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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。
訪問：梁安琳 Anlin Liang
那我就說了—我喜歡你的新專輯原因之一就是因為我在聆聽的時候可以拾起一些回憶裡的聲音。像『Line (with Glasear)』和『忘了一切 (with Munni)』這些歌裡的那種hi-hat聲讓我想起了像Arab Strap，Bedhead還有Codeine這樣的慢核樂隊—但我指的不是他們某首特定的歌。
我倒是知道你在『Li Bu Kai』裡唱的是什麼—『生命就像一條大河』。
『Li Bu Kai』大概挺難讓人聽懂的，至少是除了這句以外的其他部分吧。我那個時候絕對是因為害羞所以唱得更含混。你引用的歌詞出自汪峰的《飛得更高》。
人們也許會這樣看，但是新專輯上的音樂更像是我17歲時做的音樂。我是彈著結他長大的，過去幾年有些忽視，但我現在真的有重新投入彈結他。所以從某方面來講我做的感覺並不是什麼特別新的東西。我是隨時隨地想做什麼就做什麼吧。我也不覺得Dancehall/Afrobeat或者『Soundcloud Rap』這些標籤能準確描述我至今發過的作品，它們通常是在記者寫作時出於行銷目的使用的詞彙，又或者是因為與我關聯的人而被加到我頭上。現在還有人會把我當作或把我寫成是俱樂部製作人，又或者是那類搞Soundcloud Hyperpop說唱的『雇傭人聲』，就因為我在那個場景裡出現過，我對此無法理解。你得無視我做過的很多東西才能給我貼上這樣的標籤。我不同意這樣的說法，我也不會就因為我重拾結他而說這是『我的搖滾專輯』。我不希望我的專輯以這樣的方式被消化，我寧可不去描述它。
Sonic Youth, Harry Pussy的Bill Orcutt, Duster, Loren Connors, Jimi Hendrix, The Durutti Column的Vini Reilly。很多的藍調結他，因為我的結他老師是個藍調迷，還有帶噪音的音樂，裡面的結他聽起來像別的東西。
我在聽你的新專輯的時候我的確也想起了The Durutti Column—我覺得他用著流行歌的框架，但很多時候把音樂做得有點怪。
我太樂意自己被比作他了，因為我很喜歡The Durutti Column。我猜我懂你的意思—我能跟他音樂還有他把各種元素結合在一起的方式產生共鳴，倒不是指他的旋律跟和絃，而是他使用的聲音以及他作曲裡某種特別的感性。
我們之前聊過你在『Li Bu Kai』裡面取樣了電影《小武》裡面的聲音*；你在這張專輯裡有沒有進行更多的電影取樣？
Organ Tapes 於worldwide unlimited推出的全長專輯 《唱着那无人问津的歌谣》（Chang Zhe Na Wu Ren Wen Jin De Ge Yao） 在本月28日推出，購買/收聽。
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.
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