Xie Yugang (WANG WEN): «Instrumental music is the most common language in the world»

Wang Wen
WANG WEN. Photo: wangwen.bandcamp.com

WANG WEN (惘闻) is an instrumental band from Dalian, a coastal city in Northern China. They formed in 1999 and now are considered one of the most influencing post-rock bands from the country. Аnd they are well known in Europe. Their track «Break the Car» was used in Nike advertisement. Efrim from GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR helped to mix their 6th album «L & R».

Their records are sophisticated, melancholic and fragile, and we truly hope the new recording, the group has just finished in Iceland, will inherit these trademark qualities.

We asked Xie Yugang (guitar of WANG WEN) about band’s history, inspiration, and future.

– Your sound is absolutely international. One may say your music has its roots psychedelic and progressive rock, but nothing reveals the nationality of its authors. How did you come to this concept? Was it intentional?

As we play mostly instrumental music, which is the most common language in the world. So I think it is easy for people no matter where they are from to understand. Actually, we did not intend to become an instrumental band as I was the vocalist at the early times. But I was not a good singer, and I hated writing lyrics at that time. So, later on, we become the band we are now.

– Most western rock musicians started playing music in school. Was it the same way for you? How did you, member, meet? Was it difficult to put a band together?

No way. Most of the Chinese people of my age did not have the chance to get real music education in school. I had my first guitar when I entered the college and then taught myself. Maybe nowadays things are getting better.

Dalian, the city where I live, is really a small town. I mean there are always not that many interesting people, which means it is easy to find some stupid and interesting funny mates. It was around 1999, I planned to form a rock band. It was like finally I had no choice but had the rest member in the band right away.

– Do you remember the music environment around you when you were growing up? What was it like?

Yes, I do. I just remember when I was a child, my father in his spare time would play Er hu (a Chinese traditional music instrument with 2 string) around me. And when I was in middle school, the music around me was all the popular songs for Hong Kong and Taiwan. When I got into high school (around 1991), finally I got the cassettes of rock music, like GUNS & ROSES, NIRVANA…

– When did you realize which genre you liked the most and in which genre would like to work?

I formed the band in 1999, and we played some grunge music at that time. Around 2003, I got bored of singing like a shit. And then we moved to instrumental stuff. From then on, I think everything was just perfect because I do not need to write the lyrics and sing anymore.

– What does the name of your band mean? The cover of your album «Diary of 28 sleepless days» says «Unknown Band» Why did you choose to address yourself this way?

Wang Wen means «did not hear» or «ignore» from the direct Chinese meaning word by word. It was taken from a Chinese idiom «Zhi Ruo Wang Wen».

When we released our first album «Diary of 28 sleepless days» in 2003, the record label made the translation as Unknown, we thought «ok, yes, we are unknown», but after that, we just used Wang Wen for translation.

– The songs from your early albums had lyrics. What were those texts about?

Yes, I wrote lyrics at that time. Usually, I would write them in the morning of the day when I recorded the singing. So I would push myself to write something in my head at that very moment. They were about the feeling in my mind at that time. They mean a lot or mean nothing.

– Now you do mostly instrumental music. Are you going to get back to singing in future?

Yes, I hope I will be prepared for the singing and lyrics for the album next year. I am serious this time.

– In earlier interviews, you once said that your music is about improvisation. Is it an absolutely free improvisation or you have some concept within which you improvise? Do you prepare any drafts or take rehearsals before going to the studio to make a new record?

Sometimes we have a concept or communication before we improvise. Sometimes we just improvise freely. And then we pick up the parts that everybody feels good about for further rehearsals. Yes, before going to the studio for the new record, we always prepare the demo tracks.

– You recorded the new album in Iceland. At Sundlaugin Studio, owned by SIGUR ROS. Why was it Iceland this time and what defines your choice of studio each time?

One year ago, our manager and our sound engineer went to Iceland for a short tour. And they visited Sundlaugin Studio and sent me many photos from there. I just loved it very much, the environment, the vintage keyboards, the studio space. And also I really hope every time we will be able to record a new album in a new studio, making everything fresh.

– Is there a designer you collaborate with to make album covers? Is the concept of the cover is important for you?

As every album has a different concept, we would like to cooperate with the artist or designer which are suitable for the concept. Yes, I think the cover is also part of the album. So it is also important for me.

– Many of your tracks sound as if they are from a movie. Have you ever thought about writing soundtracks?

Yes, we did sometimes, not that often. It depends on the good feeling between each other.

– If you were suggested to make a movie for your music, what kind of movie would it be?

A sad cartoon movie, maybe, haha.

– I know it is a common question, but what is it like to be a rock band in China?

Old school, not cool, hard to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, out of fashion, alcoholic…

– I heard that all band’s members still have day jobs, which gives you a freedom to make a music that you like, but it costs time.

Yes, we also have to make a living by other jobs. While we all love making music and it is just part of our life. So it is not about time, it is about life and love.

– Now you are on a big tour in Europe and planning to play in China, have things changed a bit?

Yes, we toured Europe several times, it is getting better and better. We need to tour more to spread our music to more area in the world. We will try our best.

– What would you like to do in the next five years?

Recording 2 more new albums with Wang Wen and touring more countries and cities, making some other side projects with other musicians… Yeah, tons of things to do, I should not be lazy…

– In which country of those you have not been before you would like to perform? And why?

All new countries I would love to play, because fresh countries, fresh people, fresh local beer always make me excited.

– Have you ever thought of giving concerts in Russia?

Yeah, for sure! We played at a festival in Vladivostok many years ago. We love it very much! But you know, it is not that Russian style. I really hope to play in St. Petersburg and Moscow in the near future!

Thanks to Dariya Belokrylzeva for helping us with the questions.