New Pants have been at the forefront of the Beijing electro rock sound since it started to blow-up in the early noughties. Formed way back in 1996, they've been with Modern Sky for the majority of that time, though relations have often been fractious, as we found out...
New Pants - I'm Not Gay
You've been with Modern Sky for over 15 years now - what's the secret to a long and happy marriage?
Well, there's not really a great deal of choice for us in China, only Modern Sky fits into our taste. During these 15 years, we've also had a fair few quarrels, and we left Modern Sky for one year. However, we managed to resolve these issues and came back to Modern Sky, as you can see now. New Pants and Modern Sky have a lot to gain from working better together; this is the most important thing, I think.
So you've had differences, over music?
Like what I've told you just now, there may have been certain contradictions, but we've resolved it. Also, things have been going well during these two years, and I'm sure they will only get better, mainly because Modern Sky has become a large scale company, and New Pants are more mature than before.
Having been together such a long time, do you see a big difference in the music you've written in recent years to that you started out making?
We realise that the music we write is for the most part for the people, and also to make ourselves happy, but we don't want to suffer for it. Every album from New Pants is different. We are constantly looking for fresh elements that appeal to more and more people.
New Pants - Sex Drugs Internet
The visual aspect of your performances is something you're renowned for - is that something you have in mind when you sit down to write a song, how it will be performed live?
I (Lei Peng) take personal control of the visual aspects of our shows, creating images, etc. I used to film and be the director of cartoons. Music and the visual aspect are inseparable. For some of our songs, we even made the video first, then wrote them according to the images. In the live shows, if allowed, we like to be be the VJ because we really like multimedia performances.
What kind of reaction have you received on your travels, to Europe or the US?
Western audiences like our music. Maybe they think it's interesting and they've never heard it before, especially in America. Last year, at the Coachella Festival, we were the first band to perform, and unexpectedly 1000 people surged there. However, Chinese audiences are not so passionate as those abroad.
New Pants appear to take influences from punk rock, new wave and electro music - can you give us an idea of a band from each of these genres that inspired you to make music?
Our punk is from the Ramones, New Wave is from New Order, and Electro should be from Synth Pop, like the Pet Shop Boys.
New Pants - After Party
You've been making electronic music in China for a long time; which artists turned you on to it?
Mostly some songs from when we were younger, Daft Punk for example.
How has new technology changed your mentality about making music and how has it influenced the music that you end up producing over the years?
We're a band that loves to use computers. Before the year 2000 you had to buy lots of hardware if you wanted to play that kind of music; after 2000, hardware was replaced by software, which is not too expensive. Therefore we can try to be more creative in the electro music direction, without having to spend so much.
Which bands do you consider to be your contemporaries pushing a similar musical aesthetic in China, or more widely right now?
Although many bands in China push the electronic music, I don't think there are any that are similar to New Pants. We and other bands in China are learning from the best fashions in the West, but I think what we do is quite special. The music we make is not accessible for people with traditional Chinese characteristics, which is the main difference between us and other bands.
New Pants - 别再问我什么是迪斯科
Which of the remixes of your songs are you most pleased with?
The song "YuZhai", which we remixed ourselves.
Which up-and-coming bands, on Modern Sky or otherwise, can you recommend we check out?
Re-TROS is a really good local band in China, and their new songs have changed a lot, and they sound good. The foreign bands are not our business, I have no idea!