A month after the 2008 Summer Olympics, I was finally granted a visa and returned to Beijing. I had spent my summer teaching at an English camp in Korea and now had a decent chunk of cash but no home. I had been planning to sleep at D-22 until at that night’s show, Chenxi, the singer from Snapline, and his wife Wang Ya offered up their spare room. I spent a couple of months bouncing between their place and my girlfriend’s apartment in the Tongzhou suburb of Beijing before finally signing a new lease.
After the recording, Adam had stayed in Nanjing with Du Wei and Ruan Ruan. In the winter of 2008, though, when they moved their band, Overdose, to Beijing, Adam joined on bass and came along. A couple of months later, after the Spring Festival in 2009, Jonas also returned. With all of us finally back, we started practicing as a three-piece. We performed a few shows under the name 犯罪方法 Fanzui Fangfa (Criminal Methods) and began searching everywhere for a singer. Ever optimistic, I had booked us a Southeast Asia tour that was only a couple of months away. Since Du Wei had previously sung on our aborted recording, we convinced him to come along. As our flights were to leave from Shenzhen, we also booked a China tour for Fanzui Xiangfa and Overdose together from Beijing to Guangdong.
At the time, Overdose had wanted to join us for the Southeast Asia shows, but I was worried about taking two bands on an international tour. Maybe I was still traumatized from traveling with Demerit in Korea and acting as translator, manager, and roadie while helping the band navigate the pleasures and pitfalls of Korean nightlife and soju. In any case, I refused Overdose’s requests to join us in Southeast Asia. Still, I assured Du Wei that he’d have enough connections and experience to set up a future tour for the band (which he did in 2010, releasing a split tape with the Malaysian band Always Last).
The China tour started in March. By this point, Jonas, Adam, and I were in pretty good shape from performing as Fanzui Fangfa, and we added Mai Dian on guitar and Du Wei on vocals for the tour. We played a few pre-tour warm-up shows as a full band, including one in Hefei. Here is what I wrote in my journal:
“The show at Hefei’s Revolution Bar was to be the first show of our tour. The original plan was for Overdose to head to Nanjing a couple of days early for a show with the ReTROS on Du Wei’s birthday while Jonas and I took the train directly to Hefei, arriving on the morning of the show. However, the morning when Overdose was supposed to leave, they were awakened by an angry pounding on their door from some guy demanding to take photos of all their possessions, claiming they were his, and demanding money from Du Wei. It was only after the man started insulting Ruan Ruan that a fight ensued. When the police showed up, they evaluated the scene and decided that the trespasser was hurt more, so Du Wei was hauled off to jail for questioning and pressed to pay a bribe along with the other guy’s hospital fees. It wasn’t until the afternoon when things finally got squared away enough that Du Wei could leave, although they had already missed their train and had no choice but to drive down. An ominous start for us all.”
From what I remember, though, the show went off alright, and the second show, a week later, at NIC Club in Tianjin was even better. We were still playing shows around Beijing, though, and had two more at D-22 before starting the tour proper. The first was with Demerit, who were one of the main punk acts in the country at the time, and the other was a wedding party for the singer of the Anti-Flag influenced punk band, The Flyx (more about them for GR007). The long run-up gave us plenty of time to get our set up to speed.
The morning after the wedding party both the bands were to take the train to Shanghai. When we boarded the train, Jonas, the only straightedge member of the group, was chipper as always while the rest of us nursed our hangovers. Adam was nowhere to be found. The night before, he had gotten drunk and woken up the next morning naked on a friend’s couch. Pressed for time, he knew he had to rush to get home, get changed, grab his bass, and get to the train station as quickly as possible. However, he had a problem. The cops had blocked off the apartment complex and were going door to door checking the residence permits of all foreigners. Adam didn’t live there, and he didn’t have his passport on him. On top of this, he had lost the keys to his apartment. All he could do was hide until the coast was clear. He missed the train to Shanghai and had to catch a flight to make the show.
It seems every time we tried to leave Beijing, the cops held us back. Now that we were out of the capital, I hoped the rest of the tour would go smoothly. I remember both the Shanghai and Nanjing shows going well but when we got to the train station to leave Nanjing, Jobby, the guitarist for Overdose, decided he didn’t want to continue. This was a surprise to all of us, and Du Wei and Ruan Ruan stood on the platform, begging him to go on. He had had enough, though, and now that he was home, he didn’t want to leave. So we ended up postponing our Nanchang show. Overdose stayed in Nanjing, trying to decide what to do while Jonas, myself, and Mai Dian went on to Wuhan.
Arriving in Wuhan, we went straight to “我们的家 Our Home – Autonomous Youth Center,” a collective house founded by Mai Dian. Mai Dian is an influential figure in Wuhan’s punk scene. He played in several of the city’s earliest bands, including 妈妈 Mama, 死逗了 Si Dou Le, 破浪 Polang, and 400 Blows. But, unlike many of the musicians from Beijing or Shanghai, his path towards punk wasn’t one of privilege or connections.
Mai Dian was born to a peasant family in the countryside. Growing up, he was a good student and earned a place at a prestigious university in the provincial capital of Wuhan. Before attending university, he hadn’t ventured into the city, heard punk music, or accessed the internet. However, that quickly changed in 1999 when he fell in with a group of musicians from Wuhan’s nascent punk scene and began playing in the band Mama.
From 2000 on, Mai Dian became increasingly interested in the international scene and began translating articles on various topics from punk demonstrations in Germany to squats in Europe. He started posting on the international punk internet forum Book Your Own Fucking Life and made contacts with punks worldwide. Mai Dian’s band, Si Dou Le, along with Wuhan punk founders, SMZB, were two of the first Chinese punk bands to make connections abroad, communicate with international zine makers, and do interviews for websites like “World Wide Punk.” In addition, Mai Dian was one of the earliest people in China to organize tours for foreign DIY bands, including Vialka and Dogshit Sandwich.
In 2004, Vialka reciprocated and helped Si Dou Le tour Europe playing 35 shows in 40 days, nearly all of which were in abandoned buildings and fields squatted by anarchist punks. Mai Dian encountered zines and political literature in infoshops, coffee shops, and fundraising shows on tour. He was particularly impressed by the support for the Zapatistas through the sale of fair trade coffee. Mai Dian saw squats as “beacons of social warning” and “calls to action for anarchist punk.” These ideas were new to him and exciting. He discovered a deep bond between musical resistance and social resistance. The tour opened his mind to all sorts of ideas of activism and social resistance, and he and his friends started to believe that by revolutionizing their everyday lives, they could change the world, or at least change themselves through study, going from “modern slaves to social actors with a sense of dignity.” (Quotes taken from a translation of Mai Dian’s essay The Basic Alternative Education of a Chinese Punk.)
死逗了 Si Dou Le “A Dream in Our Hearts” 7″
When Mai Dian returned from Europe, he created a DIY zine and began translating whatever material he could get his hands on. The zine was called Chaos, and it was much more political than his earlier work. Around that time, he also started his first book translating project, “Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise” by Craig O’Hara, which focused on the various kinds of activism and social movements inside the punk scene.
Mai Dian was disappointed, though, by a lack of reaction from the local Chinese punks. He felt like the political ideas weren’t resonating with his peers, who only cared about hedonism and capitalist entertainment. So to put his ideas into practice, he began exploring methods of peaceful resistance. He rented a house that he organized as a European-style squat and planned for it to serve as an infoshop, a conference center, a performance space, and a guest house providing free accommodation. This was “Our Home – Autonomous Youth Center.”
I was impressed with the house and with all the work that Mai Dian had put into injecting his local scene with political conscience. At the time, I had fantasies of returning to help him fix up the house and build the type of intentional community he was seeking. But, unfortunately, that didn’t happen as I became more consumed with my own life in Beijing. While Our Home did achieve some great things, particularly around the East Lake anti-gentrification struggle, it eventually succumbed to a scene more concerned with drugs and cheap thrills, and Mai Dian left Wuhan disillusioned with Chinese punk. That was later though, in 2009 we were still a band in the middle of a tour (For more information on Mai Dian and the East Lake struggle see Nathanel Amar’s excellent article, in French).
Overdose decided to continue the tour without Jobby. They arrived in time for our Wuhan show where Adam played guitar, and they performed without a bass. We then decided to make up the Nanchang show. When we showed up, Black Iron Bar was empty except for the owner, who told us there had been a crowd for us two nights ago. They didn’t come back, however, and we ended up playing just for him. Jonas learned some of Overdose’s songs on guitar so Adam could go back to bass, and they did the same thing the next night in Changsha with Liu Chao, from the Last Choice, sitting in on a few songs he had learned during soundcheck.
The tour had been rough, and the turnouts weren’t great, but we were starting to get into a groove, and friends were waiting in every city. The best moments were always after the show when the audience and the bands all went out to eat from food carts on the street and drink cheap beers together late into the night. We got most of our sleep the day after on the train.
Guangzhou, however, was a surprise. We didn’t know any punks there, but Mai Dian secured us a show at a reggae venue, T:Union. The show was free entrance, but they paid us a healthy guarantee, more money than we made on any other show, and despite our initial skepticism about playing a reggae venue, it was packed! The crowd loved us and were especially excited when Adam stripped naked for our encore. I was eager to find out about punk in Guangzhou and, while asking around, met Howie (who would later go on to found QiiSnacks Records, and play in bands like Yourboyfriendsucks! and Die!ChiwawaDie!). He told me about local bands CQ2 and Smoke Town, although it would take me several years to track down any of their recordings.
Our final show in Shenzhen was another bad turnout and a disappointing end to the China tour. I felt bad about refusing Overdose the chance to follow us to Southeast Asia. Still, after the financial losses from the China leg, and the loss of their guitarist, I was even more certain taking two bands overseas together was a bad idea. We said goodbye to Ruan Ruan and Mai Dian, who, because of having broken his pelvis before the tour, wouldn’t follow us to Southeast Asia. Then we caught one of the first Air Asia flights from Shenzhen to Kuala Lumpur. Our China tour was done, but for Fanzui Xiangfa, it was only the start of a new adventure.