Gum Bleed on Their Latest European Tour
Though one of the younger bands in Beijing’s burgeoning DIY scene, Gum Bleed have already established themselves as one of China’s most internationally experienced and outward-looking punk bands. Several weeks ago, these industrious street-punks returned from their third European tour, where they played festivals and clubs across four countries. We caught up with lead singer Dee to discuss his favorite cities, foreign festivals and the difficulties of touring abroad.
You guys just got back from a European tour spanning five countries. I heard you had a couple dates cancelled on you during the tour; how many shows did you end up playing and in which cities?
On this tour, we went to four countries, not five. Two of our shows were canceled, in Luebeck and Copenhagen. Altogether we played ten shows, including: Berlin, Forst, Force Attack Fest, Leipzig, Prague, Chemnitz, Hamburg, Days of Fury Fest, Gothenburg and Aalborg.
Which shows were your favorites? Are there any particular cities that you especially enjoy playing?
It’s hard to say which show was our favorite, because we basically had the same dedication and energy going into every show, and the audiences at every show were great and really enthusiastic. But if we had to compare, I’d say that the shows in Forst, Force Attack, Leipzig, Prague, Gotenburg and Aalborg were all fantastic (I’m mainly thinking of the energy of the crowds). As for our favorite cities to play in, of course they were Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, etc. These big cities are really cool–there are a lot of people and the cities themselves are really interesting. The audiences here have seen bands from all around the world, so they have higher, more discerning taste. Of course in these big, mainstream cities there are some people who think they’re really cool, just like the difference between music fans in Beijing and music fans in other places (in China). The competition among punk shows is fierce. Let’s say you’re playing at a bar–it’s almost certain that you’ve got a really famous foreign band playing at another bar within a mile of you. Our shows this tour in Berlin and Hamburg were both awesome and really successful, we got a lot of people out, and the bars we played at were pretty famous. The biggest disappointment was that Copenhagen got canceled.
Were there any bands that you played with that really stood out? Do you keep in touch with any of the people or bands you met on tour?
All of the bands we played with were really good. In Berlin the show organizer added an English band called Cyanide Pills, a 77 punk-style band, at the last minute. They seemed pretty famous and were also rather cool. Their performance at Force Attack was canceled, so they were added to our show in Berlin. Their luck wasn’t that great since the music festival was canceled, but they’re a great band. Of course, there were a lot of friends and good people we met on the road who helped us get to know Europe better, and helped Europe get to know us.
On this tour you suffered some cancellations from cities like Lübeck and Copenhagen. Can you tell us how that happened and what the circumstances were?
Those two cancellations were really a shame. The Luebeck cancellation was during the last leg of the tour; they originally wanted us to play on August 2, but since we were playing in Prague on August 1, there was no way we could have made it that far, and we didn’t want to lose the opportunity to play in Prague. So the Luebeck show was moved to July 31 (Monday). In the end because Force Attack had just finished on Sunday, everyone had drunk a lot and was really tired, so we canceled it. The bar is called Veb; we played there on our last tour in 2011 and the people there are all really nice, we’re still friends, so I hope we can play there next time. Copenhagen was a different case. They didn’t really have a good excuse, they just said they couldn’t find a good opening band, so they just canceled it. The bar we were going to play at was called Youth House (you can look it up on Wikipedia); it’s one of Denmark and even Europe’s most important and famous places. But we thought it was a shame that they’re so irresponsible. We don’t plan on collaborating with them again.
Force Attack festival was actually cancelled and then moved. You guys were taken off the bill but didn’t realize it because you had no internet access. When you showed up the organizers decided to let you play and added you back on the bill. As a matter of fact I think you guys were one of the only bands to actually get paid! Can you tell us how that all happened?
The Force Attack thing was also pretty strange: it’s one of Europe’s regular punk festivals, but this year they had a lot of problems. I guess these things happen… Anyway, we were taken off the bill. I think it was because this year the organization was really chaotic because the guy who booked us originally had some problems and ended up handing over the festival organization to other people. But when we arrived at the festival, we still had to take it seriously, and treat the performance as a matter of prime importance. Because Force Attack was still Force Attack, and there were still thousands of punks who saw our show and provided us with our biggest support. As far as the payment, I don’t think we were the only ones who took home the amount promised to us in our contract, because there were also some famous bands who completed shows at Force Attack, like Mad Sin, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, the Restarts, and so on. I don’t think they would have played for free. In short, we had a really special experience at Force Attack. What was important is that we were satisfied with how we played there, and that was enough.
You had a friend who was going to help drive but had to cancel at the last minute. You guys ended up doing the whole tour by slow train. What is it like to tour Europe by train? In China bands normally travel by train. Do you feel it’s much different from touring here?
Haha – touring by train in Europe? It was okay. In Germany it was a bit cheaper to take the slow train than drive, we just had to switch trains a lot. So that was more trouble than it would have been in China, but it was alright, and you didn’t have to worry about not having a seat. The other thing was we had to talk with every place we were playing at to make sure they could provide us with a backline, because there was no way we could take all that equipment on the train. Our last few times touring in Europe we tried all the different modes of transport: friends driving, borrowing a car and driving ourselves, taking the train, taking a steamboat, flying, taking long-distance cars… it’s really tiring, but really fun.
This is was actually your third tour of Europe so you guys had a pretty good idea what to expect. Was there anything this time that really surprised you? How was this tour different from the ones you did in the past?
Yeah, this was our third time touring in Europe, so there wasn’t anyplace that gave us any big surprises. Last year we toured during the fall and this year during the summer, so we definitely liked going to Europe more in the summer. Also most of the places we played at this year were more professional and more well known, so we could experience what more mainstream punk venues were like.
You took a new bass player with you on this tour. Was it his first time to Europe? Was there anything shocking for him that you guys already knew to expect?
Yeah, on this tour we had a new young bassist, who this was his first time going to Europe. I think everything about touring in Europe was new, strange and exciting for him.
The last show you did was a festival in Denmark where the sound guy offered to help you record if you ever needed it. You ended up going to his house Sunday night and recording there overnight before returning to China the next morning. Can you tell us about that experience and how it worked out?
Days of Fury Fest wasn’t actually our last show, we still had two more on Saturday and Sunday–one in Sweden and one in Denmark. At Days of Fury, our sound man was a really good guy, and he was really interested in our music and wanted to help us, so we made a date for Sunday to go to his recording studio. Since we would be flying back to China from Copenhagen on Monday, we only had that one day to work with. We worked straight until dawn Monday morning, and finished recording two songs. The most valuable part of this experience was just being able to see how European recordings are done–the equipment, the quality, the professionalism, the efficiency. We really thank Mr. Jacob from the bottom of our hearts for his help.
With international tours every year you guys are becoming one of the more experienced DIY bands in China. Any advice for other Chinese bands wanting to play shows abroad?
The main thing we have to say to bands and friends who want to tour abroad is just try it out and make it happen. You don’t really need an excess of courage; you just need to know what you want to get out of the experience: there are some bands who when they tour just want to drink and party (there’s no shortage of bands like this in Europe either); and some bands take music and performing more seriously. They hope they can spread their music and pass on their way of thinking. We’re not sure if all the Chinese bands that want to tour abroad have the same goals and desires, but we hope that more and more Chinese bands are able to overcome the difficulties and get out, stretch their tours out all over the world, and let the world hear what Chinese punk or rock music sounds like. We’re doing it now, and we welcome more people to join us!