Interview with Stalin Gardens (2012)

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Continuing our coverage of the Shanghai scene, we have taken Shanghai black pop band Stalin Gardens to an interview who just released their latest record called Shanghai Void on Douban.

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Azchael: Can you please introduce yourself and the band Stalin Gardens?

Stalin Gardens: We're Stalin Gardens. Our first show was the 18th of December 2011, we were invited by Pairs to open for them. We'd only managed to write four songs at that point, two of them were early versions of Osteosarcoma and Sex Bomb. Elsa already was on bass, another dude on guitar and some psychotic 40-year old on drums. After many lineup changes we played again, at Uptown on the 17th of March 2012, opening for Alpine Decline that we'd invited from Beijing. Big deal: Opening for DFG on the 1st of April 2012 at YYT. There were tons of people, at that point we had a steady lineup, with Vic of NYL on drums. 11th of May 2012, last lineup change, we played our first show with our current drummer Gomez, opening for X is Y at 696. According to Gomez's dad, the show sucked. June 23 we did the Maybe Mars gig, no one showed up during our set and we played like mentally handicapped seals. Two weeks of practice later we started recording our self-titled LP (that many people prefer to call Shanghai Void for some obscure reason), which was done in 3 days, about 12 hours, at Postape studios. Mixing was done by Brad Ferguson.

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Azchael: What instruments are you using in the band, which brand?

Stalin Gardens: Bass, guitar, drums, that's it. We believe you could just as well make great music with the shittiest of guitars than with a Gibson Les Paul or whatever. It'll just be different. Let's just say you can make good music with anything. Even a banana. Our next album will have a song played entirely with a banana-split sundae.

Azchael: What is the Shanghai sound for you? Do you think Shanghai has a particular sound?

Stalin Gardens: NO, there is absolutely nothing. Because there is everything. It's so fractured. It's like you took a solid and cohesive music scene and dropped it on the floor. It'll blow into pieces, all over the place, become incoherent and useless. That's the Shanghai scene, all over the fucking music spectrum.

Azchael: How does the Shanghai scene look like in 2012? What venues are there? Who are the real newcomers in your opinion?

Stalin Gardens: Almost every fucking week we hear of a new band that seems pretty interesting, but they pretty often disappear without leaving a trace. I guess that's what you should expect from a scene largely depending on expat input.

Azchael: What is the message of Stalin Gardens? in one sentence?

Stalin Gardens: Have sex with things.

Azchael: How do you promote your music? What are the most effective ways as per your experience?

Stalin Gardens: Since we've stopped shows to focus on studying for our final exams this year, we'll keep on spamming the douban music community with free dl links to our LP. It's always a great way to get people talking, though they usually talk about what a bunch of annoying jackasses we are.

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Azchael: Do you think being in a band and being students at the same time helps you to get laid more often?

Stalin Gardens: That's funny. Seeing as some of the biggest perverts in Shanghai are currently members of this group, it's not like these factors affect how often we get laid in any way.

Azchael: Do you actively promote your music overseas? If or if not, do you get any feedback from overseas?

Stalin Gardens: This is very hard, we've sent many demos to labels in the US (such as Sacred Bones) and we've been rejected every time. I guess every scene is too absorbed with itself to pay any attention to what's going on next door. It's a shame, I think Chui Wan and Mr Ray and Stalin Gardens are as good as and maybe better than many bands, but it's almost like we're invisible from elsewhere. When people from outside China talk about the music scene, they usually blabber on and on about Carsick Cars and PK14, maybe Retros. But these bands are a weak copy of your average american indie-rock band, so they are of no special interest, other than that they're from China. Chui Wan, however, have this elusive ingredient that makes them original, that makes them cutting-edge, they deserve to be talked about more than PK14. But quasi-nil.

Azchael: Why do think that people see Carsick Cars or PK 14 as being "Chinese rock music" but not Stalin Gardens? What can other bands learn from them?

Stalin Gardens: Probably because people don't actually see Stalin Gardens. We're a pretty low-profile group as of today. About PK14 and Carsick Cars, we can learn from these bands that the music game isn't about the music as much as it is about how you promote the music. Maybe not Carsick Cars, they're pretty passionate about what they do, promotion-wise as much as music-wise. But PK14... They're like a watered-down version of Fugazi. Maybe that's why they're so popular. Cause they're such a safe band to like. Hearing their songs creates an impression of deja-vu, which reassures the many people that fear to witness the death (or evolution) of their beloved rock'n'roll. But hey, wake up you retards. This is 2012. The real Fugazi disappeared decades ago. The rock playground now belongs to a new generation of bands like White Suns, Chui Wan, Stalin Gardens, iceage, The Men, Liturgy, Sexdrome, and Ride For Revenge. These recent acts are twisting and torturing rock into something totally new. Get up and be a part of it. Either get over the nostalgia or use it to make something different.

Azchael: What do you think are the biggest obstacles for being in a band in Shanghai?

Stalin Gardens: The fucking homework and final exams. Everything else like booking shows, rehearsal time, studio time, etc is extremely easy compared to other countries like France. We're lucky being here at this time.

Azchael: What do you think of bands joining up with major brands such as Vans, Converse or Ray Ban in order to promote their music? Do you think that is a sell-out?

Stalin Gardens: A sell-out is a band that modifies its sound to be more appealing to the masses, in order to gain money. As long as you don't tinker with your sound, you could even play your song in a toilet paper ad, it wouldn't be selling out because you'd still be sonically pure.

Azchael: What is underground for you? Are you underground?

Stalin Gardens: Underground and mainstream are pretty easily confused today compared to back in the 90s, and that probably has to do with the Internet. Bands that used to be so underground no one would know of them then can today float back up to the surface and reach an audience through internet. Every band today can have their international audience, if they promote themselves right. We're underground. Why not, I mean we've once been to the Shelter, I guess that makes us edgy and cool, right?

Azchael: What are your plans for the next year? Will there be a "The World is coming to an end" show in December?

Stalin Gardens: Things are looking pretty grim for us next year, we're passing our final exams and will be studying during every major fucking holidays so it'll be hard to find time to record, not to mention we're all going to die. The main goal is still to record the second LP, that is already half-written, before we break-up.

Azchael: Why do you sell your songs for 1000 USD or 600 USD on bandcamp?

Stalin Gardens: That's a joke, you can get them all free on our Soundcloud.

Azchael: Thanks for the interview!

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