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A Wank Within a Wank with Ex-Pairs Drummer Xiao Zhong
Erstwhile Shanghai-based Slink Rat slinks back to town with his new band Thug Mills for the Concrete & Grass festival. SmSh talks to him about what's good...
By Sep 12, 2016 Nightlife
It's been nigh on two years since Shanghai lost its most prolific DIY music promoter, rabble-rousing shit-talker, and social media provocateur: Australian migrant Xiao Zhong, former drummer of noise rock duo Pairs and the incisive wit behind the now dormant Slink Rat Tumblr. Sure, we still have more than enough internet trolls to go around, but Mr. Zhong elevated internet shade-slinging to a damn near literary genre. Here's a case in point, the intro to one of the final Slink Rat posts:

Told this story before somewhere, but when I first came to China a friend of mine would catch the bus every day to work listening to her mp3 player. I asked her what she was listening to and she only had four songs on there. Two Chinese songs, one James Blunt song and a Savage Garden song. I asked her a good ten months later what she was listening to and it was the exact same four songs. This was with commuting forty five minutes to work and back six days a week. Pretty impressive when you think about it.

But I feel like she must be the key demographic when festival bookers are picking their line up. Well aware that doing anything always trumps doing sweet fuck all, and it sucks when all your hard work is cut down by some piece of fuck dickshit with a blog who knows absolutely nothing about anything. But still, is Modern Sky’s Strawberry Festival fucking with us?


Well, the Strawberry Festival might have won the day on that one, since Xiao Zhong got married and fucked off to Melbourne. He's making a brief comeback appearance at this weekend's Concrete and Grass festival though, so we caught up with him to ask where he gets his vitriol out these days, what he's working on musically, why Australians can't drink, and the relative merits of Shanghai-expat versus home-turf life (tldr: mindless self-indulgence).


L to R: A dude, another dude, Xiao Zhong

So how's it going over there in Melbourne? You still follow SmartShanghai's party photos?



Xiao Zhong: It’s going alright, man. Everything is pretty full on at the moment. Just bought an apartment with my wife so reading over mortgage contracts and we’re trying to break lease on our rental, got this grim melanoma on my arm which needs cutting off this week, work is pretty full on, my other band, Pale Heads is recording and got some shows coming up and preparing this Thug Mills China trek. I sometimes look at the Shanghaiist but it’s mostly ads now and I’ll occasionally look at the party photos you guys post, but it’s such a different world from the Shanghai I knew. I do like how you guys almost always select the most attractive girl for the main photo as well.

What happened to ChinaSmack? That website went downhill incredibly fast!

Alas, things change… I miss Slink Rat nipping at all the other blogs' heels. Where do you get your internet venom out these days? Or has marriage and being a "grown adult" with a house and taxes softened you up a bit?



Xiao Zhong: Slink Rat was a lot of fun. Just thought Shanghai needed some music site that was updated daily, as opposed to every third week. Turned out pretty well and people actually read it. Dealing with real estate agents hasn’t softened me up at all, those people are a new level of scum. But I’ve been doing a weekly podcast since I got back which can get pretty ranty at times, and Thug Mills does a band podcast every time we practice. Nothing written though. Just poorly mumbled into high quality microphones.


Zany!

How did you jump back into the Melbourne music scene after moving?



Xiao Zhong: I was pretty lucky the Tom Lyngcoln (The Nation Blue/Harmony) was putting together a new band and asked me to drum so I had this band lined up before I’d even left Shanghai. Landed in Melbourne, went and met the band, Thomy (Batpiss) and Rui (The Drones) and we wrote and recorded four songs at our first meet up. Released that album on Poison City Records and did a bunch of shows. But I wasn’t going to a heap of shows. She came here not knowing many people and live music isn’t really her thing, so would be a dick move to pack up to a new country and leave her home alone while I went and played to a bunch of people in leather jackets or went and watched a Shellac rip-off band.

How'd your new band Thug Mills get together? How would you compare the sound or vibe of the band with Pairs, Tom & Kate and other projects you undertook in Shanghai? Also what does "Thug Mills" mean?



Xiao Zhong: I’ve known [bandmates] Steve and Dante for years, before I moved to China we’d play shows together in our other bands. We share a heap of mutual interests and I wanted to keep playing guitar so they were a pretty obvious choice. It’s probably a good mix of all my old Shanghai bands just with some really heavy bass behind it. I’m enjoying guitar way more than drums at the moment. Feels like guitar has more cheap tricks. If you’re getting tired just loop some noise or kick on some more delay. Can’t do that with drums. The name is two separate references to the band’s favorite radio show. Actually, it’s the best radio show in the whole world and only went for two years starting in 2006. It’s called Get This and was hosted by Tony Martin. That’s what the band bonds over the most -- this radio show -- so we wanted an in-joke band name about an in-joke radio station.

It’s basically like Inception; a wank within a wank.

Did you experience any kind of reverse culture shock moving back to Australia after six years in Shanghai? What were the weirdest things about being back on your home soil?



Xiao Zhong: Yeah, totally. I still take photos of the blue sky. Not over that yet. Having family obligations was weird. You forget that you don’t have that in Shanghai so you have more free time to be self-indulgent, but here you’re expected at your cousin’s 30th or a baby shower or a birthday party. All Shanghai really had that was close was going away teppanyaki shindigs and Mandopop-full KTV sessions your Chinese co-worker would invite you to. It feels like you have to be on top of your shit a bit more here, like buying house insurance and car insurance and doing your taxes. Things I didn’t really think about in China.

When I came back, my driving was fucked. Every car that came near me I thought was going to cut me off, so I’d drive super slow. Thought it was weird that Chinese people living here call Australians "laowai" when technically, they’re the laowai.


Intense!

Xiao Zhong: Oh, and drinking. Australian people can’t really handle their alcohol. Just revert back to high school kids after a few bottles and lose their mind; howling from balconies and being aggressive and gross. We just can’t handle it and as a result, we have so many laws. Can’t drink on the street, only buy booze from bottle shops. Mid-strength alcohol at sporting events. Can’t buy anything before 11am and they’re pretty expensive. People complain we’re a nanny state and it’s incredibly true, but I’m thinking our whole society would crumble if we had the same access to alcohol that China does.

What are you looking forward to doing most when you're back in China?



Xiao Zhong: I miss that "after-gig, go eat some barbecue and drink on a street corner" culture that most of Asia does so well. Here in Australia I’ve got to load out my equipment and drive home after a show.

I’m going to go to Uniqlo and buy some new work shirts. Been waiting for that for two years now, my collars are all fucked. I go to Uniqlo here and do a quick conversion and realize it’s worth just waiting until I go back to China to get some shirts.

Karaoke as well. China does karaoke right and it’s been ages since I’ve bored a room full of people with my Eminem covers.



Catch Thug Mills at Concrete & Grass, 11.50am on September 17 at the Shanghai Rugby Club.

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  • 2 years ago poobum Unverified User

    Hey Rhys - got onto your podcast through here, really like it. Look forward to hearing your band pay at concrete + grass!

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