How did the name “Mint” originate? I think at the time, my friend and I were talking about this rapper from Cali named Suga Free. So I just started thinking of names that fit in that category.
Flavors of gum? Yeah. I dont like the name anymore, but the other guys in the band don’t seem to mind. I was watching Above the Law yesterday, the Steven Seagal movie, and was thinking of naming the band after the main character — Nico.
What’s you favorite memory involving Shanghai? My favorite memory happened not long ago. I was on the subway and there were two women directing this small child to beg for change. The two women were crouched on the ground, and some older women sitting on the bench behind them started chastizing them. Then several more people started chiming in, I even started to chime in, there was this chorus of indignation ringing in the cabin. The reason why this was so meaningful to me is because just a few days earlier a friend of mine was going on about Chinese, saying some pretty nasty stuff — your typical expat social commentary. I remember feeling vindicated after getting off the subway. I was very happy people spoke up, because too often people don’t speak up enough.
Do you plan to stay in Shanghai long term? I think I’ll be here for a couple more years.
How do you feel about the local music scene and your part in it? The local music scene is developing. You go to these shows organized by places like Shuffle and Yuyintang and see there is definitely an audience for rock ‘n roll music. I just don’t know if it’s gonna get to the level we want. The music model in China is still so heavily popstar based. As for bands, I think everyone’s more concerned about style than about writing a proper tune. We’re not as good looking or stylish as other bands, so all we got are our songs. We want to write music that people can sing and relate to. I know that’s especially hard for Chinese audiences since all our songs are in English, but we hope our music transcends the language barrier.
Living in Shanghai, do you find it difficult to keep up with pop culture and music from the States? I have no idea what’s going on in pop culture, but I do read NME from time to time. So I guess I know what’s happening in British music?
And do you look to that for inspiration?No, i don’t think so. We keep on going back to old stuff. Even though we try to listen to new music, it keeps on going back to stuff we listened to in college.
At your last show at Shuffle Bar, during some of the acoustic songs people were screaming “yee-haw!” Do you catch any flak for being “country”? [Laughs] I think those were my friends — they like taunting us. I don’t mind, I love country music.
Who do you like? I like Gillian Welch, but I don’t know if you would call her country. I like Johnny Cash.
Americana? Yeah, thats a great word. I like all that old stuff you here on the radio in the Midwest. I like rock bands that infuse a little country in their music — I think Wilco does it well. Lyle Lovett has this one CD that i listen to a lot, Road to Ensenada. Country music is earthy and honest … it’s beautiful.
What is your favorite place to drink in Shanghai, and what’s the best night to go out? My favorite place to drink has got to be Time Passage. I love that bar. Best night to go out? Friday night — its a nice way to top off the week.
What’s special about Time Passage? Well, if you’ve been to one bar in Shanghai, you’ve been to ‘em all really. Hmm … ego stroking. I don’t like fancy bars cause you don’t need a fancy place to drink beer in, you just need a place with four walls and a roof. And the people … every time I go there, it seems like at least one table is drunk as hell and singing backup for the musicians there. They play great music — last time I was there the guys were covering REM and the Beatles. It doesn’t get better than that really. [Laughs]
A few quickies on the music tip:
Top 5 albums of all time? Oooooooh, this is hard. Sgt. Peppers [Beatles], Definitely Maybe [Oasis], Ill Communication [Beastie Boys], Either/Or [Eliott Smith]. Can’t forget Neil Young — I like Silver + Gold a lot — or Beck’s Midnite Vultures.
Some of your influences? Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, RHCP.
What are your plans for the future of the band? Practice, practice, and more practice. And some experimentation. We’re a blues rock based band by nature but we don’t like getting pinned down to one style of music. We want to explore other styles. We love good music –whether it’s country, blues, punk, whatever. We want to try it all.
Now it’s time for some fill-in-the-blank action:
You know you’ve made it when … When M&Ms are conveniently separated by color.
It’ll be time to pack up the gear for good when … You’re 30 albums in and your last good one was Exile on Main Street.
Did you go to the Rolling Stones show? Yeah, honestly, they were ridiculous. At least Mick — he is an ox, he is a beast of a singer, to sing for nearly two hours … man, he’s got some pipes. Hell, he could kick the shit out of any of these younger guys any day of the week.
What about when Cui Jian got up on stage? Very bad, a bit embarassing, really. I like Cui Jian, I just wish it would have gone smoothly. He didn’t know what to sing or play.
I’ll never forget the first time I … Was shot out of a cannon.
Photos from Shanghai Streets.
Interview is a regular feature on Shanghaiist. Know someone in Shanghai you think would make for a good interview? Email tips(at)shanghaiist.com.