Monday night Logo was very quiet around 11pm. The Rogue Transmission (TRT) was rehearsing somewhere around the French Concession and I was taking a break while waiting for Fabi, TRT’s drummer, to interview him.
It was a little less than one year ago when we were talking in the same place I was waiting for him now; the couch of Logo. That other time we talked a lot about music, the bands, the music scene and our projects. At that moment Layabozi was not yet Layabozi, I think during those days we were evaluating Plan B as a name. He told me about The Huhumama’s, talking about how to find a name. And I remember when we said bye, he came back to me and asked me: “are you going to write about my band? Right?” I said: “Yes! Of course” He smiled. Then, I added seriously: “although I better tell you immediately, if it’s not really good, I will have to say it”… His smile turned to a *oh! look * and I, evilish, added “well, you know the idea is to support the quality of the music, to give impulse to more and better music. So if it’s not that good… anyway, don’t worry, I mean, I’ll be honest, but also I’ll do my best and I’ll be supportive”. He took a breath then, but not so released.
He was serious, so was I. But I was playing annoying too; no excuses of course. Anyway, the point, that’s how much worried he was about his band being attacked by “the enemy” (as popularized by a movie, the enemy, it was now me). Then, I understood two things in that moment, one, I should worry more about the fact that to do Layabozi I had to be ready to say to friends, publicly, “I don’t like what you are doing now” and of course, accept the consequences. And second, Fabi loves his music and his band.
I’m glad to report that, The Rogue Transmission to me sounds solid, clear and ready to go and conquer. They have been together only one year and they can count many gigs in their history and some of them for sure to remember for long.
A rock band needs to play live, you can’t be a rock band without the live experience. Probably, you can be a folk band, electronic, classic and do well without any stage sweat on the body, but definitely not for rock; a rock band needs an audience to rock out. The bigger they get the stronger they must be on the stage. Rock is not only music, it’s a performing art too. So when it comes to rock bands, there’s not only music, which of course it’s the essential base, but there’s also the work of the stage because you rock when you blow everybody’s head off. You rock when people is jumping at the rhythm of the drums, you rock when everybody is playing the riffs with their invisible guitars, you rock when the singer is the center of attention and everybody is waiting to have a look back from him. You rock when the beats are tight, and here is where TRT is now. From here, they are going for more, their next stage. They seem to be on the way for depth and strength, to rock hearts and brains, on the way to conquer more experience and more music. They have a vision and they are making it happen and even better, the vision is happening to them. And if (bloody if), but if they keep their rhythm and intensity I bet a neck on TRT’s future: if they keep working on their music, they will have to worry about confronting bigger enemies than a Chinese duck.
Layabozi: You are releasing these days the first album of The Rogue Transmission. Why is it an EP and not an LP?
Fabi: Doing five good songs is better than trying to do too many that we’re not entirely satisfied with. We’ll work on a good LP when we have more time and more material to pick from!
LYBZ: What are your expectations for this album?
F: Just help spread our sound to have more people hearing what we do, not only in concerts. Same reason why we go on tour: we just went to Hangzhou last month for one night only, but people just got to see us for a couple of hours. They seemed to have had fun and I wish we had the CD at that time so they could remember us also after that night of drinking! We’ll be going to Changsha and Wuhan soon in two weeks and this time we’ll have this CD with us.
LYBZ: Were you in other bands before The Rogue Transmission (TRT)?
F: A few short-lived bands until John and I formed The Huhumamas along with 2 friends, Dan later joined it as well. But TRT is the most accomplished so far.
LYBZ: How’s been the experience during this first year of TRT?
F: Really good. The connection inside the band is perfect, it is totally natural. We’ve all been good friends long before the band was formed. I even knew Clement from College years in France.
We all have different music influences but match on a lot of them too; we also enjoy the same kind of parties, etc… I think in order to have a solid band here you must of course have people you trust entirely and know you can rely on. Then, everybody has to have some free time and be ready to dedicate part of it to the band. So if the relationship goes on well, the music of course will follow. If our band’s unity wasn’t that good I’m sure we wouldn’t be where we stand now, but so far so good!
We’ve been able to play with lots of people from Shanghai, Beijing and other places in China too, and got to learn from each other. We played in different cities, different venues, in only one year and I think it’s a good achievement. The only thing missing is a big festival (well, we had to deal with Midi’s consecutive postponements…), but we’ll do it next year, I’m sure, it’s coming. We also took the time to record this summer, it was the best thing to mark the year, all in all a very good one.
LYBZ: How is the creative process inside the band, I know Dan writes lyrics and the music comes from all of you, but a bit deeper into the process, how do you work?
F: We dedicate rehearsals either to creation or to practice songs we already have. I always record the jamming sessions on mini disc, and if we all feel that something went well, I split the main file so we can work more on those parts. And if one of us doesn’t feel confident with the new stuff, we just save it and try to re-work on it a month or two later, it proved efficient!
LYBZ: The music you all like and the music you play, these together with other things give part of the style of the band. What is the identity of the band? What kind of style is your music?
F: Oh! that’s a terrible question to ask! [laughs].
LYBZ: I know! But I’m not asking for a categorization, but some kind of description of the TRT music.
F: From an objective point of view some things just don’t fit with the style of the band and we leave them out. But that’s what makes the band; our influences those we share and those we don’t. We do certainly share the old school rock and its ‘kick-ass riffs’, to quote this infamous Shanghaiist review. We began our first band practice ever by playing Eagles of Death Metal and Wire covers that went on well immediately; so this may have been a driving point somehow. We know that we have fun playing this kind of music.
LYBZ: What do you play besides drums?
F: I played guitar for a long time, and a bit of bass. We all can play different things. I know John and Dan would hit some drums when we take a break during a rehearsal. Clement can go on the bass too. Actually, some of us are joining the STD Halloween show coming up in two weeks at Yuyintang where I’ll sing and play guitar for a change, Dan will be on the lead guitar and John on the bass. It’s going to be fun!
LYBZ: So, let’s gossip and talk about the guys! The band has a body, I think it’s well-built, the musicians balance well with Dan’s personality and style, and when I saw him singing last time at Logo, my feeling was that he is super hormonal performer, teenager-ish even, you know, just like rock. I had this feeling that he really really really loves rock.
F: He totally does. Actually I’m not sure there’s anything he loves more than that!!
LYBZ: Tell me more about the band’s performance style, with Dan backed up by you guys.
F: It’s pretty good; we all love what he does on stage. We may not all be as comfortable in being more expressive, most of the time anyway, we don’t have the space on stage for it. And I don’t think we need to push ourselves in the front, he is doing it enough and well. That’s the singer’s job and he handles it perfectly.
LYBZ: Stage attitude is very important for rock bands.
F: Yeah, we are working on this with every show we go through, and hopefully it’ll get only better. What will help us to get to the next level is to face more audiences, or bigger stages like festivals. We gained a lot of confidence when we started thanks to our friends coming to watch and support us from the beginning at every show, plus from the feedback they gave us.
Now this EP will help us going on more dates out of town. I thought our name would be hard to remember in the first place, but since we got the Chinese name (liu m@ng guang bo) I realized it’s actually a really catchy name for Chinese people! Liu mang is kind of a taboo word, people don’t like to use it I think, it’s maybe even shocking to see it written in articles because it means corrupted. And though it certainly happens a lot around, nobody should talk about it. When we were in Beijing last month, as soon as people read the Chinese side of the flyer they were pointing at the characters *making face of interrogation* and they were like “What? Liumang guang bo?! That’s the name of the band, wow!!!”. And laughing, you know…
LYBZ: Well, you need some balls to have that name then don’t you?
F: Two of our shows got cancelled last time in Beijing, but I hope it wasn’t for that!
F: Rock and roll has started a long time ago here. I thought for a while that it was just emerging, it’s a mistake to think so. It just remained underground for all this time. A Chinese friend in a punk band told me recently that you could expect the same attendance for a gig 15 years ago as you can today. The thing is that China is still driven by all the TV pop music and these love dolls singing, so rock has few ways to develop here.
But the quality of the rock bands has undeniably got better, especially over the last 5-6 years. Beijing is the front window of this emerging scene of course; there’s already been a simple but cool documentary about it “Beijing Bubbles” and D-22’s photograph and artwork designer just released an impressively good book about all these bands coming out now as well.
So we’re happy to be here right now doing rock, taking part in that movement. Other things are also emerging in China; quality electronic music stays underground but it does exist. The noise scene has been on for a couple of years also and though I’m not into listening to this at home I often go to check their events.
LYBZ: How does the music environment influence TRT?
F: It pushes us, it gives us the energy to go on and keep going like we do. Playing with bands that we’ve seen before and we like already, some that we just discover. Lately we played with Steely Heart in Beijing, they were not supposed to be the big name on the bill but from what we saw they were the tightest one on that day. We’ll play with them again for their first time in Shanghai on November 21st.
LYBZ: Tell me which bands are close friends of TRT.
F: We are friends with Joyside since we played with them here and in Beijing. Their guitarist’s new band will come down to play with us here in late November. Angry Jerks from Nanjing were also our very first friends from out of town; they were really welcoming when we got there. We keep in touch all the time and often catch up with them. I’m quite going in the opposite direction from the chronological order [laughs], I should have started from Shanghai. We know many bands from here, all of those we played with, the ones that started with us and still do like Boys Climbing Ropes.
LYBZ: Let’s talk about drumming. I like drumming
F: Me too!! [laughs]
F: Because it’s fun! You know it! It’s fun!!! [more laughs]… I’ve been playing guitar for long, but I would always jump on the drums when I had the chance to, even if I was terrible! I think I got into drums by analyzing and trying to reproduce the beats of bands I was listening to 10 years ago. I was all the time hitting on tables in class, pissing my neighbors off!
When we formed The Huhumamas, a common friend said to us: “You guys all play music, you should make a band”. We all said: “Uhhh… yeah. Let’s try. What do you play?” One would go: “I play guitar,” the other: “I’ve been playing guitar for a while also,” then “yeah, me too, guitar,” … guitar… What the fuck! do we do a Gipsy Kings band now?!?”. So John said: “I can do bass, I like bass!” and I said I could do drums. That’s how it all started. I have some really good thing with drums, all the time playing around tst-tst-tst-tst *doing like playing with the sticks and his hands*. And I love it now, I never took any guitar lessons and I did it the same way with drums, but I’m progressing faster I think because it’s really easy to learn by yourself. It’s all about your mood driving you to find new rhythms. As long as you don’t want to reproduce somebody else’s drumming, it’s easy to be confident because you don’t make any obvious mistakes!
LYBZ: Who’s your favorite drummer?
F: I love Danny Carey from Tool, Josh Freeze, Jon Theodore from the Mars Volta though he just left the band. Some mythic drummers like John Bonham of course, Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell. I love Deftones’ Abe Cunnigham also; I think he really plays cool stuff that is more reachable as a beginner than the others’.
LYBZ: So how are the drums of TRT?
F: Oh, I can’t really talk about that. [smiling] That’s up to other people to tell how my drumming is. What can I say about it?
LYBZ: I don’t know, I’m asking… What about the sound?
F: It’s loud!!! I realized recently when I went cymbal shopping at the music expo that I had to choose ones made to hit loud rock. And that’s just in accordance to the music we play, to push the others…
LYBZ: How is it working with John on the bass?
F: Basically he works more on me than I work on him * naughty laughing * When we create a new song, I’m often the one that’s going freely and he is the one that is trying to follow my kicks until he’s giving me the face like * very open eyes *. It’s just after I get more at ease with the new rhythm that I pay attention really closely to him and I start to change some things to adapt. Anyway he’s just great bass player to rock with.
LYBZ: Your best gig?
F: For the band I think we all agree on Nanjing at Castle Bar in May, the audience was great! I personally also enjoyed a lot the one at the Dream Factories in September with PK14.
LYBZ: A tip about the cover of the album for the contest…
F: We were looking for an artwork for the cover and we didn’t know what to do or who to ask. Then, I thought about this picture I took last summer and sent it to the guys, I didn’t change anything on it and we all agreed it would be good to use as the cover. Many people have asked me what is it, so we thought of doing this little contest. But as the correct answer might be really hard to guess, I’ll be happy to read the most creative and funny answers to give these CDs!
Tomorrow Saturday 24th at YuyinTang, The Rogue Transmission will be releasing “Illicit Intercepts”. One more day to go to get one free copy of the album tomorrow at YYT. Check the big photo here and send us your answer. While, listen to the exclusive song they shared with us, the first single of Illicit Intercepts, “Apathetic Mutation”, and get ready to Rock!