Photo by Max-Leonhard von Schaper.
Je vous présente cette fois un Regarde les Chinois un peu spécial. L’entrevue devait à l’origine servir pour un article sur la scène musicale locale dans la capitale chinoise, mais n’ayant pas pu écrire ledit article, je vous la présente comme entrevue sur ce blogue. Lee Clow est un Washingtonien d’origine (comme l’état) et résident de Beijing depuis les huits dernières années. Nous étions en train de chiller sur la terrasse sur le toit du NLGX, et avons alors parlé de son band ska, de ses bonnes rencontres avec des personnages de la musique pékinoise, et de ce qu’il entrevoit pour le futur de la scène.
This time, I present you with a rather special Regarde les Chinois. The interview was meant to serve as an article on the local musical scene in the Chinese capital, but since it was never written, I am presenting it as an interview on this blog. Lee Clow is a Washingtonian of origin (as in the state) and a resident of Beijing for the past eight years. We were chilling on the NLGX rooftop patio and spoke about his ska band, his interesting encounters with Beijing music characters, and what he sees in the scene’s future.
Comme les Chinois: First, please explain who you are, to situate the context.
Lee Clow: Um, well, I am the lead singer of basically what was, kinda is, the only ska band in Beijing (End of the World, aka 世界终止乐队). I mean, there’s been a few bands who’ve tried it over the years, but we’re certainly the only ones who have been playing for a long time.
CLC: For eight years?
Ah, not eight. I’ve been in Beijing eight years. I think the band… Let’s see, we did form in the late summer 2001. So yeah, it is getting on like seven years now, that the band’s been together.
CLC: What are the bands that you recommend?
Well, my biggest recommendation is Brain Failure. They’ve been around the longest, they have the best sound, and best stage presence, performance overall.
CLC: They’re a punk band.
They’re a punk band, yeah.
CLC: They’re Beijingers?
Ah, no actually, only one of them’s from Beijing. Lead singer is from Beijing, but the rest of them are from Zhengzhou, in Henan province. And they’re all second members to take their respective positions. Brain Failure broke up once, and then reformed in about 2000. They reformed with the current… well, most of the current lineup.
Who else to recommend… Joyside. Those guys are good, fun stuff. Lead singer is sort of a Jim Morrison type. Usually too trashed to play their own songs…
CLC: Yeah, I saw him in that (documentary) movie, Beijing Bubbles. He looked like he was stoned.
He always looks like he’s stoned! Never seen him look not stoned! I’ve known him a lot of years… (laughs)
Um, last night I went and saw Misandao. Well, I was playing with Misandao. They’re local skinheads. They’re the biggest of the skinhead bands in Beijing.
CLC: Oh yeah, skinheads. Like, the aesthetics, but none of the ideology?
Well, more of the sort-of traditional ideology, which is like “free” sort of thing. But like unifed… Like, “we’re a bunch of kinda thugish guys, but stick to our own and we believe that we have the right to believe what we want to believe…” They’re very… I don’t want to say anti-government, because I am going to get them into trouble, but … um (laughs)
Yeah, they’re rather reactionary. They have songs about cops and stuff like that, you know. Like, half their songs are about they hate cops, about how you shouldn’t be a political tool. The other half of the songs is about how awesome it is to be a skinhead… I like them! They’re good friends of mine. You know, I got their lead singer’s first pair of suspenders, ok! (laughs)
SL: It’s a girl, I hope?
** SL is British.
Not the British meaning of suspenders, but braces. That’s how you call them, right? Suspenders are braces… garters.
CLC: Oh, like jarretières…
Yeah yeah. (Editor’s note: actually, I was totally wrong, they’re just the thing that Larry King wears – but you immediately notice it on their picture on their MySpace). No, he doesn’t wear garters! (laughs) Suspenders is the American meaning. Braces!
CLC: Where is the scene going?
The scene is getting kinda commercial. A lot of the newer bands are sorta looking out for some money, rather than just trying to make art. IThe scene’s been kinda fractuous and volatile since the big new school / old school fight broke out about four years ago.
CLC: What’s that?
Um, basically, there were a lot of pop-punk bands that sort of sounded like Blink 182-ish, and skate punk, that kind of thing. And then there were these old school bands that, you know, all had their mohicans, leather jackets, and stuff. And then, they all started breaking bottles over each other’s faces… A few people ended up in jail, and since then, the punk scene just hasn’t been as united, good as it was in the early days.
It used to be like, everybody not only was going to every other band’s shows, but had members in each other’s bands. These were the old days!
CLC: I guess that as China gets richer, more open, that sort of scene is less underground, becoming more of a mainstream thing.
Yeah, a lot of people are accusing Brain Failure of being sellouts and stuff, but… I mean, they’ve signed with a record label, they toured in the US, but I’ve known them a long time, you know, and they’re… I don’t want to say “rock stars”, because that’s got horrible connotations to it, but, you know, they’ve just wanted to share their music with everybody, and it was a dream of theirs, forever, to tour the US, and they got to do it. So, I don’t hold that against them, and I think it’s prickish to do that. I think that most of the other bands are just jealous, to be honest!
CLC: Hey, well thanks.