I had lunch with my old friend Jonathan Leijonhufvud (who drums for PK14) the other day and he told me that this song, which we recorded back in 2000 in a classical orchestra studio in Xinjiekou, might be released as part of a Chinese punk compilation due to come out on vinyl (details TBD).
I first met Jonny back in 1999 when, as a precocious 19-year-old indie label magnate, he brought his friends The International Noise Conspiracy to Beijing for a show at the old Keep in Touch Bar, one of the first live venues in town. We both shared a love for Blonde Redhead and Tortoise and started making noise together after he moved to Beijing later that year.
Back in Austin I drummed in a band called Lunacy Commission – we were into Big Black, Steel Pole Bathtub, The Melvins, Butthole Surfers and Sonic Youth, and played (albeit badly) a few shows around town – mostly at a dive bar called The Bates Motel on Sixth Street. I could barely drum and my friend was an equally crappy guitarist (but inventive with effects pedals). We also loved hip hop – Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, Redman, Jeru etc. – which had as much of an influence on the music we were trying to make as the rock bands we idolized.
But my (now non-existent) drumming skills were nowhere near as solid as Jonny’s (a self-taught multi-instrumentalist), so when we started making music along with our friends Xiao Rong (who was then already known on the scene for his band Brain Failure), Christiaan Virant (a former journalist who would go on to form experimental duo FM3 and invented a nifty ambient noise maker called the Buddha Machine) and Dave O’Dell (a fellow Texan who was running a Chinese rock website at the time and playing bass with various local punk bands), I became lead screamer by default.
We rehearsed in a bomb shelter up in the north part of town and played a few shows around Beijing, including one on the sidewalk in front of a now defunct venue by Zizhuyuan Park and a show on the Great Wall (which I stupidly missed because I was shacked-up with an ex – Shen Yue of 69 filled in on vocals for that one – see the clip posted on Youtube by “Texas Dave” above), but my favorite show was the one pictured at the top – I think I pounded about 12 whiskey shots before taking the stage at 17 Live House (Modern Sky’s old venue on Sanlitun South Street) that night and have very little recollection of the show itself – it was apparently a glorious mess and was probably the most fun I’ve had in my life.
I posted about this song and our old band back in 2005 on my first music blog (which I kept up for a few months before burning out), but I figured it was worth dusting off again with a proper post this time around. We recorded a couple of songs that day, and this ended up being one of the better takes (I thought a previous take was better, but unfortunately it got erased). The most memorable part of the day (other than the 2 bottles of erguotou I downed at lunch) were the recording engineers – a couple of middle-aged guys who had previously only recorded classical music. They both had “What-the-fuck-are-these-crazy-laowai-doing” looks on their faces the whole time – especially when Jonny played them a few Guitar Wolf tracks and said “we want that sound.”
On this track Jonny played drums, Christiaan was on keyboards, Dave was on bass and Xiao Rong played the guitar riff. For my part (that would be the unintelligible screaming bits), I was trying to channel Steve Albini and Iggy Pop (on Funhouse). I still think this song rocks, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.