By the spring of 2005, I had finally said my long goodbye to Korea and was ready to settle down for a new life in China. As I returned to Beijing after those somewhat ill-fated, R.A.M.B.O. shows, Jonas was already busy bringing a band together. For this new project, he was to play drums. I’d be on guitar and Adam on bass. He’d also enlisted two friends in the Chinese scene. Min Yan, the vocalist for Beijing’s Last Chance of Youth, was to sing, and Mai Dian, the guitarist for early Wuhan punk bands 死逗了 SiDouLe, Mama, and 400 Blows, to play lead guitar.
Jonas had met Min Yan (aka Alex) on his first trip to China. During that time, Jonas’ bandmate, Andy from DS-13, had come to visit. While he was there, they decided to set up a few shows and perform DS-13 songs under a modified line-up and the name “DS-010”. They enlisted Jonney, from P.K.14, as the vocalist, and Shi Xudong, from P.K.14, Shitdog, Brain Failure, etc., on bass. Min Yan was in attendance at one of these shows in a Beijing brothel-turned-livehouse called Get Lucky Bar, and after seeing them play, he decided to start a band. The band that he formed became Beijing’s first hardcore-punk act, Last Chance of Youth.
Jonas’ second trip to China came in 2004 when he followed Jonney and his band P.K.14 on their first national tour. It was a crucial early tour for China’s young punk scene and director David Harris brilliantly captured it in the documentary, A Tour of the Public Kingdom, released by the Beijing record label Modern Sky Records. During the tour, Mai Dian organized their Wuhan show and took exceptional care of the band, arranging transportation, food, and housing while they were in the city. This was the first time that Jonas and Mai Dian met and they hit it off immediately with long discussions on punk, politics, and the philosophy of D.I.Y. They continued to stay in touch afterward through email. So, even though Mai Dian was in a different city, he was still a natural choice to play Jonas’ new band.
The band was to be called 犯罪想法 Fanzui Xiangfa. It loosely translates as Criminal Thoughts or Criminal Minds, although we soon dropped the English and only went by the Chinese. From the start, we were extraordinarily productive. We started practicing in April, played several shows in May, and then recorded a self-titled CD in June. Adam and I were also busy with our other band, 不好吃 BuHaoChi, and I remember practicing six days a week, three with each band while playing shows on the seventh. Daily expenses in China were still relatively cheap, and we lived on music and beer, filling our days with practice and shows. I still look back on this period as a magical time that I felt would last forever.
Fanzui Xiangfa’s debut album.
In retrospect, though, Jonas was working on a deadline. After the recording, he returned to Sweden, and the band went on hiatus. However, Adam and I continued to grow increasingly connected to China’s underground through playing in our band BuHaoChi and being generally free to hang out and drink all night with the local punks. By late spring 2005, I had also begun to manage the bookings for a new venue in Beijing called D-22 and several months later helped found the Chinese indie label Maybe Mars.
Jonas returned to China in the summer of 2007, and we self-released our debut CD with a mini-tour to Nanjing, Changsha, and Wuhan, after which we began working on new songs. The summer of 2007 was a good time for the Beijing underground. The scene around D-22, where I was working, was reaching a crescendo with packed shows every weekend and impromptu jam sessions and drinking that often lasted until 4 am. I handled the bookings at the club and would host two weekend punk shows a month with another one or two during the week. Fanzui Xiangfa would usually join a couple of the shows and perform at other venues like 2 Kolegas, 13 Club, or Old What.
By May 2008, we had new songs and were preparing to record a follow-up to our debut. Fellow Beijing-based punks, Demerit, had just recorded their sophomore release Bastards of the Nation on Maybe Mars, and through my work for the record label, I took them to Korea as part of their release tour. I had planned to renew my China visa while in Korea, but visas had become extremely hard to get because of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. The most the Chinese embassy would grant me was an expensive two-week visa with the purchase of tickets to the Olympics. So, as Jonas and Adam were both moving out of our shared apartment, I ended up returning to Beijing for two weeks, putting all my possessions in storage, then taking the ferry back to Seoul to wait it out.
While I was stuck in Korea, the rest of the band made their way to Nanjing to record. The plan was to record our new songs with Du Wei, the drummer of Angry Jerks, who had a studio there. We had met Du Wei in Nanjing on our band’s first tour, and subsequently, Adam and I had traveled down to hang out for shows several times during the heady year 2007. We had become close friends, and when Du Wei’s new band, Overdose, came to Beijing, he proposed we record at his studio. They had performed at D-22 and crashed at our house for a week which devolved into one long party, later immortalized in song. So, taking up Du Wei’s offer in June of 2008, Jonas, Adam, and Mai Dian all converged in Nanjing, but Min Yan, our vocalist, never showed up for the train. They were in the studio while I was trapped out of the country, and Min Yan was M.I.A. Despite missing members, they went ahead and recorded the instrument tracks, including scratch tracks for guitars, so that I could record my parts in Korea. After which, they sat around trying to decide what to do about vocals.
Min Yan wasn’t responding, so we started looking around for anyone suitable. For a while, we considered calling Wang Junping up from Wuhan. Wang Junping, aka the “Bad Luck King,” was the singer for China’s first hardcore punk act Angry Dog Eyes / Shit Dog (and is now the leader of Beijing reggae-punk act the Sailor’s Grape). He was worried, though, that the band wasn’t serious, and it was hard to convince him otherwise when none of us had apartments, Jonas was leaving, Mai Dian still lived in Wuhan, and I was trapped out of the country. Eventually, Jonas and Adam somehow convinced Du Wei and his then-girlfriend, Ruan Ruan, to sing on several tracks. I laid down my guitar parts in Korea, and after the recording, Jonas returned to Sweden, once again, to mix. However, this time, the basic tracks weren’t sufficient, and there wasn’t much they could do to fix them.
With a failed recording and the loss of a singer, you’d think any band would be discouraged, but I was already dead set on a Southeast Asia tour, and we weren’t going to give up so easily. So the band went on temporary hiatus while Adam and I sorted out our lives and waited for Jonas to return. Next time I’ll discuss our first big tour and how that led to a split 7” with a Malaysian band.
Continue reading Part 3.