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Interview: IDH

By Nov 20, 2010 Nightlife


This Sunday night, Shanghai gets treated to the bleak and visceral onslaught of Beijing band IDH -- Illusion Divided by the Hand.

On the periphery of the Beijing 'underground' scene, IDH is roundly appreciated by fellow musicians and scene kids, but as of yet, still largely undiscovered by the rock crowds up there. They're even less known in Shanghai, and despite actively touring since they formed in 2007, this is only the second time they've played in town. It's a rare treat then to see them play in this city then, so you should take advantage of it and make sure you're at Yuyintang on Sunday.

Musically, the "post punk" tag is a fair approximation of what they do, and to our ears there's a healthy appreciation of Bauhaus and Section 25 going on in their sound. Wrenched and wretched guitar chords, dark, atmospheric syths, and plodding but thunderous drum lines. Over top of that is the guttural howling and cawing of lead singer, Xiao Yu, a native of Inner Mongolia, relocated three years ago to Beijing to pursue his music.

They offer up a serious and deep experience. Honestly, one of the best bands we've had the pleasure of seeing in China, deserving of all sorts of acclaim and wonderful things.

Check out a recent recording of one of their tracks on the Indie China website here. Here's their main page and here's their Douban page.

And here’s the event details for Sunday.

SmartShanghai talked to singer / guitarist Xiao Yu and drummer Mike about their band, IDH.


SmSh: IDH = Illusion Divided by the Hand. Can you explain the meaning behind the band name?

Xiao Yu: The meaning behind Illusion Divided by the Hand is quite simple. A lot of things in the world seem to be real, but actually they are just an illusion. I want to use my hands destroy all of the inauthentic things.

SmSh: Xiaoyu, you're originally from Inner Mongolia. How are you adapting to life in Beijing?

Xiao Yu: My life hasn't changed too much from when I was in Inner Mongolia. Besides from playing music, I spend most of my time alone.

SmSh: Did you move to Beijing to pursue your music? How are you being received by Beijing audiences?

Xiao Yu: Yes, I moved to Beijing for this reason. In China, if you do anything cultural such as making art or playing music, Beijing is the place to be. As far as being received by the audiences in Beijing, foreigners tend to appreciate it much more than Chinese people.

SmSh: What are the best and worst aspects of Beijing?

Mike: One of best aspects of Beijing is that there are so many things to do here. One of the worst aspects of Beijing is that everything got ridiculously expensive really fast.

SmSh: Can you describe the music scene in Inner Mongolia? Where people there receptive to what you were doing? Do you carry Mongolian musical elements into your music?

Xiao Yu: Most of the music in Inner Mongolia is folk music. After that, it is primarily pop music. The people there don't really like the music that I am making.

I don't use any Mongolian musical elements in my music. Actually, I am heavily influenced by British music.

SmSh: One of the elements that separates IDH from a lot of bands in China is the sheer emotional intensity of the music and performance. Is it difficult to recreate an honest and intense performance night after night on tour? Is it more difficult to do when there aren't as many people at the shows?

Xiao Yu: Actually, what you are talking about has a small influence, but only a small part. When I am singing, I don't consciously think about this. Perhaps when I am performing, I am truly being myself. It doesn't matter if there are a lot of people or not, I just want to give the best performance that I can.

SmSh: What sorts of things in life inspire you to write songs? What are your songs about?

Xiao Yu: My songs are mostly about my life and thoughts. So, my personality and experiences play a big part in writing songs. Maybe I am too sensitive, so a lot of things will affect me and these are the things that I write about.

SmSh: Another interesting aspect of the band is the guitar set-up. Plugging the guitar into the two amps... how did that all come about?

Xiao Yu: It came about through experimentation, I am still trying it out. The two amps have different settings which gives the music a fuller sound. This gives the audience a different feeling for the music.

SmSh: IDH is self-described on your webpages as "post punk". What was it that drew you to this genre of music? How do you feel about the post punk coming out of China these days?

Xiao Yu: The webpages say post-punk because I feel the attitude and style are similar. I personally have been influenced by this style of music a lot. There a lot of things in China that are funny to me. I don't know why in the past several years there have been so many bands that have been labelled post punk. To me, most of these bands aren't post punk.

SmSh: One of the bands we hear a lot in your music is Bauhaus... what is about Bauhaus that you like and that you incorporate in your music?

Xiao Yu: Yes, Bauhaus is one of my favorite bands. I really like their songs and approach to creating music and this aspect has influenced me.

SmSh: What do you think of that 2008 album, Go Away White?

Xiao Yu: It's ok. Thing about Go Away White is that just isn't as good as their earlier albums.

SmSh: Do you trace any Chinese rock bands as significant influences in your music?

Xiao Yu: No. My significant influences come from outside of China.

SmSh: Obligatory "Beijing scene" question: Hows the music scene in Beijing these days? Which newer bands coming out of that city can you recommend to people in Shanghai?

Mike: The best show I have seen this year in Beijing was Pairs, but they're from Shanghai so that probably doesn't count. White+ is not bad.

SmSh: Where do you see IDH heading in the future? Are you seeking large-scale exposure for your work -- labels, distro, etc?

Xiao Yu: I hope that a good record company will help us to record an album. Also, I want to have more opportunities to play good shows and tour outside of China.

Mike: I would really like to go Europe and North America tour and find a record company that will help promote us.

SmSh: Are you working on recording anything?

Xiao Yu: We plan to release an album next year.

Mike: We just recorded a new song called "The road behind me" and made a music video for it. You can check it out on our website It will be available at shows on our tour.


IDH perform at Yuyintang on Sunday night.



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