Goushen’s guitar riffs and drum beats rattle, clash and collide like a blacksmith’s hammer and anvil, scattering rhythmic sparks every which way. Listeners have never been able to tell how those fiery, glinting notes will land. And while fans love the unpredictable nature of Goushen’s songs, the Shanghai alt rock troop’s future is now even more uncertain. Singer Lenz will leave the band, and the country, next week to begin her graduate studies in Australia. Two days before that, on Oct. 5, Goushen will give Lenz a proper send off by joining her onstage for one last gig at YYT. The show will also mark the end of their original lineup’s final tour, after they performed a recent string of cross country dates to promote their latest album, Dio Cane.
“There are only two ways out of this band–higher education or death. Lenz has chosen the first option,” guitarist Lao Bi says of the frontwoman’s departure, adding: “We, of course, are sorry to see her go, but are also very proud of her being brave enough to study
abroad. As for us, we will either find another singer and continue, or, we won’t.”
Below Lao Bi and Lenz elaborate further on Goushen’s shaky future and its rollicking past.
Tell us about Dio Cane, and how it differs from your last album 666 KTV.
Lao Bi: Dio Cane was recorded at DB Studios during July and August of this year. We are pretty goddamned proud of this album. I think it is the best material we have recorded to date. It differs from 666 KTV in the fact that we had analyzed that EP and fine-tuned our sound.
What are some specific examples about how you fine tuned your sound? What flaws or shortcomings did you try to outgrow?
Lao Bi: I don’t feel like there were flaws in 666 KTV, but that during that period we were going for a stripped down raw sound. Of course we never make mistakes (laughs), yeah right, you should have seen the baijiu bullshit guitar playing I pulled out of my ass in Beijing the other night.
But for Dio Cane I wanted two guitars with slightly different tones, to make the songs feel beefier and of course heavier. Lenz layered her vocals as well, and (drummer) Dario looked like he was sitting in a spaceship by the time he arranged all the extra drums he brought with him. (Bassist) Mianmian also pushed herself by playing more complex arrangements, rather than just playing a safe straight rhythm.
Lenz: Aho, the producer of the album, told me after recording that my vocal range is much bigger now. And thanks to all of our recent practicing I started to loosen up and take the lyrics less seriously. There’s less attitude in the lyrics this time, I just wrote about Lao Bi’s drunk stories, or sometimes just about a bunch of ants (laughs).
What were the biggest challenges you faced while recording Dio Cane, and how did you rise to the occasion?
Lao Bi: We had a tight budget and deadline to get this thing done, but in spite of that we planned out our time and knew exactly what we wanted to do and how to do it. We don’t do a lot of experimentation in the studio, and we certainly did not do any writing. Usually we do all the writing beforehand, then practice the living shit out of it. So, by the time we get to the studio the mentality is basically get in there and get ‘er done, and get it done right. Also we were working with Aho down at DB Studios, with whom I have done a total of five projects with by now.
If you ever had a bigger budget, would you experiment more in the studio? Or would you always prefer to bring a finished product to the sessions? Does that make the songs sound tighter and leaner or offer them something special in terms of tone?
Lao Bi: It’s hard to say because, frankly, we never had the opportunity. We’d probably never experiment in the studio, I would feel as though I showed for school without my homework done. I also can’t condone wasting people’s time. If we did get a big budget we would probably use the exact same method we did this time, then spend the rest of the money on real-estate (laughs).
What about Goushen’s past? Tell us about the best gig you’ve ever played, and what made it so memorable.
Lao Bi: Oh Christ, I could not begin to pick one. I’ve felt very honored to have known all the people I’ve met traveling around China playing music. If I had to pick something than I would pick the MOTO tour from last year. A few reasons why this was memorable, first – I got to play rhythm guitar for fucking MOTO! Second, 狗神 was the supporting band on the tour, so I was playing two sets a night. Third, Roundeye was another supporting band on the bill. So the end result was that I got a paid vacation playing with one of my heroes, traveling around China with about 15 of my friends. Not a bad deal.
How did it feel to play rhythm guitar for MOTO? Also, why are you such a big fan?
Lao Bi: I first saw MOTO when I was attending OSU in Columbus, Ohio back in oh, I dunno, 2000, or 2001. This guy just showed up and said “Hey, I’m MOTO, I don’t have a band with me but if there is anyone in town who knows my songs I’ll play the gig tonight.” I thought that was awesome. Paul Caporino was in no way being arrogant about it – just very nonchalant and honest, like his songs. And why am I a fan of MOTO? I dare anyone to listen to Paul’s stuff and not at least get a grin on your face, regardless of your musical taste.
How did it feel to play with him and his lovely wife Julia? Well, I think at some points of the tour Paul wanted to smack me upside the head because I was so excited, and jumping around like an idiot to the point where I was fucking up the songs. He would never do that though, he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Lenz, what are your fondest memories of being in Goushen?
Lenz: I love the family feeling of being in this band. And it’s always been interesting, never boring. There’s too many good memories to think about, and i know Goushen will be always special to me.
What do you love most about being in Goushen?
Lenz: We hang out all the time and we do all kinds of crazy things together. Music is just part of the fun.
Lao Bi, how do you feel about the band’s future? Have you started looking for a new singer yet?
Lao Bi: No, we are not looking yet. We feel that would be disrespectful to Lenz, who frankly is family. We are concentrating on enjoying the time we have with her now. When she does leave I will “take one for the team” and personally scout every KTV, 会所, and massage parlor in the country. It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.
Lenz: I don’t want Goushen to disband, so I’m supportive of whatever they do to keep it going. If they disband just because they can’t find a singer I will be angry–in that case, Lao Bi should just sing more! (laughs).
Will you join another band someday in Australia Lenz, or can you ever see yourself returning and reuniting with Goushen? What’s in your future?
Lenz: I will definitely keep playing. Being in a band has always been the most fun thing in the world for me. And yeah, I can see myself returning Goushen for shows, or just hanging out again. We are family!
Goushen will perform at YYT on Oct. 5 at 9pm. Tickets are 60RMB. For more information, visit http://yytlive.com/index.aspx?id=26&n=2014&y=10
By Kyle Mullin