“Just hate the idea of anyone googling my real name and getting any interviews I’ve done. Especially as I’m looking for a job at the moment,” said Xiao Zhong, vocalist/drummer and one half of Pairs, Shanghai based noise-rock duo, about his refusal to use his real name for any press interview from now on. Talk about anonymity, the fact that he’s actually Australian feels as obscure as his female guitarist that goes with only a single alphabet (“F”) for her name. Formed around two years ago, this duo are known for their louder than bomb music, raw catastrophe and nonchalant attitude. After three albums (Pairs, Summer Sweat, Grandparent), they’re release their latest album called If This Cockroach Doesn’t Die, I Will, last year which recorded in some bomb shelter, and playing for gigs around Asia, including Indonesia few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t saw their gigs due some holiday sickness, so I catching up with them via email. Here it is!
Hello, how are you? Would you mind to introduce yourself?
Hey hey. I’m doing pretty well actually. Today wasn’t as cold as yesterday and my body is getting used to Winter again. I’m Xiao Zhong and I play drums in Pairs. F is the guitar player but last I heard, she was in a brewery somewhere in America.
So F isn’t in Shanghai right now? Is it her decision to goes with
such anonymous name?
Not right now. We landed and she spent two days in Shanghai and then flew out to America for a bit or work and a bit of pleasure. The story about her name, as I’m led to believe is that she had an English teacher at her primary school and he asked people their English names and she just said F. Whether that’s because it was the only letter she knew at that point or she wanted to remain anonymous when she was 8 years old, I’m not sure. But she stuck with it.
Where you are right now and how’s your day going?
I’m at home now, sitting on the couch watching the special features on the Dogs In Space DVD. My day was ok. Had a bit of a shit meeting at work that went for too long and was full of too much bullshit, but that’s done now so I’m pretty good.
How did you guys met each other? What sparked you to form a band together?
We met at the X Games watching these Japanese brothers rollerblade up and down a half pipe. I was looking at the skaters and F came and said hello because she liked my shirt. I was looking to start a band and she said she was interested. Pretty boring story actually. Sorry.
Prior to Pairs, did you already play with some bands before?
I played in a few bands in Bendigo and Melbourne. Some were ok. Some were shit. Some were ok and played shit and some were shit but played ok.
Tell us a bit about the music scene in Shanghai, what they sounds like and is it any difference with other cities?
It’s weird. On tour everyone asked us this question and when I asked people they always said their scene was shit. Everyone said it was always the same faces at the same venues watching the same bands play the same songs. But I saw people who bought records, made zines, got involved, wrote reviews and were friendly as fuck. So I guess people always think the grass is greener and forget to distance themselves from the scene every now and again.
But on Shanghai, I’ll say that for it’s size – it really should be bigger, better and more active.
Do you have some other Shanghai band/musician recommendation for
us to check out?
Stalin Gardens, Hua Jiao, Battle Cattle, Guo Shen, Fei Ma, Top Floor Circus, Airwalker.
How was the songwriting going? Is it usually the lyric or the noise popped up first?
It’s generally a basic guitar chord and the lyrics come much, much later. Although, with the newer songs I’m finding lyrics are coming much earlier and I’ll jot them down and them try and force them to whatever is being played on guitar. Kind of what people do when they get frustrated with a jigsaw. Just start smashing pieces together.
What things usually inspire you to wrote some lyric?
Usually they are written about some of the leaders at my work. I got a promotion over a year ago and it allowed me to see the inner workings of lying fuckrags, so a lot of the songs are things I would love to say in a meeting or pointing out how horrible these people are but I can’t say too obviously at work due to needing cash and a VISA. Shit has taken it’s toll though and I am looking for new work now.
Is there any band out there that really influences your sounds in particular?
Not particularly. There are a few bands whose attitudes and actions have influenced us. Tom from The Nation Blue is a big one. Ash from The Secret Knives, Shaun from the Tenzenmen label, Adam from Reykjavictim, Benjii, Martin and the Muzai team and Scowlin Wolf from Threat.Meet.Protocol. Hobbs from East Brunswick All Girls Choir is always good for dredging out the idiotic tales that become ideas for songs.
How would you describe your own sound?
Used to be faster.
Do you still remember your first ever gig? How was it? And where’s the your most intense gig so far?
First gig I think was in Brendan Ryan’s backyard near a monster truck dog who had legs way too long for it’s body. We played three or four songs and we did our first song twice because Steve Mac made up a funny dance to it. Then we watched a hoody burn.
Most intense gig physically was one in Cirebon. I’m a weak prick and think I was a tiny bit sick before the show, but the lack of energy and heat really got to me and I had to run off after four or five songs to vomit my guts up. That was embarrassing.
I used to have a really bad hernia and doing shows, yelling with a hernia was pretty intense as I’d have to stand up and push it back in during songs.
So how was your gig in Jakarta?
Jakarta was awesome! We had a great time and it’s a total shame that we didn’t stay longer. We met some really friendly people and the we.hum collective did an awesome job organising everything and making cool as fuck shirt. We met some real hot girls and handsome men and got to play laser tag. Good vibes.
Wait, I don’t even know you guys also playing in Cirebon, how long
exactly your tour in Indonesian goes? What’s the story behind it?
We were in Indonesia for 9 days. Started in Surabaya, then to Batu, then Solo, then Cirebon and finished in Jakarta. Was a good time and we would have died if it wasn’t for Anca and Asep who travelled everywhere without and organised our accommodation and made sure we were at the venues at the right times.
Did you try some Indonesian food? Where else did you go during that time?
Yeah, we ate very local. A lot of tempei and ice tea. I loved the breakfasts there! Some awesome sweet stuff which I love as I have a huge sweet tooth.
We went to a water park to go down some slides and then went in a haunted house. We also saw the mud slide area in Surabaya. A lot of the time was spent driving and crashing at punk squats and friends’ houses.
Beside Indonesia, where else you have played outside China?
We did New Zealand in early 2013 thanks to the Muzai Records gang and we’ve done Hong Kong a few times and just before Indonesia we played in Singapore and Malaysia . We’re looking at Vietnam sometime in the next few months. Just tee-ing it up now.
Do you have some kind of preshow ritual?
Not at all. I’ve just started drinking water before shows. That’s about it. I don’t get bands who do group hugs or headbuts or key a beer before playing. Just fucking play.
What are you guys doing beside music?
We both have fulltime jobs and loved ones and email accounts and clothes to wash and sleep to do. All in all, Pairs is just a small part of our time. We go out in bursts and then have a break for a few weeks.
How long have you live in Shanghai? What prompted you to move to China?
I have lived here since 2009. Fucking hated it when I first got to Shanghai as I lived in Tianjin in 2008 and loved it and Shanghai is a different kind of China so it took some time to get used to and for awhile, it was rough. Grown to dig the place now.
Everyone in my university course wanted to go to London and I think the UK and Europe is kind of Asia for old people and a pretty boring choice. You can have the same time there whether you’re 23 or 63 but Asia take a bit of a young man’s mentality or sense of adventure so I applied for jobs in China and Japan and China got back to me first so I jumped on the plane with fuck all research and landed in Tianjin.
You’re known as Xiao Zhong but that’s not your real name, who came up with your Chinese name?
I came up with it, which is why it’s a stupid fucking name and not a name at all. But I used it with Pairs incase any future employees Google my name and read the moronic fucking shit that I say in interviews such as these and chose not to give me a job.
Do you still want to release your records on cassette?
Yeah, absolutely! Early last year, Bomb Shop in the UK released Summer Sweat on cassette. They released it in hand wrapped Chinese newpaper and it had a hot pink case. Looked awesome. We’ll release on any format but probably not CD for a long while. Touring with records was pretty hard. We paid a small fortune in excess baggage to get our records in to Indonesia.
What’s your next plan?
Work tomorrow. Going to a show this weekend. Chinese New Year will slow the mainland down and I’m going to my wife’s parents house in Tianjin to celebrate then I’m going back to Australia for a week to say hello to my friends and family then we have a show with Thee Oh Sees in Shanghai. We’ll have a new record out in March but it will be a very different record than people will expect or want. That’s about it really.