Before the interview, I have heard a lot of praises about Howie Lee’s talent and his music. Indeed, it’s astonishing.
Howie Lee, also known as Le Huadi, issued his first album Muchao Shanchu at the beginning of last December, which immediately caused massive attentions and critical acclaims. Door is suitable as the Intro for the album – the bright voice is like a beam of light dancing in the dark sky, which draws the outline of an ancient city. The voice starts to get louder and seems to imply an on-going tribal ritual. At the end of the song, the Bass Line is more like an electrified Shaman who jumps out. Which impresses me most is that he was immersed in a deep emotion when talked about the situation – he even sung the melody of Let’s Sway Twin Oars.
The former reports use his experience of studying abroad as a publicity stunt. I’m very curious about what he had acquired in a year of postgraduate study. He replayed that he came to UK with a very strong purpose and tried to found necessary resources as soon as possible. While browsing Howie Lee’s music after his graduation, there was a hidden line which links the whole together. No matter music itself or the visional package, you are able to find the integration.
As young men who grow up in the same cracked CD period, Lee’s favorite in that era of punk rock was Nirvana. He was a bassist in his university band called PB33. In 2005, the band wanted to sign a music company, but Lee disagreed and left the band. At that time, Dance Pun inspired Lee and the established a band named I love this band. But the band faded with the time, for “chaotic concepts” and poor publicity.
With the thriving of Dubstep in UK, Lee met a group of UK musicians in Beijing. Lee especially mentioned Harikiri who influenced Lee the most. This UK musician once held a Dubstep party in Beijing and brought lots of inspirations in music producing and impressed Lee to further his study in UK.
CMBN: What are your problems before studying abroad?
Lee:There’s no market in China. Not to mention producer’s identity – which is lost in China – I could not tell other people about my job. I said I was a DJ, but no one understood it in China. Though I know who I am, but other people don’t know and there’s no need to explain. Therefore, if you want to be recognized by others, you should have some works or proof. For example, if I mention that i-D interviews me, the other people may think that’s fine and prepare to listen to me. Frankly speaking, I was not famous at that time and didn’t have the right
to speak. Therefore, no one listened to me until I caught attention in UK. Then, there are people who are willing to listen to what I’m doing.
CMBN:software do you use to produce music?
Lee: When I had an Apple computer, I used Logic. I had used it for two years. But I thought it didn’t help me for I didn’t find the benefits at last. This may due to my personal habit or we are not suitable. Then I saw Harikiri was using Ableton, so I started to use Ableto.I bought Ableton with an education offer when I arrived in UK in 2011.
CMBN: Why the one-year study experience in UK inspired you so much?
Lee: Because I went there with some questions and had strong purpose. Before that, I already made some music. Therefore, I quickly found the resources I needed when I arrived. For instance, I found out which situations I didn’t know before, and which music I didn’t know how to produce. I majored in engineering and didn’t fully understand art. My voice & art class didn’t teach you anything useful but talking about why it should be in this way. But no one questioned it in China.
Many concepts have its own logic to follow. It’s like the first step for concrete music. It’s related to the capitalism in last century. With social development, music no longer required notes, you could record it now. However, because of the quick entering of capitalism, there was not too much time for digesting. How did they inspire your emotion from concrete music to so many thoughts today? What’s the feeling that it gives you? Why Picasso had to find inspirations in Africa? Finally, all return to human essence. While learning the art of voice in UK, concepts inspired me most.
CMBN:We find that you music starts to have a consistent theme and style after studying
Lee: Yes, I have brand concepts after that and know how to operate.
CMBN: You have translated three books from 2010 to 2012. How did you consider at that
Lee：The books are published by Focal Press. I also read the English version. An alumni of Communication University of China who worked in Posts and Telecom Press found me. But translating a book didn’t earn much. Such a thick book was paid 20,000 to 30,000 yuan. It was out of my devotion spirit, and I know senior people who understand it may not have such time and efforts to do it. I was young and my English was good. I also had deep understanding to the relevant knowledge. So I did it and it was good for me.
CMBN：You really made huge contributions. There still lacks relevant professional books
until now. Do you still want to do such jobs?
Lee：If someone does it, there is a job. But if no one does it, there is no such job. I won’t do it, for it’s too time-consuming. I was able to do it when I was young, but not now. I think if you can do something that influences others, it’s meaningful and it’s
a good thing.
CMBN:What do you think about indie and mainstream? And how is the trend that indie mixing
Lee:I think indie and mainstream are different. I think it’s just because underground music becomes cooler and more fashionable, and it attracts people’s attention. At least major labels in Europe and North America have strong concept – discover people on the Internet. However, people used to think that those on
the Internet were not so good.
CMBN: Do you hate tags such as Indie or Underground?
Lee: I think it’s inevitable to be tagged in the society, because it makes things or people distinguished and easy. Many people say it’s Chinese when they hear my music. I’m OK with that. It’s just what you say. As long as you are willing to listen to my music, you are free to tag.
CMBN: So, don’t you mind being tagged?
Lee:If someone tag me as “you’re shit”, I might not be happy about it. But it’s not up to me. I can’t stop others from tagging.
CMBN: Why did you quit Eastside Sampler Series?
Lee: I planned a series and hoped to release a song every two weeks. But I felt too
tired after producing four songs and then quitted.
CMBN: You remixed Sophie’s Lemonade in an unofficial way. What do you think of PC Music which was a phenomena indie label established 13 years ago? It seems your music has
certain kind of connection.
Lee: I only agree with Sophie’s music. I think he is the coolest person in PC Music. There are many people in UK like A.G Cook who go to art school. They have lots of crazy ideas in their mind and realize all of them. As you mentioned, PC Music is a phenomenal product. In terms of art it’s a very successful case. I think Sophie is very clever. He knows what he wants to do. I remix his music because I think he is very interesting.
Their (PC Music) music is ironic – QT with A.G. Cook. All seem to be “fake”.
CMBN: How do you regard PC Music’s cooperation with Li Yuchun?
Lee: I think it’s weird. But I don’t dislike it. I think that’s fine. Chinese musicians need to communicate with the outside. Whether for mainstream or not, it’s beneficial to connect with clever people.
CMBN: Have you ever considered working with mainstream musicians?
Lee: I’m not desire to, unless I feel someone singing especially well or something that I particular want. I want to work with high level artists rather than high level entertainer. If an “American Li Yuchun” want to work with me, I think it’s interesting, because of certain cultural impact. You will discover a new area; if a rustic local star hope to work with A.G. Cook, he won’t agree.
CMBN: Are you willing to walk towards mainstream fans?
Lee: I won’t say no. But I have my own principles, as long as they don’t touch my bottom line. China is largely influenced by Confucianism and old people do not like to trust the young. I don’t care whether they believe me or not. I’m good with myself. Last year, several TV program found me, but I refused. We couldn’t work together. I felt they didn’t respect me and they were not honest. I’d rather stay at home and watch TV.
CMBN: Which identity do you enjoy more, producer or DJ?
Lee: I think both of them are interesting. DJ is interesting, so does producer. As for DJ, I receive some feedbacks in my experience. They are not material feedbacks, but a way that I understand the society. Gradually, you see the changes in the society and your understanding towards music also changes. I think this is interesting for a DJ. Producing is rival against yourself. I often overthrow the whole thing, then delete and restart. Maybe I find the former is better, but I just rivaling.
CMBN: Do you have any problems now?
Lee: I think there is lesser time available. After becoming famous, the time for creation is a problem. I don’t have so much time to think and I’m like a passer-by. I glance here and there, and I’m not excited about something
anymore. I was very excited about touring at first, but I’m not so sensitive now.
I’m so busy that I become numb. When my mind is clear, I have new inspiration in the morning. Now, I’m still at an early stage for doing music. I think I will meet the first barrier at the tenth year, though I’ve been producing music for so many years. Therefore, there’s much room for improvements. But the biggest bottleneck now is time management.
You don’t have weekend time as a DJ. You have to put off on Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are for working. And there are other things to do on the other days. I do lots of media, vison, music, and so on. I get inspiration from different work and then put it on music. In general, lacking of time is the biggest problem in my creation.
CMBN: How to catch inspiration? What would you do when you lack inspiration?
Lee: I WeChat myself. I sent everything I think about and even say to myself. When I don’t have inspiration, I do what I ought to do. I cook – cooking is creating. You have to focus and respect food. It’s the same with music.
CMBN: What’s your attitude towards music, career or hobby?
Lee: I think it’s a hobby. But it’s also my career. I want a better environment for Chinese music. I think my music level is high, but people don’t recognize it – it depends on the relationship in China.
CMBN: Do you have other hobbies besides music?
Lee: Cooking. In fact, I have lots of hobbies. I love interesting things, but I don’t have so much time.
CMBN: What’s the concept of Do Hits?
Lee: Breaking the marginalization, no style tag, no condition. If you think you are a member of Do Hits, then you are. It has a nihilism concept. The most important project now is the collection. As a producer, I promote it but the real promoters are people. Everyone need to contribute a bit. We don’t have a platform, so we
create one by ourselves.
CMBN: Mucao Shanchuan is your first full length album. Why did you take so long to produce your first album?
Lee:Because I think I’m not mature yet. I have high requirements to art. I didn’t have much ideas before, so my works were not so good. But later, I begin to understand that: I shouldn’t release blindly. They couldn’t be changed when released. So I think we should do it slowly. So I think you should lower your speed in making
an album until you think clearly. I hope I can produce an album that have an influence of ten or twenty years.
CMBN: How do you score this album?
CMBN: Is there anywhere that needs improvement?
Lee: I do a lot of structures and put there. After a while, I want to make it exquisite. But there are still some drawbacks. I could make it better in details.
CMBN: Beihai seems very special in this album. Could you tell us its producing process?
Lee: angry at that time. I forgot the reason but I was so unhappy. I stayed along at home and wrote this song. I put my hands on the keyboard and there was the song.
CMBN: Why does it come from Let’s Sway Twin Oars?
Lee: Because I suddenly thought about it and I played the melody. I thought of Let’s Sway Twin Oars and put it in.
CMBN: What are the highlights of the upcoming Asian touring for the new album?
Lee: Two people, Zhang Yang and me. He is responsible for the drum and I will control audio and video.
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