Where: Yuyintang, 1731 Yan’an Xi Lu (entrance on Kaixuan Lu), 延安西路1731号 (入口在凯旋路)
Starts: Saturday, June 27th, 9pm
This Saturday sees the latest showcase from Miniless Records – one of China’s leading independent music labels – with Lava|Ox|Sea, Self Party, Fading Horizon, Boojii and Duck Fight Goose. Hans, one of Miniless’ founders, has recently started working with Yuyintang and is planning to develop the venue’s support for new bands – starting by offering a fee for bands that perform at the New Faces Underground showcases on Wednesday nights.
With his closer involvement at the livehouse, we can also expect more Miniless artists performing there in the coming months adding another dimension to Shanghai’s live music scene. We spoke to Hans about the label and his hopes for its future.
Can you explain a little bit about Miniless Records and how it came about?
Miniless is an underground label founded in 2006, by several friends and I. Currently there are about 18 bands/artists “signed” to us. Well I think I’d rather describe the core of miniless than give you a list of the bands. In short, this core could be described as “seriously playful”, which was printed on the new miniless t-shirt [see the Lava|Ox|Sea tee beautifully modelled here]. I think this phrase is pretty self-evident.
Miniless has been growing since 2006. Also in 2007 another label called Mini-E was established, to provide a more suitable platform for new electronic artists, like Sun Ye, CDGE and Demmy. We’ve released 14 albums from our bands and the recent releases are higher quality, both in sound and design. They are Fading Horizon “Name It Yourself” and Lava Ox Sea “Next Episode: Lord. Smart VS Dr. Jin”. We’re also collaborating with Maybe Mars this year and the albums from 8 Eye Spy and Muscle Snog will be release by our 2 labels jointly.
What links the bands that are on Miniless? Do you look for particular styles of music?
Yes there are links, apparently. Because we were influenced by different bands and we worship no heroes, not only rock heroes, but, all kinds, you know. Maybe some anonymous soldiers from Soviet Union, but that’s a totally different story, kind of a distorted and cynical worship. And maybe the links are the above, that we consider ourselves to be normal, normal as the other people and also those who created the template and broke the template of modern rock music.
We are not looking for particular genre of music, but if the word “style” including attitude or certain ideology of music, then yes. We are looking for people or bands who dare to break former templates, rather than copying them in a tricky way. And also people with an open mind, for example, who can play improvisation and traditional-rock at the same time and really know what he is doing and enjoy doing that. That’s hard and we like bands who try hard to make their own sounds.
What are your aims and hopes for the label? What’s the label’s mission?
Hmmmmm…maybe to spread something, but only spreading, not pushing. It’s a little hard to explain that “something”, I’d rather say we are trying to bring young people an option. Yes, an optional option. This is also the mission. And I hope this option could help the growth of a certain “Scene”, which is totally different than the others in other countries. And at this point I think it’s globalized, well I hope it’ll be globalized in a good way.
There seems to be quite a commitment to the music and the artist side of things – is that more important than being a successful business?
Actually in today’s society or music industry, the power of promotion are far beyond music itself, and I think every people with a healthy-normal brain should understand that. But, well, maybe we all had a failed-brain so we think, at least at this period of miniless, we’ll focus more on music. And if the music could inspire the others and ourselves, that’s a successful business to us.
Would you like to see one of the Miniless bands be accepted by the mainstream?
Of course I’d like to see that happen. But, if we look at this thing in a more objective way, that’s actually a very very interesting dilemma. To be short, if Miniless bands are accepted by the mainstream, that means we already had lots of money to do the promotion seriously and doing kind of a serious business, then we are not “miniless” anymore. We never expect any critics or media in China to be friendly and objective to an underground label. Most of them don’t even care about that. And also this should be partly considered as the label’s deficiency, which is, they don’t have releases which are good enough to be criticized. We are now trying to fix this part by several good releases.
How is Miniless different to the big labels in China?
There are three major differences,
1 we are geographically scattered so we can’t be described as a local label, though we sometimes function as one.
2 we don’t have financial support and every Yuan flows from the musicians and it’ll flow back into the hands of them. Which means we are basically a platform rather than a company trying to make more money. That’s bad sometimes.
3 we don’t have restrictions. You can join us and quit at any time, as long as you tell us so we could stop the arrangement and promotion of your bands. A little selfish, but we don’t have many staff to take care of bands who don’t like us.
Do you think Miniless is a model for other labels starting in other areas of the country?
If people consider their own label to be a serious business, then Miniless should not be a model for them, as we are not successful in business. But if they wanna doing something “interespiring” and also earn enough money to make the “thing” run normally, then maybe there are some aspect of Miniless which is worth to be considered as a “model”. What’s more important and interesting is that miniless don’t follow any prototype or model. So if you take miniless as model you should firstly take nothing as a model. Gosh, failed-brain symptom.
The artists on Miniless are from all over China. Do you think music and bands places in China other than Shanghai and Beijing are sometimes neglected?
Yes, but to me, it’s actually not related that much to their hometown. As I mentioned before, bands should never ever expect media to help them if they don’t help themselves. And it’s too surrealistic if every place become Beijing or Shanghai. Even in games like Galactic Civilization there could only be one cultural center in every planet….The scene is born small in China, and if the bands don’t play out of their hometown of their familiar livehouse, they won’t be better. We had enough examples of bands not from Beijing & Shanghai but famous.
There is also one thing that I wanna say is that if we consider the diversity of new bands to be a cultural-advantage, then Beijing is far beyond Shanghai’s level. There are tons of new bands practicing in 0093, but I think there are not enough stimulation to them. Talking about that, the boss of YYT livehouse (Zhang Haisheng) and I are now starting a weekly activity called “New Faces Underground” to encourage new bands to play new things. From the next week we’ll start to providing some money for the new faces even if NFU doesn’t sell tickets.
What’s the live music scene like in your native Hefei?
A pure disaster, could not be worse but as same as many other cities in China. About 5 underground bands existed for a long time and nearly no new bands coming, and the local bar manager don’t like to hold shows even monthly. Livehouse opened and closed again and again. But things are better now since I heard another livehouse opened again which is called 130loft. Good thing is at least those 5 bands practice frequently and going out of town nearly every 2 month, that’s why those bands in Hefei are even better than many bands in Beijing or Shanghai. They play metal, punk, progressive rock.
For people who have never heard of the bands involved in this weekend’s showcase, what would you say they can expect?
No posers and familiar riffs. That’s what they can expect….well, will this answer drive all the potential-audiences away? (b..b..b..failed-brain symptom again)
Which records do you recommend as a Miniless starter kit?
Go straight to our newest releases, Fading Horizon and Lava Ox Sea.