Chinese 去年九月，當Organ Tapes在Hackney Wick的Colour Factory表演時，他在自己的歌之間插播了一首破碎失真的《春天裡》，這是中國搖滾音樂人汪峰知名度最高的歌之一。我站在觀眾之間，在那個瞬間彷佛被揍了一拳—這首歌不是單純為我帶來了回憶，而是提醒著我自己確實擁有這樣的回憶。非常稀有的一個瞬間。那個時候算起來我已經到英國兩年了，因為疫情的緣故一次都沒有見過我的家人，而Organ Tapes也處在類似的境況中。就在那個瞬間，我意識到這樣一首我從未出於想要聽而聽的歌，實際上是我熟悉的一部分。上一次這樣的事情發生在我身上，是四年前，我在MoMA的影院裡看米開朗基羅·安東尼奧尼的紀錄片《中國》。裡面有一幕拍的是在南京市的十幾個小孩邊唱著《我們是共產主義接班人》—一首很多在中國長大的人都要在小學學唱的歌—邊齊步行進在街道上。我當時昏昏欲睡，但在聽到歌唱聲的瞬間立刻醒來。我望向我的朋友，目瞪口呆—這首歌在我的回憶裡埋藏得如此之深，在離家幾千裡外聽到的時候，我才認識到自己對這首歌熟稔於心。似乎只有當這些聲音被放置于另外的時空中，不再是集體環境聲中的一部分時，它們才成為了我固有的一部分，不管我是否想要承認。
Organ Tapes今年新專輯發行前，我終於採訪到他。他的音樂對我來說一直都是跟鄉愁聯繫起來的，而當我困在此時此地看著家那邊發生的事情，聽著他的新專輯，這種感覺愈發強烈了。2017年，因上海線上音樂平台WOOOZY無解音樂網的介紹，我初次接觸到他的EP， Words Fall to the Ground；幾年間我零零星星地聽了他的其他音樂，但是不知為何直到來了倫敦我才知道他也用中文唱歌。去年8月，DJ Pitch 和 Organ Tapes 在 Edited Arts 的活動末尾表演了『K1. 不明白』，這首歌出自2015年發行的Tobago Tracks Volume 4: China 。在幾乎可說是狂熱的如機關槍/打字機一樣的層層打擊樂之上，是充滿感情，讓人難以忘懷的抓耳旋律。Organ Tapes用中文重複唱道，『我就在這一直唱』—Organ Tapes一直在唱，唱著那無人問津的歌謠。
When Organ Tapes performed at Hackney Wick’s Colour Factory last September, he played a chopped up, distorted version of ‘Chun Tian Li (In Spring)’, one of the most well-known songs by the Chinese rock musician Wang Feng, between his own songs. I stood watching and it was one of those rare moments when something didn’t simply ‘bring back’ to me the memories but punched me in the face and reminded me that I HAVE such memories. Having been in the UK for around two years by that time without seeing my family in China once due to the pandemic, similar situation Organ Tapes was in, it was at that moment I realized a song I never really listened to out of want was a familiar part of me. Last time such thing happened to me was four years ago, I sat in the cinema of MoMA watching Michelangelo Antonioni’s documentary film Chung Kuo—Cina(China). There was a scene where around a dozen of children in the city of Nanjing marched down a street while singing ‘Wo Men Shi Gong Chan Zhu Yi Jie Ban Ren (We are the Successors of Communism)’, a song that a lot of people grew up in China needed to learn in primary school. I was on the brink of falling asleep but sobered up immediately upon hearing the singing. I turned to my friend, dumbfounded—this song was buried so deep in my memories that I only registered I knew this song by heart when I heard it thousands of miles away from home. It seems as though when these sounds were displaced and no longer part of the collective environmental sounds that they became intrinsic to me, whether I’d like to admit it or not.
Prior to Organ Tape’s album release this year, I did an interview with him at last. To me, Organ Tapes’ music has always been associated with nostalgia, and it becomes more so as I listen to his new album, while watching what’s going on at home stuck in this time and space. I first became aware of his EP Words Fall to Ground in 2017, thanks to the introduction by the Shanghai-based online music publication WOOOZY. I then sporadically listened to his other music over the years but somehow didn’t know that he sings in Chinese until I came to London. In August last year, DJ Pitch and Organ Tapes performed ‘K1. 不明白’ from the 2015 release Tobago Tracks Volume 4: China at the end of the Edited Arts event. It’s a song with hauntingly catchy and emotional melody against the almost delirious layers of machine gun/typewriter-like percussion sounds. Organ Tapes sang repeatedly in Chinese, ‘Wo jiu zai zhe yi zhi chang (I keep singing here)’: Organ Tapes keeps singing, singing songs that no one asks about, chang zhe na wu ren wen jin de ge yao.
Interview by Anlin Liang
I don’t think you mind other people saying that your music sounds like certain artists?
I don’t mind, no, because people inevitably say that. That’s what people do about music, don’t they?
I’m gonna say it—one of the reasons why I like your new album is because I can pick up a lot of sounds from my memories while listening to it. Songs like ‘Line (with Glasear)’ and ‘忘了一切 (with Munni)’ have that particular hi-hat sound that remind me of slowcore bands like Arab Strap, Bedhead and Codeine—not any of their songs in particular though.
Yeah, I love that kind of music for sure. I think a lot of music I made when I was a lot younger sounded a lot like those kind of bands, not exactly, but in a way. I’ll tell you that one band I used to try and copy when I was younger is Duster. There’s a song I put out on Bandcamp recently from when I was 19 or something. I made it with my friend Deva. I think it was pretty much I wanted to make a song that was similar to Duster but that’s not normally the way I make music.
Were you in a band? Or do you always make music on your own?
I’ve been in bands in my life, but never for that long. I played in a hardcore band in uni with noctilucents who now co-runs Genome 6.66Mbp and we did one awesome gig. He was the singer. It was really sick but with only one gig and short lived.
What is your new album about?
These are the songs that I made during late 2019, some of them even earlier, and then 2020. Songs that I made in that period mostly, and then eventually I felt they were an album. It’s hard for me to say what it’s about because I just think that they speak better for themselves than any explanation of what they’re about that I can give.
I can’t really hear a lot of lyrics in your songs, I know you do it sort of on purpose with your way of singing…
It’s not really on purpose anymore to be honest. That’s just naturally how I feel inclined to sing. But when I listen to it I can hear most of what I’m saying, and I think certain people I know hear my music a lot clearer lyrically now, maybe. I think the lyrics are fairly discernible in a lot of this album, but maybe people won’t necessarily agree.
I do know what you sing in ‘Li Bu Kai’ though—‘Sheng ming jiu xiang yi tiao da he (Life is like a river)’.
‘Li Bu Kai’ is probably quite hard to understand, or the other bits are at least. I would definitely more overtly slur my vocals back then out of shyness. The lyrics you quoted are from Wang Feng’s ‘Fei De Geng Gao (Fly Higher)’.
You like Wang Feng?
I do like Wang Feng a lot, yeah.
Talking about Wang Feng, the title of the album Chang Zhe Na Wu Ren Wen Jin De Ge Yao is a line from Wang Feng’s ‘Chun Tian Li’. What do you feel about this song?
I think this song is a masterpiece, it’s a really really good song.
I know my parents like this song, but I can’t seem to like it. It’s their generation’s music I think.
My dad would probably view it as young people’s music still!
Wang Feng sings about the time when he had nothing and was all alone and no one knew his music, but he sings it as a man who’s made it. So I think it resonates with the generation that experienced that social mobility. I believe a lot of people my age, who are in their early twenties, indeed like this song, but I just don’t see this song as cool.
Yeah that’s an interesting perspective on it. I understand his place in culture as something akin to U2 in the UK, ha. I understand that, I nevertheless still like it.
Why does that line specifically stand out to you?
I think it’s just talking about music in a way. He’s talking about the relationship that he used to have to his music, about doing it for its own sake. And I think it resonates. Not in a nostalgic sense even, just in a sense of being a pure and nice sentiment that speaks to what music means, or what its significance is, at heart. It’s not really about my personal relation to the narrative of the song by any means, in the sense that the narrator has ‘made it’ and looks back on his ‘simpler’ pre-fame life. But ‘Chun Tian Li’ has a sentimental value to me as a song that I heard a lot when I was a kid as well, in supermarkets or on TV. It’s a song from youth, so in that sense it’s nostalgic, but not in the sense of me relating to the specific nostalgia of the song’s narrator.
Have you listened to a lot of Wang Feng’s music?
I have gone through a bunch of his music and picked out the songs that I like. There are certain songs I remember when I was young that I liked, or not even necessarily liked back then. But they’re familiar to me, and now they’ve accrued meaning in time.
Would you agree this album is a transition from your previous music with more Dancehall, Afrobeat, and Soundcloud Rap elements to one with a more Rock aesthetic?
People might perceive it as such, but this is more like the music that I used to make when I was 17. I grew up playing guitar and I’ve really gotten back into the act of playing itself in a way I’d neglected in the past few years. So it doesn’t really feel like something new in a way. I just make what I feel like making at any given time, I suppose. I don’t agree that my output thus far can be described accurately as Dancehall/Afrobeat or ‘Soundcloud Rap’ either, really, all the attachment of those terms to my work was usually just for marketing purposes when journalists had to write about it, or else they were pinned onto me by association. I still get people writing or coming up to me as if I’m either a club producer or a ‘vocalist-for-hire’ Soundcloud Hyperpop rapper type or something because I came up in that scene, and I don’t really understand it. I think you have to have ignored or missed a lot of what I’ve made to arrive at that conclusion. I don’t agree with it, in the same way that I don’t want to present this as ‘my rock album’ because I’ve picked up the guitar again. I don’t really want my album to be instantly digestible in that way and I’d rather let it speak for itself.
There’s a song on this album, ‘Never Heard’, I find it very interesting with the clear bass and vocal and the guitar instrumental that’s supposedly a field recording?
Yeah, the guitar is a field recording, and then edited and looped. That’s why it sounds so fucked up. DAWs are cool but the richness of ‘real’ sound is unmatched.
The Microphones has a song called ‘Sand’, where one of the instruments sound quite blurry, it’s probably a field recording of that instrument as well.
In general, the way that he records music had really influenced me when I was a kid. That was the kind of approach that I tried to mimic when I started recording music for the first time. A lot of his stuff would have interesting ways of layering different instruments or panning things. He has a kind of approach to production that’s not really following…especially now because I know there are YouTube tutorials and the template for an industry standard way of producing music widely available, but I’d rather develop my own practice through different forms of DIY experimentation with the recording process.
I’ve never really sat down and learned recording techniques or software through tutorials, I just make stuff. But when I first started making stuff and experimenting with making music, I would literally try and do what he did with the panning of guitars, like hard panning two different guitar tracks each side. And also hitting the lamp in my room with a drum stick and recording that and then hitting a pillow and recording that, and then panning them and EQing in different ways to have percussive sounds. Not that he was making music exactly like that, but that was the beginning of me learning how to record music and then I just kept a similar approach. I don’t really ever watch any tutorial videos because I don’t care to really learn music production that way most of the time.
‘I know there are YouTube tutorials and the template for an industry standard way of producing music widely available, but I’d rather develop my own practice through different forms of DIY experimentation with the recording process.’
Who are your guitar heroes, apart from Phil Elverum?
Sonic Youth, Bill Orcutt of Harry Pussy, Duster, Loren Connors, Jimi Hendrix, Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column. Lots of blues rock guitar playing because my guitar teacher was a blues head, and noisy stuff in which the guitar sounds like something else.
When I was listening to your new album I indeed thought of The Durutti Column as well—I think he used the pop song framework but made it a bit off a lot of the times.
I’m perfectly happy to be compared to him because I love The Durutti Column. I guess I understand what you mean though—I think I can relate to the way his music sounds and the way elements are put together, not so much the melodies and chords, but the sounds he uses and certain compositional sensibilities.
We talked about you sampling sounds in the film Xiao Wu in your song ‘Li Bu Kai’ before*; have you done more cinema sampling in this album?
The introduction is a sample from a documentary, but most of the samples on this album like recording sounds, environmental sounds are things I recorded – some of them are really old recordings from like 2013-2015.
Do sounds in cinema influence the way you make your music?
I sampled Xiao Wu because of how much I love the sound in that film. The sound was really, really well done. It’s almost like you could listen to the audio track and still think it was good. And I do appreciate the sound design of films if it’s all good.
I never thought of cinema influence like that consciously, but now that you mentioned it, there is definitely a parallel. Anytime you hear music in a film, there’s the diegetic and non-diegetic sound at once commingling, which is something that perhaps you don’t get in recorded music all the time, but I think that a lot of my music likes to do that. So maybe it’s subconsciously influential.
Organ Tapes’ LP 唱着那无人问津的歌谣 (Chang Zhe Na Wu Ren Wen Jin De Ge Yao) is out on 28th April 2022 via worldwide unlimited, buy/listen.
*The ending of the song contains a sample from Xiao Wu—it’s actually an exchange from another film that the protagonist went to see.
If you like what you see, please consider contributing to our patreon so that we can continue to create content free of advertisement and commericals.
Are you feeling disconnected or more connected to the ‘scene’ you are at after the pandemic?
A: I actually feel more connected. I got to know more people through the internet during lockdown, and that seems like a good thing. A friend taught me and a few other friends how to use a DJ controller in 2019. Back then I only knew those friends and practiced with certain genres of music, but my taste in dance music varied considerably in the past few years. During this lockdown, I got to know more people who enjoy similar music as I do on social media.
G: I think I had the opposite experience because I deleted my social media, purely because I didn’t enjoy using it at that stage. Because of this I don’t feel like I always know when people are playing shows or putting out a new release, but it was worth it to experience some peace. The chance encounters and constantly meeting new people that I experienced when clubbing before the pandemic has (only just!) started to return and it’s been intense to feel how much it improves my mood. I have no idea how I went without it for so long. I did restart my newsletter last year purely as a way to update people on what I’m doing and I’ve been encouraged by the thoughtful responses people have been sending me. So in some ways that felt pretty connected!
Some might say radio is redundant these days, ‘There are too many radio mix!’ What makes doing radio worthwhile these days?
A: Sometimes I do feel like there are too many mixes. I know that nowadays a lot of people will go straight to the archive to check out the mixes of certain artists they like, and maybe the number of archives on the websites makes it look overwhelming. I like tuning to whatever radio on a platform like Radio Garden and see if I can get some good music; it’s more fun this way. But a lot of the times I do end up going to the archive and search for that specific show. So I do think archive is necessary. (Note: Looking back I didn’t really answer the question!)
G: In terms of making radio, years later I’ve gone back and listened to old radio shows I recorded with friends, and realised they were (accidental!) time capsules of where we were hanging out,, what I was learning about, the books I was reading, who I had a crush on.. it was all in there. So having an hour a month to mark time with some sound will always be worth it for me for that reason alone. I can’t imagine how it will feel to eventually listen to shows ten or fifteen years later. As a listener, I love being invited into someone else’s “zone” for an hour or two a month, and I think if you listen to a show every regularly over a long period of time you end up applying the host’s lens to things you hear (or read or watch!) in between shows. But perhaps that only comes with the shows where you never want to miss an episode.
A: Can you give me an example of this kind of shows?
G: I love Mobbs, ONY, KO_OL’s show, Mark Leckey. Dead Mall Radio and Gochu World always take me down a fun path each month. Mobbs is a particular inspiration to me, I can’t recommend his show enough.
A: You remind me of my teenage years when I would do mixes when I was inspired by my emotions or films I watched at that time. I would just upload them on mixcloud and share them with my friends. The radio I used to listen to are the commercial ones my parents put on the car. There weren’t any independent radios that I knew of when I grew up in China, or maybe I just wasn’t aware of them. Nonetheless I knew to do these mixes to sort of express myself.
G: That’s interesting that you mentioned listening to the radio in the car, as I grew up listening to Radio One and ONLY Radio One every single day between the ages of about 7 and 18. I can remember having my text messages read out by the presenters and I especially remember the first time I ever heard The Prodigy was on the radio in the car. So even though that’s not an “underground” radio station, it didn’t matter because it was introducing me to new (to me) music, which was what got me hooked.
“In terms of making radio, years later I’ve gone back and listened to old radio shows I recorded with friends, and realised they were (accidental!) time capsules of where we were hanging out,, what I was learning about, the books I was reading, who I had a crush on.. it was all in there. “
In a similar manner, why is radio still relevant considering the average attention span of people have probably decreased dramatically in the rise of music streaming, on-demand media and all that?
A: When the pandemic happened, a mutual on Instagram started a radio called Volumelithic on Mixlr and I joined it. All the hosts were people who he knew in real life or online.
G: Me and my friends did a Mixlr too! I think it kept me sane.
A: The hosts would stick to the schedule and broadcast every single week. That radio was a companion during lockdown. I would tune in very frequently, and chat with that small group of people in the chatroom, and it helped me go through a lot during isolation—considering I spent around six months living almost completely alone. Sometimes I do dance music mixes for Sunday broadcasting as well. This radio is still going on Mixlr even though I don’t tune in as much now.
G: Mixlr is a dream. We had so much fun doing ours and were surprised that we got amazing responses; people calling in from all over the world! We had some people coming back every week to listen, and I found that really kept me going because I knew every week I would need new music to play on Friday night. The fact that we could sit in our living room, share music with each other, have people tune in and enjoy themselves was so affirming.
A: I guess in a sense radio is more humane. Both the broadcaster and the listeners could get a lot out of radio.
G: It’s lovely when they can work as a team! Especially with live radio.
Do you think about representation when running a radio series?
A: When I looked at the question, I was thinking that the exposure you get from being on the radio doesn’t necessarily get you booked. Representation doesn’t seem to translate into money.
G: True! Suggesting a DJ to a promoter or sharing an artist’s music with a label might be direct ways to support them rather than only inviting them onto a show. That doesn’t mean having a platform to develop and showcase what you can do isn’t important for artists, but as you said it doesn’t automatically equate to further opportunities.
Do you think the geographic location of the radio matters anymore? G: I’m always happy for any opportunity to hear a DJ that I’ve never heard before doing something interesting or surprising. Anything that makes that possible—like curators who are inviting artists they come across in their city—I’m down. It’s interesting to have international residents too —that’s my case on HKCR and quite a lot of people that are on the station. But as a listener, I wouldn’t want the local programming for all of these different stations to not be present.
A: I talked to Gavin (Founder of HKCR) about the local/international programming on HKCR and he said HKCR is for nerds. What he meant was that HKCR is not that local, although there are obviously local programs. I think the reason why I could write for HKCR is exactly because it’s not really that local. I’m not based in Hong Kong; neither am I from Hong Kong even though I grew up not far away from that city.
G: I did community radio when I was in the States a few years ago and because it was broadcast on FM in the local area it was on in people’s cars, in shops, the pizza place.. I had a late night slot, and every week I got a lot of calls from people opening up a cafe at five o’clock in the morning or even driving back from working night shifts. I think if it was an internet station those people probably still could have tuned in, but the fact that I knew everyone listening was from a fairly small radius surrounding where I was physically situated, and had turned on a radio in the depths(!) of night time definitely changed how I approached the show.
A: I want to come back to the previous question about there being too many radio mixes. Well, I think that question exists probably because Gavin thinks of more online radios. When you talk about the local FM community radio, I don’t think you will be overwhelmed by too many radio shows. But if you follow a bunch of online radios and dive into their archives, you might feel it’s a bit hard to keep up.
G: I feel like anything that’s delivered to you on a “feed” is overwhelming by design, though sometimes I enjoy a healthy bit of overwhelm.
“When you talk about the local FM community radio, I don’t think you will be overwhelmed by too many radio shows. But if you follow a bunch of online radios and dive into their archives, you might feel it’s a bit hard to keep up. “
Any other radio station you think is ‘cool’ right now (other than HKCR)? What’s great about them?
A: My answer would be a station called Radio is a Foreign Country. The introduction of this radio says it features cut-ups of international radio broadcasts, field recordings, ethnographic film, vintage records & cassettes. All the sounds from this radio are really new to me.
G: I am forever in awe of Datafruits! I particularly like how they are open with consulting their supporters about new developments and improvements for the station, and the design, curation and unabashed commitment to the music is always an inspiration.
We asked our hosts what’s the meaning of making radio episode in present time, Clansie Cheng Dao Yuan, a multi-media artist and musican, had shared with us his answers, as well as the unique creative process behind his radio episodes.
“To me, making a mix is like using “emotional fragments” from others to construct a piece of message or story relating to myself. Like establishing a connection with others, but in a more subtle way.”
Chinese 12月11號週六晚上香港時間7點/ 印度時間下午4點 / 澳洲時間晚上10點起於 HKCR.LIVE 收聽。
Stream live on HKCR.LIVE at 7P.M. HKT / 430P.M. IST / 10P.M. AEDT on 9/12/21
Enclave 為即將發行的EP 專輯 World in progress 密鑼緊鼓，他們自上年6月開始就開始磨拳擦掌，包括於封城前後的表演活動，其中包括在Yours & Owls音樂節的現場演出。
現在當澳洲正慢慢地慢慢地回復正常， 他們也在10月起發起了EP的第一首名為 Pale Guilt 的單曲作品， 一首寫下了他們對白人內疚感及收此所發出的表演性的行動主義所產生的不滿以及同情 。 『那裡仍有認清的價值，直視它在你根源中的真相 （There’s value left to learn, meet the truth it’s in your roots）』。主唱 Pat McCarthy 繼續說：『 表演性的行動主義利用了少數群體的傷痛和創傷，他們一直在做的事情是一種來自一種特權，而且往往是在不知不覺中。有時，我們的行動主義只是為了讓別人看到。 我認為這欠缺誠實的自我反省。 當沒有人看的時候，我們淪落為什麼？（Performative activism capitalizes on the pain and trauma of minority groups, it’s privileged doing what they have always done, and quite often unknowingly. Sometimes the extent of our activism can exist solely for the world to see. I believe honest self-reflection is lacking. Who are we when nobody is looking）』
English Enclave return in preparation for their upcoming EP titled ‘World in progress’.The group has been sharpening their swords since their first release in June of last year, playing shows in-between Country and State lockdowns, including a performance at Yours & Owls festival earlier this year.
Now, just as Australia slowly opens itself up again, in October Enclave followed suit with the first release from their EP. Titled ‘Pale Guilt’, a song written out of frustration toward the absurdity that is performative activism while simultaneously having a closer, more forgiving look at white guilt and shame. “There’s value left to learn, meet the truth it’s in your roots.”
Vocalist Pat McCarthy adds “Performative activism capitalizes on the pain and trauma of minority groups, it’s privileged doing what they have always done, and quite often unknowingly. Sometimes the extent of our activism can exist solely for the world to see. I believe honest self-reflection is lacking. Who are we when nobody is looking? ”
Enclave was birthed as a result of the camaraderie shared between members of City Rose, COLD/HEAT, Black Drum, and Lorelei. Creating fierce music with a sense of shared community and self-development in mind, Enclave strives for their music to reflect the strong compulsion they share to be of use to the world outside of themselves.
‘World in progress’ will be released at the beginning of the new year. The EP approaches themes such as self-development, finding purpose in the aid of others, remaining hopeful for a better world, and the pain and frustration felt from no longer being able to communicate with loved ones taken too soon.
This live performance also marks the year-end episode of Hounds of Pamir, an ongoing radio residency at Hong Kong Community Radio hosted by multidisciplinary artist Ruhail Qaisar from Ladakh, India.
Chinese 語言是Nicky Mao (毛恩馨) 談論音樂時常出現的主題。她在紐約學習創意寫作，但最終以Hiro Kone的名義憑藉音樂建立起自己的語言。從幼小時期開始，她就和音樂建立起深厚的連繫，不只因為她小時學過音樂—她的很多回憶都依附於某些家庭事件發生時，所播放的音樂；作為獨生小孩，她的孤單體驗也加深了她和音樂的聯繫。然而，直至在多年以後，她才發現，在自己感興趣的事情之中—包括寫作—音樂才是最自然的，最吸引她的東西。音樂才是她註定用於溝通的語言。
在疫情下，空間成了Nicky思考的非常重要的問題。她思考音樂所存在的空間：封城期間，空間的缺失使她沒法說服自己做線上直播表演—『（在現場演出時）空間裡的聲音，聲音的震盪和混響，這些東西全都非常重要。』但也不止是物理空間。Nicky留意到這股把全套生活搬到線上的勢頭，她卻選擇後退一步進行觀察，而非欣然地加入這場派對。她對資本主義，科技法西斯主義，對不斷取得「進步」的科技與及許多人糟糕的物質條件所形成的極端反差…關於這些事情的思考（而其中的很多她在疫情前已有進行探索），最終匯合成了『拒絕填充空間的衝動』這一直覺指引。在這條指引下，她寫出了第四張全長專輯，Silvercoat the throng。我跟Nicky聊了無常、寂靜、陰影和空間—這些事情大多指向我們所缺乏，而且在主動逃避的一種空虛。
Hiro Kone 於Dais Records推出的第四張全長專輯 Silvercoat the throng 現已推出，連結收聽。
English Language is a recurring theme when Nicky Mao talks about music. She studied Creative Writing in New York, but eventually came to build her language through music, under the alias Hiro Kone. She had a strong connection with music since she was very young, but not just because she played it as a kid—a lot of her memories are attached to songs her family were playing when something happened; the solitariness she experienced growing up as an only child also deepened her engagement with music. It took her years, however, before she discovered that out of everything she had been interested in, including writing, that music most appealed to her and made sense for her. Music was the language she was meant to use for communication.
Actual words could be intense and permanent, and Nicky knows that. “Even though I went to school for writing and even though I studied it, I saw how words are so extremely powerful. I have so much admiration for writers but music just felt more like a comfortable place for me to express myself…because I’m interested in language outside of words, I’m interested in like the space between words, I’m interested in silence, I’m interested in the things that we don’t say as much as the things we do say, or why we repeat certain things.” Things Nicky is interested in exist within sounds, and she could achieve them with sounds, in her own way.
Sculpture is another constant reference point—music doesn’t just sonically appeal to her, it’s also physical and visual. Shapes, texture, colour, objects…these things also exist in music for her; music is matte, or shiny, or porous.
Growing up playing string instruments—the violin as a kid and the guitar in a punk band as a teenager, she now works mostly with modular synths. It’s a time consuming process to work this way. “I don’t always know the shape, it takes time for me to see what that ecosystem is going to be like,” Nicky says. She would start with sketching one long piece on the modular, and then start to chisel this piece of material, add stuff, take away stuff—mostly take away stuff—and start to give it its definition. “That takes time for me to do that, and to sit with it and know what direction I want to go with that.”
During the pandemic, space has also become an increasingly important topic that Nicky dwells on. On the space that music exists in: she couldn’t bring herself to do livestream performance in lockdown due to the absence of space—“The sound within that space (when playing music live) and the vibration and the reverb and all those things are extremely important.” But also beyond that physical space. Alerted to this momentum of moving our life online, Nicky took a step back and observed rather than joining the party unquestioningly. Her reflection on capitalism, techno-facism, the polarity between the rapid “progress” made in technology and the dire material reality of many people, a lot of which she had explored even pre-pandemic, culminated into the intuitive directive “resist the urge to fill the space”, under which she wrote her 4th full-length album, Silvercoat the throng. I talked to Nicky about the transience, silence, shadow and space—most of these things point to a void that we most likely lack and actively seek refuge from.
Interview by Anlin Liang
For me, when I listen to your music, I see something more cinematic. Someone else might have written that your music could be used to soundtrack Jorodowsky’s version of Dune.
Yeah a lot of people think of science fiction, which is totally fine. I think of more…one of the directors I really like, Jia Zhangke. That slow cinema he does, that to me is what I feel like. I love his work. He uses music in interesting ways, too.
What’s your favourite film of his?
I love Ash is Purest White, which is a more recent one. And recently I saw Still Life, which is really good too. I’m reading a quite long interview with him right now in a book my friend published, it’s really interesting. I admire him so much. And I like Bi Gan. And then Tsai Ming-liang. So this probably gives you a sense of some of the visual aspects I am drawn to.
How do you relate to their films?
If you live between worlds in a way, say, you’re a child of immigrant, for instance, like myself, who came here, there’s always this feeling of longing and transience. Because I went back and forth between Asia and the US, there’s this feeling of existing somewhere between both worlds. There’s a recognizable ecosystem to Jia Zhangke’s films, that centers a lot around the displacement or the migration of people. People within different regions of China moving to different places for different reasons, and the destabilization and things that happen as a result of this. It’s of course very different than my personal experience, but there are certain tones and emotions that feel familiar and help me understand the world around me better. There’s something striking and interesting to see these things reflected through those films—the expression of what that transience feels like, and how there’re different forms of it: some of it is just outright displacement and erasure, and it can be really negative and sad. At other times it can feel very touching and comforting as people find ways in which to relate to one another.
Do you feel like a nomad?
There’s a quality to my work and to who I am that feels very nomadic and feels like a hybrid—never quite felt like at home here, never quite felt at home there. However, often I think to myself when I’m in motion, “How at home I feel.”
What’s your relationship with Hong Kong like?
It’s strange but I get really homesick for the city, though in a way I’m always a bit of an outsider because I was never a permanent resident. But I know it in this really deep way because I spent so much time alone there, exploring the city. I feel as though my senses are heightened when I’m there. The humidity, the colors, the smell, all of it is really easy for me to visualize, even when I’ve been away for a long time. I remember when I was a teenager and discovered Wong Kar Wai it felt so exhilarating to see the city projected on the screen like that. I didn’t have any way of sharing with my friends in California this other city I knew and loved, so the sudden proliferation and popularity of his films with western audiences was kind of exciting for me.
I always want more time in Hong Kong. I miss it quite a lot, more so than I do California. Maybe there’s something about the coming and going, the absence of it that makes it more special to me. It’s a huge part of who I am, yet it remains a mystery I think to the people in my life here in the US who have never been. There are awkward moments where I feel really cognizant of how out of step I feel with certain aspects of American culture. It meant a lot to me when Gavin from HKCR reached out to ask me to be a resident last year. It felt a little like being recognized in some way, the past saying, “You belong here, too.”
Have you been to Hong Kong at all?
Yeah, I lived quite near there for my entire life.
Do you like it? Do you feel a connection to it?
Every time I went there I would stay with a cousin who live in a subdivided unit. She was a restaurant worker. So I know what it’s like if you don’t have much living in that city.
The disparity in wealth in Hong Kong has to be one of the worst in the world, it really is a city that caters to a class system which echos it’s British colonialist roots.
I want to ask about your new album. It’s created during the pandemic and it comes from this idea “resist the urge to fill the space”. I could very straightforwardly relate it to a frustration a lot of people—at least people who don’t have to work the low paying “essential” jobs— have expressed during the massive lockdown: now we have all the time, what are we gonna do? But could you tell me where the idea comes from?
I think…If we don’t step back and observe the direction we are taking, how are we going to really know what steps need to be taken. This idea that I’m expressing was really heightened during the pandemic. There was a rush to move everything online. A lot of my works talk about capitalism—there was a rush because of the way that the machineries working to keep it going and there was a lot of promoting of that behaviour to move everything online: zoom calls, our exercise routines, education, everything. I’m not saying that all of this is necessarily bad. I also understand why people need contact with one another, and why people felt the propulsion towards this. But I just want also to take a step back and think about what that means though—what we are giving these companies, what information of ourselves more we are giving freely over to what I believe we have to be really wary of. Also what does this constant productivity keep us from learning about ourselves and the world around us.
I think that we are under threat of techno-fascism, and I think that is something we don’t talk about enough, and we don’t talk about how deeply embedded that is into all of this. We have governments who are now beholden to these technological companies—one can just see the tax breaks to understand how in bed Government is with Big Tech. And the more that we consumers become dependent on the technology, the more influence they have in control over our lives so…it feels like a concern about the fact that we were so quick to just accept this and move it all on to online. It’s like the perfect storm for them. They love it! That was one thing. There are a lot of things I think that fit into that whole idea of not wanting to fill the space that we suddenly had in our lives, to maybe consider other modes of existence, other modes of collaboration and working together.
It’s a correlation with other albums and things that I’ve been talking about in the past with my work, like the previous album A Fossil Begins to Bray. A lot of these ideas are sort of in continuation. Progress without thinking about what we’re progressing towards is not what I’m personally after. Or it’s just like feeding this machine when I feel like we have an opportunity to maybe reimagine things.
“I think that we are under threat of techno-fascism, and I think that is something we don’t talk about enough, and we don’t talk about how deeply embedded that is into all of this.”
We need to rethink what progress means—is progress necessarily “good”?
Yes. People get really enamoured with progress. I guess that’s part of why I love Zhangke’s films too, going back to that. I’m interested in the effects of that trickle down, the effects of this type of thinking—what progress is. It has real life effects on people. I’m interested in that and interested in how to fight that, or how we can respond to that, and say “no”.
Have you seen Summer of Soul, the documentary? It was about Harlem Cultural Festival that happened in 1969, the same year when the first moon landing in human history happened. A black man in the audience was interviewed and he was asked what he thought of this event. He basically said all that money could have been used to fix poverty and housing problem and such. You know the media is talking about how no one is enthusiastic about all this billionaires space race recently, but when I saw that interview in the film I realized it was not a novel sentiment.
You know what I’m thinking about and really illustrated that. I’m interested in real transformation, and not just progress for the sake of progress. It’s a very Western idea, which has been indoctrinated everywhere. Do you know the philosopher Byung Chul-han?
Yes I heard of him.
He says the same, and I’ve said it before, too. Everyone’s on the screen all the time, it’s like the light doesn’t break. So if the light doesn’t break, we don’t see the shadows. I think we need to be able to see the shadows, in order to see the definition of the things that we need to consider and think about. And so if we’re just living constantly in the positive, this transparent screen constantly, we can’t see what’s behind it. It’s just something I think a lot about, and our perceptions of things. I guess that’s why I’m really interested in the shadow or taking that step back and allowing that space to be there—so that I can see better.
You told me earlier that you are interested in silence, in unsaid things, which I would relate to the shadow that you just talked about—could you give me an example of this silence in your experience?
When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, with my grandmother. Unfortunately, I didn’t speak Cantonese, I know some words but not a lot. And she didn’t speak English. Our way of communicating encompasses the silences as well as the piecing things together from my very broken Cantonese and her very broken English. We were able to communicate with our broken languages, our faces, with our gestures and our silences. You experience that range of communication first-hand, and it shows you potential, and so you want to observe more. And then I can also think of things like sitting at the dinner table with my family, sometimes they’re speaking to me, sometimes they’re speaking about me, but in another language, sometimes I’m talking to my grandfather who speaks perfect English; you just get comfortable with these different ways of communication—not always knowing what people are saying, and then knowing and then hearing something there, or suddenly there’s a silence that comes over the dinner table, and people are just comfortable. That’s all really interesting to me. I learned a lot about being alone and quiet during my summers there. Because I was an only child, I didn’t have siblings, I didn’t have a lot of young friends around when I was living with them. I think this experience made me a good listener. Listening is so undervalued.
I’m glad that you mentioned you wanted real transformation. I struggle sometimes to reconcile the thoughts of loving art for art’s sake and questioning “what is this for?”
Yeah exactly. Whatever small platform I have, I want to use it to have discussions like this. I was saying earlier—it’s nice to talk about music and how we made it, but I’m more interested in what you and I are talking about. A bigger picture. Yeah, I make electronic music, I made a piece, it came out on vinyl, but it’s a more holistic thing that I’m considering in my work. I’m interested in how sharing ideas can move us in a better direction, and if my music in some way can be a part of that movement, in a very small way, then that feels like a life well-lived.
You love sculptor Jorge Oteiza and once shared this quote by him: “Art does not transform anything, it does not alter the world, it does not change reality. What the artist really transforms, as he evolves, transforms and completes his languages, is himself. And it is that man, transformed by art, who can, through life, transform reality.”
I was meant to ask how that applied to your own experience as an artist but I guessed you just answered.
Yeah it’s that process that I’m interested in. How we become better members of society and how we build better kinship with our environment. We’re living in an increasingly narcissistic time, one that focuses us inwards and necessitates constant empty affirmation.
Asking yourself what kind of relationship you want to have with the world is really crucial. If I’m going to do anything in my life, music, or something entirely different, it has to have a quality of care for others.
“We’re living in an increasingly narcissistic time, one that focuses us inwards and necessitates constant empty affirmation.
Asking yourself what kind of relationship you want to have with the world is really crucial. If I’m going to do anything in my life, music, or something entirely different, it has to have a quality of care for others.”
What books have informed you on your views?
I recently read Ruha Benjamin’s Race after Technology, and felt it was very timely—given our increasing reliance on technology. She writes about how emerging technology reinforces white supremacy. I also mentioned Byung Chul-Han. I love some Donna Haraway as well, (she writes about) our relationship with the world around us, not just human relationships. But this year I actually read mostly poetry—going back to this thing of needing space. In the past I’d read a lot of critical theory, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do much of that over the past two years. I took a break and started reading poetry. Because there was space there for my brain, and space to breathe, too.
Who are your favourite poets?
I love Percy Shelley a lot. I visited his grave which is tucked away in Rome, in a small cemetery where dozens of cats live. It felt like a really fitting spot. I recently discovered this Iranian poet Garous Abdolmalekian, he was just translated to English for the first time. I really recommend this collection Lean Against This Late Hour.
Finally, can we talk about your support for the BDS Movement? You have been a supporter for quite a long time.
For me it has never been a question whether Palestine should be free and that what was taking place there was a colonial project, orchestrated by a number of western powers. You have a state government (Israel) that is armed to the teeth and then you have a vulnerable population either living under occupation or exile. These are not equal players. Anyone who familiarizes themselves with the history of the events following World War II should see clearly this is a continuation of oppression and erasure. Homes are taken or razed to the ground all the time in occupied Palestine. The practice is plain and simple – to erase any historical evidence that is Palestine. That’s why we cannot remain silent.
When I visited Palestine in 2019, I visited Jordan first. Many of my friends in Amman are Palestinian and could not travel with me into Palestine to the festival I was attending in Ramallah. What does that say? They’re Palestinian, I’m American – how does it work that I’m allowed and they are not. Because I have this US passport. My friends who do not hold the “right” documentation cannot move freely while others with Israeli, British or American passports can. That says a lot about the disparity of the world and who maintains power.
I reside in a country that pours billions of dollars into the Israeli “defense” forces. Really they are “occupation” forces, used to repress the Palestinian people and keep them living in terror. I spoke with a young man in Hebron who told me the story of how the IOF tried to plant a knife on him when he was teenager and if it weren’t for his neighbor looking out the window at the right time, they would have shot him. The US plays such a large role in what is taking place there. We are so entwined and responsible for what is taking place. This is why I support my Palestinian friends and their right to return.
Hiro Kone’s 4th LP Silvercoat the throng is out now on Dais Records, listen.
What are some local scenes or circles that inspire you, did it play a role in getting you into music and DJing and stuff?
I live in Denmark but I’m not from here originally so I wouldn’t say I’m very influenced by the local scene here, but I started really getting into it in the beginning of covid. I mean I always liked just curating stuff and sharing music before back when I was still living in Indonesia where I’m from originally. I’ve lived in Europe now for 10 years, and I’ve always had an affinity to music, but I wasn’t really doing it in that sense. I like to share stuff, I don’t see myself as a person who “does” music, because I don’t “do” music you know, I just like to listen to it and share stuff, I started mixing a little bit but I wouldn’t call myself a DJ, you know what I mean?
Yeah I know exactly what you mean
Yeah, I just like sharing music, and I think it was because of the beginning of covid, that I started to just have time to actually start getting into making mixes and all that stuff, you know whereas before I’d be making playlists for a friend’s party or something liek this, so it was more chill, but because of covid being at home a lot, that kind of started it, but I wouldn’t say I’m specifically influenced by a local scene, because also most of the stuff I’m looking into these days, and since I started getting into it, is a lot of south-east and east asian music, which I wasn’t actually digging so much into before.
That makes a lot of sense, I wouldn’t consider myself like a DJ and I’d probably say the same thing, I’m not really inspired by the local scene round here really either
Yeah, I mean I think there’s a lot of good stuff here as well [Denmark] but when I moved here, I didn’t really know much about the local scene anyways and then covid happened, I moved here not too long before Covid happened, so I guess I was away more, and I always had more affinity to East and South East Asian music and I started digging it after Covid. Most of the stuff I play and look into is focused on south-east and east asian based artists. Not to say I’m excluding other stuff, but I guess I’m finding more stuff that I’m into from SE Asia, and coming from Indonesia, it’s given me more motivation to look into stuff from my own country which I didn’t used to before I got into so-called DJing or whatever.
So as you know we’re based in HK, you’re based in Europe, so do you have any connection to the region?
I’ve never been to HK personally but I’ve got lots of Indonesian friends who have been, and also I’ve got a lot of Inidonesian musician firends who know the scene more (I guess like, really musicians haha). And I’ve only heard good things about what’s happening there, that Hong Kong’s really vibrant and I guess living in Europe, most of the things I see or hear on mainstream media are people’s perception of, you know it always has to do with politics I guess. I’m not an expert on that stuff so I don’t really get into it with people, and it’s Europe, and I live in Northern Europe so it’s even more like, I think living here in general in Northern Europe, a lot of people look at Hong Kong or China as this like, they associate it a lot with politics and riots, all this kind of stuff, like on a mainstream level. THat’s what I know from people’s perceptions, but I don’t really get into it with people, since you know because I’m Asian myself, you know sometimes Europeans have these things that they think they know but they don’t really know, in a more general level I guess. What was the question? What people think of Hong Kong?
Haha yeah, I mean, I myself, I mean I live here, but I wouldn’t say I can represent what Europeans think of Hong Kong, but I know there is a lot of stuff in the media, but it’s more about politics and less about culture or music or stuff like this
Ha, yeah definitely in America it’s about politics too.
Yeah and people are always like asking your opinion like “what do you think of this?” or “what do you think..” you know, people are always kinda wanting you to choose a side or something, and it’s quite awkward because I’ve never been to Hong Kong and I don’t speak the language or anything. So if someone here in Denmark tends to focus on those big questions more, rather than other things, but it’s usually politics yeah.
So you’re multi-genre, so what’s your perspective on the pros of being multi-genral and do you think there are any cons at all (I don’t think there are but).
If there are any cons at all?
No! The pros! More focusing on the pros, if there are any cons, mention them as well, pros and cons yknow!
Personally like I don’t only listen to one genre because I don’t feel like it, and I’m not like a house selector or DJ or anything, because just listening to house all day is boring! I think the pros are you get to discover more, and you don’t shut yourself off from other genres. I sometimes think that genres can be quite elitist. Sometimes someone could think “oh my God, you listen to K-pop?! How could you?” But I think with multi-genre, if you like a track, you just like a track, it doesn’t have to be like “Oh I can’t like this track because it’s this or this genre”, and you can’t lie to yourself, there are some days where you want to listen to a good pop song or an emo song or whatever, I mean, not that I listen to a lot of emo these days I think, but yeah, I just think that for me, since I don’t consider myself a musician or a real DJ or whatever, it’s more that I share music and do this because it’s fun, and also hope that people who listen to the mixes or the radio show that I do, you might hear a song and think “oh this song is nice, what is this song?”. And it’s not about keeping a certain genre, there aren’t genres I won’t do. THere’s definitely types of music I prefer for sure, but it also depends on my mood or what I feel like listening to at that moment. For me personally if I make a mix, I tend to not make a mix that is just a single genre. Personally I prefer to go about it, more like there’s a story or a progression on my radio show. But I think that’s also personal. I’m not saying other ways are unlikeable as well, but I think that’s just the pros of doing multiple genres, you could start with ambient and end with hyperpop, so I think that’s more fun for me anyway.s
I sometimes think that genres can be quite elitist. Sometimes someone could think “oh my God, you listen to K-pop?! How could you?” But I think with multi-genre, if you like a track, you just like a track, it doesn’t have to be like “Oh I can’t like this track because it’s this or this genre”, and you can’t lie to yourself
Yeah I understand I use a lot of genres as well. So you’re a resident on HKCR? I can’t wait to tune in!
I think my point is that I don’t take all this stuff seriously, quote unquote, but really I do it because it’s just fun, I kinda of do it just for the joy, but I also know that I have the privilege to do it for leisure, but maybe it is because I don’t have a career as a DJ / musician so I don’t atke myself too seriously in that sense, I do it because I like discovering artists or new music or old music, and I just do it for the fun of sharing and curating
It has almost been two years. Every single day is sterilized, with conversations quarantined by the masks. Our life before – the relationship between the external and us – has been fading into oblivion, that we eventually start imagining a past that we still could immediately embrace the world. But didn’t various forms of sanitizers and masks, different barriers and dividing lines, also exist in the “past”? What is ultimately the thing that we call the relationship between the external and us?
With her first EP “Is anybody out there?” released in August, the Japan-based artist, Yongsi tries to wander around the borders between the self and the other, asking the question “What am I?” again in the ambiguity of language.
Interview by gari
Q1. Hi, Yongsi. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is Yongsi. It’s my real name given by my mother, which means “may your sentiments be infinite, as everlasting as the eternal flowing water”. I was born in the mountains of Guiyang, Guizhou, but an Earth brought up child. I started composing songs at the age of 12, and released my first digital single Where I Will in 2019. Now I think people would categorize me as an “artist”.
Q2. What brought you to Japan in the first place?
With no special reason. I just felt like it’s time to move on to the new place. Honestly, it could be anywhere.
Q3. Moving from China to Japan – once again, from Kyoto to Tokyo this year – how do such translingual and transregional experiences influence your music?
In fact, I had also lived in the US and the UK for some time. When I was in the UK, I had also been travelling around Europe for a while. Time I spent overseas probably takes up one-third of my life. This series of experiences help me develop some ideas concerning time, space, materials and humanity as well. They are partly reflected in my works, while the meanings of the remaining parts are still yet to be known. Every bit of the happend, the happening, and the going-to-happen deserves to be explored calmly and slowly. If I were to depict what came across my mind with only one sentence, I would say it feels like “an orderly chaos that exists without a bearer”.
Q4. What do you think about the scene of Kyoto? Were there local artists that you got along with when you were active in Kyoto?
Kyoto is a much more introverted city compared to others that I’ve been to. But just like the introverts, time has to be spent if you want to dig deep into those hidden gems. You can’t even get into some places if you’re not introduced by someone – in Japanese, this is called “Ichigen-sama-okotowari” (一見様お断り). That’s why being well connected is so important there. Many outstanding artists are like the blood of Kyoto, flowing underneath those buildings which seem to be antique and tranquil, seamlessly and endlessly.
Like the bar KAZU which I used to go to. It is hidden between two skyscrapers built behind the parking lot. If no one brings you there, you’d probably think entry is restricted. Over there, you can meet a lot of people who come to get themselves drunk for some odd reason.
Or the spatial art venue Soto which is hidden in the residential area away from downtown. I held my last gig there before I left Kyoto. The event was organized by the famous DJ Kotsu, who moved from Tokyo to Kyoto last year, and who I respect very much. I was moved by many of his ideas of being an entertainer, he means a lot to me for being able to come this far. Artists like sound designer/ dancer, Lyo Taniguchi and sound maker/ DJ, E.O.U also performed in the gig. Lyo Taniguchi and I produced his EP Nichts together last year. I took charge of the lyrics, composition, vocal and naming of the 4-track EP. This experience in production helped me find my own musical style to a large extent.
Q5. Could you name artists or works that influence your current musical style?
The biggest influence still comes from classical music, especially Chopin and Debussy. Recently, film soundtracks have also been quite an influence on me. Jóhann Jóhannsson, Apparat and Jun Miyake are my favorites. That said, this EP is particularly inspired by Pink Floyd.
Q6. Each word in Is anybody out there? – including “?” – is broken down into track titles. Why did you choose to arrange the tracks in this way?
To me, lyrics and melodies correspond to each other in every song; and when they are linked together, they form a complete sentence. For this work, as every track is linked together, they in turn form a larger piece of music.
In English grammar, sentences that begin with “is” (the verb “be”) are questions necessarily. That’s why in the first track Is, tribal and primitive beats and rhythms are used, wolf’s howl is mimicked by the vocals, and the closing section is arranged with reverses. The aim is to bring time and space back to the epoch when all were still unknown but mountains and rivers, and by doing so, the most instinctive emotions of human beings can be evoked.
anybody is an ideological conversation between the “me(-s)” in a narrow sense and in a wider sense. What’s illustrated in the first perspective is the verbalizable emotions of “me” in the narrow sense qua “me” who lives in the world that can be seen or touched. While the second one represents the unverbalizable emotions of “me” in the broad sense qua “me” who lives in the space of consciousness (in another dimension). The “me” or “us” here, can be anyone.
out seeks to present the state that when everyone or ideologies mentioned above break through the walls in any form, starting to experience each other and eventually unite in one. This apex is exactly there. But where exactly is there? What is this state like? It is unknown to all, so it ends with “?”.
? is nothing but a word that verbalizes – somehow like a monologue – my memories of the first day I started making this EP. It feels as if I came back to Earth in the end after a space trip, all sorts of fantasies and disorganized answers have ended with a “?” – the most common, unsurprising moment. And the power generated from this moment is like undercurrents around me, so I’m still willing to wake up at any moment. To put it simply, the structure of the whole EP is just like birth or death or sex lol.
Q7. Compared to the two previous singles, it seems that Is anybody out there? has a stronger emphasis on the obscurity and ambiguity of the human voice. Does this have anything to do with the idea of this EP?
A lot, I would say. But there is simply a lot to talk about when it comes to the whole idea of it, so now I’m just going to share a little thought here. After learning several languages, I really feel like “language” (the symbolic) is not helping us communicate at all, it is rather triggering various misunderstandings and conjectures. It’s because the relation between language and the material is essentially random. I always feel like I’m “betrayed” by language, no kidding (maybe it’s just because I suck at talking). It’s related to a chicken-or-the-egg paradox in linguistics that is generally called the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. Check it out if you’re interested to know more, it’s really intriguing. But what I want to say is that information transmitted by language is always either much more than we have heard, or much less than we have heard. Truth and falsehood coexist. The way of judging, at the end of the day, requires us to ask ourselves. Temporary hostility and blind following all go to waste. So, no matter who gives you an option – whatever it might be – you should always try to feel and pursue your own truth. Only when you have understood yourself, you are likely to be able to understand others and treat them well.
Q8. This EP is mixed and mastered by Yosi Horikawa. How did this collab start? Was there any interesting experience in this collab?
I was introduced to Yosi Horikawa by DJ, Alex, who I met in Kyoto. We’ve been interacting only through e-mails, so we haven’t met each other face-to-face even now. Speaking of interesting experiences, to me, it’s probably that when he was doing the mixing for me, I kept looping his bump, just to imagine how he would embellish my work, lol.
Q9. What roles do acoustic instruments, field recording, and electronic sound play respectively in your music? How are the three related in your work?
Acoustic instruments are the cornerstone of my works, generally I only use piano for composition. Field recording is only a sort of preference, I feel freer being close to nature. While electronic sounds are used to add immensity to the work as a whole.
Q10. Could you share your future plans?
I might try to release an improvisation album that is only recorded with piano and human voice.
Yongsi’s debut EP ‘Is anybody out there‘ ? is out now, listen.
Flora Yin Wong （黃映彤）是來自倫敦的音樂人，DJ，作家，也是前Dazed雜誌音樂編輯。她的音樂及寫作作品發行和出版於廠牌Modern Love，PAN，Circadian Rhythms，以及雜誌zweikommasieben，Somesuch Stories等。我在曼徹斯特的The White Hotel觀看了她的演出，並邀請她為香港聯合電臺做一個電郵採訪。在這個採訪裡，我問了她各種問題，有跟音樂報導相關的，有跟她今年出版的書《Liturgy》相關的，有跟她寫作和音樂裡都出現的（東）亞洲元素及隨之而來的闡釋相關的，當然，也有跟香港—她母親的出生地—相關的。
Flora Yin Wong is a London-born musician, DJ, writer, and former music editor at Dazed; her music and writing works have been released/published via labels including Modern Love, PAN, Circadian Rhythms, and magazines and outlets such as zweikommasieben, Somesuch Stories. I caught up with her set at The White Hotel in Manchester in July and invited her to do an interview for Hong Kong Community Radio via email. In this interview I asked her about music journalism, about Liturgy, the book she released this year, about the (East) Asian elements in her music and writings and the interpretations that came with them and of course about Hong Kong, the birthplace of her mother. (Flora talked about some of her experience when she worked in Hong Kong in another interview and wrote stories that reflected her time sojourning in this city, and these are some good reads.)
Interviewed by Anlin Liang
Q: Would you say your years working in music journalism, interviewing artists, reviewing music, etc., has helped you in any way in materializing your music? What would you say is your biggest takeaway when your positionality switches from the interviewer to the interviewed?
I wouldn’t say the experience of being a journalist contributed to the work, but more just it was the result of me having different ways of engaging with music as it was always such a big part of my life but I wasn’t ‘able’ to produce anything at that stage. I fell out of love with music journalism when it felt like it became a very conveyor belt system for artists. Now it does make me curious on the other side, but also bear high expectations for interview questions and just try to answer as honestly and openly as possible.
Q: I read your interview about not going anywhere when making club music and I read something from an Laila Sakini in her interview (via zweikommasieben) which is a bit related to this—she talked about how she was really shy about the club music she made and she didn’t show them to many people. I find it pretty interesting that sometimes people want to make certain things but will end up making really different things. Is there anything you could say about the difference between making the kind of club music you wanted to make and making what you are making now?
I never finished any tracks myself that might be considered as ‘club/techno music’, but do feel like it crosses over more in my earlier releases… the album was a deeply insular experience and probably translates as such. Laila is a good friend of mine and we’re actually working on a collaboration together for the traditionally very techno Atonal this year so will see where we get with that too ha.
Q: Care to talk more about the video footages you used during The White Hotel set? Why do you choose such visuals to accompany your set?
The footage I used for that show (and previously at King’s Place with Kelly Moran), are predominantly GoPro shots where I filmed random moments on the wrong setting. These were mostly from when I went to Bali alone and was having long chats with the taxi driver in the middle of nowhere at night. The jarring pace of the footage, the ghost stories he was telling me, and the typical ‘Asian’ strip lighting of the occasional markets we passed were really evocative to me of something modern and mundane, yet ancient and unseeable.
Q: I want to also ask you about Liturgy, your book that was originally intended to be released along with Holy Palm, but now published as a stand-alone project (if I didn’t get it wrong!). I have read it and a large part of it reads to me like a catalogue, or a documentation of things, including tales, places, sounds, animals, mental health conditions, that ‘carried latent potential prophecy’. How did you do your research for this book? I wonder what kind of connection do you see in these different pieces you wrote in Liturgy?
Yeah they were written in tandem, and is more like a short encyclopaedia or compilation of assorted tales and histories. Most of them are just ongoing ideas or interests in my head, and then solidified or explored further on paper. They’re all very connected in a universal sense, all the terms, stories, living creatures, unreal creatures, human beliefs etc.
Q: I have seen people using languages like east vs west, or (East) Asian culture, or even ‘going back to the root’ when describing your music, and I know you talked about in other interviews that this is others’ interpretation of something you didn’t really intend to do. But after reading your book Liturgy, and also reading your interviews where you talked about using traditional Chinese instruments, I still want to ask, when you approach such things as ‘eastern’ philosophy or ‘eastern’ sounds—to put it very crudely—do you look for this “going back to the root” kind of feeling, as in you feel more grounded or connected with yourself, in these stories, symbols, and sounds; or do you approach these things with the kind of curiosity just as you approach anything else?
It’s maybe not intentional and not used as if I feel like it represents me – it’s more that they are in fact ‘foreign’ yet somehow familiar to me and therefore appear interesting. I like feeling like I’m perhaps connected to something physically and spiritually in a darker, insidious way that goes back generations even if I don’t understand it. The specific instruments are just a phase and I’m craving the access to touch and explore new ones all the time.
Q: Would you say you have a fatalistic outlook for the world? I didn’t know anything about the Olduvai theory until I read your essay ‘Into the Gorge’ . Do you think human beings are quite doomed like the theory predicts, or do you think people could work their way out?
In this respect, I don’t think people should ‘work their way out’ of anything. I detest the idea of prolonging life because of the ability to, and this overarching obsession with immortality. There’s obviously something liberating and idealistic about the drama of a conceivable ‘apocalypse’, but fundamentally it’s just another event on the timeline.
Q: Hong Kong seems to be a very spiritual and also somewhat unreal place for you, at least that’s how I feel when I read your writings on Some Such Stories. But of course, the spiritual is entangled with the real…you said you were ‘awakening from the dream’ in ‘Time’—did the political event in 2014 shake you up? How do you feel about your connection with Hong Kong now?
The political events of 2014 in Hong Kong were an awakening for many I think, even for me and my ex-pat peers who lived a very different and privileged life there. I was missing my (supposedly) ’democratic’ albeit flawed home in the UK, and I was in a very different mindset which was more about ‘awakening’ from a brief and fortune-filled respite in a foreign land. I haven’t been back to Hong Kong in several years now, and I found the last trip really sad. Whitewashed gentrified areas were much more extreme and boring, and it just seemed really jarring. There’s still a mentality of idealising the West and also at the same time the overbearing feeling of the mainland encroaching – in terms of language, culture and rules.
(Anlin Liang is a translator and a training anthropologist).
Revisit the guest mix she made for us earlier this year.
香港自然田野錄音聲音庫和網站 AK IN KK @akinkk.sound ，帶來1小時包括在薄扶林水塘、鹿巢坳和奇力山等香港自然環境錄下的純自然的環境錄音。
AK IN KK – Nature Field Recording HK (AK IN KK), website-based sound resource library of Hong Kong nature soundscape field recording, is bringing us an1 hour mix of pure nature field recording, taken at various Nature part of Hong Kong such as Pok Fu Lam Reservoir, Luk Chau Au, Mount Kellett and more.