The electronic rock band —- YAO —- was established in the winter of 2010, consists of the leader and DJ Wang Lu, duo lead singers Feng Xuanyuan and Zhang Jinghao, the guitarist Gao Fei, the bassist Huang Jiyang and the drummer Diao Lei. Based on traditional pop electronic music, YAO adds new elements such as Rave. It is known as “the most internationalized” electronic rock band in China. Fans are familiar with DJ Wang, lead singer Feng and Zhang because they were the producers, creators and core members of many popular albums of Chinese artists.
Wang said, “Electronic music is a producing method that is mixed with other elements or types of timbre. It does not have a soul itself, but people have been adding soul into it after Kraftwerk. Almost any genre can be mixed with electronic music, and what YAO is doing is to add pop into electronic music.”
The following is collected from CMBN’s interview with Wang, Feng and Zhang:
Creating: Chinese EDM is a little bit embarrassing
Lyrics and melody appears in my mind almost simultaneous and even the melody being played can give me inspiration to write something. I will image what the pictures are. Then I will start writing with the melody. In fact, sometimes you feel that finishing a song is like waking up from a dream because you get pictures in your mind at that time. What you write is in line with your idea and emotion. Next, when you finish all these, you know that it becomes a piece of work. When a song is completed, you feel like waking up from a dream.
There is no model to follow in EDM in terms of lyrics. When you refer to western pop songs, you cannot find contents for EMD. What you see are money, women and feeling, all of which are free to sing in western world but not in China. What they explain cannot be explained by us. Those increase your adrenal hormone.
For example, the lyrics are exactly that meaning but you feel strange to sing the exact word. You have to make them understood by others. First, fans should get interaction on public media. Second, the work should be unique. As for composing and melody, it may sound simple but you have to think for a long time to figure out a single note. So is the tone, which may take you a few days to do it. Therefore, if you want to make good electronic music, itwill take you a long time.
There have been people making electronic music in China for a long time. In my opinion, there are two genres now: one is DJ genre which is more experimental. To some extent, they are more likely to stand aloof from worldly affairs. On the other hand, we are more related to the society, hoping that our work could be understood and accepted by more people. DJ genre pays more attention to the inner meaning. But we are different. We want more fans to understand and accept our songs and like our works.
At present, there are some good musicians in China, but they hardly ever have the chance to show themselves on large platforms. We might be a little earlier than them, but we will think with a more market-oriented mind. There are more and more opportunities for electronic music.
No matter in the ground or underground electronic music, we’ve seen lots of pop elements. It’s a good thing. It would be more suitable to call it a culture rather than a market, which has been penetrated into our life. In many electronic music clubs in Beijing and Shanghai, there are hundreds of people every week. They don’t come for the disco but for the
real electronic music.
Growing: we don’t have sad stories
When we were indie artists, we had difficulties. Though there were companies that would accept us, they hoped that you would listen to them. Only those who obeyed the rules would go further.
Frankly speaking, you had to produce the kind of music that company required rather than what you liked. For example, if a company signed you, they would ask you to go on the direction that they planned. You had to sing what they required. If you were not willing to do so, you would feel very frustrated because you had no way to express your ideas. For this reason, I didn’t want to sign with any label. The only principle I would insist is that I will do the kind of music that I like.
“Story” is something that we lack. We never sing at the subway station or have parents died in a car accident. Members of YAO are ordinary people, whose lives are simple and easy, instead of heartbreaking and sorrowful.
But do we really lack that kind of story? Why? In fact, it is us who don’t want sad stories. In most cases, we ignore bad things so that we don’t have miserable staffs. If people say that YAO is not so popular or not well-known, the reason is that we don’t care and the band doesn’t have any special stories.
We passed a lot of detours, and even tried to lick ass, which means following “what is hot in the market”. However, it didn’t bring us any good results. Contrarily, we were unhappier.
Actually, many of our lyrics are describing some status under certain periods. When you write or explain your emotion, it is ease to resonate with fans because many people have the same struggling. This is the easiest thing for interpersonal communication.
The band: menu combination
The set of YAO is to prevent “substitution”. YAO is a menu-styled group. Why we are called a band rather than a group? The difference between band and group is that the members of a band are fixed.
However, in China, if you don’t perform in a month, you don’t get paid. In YAO, there are three people (Wang, Feng and Zhang) who are specialized in this business. The rest of the band such as guitarist, bassist, drummer, have activities in other bands.
The good thing about it is that if there is an opportunity for a show, members can get together and earn money, which maintains the formation of a band. If the band is operated in a traditional way, it might be dismissed majorly for the issue of profits.
We are trying to put less emphasis on profits because money is not a standard for everything. As for the band, we rely on our ability to make money. Based on this, we should have a long term plan to make money gradually. We should not follow pop stars who earn millions of Yuan in this year but quit next year. This is too quick. We are making music, which is a long term business. We should not follow fast consumption.
Along the way, we groped a way towards success which is insisting on what we can do and realizing the rest items step by step. We don’t force to push forward but doing what we should do and things just come naturally, including the partnership with Apple and Youku. This is called the rule of attraction, which will appeal to some power. We believe in it. Additionally, we can keep clam and keep a clear mind in the process of creating.
One interesting thing about music business is that no concept can be copied, which is also the charm of it. For example, when Zhang Huimei got popular and another Li Huimei followed her style. Things were not as what people expected. Everyone has his own things to be recognized and has his own way. Therefore, on this level, there is no rule. But what is the only rule? It is persistence. All those hot artists who are recognized by people are persistent.
In addition, we don’t exclude packaging operation in the market, which should be more professional. Artists should be gorgeous in front of the camera so that they can bring others dreams. From the point of making music, we are not following that of Korea but of Europe and America. In Korea, BigBang is kind of westernized. We love them. Why don’t Chinese musicians learn from them? Of course, we should learn. In package, we don’t have a better model. And Korea does better than us now.
Taiwan and Hong Kong: No abandon, no establishment
My understanding: Because the market and culture are different in Taiwan and Hong Kong, there are few musicians in Hong Kong and most of the artists are from Japan and Korea. There was a golden era in Taiwan. In terms of creation, the ten years of Rock Records era influenced the whole Chinese pop music. But it has formed a system and rule, which is a double-edged sword for no one can break the barriers.
Now, Taiwan and Hong Kong artists who can make money are in mainland China for the larger market. Their local market is very small. They always think that they should produce particular music which can keep a label operating. In fact, Taiwan music has its own model, including pop and love songs which is clearly distinguished.
In this model, everyone is within the industry. They are not interested in the former successful industry chain or there are not so many people working on a new one. Actually, it is the same with no one making new style music. We depend on things that already exist. For example, if a song is hot, does it mean that our songs can be popular if we follow it? Even if not, it can enter the market quickly.
Therefore, they have to break what they created so as to rebirth. This is fate. They have already re-considered it and give birth to many new music contents, such as some local groups that I love as Tizzy Bac, whose works are very vivid and excellent. You can recall the old feeling and feel like you were in your twenties and moved by the song.
Why don’t we listen to Taiwan music? We can’t hear anything worthwhile or new. There was something in Jay Chou’s era. Then, songs by Fish Leong were popular and all Taiwan singers copied her. Next was Jolin Tsai and all female singers were the same style. When you see the Taiwan hot songs, you don’t feel anything special because they are too commoditized.
There are some people in Taiwan doing EDM, but we feel they have to do it better. But we didn’t have the same feeling before. The reason why Taiwan was more advanced at that time is that it received information earlier. Now the global information is synchronized and they have lost their advantage. In fact, the biggest change in these two years was in music portals, who released the lists instantly. Knowing what foreign medias are doing the moment is very important for us.
China is an eye-catching market in Asia and many foreign artists come to China for shows and promotions. It is a good thing for us because we can receive information more quickly, and learn and make music of the same standards.
(Translator: Ellie; Editor: Chuqian Li)
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