And I scream from the top of my lungs, hey yeah yeah, hey yeah yeah. I said hey, what's going on? What’s good Shanghai? Hopefully everyone has a spring in their step from last weekend’s blue skies and rock around the clock in town action. Even if you are a beer guzzling expat getting down to the sounds of DJ B.O. and Rocky Ross at this year’s Beer Festival, stuck in the club with DJ Paris Hilton, or like me enjoying a family friendly time at the JZ Festival, you have to admit it was a pretty good weekend.
The JZ Festival is really all about the family -- oh and twenty something Chinese kids on day dates that will be starting families any minute now. To be honest I liked watching the JZ School stage more than the over the hill funk stars trying to pay off their child support bills by relentlessly touring around the world. Some of those little fuckers can jam. Makes me wish my parents would have pushed me to learn drums instead of letting me focus the majority of my youth on beating the Legend of Zelda.
Well, the show must go on, and today we are going to focus on a less than family-friendly rock event in the form of Fanzui Xiangfa playing Yuyintang on Sunday. The Beijing punk band is fronted by Nevin Domer, who runs Genjing Records and also works for Maybe Mars Records. Along with sharing some of his punk rock tunes, I thought this would be a good time to give updates on what’s going on with these two indie powerhouse labels. Strap on that denim vest and spike that Mohawk, let’s dive into the mosh pit together.
Since starting in 2006, self-described fast-core group Fanzui Xiangfa has become one of China’s most respected bands. The multi-national death crew of hard living members represent the crustier side of life, sticking to the ethos formed in the 1980’s scene from DIY magazine’s like Maximum Rocknroll. One such ethos is the classic punk format of one to two minute songs. Their entire discography album released last year which includes 25 tracks is a mere 35 minutes long. What they lack in long wind they make up for with a punch in the face angst that will get you dancing the pogo almost immediately. In fact, if you make it down to Yuyintang on Sunday, October 25, be prepared for slam dancing and spilled beer.
Also playing Sunday is Swedish band Bad Nerve, who hail from the progressive town of Umea. Inspired by the various counterculture punk movements of Europe and America, Bad Nerve's lyrics come directly from events going on around them like right wing Swedish leaders or drone wars. Even though their town only has a population of about 100,000 people, nearly 40,000 are university students, which creates no shortage of zines, bands, and troublemakers. Dig down deep and drag yourself to Sunday’s Fanzui Xiangfa & Bad Nerve show at Yuyintang. For now check out a couple tracks released by them on Genjing Records.
Fanzui Xiangfa – "D.I.Y"
Bad Nerve – "I Don’t Want to Hear It"
Fanzui Xiangfa front man Nevin Domer has put out over 40 releases on his Bejing-based label Genjing over the past 5 years. This vinyl label is partly responsible for the recent trend with local youth collecting independent records (or any music in physical format, for that matter). Also having these physical releases have helped the world get a taste of Chinese rock since Genjing is distributed all over the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia, and more. Let’s check out a couple recent record releases along with a preview of a couple November releases.
Released over the summer is a solid addition to the Genjing catalog in the form of Xi’an post-punk band The Fuzz. While currently Xi’an is famous for her terracotta warriors, that will soon change as this band is destined to be the true attraction of Shaanxi province. Engineered and produced by none other than PK14 front man Yang Hai Song at his infamous Psychic Kong studio, the quality on this record is piercing. One of the growing indie rock bands to sing in Mandarin, the minimal keyboard and solid guitar work of The Fuzz help support Peng Liu’s emotive vocals. Run, don’t walk, to your local record store and pick up this gem for a street price of 50rmb.
The Fuzz – "Golden Cage"
Released last September is a record from Beijing-via-Xinjiang alt-rock outfit MeToo. While they used to tour in the late '00s, the band took a couple years hiatus to find themselves and are back with a vengeance. It’s hard to pin down the style of MeToo, as they are more pop driven, but with a strange twist that can’t quite be defined. I would lean towards labeling them alt-rock. The band also sings in Mandarin and incorporates synth and glitch elements not standard in the Genjing Records roster. While listening to MeToo I can’t help but be transported into some sort of '90s idea of the future where cyborgs are sending faxes and people are talking via modems. If you are looking for strange Chinese pop then look no further my friends.
MeToo – "Frankenstein"
Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes
Soon to be released in November of 2015 is a record from the now defunct Shanghai band Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes that featured Australian expat Rhys from the band Pairs, Daniel Nagels, Samuel Welsh, and Shanghai-based songbird Sharon Q. While Sharon has moved onto a new project, this record comes to us from beyond the grave in a beautiful splatter color 12” vinyl record that is also translucent. The album was mixed by local producer Laura Ingalls, and the production quality is on point. Somewhere between dreamy post rock and pop, this album is destined to turn heads both at home and abroad. If you pre-order the album, Genjing Records will throw in a purple vinyl 7” for free. While there are no tracks online yet, I’ll share with you a song from that 7” released last year. If you can’t wait until November, I do have an advanced copy of the LP at my record store. Come on down and listen with them and we’ll discuss things that never were or never will be.
Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes - "你不爱我"
Zhang Shou Wang & Kid Millions
Another November release on Genjing's horizon is a collaborative project from Carsick Cars front man Zhang Shou Wang and drummer Kid Millions a.k.a. John Colpitts from the band Oneida. This is a live piece recorded at Beijing’s former XP club last year and is also coming out on a 12” splatter color vinyl.
If you are looking for the conventional indie rock format of Carsick Cars then keep on moving because this record, which is a continuous jam session, is far out experimental sounds. The sound quality is lo-fi, not your polished studio productions, so this one is going to appeal to fans of China’s current experimental scene and diehard Carsick Cars fans who just want a piece of anything Zhang Shou Wang touches. Also, there is no preview online yet, but again feel free to stop by and listen with me in person. I get more into the album with each listen as it’s not exactly pop-friendly.
This year saw the end of Beijing’s XP club, which was the showroom for Maybe Mars records, and many of us were curious: what is the fate of China’s favorite indie rock label? Well after a tiny lull, it looks like Maybe Mars is back on track with a brand new P.K. 14 album titled "Music for An Exhibition" that's coming out on October 21, 2015. Wait a minute that’s the exact date when Marty McFly ventured into the future world of 2015 with flying cars, hover boards, and hologram Jaws movies. Coincidence?
This album is a also futuristic journey with Zhu Wenbo adding drones and Alpine Decline using their modular euro-rack synth to round things out with an eerie backbone. Much like the Zhang Shou Wang & Kid Millions album, this piece was recorded live in one take with no overdubs, although the recording quality on Music for An Exhibition seems to be stronger. With two of China’s biggest indie rock stars both releasing experimental albums in the same month, are we going to see a trickle down trend into the rest of the middle kingdom’s local bands? I hope so.
P.K. 14 - "Kim"
See you Sunday at the Fanzui Xiangfa & Bad Nerve show. Again, feel free to come listen to any of these albums with me in person anytime as I have no friends and plenty of kettle chips to share.