Talking with Yunnan Crust-Punks Gou Ri De
Ever since arriving in Beijing in 2005 I had heard rumors of a nebulous punk community in the tropical jungles of Yunnan. Friends would come back from the extreme southwest province with demo CDs, zines and tales of dread-locked crust punks. Then recently I found out that the Kunming-based anarcho-crust band Gou Ri De (狗日的) would be releasing a new self-titled LP, on vinyl no less! I tracked down the singer Steeve (坏蛋) over email and convinced him to answer some questions shedding light on the band, their label Yanzhaomen Records and why he eventually fled the Yunnan scene.
Can you start out by introducing the band members, their role in the band and where they are from?
Gou Ri De is Steeve “Jong-il” Sauvageau (坏蛋) from North Korea on bass and vocals, Rock Lamotte (火炎) from the Independent non-Islamic State of Azawad on guitar and vocals, Paul Best (大便) from Luxembourg on guitar and vocals, and Réal Massé (巧克力) from Qatar on drums (2011). Ling Ling (零零) from Kunming, China also drummed with us from 2004 to 2010.
Gou Ri De has been around since 2004 and has a mix of foreigners and Chinese members. When did you guys meet and how did you decide to start the band?
In late 2004, Paul and Rock arrived in China from Laos to teach. Paul found work in Kunming and Rock headed north to Harbin for a job up there. Around that time I also arrived in Shanghai from Canada and started to travel on my own. Paul was an old friend of mine from Canada where we used to get drunk and crazy together… I knew he was stuck in Kunming, so I decided to go meet him. In my first week there we ended up at a punk concert where we met our future best friends who happened to be performing that night: Bai Cai (白菜) and Jiang Yuhan (蒋玉菡) from Da Si Wo Ye Bu Shuo (打死我也不说) and XX from Concussion (脑震荡). We were jealous so we decided to search for a drummer and quickly found Ling Ling who had just been fired from the band Rising Time. After starting Gou Ri De it only took a month for Rock to give up his teaching job and come down Kunming to joint the band. That was the beginning.
Your songs are in Chinese and you focus on politics, covering both local topics as well as global issues. How do you write the lyrics and why do you choose to sing about these sorts of things?
There are currently wars in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and the Congo and armed conflicts in Mali, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Egypt and Palestine among others. The world has never had as many people in poverty as it does now. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, bankers control the world’s economy and 20% of the world’s population consume over 80% of the world’s natural resources. The information spread by the mainstream media is partly fake and public opinion is often misled. The danger of a nuclear holocaust has never been so present. Endorsed by the US Congress in 2003, a new generation of nuclear weapons called mini-nukes are considered to be “safe for civilians” and authorized to be use in “conventional war theaters.” Wars are planned in advance [the wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan were all planned as early as November 2001 according to former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark] and considered an “instrument of peace,” condoned and accepted by the world’s institutions and the highest authorities including the United Nations. Nearly 6 million children die of hunger or malnutrition every year. Every day we buy and use stuff that, when dumped in landfills, won’t decompose until generations after us. The meat industry and our use of chemical products have polluted the land. Our food is genetically modified. Extinction of plants and animals continues to rise. Our oceans are dying. “Normal” people want a “good” job with lots of money to buy a car, house, swimming pool, get a wife or husband, have children and eat more and more meat… and you ask me why do we focus on political lyrics?
The question you should be asking yourself is, “Why should I shut up, accept all that crap, find a respectable job and live a so called ‘normal’ life as a good citizen?” Or maybe you should ask, “Why am I not in the streets overthrowing my government right now?” Or even, “Did we crucify the wrong guy?”
The self-titled LP is Gou Ri De’s third release, following the demo “Chai” (拆) and a split with an Indonesian band, Gedebac Gedebuc, both from 2008. How has your sound progressed since your earlier work?
We’ve been inspired a lot by S.H.E., Bryan Adams and all those Christian freaks.
Why did you decide to release your new LP on vinyl?
Almost all of us have been vinyl addicts since our adolescence. Hitchhiking from town to town to get to various records shops, writing to records companies or even to the bands themselves to learn about the best new underground punk acts. Creating and producing our own record has always been the plan. For those who cannot listen to vinyl, they can download it, including the music, lyrics, translations and art work for free from our Bandcamp page.
Your LP is released on your own label Yanzhaomen Records. Can you tell us about the label and what other releases you have done?
Yanzhaomen Records (艳照门唱片公司) is a DIY label created by ourselves. The first released on this label was our demo CD “Chai” (拆) in 2008. The second one, also in 2008, was a split demo CD of us with a Indonesian street punk band, Gedebac Gedebuc. Then, in 2009, Yanzhaomen Records released a Chinese bootleg CD of the Canadian punk band Inepsy titled “Chaos in China” (混乱在中国). Gou Ri De’s LP was next in 2011 along with another Chinese bootleg CD from a Swedish punk band, 2-KomponentZ.
You’ve toured around Yunnan. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you were received on that tour? Any fun stories?
Actually it’s pretty hard to remember our concerts. We always shotgun beers on stage and end up totally wasted. In fact, I do remember a lot of hang-overs… I’ll personally say that I did enjoy those concerts where I dressed up as a naked woman.
Gou Ri De is currently on hold because you are in Chiapas, Mexico. Can you explain why you are there and what the other members are doing now?
In the last few years we organized two music festivals in the countryside called Rock Together (一起摇滚吧!). The first one was a one day event with thirteen bands for twenty RMB and the second one was two days with twenty bands and five DJs also for only twenty RMB. We also produced an underground fanzine with the same name and produced several releases through Yanzhaomen Records. Towards the end however, I felt that people didn’t really care and didn’t want to help or even get involved. I guess they’d rather eat at KFC. I was tired of that, so I left for Chiapas to become involved in actions in Mexico.
Along with some friends of mine I opened a social center here in Chiapas named “El Machete” where we build power pedal machines with old bikes salvaged from the dump, water pumps, blenders, washing machines, etc. We also plan projects with various local communities, make vegan food with food waste from the trash and distribute it for free in the streets, do gardening, a bike kitchen, play crust music with anarcho-vegan punks, etc. In fact, we live the DIY way of life that I like and want! The other members, Rock and Paul are finishing their masters in international relations in Kunming and along with Le Pad (鸡屁股)，currently play in the Quebec Redneck Bluegrass project.
Any future plans for the band? Any chance of a full China tour?
Go Ri De is dead…
Thanks for the interview. Do you have any parting remarks for our readers?
No building is too tall for even the smallest dog to pee on. Stay at home and hide or stand up and fight. Love, peace, DIY, veganism and anarchy!!!