We’re extremely lucky in Beijing with all the great music we get and the tasty food we have access to.. but what really rocks is the really cool people we have in this city. Jon Campbell of Black Cat Bone and RandomK(e) fame is one of those folks.
Jon took time of his schedule while in Toronto to answer a few questions about the himself and the bands he plays in.. great and insightful answers that beg for more so don’t be surprised if there’s a follow up soon.
Black Cat Bone along with Jon will be rocking the joint at 2Kolegas this Saturday January 9th… Bring you Mojo, grab a bourbon and let’s get this party started
Read on for insight on some great new bands to follow and check out, learn about Jon’s upcoming book and his thoughts on everything! Thanks again Jon, great stuff
1- What’s going on in your world? This is your chance to plug your stuff:
Well… In addition to Black Cat Bone looking forward to a productive and rockin new year, RandomK(e) is plugging away at collecting material for our follow-up record, and for mind-blowing gigs in the near future. March is our 5th anniversary, and that’ll be one for the history books. I’m personally also writing a book on the story of Chinese rock, from year 0 through to today. Earnshaw Books is the publisher. There’ll be more in this, the fifth year of the Time Arts Jazz Series, which I’ve been producing at Peking University’s theatre, featuring a range of folk, jazz and ‘other’ bands. And more. www.ygtwo.com
2- You play in both RandomK(e) and Black Cat Bone, 2 of Beijing’s rowdiest bands. What, if any, are the differences between the two gigs?
I don’t know that I would describe RandomK(e) as “rowdy” — but then, we’ve been called so many things, that it’s nice every time an adjective gets added. The difference between the gigs… Well… Both bands speak to the audience and feed off of the audience, but in very different ways. The Bone likes to get people partying along with us (if they can keep up!) and jumping up and down and hootin’ and hollerin like mad. The K(e) appeals to a different sort of fan, the kind that show they’re into it by nodding their heads along, or, even better, where they’re so into listening that they can’t move. In short: The Bone speaks to the booty and the K(e) speaks to the mind. And I mean that, in both instances, in the best way possible. Of course, RandomK(e) can get booties shaking, and BCB can get people thinking
3- Black Cat Bone has been around for 4 or 5 years now, how are the band’s dynamics and how did it progress through time?
The band’s dynamics have always been defined by the fact that the members were buddies first and bandmates second. Early on, Jaime, who’s been in more than his share of bands, said it was great that there was never that moment that usually happens in bands where one guy leaves the room and everyone breathes a sigh of relief that finally he’s gone.
Musically, it was really with our current lineup that we starting focussing on writing our own material.
4- You used to write a column for popmatters.com called “Foreign Devil”. One of my favorite articles was the one about “Paying the Piper, or not” on the subject of cover charges for shows in Beijing but that was a few years back (2005). Do you think it’s still relevant or have things changed?
I think that people don’t like paying money for just about anything. What pisses me off is when you see people arguing over a 50 kuai cover and then they’re blowing literally hundreds at the bar 2 minutes later. Meanwhile, DJ Shlong at the dance clubs can charge 200RMB and people will pay.
Couple things are happening: I think that at the risk of sounding like an old fart, the fact that people can have music for free at the click of a mouse has lead to a devaluation of music in general. I also think that if live acts can step up their performances, people wouldn’t think twice about paying a cover. DJ Shlong, I’m told, can really create an environment that people will pay to participate in. People don’t realize that live bands can, too. EG: Black Cat Bone
5- when you’re not playing with one of your bands or planning a tour for Abigail amongst others things, where do you go for a quick drink and a bite?
Because I’m often out for shows that I’m performing in or putting together, I like having a drink at home. Again, sounding like an old man, I guess.
6- What should we expect for saturday’s show? rumor has it you guys have a few new songs that you might premiere… Also, who’s the opening act?
There’s no opening act on Saturday. We’re going to bring the rockin party that audiences should know to expect when the Bone takes to the stage. It’s been a while since our last show, so that’ll mean that everything will be even… More. Some new tunes, some old faves, and just a good ol’ time. And we absolutely LOVE 2 Kolegas: The vibe is just right for a rip-roarin BCB Experience.
7- Word association: write the first word that comes to your mind.
- Beijing: rock
- Shanghai: meh
- Baijiu: nope.
- blues: more fun than folks tend to think
- Jazz: also more fun than folks tend to think
- Phil Collins: not every drummer’s idol, but it’s rare that a drum fill becomes the stuff of legend, and Phil did it with just 10 notes at everyone’s favourite part of “In the Air Tonight”
- Tommy Lee: One fifth of the writing team behind one of the best books I’ve ever read — on rock and roll or anything else: The Dirt.
8- Name 3 high points and 3 low points of your musical career in Beijing:
Four high points involve the recordings that I’ve been a part of over the course of my years in rock bands in Beijing. One each from my current bands, plus Erguang (Slap) several years ago, and Wude, in 2001.
A low point — and, at the same time, a high point — involved RandomK(e)’s Chongqing Xiannvshan Music Festival performance for an audience equally composed of confused locals, security folks and sheep.
I feel like every corporate gig BCB has played has it’s high and low points: At a Shangqiu, Henan German Beer Festival, we were preceeded by a guy that played music on his face and did a raucous Jiang Zemin impression, and then had the room, or the ones remaining after the food was gone, dancing along with us. And there were pyrotechnics too, which was cool.
It’s just been a high point to be able to continue to make music I’m proud of with people I enjoy playing with. That’s kinda lame and cheesy, but true and a highlight.
9- Seems to me like Beijing’s music scene has exploded over the past few years with veterans and new comers and It’s getting harder to keep track of the bands/shows now; Any particular gems people should be aware of in your opinion? Some bands or singers that pretty darn good but can’t seem to get recognition?
There’s too many bands to name, and I’m sure I’ll forget a bunch. Rustic is one of the only bands that put on a show that’s nearly as much of a party as BCB is, and that’s something seriously lacking in BJ rock. Perdel is pop-rock gold. Subs never puts on a bad show. PK14 are great. I like Break Sound (shengyin suipian). Wang Wei has some great rock material (and some lame ballads). The Gar put out a great album. Some shanghai bands have impressed me lately: Musclesnog, Duck Fight Goose, Booji. Wang Wen, from Dalian, always blows my mind. 48v from Changsha. Omnipotent Youth Society from Shijiazhuang. 24 hours from Xi’an. There are more and I’m sorry I can’t think of them all.
I feel like both BCB and K(e) are underrepresented in the local landscape because people think that bands with foreigners don’t count.
10- 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 have no clue. I studied China for too long not to be doing something related to it.
Debut album “Waiting” (Tag Team Records) is available exclusively for download at: