Secret Knives is rolling through Shanghai this weekend (performing at Lune on the 23rd), and Pairs' own Xiao Zhong managed to catch up with the New Zealander to chat about Camp A Low Hum, redheads, and everything in between.
First question, do you think people will know we didn't actually have a conversation at all and I just emailed you the questions? Do you think the fact that none of my questions comment on anything you've said will give it away or do you think people's natural cynicism will guide them through to the truth?
No way, they will be totally fooled.
You play fuck rare live. What's the deal with that and why are you doing it in Shanghai?
When I started playing music I cared way too much what people thought, that stopped me throwing myself into it all the way. I write and record all Secret Knives music. It's different when it is all yours. If someone thinks it sucks you can't share that burden with other bandmembers. Also, organising people sucks, having to be the guy that does everything sucks, and I am a semi-fascist bandleader, which means sometimes it sucks for other people. I love writing and recording music but sometimes its just easier not to play.
It took me a while to work out playing is supposed to be fun rather than a major headache. So now if there is a good opportunity to play I'll take it. Why Shanghai? Just because. Its also an experiment, to see where I can take the songs with limited equipment and a different band - and i'm really excited about this, I think its going to be more raw.
Is it true that you will cover 'Chill In My Vein' or some Six60 in Shanghai?
Yes, but they will be heavily disguised as Secret Knives songs, so people probably won't recognise them.
Fun fact: Secret Knives' drummer in New Zealand is Six60's lighting technician.
Secret Knives play Lune on June 23rd alongside Reykjavictim and Radio Tank DJ's
Do you agree that Camp A Low Hum is the best fucking festival in the world and everyone should know about it? What are some of your favourite times from there?
Yeah, it is so great, I've been to some boutique festivals in the UK but they don't compare. EVERYONE should go if they can. I've seen so many great bands there. I love that the lineup is not announced each year, I love that I don't know so many of the bands and they are all awesome. I love the egalitarianism between bands and punters, no greenrooms, no riders, none of that shit. No corporate sponsorship. In a way Camp ruined live music for me, because nothing compares to watching bands in that intimate environment
What's it like working with Blink? You're on his label, A Low Hum.
Blink does so much stuff for me, I'm pretty lucky really. Because I think after making all the music by yourself, all the instruments, all the recording, all the lyrics, all the artwork, you don't want to do all the bullshit to do with promoting things or trying to get music video funding or anything like that so he is really good about helping me with all that stuff. I totally respect his DIY ethic and it inspires me to retain as much total control over my music as possible. I think if you want to retain your own artistic integrity, its important to surround yourself with people of integrity, and he is definitely one of those people.
What are you doing in China? Did you go to Guilin and get ripped off at every turn?
Secret Knives had planned to do a US/UK/EU tour, but I did that some years ago with another A Low Hum band. In a fit of inspiration/life-crisis I decided I wanted to do something new and something I had not done before, which is travel alone in a country I know almost nothing about, and like play a show with borrowed gear and two guys I don't know in a city I know nothing of.
I actually survived Guilin cause I was looked after by this savvy German girl who didn't take shit from anybody. But sometimes I get ripped off when I buy almonds by myself. I love almonds. Actually, I probably get ripped off all the time and don't know it.
Do you love the sound girl at Mighty Mighty?
I really like redheaded girls.
I have played Mighty Mighty one time and avoided playing it after, but that's nothing against the bar, I've seen some really nice shows there.
Your show at Lune is stupidly cheap. 10RMB. What's the deal? Aren't you only in music for the money and the drunken conversations about how odd it is that Flying Nun keep signing new bands but not doing anything with them?
Free is good - free is the best, but cheap is second best. My records are free to download. They are like gifts: good gifts or awful gifts, depending on whether or not you like the music I guess. I guess people should know I am gonna try really hard to make this special.
Fun fact: I nearly "signed" with Flying Nun but kinda decided not to for now. But the one thing they have done right is sign Sharpie Crows, one of the best bands in NZ, have you heard them?
Yeah, they are ace. Huf is the man.
WORDS: XIAO ZHONG / SECRET KNIVES
PICTURES: SECRET KNIVES