Both Li Song and Zhao Cong have been part of the experimental scene in China for a long time, playing in various projects with various people, but this October at fRUITYSPACE marked their first time playing together as a duo. Fortunately, Loreli was able to witness this occasion and even record a bit. Zhao Cong got her musical start in 2009 as a spectator at the experimental performance series, Zoomin' Night, organized by her future husband Zhu Wenbo at D22 and then XP until their closures. In 2010 Zhao Cong and Zhu Wenbo formed the band Xiao Hong & Xiao Xiao Hong and they currently play together in the band Not in Catalog. She began her solo performances in 2015 and just released her debut solo recording, Afternoon, released on the Zoomin' Night cassette tape label. You can catch her soon at one of the following upcoming events:
12.05 jam duo @fRUITYSPACE
12.11 Not in Catalog @fRUITYSPACE
12.31 Not in Catalog @fRUITYSPACE
12.21 MIJI Concert @Meridian Space
Li Song was born in Xi'an and now lives in Beijing. In Xi'an he was a member of Kunjinkao, an audio/visual duo from System Error group. He is also the organizer of the Soundleaks event, which focuses on sound art and technology. In performances he uses a laptop, sometimes with other weird interactions, and he prefers to use simple text to create unpredictable sounds. He also collaborates with Zhu Wenbo on two projects: No Performance and do you have a bio and photo.
Li Song: I’m Li Song. I started to play this kind of music in 2013, like three years ago. So when I moved to Beijing after graduation, I worked here and played more with her and Wenbo and other people so I got more involved in this kind of scene and played more music.
Amy Daml: So you started when you were still in Xi’an?
LS: Yeah, yeah. Back in Xi’an I was a computer science student and I learned some song programming and all that stuff. When I was in Xi’an there was an organization or label, called System Error. It’s kind of an experimental and improvised music label in Xi’an. So I kind of played one or two or three events for that organization. That’s how I first got involved. Then, when I moved to Beijing I got to know more people.
AD: I wouldn't have expected there to be a big experimental scene in Xi’an.
LS: Yeah, I think there is actually, but it’s like…many people move to Beijing and Shanghai. Then there aren’t so many people stillleft in Xi’an. They need more new people to join them, but it seems there aren’t many since I left I think. And many graduate. Because at that time there were many students involved and now it’s like a low number.
Zhao Cong: I’m Zhao Cong. I was born in Beijing. In 2010 Zhu Wenbo and I formed a band called Xiao Hong and Xiao Xiao Hong. At that time we played a little experimental, melody and lo-fi music. During these years, we changed three times. After we finished the first album, I began to play bass and Zhu Wenbo also changed to use other instruments. It’s a rock band – not the normal rock and roll music. Now, I’m still a bass player in a rock band called ‘Not in Catalog,’ and I began my solo project last year.
AD: Can you tell me what this instrument was that you were playing today? It was like a long cardboard tube…
ZC: Actually, it’s a tube made of paper. It is for clothes, for textiles.
AD: Oh, yeah. What do you call it? It’s like a wheel or…a spool! A spool!
ZC: Yeah. One time I went to a textile warehouse because I’m making clothes this year. Yeah. One time I went to the warehouse to choose textiles. I found a little paper in the tube and I pulled it out of it and the sound was amazing. I was interested in it and I began to use it, because you can feel the sound by the tube itself, by the space.
AD: Yeah, it makes a very interesting sound – many interesting sounds, depending on what you put inside it.
ZC: Yeah, yes. And I also use a mixer, no-input feedback so you can hear some electronic sounds.
AD: And you just put out your first solo album as well, right?
AD: Did you use the tube on that as well?
ZC: Yeah, yeah.
AD: And you recorded it at home?
ZC: Yes, this June.
AD: How was the recording process? Doing it at home must have been interesting.
ZC: It sounds more like a performance, not a very formal recording, because it’s a jam and I just played maybe three or four parts. It’s more like a performance, a very free performance. I didn’t arrange anything before. I didn’t think about the structure beforehand. I just thought about it when I was playing.
AD: Is it the same for your live performance when you play together? You don’t think about it beforehand?
LS: For today, actually I thought about it for a while and I decided on something to play, but it ended up different from what I was thinking because there were some technical problems. I was supposed to record some of her songs, but somehow the signal was not loud enough so I ended up playing something different.
AD: Do you have a lot of technical problems playing this music?
LS: Yeah, I suppose so. You know, when you’re dealing with a computer many things happen, but sometimes the problem becomes a good sound because it’s unpredictable. You know, sometimes the sound is just gone and then comes back for a little while. You can’t create that sudden sound. Sometimes the music of sudden change is amazing. Not a lot, but sometimes things happen.
AD: How did you start working together?
ZC: Just because we are friends and we usually get together, so we discussed playing together. This is the first time.
LS: Actually, we’ve played a lot in a group more than the two of us. We’ve played with many other people for quite a long time - like four people, five people, but this is the first time for just us to play together.
AD: Do you think you’ll do more in the future?
LS: Yes! Yes, sure.
AD: And you [Zhao Cong] decided to release your solo album on cassette tape. Was there any reason you decided to do that?
ZC: No. Just because Zhu Wenbo is my husband, and after….do you know anything about Zoomin’ Night? After Zoomin’ Night, the series of performances, he began to make Zoomin’ Night as a label to release tapes – cassettes. Mine is a nice production of the Zoomin’ Night label.
AD: Were you involved with the Zoomin’ Night originally?
ZC: Since 2009. But at that time I was just an audience member – from the first Zoomin’ Night.
AD: Must have been very exciting at that time.
ZC: Yeah, actually because at that time all the bands in Zoomin’ Night were weird compared with normal rock bands. It was interesting. At that time all of us were music fans. So the atmosphere was very good and everybody liked it and became friends and formed a band or played music together or played together in daily life.
AD: Do you think that the music scene is growing?
ZC: I miss that time very much. Now, I think it’s changed a lot. Many friends from then don’t play such music [now]. I can’t describe it. But at that time it was really great. Now it’s another way and another group of friends and style of music, but it’s still good because playing together and getting together because of common interests is a great thing, I think.
AD: Well, thank you very much.
ZC: Thank you.
LS: Thank you.