Wang Lei

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Wang Lei

Wang Lei (王磊, Wáng Lěi), experimental artist from Guangzhou


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History

Wang Lei is an original performing and recording artist from Guangzhou impossible to pin down into any category.

Born and raised in Tongji, a small town just outside of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, he studied folk opera and dabbled in dance as a youth. In 1988, Wang left his hometown with images from the breakdance breakout film Breakin' on his brain.

He is a prominent figure in the new Chinese music scene, and also one of its most versatile musicians. He has released more than 10 albums over the past 16 years, shifting between styles including psychedelic rock, folk rock, electronica, ethnic music and experimental music.

While music was always a part of Wang's life, he never saw it as a career possibility. That's until pop songstress Zhu Zheqin (aka Dadawa) heard a collection of songs he had recorded. "I made those songs for my mom, dad and girlfriend to hear," he says, explaining that "their inspiration came from falling in love. Zhu Zheqin said 'Did you write these songs yourself?' and I said I did. She didn't believed me, but I eventually convinced her and she introduced me to the people that would eventually release the record." By 1994, the album, Wanderer (Chu Men Ren), hit the streets and sold very well in shops thanks to the underdevelopment of the piracy market at that time. Underdevelopment has helped Wang's career in several ways, a fact that he is intimately aware of.

"Guangzhou has all of the problems of any other Chinese city," he says, citing a lack of live and recorded music culture in the bar scene as major challenges. "But these things all worked to my advantage. Since there were no other bars in town with live music, my first bar, Unplugged, did very well."

By the time Unplugged opened its doors in 1998, Wang had released three albums and started a small record company, Longmin, whose catalog included Guangzhou-based Pangu's (Punk God) debut CD and Wang's third disc. "The profit cycle lasted two months. After that, piracy ate up our market." So the record company became a bar. During its yearlong existence, it was the only game in town and hosted rock bands from all over the country. The club was demolished in 1999, yet a year later Wang was back in the bar game, co-running Voltage until its autumn closure. "There were about nine months when I was away from the club, and in my absence it collapsed," he says without a hint of modesty. But the nine months away were not spent in vain. In addition to spending time in Sichuan, Wang spent three months in France and Spain where he performed in clubs, record stores and music festivals. While his gigs in Barcelona centered on his guitar-based earlier works, his appearances in France featured his newfound love of electro music and saw him DJ at clubs and a music festival. Those curious about his electro infatuation are able to scratch that itch by his album Belleville.

Since 2000, due to a problem of human resources, Wang has devoted most of his time to electronic music, swapping his guitar against Roland and Korg! Meanwhile his first trips to Europe as a simple visitor turned out to be a series of fruitful experiences and encounters with various artists coming from different music scenes: dub band Hightone, hard techno pioneer 69 db (former Spiral Tribe). Recently in China he even had the chance to receive some teachings of iconic Rico Rodiguez (trombonist of the Skatalites and the Wailers)!

Instead of following the noisy tendencies of most Chinese ex-rockers, Wang Lei has discovered “the groove”, an element he found in black and dance music that he’s passed through his Chinese filter giving birth to a new sound.

Basically Wang Lei managed to absorb influences as diverse as dub, drum’n’bass and Sichuan opera and make up a cutting edge mixture sounding dramatically unique. One can feel Wang‘s old Chinese soul underneath the hypnotic electronic, the fat bass lines and beats, a sort of lightness and space in his textures, as if he was playing simultaneously with the five elements!

April 2007, a song of his is included in So Rock! Magazine (no. 62).

Participated Festivals

Discography

Albums

Appearances in magazine compilations

Appearances in Podcasts

Further Information

Articles

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