The No Class antenna started
twitching when signals came in from China's own Black Flag-loving, hardcore types, The Instigation. Never wishing to become predictable, the possibility of communicating with some Eastern punks was too good to decline. Simon Cochrane,
with The Instigation, talks to No Class.
NC: What do the authorities in China think of punk rock
From what I understand and have experienced, the
underground music scene is largely of little concern to the Chinese government,
despite what Western media would like to believe. From time to time there are
flare-ups, usually during periods of national celebration like Olympics or Expo,
which give ex-pats a sense of 'authenticity' about their participation in the
music scene, but by and large I think the authorities have much bigger fish to
squeeze money out of.
NC: What opportunities are there for bands in China?
So much and yet so little: there are so few barriers to
getting started and participating in music and really anything in China. Everything
is so nascent and new that it means that almost everyone is given an equal
crack at the whip. Just being a
half-decent band in China - with so few out there - means that people like
yourselves are immediately interested. This interest can bring about a lot of
really great opportunities. There really is a very open and participatory
feeling to not just the music scene but also creativity and business in
general, from a foreigner's perspective anyhow.
However, if you mean in terms of being a 'professional
band', then probably far fewer. That's not something I know or care too much
about but from what I've seen of some bands who try and 'make it', I think it's
about being relegated to playing the same Vans/ Converse/ Jagermeister concert
every couple of months to scrape by.
NC: How much control is there over your internet usage?
Some but most foreigners use a VPN and most Chinese kids
NC: Are you subjected to censorship?
Isn't everyone in some way? I certainly censored myself
in some way because who was / am I to overly - criticise a country and
culture where I'm a guest? Not to say a
lot of stuff didn't piss me off.
NC: What points of view do your songs put over?
The usual hardcore punk schlock: blind, dumb rage - on my
behalf anyhow. I wrote the lyrics but I think it's safe to say we all shared an
equal amount of belligerence and pessimism when it came to most of the local Shanghai
scene. That was our driving motivation when we got started anyhow.
NC: Are you left or right wing?
As a band we're in no way political: we all have
NC: What do you sing about?
I sang about my life then, which felt pretty lonely and
frustrating: entirely new topics for the hardcore punk genre. I felt much of what motivated us in the
beginning was a general dissatisfaction with the local bands/ music, so I think
it's safe to say a lot of the early songs can be seen as having an element of
baiting the 'scene'.
NC: Are your songs intentionally given provocative titles
such as Foreign Moron?
Not much thought goes into naming the songs. Our bassist
still refers to them as "A", "B", "C" which is
what they get called when they get jammed out, before I've put lyrics to them.
Someone thought this was also some kind of "punk" statement on
creativity or some such nonsense.
NC: Punk rock is 35 years old: why is it still relevant to
young / new artists?
I don't wanna fall too much into the 'what is punk?' trap
here but personally I've always thought the lessons of punk, such as DIY and not
having rockstar attitudes and egos were
more important than the look/ sound and being part of a punk clique, but that's
NC: Can punk offer anything new?
Yes and no, but there's also plenty of other music scenes
that can offer those same values now. Just
depends what you like.
NC: What sort of live scene is there in China?
When I lived in Shanghai we'd play about 2-3 times a
month, usually at the same venue in town called Yu Yin Tang. It's a great size
and shaped venue. I guess the sound is good there too, not that I'd know. It's
just a great place to hang out in general. Most of the shows were supporting
the overseas 60s/garage/punk bands our bassist used to organize and promote.
Nowadays I live back in the UK and our bassist is moving
back to Japan so we haven't played since May but we may ride again...
NC: Do many Western bands play in China?
Our bassist, Toshi, and a couple of others were putting
on shows and parties under the moniker of Trash-A-Go-Go with the intention of
bringing in 60s/garage, and as time went on more punk bands. This was on the totally
DIY tip - underground tip and some were from the West but TAGG also brought
through some great bands from Japan such as The Routes, The Whys, The Paralyz
and The Fevers. A pal of ours, Rhys, along with his Australian connections,
brings over a bunch of Antipodean bands who are usually pretty decent, if only
he could sort out getting Royal Headache. A lot of B-list Pitchfork bands play Shanghai
and Beijing pretty often too but I never paid too much attention to that stuff.
NC: Which bands influenced you?
It's the usual cliche of we all like different stuff. Those
guys definitely got me listening to 60s, surf, power pop, garage: stuff I'd
never contemplated before. In terms of what influenced the songs - which
were primarily written by our bassist Toshi - it's fast garagey punk like
Dean Dirg and Scared of Chaka. We played a bunch of covers in our time: Reagan Youth,
Dead Boys, Circle Jerks, MHZ and Black Flag. These are all pretty decent
indicators of where we were at, I guess.
NC: How old are you all?
I'm 26, Toshi is 30 something, Tyler is 20 something and
I have no idea how old Sasha is.