Interview: Re-TROS – Chinese post-punk under protection of Brian Eno

Re-TROS

Text: Heini Strand | Photo: Re-TROS

Re-TROS aka Rebuilding the Rights of Statues is a post-punk band hailing from Beijing. The band was formed in 2003 and consists of singer-guitarist Dong Hua, singer-bassist Min Liu and drummer Hui Ma.

Due to the Club Niubi interview Re-TROS became a target for Chinese censorship. And this was not the first time. The manager of the band, Jackie Zhang had difficulties at sending the answers via email ”due to the hard political environment in China”. Luckily the questions and the answers got finally connected.

Re-TROS plays some kind of post-punk. How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard of you?

Dong Hua: ”For me it’s like a band, which is based on the 1970’s and 1980’s post-punk era while we are also trying to express ourselves. We hope we can give the audience these kinds of feelings: glam, dramatic and crazy.”

How did (post-)punk come to China?

”It came to China in a sort of illegal way: by doing a small hole on CD’s so that they could be imported as trash. Those CD’s could not only escape from censorship but also be bought at a very low price. Yeah, that was hard, but I was happy since I could listen to the music I like. Nowadays of course through the Internet people can listen to all kinds of music.”

What are the biggest musical influences on Re-TROS?

”Post-punk and new wave bands such as Joy Division, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Gang of Four, Talking Heads, Devo, The Birthday Party and so on. I enjoy the way they express their music and their qualities.”

Does the contemporary rock/pop inspire you at all? If so, what artists or bands have caught your attention lately?

”Yeah, for sure! We like to listen to young bands who are as talented as Battles, PVT, Blonde Redhead, TV on the Radio and those kinds of experimental and indie bands. The reason they attract me is that they are doing a lot of new and interesting things based on traditional rock music, which is fantastic.”

What do you think about the word ”Niubi”? Does it somehow describe you guys?

”The word is slang and in Beijing dialect it means awesome or fantastic. I think we can suit that word in some way. However, the word itself also contains some bad meanings such as arrogant which I don’t like it that much, so we prefer awesome.”

Brian Eno worked with you on your debut EP Cut Off! (2005). How did that happen?

”We were recording our first EP in New York and happened to meet him the studio. He was very interested in our music so he played the keyboard part for three songs. That was an amazing experience for us to work with such a great producer and musician.

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Your debut album Watch Out! Climate Has Changed, Fat Mum Rises… came out in 2009 and it contains songs like Up Next: Bela Lugosi’s Back and By Your Both Sides, Left and Right. Why the cryptic titles?


”Up Next: Bela Lugosi’s Back is a tribute song to our idol Bauhaus since they have a song called Bela Lugosi’s Dead. With By your both sides, left and right we want to express the dark and mysterious feelings. I think the name fits the song and there are lyrics like ‘Hush hush baby I’ll always stand by your side…’”

You’ve toured all over the globe. How does Europe take you in?

”Thanks to the Finnish government and Olavi Paananen (Club Niubi’s promoter) we could make this trip come true and it will be amazing. I do believe that.”

China is not known for its democratic values. You apparently have to for example translate you songs and send them to the government for approval. Have you had any troubles concerning your music or gigs in your own country?

”Yeah, we’ve had such experiences and it was really annoying. But I think in China, every single artist has to face the same problems we did. This is the reality and we can do nothing about that.”

Re-TROS on Club Niubi tour in Europe. Check the dates here.

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