Today brings the Beijing Gig Blog’s first ever interview, with Time Out’s Web & Music Editor Jennifer Conrad. This month Time Out presents its May Music special, which features a commissioned cover by iconic poster artist Chairman Ca. In addition to picking up the issue to have a look at the artwork, you can also pick up one of some very limited prints, numbered and signed by Chairman Ca himself. Get the details on that here.
Jennifer has been on my Gig of the Week mailing list for some time now, and very kindly offered to answer a few questions. She also put me in contact with Chairman Ca, so stay tuned for the answers to the questions I had for him. Here’s what I had to ask Time Out’s Web & Music Editor about the May Music issue:
1. What was the reason behind choosing The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover?
We wanted to do something special to celebrate the Beijing music scene–and commissioning an artist associated with the scene seemed like an exciting way to do it. Chairman Ca was an obvious choice because he has a distinctive style that’s recognizable from his fliers for D-22 and his works that are reproduced in Sound Kapital. He’s also a music fan–I saw him moshing to AV Okubo over May holiday weekend–so I think his passion for the subject matter comes through.
We gave Chairman Ca a few concepts to choose from and together we decided to go with Sgt. Pepper’s. It’s an iconic image that’s a lot of fun, and choosing this concept also let us include a large number of Beijing scenesters on the cover.
2. Who chose the featured artists — Time Out Beijing or Chairman Ca? If you can, elaborate briefly on why those artists were chosen.
We gave Chairman Ca a list of the artists who were confirmed for the different May music festivals at the time. I pointed out some that I thought would be most recognizable to our readers, and he went from there. Since we highlighted the folk scene in the magazine, we made sure that folk artists were well represented. Hanggai’s trademark Mongolian outfits made them a natural stand-in for the Beatles, who wore psychedelic band uniforms in the center of the original.
3. What can we expect from the Time Out Music Special?
This year, we decided to throw it down and say that folk is the new rock. It’s not that we don’t like Beijing rock ‘n’ roll, but we felt that there’s a really interesting and innovative folk scene happening. These musicians don’t necessarily get the attention they deserve, but they’re making some of the most original music in China right now–especially the bands that revive traditional techniques in a thoroughly modern way.
We also take a look back at the Midi Festival over the years, celebrating that festival’s history and sense of community. Three artists who’ve been there since the early days Yu Yang (ex-Iron Kite), Xiao Rong (Brain Failure), and Gao Hu (Miserable Faith) share their memories from over the years.
And we speak to four Beijing music-store clerks. We like to think they’re keeping the spirit of the High Fidelity-style obsessive music fan alive, stocking the best of Chinese indie music and sharing their favorites with customers.
In the music section, we get to know three of Shanghai’s best bands, Boys Climbing Ropes, Boojii, and Duck Fight Goose.
4. In your opinion, what are the bands to watch out for in the second half of this year?
I love, love, love Guai Li, and their new album should be out…someday, so I’m excited for that. They’re a great post-punk band that no one ever talks about–definitely one of Beijing’s best. Now that the Rustic boys are riding high on their Global Battle of the Bands win, it will be interesting to see what they do next. The past few times I’ve seen
them, Lucifer has really been coming into his own as a frontman.
Hanggai are so great–with their new album coming out this fall, I hope it pushes them in front of a bigger audience. Shanren put on really fun live shows–they’re already kind of buzzy, but I expect that their following will grow in the second half of the year. And Re-Tros and Hedgehog have both given great performances lately, so I’m looking
forward to seeing more of them. As far as the younger bands, I have my eye on Lazy Camels and Mr. Graceless.
5. Describe your favorite Beijing rock experience: eg, a live show or festival, a recommendation that opened your eyes, your first time at a given venue.…
Hmmm…that I can tell you on the record? When I moved to Beijing (March 2008), the only Chinese band I knew was Brain Failure. I couldn’t have been in Beijing for more than a week when I saw a show listed at Yugong Yishan and decided to check it out. I was new in town, so it took me like an hour to find the venue.
When I finally arrived, Queen Sea Big Shark were playing, and I thought, “Wow, this isn’t bad.” The next band was Joyside, and when I saw Bian Yuan, I was like, “Holy shit, Chinese Mick Jagger! Where am I?!” It’s probably not fair that I saw two of the best Beijing bands the first time I went out, but that’s how it happened. Actually, I saw 24 Hours the first time I went to D-22, and Hanggai on my first visit to Jiangjinjiu Bar, so I had really good luck right at the start.