Where:LOgO, 13 Xingfu Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu. 幸福路13号, 近法华镇路
Starts: Friday, June 19, 10:00 PM
Cover: 30 RMB
Formed in 2004, RandomK(e) is quite possibly the burliest group of dudes ever to assemble on a Beijing stage ever. Impossible to pigeonhole into a single genre, the band has been described as everything from “stoner rock” to “post-laowai” to “dubby krautrockers with unconscious Shellac leanings”.
Decide for yourself when they play their first show in Shanghai at LOgO this Friday. As an added bonus to our Shanghaiist readers, we’re giving away four of their CDs – just send an email to contest.giveaway (at) shanghaiist (dot) com with the words “Shanghaiist Random K(e) CD Giveaway” in the subject line and your name in the body. The first four to send an email to us with that info will get a CD.
How did you guys all meet?
We were friends before we starting playing, for the most part, that had met through our mutual interest and participation in the local music scene. Jackson and Richard played together in a band called Handsome Black, I had played in a few bands by then. Jackson and I got to talking one day back in 2003 about the bands we liked and the band that we’d like to put together; one day at after a soundcheck at a gig I was playing, Adam jumped onstage with another friend and jammed a bit, and I realized that I’d known him for years and not known he was a badass bassist. Jackson and I had a rehearsal with some others by then, and Richard and Adam quickly joined in; after a few experiments as a five- and six-piece, we slimmed the RandomK(e) lineup down.
How would you describe your music?
No good rock band is ever going to tell you that they sound like something or someone. Basically, we play rock music. Good rock music. There are elements of all of the different kinds of music that have influenced each member, from 70s funk to 00’s experimental to everywhere in between, pre- and post-.
A word that comes up a lot is post-rock, but so is prog, post-punk, and pop, and even sometimes dub and jazz. We’re open to everything not simply for the sake of throwing a whole lot of stuff together, but because we like so much stuff. We also mix it up every so often playing as a trio and even did a duo (bass/guitar) gig. And Jackson can play hours solo with his table of gear.
But ok, the take-away quote: Radiohead meets Mogwai at a party thrown by Joy Division, and then everyone heads out at an after-hours jazz joint, passes around a bong and records the jam session.
You’ve been described as ‘post-laowai’ -what do you think of that label?
I like the idea of ‘post-laowai’, but it won’t do us any good until others grab on to it and agree that we don’t need the label: Yes, we happen to be from a country that is not China, but that doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t for Beijing, these particular people never would have met and formed a band. If we’re not a Beijing band, who is?
The reality is – and I know this because I find myself doing it all the time – people, whether Chinese or foreign, who go to rock shows and see that there are foreigners on stage will likely think: ‘These guys couldn’t do this back home because they weren’t good enough, but here, they think they are’ (unless they think: ‘hey, they’re foreign, they must be good’).
While there are certainly crappy bands of foreigners, there are a ton of not crappy bands with foreigners. And hey: Aren’t there tons of crappy bands with Chinese, too? We’ve found that it’s hard to be taken seriously as a band as non-Chinese, but that’s changing with more people who come to see our shows, because live, it’s so obvious that it doesn’t matter where we’re from. It’s useful as biographical material, but not as a descriptor.
We should be beyond geography at this point. But alas, we’re not. So despite RandomK(e)’s almost 40 years of collective Beijing living, not only are we not a Beijing band, but we’re not even just a band of waidiren. We’re laowai (insert mouth-frothing rant about hating the word ‘laowai’ here). And meanwhile, the bands that move to Beijing from other Chinese cities, they aren’t even called waidi bands; they’re just bands. It’s an obstacle that’s frustrating: Just because we’re foreigners doesn’t mean that a) we don’t take our music seriously, and b) our music is not original, and really fugging mind-blowingly amazing. Not to toot our own horn or anything -no, wait: I want to lay on the horn- we’re pretty damn good, and it’s not because we’re foreigners, or waidiren, or because we live in Beijing; it’s because we’re just good.
Is this the first show you’ve played in Shanghai?
Yes, and we’re really psyched to finally be coming down, especially after having the whole thing almost unravel when 21g decided to break up instead of play with us. It’s silly that it’s taken us four years to do it, but I’m pretty sure that after Friday night, there will be plans in the works for a return. It’s so important for us to play to different audiences in different cities. But I’m glad that we have a record (“Waiting” [Tag Team Records], which was released in March across China and is available online via http://wa3.cn) under our belts to bring with us to Shanghai.
How is the Beijing music scene different from other scenes?
It’s hard to deny that Beijing’s music scene is China’s music scene (sorry Shanghaiists). As a foreigner who is/has been involved on several levels of the music scene and who used to write about it before the big blogging days, I’m impressed with the amount of commentary by English-language bloggers I have found about the Shanghai music scene, and I don’t feel like Beijing has the same level of attention paid to its music in that same way. But there is certainly more happening in Beijing. What’s great about Beijing’s scene is that it’s big enough that there’s at least a little of everything. There are a bunch of great places to play.
I think it comes down to the fact that musicians have been moving to Beijing from elsewhere to make music, and that breeds a whole range of bands. But Beijing is a bit too complacent about our status as Centre of the Middle Kingdom (in so many ways, but we’ll stick to rock for now), and risks ignoring or snubbing other cities’ scenes to our own detriment. So, RandomK(e) hereby pledges to take in as much of the Shanghai scene as is possible in a 20-hour time frame. Shanghai: Bring out your scene!
So what can we expect from the show this weekend?
A kick-ass rock show four years in the making. That we promis(e).