Sabbath as a Girlfriend test, Natalie Merchant, Sticking it to the Man, Triple Scorpios and LSD: 10 Questions W/ Skip Lunch and Chery Bomb
You Mei You, Flying Mantas, Skip Lunch… there’s been a bit of confusion recently as to this musical entity that’s been roaming Beijing for a few years already. So, today, Beijingdaze is putting on a professor hat for an instructional session on the Brand that is The Flying Mantas: The band name is The Flying Mantas! Their previous name was You Mei You. The members are Skip Lunch, Chery Bomb and CZ Ramone. Got that? Lesson over!
Joking aside, these guys are actually one of the better bands I’ve seen in and outside of China. Skip Lunch is a deceivingly talented guitar player and song writer. Chery as you’ll see through this interview is one smart cookie and oh yeah, she can play drums/sing too. CZ.. He plays Bass 🙂
It’s a long one folks so brace yourselves because it’s definitely worth reading with answers from both Skip and Chery (with one R)
1- Who is Skip Lunch and what’s going on in your world? This is your chance to plug your stuff:
I have been in bands for 25+ years, non stop almost, so I like to bill myself as “Legendary NY punk Guitarist Skip Lunch” , hey.. I got Legs McNeil himself to write that in my copy of Please Kill Me , so now its official!
I play guitar now in The Flying Mantas. We used to be a proto-punk band called You Mei You [ for 6-7 years already], but we really got bit by the garage and surf music-bug last year, -so now we are really focusing on writing heavy Surf-rock type music.
I had some doubt as to whether the audiences could relate to this form of tunage, but they do- I think its because of the simple “melodies” in surf rock.
2- What kinda name is that to begin with? I love the the pun but how did you pick it?
Its an old punk rock tradition to have a stupid punk rock name; someone gave it to me 25 years ago and it stuck.. I don’t believe in “picking one” for yourself -someone cool should give you one. Ive named a few people in my day too- most recently “Bob Shirt” the ex-Nakoma guitarist.
3- So, from “You Mei You” to “Flying Mantas”.. why the change of names?
Well two reasons: When i went back to the states i realized that No one could pronounce “You Mei You” , because its pinyin, not English. In reality, no one abroad actually knew the name of the band. So for international name recognition, the new one is better.
Two, as much as we Love old punk rock, we also dig 60’s garage punk and surf rock. I always wanted to do surf guitar but didn’t really think I had the skills. Well, a few years ago me and Chery started playing in a surf cover band called The Clamps with Dutch guitar -guru Hans Fenger – we could only do that once a year, so eventually YMY morphed into an instrumental-type group. Oh, we also love Manta Rays, they are really far out!
4- How did the band come together in the beginning? it was Cherry and Yourself, right?
Chery‘s gonna field this one, her memory is better than mine.
First of all it’s Chery with one r. 🙂 (BD note: I stand corrected )
It was a cold dark night in the pirate town called Fuzhou in the deep deep south of China, year 2003. Me and my ex Brian were at this laowai hangout called Le Cafe, which was actually a bar/diner. There came a middle-aged American named Skip, and later on I found out that Brian was his dope dealer. Anyways, the first thing Skip said to me was, “I heard you play the drums. We should jam some time!” I had no idea what a band or jam was back then, so I just said yes. Later that night when I was about to leave, I found Skip bouncing up and down like a popsicle outside of the men’s room due to the urgency to release himself. I remember thinking to myself, “This guy’s really funny. I wonder how old he is.” But it was not until I moved in with him that I found out how old he really was from his driver’s license, and let’s just say it was shockingly amazing that somebody of this age would still be rocking.
I never really played a drum kit before. My training included classic punk songs such as Chinese Rocks, Something to Do, Sonic Reducer and I Wanna Be Your Dog. We tried out a couple of bass players before we finally settled with an Australian boy named Richard. In January 2004 we were playing at a literally underground bar “Jazz & Blues” which had nothing to do with neither jazz nor blues. We would play every Saturday night for the dice-playing crowd, 3 sets, all classic punk covers, and drink there for free 7/24. But due to the foreign members in our band we were banned from competing in the local Battle of the Bands, and the bar ended up paying a huge fine to the Culture Bureau for having a “foreign band” without a permit. However we did make an appearance on a satellite TV show called “Who’s Brighterly Shining” and played for 57 seconds before the dry ice machines shot steam right into Richard’s butt-hole.
As you probably known, Fuzhou is not a town famous for its rock scene. After a year or so thing started to get really dreading, so Skip and I decided to move to Nanjing after watching the video of Re-tros’s Tribute to Joy Division at 82 Bar. Soon after we settled in we found a bass player, hooked up with Angry Jerks and played with Vialka and Brain Failure at 82. Richard flew there both times to be our rhythm guitar. The spring festival of 2005, we traveled back to Fuzhou and played with him for one last time. He was killed outside the venue the same night we played.
The show with Brain Failure was the last show 82 held. After it closed down we played with Subs at 77 and held a tribute show to Richard at Castle. Before we moved from Nanjing to Xiamen we were also able to promote our own “Fake Rock Festival” at Castle with six bands, one of which from Lianyungang.
Xiamen is such a folk town and we only played out once as You Mei You with a guest bass player. The show took place on a traditional folk theater stage by the sea. The promoter had to bribe the stage manager with 2 cartons of Chonghua so that he would not rat us rockers out to the government. Luckily, in the spring of 2006 we found a very skillful musician Hans Fenger. He’s a guitar player from Holland, most famous for his “Langley School Music Project” when he taught young kids to play songs like Space Oddity. We started our first surf-rock project called “The CLAMPS!” with him and Skip on guitars and me on drums. No bass. Our very first appearance was at a cool coffee shop named “Sundance”. Set list included classic Walk Don’t Run, Secret Agent Man, and Apache. We even adapted one of the You Mei You Songs “Bu Zhi Dao” (audio available on http://www.douban.com/artist/theflyingmantas) into instrumental “Shamen Surf” (audio available on http://www.douban.com/artist/theclamps).
In June 2006 we got a gig offer from Nevin, the booking agent from D22. He was promoting a surf show at D22 and we were apparently the only surf band in China. Since Hans was not there, he helped us contacted former Joyside guitarist Yangyang to play lead. We went to Beijing, crashed at his luxurious 3-bedroom apartment, and played with Joyside. In the autumn Skip also got a job offer in Beijing, so we moved here.
5-Did you get Chery into vintage classic punk music or did she discover it on her own?
I was brought up in a family fond of classic music. As a kid when I had a fever, my parents would always put on Swan Lake on cassette to calm me down. They also helped me get ballet and piano training. When I dated Brian in college, he turned me on to Nirvana, which I really liked. But back then my understanding towards punk rock was limited to “bad rock `n` roll”. After I met Skip I was almost automatically enrolled in his School of Rock. After all that’s all he does: going around the world corrupting young innocent girls, and brain-washing them with all that Satan’s music. He not only turned me on to classic punk rock, but also Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath. I passed his “girlfriend test” by putting on Iron Man on a Sunday morning.
Discussing punk rock almost every day with Skip and playing it almost every month has made me realize one thing: The spirit of punk rock is the essence of all rock `n` roll. It’s not about leather jacket, mohawk, Martin boots, swearing on stage, spitting to your audience, or “rebel” or “freedom”. It’s all about D.I.Y. Only by doing it yourself can you stick it to the man, thus claiming your own artistic freedom. That is what we do, and we’re gonna keep on doing it for a long time.
6- Word association: write the first word that comes to your mind.
* Beijing: Bubbles
* Shanghai: Trash-a-Go-Go!
* Baijiu: YAK
* Needles: Acupuncture
* Leather: Village People
* Black Flag: Red Kross
* Polka dots: My Mom, Dorothy.
7- what’s next now after the name change?
We’re pretty excited right now with our new recording, we’ll be pressing a 7″ Vinyl single or EP soon called –Trash a gogo Vol. I on our label NO NO NO records, in the future we’d like to make more records to turn people on to cool 60’s influenced musics like garage rock and Surf. They love that stuff in Japan, and we’ll be bringing some japanese groups to beijing in the spring”
Also were going to be playing in a Movie!- a Chinese Comedy, they are using some of our songs; we’ve also been demo’ing other music for their soundtrack.”
8- You actually dated Nathalie Merchant… how did that happen and why did it stop?
Well In college I was a DJ for the college station, we got all the cool import records, and thats how we got into what was to become “alternative” music. I met natalie there, she was just 16. I took her to my house, gave her LSD and we listened to Patti Smith radio Ethiopia.. she said ” i could be a singer too” – long story short- i introduced her to my other freinds so she could be in their band which became The 10,000 Maniacs. hardly anyone remembers them now, but they were always touring with REM, like their little sister band. Why did it stop? You’d have to ask her that one! Shes a triple Scorpio you know,.. an amazing person.
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?
US, darn it !!!! Seems we don’t have the “Chinese-boy band” appeal that’s so sought after here. I used to be a cute boy, but now Im just a scary old coot I guess, haha.
If it wasn’t for me being in the band, Chery Bomb would be famous already,
Im sure of it !!.
Anyway I’ve come to really dig 24 Hours and PK 14, live, anyway, not the records so much. But new bands, Gen 6?? … we always like to go see BEDSTARS— we still have a soft spot for that classic 70’s proto-punk from our YMY incarnation, theyre Huge Deadboys Fans like us. They are gonna be really awesome by next year if they keep writing new music.
10- You look like someone with a decent appetite and we love to eat over here. Any good Beijing Gems you care to share as far as Chinese food goes?
“Bo bo ji” in Fensiting Hutong, Andingmen Nei Dajie. “Bo bo ji” literally means “large bowl chicken”. What you get for three kuai is this large bowl of chicken stock with mysterious spices, then you get your vegetable or tofu sticks (all cooked in advance) from the fridge at one kuai per stick, and strip all material into the stock bowl, and eat it. In a way, it’s like cold ma la tang. But what we really like about this place is its gong bao ji ding (kong-pow chicken) and jia chang dou fu (home-style tofu). The owners (and probably the cooks) are from Sichuan and the taste is really authentic. Plus, almost all dishes can be made into gai-fan upon request.