By Yining Su
China’s most famous dissident artist Ai Weiwei just announced that he plans to release a heavy metal album in three weeks.
If you are surprised by this turn in Ai’s oeuvre, don’t worry. So is he:
“It surprises me that I’m doing it,” he told The Independent in a telephone interview. “If someone told me a few months ago that I would be doing a heavy metal album, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Ai also told the Guardian that he “never really listened to music or sung”.
Ai has written the lyrics for the songs, and will sing on the album. The music is written by Zuoxiao Zuzhou, a rock musician and friend of Ai’s.
Ai says he was inspired by the 81 days he spent in detention in 2011. Apparently, while he was imprisoned, guards would ask Ai to sing.
“Because I wasn’t familiar with music, I was embarrassed,” Ai tells Reuters. “All I could sing was Chinese People’s Liberation Army songs… After that I thought: when I’m out, I’d like to do something related to music.”
Ai’s decision to make music was also apparently inspired by Elton John, who controversially dedicated his November 2012 concert in Beijing to Ai. Ai told the Independent, “With Elton John’s concert, I was so impressed how music creates such a big impact.”
What will the songs be about? Reuters reports that there will be a song about the Great Firewall and two songs about Chen Guancheng, the blind dissident lawyer who made a dramatic escape from house arrest in April 2012 and is now living in the United States, where he went to Disneyland with Christian Bale. One song will be called “Hotel America” and will be a satirical take on how both Chen and Wang Lijun took shelter in American embassies.
Titled Divina Commedia for some pun-related reason, the album is currently being mixed, but Ai told the Guardian that he has no idea how he’ll distribute it.
According to the Guardian, Ai is already working on another album.
For a preview of what Ai’s singing might sound like, here’s a video of him singing “Caonima”, the Grass Horse Mud song.