China “Wins”, Yaogun’s Along for the Ride

The CBC Radio show Day 6 and their listeners chose the top stories in a range of categories, and China was the “Winning” story of the year. Naturally, they called me up to talk about yaogun’s role in that victory. Check out not just the interview with host Brent Bambury but, in classic bonus track style, a ten-song romp through yaogun’s history.

I’ll post the mix on in the near future.

The Square, twenty-two years later

I had mentioned, in a previous post, and wrote, in Red Rock, of a four-song set that Cui Jian performed at Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. Cui was not the only one to perform in the Square during the weeks and months leading up to June 4, but his is, as far as I know, the only performance caught on tape. There is a video clip, in the documentary The Gate of Heavenly Peace, of Cui Jian emerging from the bus carrying hunger strikers and being surrounded by fans, but the documentary doesn’t have footage of the performance.

A recording of the performance made the rounds a few years back, but was, soon after appearing, removed. I only just came across this Youtube clip that sets the audio from a portion of the gig to a montage of images. The song featured here is “Start Again” – which the band proceeds to do, taking a mulligan after a technical difficulty. Note that the subtitles here are not translations of the lyrics or what Cui is saying. Elsewhere on the recording, Cui says he came with only a slight chance of actually performing, just wanting to show support. Here, he references the chorus of “Start Again” in his pre-song chat to the gathered crowd:
“I don’t want to leave/I don’t want to exist/I don’t want to live so much in reality
I want to leave/I want to exist/I want to die and then do it all over again.”


Newness, for a new year

More new content at The Bonus Tracks, multimedia musings and expansions upon the text, are almost fully, completely up on the site. It’s not only for Red Rock readers: Future readers, too, will no doubt find lots to love. Only the final chapter remains unposted, thus sustaining the mystery a little while longer: What will our hero do, with the gun smoking in its hand, innocence slowly wafting from his sould and the cops banging down the door…? Stay tuned, dear readers, as the final chapter’s Bonus Tracks will come, in the new year. Along with much new news, Red Rock-related. Promise.

Also, ongoing, as we all look back at another year, a personal, often heartbreaking, journey through 25 years of yaogun to find the best albums of the two-point-five decades. Suggestions? What are your favourite yaogun records? Biggest disappointments? Underrated gems? Post ’em, if you’re Facebook-friendly, on the Red Rock Facebook page, or comment through this site. I’ll be putting up my picks in a fittingly random and chaotic manner here, there and all over.

Stay tuned…

Red Rock: An Interview

On a recent chilly but beautiful day, Fairchild TV sat down with yours truly on the shores of mighty Lake Ontario to talk Red Rock. Below, the interview. In Chinese — the Chinese of a guy who hadn’t spoke a whole lot of Chinese since his departure from Beijing, so it’s Chinese that should be given a bit of slack, despite the reporter’s claim of “fluency.”

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, over at, there are currently four and a half chapters’ worth of Bonus Tracks just itching to be seen by readers current, past and future alike — and a chapter and a half still en route. As all good Bonus Tracks should, they are expansions upon all that Stuff contained within Red Rock‘s pages: Videos, audios, extended notes and more provide the kind of multi-media blitz you good people have surely earned.

Have you “LIKED” Red Rock yet? Go to Facebook and spread the like! Need a copy of the book? ‘Tis the season for, you know, getting a hold of stuff. And, just in time for the Season, Red Rock comes in Xmas Red! Ask your local bookstore to get it, or head to and click on the git-it-on-Amazon link.

Midi Awards 2011 II

So, the results of the third annual rock awards, hosted by Midi Productions, the music school/company behind the eponymous festival, are in. See below, and this post by Beijing Daze, from whence the list comes, for the award winners.

What is of interest — given the outcomes, one of the only things of interest — is this article here. Actually, it’s less an article than a slide show, but the key is where the article/slide show is: On the website of Xinhua, China’s official news agency. That slideshow appears on the agency’s English site; on the Chinese side of things, this article is titled “The Third Midi Rock Awards: The Road from Non-Mainstream to Anti-Mainstream”. If you can pull your eyes away from the scantily-clad ladies beckoning from the margins (as you note the irony that sees the Official News Agency for the nation that tends to get most riled up about content too spicy for surfers splash just that very content across its pages), you will learn of the hope that the writer and judges and yaogun world has for the future of the music, and of the music’s shortcomings. Thus, has one of the goals of the awards been achieved: If the idea is for an awards show like this to enlighten the rest of the country to yaogun’s existence, coverage in an outlet like Xinhua is a small victory. It took several years for the mainstream Chinese press to acknowledge the existence of Midi’s festival, while its awards were quickly reported on. You can certainly chalk it up to the recent increase in media-savvy on the part of Midi, but it’s also a sign that things are changing in the world outside.

Another noteworthy factoid concerns Ordnance, the winner for Best Hard Rock Band (despite being a metal band). The recognition comes despite the fact that their second album, Rock City, was banned — albeit nine months after it was released — and in the wake of the ban, performed less on major festival stages than in the past. The band, who is worthy of — and will receive, mark my words — a profile at a later date, has since tweaked their Chinese name to near-homonyms of the original characters, signifying, surely, the effects of that ban. Their new tunes, which were included in the judges’ materials, worried me, with the creeping ’emo’-or-whatever-you-call-that-Nickelbackian-moan, but it was great to hear the recordings kick off with a full-on straight-up version of “The Internationale”, particularly after the past few years. Though they took home the prize and were invited to perform, they didn’t (and were replaced by the amazingly photogenic and rip-roarin’ Voodoo Kungfu). The way I see it, the award is as much about recognizing their musical skills as it is the efforts of Liu Lixin, guitarist and rasta-esque almost-too-happy-go-lucky-to-be-a-metal-guy man behind not only the band, but Club 13, one of Beijing’s only true yaogun institutions, and Dime Records, a metal label whose stable represents the next generation.

In the wake of the third Midi Awards, your blogger is left with a combination of frustration and zen-like calm: The former comes from the hope that things might, this year, be different; the latter from the knowledge that things on this front move glacially, if at all, and there’s no point in hoping. The former outweighs the latter, though, in the end: I, like all good yaogunners, expect more, and continue to hope. It’s a disappointment in which I know I’m not alone, and it is that that hope for a brighter future that keeps things, well, “interesting”.

As reported by Beijing Daze (which has links to most of the artists), the winners are:

Best New Band: Steely Heart
Best Album Artwork Design Award: Pet Conspiracy “Pet Conspiracy”
Best Instrumental Performance: Ji Yuan (guitarist for Air Carnival)
Best Hard Rock Band: Ordnance
Best Metal Band: Yaksa
Best Female Vocalist: Jiang Xin
Best Folk Musician: Hao Yun
Best Rock Song: Gala “The Purest Dream Chasing Heart”
Best Rock Album Year: Long Shen Dao  “Hug”
Best Live Performance: Miserable Faith
Best Rock Band: Long Shen Dao
Best Male Vocalist: Zuoxiao Zuzhou
Contribution to Rock: Modern Sky  [record label and rival festival producer]