Fanboy Warning: I’m in awe of the Kaiser!
That said, nothing can sum up what’s gonna take place this saturday better than the words on the flyer I received from Yugong Yishan:
I still remember last time I saw the Dirty Deeds live back in 2006 at the old Yugong Yishan and have been pestering Kaiser and Jaime about a reunion every time I saw them. That was still one of the best rock shows I had the pleasure to witness in Beijing with amazing energy levels from the crowd and the band. It was even better because I went there by accident that night:
In honor of the reunion, I tracked down the one and only Kaiser Kuo who was a great sport about taking time out of his busy schedule and answering a few questions:
1- What’s going on in your world? This is your chance to plug your stuff:
There’s actually a bit too much going on, and streamlining is the order of the day. Family always comes first, and obviously that’s not going to be streamlined. We’ve got two precocious preschool-age kids, and they keep my wife and I pretty busy. In terms of work, I’m doing some consulting for Youku.com and with the ad agency Wunderman, doing digital strategy on the Nokia account. When I can find time, I’m working on a book that’s basically about Chinese relations with the Anglophone West on a people-to-people level, though I’m starting to wonder whether I’ll ever find sufficient time to finish that up. I’m still writing my monthly column for The Beijinger. The band, Spring & Autumn, is in high gear these days, with lots of shows and a lot of songwriting in hopes of finishing up material for the next CD. I’m doing quite a bit of public speaking of late, mostly on China Internet-related topics, but occasionally on music, or politics, too. And whenever I can — usually while riding around in taxis or on my e-bike — I’ve been keeping up with news through podcasts, and listening to a lot of audiobooks.
2- a lot of folks, including yours truly, have been pestering you forever about a Dirty Deeds reunion! How did it come about?
Not much to it: Alex Williams, who was the first guitarist of Dirty Deeds and really the guy who had the idea to do an AC/DC tribute band back in what, 2005 or so, had moved back to the U.K., and even before he left we’d talked about doing another show if and when he ever found himself back in Beijing. A couple of months ago, he wrote Jaime to say he was coming back in early September for a bit, so we booked the show at Yugong Yishan, sent around the song list, and put together a few rehearsals. No one seems to have forgotten a thing, so the whole thing came together rather effortlessly.
3- Seems like you been playing a lot more lately with Spring & Autumn, a low key Tang Dynasty show and now a Dirty Deeds reunion. are you refocusing on music?
Actually I haven’t been with Tang Dynasty in over 10 years now, so I’m not sure how people still think I have anything to do with that band. I did run into Ding Wu, the lead singer of TD, at the Summer Pilot 2009 festival on Sunday night and we chatted amiably — actually, chatted at any length for the first time since I left a decade ago. Spring & Autumn’s been pretty busy, especially now that we’re doing fairly frequent unplugged sets at bars like Jianghu. That’s a lot of fun, though I’m a rank amateur when it comes to playing acoustic guitar. I have a stiff right hand, the result of a lifetime playing just Metal. The acoustic stuff really lets our singer, Yang Meng, show what he can do, and the shows have gone over really well. Dirty Deeds is a one-off, I’m afraid: We’re doing this mainly because Alex is back in town visiting, and because there’ve been so many people — like you! — asking us to put it back together for a show. I’m really psyched to do it. I never thought playing in a cover band, and one covering songs I hadn’t really listened to seriously since junior high, would be this much fun.
4- Is this gonna be an old school reunion with you on bass and Jamie on vocals or will you guys be flipping things around?
Yes, it’s going to be like it was in the original line-up: Jaime Welton singing, Alex Williams doing most of the Angus Young guitar parts, Andy Pi playing rhythm guitar plus some leads, Mauro Marescialli playing drums, and me on bass. I don’t normally play bass, but it’s fun and relatively easy with Dirty Deeds, and I don’t have to sink a lot of time into learning difficult solos or anything. This way I can rock out, sing some backup vocals, and not have to worry too much about fuck-ups.
5- How hard is it (if at all) to balance the “rock star life” with the “corporate life” ?
Band demands on time really aren’t all that bad. I’m not the only one in Spring & Autumn with a day job, so normally rehearsals are after the work day’s over, and shows are at night and on weekends, so it’s not really work that competes with band time so much as family time. The kids actually came and saw me play for the first time last weekend, since we were doing an outdoor show and they weren’t going to choke on cigarette smoke or go deaf. They seemed to really get into it. My three-year-old son Johnny was even throwing the horns and banging his head a bit.
6- Word association. for each one of these words, write down the first thing that comes to your mind:
- Beijing: Smog, gridlock, and my one true love
- Shanghai: Buncha fucking philistines
- Baijiu: Never again, I swear this time.
- Chou Doufu: Stop breathing, now.
- Cui Jian: Managing to stay relevant while I ossify out of musical stubbornness
- Hunan: Weird-ass Goth chick with the Marilyn Manson white contact lenses we met on tour in Changsha
- Henan: Hellish heat during the recent family pilgrimage to the ancestral home. Nicer than I thought it’d be, though.
7- What’s kaiser musical references in terms of guitar? Any special source of inspiration?
I was a HUGE fan of Rush all through high school and college, and worshipped Alex Lifeson like you wouldn’t believe. People may associate me mainly with Heavy Metal, but most of the music that really inspired me to play rock was Progressive Rock stuff, mostly from the 1970s — Yes, ELP, stuff like that. Later, in college, I got into King Crimson, and early Genesis: Steve Hackett of Genesis became another object of reverence in terms of guitar style. Those bands, as well as a bunch of more obscure Prog Rock bands, were all groups that my roommate turned me on to. All through college the band I played in was chiefly influenced by stuff like that. I only really went “back” to Metal when I came out to China after college.
8- Name 3 high points and 3 low points of your musical career:
- Spring & Autumn concert at Yugong Yishan, October 2008. Probably the best show we’ve ever played.
- Tang Dynasty concert at Shah Alam Stadium, Malaysia. First show we did with real pyrotechnics, and we smoked Cui Jian and Black Panther, also on the bill
- Spring & Autumn show at the Snow Mountain Music Festival, 2002. I wrote about that show for Time magazine and put my first piece of writing ever in the U.S. edition of the magazine.
- Playing a Kenny Roger’s Roasters in 1998 with Tang Dynasty: The stage looked like a set from Hee-Haw.
- My high school band, Fallout, playing at the University High School graduation party, First United Methodist Church in Tucson, Arizona, at the end of my junior year. The coolest kid in school, a senior named Zack Hitner, came up to me and said, “Hey Kuo, your band really sucks.” I wanted to punch him, but realized that he was right.
- Tang Dynasty playing in Shenzhen, at Windows on the World, in a “peace concert” after the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, in May, 1999. It turned out to be an anti-American rally, and I believe I was the only American present. It sucked, and led in significant part to my departure from the band.
9- What if: What if you just couldn’t be in Beijing doing the things you do… where do you think you’d be and what would you be doing?
I guess I’d hope I were living in a small, comfortable, friendly town in the U.S., devoting my time to writing.
10- would you ever consider a super marathon show with Tang Dynasty, Spring and Autumn, Dirty Deeds, Black Cat Bone and Bad Mamasan?
Sure, why not! Jaime might well die of exhaustion, or his vocal chords would certainly give out, but it’d be a whole lot of fun.
Dirty Deeds one time reunion at Yugong Yishan
For those about to outparty them… they wanna hang with you!
Show starts at 9:00 with expected sell out
Yugong Yishan 愚公移山
3-2 Zhangzizhong Lu (100m west of Zhangzizhong Lu subway station),