Nevin enjoying a hookah in Kunshan (photo by Lulu Chow)
"Culture Bureau" is an ongoing SmartBeijing interview series in which we take long, meandering strolls down memory lane with pillars of the Beijing cultural community.
When I first moved to Beijing in 2009, I was eager to get plugged in to the local music scene. It took about thirty seconds for me to be pointed in the direction of Nevin Domer, who was then the booking manager at legendary venue D-22 and COO at local indie label Maybe Mars. Nevin was my spirit guide for my first year in Beijing, when I was working a real job. Afterwards he became sort of my boss, when I took over booking duties for him at D-22. Not long thereafter, he launched Genjing Records, his vinyl-only passion project, which has a ton of events coming up in the next few weeks. I'd write more in this intro but I am literally maxing out the total number of characters I can input into this box. This interview is really, really long. Grab a six pack:
SmartBeijing.com: OK, so let's start at the beginning. How did you come to China in the first place? It had something to do with studying religion, or philosophy, or politics, is that right?
Nevin Domer: Yeah, yeah. I was in college, and I was studying computer science and programming at that point, and I was beginning to wonder if I really wanted to spend the rest of my life sitting behind a desk. So then I had a chance my sophomore year to go abroad, and I was like, "I don't know what I'm doing, I'm not sure what I want to do, so I'm just gonna go someplace and clear my mind." And in looking where to go, I thought, "I want to go as far away as possible." So the choice was really, at that point, between Japan, China, and India, and I chose China. I lived in Dalian for a year, just studying Chinese in university.
SmBj: What year was this?
ND: That was 1999-2000. And then when I went back I changed my major to Peace Studies, which is a mix of sociology, politics, history, and a little bit of religion.
SmBj: So you did a year abroad in Dalian. After that, did you immediately have a desire to go back to Asia? After graduating you moved to Korea, right?
ND: Yeah. I guess part of the reason I was able to change my major to Peace Studies was because, before I kind of had this fear about getting a job, and then after living in China for a year, I was kind of like, "Fuck, I can do whatever I want, so I'm just gonna go." When I went back to the US it wasn't like I was definitely gonna live abroad. But I was also just like, "Sure, why not." And so when it came time to graduate I was looking for stuff to do, I wondered what I was going to do next and I applied for a Fulbright scholarship. And I would have come to China, except at that point we didn't have a Fulbright relationship with China. So the closest one that I could get was Korea. It was partly research type stuff, I was researching Korean social movements, especially around Kwangju and the uprising there. Then it was partly teaching, which came out of the old Peace Corps programs. When Peace Corps kind of got shut down, some countries still wanted to have the US teaching English in their countries, [and] that kind of got pulled into the Fulbright program. So I was also teaching in a public high school for the first year I was there.
SmBj: In Kwangju?
ND: No actually, south of Kwangju, in a place called Boseong. It was a really, really small village right on the southern coast. But the closest big city was Kwangju.
SmBj: So you did that for a year?
ND: Yeah I did that for a year, and then afterwards I moved to Seoul, where I was doing private tutoring. But I was mostly involved in political stuff. Mainly the migrant workers' protest movement, migrant workers being workers from Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia, Mongolia, even China, that were working in Korea. [I was] doing that and also doing a little bit of Food Not Bombs and working with Korean Indie Media.
SmBj: And you were also pretty involved with the punk scene there?
ND: Yeah, I was. I went there in 2002, but for the first year I was living down south so I wasn't going to a lot of shows. But I became friends with some kids in The Geeks and Rux. I became friends with those bands, and then later when I moved up to Seoul I was pretty much going to shows every weekend. I helped set up tours for a Japanese band called Battle of Disarm, an old peace crust band, [and] a hardcore band called R.A.M.B.O. from Philadelphia. I was playing in kind of a thrash/grindcore band called Pulgasari, and just did a lot of stuff with the music scene while I was there. Although, still at that time my main focus was actually the political stuff.
SmBj: Were the punks in Korea involved with the political activity as well, or was that totally separate?
ND: It was pretty separate, except I found out later that some of the kids that I was doing stuff with in the more political end had been involved with the punk scene at the very end of the '90s, and then got jaded with it and left to be more in the political stuff. By the time I was leaving in 2005, there was a section of kids in the punk and hardcore scene that were becoming more political and getting involved in different protest movements. But most of the time I was there, it was actually fairly separate.
SmBj: How long were you there total?
ND: I was there from 2002 to 2005. The main thing I was doing when I moved up to Seoul was studying Korean. I studied Korean at Seoul National University. So I was doing that along with the activist stuff and the teaching to pay the bills. At that time I was making on average 50 US dollars an hour doing private tutoring. I could have made up to 100 US an hour depending on what kind of stuff I was doing. So I would work six or seven hours a week, and then study and do the political stuff apart from that. It was pretty good.
SmBj: When you were in Korea did you travel elsewhere within Asia at all?
ND: Yeah I did. I had to leave four times a year for visa stuff. I spent a lot of time traveling to Japan, meeting some of the kids in various punk scenes in Tokyo, as well as hanging out with the kids doing Indie Media in Tokyo, and some other more anarchist type stuff there. Especially hanging out with the guys at Irregular Rhythm Asylum, which is a really fuckin' awesome info shop in Shinjuku. I visited Taiwan and hung out with B.B. Bomb and an expat band at that time called The Deported down there. Went to Formoz Fest. I was in the Philippines for a while, hitchhiking around with a bunch of the punks and anarchists there, which was fucking insane. I went to Sapporo… Yeah, I did a lot of trips around Asia. I came to China a couple of times during that period too. At that point in time, mostly visiting activists and people involved in the punk music scene in various countries.
SmBj: Did you find anyone like that in China?
ND: No. [laughs] Actually when I was visiting China at that point I didn't. Although I had been in touch with Mai Dian in Wuhan, who was doing CHAOS zine. I'd been in touch with him over email for quite a while. He was one of the only kids I knew from China that was involved in the punk scene and with politics. In 2005 when I was looking to actually move back to China, I did find out about Joyside and several other bands that were active at that time. But it wasn't until 2005 that I really learned about them. When I had been in Dalian in '99, I knew about the older bands like Fly, No, Tongue, Pangu, and Underground Baby, although in my trips to Beijing at that time I was never able to catch a show. Although I had CDs and tapes by them, I had no contact with them or an actual music scene in China until coming back in 2005.
SmBj: Were there any bands around in Dalian the first time you were there?
ND: No, not really. I played in this punk band that my cousin and I started called Bu Hao Chi, we started in Dalian in '99. We played shows mostly at the Dalian University of Foreign Languages, mostly at the campus to other students. There were like six students from Europe and the US, and the rest were all Korean, Japanese, Russian, Mongolian. I didn't find really any live music happening in Dalian at that time. Although I believe I met the bass player from Wang Wen at that time. They had a grunge band, but they weren't really playing shows in '99, and they hadn't started doing post-rock stuff yet. But there was this one market I used to go to to buy dakou CDs and straight up pirated CDs, you could find stuff like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, a bunch of classic rock, Nirvana, stuff like that. There was a market I used to go to to buy that stuff, and there was one stall I very clearly remember going to. Talking to the Wang Wen guys later, and comparing memories, I'm pretty sure at that time it was the stall of the bass player from Wang Wen. But at the time I didn't really talk to him that much or even know that he played in a band.
SmBj: At that time was Adam, your cousin, also studying in Dalian, or was he just hanging out?
ND: No, he was studying there. Part of the reason that I chose to go to China at that time as opposed to another country in Asia was because Adam's father and my uncle was, at that point in time, a chemistry professor at the university that I went to. And he was taking a year sabbatical, and he also chose to go to China, to Dalian. And so it just so happened that Adam went with him, and it would have been at that point his freshman year in high school. [laughs] He spent that freshman year in China.
SmBj: What university did you go to?
ND: It was called Manchester College, in a small town in the center of Indiana. Like I said, I went there for Computer Science, but at the time I was studying Computer Science because I thought I needed to get a good, solid job. But at the time I was still very interested in Peace Studies. In high school I had been involved in political punk and protest movements. I chose that college because it had the oldest Peace Studies program in the US. Even though I later changed my major from Computer Science to Peace Studies, it wasn't a completely unexpected thing.
SmBj: So you moved from Seoul to Beijing in 2005? Why?
ND: I loved living in Korea. I still love Korea. I became fluent in Korean and was working as a translator for a cable access TV station. I still have really, really good friends there. But the society itself, especially at that time, was very, very limiting. If you were a foreigner in Korea, either you were military or you were an English teacher. There were no other options available to you. After being there for four years and looking around in Seoul and trying to figure out what to do, I could have continued to make — and I was making — really good money teaching English, and I could have continued to do that, but I was looking to do something a little different, or see what other options were available. And it was that sort of limiting aspect of the culture that made me decide it was time to leave and try someplace else. And so I came to China looking for more opportunities.
SmBj: Did you have anything lined up in Beijing beforehand?
ND: Fuck no. [laughs] I was gonna come [to Beijing] no matter what, and Adam had just finished his university in the UK at that time, and he wasn't sure what he was gonna do. I told him, "I think I'm gonna go back to China," and he said, "Well, I'll go too." He came to Korea to meet me because I was doing the Battle of Disarm tour there. He came and we hung out with Battle of Disarm while they played Korea. And then we stayed for the rest of December for the big Christmas and New Year's punk shows that were happening. And then just took all our shit and got on a boat from Incheon to Dalian. Got back to Dalian, met up with some old friends that we knew there, and through them we met this guy who ran a bar, and he basically just let us sleep in his bar. So we lived in the bar for about two weeks, just hanging out with all our shit. And then took the train to Beijing, and really had no plan whatsoever.
We found the cheapest apartment we could. I had an idea that I wanted to be in the Wudaokou area because I knew there were language schools there to study Chinese and also because the main club that I had heard about at that time that had regular punk shows was 13 Club. I was like, "OK, language programs, punk shows. That's where I want to be." But then for the first year we didn't really do anything. We were actually pretty much dead broke by the time we got to Beijing. We stayed in this apartment with no heat and rats in the walls and just kind of sat around preparing stuff for Bu Hao Chi, organizing a band. Going to punk shows, which were about every other week. But we'd go to every one we could. And then I was writing a zine at that time. But, yeah, that's really all we did. And then after doing that for a little bit and running out of money, we realized we had to do something. So I organized a way for us to go back to Korea to teach a camp. It wasn't all that long actually. We were in China for about a month and a half, and then we were like, "Shit, we have no money!" We had actually thought at that point, either we were gonna go back to Korea to teach, or we were gonna fly to New Zealand to pick fruit, and then hitchhike back from New Zealand all the way to Beijing. We actually went through and got our working visas for New Zealand, I had to get a TB test because I had been living in Korea. And then I was a hundred bucks short of being able to buy the plane ticket. So we just got on a boat for Korea, where we earned more money. And then we came back to China and lived on that for six months.
SmBj: So you came back to China, and you were mostly just going to shows at 13 Club every other week? What other clubs would have punk shows?
ND: It was mainly 13 Club. It wasn't that 13 Club had shows every other week, it was that there was a punk show every other week. So sometimes it was at 13 Club. I saw a bunch of shows at Nameless Highland, which was pretty crazy. They sold a ticket and you'd use that ticket to get into the show, but they wouldn't take it away from you. If you'd go out and come back in you'd just show them the ticket. So Adam and I had the ticket for the show, and we'd use that for like five shows. I'd see a lot of big shows there. There'd be shows where there was Subs, Joyside, Caffe-In, and New Pants playing together, stuff like that. And then some of the best shows were actually at the New What? Bar. At that time my understanding of Beijing geography was pretty terrible, so I'm not even exactly sure where it was, but it was this weird little bar. The first time I saw Joyside was there, the first time I saw The Believers, a bunch of other bands were all at New What? Bar.
SmBj: How would you find out about shows at that point?
ND: That's a good question… We quickly became friends with the guys from Joyside and they would tell us about shows. I also became friends with Believers and, eventually, Demerit at that time. I think we mainly found out about shows from other shows. And sometimes we would find them on listing sites like That's Beijing and other sites online. But yeah… the shows weren't very widely attended. You'd go to a show and there'd be like thirty people. Some of the bigger shows at Nameless Highland might have over a hundred. But the scene was pretty small.
SmBj: And you were also in the process of putting together Bu Hao Chi at that point?
ND: Yeah. Adam and I had played in Bu Hao Chi in Dalian, and we were working on playing stuff again. But it was just him and I. And then we were at a Joyside show at New What? Bar, just talking to a couple of people there we had met for the first time. We were talking about how cool it would be to do punk rock covers of Johnny Cash songs. This was the very beginning of 2006. This one guy was like, "Well, I can play drums." And this other girl was like, "I can play the banjo." And we were like, "Fuckin hell, OK, we'll do it!" Bu Hao Chi before had been more skate punk or pop punk, like Screeching Weasel/Queers-influenced type of stuff. And then that [conversation] formed our direction to be like, "OK, we're gonna do punk rock covers of Johnny Cash."
SmBj: Who were the drummer and banjo player?
ND: The drummer was a guy named Matt who had been living there, and left about six months later. So the life of that phase of the band wasn't too long. And the banjo player was a girl named Lindsey, who had been writing some sort of thesis on Chinese punk music.
SmBj: So after that you played a couple shows of Johnny Cash covers, and how did it go from there? Were those your first shows as Bu Hao Chi in Beijing?
ND: Yeah, those were the first shows as Bu Hao Chi. We started out just playing Johnny Cash covers. I don't remember too much about the Bu hao Chi shows, other than we could pack out D-22 on a Wednesday night, and I was so drunk that I don't think I remember ever playing a set. [laughs] Usually the shows would end with us passing out. Which was actually pretty typical for the scene back then, following cues from Joyside. But we played our first show at 13 Club. We played New What? Bar, and then we played what was… Well, the first show at D-22 was Carsick Cars, that was kind of like the "secret" opening show. And then the second show that happened was Bu Hao Chi. We had become friends with this guy named Mark Adis, who worked at the US Embassy, and he was one of the co-founders of D-22. He built the sound system, set up the stage, and was doing sound for the first six months. We had just met him drinking at different shows, and he was like, "Hey, you should come play at this new club." "Fuck, OK, yeah we'll play anywhere. Whatever, yeah." So we started playing there on Wednesday nights and became… I don't want to use the word "house band," but we became the regular Wednesday night band. Which became way more successful than I imagined, because we were friends with a lot of the other bands in the scene and they would all come out just to party, and Adam had this way of rigging the City Weekend website. You'd post events there, and then the events that got the most clicks would move to the top. So he would set up this script for it that would keep opening all these screens and refreshing them. So every week we were the top event on City Weekend. [laughs] So you'd get these professors out from the local colleges… The place was just packed on Wednesday nights, and I'd be like, "I don't know what's going on, but I'm getting wasted!" [laughs] And, you know, there's probably a good portion of people who saw us once and never came back. But it was a pretty fun time, and for years after that we'd still get people that would come up to us randomly that we'd never met before. Or, they'd come up to Adam. He would get naked a lot during the shows, so they'd come up to him later and be like, "I've seen your dick." [laughs] Adam would just nod and be like, "Yup, lots of people have."
Naked Adam playing in Fanzui Xiangfa
SmBj: Do you remember who else you played with at that first show at D-22?
ND: Um… see, here's the thing: As fun as I think Bu Hao Chi was, I really have a hard time remembering any of the shows because I was literally blackout drunk almost every time we'd play. I do remember one of the early shows — I don't think it was our first, I think it was the second show we played — was opening for Carsick Cars. Basically Carsick Cars were playing a big weekend show at D-22, and Mark asked [Carsick Cars frontman] Shouwang, "Who do you want to open?" And he was like, "Bu Hao Chi." So we ended up playing with Carsick Cars probably before we were ready to do that. We did a lot of shows with… well, Joyside didn't exist at that time. Joyside had broken up, and it was the members of Joyside without Yang Yang, who was the original guitarist, playing in a Johnny Thunders/Dead Boys cover band called Johnny's Teeth. We ended up playing with them a lot, and we ended up playing with Bian Yuan and [Joyside drummer] Fan Bo doing their acoustic stuff that later became The Lones. We played with those guys a lot.
And then towards the end we changed the Wednesday night series. After I ended up taking over the booking [at D-22], I ended up changing the Wednesday night thing, so it was still Bu Hao Chi, but we did a thing called "Shot for Shot with Bu Hao Chi." We'd invite different bands, lots of bands… we had No Name from Xi'an come at one point, lots of bands throughout China and then some bands from abroad. The whole thing was, we'd sit down with a bottle of whiskey, and we'd all do shots until somebody called it and said, "That's it." And then we'd do rock paper scissors to see which band would play first. At that point, you want to play first. [laughs] The whole thing was just like, how much can you drink, and once you've done it, can you actually stand up on stage and play? Those shows were… like I said, I can't remember them, but I'm pretty sure they were fun. [laughs]
SmBj: At what point did you start booking at D-22? How did that come about?
ND: I don't remember when exactly, but we had been playing for maybe a month and a half or something. Six or seven Wednesdays at D-22. My main contact there was Mark, he was one of the founders. But I had met [D-22 founder] Michael [Pettis] a couple of times obviously, from playing at his club. And he approached me and said, "Look, we really need someone to do the booking. Would you like to do it for us?" At that point I was friends with pretty much all the bands in the scene, it was a pretty small scene for that kind of music. And so it kind of made sense that he would ask me, but I was like, "No." [laughs] "It sounds like work." I think he even said something like, "We can't really pay you." And I was like, "Nah, I don't really want to do that." [laughs] "I have enough going on, I'm practicing with my band every day and getting drunk and having fun."
SmBj: Were you working a job then, or just coasting off the Korea camp money?
ND: I was coasting off the Korea camp, and I got a job teaching kindergarten at the Korean school in Wangjing. I'd go work from maybe 8 to noon or 8 to 1 on weekdays and then I'd have the whole afternoon free. Because I speak Korean, I could do these kindergarten classes, and usually there's a Korean co-teacher, but they wouldn't have to be there because I could handle the kids and I could talk to them in Korean. So they loved me, they payed me really, really well. It was a great job. So Michael asked me, and I kept saying no. But then after a couple of weeks he kind of wore me down. I was like, "OK, fuck it, I'll do it." And it wasn't supposed to be like a job… I had this other job going on, and I think [Michael] was paying me like 500 kuai a month or something. Which actually went a much further way than it does now. I was living off pretty much nothing at that point. 500 kuai a month and I could come to every show for free and get free beer. So he eventually wore me down and I did say yes and started doing it. It turned out to be a major pain in the ass. [laughs] I mean, there weren't that many bands in the scene, and just organizing them and getting them to play with each other — because a lot of bands hated different other bands and wouldn't play together, wouldn't play before another band — was a lot of work. And as I was doing that, I was still working at this kindergarten. That was in summer of 2006. D-22 started in May, and then it was probably July that I started doing the booking. Then in 2007 when Maybe Mars started, Michael had me involved in that, and that was the time when he actually started paying me a real salary and I ended up quitting my other job and doing D-22 and doing Maybe Mars full time.
SmBj: In the interim, before Maybe Mars started, you were just booking, and you were pretty much at D-22 every night at that point?
ND: Yeah, but in 2006 there were really only shows on the weekends.
SmBj: And the Wednesdays?
ND: Yeah. We did the Wednesday shows, but I think actually I was only booking Friday and Saturday [when I started]. I think at some point we started having Red Hand Jazz Band play on Sundays. And then I think Thursdays, we didn't always have shows, but every once in a while there would be a more experimental show on a Thursday night. But the main booking thing, the nights that were really serious were really only the Friday and Saturday nights. There was sort of a list of bands, which were pretty much all of the bands in this underground scene that Michael wanted to play, and we would book every band twice a month. [laughs] Just for the weekend. There weren't a lot of bands, so the booking was much easier than it became later.
SmBj: So Mark Adis initially brought you in to D-22. At what point did he leave?
ND: Yeah. He left pretty early on actually. I think he left about the same time I started booking. There was a falling out between him and Charles [Saliba], and at that point he just decided to go. Maybe that was the end of the summer/beginning of the fall, something like that. He was there every night in the very beginning.
SmBj: He was essentially a founding partner…
ND: Yeah, it was basically him and Michael. Michael basically put in all the money for the venue, and Mark put in all the money for the sound system and built it and ran the sound. I mean, he actually was doing the sound in the beginning. So maybe it was actually longer that he was there… And Charles started out as the bar manager, but he didn't have a stake in the venue when it started. But yeah, I can't remember exactly… You know, to be honest, those early days of D-22, 2006 and 2007, there was so much alcohol involved that a lot of it really blurs together for me. I have a hard time distinguishing a lot of things that happened at that point and what happened when.
SmBj: So you eventually started working at Maybe Mars. From what I understand, Maybe Mars started because there were all these bands playing at D-22, and bands like Carsick Cars and Joyside wanted to put out CDs, so Maybe Mars basically came out of the D-22 scene...
ND: Yeah. I mean the early scene at D-22 was very, very exciting. Like I said, there were venues to play before. 13 Club, New What? Bar, Get Lucky. Although Get Lucky wasn't having very many shows by the time I got to Beijing. There were these venues to play, but most of them at that point were pretty much bars with a stage. They didn't really care so much about the bands. The whole thing with the early D-22 scene was having a stage for the bands to play on, and treating the bands really well. And that meant musicians pretty much always got free entrance to any show and free beer once they got in. So you'd have punks showing up for the jazz shows because they could come in for free and drink for free. And they'd just be hanging out there. Or you'd have these crazy experimental shows, like Lucas Abela, [aka] Justice Yeldham, he was smashing this glass on his face, bleeding all over the place, and there'd be kids there with mohawks having their minds blown. So it was a really interesting atmosphere where pretty much everybody hung out with everybody, because there really weren't that many other places to go.
One of the things that was the most fun about the shows for me was, you'd have shows that would go until like 1 in the morning, there'd be 70 or 120 people at the show or whatever. And then the musicians there would stay until 5 just jamming on the stage. You'd have kids from Joyside and Queen Sea Big Shark and whoever else, these older bands, getting up and jamming together. In a situation where they have to pay for their practice space, they're only ever really practicing together as a band and playing shows together. This was a chance for them to actually play with other people in the scene for the first time. And so there was a real community about it, a real excitement about it. And then it came time for some of the bands that were kind of growing up with the D-22 scene, mainly Carsick Cars and Snapline, where they wanted to release albums. They went to Modern Sky and were offered a pretty terrible deal, which was a standard deal they offered other people. And they told Michael about it. I mean, I don't think they were really that surprised about it, but they told Michael and they were like, "Look, this is what [Modern Sky is] gonna give us, and we can't really afford to do anything." And Michael was like, "Bands should be given more than this. They need more help in actually being able to afford to do things." And so out of that was how Maybe Mars formed.
SmBj: What was your role at Maybe Mars in the beginning?
ND: Well, one other thing I want to mention, when I say Modern Sky offered them a pretty shitty deal and stuff like that… Even at this point, as exciting as the D-22 scene was, we're really only talking about shows that were 70 to 150 people. There wasn't an audience for this music at that time. It was a very small, close-knit community. So it wasn't like these bands had... well, they had huge potential, obviously, but it wasn't that they already had a huge fan base or that there were a lot of people in China interested in that sort of music. There weren't. So my role in Maybe Mars in the beginning … You know, I wasn't even sure I knew at that point. Michael was like, "OK, we're gonna start a record label." There was Yang Haisong, who was sort of heading it up, Jonny from P.K.14 was doing a lot of work on the design of the first three CDs, which were Joyside, Carsick Cars, and Snapline, and all the different materials for the label. And then [Snapline founder/original Carsick Cars drummer] Li Qing and TR were both involved in it. In the very beginning, I actually didn't do much of anything. They handled the design, they handled the production, they handled all that stuff. And then I was kind of pushed to take the label past this point and actually handle more of the business management stuff. Which I was definitely not qualified for. [laughs] But you know, it was a pretty exciting time. There were a lot of experiments, a lot of trial by error in the beginning of Maybe Mars to see how we were gonna make this label actually function.
SmBj: After those first three releases, what was the goal? How do you jump from being a label that comes from this Beijing-based club to trying to find bands from other cities?
ND: I didn't really think about that type of stuff. I was just given a job to do and then I was trying to think about how best to do it. I just wanted to see cool things happen. After those first three, the next two were SMZB and Demerit, which are two that are much closer to what my preference was at that time and to my history with punk music. Demerit was a band I brought on, and then SMZB [frontman] Wu Wei was introduced to the label through Yang Haisong. They weren't chosen as a way to grow the label, but basically the same way that the early bands were: here's some bands that are doing some cool stuff, and they're not getting any support. Why don't we help them do something? And so it's just sort of been like that the whole time.
Even now, when Maybe Mars chooses bands to work with, it's not bands that are commercially viable in a lot of cases. They're not bands that have an audience or fit into a type of music that can easily be sold or marketed in China. It's more stuff that people on the label — especially Michael, but other people in the label too — find interesting and want to support. Especially in the beginning, I think there was no real goal or business model. It was just about having the opportunity to do some cool stuff with bands in the scene, and then seeing what could be done and trying to do something that would be fun.
SmBj: Even after Maybe Mars started, your main job was still running D-22, right? It had grown into running pretty much daily shows by that point. After Maybe Mars started, how did D-22 change and how did your job change?
ND: D-22 was definitely the main part of my job, and it's where I put the majority of my effort and the majority of my love. D-22 was very, very important to me, and, I feel, very, very important to the Chinese scene from 2006 to 2008. And so, in the beginning, Maybe Mars didn't really have an office. It was just working to put out bands. But it was kind of, in my mind, just an extension of D-22. Bands that are playing, building this scene, building this community, and then putting out albums. But then we built an office in 2008 on… well, right of Nanluoguxiang, it wasn't Bei Bing Ma Si [hutong], but it was the hutong [just] south of that. And we had an early office there above a record shop. Although the office itself wasn't really that active as an office. There was a record shop that was open, and then sometimes people would show up to do stuff. But most of the stuff with the label was still being done by individuals in not the most organized way.
Things started to get more serious, the label started to have more releases and more opportunities. The focus slowly began to shift from D-22 to Maybe Mars. And I was getting a lot of pressure from Michael to spend more time on the label instead of the venue. Actually, in the summer of 2008, when the Olympics happened, I lost my visa. I took Demerit for a tour in Korea, at which point I was gonna renew my visa to come back to China, and they wouldn't give me one because of the Olympics. They were refusing to give out new visas. They would only give out two-week tourist visas to people who had purchased tickets to the Olympics. I had spent a lot of money to be able to renew my visa, and then it didn't work. So then I spent a lot of money to get a two-week tourist visa. I came back, put all my stuff in storage, and then flew back to Korea and hung out there for the whole summer, basically waiting for the Olympics to end so I could get another visa to come back to China. It wasn't such a bad deal. I lived in my friend's recording studio and ended up getting a really well-paying job teaching English for about a month and a half. So it was pretty good for me. But then when I was finally able to come back to China, I felt like things had changed a little bit.There was much more focus on doing something with Maybe Mars at that point. So then my job shifted, starting from the end of 2008, towards more focus on the label and less on the venue.
SmBj: I'm curious about the Olympics. It seems there was a lot of media attention on D-22 in the lead-up, a ton of journalists parachuting in, and also a lot of these bands had built this scene and put out albums, and all of this came together for this perfect storm. How do you think D-22 changed at the time? What was the scene like in the lead-up to the Olympics?
ND: 2008 was really when the scene was starting to break. Around the time D-22 opened, Dos Kolegas also opened. And then after D-22 opened, New What? Bar shut down, Old What? Bar opened. Yugong Yishan had been a venue near Gongti [Beijing Workers' Stadium], that in my recollection was more like a pool bar, a bar with a nice pool table and a tiny stage. But then the new Yugong Yishan opened. Mao Livehouse opened. Star Live opened. And so, starting in 2007, there were a lot more venues. There were also a lot more recording studios than there used to be. I remember recording stuff with Bu Hao Chi and the first Fanzui Xiangfa [record], and they were these shitty little studios in car parks. Don't get me wrong, that also could describe Yang Haisong's studio… [laughs] But there were more studios and more people who actually understood this new... I don't know how to describe it, but this new underground music, whether you want to call it indie or punk or whatever else. And [these studios] were able to actually record some of these younger bands. It was also around 2008 that VICE first came to Beijing and wrote something about Misandao.
And then Converse came and they were looking for something to do. I had taken them around to see some practice spaces, some studios, some venues, and eventually they decided to do this tour with P.K.14 and Queen Sea Big Shark. So all of a sudden you started getting companies interested in the underground scene, and doing commercial stuff with the music and the bands. The shows were getting bigger, the venues were getting bigger, everything was sort of breaking out. It was all leading up to what was set to be a pretty amazing time. The Olympics sort of killed that momentum in some ways, but not really, because it came out the other side of the Olympics with the scene being drastically different than it had been a year before.
SmBj: Do you have any good stories from that time?
ND: Way too many crazy stories of stuff that happened at D-22, from those early years especially... I remember playing a show with Bu Hao Chi where I got way too fucked up and ended up in the upstairs on that sort of walkway that we had between the back room and the main balcony overlooking the back of the stage, busting my head open and just spending the whole night with blood gushing down my head, but too fucked up to really care. There was another crazy night where we stayed way too late… Often the venue would "close" at some point, but there would still be some people involved in the bar as well as some musicians hanging out drinking til 5 or 6 in the morning. At one point we were there pretty late at night and somehow we had the idea to spraypaint the inside of D-22. And we had some spraypaint cans and we ended up spraypainting graffiti all over the walls, all over the stage, climbing up to the edge of the balcony, covering it in graffiti.. and then of course just going home completely wasted and passing out. The next day was a big show, it might have been P.K.14… and Yang Yang, who was managing the bar at that time, showed up at 4 in the afternoon or something and flipped out. [laughs] So we ended up being woken up and dragged out of bed and we had to spend the next two or three hours repainting the whole bar and hoping that it would dry before the show. Oh, it wasn't just P.K.14, it was being filmed by CNN. [laughs]
There's a lot more stories that I can't really go on the record to tell… But it was a pretty heady time with a lot of interesting and sometimes mischievous stuff going on. But then after 2008, the end of 2008 and into 2009, things started to get a little more, how to say… The scene dispersed a little bit, where there were more venues that bands were playing with. There were certain bands that got too big to play at D-22, especially some of the Maybe Mars bands. If we had a P.K.14, a Carsick Cars, or a Joyside show, we'd get 400 people, and you couldn't fit 400 people into D-22. So we'd have to close the door. There were big shows where the crowds outside were bigger than the number of people inside the bar. And we let in way too many people to be safe. [laughs] So things were definitely changing, and the people coming to the venue at that point were not just this small, tight-knit community that it was before. It was a lot of tourists, but just a lot of fans that hadn't existed. There just weren't those people a year ago. The whole scene had exploded and was changing.
SmBj: To back up a bit: how did Bu Hao Chi develop in parallel with all this, and when did you start Fanzui Xiangfa?
ND: Pretty much, Bu Hao Chi was the same as the very beginning of D-22. We had played maybe two shows before D-22 opened, then we played from May until July [at D-22]. So it wasn't that long where we were doing this Johnny Cash stuff. And then at that point, Matt, the drummer, left back to the US. We tried to replace him a couple of times. First with Justin, a guy who Michael had brought over from New York who helped do sound for a while. But Justin had some substance issues, and was kind of crazy, and eventually had to go back. We did a kind of ill-fated tour with him where Bu Hao Chi toured together down the east coast with Joyside. And before, when we were playing with Matt and Lindsey — when we did that tour together with Justin, Lindsey wasn't there — there was a certain sort of chemistry with the band where we were really fucked up, but we were able to make it work and keep it together. With Justin, the shows just imploded. [laughs] I mean, it was a great tour. We played in Shanghai at the old Yuyintang, which was in this old factory warehouse space, really dirty, really crazy. We played with Joyside and the Fuck'n'Rolls, and it was a great show, but our performances at those shows were pretty terrible, and the band didn't really function. The tour was a disaster, although we were constantly wasted the whole time. Before that we had done the one tour with Matt down to Hangzhou, where we actually played with Top Floor Circus when they were still doing the GG Allin stuff, and we played with D!O!D!O!D!, which was pretty amazing. That tour was really fun, although we ended up playing these shows in Hanghzou at the same time as the World Cup, and the first show we played, the bar actually pulled the plug on us, even though we had brought a bunch of people there. We went around flyering and brought a bunch of kids from different youth hostels in Hangzhou there to see the show. They pulled the plug on us so they could watch the World Cup, and we ended up destroying the bar. I won't go into details about it, but the place was pretty fucked up when we left. And I think they had to shut down for the night. [laughs]
But yeah, Bu Hao Chi didn't last that long, and it came back in a couple of incarnations. Later it came back again, doing all original stuff with Mark Cole. He played drums with us for a while. He had played drums with The Unsafe, he had played drums with Regular Pattern and several old ska bands. But we never had the same sort of chemistry we had from those years with Matt and Lindsey. Part of it was we had this girl with a banjo with a low-cut dress and all the Chinese kids would come up to the front so they could look down her dress. Without that, we just didn't work. [laughs]
I think Fanzui Xiangfa actually started pretty soon after Bu Hao Chi. There was a kid in Korea I had been playing in a grindcore thrash band with, and he came to visit me. And while he was here we met up with Jonas, who we knew from… Well we didn't know him, but I knew [Jonas' previous band] DS 13, and so knew of him. [We] met up with him and talked to him about stuff, and he was looking to form a band. He already had a singer, Min Yan from Last Chance of Youth, which used to be a straight-up hardcore band and later became more of a metal band. So for a period of time, in the spring of 2006, I was practicing two to three hours a day with either one band or the other every day, which was one of the best times of my life actually. That was a lot of fun.
SmBj: So originally Fanzui Xiangfa was you, Adam, Jonas, and Min Yan…
ND: Originally it was Jonas, Adam, myself, Min Yan on vocals, and it's always been Mai Dian on second guitar, except he very rarely plays with us because he lives in Wuhan. He's one of the first members of the band but he never lived in Beijing. So almost every show we played in Beijing was without Mai Dian. But when we would go on tour, we would have him join us for the tours. When I got kicked out for the Olympics and went to Korea was actually when Fanzui Xiangfa was supposed to be recording our second CD. They had all gone down to Nanjing to record with Du Wei, except I was in Korea. So they recorded everything without me and sent the tracks to me. I recorded the guitar part in Korea. At that point, I was in Korea and Min Yan was supposed to meet them in Nanjing, and never did. So they were all down in Nanjing to record, and that's when [Min Yan] told them he was out of the band. So I was sending them the guitar tracks from Korea, and they had Gao Feng from Angry Jerks sing some of the songs. And then [Angry Jerks drummer] Du Wei, who was actually doing the recording for them, sang a couple of songs. And it was at that point we were starting to prepare a Southeast Asia tour, and we then asked Du Wei if he would sing for us for Southeast Asia. We toured Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia in 2009.
Fanzui Xiangfa in Southeast Asia
SmBj: How did Fanzui Xiangfa's development play off your job at Maybe Mars? What did you want to personally do with your band that you couldn't at the label?
ND: First, I'll say that I've never really felt too constricted by Maybe Mars. I've been able to do what I want to do. But some of the things that the label does, and some of the directions that the label goes, and has to go naturally, are not really the ways that I find most suitable for myself. And so Fanzui Xiangfa was much more a DIY band than some of the bands on Maybe Mars. The way we tour, the way we did releases came from a different place. With Maybe Mars, I was doing the same things I was doing for Fanzui Xiangfa, except with Maybe Mars I was doing them for other bands. But the whole thing with Fanzui Xiangfa was as a band, all the members together were doing things for ourselves. I think really, the main way they affected each other was the fact that working at a label like Maybe Mars did allow me the time and the contacts to do the stuff I did with Fanzui Xiangfa. Which would have been harder if I had to do all that stuff while working a straight job.
SmBj: You just came off a pretty long China tour with Fanzui Xiangfa. Any highlights this time around?
ND: The whole tour was a lot of fun for us. We played a ton of really small cities and even preferred to play smaller venues in some of the bigger cities as opposed to normal places where bands played. The best show by far though was the one in Guangzhou. The kids from Full Label lugged all their gear to a skate shop next to some busy walking street and we played a free show in this storefront with big glass windows. The street was jammed full of people watching the show and we were sure it was going to get shut down but the cops never came. There were kids as young as seven watching the show and people were diving off the counters, total chaos!
Fanzui Xiangfa at Temple Bar, Beijing, 2013 (photo by Matthew Niederhauser)
SmBj: OK, back to 2009 and 2010. You were transitioning more and more away from D-22 and on to Maybe Mars.
ND: Yeah, let me think… I guess I was still booking at D-22 up until 2011?
I started helping in a basic capacity at the end of 2010.
ND: So yeah, until the end of 2010 I was still full time at D-22, and that was taking a lot of effort. But when I went to Korea for the Olympics, the record store and label office we had off Nanluoguxiang got shut down because it didn't have the proper permits to be a record store. And then after that one, I came back and Maybe Mars had opened another office near Xiao Xi Tian. Then things became a little more solid as a label with that office, but it wasn't really until the office moved again, I think after about six months of being there, to Wudaokou, across the street from D-22 in the Wenjin Hotel. It became a little more solid in operation, and from that point on, Maybe Mars really started taking up a lot more of my time. It became more and more important for me to find someone to take over the stuff at D-22. I was very reluctant, actually. If I had to choose on my own, I probably would have chosen D-22 above Maybe Mars as what I wanted to do. But the scene was changing, having a venue was becoming less important, and maybe I didn't quite realize that. But Michael realized that he needed people to really focus on the label full time. And since I'd had the experience to do that before, he really pushed me in that direction.
SmBj: You said when you first started at Maybe Mars, you were mainly focusing on the business side. What did your position to evolve to? What were you doing in 2009 and 2010?
ND: It was a little bit of everything. I've literally done almost everything for the label at some point. it very quickly changed, because Yang Haisong left Maybe Mars very, very soon after it started.
SmBj: He was initially a founding member, right?
ND: Yeah. He was the label head in the beginning. But for various reasons — mainly him having stuff that he wanted to focus on as an artist instead of having an actual business job — he became more of the spiritual head of the label. And has continued to help us out with many, many, many things as far as the direction of the label, artistic direction behind it, recording, producing, that kind of stuff. But it became clear that he didn't want to do the day-to-day work, didn't have the time. And so him and Jonny I believe — I'm not really sure, Li Qing and TR also played a part in it — were involved in producing the first CDs. But after those first three, it became more and more up to me to deal with the factories, both for printing the artwork and pressing the CDs. That became a very big role of mine, making sure the CDs got through production. I also spent a lot of time working on the distribution, traveling around to different cities, building distribution networks, talking with stores and local distributors. I was involved a lot in building and preparing the early press kits and some of the promotion strategy. And then later I became involved with doing foreign tours, both around the first time we went to South by Southwest and then later, doing some tours like taking Demerit to Korea and to Warped Tour in the US. And actually in the beginning I was even involved in doing a lot of domestic tours, both for foreign bands we were bringing like These Are Powers and Ex Models and then later Psychic Ills, but also I did domestic tours for Snapline and some other Chinese bands. So at one point or another I've done pretty much everything that the label does. It's changed a little more now, as we have a much more solid staff than we used to, with more solid roles. But yeah, I've transitioned through almost everything.
SmBj: Of all these roles, what was the most interesting and personally engaging? In parallel, what sowed the seed that became your own vinyl label, Genjing?
ND: OK, well… everything I've done at Maybe Mars has been interesting and engaging, to be honest. Everything I've done at one point or another has been mainly because someone needed to do it. So when I was working on the production, going to the factories for printing the artwork and double-checking all that, and handling the stuff for the CD factory, [it was] because we needed to do it. There wasn't anybody [else] that could do it. It was exciting and interesting for me to learn about that process, which is a very detailed process because if you fuck something up, you're gonna print 2,000 copies. [laughs] When I was working with distribution, it was basically because our distribution sucked, and we needed to go out there and figure out how to make it better. When I was setting up tours, it was the same thing. It was figuring out how to do these tours better, both in China and abroad. So all the stuff I've done has been challenging and interesting to me. At this point there's some of it that I don't necessarily want to go back and do, and it's better if there are other people that do it. First off, it's way too much work, so it has to be distributed. But at the time that I did all that stuff, I took it as a challenge and something to really work for.
The whole thing with Genjing kind of came about as Maybe Mars grew, and as Maybe Mars changed from what was a very small DIY operation to something that increasingly worked together with Converse, Ray Ban, increasingly was looking for and needed to get sponsors to pay for things, and was something that was setting up shows that soon became for 600 to 800 people, at Yugong Yishan or other places. And as important as I believe that is, that's maybe not as much the stuff that thrills me as some of the stuff that we had been doing before. And so with Genjing, I wanted to do a couple of things. One, I wanted to put out vinyl, and at that point I could count on one hand the number of vinyl releases from Chinese underground bands. It was literally like, SMZB had one, another Wuhan band called Si Dou Le that had toured Europe... That band involved Ju Ning, one of the co-foudners of VOX. It also involved Mai Dian, who had translated a lot of the early stuff about DIY into Chinese. So it was them… I think Li Jianhong had done one vinyl release at that point, I think Torturing Nurse had done one. But, yeah, as far as bands in the underground scene, it was a very, very, very small handful. So vinyl wasn't on anybody's radar, and it was something that Maybe Mars wasn't really particularly interested in at that point, because they were looking at bigger numbers for stuff.
SmBj: When did you first have this idea?
ND: I've thought about that myself a lot recently, and I guess it was 2009. After Fanzui Xiangfa toured Southeast Asia, we became friends with a band called Daighila from Malaysia, and at some point we decided to do a split 7" together. They were starting a label in Malaysia, Tenzenmen in Australia was gonna help them do the release, and I was like, yeah, Fanzui Xiangfa will definitely do it. So we did that, and Genjing didn't exist at that point, actually. That was just something that I was doing [on behalf of] Fanzui Xiangfa. After that we ended up doing another 7" with SS20 in Europe, and then by that point I started thinking, "Well, hey, I can help other bands in China do this." And so that's really when Genjing started. I count those first two releases in the Genjing catalogue, but Genjing didn't really exist until after the second release. So, that would probably be about 2010 when it originally started. The idea I had was to use vinyl to build a bridge between scenes in China and scenes abroad. So the things that I couldn't do with Maybe Mars… Maybe Mars wasn't really that interested in releasing vinyl. That's changed, and Maybe Mars is now looking at releasing LPs from some of the bands.
SmBj: The Snapline LP was the first one right?
ND: They did the Snapline one, they're gonna do Dear Eloise, they're talking about doing some of the back catalogue. I was interested in doing splits between foreign bands and Chinese bands. That's something that's really hard for Maybe Mars to do because of all the paperwork and stuff involved when you want to release foreign bands inside China. Going through the proper channels to get the ISBN number and all that stuff. And then I was also interested in doing 7"s, singles, which is something that Maybe Mars wasn't that interested in. So these things were kind of the [reason] to form Genjing. And then as I started working with Genjing, I took a lot of the stuff that I'd wanted to do with Maybe Mars but that I couldn't for whatever reason. Maybe because it wasn't really appropriate to do with [Maybe Mars], maybe because it was something that was more my interest than other people at the label stylistically, or maybe for financial reasons… I also took a different approach with Genjing, being very anti-corporate, anti-sponsorship, stuff that is not really possible for Maybe Mars to do.
SmBj: So the earliest releases were for Fanzui Xiangfa and bands with a similar style or mindset. How did it expand from there?
ND: The idea behind it was actually not to have a certain style the label focused on. There wasn't really vinyl in China, and I was actually not even looking for a Chinese audience per se. Where Maybe Mars was very focused on domestic stuff, with Genjing I was very focused on international stuff. And I wanted to create a bridge between the local scene and scenes abroad. Vinyl has always been an important part of foreign scenes. If you have a band, they go to the US or Europe and they have CDs, they might not sell all that well. You take vinyl, and collectors want to buy that. So I thought about using vinyl as a bridge. The bands that I looked at working with from the beginning were not really bands in a certain style, but bands that had potential abroad and were already making efforts on their own to connect with scenes abroad. So Fanzui Xiangfa, obviously my own band, we're touring Southeast Asia, we're touring Europe, it made perfect sense for us to have vinyl for those tours, for those fans and that community outside of China. Did a split between SS20 and Demerit, Demerit was preparing for a US tour, and were also looking at doing tours in Europe and other places. So that made perfect sense. SS20 has toured China three times, so working with foreign bands that are interested in and committed to growing an audience inside the Chinese scene made sense.
At that time, I didn't expect to sell much vinyl inside China, but having a release and having it on [Chinese social networking site] Douban, having people inside China know about it, would help people learn about these foreign bands anyway, even if it didn't translate into sales. Then after that, I looked at bands like Dear Eloise, which may seem strange because they don't even play shows, but Yang Haisong is very active and Dear Eloise actually already had a cult following in places like the US and Japan, so it made sense to get out vinyl that could then reach in to those audiences. Although they may only be a studio band, their music was very accessible to certain scenes that were into that sort of stuff. Then I worked with Gum Bleed, who were touring Europe on their own already. Future stuff like a split between pg.lost and Wang Wen made sense, because Wang Wen was going to Europe, pg.lost was coming here. Even the electronic stuff, AM444, made sense, as in [AM444 manager] Gaz was running The Shelter, bringing a lot of DJs to China, and AM444 themselves were setting up tours and shows abroad. So the idea has been to work with musicians that are already trying to connect with foreign scenes and to help them build that platform to better facilitate those connections.
SmBj: For the AM444 release, you worked together with Shanghai record store, Uptown Records. That seems like a pretty big departure from some of your previous releases. How did that collaboration come about? What other labels or stores have you collaborated with on your other releases?
ND: I'll answer the second question first, because that's what's gonna make it make sense. From the beginning with Genjing, I've placed an importance on doing co-releases. And this is another thing that I couldn't do with Maybe Mars that I found very interesting to do with Genjing. The idea behind that is when you make a physical product, you have to make a certain number. In vinyl, in order to reach the price I want to sell it for, I have to make at least 500 copies. But 500 copies ends up being a little too much for the Chinese audience. So the idea was, how can I take those 500 copies and distribute them internationally? For a small label like Genjing, which is basically me â€” and, in the past six months, Pete DeMola has been doing a lot of work for it â€” we don't really have the reach to do promotion and distribution everywhere, and we don't really want to. So working with partner labels abroad means we can find a label in Australia, usually with Tenzenmen, a label in the US, several labels in Europe I've worked with before, sometimes labels in Japan, now working with labels in Taiwan and other places, where we can take these 500 copies and divide it up, and each country can take as many as they feel realistic. Maybe 40 copies, maybe 70 copies, as long as it reaches the people it should reach. The local labels are all responsible for local distribution, local promotion. And what it means is if I do this release and Tenzenmen in Australia takes it, all of a sudden he's going to promote the band inside Australia. It's very, very good for the Chinese bands. And it seems to make sense for everybody.
So when [Uptown Records owner] Sacco came to me and started talking about this split between AM444 and Tussle, it immediately made sense. It wasn't really music that was on my radar before, and it's not stuff that I seek out to listen to, but I know Gaz, I know the work he's done, and I really appreciate the type of stuff he's done and what they're trying to do with the band. Pause Music was also very involved with that, which [Dada Bar co-founder] Michael Ohlsson is very involved in. They were involved in the recording and the production and all that stuff. And so for me, to do that release was part of the give and take. I ask a lot of labels to help me co-release stuff that I'm really interested in pushing, and this was a point where it's like, Pause Music and Uptown were coming to me and saying, "Look, we've got this thing, do you want to be involved?" And I was like, "Sure."
SmBj: You've had a certain amount of success with Genjing, so what's the plan now? Expand it further or keep it at the same pace?
ND: Well, I guess there's two parts for that. First, for me personally, what I do with Genjing, and what I've done for everything, whether it's through D-22 or Maybe Mars or whatever else, my main objective is: I want to have fun. I just want to make the local music scene an interesting and creative place to be. I've been fortunate, mostly because of Michael Pettis, that I haven't had to worry so much about making things financially viable, and more about trying to make cool things happen. So that's personally what I'm trying to get out of it.
As far as where I think Genjing is going... as long as it stays fun and interesting, I'm going to keep doing it and pushing it and trying to do new and different and creative things with it. What I want to do now is, yeah, to make it bigger, if I can. I'm talking very closely with distributors in the US, starting to talk to distributors and other labels for co-releases in Europe and various countries in Asia. [I want to] build those bridges a little more, so that I can take a Chinese band and I can say, "Look, I like what you're doing, you have potential to go abroad. You're doing stuff yourself towards going abroad. I can help you put out a release and I can get it into stores across the US, across Europe, in Japan, in Taiwan and other places. And I can actually provide some of the necessary platform you need to connect with labels abroad, to connect with booking agents abroad, to set up tours. I'm not going to do this stuff for you, but if I can use the connections I already have to help you, that's what I want to do."
So the bigger I can make it as far as reach, the better. And the better for local bands inside China. But the way Genjing is different from a regular label is I'm usually not putting out full releases. I'm not paying for recordings, and I'm not managing bands. So I want to do these things where I can build a platform for bands, but the bands themselves have to be willing and able and ready to take the next step. And if I put out their release and it catches the attention of some label in France, some label in the US and some label in Australia, and the band's ready to put out a full-length, I want the band to be able to talk to those labels and work out a deal. If someone in the Czech Republic is setting up a festival and is wanting to bring the band to Europe, I don't want to be the one trying to set up the rest of their shows. I want the band to be able to then take that opportunity and be like, "OK, we're gonna work on booking a European tour for ourselves." But if I can provide that first step, that's what I want to do.
SmBj: I think that's a pretty good general conclusion for this interview. Now you can plug your upcoming stuff. What's on deck?
ND: First I'll say last weekend we had the release show for the new Dear Eloise 7", which unfortunately I missed because I was at a friend's wedding in Xi'an. It was actually the drummer from SS20, a really good friend of mine. But that 7" is out, the show was apparently great. Dear Eloise didn't play because they don't play shows, but people showed up to see Yang Haisong's other band After Argument, and to see the kids from Share the Obstacles, which was one of the labels involved in the co-release.
SmBj: Which is also pretty much the members of After Argumentâ€¦
ND: Yeah. It's basically Yang Haisong, Cha Cha from After Argument, and Liu Yike. [They did] DJ sets. I think the idea of the night was awesome. It was basically like, we have this vinyl for this band, and the fans of the band came out to be the first to get the vinyl and also because they're just interested in Dear Eloise and what's going on and that sort of scene around it. So it was sort of a different approach to a show.
SmBj: Because the band who's releasing the 7" isn't even playingâ€¦ How many records did you sell that night?
ND: I think we sold almost 50 records. It was included in the price with the door. But, that's out, there's records from [Dear Eloise] available, and that's released in Australia, the US, Japanâ€¦ But they're already available in China, so you can find it through the Genjing website. Then for Record Store Day, which is April 20th, we've got a bunch of stuff going on. In Shanghai [at] Uptown Records, The Dyne will be doing the release for their single. And their first release, actually. I think they've put out a demo before this, but this is their first more official release. If your'e in Shanghai, if you go to Sacco's Record Store Day event at Uptown Records, a free 7" is included in the door. The day after they'll be playing 390. And then on the 26th they'll be playing Beijing at Temple with Li Daiguo, where you can get both their new single and Li Daiguo's new EP, which will [also] be released for Record Store Day, on the 20th in Hong Kong at White Noise.
SmBj: Li Daiguo's EP will be released in Hong Kong?
ND: Yes. There's a bunch of different events in several different cities...
SmBj: OK let's nail this down. First of all you have The Dyne playing at Uptown Records on April 20th for RSD. And they're also playing the next day at 390.
ND: Yeah, that's Shanghai. Then Hong Kong will be a listening party and release event for Li Daiguo's 7", and that will include a special bonus DVD for people who buy it from White Noise.
And then I'll be doing a Record Store Day event in Beijing at XP, but that's actually not a vinyl release. So the vinyl's not available that day, but the Record Store Day event will include a screening of Last Shop Standing, a documentary about record stores in the UK. After the screening there will be a question and answer with some owners of record stores in the Gulou area, as well as some people from different small indie labels in Beijing. And then there'll be a show that will include Alpine Decline, Streets Kill Strange Animals, and Lilisay, the new trip hop band from IDH guitarist and singer Xiao Yu. There will also be a table set up where some of these labels and record stores will be selling some of their favorite products. So it's mainly a tribute to physical releases, to brick and mortar record stores, and to small labels that are still creating interesting products, attractive products.
At this point Nevin rattled off about a dozen Genjing releases he has planned for the future, but as there are many details yet to be confirmed those will stay off the record, along with some of the more salacious D-22 stories. Nevin is a busy, busy man, as you know if you're still reading. But track him down on Record Store Day and buy him a couple of beers and maybe he'll tell you the story of Adam's hand-drawn mapsâ€¦