Rock In China is one of the heaviest resources of information about the good music in China, Azchael and Yang Yu, the founders, editors, and wizards behind this project and many others too, came out this year with a new child for Rock In China, Core In China. A project that we have been honored to support and promote since months ago. The compilation album that resulted of this project was digitally released a month ago. Just now we have had the chance to dedicate the time that this project deserves, it took us long due to the craziness we’ve been lately with the concerts we produced last months.
Anyway, Core In China is out, published, and already in action. I am listening the album as I write this and I can tell you it is a great compilation, certainly it collects great bands and songs from China, a lot of material to impress metal heads (core-heads, should be) from all over the world. Core In China should become a reference to understand the quality reached until now by core bands in China, and no matter how much you think you might know about what is happening around China with metal, let me tell you this album will impress you.
Azchael and Yang Yu carefully dedicated to reach cities all over China and promote there the participation of core bands from all over the country, then they connected with media from all over the world to assure that the selected bands and the compilation will reach as many listeners and core fans as possible. Then the two of them did all the work of production of the album, selected the songs, put them together, etc. etc. And they did a great work, that is now out spreading around the world, collecting feedback for the bands and the core scene to evolve, and promoting Chinese core all over the world. That’s a lot, and I think Azchael and Yang Yu deserve a lot of cheers, I take my hat off to their amazing love for rock, and specially for metal. I’ve met a lot of metal fans and lovers, but I think they are the biggest and most dedicated metal heads I’ve ever met. Respect, guys!
Azchael has been very busy these last months too, not only with Core In China, but with his day job, and I’ve been managing other projects and the latest concerts, so it was until just now that I could finish the interview we had in store about Core In China. It took us a couple of weeks to get it done. Azchael has been super patient with my weird schedule, I want to publicly thank him for being so cool understanding and quietly wait for me to be ready, and also for all the conversations we’ve had about music in China, not only this one, but all those chats where we have unload dreams, frustrations, and ideas that we would love to do. There’s a lot of people and ideas out there, but few are aligned in such way that are available and open to keep creating ideas, and producing them, with such dedication and discipline through time, that’s admirable of Azchael and Yang, they are people that is always open to create and transform ideas and dreams in reality, actively dedicating to improve their environment with such positive energy… plus they enjoy rock, beers, and China… great guys, obviously.
This is it, then, Azchael and the story of Core In China.
LAYABOZI: Tell us about the origin and goals of the project Core In China
Azchael: Core In China didn’t start out to be a compilation as the one we have done. In the beginning we (which is me and Yu Yang) just tried to get a number of Chinese bands to submit a song for an introductory blog post on Rock in China along with an interview. However We Are Shanghai changed that because the showcast idea appealed to us, and us, being already in the process of approaching bands, decided to widen the scope and make a full-blown project out of it.
The name Core In China was simply chosen by mixing our “XYZ in China” theme with the fact that most younger bands play one kind or another of ‘core music. As e.g. Badr of Beijing Daze mentioned, “core” is something of the younger generation and many elder metal fans don’t like the many new subgenres that evolved. In fact in the West there is no one “core” scene, but many individual splintered groups performing e.g. either this or that and the kids following certain bands or styles. For outsiders difficult to understand (such as black metal vs death metal), but that is how the West is. In China the scene is much smaller and many bands don’t care about the genre differentiation so we clubbed it together and called it Core In China, instead of hardcore or metalcore in China. And with this chosen name and it’s representation in the life of the China scene, we wanted to make a statement, a snapshot of what is currently happening in Chinese Metal. There had been other compilations, noteworthy especially the Resurrection of the Gods series and the Dead Night series, however both series have not really left China, with one or two exceptions. In Europe it is really hit or miss if a Chinese bands is known, and if then it is potentially a folk metal band, a “true” raw black metal band or a one-man project from Shandong who is promoting his music very well over the Internet. It was our goal to give the current young scene more exposure in the West and enable listeners to have the opportunity to experience Chinese metal (at its current best).
LYBZ: How is the core scene in China, its origins, and how it is now?
A:The scene is… very experimenting and diverse. On Core In China we have bands from several cities. Especially in Wuhan the local bands try to establish themselves and the Wuhan city as “Core” city away from the earlier punk image. but still I would say that the core scene is a fairly small crowd compared to rock or metal in general. But having said that it is amazing to see how each band is trying to define their own sound or their own way. Take Thyhazard as an example that call themselves Electronicore, or Why Lazy that are orientating themselves at Attack! Attack! music. On Douban we have found a great number of other bands that fused their music with electronic beats, e.g. the bands around the Tasty Trash Records like Card B Card B, and Eat Alien Brains, both bands submitted songs to us, but didn’t make it in the end to the final selection.
The core scene in China has naturally taken a different development path than the West, because in the West, the origins of screamo, hardcore, metalcore and other genres lie many years ago in the punk scene. In China it developed because metal bands listened to what happened in the West and when metalcore became big in the West (in the Mid-90s to end of 90s) it took a couple of years for China to pick up, with the established nu-metal acts Twisted Machine and Yaksa slowly changing roles. I personally think that exactly that different path which is far away from the punk roots of the music, allows bands in China to mix the genres more freely and more easily than in the West. A band jumping from screamo to metalcore to hardcore to post-hardcore would be considered a total failure in the West, because each individual subscene would loose faith in the band. In China however the “traditional roots” for these subgenres do not exist or did not grow in the same way. So bands can jump genres without loosing their credibility.
Together with our release of Core In China we have also released a brief article about the development of core music of China online.
LYBZ: What bands are influencing Chinese core bands?
A: The bands we talked to had a number of bands they referred to, both within China and from the West. In China definitely Four Five, Multi-Ego, The Falling and Yaksa influenced a lot of the younger bands. From the West, bands such as Attack Attack!, The Devil Wears Prada, Of Mice & Men, and Horse The Band as well as lots of Rise Records bands are the main influence.
Rise Records has thousands of songs on their Youtube channel.
LYBZ: What are the most important core bands in China?
A: Depending on the subgenre, I would call out King Ly Chee for hardcore and The Falling, Why Lazy, Multi-Ego for metalcore, Thyhazard, Card B Card B for electronic-influence for metalcore. But that is my personal opinion.
LYBZ: Do you see a difference between the core scene in China, and what it is in the rest of the world?
A: Yes, there is a definite difference in the way subgenres are handeled. In the West, (as mentioned above), bands and fans tend to guard their genre borders ferociously. Once screamo you just don’t do post hardcore and once labelled post hardcore you are miles away from hardcore. A little bit like the “true metal” discourse or “black metal vs. death metal”. In China however with less bands, a much smaller scene and a different development path for metal genres, it is easier for bands to fuse genres and jump. Some bands call themselves post-hardcore, scremo, emocore or hardcore/metalcore in one sentence. That gives them more freedom to experiment and it feels more vibrant.
LYBZ: How many bands presented their music to Core In China? And how many made it to the compilation?
A: By far over forty bands submitted songs to us for Core In China, some with only one song, some with three or four. It was really hard to make the decision, especially as we were struggling to fix the number of songs. In the beginning we thought we could make a thirty song compilation, but then we cut it down to twenty as we think people are more likely to listen to twenty songs then trying to fight through thirty. The song selection was done by Yu Yang and me after listening to each song a number of times, trying to find something special and unique with the sound, melody and overall song structure.
LYBZ: How was done the selection process?
A: A tough question, because it was very tough for Yang and me to decide on the songs. Some bands submitted real head turners but for eighty percent of the music it was on a similar level of quality. So we looked for something unique, e.g. female vocals or electronicore or a special solo that makes the music outstanding. E.g. King Ly Chee’s song that was recorded together with Andrew of Comeback Kid was appealing to us because it showed on the one hand the cooperations between Western bands and Chinese ones and on the other hand because there are two versions of the song: one in English and one in Chinese. Here we included the Chinese one, but if you go to KLC’s website you can also find the English one.
LYBZ: Is there any particular special story about any of the bands that participated in CiC?
A: Many! There are many stories! For each band shared a different experience and story with us. A band that I liked but that didn’t make it into the final round is Villain from Macau (the place I live currently). During the interview we had with them they described the scene in Macau as very small if existing at all and the struggles they had and how much they envy the Chinese scene. That was a very honest way of putting it and I appreciated it. Another band’s story is Luktomo which wrote to us that they would record a song especially for the compilation and that they needed one or two days more, so we waited for the song and “Bam” it was an awesome one.
LYBZ: Do you have plans to get the bands together and have them playing live? a Core In China tour maybe?
A: At this point, no. Getting an online compilation out to the world is one thing, organizing on site a real-life tour with bands from all over China is a totally different game. Neither Yang nor me have the time to dedicate ourselves for that.
LYBZ: You mentioned the idea to show Chinese bands to the West, maybe the explanation is evident but I’d like to ask you anyway, why is important for these bands to be known in the West?
A: Why is it important? Hmmm… for the same reason that we have started Rock in China, to make the underground, the scene known overseas. To give these bands a chance of musical recognition in the West. Good music deserves to be heard or at least to get a chance of being heard. And the bands in Core I China are excellent! It would be a shame if their musical heritage is not preserved and given the chance to be listened to.
LYBZ: How has been the reception until now for the album?
A: The reception has been very good. I had forwarded the compilation to a lot of people I knew and they forwarded that further and further. We got feedback from the USA, from India, from Thailand, a lot of positive feedback from France, Germany, and Australia. I followed the approach that the music should be accessible world-wide in as many formats as possible and we have it up on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, RiC itself, Last.fm, Xiami, Top100.cn and Google Music. Several mp3 blogs picked it up and offered it for download themselves, so the songs are really out there and all over the place. With the initial hikes in downloads and the (expected) moderate rates from day-to-day we see that every time a new website is picking up the compilation, such as Metalinsider in the USA recently, the compilation gets downloaded another 50 to 100 times. It is for sure more difficult to track who downloaded it how often, but that’s the beauty of the web.
I am still in contact with several German newspaper that want to write about the compilation and about Rock in China. If everything goes well we will have some more articles out in August this year. Irrespective of that, Core In China is available for downloading and even in a couple of years when someone is looking for Chinese metalcore, Core In China is going to show up in his Google results and he will have the chance to listen to twenty of the hottest bands from 2012! And I hope that that person will then forward the compilation once again and again.
LYBZ: Can you give us a mini listening guide for Core In China album? Maybe some tips to what to pay attention to, what to specially notice, or a bit of a back up information for some of the songs in the album?
A: Song Number 1 – Why Lazy – Dying in the Dream:
A real surprise for us. This being song number two we got from Why Lazy, the first one being “Dark of War” (which was used as preview to ), it is a straight fist in the face, a tight starter for Core In China and an excellent showcase of this former-Zhengzhou-now-Beijing band. It combines the clean vocals with the screaming part, similar to Attack Attack!
Song Number 3 – Meat Sucks – Buried the truths:
Meat Sucks is noteworthy because of at least two reasons: First, they are the founders of Core In Wuhan, a band association of core bands that tries to establish Wuhan not as punk city but as city of scream and fist. Second, the vocal is a girl. Meat Sucks was the only female-fronted band that submitted a song to Core In China and that makes it interesting to listen to, apart from the actual music and song-writing that is great.
Song Number 12 – Luktomo – We Are Luktomo:
Luktomo was the band that had troubles getting their song recorded in time and they asked for a few more days, which we could spare. When we got the song, “Bam”, we loved it. A rather long intro, with electronic sampling, then, after one minute twenty seconds, a good transition into Enter Shikari alike sounds and deeper growls. This band hails from Guangzhou and they know what they are doing. Tight sound, tight production, awesome.
Song Number 15 – Thyhazard – Liar:
Up to the point when we got Thyhazard’s song most of the songs had been straight metalcore and hardcore. Thyhazard was different. They influxed a lot of electronica and called themselves electronicore, which in my world is close enough to nintendocore to give it a second listen, and hell yes, Thyhazard deserve more than two listenings. We featured this song in Underground Battlefield, the webradio of Bunny Warren in Hongkong a couple of weeks before the official release. Simon of This Is Ammunition was shocked to hear this song and to realize that this is from China. The song production, writing and melody is neck-breaking.
Song Number 19 – The Falling – Circle II Circle:
With The Falling, a band I have known since 2007, I am really happy that they joined the song submission and gave a good quality song. They had been in the middle of their tour preparations, so the actually planned new recorded song couldnt make it, but Circle II Circle is a tight showcase for this metalcore band, which is the 2012 Wacken Metal Battle Winner. Quality song-writing combined with a charismatic core-vocalist just wants you to jump up and start a mosh pit. Awesome!
LYBZ: Great! Now, do you think you will do a Core In China again in the future?
A: Yes, we have plans for a Core In China II, same as we have plans for Fold In China, Punk In China and Rock In China. The only limiting factor is time and I think before any compilation will be released we have to wait some time for bands to gather new material and develop themselves. Also, I wait for We Are Shanghai II to come out before I think about sending a song submission invitation. Apart from that, Yang together with Painkiller and Indie Recordings (Norway) is working on a Metal compilation of Finnish bands performing Chinese folk songs and vice versa. Release scheduled next year!
Find more information and download Core In China on its Rock In China page.