Monday, September 23, 2013

Interview with THE INSTIGATION

Hailing from east Asia The Instigation are an international band, that combines early 80s US hardcore in the vein of Black Flag, Angry Samoans, Middle Class or Teen Idles with some hints of garage. They've released a ripping demo tape and a selfreleased vinyl 7". Both releases are totally worth to check out. Toshi (bass), Simon (vocals) and Tyler (drums) answered my questions.

Let's start with some standard questions: How long have you been playing together? Names and roles? What's the idea behind your bandname?
Toshi: Our current line-up( for japan tour for new year of 2014) is as below:Simon cochrane on vocal,Tyler bowa on Drums,Toshi on Bass and Tommy Fever on Guitar (from Thee Mighty Fevers). Tthe band was formed in June of 2010 in shanghai.oh, or maybe in May of 2010. We had our first gig in June 2010. It was the first and the last gig with original vocalist Dave since he ve had to move back to US. Then Simon has joined the band in July,2010. Our original drummer Papa has moved to Beijing in March 201. Then our current drummer Tyler has joined the band right after Papa've left the band. In Sept 2011 our original guitarist Misuzu've quit the band and Sasha joined the band after him. Until Simon moved back to UK in the beginning of Oct 2011,we've played constantly.After Simon've moved back,we have tried to find a new vocalist,but it didnt work well at all,so I've decided to stop playing.but after Simon've moved back to UK,he've visited shanghai for his vacation on June 2012 and we had a gig in Shanghai at that moment.Now during new year holiday of 2014, Simon Jand Tyler are coming to Japan for their holiday and since I'm in japan, I arranged a Japan tour for The Instigation. The guitarist for the tour is our friend Tommy fever from Thee Mighty Fevers who mixed/mastered our songs. If we say the exact period that we've been playing constantly, it should be about 1 year. About the bandname:I've been pretty bored of shanghai music scene since there was nothing for what i exactly like as garage punk (of course there were some cool band as well thought). And I've wanted to change something there as I've started bringing garage punk bands from japan to arrange monthly garage punk live series with few guys in Shanghai. I also wanted to have a band name that sounds like blahblah-gathion. haha, so Instigation was the perfect word for what I wanted to say.

You're an international bands with members coming from all over the world? What have been your reasons to leave your homelands?  
Simon: err, I know we all have different answers to this question but mine is/was relatively straight forward: I studied Chinese at university and moving to Shanghai to get a job seemed like a good idea. Guess that's one of the cool things about the city is that there are a lot of different people there for different reasons - not just the usual expat guff.
Tyler:I originally moved to Shanghai in 2009 to work as an Architect, but since then have opened up my own shop here making and selling custom bicycles.
Toshi: I've attended university in Shanghai then after graduation, since Japanese economy was so fucked up so I've stayed in Shanghai.

You've recently moved from Shanhai to Tokyo. Why? Have you moved as a whole band? 
Toshi: I've been in Shanghai too long and wanted something new. Also missed my Japanese fresh foods like real sushi and sashimi, haha. About the band, all of us are in different place as Simon is in London,Tyler is in Shanghai and I'm in Tokyo. Where Instigation is is where we gather up in.
Tyler: Nope! Still kicking drums in Shangahi, playing in 3 other bands now ...

A question for those, who aren't native Asians: What's the difference betwenn the punk/ underground scene in Europe/North America and  China/Japan? Or isn't there a difference at all?
Simon: This one is a little tough to answer as I can't ever say I was fully involved in any specific scene back home despite going to a lot of shows growing up, so i'l just have to draw for a cliched response and say that scenes in euro/us are more stratified and specific, with longer histories and jaded dudes who've seen and done it all already. In China there is no punk scene to speak of really but I suppose you could say there is a growing indie/DIY scene which kinda unites lots of different bands and people interested in music there. the striking thing I picked up about Japan when it comes to punk and hardcore bands is that they don't do the whole, demo 7"-national tour-LP-international tour-break-up model which a lot of euro/US bands do in their early to mid-twenties. bands get together and stick at it for years and years, playing for the same people and releasing more and more shit. if you have a lot of dudes around in bands like that that's surely the strongest kind of scene you can have, no?
Tyler: I think that the biggest difference is the scene in China is all relatively new. Everything with the punk / hardcore scene has been developed in the last 6-7 years. The positive side is that almost everything is accepted and the community is tight and respects each other. The downside is that because it is so small you end up seeing the same local acts all the time, and it's difficult to pull in larger ones without such big support. In Japan, from my understanding, this is quite the opposite ~ there are hundreds of good bands supporting a local scene - so much so that touring bands aren't even needed to fill out small to large size venues. In North America I feel that though the scene has the longest history, it's the most divided. Everyone gets caught up about what genre they should label a band, rather than just going to shows and having fun.

What is your song "Foreign Moron" about?
Simon: It was basically about all the stereotypical expat douchebags you meet pretty regularly in China and many parts of Asia. nothing new there, if you've been to places like China you'll have seen them. guys with an over inflated sense of self and entitlement just because they're "western". 

Your 7" is selfreleased. Will you keep on putting out your releases on your own? What are the advantages? 
Toshi: Originally I've sent the demo to a few labels but none of them replied. So i've just decided to release it by ourselves. I regard the music as a vehicle that brings to you unique and interesting memories for your life. So the process for self-release is sometimes pretty annoying since there are a lot of thing you have to manage by your own, but it can become pretty unique experiences. You can learn a lot and its pretty direct. And because of you are putting a lot of effort on every process of making the release ,it can be something more than a release that you just send your songs to label then wait for while to get the copies in your hand. Also there is nothing about how to deal about physical copies and digital release blah blah.Everything you can manage as you i like it. We still have 5songs that already done with mixing and mastering. Also have 12tracks without vocals. I would love to release it by ourselves one day or maybe make a name for own label to release those songs. 

You'll release a split LP with The Sprouts. What can we expect? And how did you get in contact with them?
Toshi: Actually Now its not really sure when it would be happened since the Sprouts need to take pretty long time. And now we are considering to release 7'' for upcoming Japan tour in new year 2014 by those 4-5songs we already have that originally I wanted to use for the split. So Not really sure if its happen. I found them on myspace accidentally in 2010 and since they sounded pretty cool so I left a comment on their wall. Now im playing bass for them.

Your music reminds of the German band Dean Dirg. Do you know them? And do you know more German bands? 
Toshi: Of course I know them! They are my most favorite band and I can say they brought me to hardcore punk from garage punk. They are like a bridge between garage punk to hardcore punk. I've also arranged their East Asia tour (Japan and China) this year. I of course know more german bands! Sniffin Glue, Press Gang, Surf Nazis Must Die, The Toyotas, The Blankpages, Hidden Charms, Modern Pets, NXD or The Mokkers as I saw them in Berlin or SS20 and Nothing since they ve toured in China. 
Tyler: I don't know too many German bands, actually . . 

Your demo came out on German label Yakuzzi. How did you get in contact with them?
Toshi: They found us on myspace and massaged us! Originally we are supposed to release split cassette tape with the Sprouts that i wanted to release as 10inch as well from Yakuzzi tapes. But its still not happen since end of 2010...haha. Then we just had a few demo cdr and Yakuzzi tapes asked us if we would be interested in releasing demo tape cassette. I was not supposed to release it so we of course said yes to Yakuzzi!

The freedom of opinion and human rights are major issues in China. Did you ever have trouble with the Chinese state? How does the Chinese state deal with punk?
Simon: In short, no. Foreign press loves this question and it's the reason why I think some people outside China interested in this kind of thing might get a very skewed sense of the actual reality of what constitutes "punk" in China - in reality there is no scene. Of the few bands there are, there's probably only two or three that can even fill a small venue. From what I've heard and experienced every now and then police will run a few skirmishes and close down bars and events which does affect bands but to be honest, I really doubt "punk" or just music feel like big threats to government control.
Tyler: It's kind of a double edged sword situation. As long as you don't publicly boast your opinions, then it's usually ok - but it's really hard to define that boundaries that entails. For example, if a punk band wants to play a show or a festival, they should submit all their lyrics and song information before hand - though most bands just submit something totally different, and on the day of they will sing the real lyrics. What's funny is that the organizers and the government know that these things they are signing about go against what they try to enforce, but they also know that people will show up to support these bands which means more money for them . . Makes me laugh in many ways.
Toshi: There are a lot of historical and political issues between Japanese government and Chinese government. Personally I havent had big trouble by it so much, but once I've brought a Japanese punk band to China, originally they would go to Beijing to play a show after the gig in Shanghai, but when they came to China, the island issue between Japan and China was exploded and there were so much hate comments against them on the event page of douban (its like Chinese facebook/myspace) or on the Beijing gig organizer's weibo (chinese twitter). Of course there were some comment that encouraging them to come and dont support those hatespeechs too. Since it was getting pretty violence as some Japanese citizens who lives in Shanghai and Beijing were beaten up by some Chinese so we canceled the gig in Beijing in the end. I heard Chinese government censors all lyrics that released by rock/punk bands. Also sometimes cops come to live venue to cancel punk shows. But personally I've never had these experiences. 

Tell us about the punk community in China. Are there many people involved? I have the impression, that the Chinese underground scene has been steadily growing during the last couple of years? Do you aggree?
Simon: I guess my last answer alluded to this a bit but in terms of the last couple of years it's difficult for me to say as I haven't lived in China for a while now. There are definitely people doing stuff, there's Genjing, a DIY record label run by a great guy called Nevin, which is the first all vinyl label in China. Also, Shanghai has Uptown Records, the first dedicated record store. From what I've heard it sounds like the scenes in Beijing and Shanghai aren't necessarily growing but the same faces are keeping them ticking along. However, I wouldnt be surprised if there's more activity going on in the South of China these days.
Tyler: Agree full force. When I moved here in 2009 it was almost impossible to find a show with more than 10-15 kids attending. Now, on a good month, punk shows can pull out 200+ kids, even on a week night. Just a few weeks ago was the Shanghai Punk Fest (second annual), spread across two days, and both days saw easily 1000+ people at the venue. Truly amazing, and bands from all over China were involved. The one thing that has stayed true are the people who organize these shows and have supported the scene all along ~ they're still doing their thing and it's finally paying off for them - they get to see great live bands and help lead the scene in China to it's full potential.
Toshi: There were not so much punk bands in Shanghai. Beijing has had pretty big punk scene, but i guess its not so popular as before. Now those post punk/new wave/indie rock style should be the major style I guess. So I don't know if its growing, but in this couple of years,much more Chinese punk bands are touring Europe and US than before. So maybe in this couple of years those Chinese punk bands are more visible than before in west and its why seems like its growing?

Which Chinese bands are worth to check out?
Simon: Again, I'm a bit out the loop with what's going on these days but here goes:
Spill Your Guts: Our drummer's other band. White guys of various nationalities playing Suicide File/Gallows-y influenced RNR hardcore with more than enough mosh parts
Pairs: We made one song called Foreign Moron but Rhys has pretty much written three records worth dealing with the same subject albeit with much better lyrical content. Can't really tell you what they sound like anymore as it changes from record to record but the first handful of releases were all made up largely two-piece noisey pop songs.
Fanzui Xiangfa: the best hardcore punk band in China, in my opinion. Not sure if they're still kicking around but basically fast, angry, thrashy hardcore in the vein of Vitamin-X and DS-13, from which they share the same drummer. Gutted we never got to play with these guys.
SMZB: China's first punk band. Wu Wei the singer, and only original remaining member I think, is a super nice guy and runs a bar called Prison in Wuhan. This guy basically introduced punk to most kids in China. I can't say I've listened to them extensively but the earlier stuff was definitely more 77 influenced and then they got into a sort of Dropkick Murphys/Real Mckenzies vibe with bagpipes and stuff.
Tyler: haha, other than my own . . . xLost In Painx, Spill Your Guts . . haha . . Actually, I really like Mi San Dao (Chinese skinhead band), Hell City from Beijing is really good, 45 from Wuhan is an awesome deathcore band, Saving Molly from Beijing is a good rock and roll hardcore band, and those would probably be my favorites.
Toshi:Fanzui xiangfa is definitely a band that worth to check out! 

You've got strong 80s US hardcore influence. What are your favourite bands from that period?
Simon: Yeh that was the idea. I like a lot of the early west coast bands like Angry Samoans, Adolscents, Circle Jerks but also some of the harder, early NYHC bands like Antidote. also, who doesn't love themselves some Deep Wound.
Tyler: For me I'm not really influence by drumming from the 80s - and it probably shows. I hit everything as hard as I can, and like to play things as technical and tight as possible - so my style is a bit different from bands playing back then. Though i think it's a good mix for The Instigation!
Toshi: I say Koro for my favorite. Koro is the best band in 80s I think. Is fuckin blasting! Actually my original main musical influences are Garage punk/proto punk/punk and R'n'R. Then dean dirg ve brought me those hardcore punk influence. And after simon joined the instigation,he brought REAL early 80s US hardcore punk to the band and me.No doubt Koro is the most favorite 80s US hardcore punk band for me, but i also like Maggot Sandwich, Agent Orange,Poison Idea, Deep Wound, Gang Green, Jerry's Kids, Zero Boys, Angry Samoans and Bad Brains from that era. Its not released in 80s but i pretty like Black Flag's first 7 "Nervous Breakdown" too.

Do you have something to add?
Toshi:We will have Japan tour during new year 2014 and we are supposed to release a 7'' for upcoming tour too. We all are so exited for it! Also I would love to release 1 or 2 7''s since we recorded 12 songs. Personally i really want to tour in Germany oneday,so if any of you are interested in our music and would like to try to bring us,please contact us! And Thank you so much for interview us Patrick! Really appreciated for your hard works!