Wang Wen, hailing from Dalian, China with more than 15 years of legacy and seven studio albums, came back this summer after three years of composing and recording to share with us a new experience through their latest release “Eight Horses.” We got in touch with them to know more about their roots and the experiences leading to the new record.
All questions were answered by Xie Yugang (guitar / vocals).
Can you tell us a bit about your lives before the band and how you ended up together?
In 1995 I left Tianjin to go to university in Dalian. I was playing music by myself but just couldn’t find anybody to make music with. Around 1998 I met this guy that was still in high school; he was always coming to me to drink beers together. After some talks, we started making music together. He is still our bass player today: Zhengzi.
Our drummer at the time left the band, so we ended up looking for another drummer. We found somebody from Xinjiang that also just came to Dalian. He was a much better guitar player than drummer, so he started playing guitar in Wang Wen; that’s Geng Xin.
Because at that time drummers were very difficult to find in Dalian, we ended up with a drummer that only played commercial pop songs. We really washed his brain and let him listen to rock music for days and days. He is still our drummer: Lianjiang. Now he falls in love with playing Djembe.
We met our keyboard player Yan Feng at our recording studio. At that moment nobody in our band could play keyboard. Because we wanted to add some piano in our songs and he was the only guy in Dalian that could play it and also listened to music like Radiohead, we just asked him to join us.
Our trumpet player Huang Kai just joined Wang Wen, same story for him. He never listened to music similar as Wang Wen; he was listening to heavy metal albums all the time, so we are still giving him a musical brainwash right now.
You worked on “Eight Horses” for three years. Can you tell us more about the inspiration and the stories behind it?
For “Eight Horses” we put all our music that we made the three years together and tried to fit everything into an album. After making our first demo for the new record, we found out that all the songs were very much different from each other. The songs were not a whole thing, but on the other hand we thought it was great that these songs were very different from each other, because all of us are listening to different music. So we worked on these songs and made it to our most creative album up to date.
You chose Echo Library to host the recording of “Eight Horses.” Why did you do so, and what was special about this experience being surrounded by books and people while recording and even to catch some of their sounds?
I used to listen a lot to Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” at the balcony of the Echo Library. I really loved the feeling just sitting there listening to the album. I also had a period where I was listening to Dave Philipps, a noise musician from Suisse. I really loved the way he used the environment to make music. After that I came up with the idea about recording in the library. I was never worried that the sound would not be clean enough. To be honest I actually don’t really like the clean sound of a record studio. The sound in the library was very vivid; there was some natural noise, but that was not a problem at all. Actually the only regret that I have is that there wasn’t enough noise during our recordings. Maybe the people that came to the library while we were recording were just very quiet.
You said before you stopped adding vocals to the albums because it limited your imagination and you had nothing to tell, what did you need to tell in the new album?
When I decided to stop singing on our albums, I just came up with the excuse that vocals bring down the imagination of the listener. When I decided to start singing again I came up with the excuse that I had something to tell. All excuses basically. Right now we have two songs with lyrics; we don’t have lyrics on the whole record. Maybe because I was too lazy to write lyrics for a whole album.
After 15 years of working in the band and eight studio albums, are the motivation and excitement levels still the same? Does coming up with new ideas got easier or harder over time?
I think the excitement and motivation might decline a bit with the years. It has also for Wang Wen; that’s why I wanted to add a new musician to the band. For the past six months we have been playing together with a trumpet player, and we are adding a cello player as we speak. I really hope that everybody can stay passionate about what we do, otherwise if we need to add more and more musicians we will end up as an orchestra at the end.
The first part from our “Eight Horses” tour was incredible. Almost every venue in China that we played so far was completely sold out. The reaction of the crowds really keeps us going. We were also lucky enough to be able to tour Europe twice. Last time we played shows with MONO and Pg.Lost, that was really fun to do.
Your music seems to have many Chinese spirits in it, but it’s never really obvious. Did you intend to avoid direct Chinese elements? Did you integrate those Chinese touches, or did they come naturally?
If Wang Wen would be a professional band, with this I mean that we would all make a living out off this band, I would definitely add more Chinese elements into our music. I would play these traditional Chinese sounds if we would go abroad, because for listeners outside China that would sound very new. But we all have stuff that keeps us busy besides Wang Wen, so we don’t need to do this. And sometimes we are not really proud to be Chinese. I believe that we should use all kinds of influences: Chinese, American, African or music from the Middle East. When humans developed music I believe it was not meant to tell them where they came from, but to express their own feelings.
You have said in a previous interview that due to the limited scene in China you had to work other jobs to support yourselves. Is the situation still the same, and do you wish to continue enjoying your creative freedom or hoping for a full-time music career in the future?
Yes, that’s still the same. All of us really like the fact that we do other stuff besides playing in Wang Wen. We can create the music we like without having to worry that nobody would like it. Even if we would not sell CDs or nobody would come to our shows, we could still live our normal lives. I think that’s very natural.
What are your plans for the future? Any upcoming tours to promote the album?
Right now we are in the process of doing some bigger shows. We just did a really great tour and will continue touring in Asia after the summer. We are also planning on visiting more countries. We hope that more people can listen to our music. Right now we are looking for some labels that like our music and believe in our band. I think it’s important that we should reach out to more people and give people outside China the chance to discover Wang Wen. We are also planning our third tour in Europe for May 2015.
Thanks a lot!
WATCH: WANG WEN (惘闻) – WELCOME TO UTOPIA
Order the new album “Eight Horses” on vinyl: