Luv Plastik Interview for Fete de la Musique (FDLM)
18th December at 69 café, Nanluoguxiang, with Ophélie and Elie.
We at FDLM recently decided that we wanted to get to know bands better, in order to be better able to provide the kind of support they actually need. And so, we thought we might as well publish the interviews online, and share with everyone the great bands we’ve come across. We keep the editing to a minimum, since we’re volunteers and don’t have time, but that means you also get the crunchy bits about who’s who and doing what for music in Beijing.
Luv Plastik is a two-piece band that has started to make a lot of noise (quite literally) in Beijing for the past six months. We immediately fell for them and their high-intensity shows of crazed out garage punk. Our team met with band members Dan and Dan at 69 Café in the middle of December for a cosy interview talking about how the band came about, how they feel about the music scene in Beijing and being foreign musicians here. At some point, Zhang San joined us and shared some of his (rather bleak) views with us too. So read on!
*For Dan Taylor’s side of how the band came about and the origin of the name of the band, check out a previous interview they gave to Live Beijing Music.
**Listen to their brand new EP here.
*** Next shows May 2nd and 15th at School Bar.
How long have you guys been in Beijing for?
Dan Taylor: Myself a year and a half now.
Dan Lenk: I’ve been here seven years.
How do you guys call one another since you’re both Dans?
Dan Taylor : We just say Dan.
Dan Lenk: Well we just figured it out, Dong Dan and Xi Dan because he lives in Dongcheng and I live in Xicheng.
Dan Taylor: I like Xi Dan.
Dan Lenk: You want to be Dong Dan or Xi Dan?
Dan Taylor: I don’t know.
Dan Lenk: I’d never really thought about it, because I’m moving into your area anyway.
Dan Taylor: So we’re both going to be Dong Dan.
Dan Lenk: I mean, I’ll take Dong Dan if you want to be Xi Dan.
When did you start playing together?
Dan Lenk: A little bit more than a year, maybe last year in September/October. We had the one-year anniversary, I forgot about that.
Dan Taylor: Did we? I forgot the cake…sorry I forgot our anniversary!
Dan Lenk: You always do this…(laughs)
Did you start the band with a specific direction you wanted your music to take?
Dan Taylor: When we first started we didn’t actually use… well, do you want to tell the story of how we met?
Dan Lenk: This is very random. I got his number from a friend of his, who I ran into on the street asking me where Tian’an Men was, like around Beixinqiao, and so I was like ok, “blablabla you go down there” and then I meet him again in Café de la Poste that night, and he tells me “you’ve got to call this guy, he’s a great musician”. I take his number and forget about it, saved it as “Dan”. And then there was another Dan who runs Aweh (aweh.tv ndlr), called Dann Gaymer, I was meant to jam with him, and I texted this guy (pointing at Dan Taylor) by mistake. I met him at Nanluoguxiang and I was like, you’re not Dan!
Dan Taylor: ‘Cause I play guitar and the other Dan was supposed to play drums.
Dan Lenk: Yeah I expected him to have sticks. So he was like: “Yeah I’m Dan, who are you?” “Well, I’m Dan!”, then we just went in, we didn’t really know what to expect because the whole plan was fucked, so we jammed some of his Harridans music which was sounding really good and then after about an hour we decided to switch, Dan Taylor got on the drums, we messed around a bit like, cranking the amps playing some super fast cooked out Elvis music
Dan Taylor: That was the first time I actually picked the drums properly.
Dan Lenk: He picked it up really quickly.
Elie: Actually I never knew you played, I never saw you playing drums before Luv Plastik.
Dan Taylor: This is the only band I’ve ever played drums actually. Up until a year ago I’d never played drums at all. I was looking for a bass player, he was looking for a drummer and I said “well, I’ll just play the drums for you”, and it worked out well. At first it sounded really nasty, like really bad, but now I’m getting a bit more comfortable on drums, a lot more I think… So our meeting was just chance.
Did you have a band before coming to China?
Dan Lenk: Nothing serious on my part, I came here for college, I had high school bands, and then I started up here.
Dan Taylor: But you’ve had a lot of bands in Beijing.
Dan Lenk: Yea, I’ve done 4 or 5 projects, none of them really gained traction, but I think Dan and me bring very different things together and so it fits nicely whereas before I used to play with people who had very similar minds so maybe it would be more like a kind of a niche thing.
Elie: Which bands were you playing in?
Dan Lenk: I had a college band when I first came here and we used to play at D-22 once a month. Then I played in a pop-band called “Candy monster”, then I played with “Noise Arcade”, I did the electronica thing for a while. Then I had two bands with Michael Winkler of JingWeir, one band was me on drums and him on guitar, and then we flipped, and after that I met this guy.
Dan Taylor: I’ve played in very different bands in Beijing, like the Harridans and Luv Plastik, they’re my first real bands. Before I used to play for mainly folk music, I played a lot with different folk groups, I’ve moved around a lot so I’ve never been able to put up a big band together, or even a small one, I’ve never really put a project together, I’ve only played solo, with musicians backing me. I’ve stayed in Beijing for over a year now so I’ve been able to put people together.
Do you guys tour out of Beijing much?
Dan Taylor: We haven’t played out of Beijing yet, no.
Dan Lenk: Next year.
Elie: Is that something that you would like to do?
Dan Lenk: Absolutely. Beijing is cool, but there are so many other places in China.
Ophelie: Are there places that you want to go to, or people from other cities have contacted you?
Dan Taylor: We have some contacts in Hong-Kong and Shanghai…
Dan Lenk: Friends of friends. To do anything here is through relationships usually.
Dan Taylor: I really want to play in Europe.
Dan Lenk: My dream is to play in Japan, but Europe would be great too.
Dan Taylor: Japan would be amazing.
Elie: So you’re continuing the 东西(dong-xi) metaphorical difference huh ?
Dan Lenk: Oh yes! I’m all about going more East. I’m also really down for West though.
Dan Taylor: That’s so true…that’s weird
Dan Lenk: It is bizarre, maybe we’ve found some kind of undercurrent there… (laughs)
What do you think of the musical scene in China/ Beijing?
Dan Taylor: I think it’s great. There are really good bands playing in Beijing, a lot of great people pushing the scene forward, but I still think there hasn’t been any one breaking out though. It needs to be respected globally, rather than just in Asia. I still think there’s not been a Chinese band that’s got world status.
Dan Lenk: “Birdstriking” gets some good press, with Ricky Maymi’s help, the guy from Brian Jonestown Massacre but as far as a label in the West picking up Chinese bands, that hasn’t happened yet. Whereas labels have picked up Kpop musicians, so that’s a big difference, right? It’s a bad example cause it’s a corporate industry event side of music, if you compare it with Whai to Birdstriking it’s a totally different thing, but even Chinese pop stars, I don’t think any of them have been picked up in the West, maybe in Taïwan or Singapore, but not mainland. Most famous stars in China, most of them are Huaqiao (overseas Chinese). So I think what Dan says holds a bit of ground.
…And suddenly, Djang San walked in…we skipped transcription for a bit that involved putting a Go Pro on a dog and filling 69 café of people on a Saturday afternoon.
Djang San: Well, I didn’t want to be here…
Dan Taylor: But as far as us being a small band just starting out, Beijing is absolutely perfect, it’s cheap to practice, we can play lots of gigs, a lot of bands are in the same situation as us. The venues don’t favour signed bands, they don’t favour big bands, it’s not pay-to-play. If you want to start a band, Beijing is a great place to get up-and-going, but not necessarily the place where you can record an amazing album, take over the world, but if you want to practice your songs and do all of the hard parts, the hard craft, Beijing is just great for it.
Dan Lenk: I’m very up on in 2014, 2015, it’s looking good. It’s a bigger market, people in general are catching up to modern music. As terrible as that is to say, it’s not looking down on anything, I’m just stating a fact, maybe a year ago they were playing Metallica before shows, but now they have Jesus and Mary Chain or Nirvana or stuff like that.
Dan Taylor: What about the state of music in China Djang San?
Djang San : There’s a lot to say about that…it’s pretty disorganised, it’s blocked in so many ways. If there was something to do I would know. The problem is that it’s pretty hard to develop anything. I mean there’s only money in music for big stuff apparently, for big stars, but not for the rest of us we just have to struggle, I don’t see any option. Even if you start having another following problem is that people come to Beijing and go, so you start to have people following you and then they leave…
Elie: But that’s mainly for foreigners, right? Chinese people just stick along, some of them move around as well. But that brings me to that question…
How is it to be a foreign musician in Beijing?
Dan Taylor: I think the vast majority of musicians that are pushing the scene forward in Beijing are the Chinese musicians. There is a small Western Beijing music scene, there are some musicians who are doing something good, but… it’s nice to be a foreign musician isn’t it?
Dan Lenk: Yeah, you keep creating, meet people and make friends, there are also people who were doing a lot of stuff when I first came here, they are kind of on the periphery more and more, but a new generation is starting things up now. Some people that were really involved,… so like D-22 is a good example, it used to be the epicentre of everything, and I don’t think XP has the same hold, it’s more of a niche. They’re changing the way they were doing things, they promoted XP as an experimental thing for a long time and they’re just starting to get back into rock. Modern Sky has also evolved in its own way. I think it’s a good time for other labels to fill in the gaps now, because there’s definitely a big gap between those two.
Elie: Djang San, you might have something to say about being a Western musician in China? Because I know at the beginning you were like the only guy.
Djang San: I’ve talked about that before, I’ll always be a foreigner in China, it’s really hard to change that. I think the foreigners here are always considered apart from the scene, they are not considered as equal to the Chinese bands, there’s nothing much we can do about that actually.
Elie: You’re talking from the labels’ perspective or from the musicians’ perspective?
Djang San: From the system, it’s just the system here.
Elie: So you mean from the labels.
Djang San: But if you consider the way that foreigners live in China in general, we are always considered as outsiders, you can live forever here and always be an outsider, whatever you do, it can be music, business or anything.
Dan Lenk: It comes from Confucianism, it’s not different from Japan or Korea, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be part of it.
Djang San: In Europe the difference is that if you stay 10 years or more, you can be considered as part of the European community, but in Asia it’s impossible, because of the culture we’ll never be considered as part of the system, and I don’t think things will change. I think foreigners represent almost 50% of the scene, there’s a lot of foreign bands and there’s more and more and it’s getting better.
Dan Lenk: You could say the same about Chinese bands I think.
Djang San: Yea overall it’s getting better. There’s more diversity than it used to be, different kinds of stars, so that’s definitely interesting. The question to ask is that if you want the music in here to move forward, people have to get together, the foreigners and the Chinese alike, and labels have to stop looking at the bands saying “Oh it’s a foreigner band” or “it’s a Chinese band”. If it’s only about music then the scene will grow and have a bigger impact.
What are your favourite bands currently in Beijing?
Dan Lenk: For foreigners’ bands, it’s definitely Mammals, every time I see them I’m like “yeah”! I’d say also Hedgehog and Xinkuzi (New Pants, ndlr). Their live shows, they just bring it so well. Just based on live shows I would pick Xinkuzi, Hedgehog and I would put Mammals there as well.
Dan Taylor: I really like SUBS, great lives.
Dan Lenk: Oh shit, White + !
Dan Taylor: Coincidently we’re playing with them tomorrow at Mushroom festival. I also like Nakoma. And I really liked Perpetual Motion Machine as well the other day at DDC.
What kind of workshops for musicians would you like to see offered by our festival?
Dan Lenk: How to promote your stuff, how to sign your stuff.
Dan Taylor: How to go abroad would probably be the best for us. For me it would be how to expand your music overseas.
Dan Lenk: How to sign a contract would be interesting to hear about as well.
Dan Taylor: Or how NOT to sign a contract!…
Dan Taylor: Bands are live acts, it’s not like back in the day when you could say “I have this great album” and the label could make money of it. Now you may have a great album but you’re not gonna make anything of it.
Dan Lenk: It’s changing. People in the West will buy tunes online. You have syndicated radio, or like Spotify. Spotify is probably a terrible example. You get money if you get your song played but… it’s better than nothing. In China it’s all for free, that’s the understanding.
Dan Taylor: I think, how to promote your music, one thing I don’t know anything about is online, how to promote your music online.
Dan Lenk: We’re terrible at that, we have like 80 friends on facebook.
Dan Taylor: So promoting online would be a good one.
Thanks a lot guys!
Band photo by Fang Yifei.