop my EP, I'll put it out there for free for people to listen to, and I thinkevery EP is going to have a different theme / concept behind it so the next concept is definitely to be able to collaborate with other people, some of the musicians I've been playing with and yeah, basically that would probably be the next concept for the next EP. And instead of doing four tracks, maybe do eight tracks... it'll take me two years to finish.
Temple booker/enfant terrible, Chairman Wow, gives his comprehensive view from the bar of who has raised their game and is ready to slay you all in 2017.
December and January are always full of year-end round up lists, and we've all already seen plenty of "top 100 albums of the year" lists across various major music media outlets, and a handful of "top 10 Chinese albums of the year" lists from local sources. I'm currently busy catching up on all the things we were all supposed to be listening to in 2016.
I'd like to take a bit of a different approach to this pretentious ritual - one that reflects the local realities of music making in Beijing (live shows) and is future-focused on what we can expect from 2017. When I book shows for Temple Bar and elsewhere I try to prioritize young up-and-coming bands. One of the most/only gratifying aspects of booking shows is watching a brand new band barely manage their way through a Wednesday night set then build and improve over 6 to 8 months to become capable weekend headliners with an enthusiastic local following. This list comprises the acts I'm most excited to watch develop in the coming year, and some of the brand new bands you should be following at live gigs over the coming months.
What is my criteria?
While I certainly love bands like Dress Code (who haven't even been together for a year), their rapid rise as major voices in Beijing's hardcore scene, domestic touring, frequent gigs, and full album recording mean they don't need really need the attention I'm trying to provide here. They're fine. All the bands on my list have been practicing and performing since 2016. Most of these bands (with the exception of Duff Beer) have performed just a handful of times and generally on weekday nights when only the most committed local rock fans are present for shows. These bands are still in the process of finding their footing in the scene and honing their sound and have yet to develop a major local reputation and a dedicated audience. These are the bands I expect to see rise up and take over the scene over the next year. To borrow a term from my current president, I expect them to be silent-h "huge."
If your band is not on the list, its likely that a) I don't have enough familiarity with your band b) I forgot about your band (I really need to start keeping a gig journal) c) I don't really like your band. Please consider which category of exclusion your band likely falls into before messaging me.
Silent Speech are an indie rock group with a pop sensibility that sounds prepped for an inevitable Modern Sky signing. The reason why I'm excited about Silent Speech is because the influences they're drawing on to make "indie rock" are different from what I'm normally accustomed to hearing from Chinese indie rock bands in Beijing. Whereas brit pop bands like Blur or Oasis have provided the archetype sound to many past and present local Chinese indie rock bands (Casino Demon, Penicillin, Secret Club), Silent Speech are taking their cues from the likes of Morrissey and Radiohead. This makes for more complex song arrangements that include keyboards, synthesizers, and the occasional trumpet for color. You might notice a handful of their tunes suggest these guys have spent a lot of time listening to 'Creep' or 'Fake Plastic Trees' and that their songs carry a grandiose quality that makes them sound almost too big to fit inside small venues like School, Hot Cat or Temple.
Backspace are a band that I hate because they're all much younger than me, have been performing for only 4 months and already have 30 minutes worth of tunes that are well-developed enough that they'd might as well record their first album. If you're feeling fairly well-adjusted and capable of confronting your own musical and artistic inadequacies, I highly recommend checking these guys out at their next show. Backspace are clearly modeling their music after local post-punk forebears like Birdstriking and Snapline, but with a dreamier, more reverb-laden, shoegazy spin (like Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People). You can find a handful of gritty lo-fi demos on their Douban, but these honestly don't do the band justice. I'm looking forward to their probable Maybe Mars released debut album.
Beijing has a long, strong tradition of punk music and Duff Beer have taken up the drunken sloppy punk torch held by such bands as Joyside, The Bedstars, and The Diders. Their current set is an upbeat blend of originals and covers like Joyside's Sunday Morning. I really shouldn't have to sell this more than that but I'll continue. Duff Beer are gearing up to be hard-hitters in the punk scene because they've spent the last 6 months playing upwards of 5 shows each month and honing in their chops and are now a much tighter more confident presence on stage. I mean this is just fun, mindless mosh pit punk rock. I'm looking forward to seeing them pull in bigger crowds on weekends in the spring as they develop more original tunes.
Oldy Baby are a new punk duo on the scene. Oldy Baby already have a strong high-energy 30-minute set of original tunes. These guys would be absolutely perfect at a house show in the Pacific Northwest or on a lo-fi cassette tape recording packaged with weird poorly xeroxed hand drawn album art and a bad poem or two. Their tunes remind me a lot of the poppy jangle punk band Harlem, but there is a sort of manic, frantic quality to their style as well that reminds me of early psychobilly bands. I'm prepared for Nathan to suddenly break into Paralyzed by Legendary Stardust Cowboy at the drop of a hat. Oldy Baby are trying to play each and every possible show they can at the moment, so you'll have a lot of chances to catch them and watch them develop through the spring.
Them Wayfarers are the newest band on this list and have only a couple live shows and about 5 original songs under their belt. I'm looking forward to the unique sounds and colors this band is developing. While at their core Them Wayfarers are a bass and drum duo, they've made a strong effort to avoid constructing guitar-reliant tunes, and instead bring in horns or a keyboard to guest perform on various songs. Their emphasis on collaboration results in a sound that swings between Primus-style bass driven prog rock and Death From Above 1979 noise punk breakdowns.
The Beauty are key contributors to the local power pop scene that's emerged over the past year. They have an EP's worth of cute little indie rock honky-tonk original tunes but make their influences clear to their audience with covers from The Strokes and The Vaselines making up a core part of their live set. The Beauty's biggest issue right now (for me), is that they don't bring a lot of confidence to the stage. I'm half convinced their singer (who is a lovely guy) spends the first few tunes trying to hide behind the microphone stand before loosening up a bit. As The Beauty continues to perform through the spring and gain some confidence and stage presence I expect them to pick up a core base of dedicated, swooning fans.
I'm nervous about discussing White Paper because I know I'm going to describe them "wrong" and receive some WeChat flack. More than any band on this list I expect White Paper to be the one that inspires strong conflicting opinions. White Paper were first described to me as a punk rock band resembling Minutemen, but having seen them perform once and having spent time with their recordings I see them more as genre wildcards. White Paper's musical ideas are very sophisticated and unique to the current scene - they have these fantastic crunchy John Carpenter-esque chiptune interludes on several of their songs. I'm more inclined to say White Paper are of a more industrial, dark wave flavor with a dance-y dash of The Killers. White Paper put on a very audience-engaged, loud show. Check them out.
By Dream are a welcome addition to our rising post-rock scene. Our current post-rock scene has strong representatives on the math-ier or prog side of things (Rhonda, Macondo, Nakoma) but By Dream plays a gentler, simpler variety of post-rock that relies on dynamic changes and strong melodies in a more traditional verse-chorus structure to drive their tunes. By Dream also happen to be intense dedicated perfectionists and practice incessantly which comes through in the tightness of their live sets. Their music is soft and delicate, reminiscent of bands like The Sea and Cake - you'll likely want to sit down and let it guide you through an introspective journey.
Streams of Life throw some of the most energetic and exciting shows in the scene right now. Their lead guitarist favors a wireless unit between his guitar and amplifier, freeing him up to move through crowds, leap across tables and engage in other rock hero shenanigans without getting tangled up and accidentally hanging himself. Stylistically streams of life fall somewhere between post-hardcore and post-rock - a sort of Macondo vibe that sounds like of like At The Drive-In, or the less overly indulgent portions of the Mars Volta discography without any vocals.
Tekno.Prisoners.de are a rare sort of band. These guys are the perfect litmus test to find out if your new friends, colleagues, classmates, or Tinder date are actually fun. They have committed to a gimmick that fills a massive hole in your life you didn't realize was there. Do you remember the song We Like to Party by Vengaboys? Have you been to a middle school dance recently? Now imagine that song covered, really well (no really, just roll with this), as a happy hardcore song by four Australians pretending to be Berlin club rats. Tekno.Prisoners.de played some of my most favorite shows in the latter half of 2016 - I had a blast - and I'm looking forward to getting them back on stage to play in the new year.
Check out LIVE BEIJING MUSIC to see and hear more from the bands