Doc Talk Shock at the Dusk Music Festival in Dallian, June 2013
Doc Talk Shock is a four-piece "indie/noise pop" band from Dalian. You can stream some of their jams over at this week's MP3 Monday. And here's an extended practice room recording, so you can take a deeper listen into their process:
Following the trail blazed by older Dalian bands Wang Wen, Spiral Cow, and Which Park, Doc Talk Shock is the newest and most vital spark to come out of Dalian's unique, rather circumscribed music scene in the last several years. In an interview before their last Beijing show — in November, 2010 — Doc Talk Shock's lead guitarist and vocalist Jiang Hao commented: "Beijing is still the center for indie music in China, with shows always happening all over the city. There are so many great bands, so we love the atmosphere here. But we still lean more towards our lives in Dalian — we like to have our cake and eat it too."
Since that show, Doc Talk Shock self-released their debut EP, and last year they recorded their first studio album with P.K.14 vocalist Yang Haisong in Dalian. In addition to working a full-time job and constantly writing and refining new material for the band, Jiang Hao is also increasingly active as a local promoter. Last month he co-organized the first Dalian Dusk Music Festival, a one-day, beach-side affair that brought together a stellar lineup of bands from Beijing, Shanghai, and Dalian, and a sea of fans undeterred by the fickle oceanside weather patterns (it rained).
Doc Talk Shock is finally returning to Beijing, this time under the aegis of Douban Music's new initiative to highlight musicians from smaller cities throughout China (they brought Xi'an's System Error crew to Beijing in May). Catch Doc Talk Shock, Which Park, and Mr. Graceless on Saturday at XP. And read on for an update from Jiang Hao on Doc Talk Shock's development over the last two years, their plans looking forward, and Dalian's distinct brand of "wackiness":
Doc Talk Shock graffiti at D-22
SmartBeijing: Last time I saw Doc Talk Shock was when you played at D-22 at the end of 2010. At that time you had just released an EP. What have you been up to since then? Did it take you a while to write new material?
Jiang Hao: Yeah, indeed it was a lot of fun last time, good memories. After that, we’ve basically been staying in Dalian, enjoying the lovely summer and suffering the bloody cold winter, seeing subway construction collapses and petrochemical tanks explode, and, of course, making music. I think we are quite productive as a band, so it didn’t take us too long to make new songs.
SmBJ: Last year, you were chosen to take part in Modern Sky's "House Party" project, which aimed to find a handful of talented young bands throughout China and help them produce their first full-length record. How did you begin working with Modern Sky?
JH: Modern Sky reached [out to] us in early 2011 and showed their interest in our music. At first, the talks between us went on and off several times, until I found that Yang Haisong was doing the project for Modern Sky. I like the albums he produced and his band P.K.14 very much. Then Modern Sky contacted Yang and asked him to produce the album for us, and Yang said that he was just thinking of getting us involved in the project! One month later, he came to Dalian and helped us make the album.
SmBJ: The resulting record is Lights of Detour. How did the process of recording this album differ from your self-released EP? How did working with Yang Haisong affect the sound of the record or the progression of your music?
JH: It was completely different. We finished the recording of the EP in two days in our old practice room right next to a garbage recycling station. It went swimmingly with all the songs finished in just a couple of takes. It was actually a little bit more difficult than we expected to record Lights of Detour, as it was the first time we'd recorded a studio album. Compared with the bold and willful play in our self-titled EP, we were more discreet in making Lights of Detour. We took about eight days to finish the recording. Yang Haisong is a fantastic producer, his professionalism is unquestionable. He helped us greatly in how to create our own sound and we learned a great deal from him.
SmBJ: Even though Lights of Detour came out last year, you haven't been back to Beijing since that show in 2010. Why not? How important is touring and playing outside Dalian to Doc Talk Shock?
JH: It kind of sucks that we couldn’t play outside Dalian very often, as our legs have been dragged by our jobs. But on the other hand, we get the peace of mind staying here to make more music. We actually arranged a small tour last year during weekends, but sadly it was all cancelled at the last minute due to some misfortune with our drummer’s family. He had to go back to the US immediately. I think this year we will be more focused on making new songs, and next year we will definitely try to arrange more shows outside Dalian.
Doc Talk Shock at Hertz Bar, Dalian
SmBJ: For this show you're coming with another Dalian band, Which Park. What other Dalian bands should people check out? Is Spiral Cow still around? Are there some newer bands or musicians doing interesting things in Dalian?
JH: Umm…I don’t think Spiral Cow is still playing, but the members are either in Wang Wen or Which Park. I guess they will play again when they feel like they want to. It’s not really a tough decision for them to make. Honestly I haven’t seen many interesting new bands in the last couple of years in Dalian. I do see more young people interested in cooler rock music, though. However, I did hear (exclusively) that Xie Yugang from Wang Wen is going to form a hardcore/screamo band, and he will be the vocalist. Although he told me that when he was drinking, he seemed pretty serious about it. Whether it’s true or not, I would very much like to see Xie growling his guts out.
SmBJ: You recently played the Dusk Music Festival along with some of the country's best newer indie bands, like Duck Fight Goose from Shanghai and Skip Skip Ben Ben from Beijing. What was your role in this festival? Were you one of the organizers? How was the turnout? Any memorable stories?
JH: Yes, I co-organized the event with Silvertongue Creative, a new music promotion agency in China. I think it was one of the best music events that has ever happened in Dalian. The day was definitely memorable. The show was scheduled to start in the afternoon, but it suddenly started raining in the morning when we had just finished setting up the PA system by the beach. It went into a bit of chaos for a little while, but eventually it turned out to be a successful event, as the rain didn’t stop the enthusiastic music lovers. I won’t forget Xiao Zhong from Pairs opening his mouth and drinking the rain water leaking down from the shed on top of his head while he was drumming like a maniac on stage, and I won’t forget the delight on people’s faces while they were jumping and dancing to Skip Skip Ben Ben’s music in the rain. I think the rain even added more excitement to the event. However, the lessons learned are: “the ocean is never predictable” and “never trust the weather forecast.”
SmBJ: With Wang Wen gaining more recognition within China and internationally, does that bring more attention to the Dalian music scene as a whole? Or do you feel like Dalian is still more of a marginal city for Chinese music?
JH: I think so, the contribution Wang Wen has made for Dalian’s music scene is enormous. Hertz Bar, run by Wang Wen’s Geng Xin, is the main livehouse in Dalian. Echo Books, run by Xie Yugang and his wife Lin Lin, is also doing small-scale shows for experimental musicians or duos on the venue’s deck next to the harbour. It’s a very unique experience for bands playing there. During a show, you can enjoy the ocean breeze and the sunset, while the vessels are coming into the harbour with loud whistles joining a chorus. [Yang Haisong's new duo] After Argument just played there not long ago. The drummer of Wang Wen also runs a drumming club/school which helps ease the local thirst for drummers. After all, lack of drummers is a common issue in the whole of China’s music scene. I’m not sure if “marginal” is the right word, but I find that no other Chinese city’s music scene is wackier than Dalian’s.
Echo Books, Dalian (photo by Nevin Domer)
SmBJ: Do you think that Dalian rock has a particular sound or aesthetic that sets it apart from bands in bigger cities?
JH: Yes, there obviously is a particular sound which I am not able to describe. We all have a pretty similar aesthetic on music. We always listen to records together at Echo, but in the meantime, the music that each band makes is very different. Even the same band makes different music at different periods. Like Which Park, they recently subverted their old songs and made complete new arrangements on these songs. I guess the music tradition here has injected a free spirit in our blood, which converts into countless wacky music notes and when they collide, a new sound comes out…
SmBJ: After this Beijing show, what are your future plans? Do you want to tour more in China? Internationally? Do you have plans to put out a new record?
JH: We have been working on new songs this year, unsurprisingly they will be much different from the previous two releases. I think the closest plan is to release a 7-inch vinyl with Genjing Records. There will be two new songs on it. And hopefully we will get the songs for the next album ready by the end of this year. We would love to tour more cities both domestically and internationally, but as I said, we are all working busy jobs, so that depends on how well we manage the balance between “Fuck it, I wanna go play music!” and “Oh well, I need to make some dough for living.” Brutal truth, huh? Nevertheless, we are constantly producing music, that’s the most important thing to us.
See Doc Talk Shock and Which Park live on Saturday, July 6 at XP.