Nintendocore founders HORSE THE BAND entered mainland China as part of their EARTH TOUR quite some time ago. In anticipation of the CORE IN CHINA compilation, we thought it would be worthwhile to reflect jointly with the band their experiences during their China trip.
Azchael for Rock in China and Erik for Horse the Band.
Azchael: Can you briefly introduce yourself and Horse the Band?
Eric: I am Erik, I play keyboard and do the occasional Game Boy composition. Then there is David the guitar player, Nathan the singer, Daniel the drummer, and Jeremiah the bass player. But on Earth Tour our bass player was Dash and Jon Karel was playing drums.
Azchael: When planning for the Earth Tour back in the days, what caught your attention for China and what made you come here?
Eric: When we were writing the list of countries we wanted to play in on the napkin, we wrote China but didn’t know how it could possibly happen. Then one day halfway through booking the tour Paul Huang (HotPot Music) emailed us offering us a week of dates in China. At that point we pretty much rescheduled the entire first month of the tour to make sure it happened. I don’t really know what caught our attention about China… I guess it was probably a lifelong dream… I have no idea when it started. I mean, if you could go to China, why wouldn’t you?
Azchael: Did you organize all the gigs by yourself or you got help from local Chinese?
Eric: Paul booked everything for us. We just worked through him and he set up all the shows, travel, and accommodation. I don’t think we would have had a chance if we tried to do it ourselves. I wouldn’t have known where to even start. Paul is a great, great man. One of the most special, best people I ever met in my life.
Azchael: Looking back on the tour in China (where you played more than just two gigs), what was the most impressive part of the tour?
Eric: I think the most impressive part was how little we slept, and by extension what that says about how interesting and fun China was, for us. The whole week, even the last night, the only time we would sleep is if we were held captive on something like a train or taxi ride. 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there. Otherwise we would choose to just stay up and keep doing as much as possible. I think I slept 11 hours total the 6 days that we were in China. It’s covered pretty well in our Earth Tour movie. I don’t know if you know about that, but it’s a free torrent up on our site and it’s 10.5 hours long. 🙂 It was funny. We were all literally hallucinating by the end.
Azchael: And what was the biggest fuckup?
Eric: Probably not sleeping. Haha. After China we had another 2 sleepless days we had scheduled for ourselves followed by 48 hours of flights. When we finally got to stop for a few days in Ankara, Turkey, pretty much the whole band was sick and we just lay on a floor for about 3 days and occasionally would binge on feta cheese and go downstairs to smoke a hookah. ahhahaa
Azchael: Weren’t you afraid that the police or other officials might interfere with your gigs?
Eric: The power of being in a small group with your closest friends is pretty considerable. If you are surrounded by enablers and feel comfortable, you become much more powerful, at least in your own mind. There’s also something nice about being insulated from reality by the language barrier. The things that I did on that tour in public I would never feel comfortable doing in my hometown, because when you’re away somewhere everything seems surreal. Your every action takes on some sort of meta-aspect. This isn’t meant disrespectfully to wherever we happened to be, but it’s just what happens when you’re not grounded in the local reality and don’t have a concrete feeling for any of the implications your actions might have.
As far as China specifically we were somewhat informed beforehand of some of the political situations and realities there, but at the same time, it felt like such an organic and below-the-radar undertaking that it seemed really impossible that anyone in the government would care. In the US we have heavy censorship and restriction too, except it’s mainly through local Christian Mothers organizations. I would feel much more scared playing in say, a white suburb of Memphis, Tennessee than anywhere in China.
I think being scared of countries/places in general is pretty unfortunate and not only an American problem, but something that has been pretty present in people anywhere in the world I have been. There are definitely some dangerous places around, but unless you look like a total amateur tourist, walk into an active warzone, or really draw attention to yourself in an area where your specific nationality is a target, pretty much anything “bad” that happens to you will be a random unlucky incident that can happen anywhere there is desperation, fear, or ignorance (which is everywhere).
Azchael: If you would have the chance to come to China again, what would you do different?
Eric: Haha, probably nothing. It was so intense. We felt miserable for a lot of it because of the fast pace, no sleep, heavy-lifting, and hangovers, but… yeah. I mean, the risk you always run in going back somewhere is that you erase the first memory and replace it with something less inspiring. I think that happened to us for a lot of places in the US, and it’s kind of sad. Once something doesn’t seem exotic in your mind anymore it loses its mystique, and that’s definitely one of the reasons traveling is exciting. It’s somehow playing with personal expectations and living out what is more a fantasy rather than objectively experiencing reality.
Azchael: Do you actually have plans to come to China again?
Eric: Nothing concrete but I would jump at the chance to come back. Last time we lost a shitload of money… And we don’t really have any right now. I really want to go to Urumqi!
Azchael: Whenever I speak with Chinese metal fans most of them know your band and your contribution to the “nintendocore” genre. Do you still get feedback from China nowadays from either fans or bands? If yes, what kinda feedback is it?
Eric: It’s weird, we don’t get feedback from anywhere in Asia. I’m not really sure why. We used to get quite a few emails from Indonesia, but that stopped a while back. The reason we thought touring China would be impossible was because before Paul probably only one or two people from China emailed us in like 8 years… haha.
Azchael: Speaking just for the China part of your Earth Tour, were you able to recover all the costs and efforts you invested?
Eric: By the end of Earth Tour we had almost paid back all of the expenses of doing the tour, but part of that money came from various deals we signed that weren’t having to do with the tour. And at the end we also had a bunch of expenses that accrued while we were away from home. Rent and insurance stuff mostly. Also about a month after we got home we got sued… and we aren’t allowed to talk about that, but rest assured, it was fucked! 🙂 The Corrupt Indie Machine as Carles says… So yeah, depending on how you look at it, we probably paid off the expenses of flying ourselves to China with some money we got from playing the two months worth of European shows after that, but it’s really hard to say exactly what happened. We were definitely financially ruined for about 2 years after that, and looking back it’s probably one of the main reasons we stopped touring. But I guess we would have stopped touring out of boredom anyway if we wouldn’t have done Earth Tour.
Azchael: Had you had the chance to see other bands either perform or hang out with? If yes, any particular ones that are still stuck in your memory?
Eric: Yeah, I remember really clearly a pop-punk band that we played with in Shanghai, and just thinking some undefined thoughts about being surprised. I also remember we played with a band that had a female singer in Wuhan. She was really pretty and cool. We didn’t keep in touch with any mainland people besides Paul though. And I definitely remember King Ly Chee, we’re still somehow in touch from time to time.
Azchael: Have you heard of Rockinchina.com before you came or anytime after? If yes, what’s your opinion?
Eric: I hadn’t heard of it but it’s definitely a good resource. I love localized scene websites. They’re totally necessary to have a good DIY scene and get small bands exposure.
Azchael: Thanks for the interview!
Eric: Thank you too!
Check out the Douban group for their 2008 March tour.