Interview with Friend or Foe | Shanghainese Aliens playing Rock, Punk, Dance music

Rock in China interviewed Shanghai rock band Friend or Foe via modern technology wonder Skype. Azchael for Rock in China.

Azchael: Can you introduce yourself and the band?

Friend or Foe: Hi, I am Rabshaka Shakalaka, singer & guitarist and I am an alien observing human behavior and broadcasting it with my transmissions to space.

Hi, I am Mahanandan Hamana, drummer of the band and also an alien.

We also have another transmissioner, Bob. Originally it was Bill, but we killed Bill and now we have Bob.

Azchael: What kind of human behaviour do you transmit?

Friend or Foe: Anything, like we have a song called “Double Down” which is about a degenerate gambler who wants to win that one big hand and has totally ruined his life chasing it. But he keeps stepping up to the table and losing.

Our songs are often about inexplainable behaviour, about things that we think are weird or just oddly humourus from an alien’s point of view.

Azchael: So what inexplainable behaviour have you observed in Shanghai?

Friend or Foe: Pyjamas on the streets!

The Shanghainese are still inscrutable to aliens. Maybe we should make a record about it, called “Shanghai Degenerate”.

Azchael: On the one hand you are aliens, on the other you are on a compilation record saying “We are Shanghai“. How did you get on it?

Friend or Foe: We are friends with the compilers and one of them (Dennis Nichols from Rainbow Danger Club [rainbowdangerclub.com]) helped us to arrange the tracks. Another (Adam Gaensler from Luwan Rock [luwanrock.com]) actually had already helped us to record our demo. And Ivan Belcic from Twin Horizon [twinhorizon.com] did the art for the awesome comic book that comes with our album. That is 3 of the 4 guys who put the compilation together, so we were in from the start.

Azchael: But who are you? Aliens or “We Are Shanghai”?

Friend or Foe: Well, we are aliens who live in Shanghai.

Azchael: So, do you think you represent the Shanghai sound?

Friend or Foe: No! Not at all!

We have no interest in representing anything except what is sounds cool or interesting to us.

And I don’t think that Shanghai has one cohesive sound, I mean, there are so many types, e.g. Moon Tyrant is different than us, Duck Fight Goose, Candy Shop, Rainbow Danger Club, Sonnet etc., are all different from us.

Besides the metal people and the electronic there is not much cohesive sound in Shanghai. In the rock scene there are not too many bands that sound the same, which I think is cool. When you go out to see a rock show you see 4 very different bands.

Azchael: Have you also played outside of Shanghai?
Friend or Foe: Yes, we have played Beijing twice, D22 both times and next time we gonna hit 2 Kolegas for JUE Festival in March.

We played at the Midi festival in Rizhao, outside of Qingdao and we plan to break out at weekends in Spring, maybe to Wuhan, Nanjing or Hangzhou.

Azchael: I recently talked to Androsace and they mentioned that they are heading out for a Spring tour, are you joining them?

Friend or Foe: Aren’t they already touring? We know them well and discussed going on some shows with them. We need to follow up on that shit! Actually for our touring, we all have day jobs so we can only get out on weekends.

Azchael: A question I always ask in interviews: What is underground? Are you underground?

Friend or Foe: Well, one thing for sure, we are not fuckin’ mainstream. I don’t really care about labels but if you look at the classic definition of underground, it would mean that you do things yourself.

For us, nobody is paying for our shit, we are self-promoted and to me underground implies. If you want a gig you email people and set it up yourself. If you are recording an album, you book the time and finance it yourself. And you choose how you want to sound and what you want to do.

Take the mainstream: You meet up with a bunch of guys and they do it for you, or tell you how you should be doing it.

Azchael: How do you promote your music? Do you promote only in China or also overseas?

Friend or Foe: We focus more on China as we are looking for tours in China. As such we use Weibo, Douban, Twitter, Bandcamp, interviews with bloggers, with rockinchina.com, print magazines, etc. We got a good amount of coverage for our release…

Azchael: How active are you on Weibo on Douban? Is it just a passive platform or do you actively find fans?

Friend or Foe: Douban is ok, but I do more in Twitter and Weibo, so if you wanna do us a favor get to Weibo and love Friend or Foe. If you go to Weibo right now you will see a new video from or CD release show at Yuyintang.

Our album is available for free download on Bandcamp  and we have it on Douban for streaming.

Azchael: Do you go out and try to get your album reviewed?

Friend or Foe: Not too much as we are not really aware of many international blogs. We got some reviews though, e.g. in Beijing and it’s actually a good idea, but we are not reading a lot on music, more listening to it. Not really hanging around music blog websites, but if you have any ideas, tell us.

Azchael: Except Spring touring, what is your plan for 2012?

Friend or Foe: Definitely writing our next album, though we will not be recording for a little bit. We usually write at a quick pace, so by the end of summer we should have a bunch of new songs.

We are also working on a remix album where DJs and producers remix our songs. It will be titled “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY CLAW!?” so right now we are working on finding the right people.

We also try not to take too many shows and to focus on writing, though somehow in Shanghai it seems like that in spring and fall there are a lot of shows. We try not to fill up too many weekends as we want to get out a little.

Azchael: Thanks a lot for the interview. Any further transmission about the human behaviour you wanna shoot out?

Friend or Foe: Thanks a lot for the interview. Shout out to people who helped with the album, particularly the The Horses who produced the thing.

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