Infections, Sexy Noodles, Hendrix and China’s wild west: 10 Questions with Checo Fernandez of Wu & The Side Effects

My first encounter with Checo “Il Roacho” Fernandez started with the sentence: “So you’re in the band that never showed up except the one night i left early” referring to my attempts at catching Wu & The Side Effects.
In his defense, Checo was injured and couldn’t play. He also had to go back to USAnia to get surgery on his hand! The venues had a heads up ahead of time but never bothered correcting the lineup which is a whole other story.
Anyways, I did get to hang out with Checo a few times and catch him play with Wu & The Side Effects as well as do his solo stuff on day 2 of Ditan Folk Festival. The guy is an absolute joy to deal with and quite the talented lad so I just had to subject him to 10 questions for the site… the answers didn’t disappoint!

1- What’s going on in your world? This is your chance to plug your stuff:

I’ve lived in Beijing for 5 years now. I’ve been involved in some disastrous cover band projects and some other minor obscure original ones. At some point I was in too many bands at once, and spreading too thin, I guess. As of now I only stick to two bands: Wu & The side Effects and my own Chocho Maldito.

2- How did you get into the China scene, singing and playing with Wu Ke Jia (吴可嘉) ?

I met Wu through a mutual friend who had seen me perform (guitar and singing) with my own blues band Mr Mojo at the time. They both came one night to check out the show (which was a regular Saturday night at Souk), and before the night was over, after lots of whiskey and jamming to some good old blues, we had agreed that I would play bass for him. The next day I bought a 400 kuai bass, and well… started playing it. The band name so far was Easygoing, with a logo that resembled The Rolling Stones’ logo too much…

3- How did the Band’s name come about? why “the side effects”?

We needed a new name. Easygoing was more of a punk ska band with a very subtle bluesy feel to it. Mo (ze german drummer) came around, we thought Easygoing was a lame name and besides didn’t want to get sued by the Rolling Stones. Wu & i are serious fans of Hendrix and the whole psychedelic rock era, we thought then that Mo really rounded up the sound we were looking for. The name is quite simple really, we play Wu’s songs, and just like us two (foreigners) were affected/infected by his raw energy we call ourselves “the Side Effects”.

4- Rumor has it there’s an album ready to come out. What’s the status on that and when can we listen to it?

Rumors happen to be right! The mix has been ready for over a month, really. We are just killing each other debating on the cover art and small bullshit like that. You should be able to listen to it by the 29th of May at 2Kolegas’ bday party.

5- Wu is from Ningxia and so are quite a few musicians roaming the streets of Beijing ( Buyi, Nucleus…) do you have any insight on what makes Ningxia such a hotbed for music talent?

I gotta say it’s the roughness of the place. Ningxia is China’s wild west. It reminds me of home (Monterrey, N.L.) Violent cowboys, bar brawls over women, drugs, liquor, soccer, or all of the above. I guess that in combination with talent, creates a great select group of bands with something to say, not really hoping to look or sound pretty. Rocknroll is not pretty, it’s dirty, it’s gritty, it sweats and moans, it spits on you, and I believe these kids got that.

6- you guys have played a few cities other than Beijing.. how do the crowds compare?

I gotta say that two of my favorite gigs were Kunming and Tianjin. Kunming was packed (Speakeasy Bar). It was a very diverse crowd, some international students, some older dudes with their petite asian sensation girlfriends, as well as some locals. Tianjin was lots of fun too, because it was the opening of NIC club. So as expected, the overall feeling of that night was pure excitement. We played to a packed venue. Ended up dancing all night and didn’t sleep. Just rode the train back to the Jing.

7- Word association: write the first word that comes to your mind.

* Beijing: dust
* Shanghai: feces
* Baijiu: regret
* Cui Jian: 80s
* Punk: soul
* Hutongs: middle aged white dude on a rickshaw documenting his journey to the mystical far east. (Sorry, but I live in the hutongs)
* Polka dots: One too many

8- You also have your own stuff like you did during the Ditan Folk Festival. How is the process different?

Well, first of all that is a collective, meaning just me, with a bunch of different guest musicians every time. It’s a different concept and approach, I think. Nobody really speaks Spanish good enough to get the meaning of the lyrics, so in the end it’s another laowai who can mumble xie xie in between songs. For me personally it’s lots of fun, since it never sounds the same, there’s been from erhus to buckets and glasses of water used as percussion by different musicians.

9- You’ve been around for a few years around the music scene in Beijing/China. How has it changed since you arrived and what artists do you think deserve more recognition than they get?

Yeah, five years now. Well, I guess as with most scenes some find enlightenment and some dark ages, at this point it’s a bit hard were we are heading, but hey, who cares really? It’s all been done before.

10 – On the “gourmandise” side of things, what are some of your favorite Chinese restaurants in Beijing?
I gotta say my favorite place now is this sichuan style joint in FenSiTing Hutong, just off Andingmennei, next to the Ningxia Hotel. it’s awesome, really cheap and the owner is smoking hot, which is the reason we baptized the place “Sexy noodle”. You should check it out.

Big ups to Checo for playing ball and taking the time to answer the questions for BeijingDaze.. I love his description of Ningxia as a wild west.. interesting theory! And yes, rock n roll is definitely not pretty, it’s gritty and got claws!
Look out for Checo in your favorite dive music venues around Beijing, say Hello and buy him a beer… he’s a fun guy!

More about Wu & The Side Effects:

My Space: http://www.myspace.cn/1308625743
Douban: http://www.douban.com/group/easygoing/

Catch them this weekend at 2 Kolegas 5th anniversary extravaganza on May 29th for what promises to be an over the top celebration.

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