Interview with Ivan Belcic about the We Are Shanghai compilation CD
by Brian Offenther
I talked to Ivan Belcic (singer of Moon Tyrant, drummer of Death to Giants, lover of sneakers) about his latest project, called We Are Shanghai. It's a compilation album featuring a plethora of Shanghai bands. Check out the “party weekend” for the album January 13th and 14th, and read about how it all came together below.
So Friday the 13th – very lucky – is at Yuyintang. It's featuring Pairs, Dragon Pizza, Duck Fight Goose, and then Naohai, who is that up and coming band.
And then the 14th at LOgO: this one is kind of cool. It's an alternative universe show. We've got Monochrome Safety Society, which is a side project of [Dennis Ming] Nichols and Jesse from Rainbow Danger Club. Then we have iAmalam, which is a side project of Nick and Ryan from the Song Dynasty. And they will be playing along with The Horde, which sort of branched off from solo Ho-Tom the Conqueror. And then complementing that will be Battle Cattle.
B.O: How are you distributing the CD? Will you charge for it?
Ivan: Free, free, free. It actually says on the CD, “This is not for sale. Don't sell it.” We really want this to be as easy to acquire as possible. So, a number of things are going to happen. The Yuyintang show you pay 40 RMB… and you get a CD with your purchase. If you bring your ticket to the LOgO show the next night, you'll get 10 RMB off the door, but you won't get another CD. That's sort of to encourage people to come to both weekends. If you don't make the Yuyintang show you just come to the LOgO one, you pay full price, which is 30, and you get a CD then.
B.O: How will this bring the Shanghai music scene together?
Ivan: First of all, it's a symbolic gesture. It's not, “This is all the foreign bands in Shanghai.” Or other compilations that just have Chinese bands. The linear notes have Chinese and English on them. The launch party – not so much the second one but the first one – has Chinese bands and foreign bands. It has a Douban and a Band Camp. And we're hoping that a lot of the Chinese fans are going to get interested in this. We want it to be like kind of a jump starter. Let's say I have this CD. For example, Sonnet, Dragon Pizza, [and] Top Floor Circus are some of the Chinese bands who are on the compilation. Let's say I'm a musician and I have a foreign band and I don't know anything about the Chinese music scene. I pick up this compilation, maybe I like those songs. Maybe I want to play a show with those guys and vice versa for them as well. So it's really meant to be sort of an instigation.
B.O: How did you choose the bands?
Ivan: We just contacted as many people as we could. I was worried I wouldn't get enough. So I reached out to everybody that I knew. Regrettably, the Chinese bands that I am friendlier with, most of them haven't recorded material yet, so they couldn't be on it. That's bands like Fearless, Chaos Mind – more in like the metal scene, which I do want a larger presence of on volume 2. Nichols actually did a lot of the work, contacting Sonnet [and] Top Floor Circus. So he kind of brought that element back into those things.
Friend or Foe - Crazy Eye
B.O: Who else is involved in the project?
Ivan: I got this idea way back in January or February, started sending out e-mails to people but quickly I knew it was going to be too much for one person to handle. So I brought J.C. Heinbockel on, who I already work with in Moon Tyrant as well as Twin Horizon. Moon Tyrant being our band, Twin Horizon being our soon to be fashion label, currently group of people who do art things. We then reached out to Dennis Ming Nichols of Rainbow Danger Club and Death to Giants (which I am also in), and Bren Geringer of Stegosaurus? They together are Zang Nan recordings. Sort of the fifth member of the team, handling the mastering/production side of things, is Adam Gaensler of Luwan Rock and recently the Illumin8tors.
B.O: Why is it important to bring together the Shanghai music scene?
Ivan: We're the outsiders here. It's our job to integrate, you know? There's that angle: the cultural responsibility. It's cliquey to not do so. There's also the selfish aspect of, “Why would you not want more fans?” Right? For both groups of people. And it only makes the sense. The joy of being a musician is making music with other musicians who like making music together. And that should have nothing to do with anything but a shared love of music. And that's really at the root of it.
Top Floor Circus - 进来白相相
B.O: Have you encountered any resistance from the local audience?
Ivan: I wouldn't call it resistance. Maybe more reluctance. But you just have to, as the Black Seeds say, “Keep on pushing.”
Proficiency of my Chinese is way worse than it should be. I can't do that work, so someone else has to do that for me. And also, I don't want to make a blanket statement because there are Chinese bands that do a very good job of this, but I feel like a lot of people just don't have the know-how to get themselves out there, book shows, make press releases, and just do stuff like that. So people are just stuck in their inexperience, because an independent music scene is so new here.