As The Amazing Insurance Salesmen prepare to embark for Hong Kong, I had an opportunity to catch up with funkmeister extraordinaire Maikel Liem and pick his brain on a few topics. I didn’t know what to expect and was extremely curious about him and his background.. the answers didn’t disappoint!
Maikel has been around the scene for a while and is just a freakishly well rounded artist on the bass whole solos are a joy to watch and listen to, especially for a failed bass player like myself.
1- Who is Maikel and what are you up to? This is your chance to plug your stuff
Maikel is an entity from the planet Earth, he likes to check things out from a distance and then jump right in. I’m currently swimming in a big pool called China and am loving it so far.
2- What was the incentive to pick up bass? was it a song, a certain bass player, a band? And how did you develop your technique?
Well, my best friend in high school was playing guitar, and I wanted to play a stringy thing, but being the wiseass that I am I didn’t want to play the same instrument. On a side note if I HAD decided to play guitar my high school love life might have been more colorful☺ Ah well, no turning back now. I always enjoyed listening to music when I was young, and when I picked up my first bass in high school, I was sold. I started taking lessons and was introduced to the great Motown players like James Jamerson and Fusion bassists like Jaco Pastorius. Incidentally, with reference to question no.7, Another One Bites the Dust by Queen was the first song I learned to play on bass.
It wasn’t until after I stopped taking lessons that I really became very interested in the bass itself. Next to rock bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers I also started to explore solo bass players like Michael Manring and Victor Wooten. I get inspired by these guys, every time I hear them I want to grab my bass and play.
I love soloing but equally important for good musicianship when playing in a band is to think of the music as a whole, and make your part fit in. I love the bass for holding the song together and for its raw power when soloing.
3- you got a weird mix of personalities in the AIS.. pick one adjective to describe each member and explain why’
Maomao: tight; he knows how to hold a beat!
Jean Sebastien: fluffy; he may look tough, but actually he’s just a big Teddybear….and a great musician☺
4- How did you guys meet and actually decide to get this thing started?
Me and Maomao were playing in What bar with X-doctor, Jean Sebastien saw us and asked if we wanted to start a rock band. The next week or so we met in a little practice room and just started to play to get to know each other personally and musically. There was quite a lot of synergy happening and soon after we had our first show in Yugongyishan. The rest is AIS history.
5- you’re also playing with X-doctor, what’s the difference between both bands?
Both bands are rock in nature, but playing with AIS really let’s me use my creative side on the bass more. X-doctor is more faithful to straight up rock, but AIS moves into many different realms of musical expression.
6- You’re working in IT, so you must spend your whole day in a cubicle, right? is that why you can’t stand still? I swear I’ve never seen you actually stay at the same spot for more than 2 minutes
I work in IT, but luckily I don’t need sit in my seat the whole day. And when I get on stage I get excited; I move to the groove☺
7- Word Association: Write the first thing that comes to your mind
*Beijing: Traffic and jiaozi
*Shanghai: Cold Fairyland and baozi
*John Deacon: He’s the bass king of Queen, simplicity is often the most effective tool
*Windows Vista: Trial and error
*Polka Dots: The tie you should have left in the store
8- Have you checked out any of the other bands you’re competing against for the Asian GBoB final? Who should we keep an eye on?
All the bands I saw have their own individual style, and have a good chance of winning. When I saw Bolt Action from Shenzhen I thought the singer had a powerful voice and good interaction with the audience. Next to musicality, I think the latter is also important for winning the GBOB
9-You’ve been here for a little while now and shared a bill with many other bands. Who’s your favorite Beijing act to watch?
I like Muma (木玛) with its inspiring rock riffs. I also enjoy what ex-Muma guitarplayer Wang Yuqi (王钰棋) is doing. Purple Smog, a Jimi Hendrix cover band, really know their stuff and brings me back to the good old days. Xiao He’s (小河) experimental humorous folk style really blows my mind! I’ve had the pleasure of recording a song for him for his album “The Performance of Identity (身份的表演)”. And my all-time favorite Chinese pop singer is Wang Faye, the Queen of C-pop, and I almost went to her show last month, but alas something got in the way.
10- Bass or no Bass, you gotta eat! Any special recommendations of Chinese restaurants that you can’t get enough of?
Usually when I eat, I hold a bass in one hand and chopsticks in the other; I love hotpot at Haidilao (海底捞火锅) and Pinweizhifu (品味知福) (near Xierqi subway station西二旗站) is the best vegetarian restaurant I’ve been to. And although not Chinese food, for the best burgers I go to Grandma’s Kitchen.
Very cool and informative interview from Maikel. I actually had no idea that Wang Yuqi used to be in Muma. I saw him for the first time play with M’beewan at Gingko a while back and since then he’s made appearances at different venues.. Cool stuff… Muma & Third Party is one of my absolute favorite Chinese bands around! Their performances are so freaking intense! Check it out yourself :
Thanks again Maikel! Good luck in Hong Kong.