Bonus Track Of The Week: Rock in China Presents Interview with Zhao Ze

Following up on the introduction to Zhao Ze earlier this week, Hz, guitar and guqin player of Zhao Ze, responded to an interview I requested. Rock In China had interviewed the band for the first time in 2008, and here is what happened now.

Zhao Ze – 打捞星星的少年 “Fishing for the stars” by

Azchael: Since our last interview in 2008 a lot has changed, both in China (Olympics, Expo) but also for Zhao Ze. Can you tell me what has been the biggest changes and influences to Zhao Ze in the last 4 years?

Hz: There are some big changes in the latest two albums Cang Lang Xing and 1911, those two albums are all instrumentals. We combined guqin, one of the mostly Chinese traditional instrument, and the modern post-rock, to built our own unique music style, maybe you can call it “guqin-rock”. When you listen to it, it feels like to read a poem of Tang or Song Dynasties, or to watch a splash-ink painting, you can experience a feel of the Chinese classical art. It’s oriental yet western, traditional yet modern.

A: On December 31st 2011, you released your guqin rock album 1911 with four songs. How did this record come into existence? How long did the recording take and who helped you to release it?

Hz: We look at that album just one song but 1911, and it have 4 movements with more than 1 hour duration, just like a classical symphony. We’re probably the first band in China to do so, make a rock song in a symphony form.

We have taken a whole year to finish it, not a plain sailing, but a successful job already.

We have released it through a digital way on our official website in December 31st of 2012, the last day of the last year, and everyone can listen or download for free. The CD version will be release on March by Xing-wai-xing 星外星, a Guangzhou record company.

A: On Bandcamp the record is currently not available for downloading. Where can I get your music overseas?

Hz: Thanks for your reminding, we’ll open the downloading function on Bandcamp then.

A: With Zhao Ze being around for a very long time, your twentieth anniversary is nearing next year, and you have developed your music from rock to post rock to (now) guqin rock. Where do you see the development of rock music in the next twenty years? Or the next five?

Hz: No doubly, there’ll be more and more bands, records, rock festivals coming out in the future, and if your music is good enough, you can make a living. I mean, not just in Beijing, but also in the other cities. Benefit by the internet, the phenomenon of over-centralization in the capital city will have some good change.

More, I hope there will be some outstanding artists can have a great impact all over the world, not just in China, I think that’s not impossible.

A: How has Guangzhou and Kaiping changed since 2008 in terms of underground music?

Hz: In Guangzhou, the big difference is that, there’re no less than ten new live houses that have been opened in the past four years, and there’re more and more band shows, even music festivals nowadays. If you consider that previously there’re only two or three live houses for a very long time, you’ll know that’s a prominent development.

In Kaiping, since we left, and have been living in Guangzhou these years, there’s no longer any new music festival to be hold, but there’re still many young people forming bands and making some bands show. Among them, Que 缺, a new post-rock band, is pretty potential.

A: With Douban, Weibo, Renren and a number of other services exploding in China, how has Zhao Ze taken the technical revolution? How do you promote your music nowadays and from where do you get the best responses?

Hz: Internet really gives us help, we can face our fans more easy and directly now. I think Douban, Xiami are the best. Weibo have drawn a lot of attention but it’s also too numerous and disorderly, especially to those artists that haven’t a huge fans, so to us, it’s a good complement but not a primary choice. We never use Renren.

A: Started in 1993, a number of records released, China tours, organizing own festivals. Are you guys still thinking you are underground? What is underground for you?

Hz: We haven’t thought this for quite a long time. If look at our progress, we have made so many record and performance, and we have find some ways to maintain our career, and have quite a  number of  fans, maybe we shouldn’t be call underground. On the other hand, our music is peculiar and innovatory, it has a little controversial, those traditional guqin players and fans may consider Zhao Ze is too bizarre and unconventional, while another guys think Zhao Ze isn’t a pure post-rock band. Yes, we’re not so popular, or even not a main stream rock band. More, we always keep the independent attitude and our own music ideas to make our music, and times go by, we still D.I.Y. almost all the business by ourselves, such as recording, mixing, art design, tour management, etc., and now, we haven’t a contract sign to any record company……So, perhaps you can consider that we’re underground.

A: From your experience, which other Chinese bands are definitely worth a try?

Hz: Secret backyard 秘密后院Lonely China day 寂寞夏日, Wang wen 惘闻, 48V,  Sound and toy 声音与玩具, etc.

A: Thanks for the interview!

Read more about Zhao Ze:

Check out the 1st interview with Zhao Ze and also the interview about the Kaiping festival

Read about Zhao ZeLonely China Day, Wang Wen and Soundtoy at Rock in China

Read about QueSecret Backyard and 48V at Douban

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