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Rolling Rocker Gathers No Moss
Latest Updated by 2003-09-17 09:36:37

Wang Lei  performs at the French International Music Festival held in Guangzhou.

"Historically speaking, major changes have started from Guangzhou," says rocker Wang Lei, one of Guangzhou's most eminent emigrants. It's no surprise then that from his southern headquarters, Wang has injected revolutionary flair into the mainland rock and roll scene. Cui Jian may be known as the godfather of Chinese rock, but anyone south of the Yangtze River has long been aware of Wang's equally important role. But the most important man in southern music isn't a southerner at all, which isn't necessarily as strange as it sounds. "Guangzhou is a city of transients," Wang notes, his sentences punctuated with a combination of a rock-and-roll rasp and the lisp characteristic of his Sichuan dialect.

Born and raised in Tongji, a small town just outside of Chengdu, he studied folk opera and dabbled in dance as a youth. In 1988, Wang left his hometown with images from the breakdance breakout film Breakin' on his brain. "I came to Guangzhou to breakdance," he confesses.

While Wang Lei's music has spanned much of the musical spectrum - from relatively straightforward rock music to sound experiments a la Pink Floyd and industrial Nine Inch Nails like rap to his currently electronically based form - he has constantly remained at the cutting edge of Chinese music for much of his ten plus year career. As a long-term participant in China's rock scene, his commentary is extremely informed, quite vocal and refreshing even though somewhat depressing. " A lot of people say that Chinese rock started with nothing," he says. "But I think that it hasn't even reached nothing yet."

While music was always a part of Wang's life, he never saw it as a career possibility. That's until pop songstress Zhu Zheqin (aka Dadawa) heard a collection of songs he had recorded. " I made those songs for my mom, dad and girlfriend to hear," he says, explaining that their inspiration came from falling in love." Zhu Zheqin said "Did you write these songs yourself? " and I said I did. She didn't believed me, but I eventually convinced her and she introduced me to the people that would eventually release the record." By 1994, the album, Wanderer (Chu Men Ren), hit the streets and sold very well in shops thanks to the underdevelopment of the piracy market at that time. Underdevelopment has helped Wang's career in several ways, a fact that he is intimately aware of.

"Guangzhou has all of the problems of any other Chinese city," he says, citing a lack of live and recorded music culture in the bar scene as major challenges. " But these things all worked to my advantage. Since there were no other bars in town with live music, my first bar, Unplugged, did very well."

By the time Unplugged opened its doors in 1998, Wang had released three albums and started a small record company, Longmin, whose catalogue included Guangzhou-based Pangu's (Punk God) debut CD and Wang's third disc. "The profit cycle lasted two months. After that, piracy ate up our market." So the record company became a bar. During its yearlong existence, it was the only game in town and hosted rock bands from all over the country. The club was demolished in 1999, yet a year later Wang was back in the bar game, co-running Voltage until its autumn closure. "There were about nine months when I was away from the club, and in my absence it collapsed," he says without a hint of modesty. But the nine months away were not spent in vain. In addition to spending time in Sichuan, Wang spent three months in France and Spain where he performed in clubs, record stores and music festivals. While his gigs in Barcelona centred on his guitar-based earlier works, his appearances in France featured his newfound love of electro music and saw him DJ at clubs and a music festival. Those curious about his electro infatuation are now able to scratch that itch by his latest album " BELLEVELLE".

Wang says that this latest album, inspired by his experience in France,  is a more laid-back affair. " I really like dub music," he says, " I think that it's a great form of music for Chinese musicians to study because of its mixture of traditional and modern styles." And this combination is exactly what Wang's lattest album BELLEVILLE features: a blend of electro beats and samples as well as traditional Chinese instruments and international singing styles.

Wang Lei will again visit France this month for another study and promotion tour, sponsored by Guangzhou France Consulate General, and though his overall opinions of Chinese rock may seem negative, we can be sure that he will personally be working hard to shed positive light via his music to bring the scene up to ground zero.

We wish him a pleasant journey on his way exploring new horizons in his music and life.

Editor: Wings

By: Source:South CN
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