Interview: Indie Music owner Guo Cheng

We talk to Guo ahead of his all-star, two-year anniversary show
Interview: Indie Music owner Guo Cheng
 
published on 28 Feb 2013

When it comes to Beijing record stores, there are few better than Indie Music, a cozy haven for record collectors and music lovers that carries underground standbys and up-and-coming artists from both China and abroad.

This weekend, the store-turned-label will celebrate their two-year anniversary with shows on Friday and Saturday featuring some of Beijing’s most respected bands. Friday night boasts folk headliners Buyi and Xiao He, while Saturday goes rock with indie-pop sensation Escape Plan, Life Journey, Elenore and more.

We caught up with Indie Music owner Guo Cheng to find out more about the show, how he first got into rock and why he would totally win in a fistfight against Rockland owner Xiao Zhan.

How did you first get into rock music?
I can’t really remember when I started listening to indie music, but I remember really clearly the first time I heard rock music. When I was in elementary school a bought a pirated rock compilation because around my hometown you actually couldn't buy real records.

This was one of the reasons that I insisted on opening a record store. I think at that time there was actually a big gap between rock and indie music. Probably the first real indie band was the Velvet Underground. When I first listened to them I totally couldn't understand their lyrics, so I just started translating it sentence by sentence.... I was probably a bit too obsessed with it.

What was your first favourite Chinese rock band and why?
It was probably Rebuilding the Rights of Statues because I was personally really into post-punk like Joy Division, the Cure, the Pixies…

You worked at Modern Sky before starting up your own record store. What did you learn working there?
I learned a lot working at Modern Sky. First of all it was really helpful in developing my sense of aesthetics, and it also helped me better understand the bands I like. Actually, while I was at Modern Sky I met a lot of good friends of bands and all kinds of colleagues, some of whom were exotic flowers, and others of whom were cattle, haha. I really have to thank all of them for their help in me starting this record store!

In the beginning, music was really my biggest interest, so I really wanted to work at a record company. So before I went to work at Modern Sky I worked at a another label for two years. But in the end, because the company had been losing money for awhile, I couldn't keep on doing it, and I moved on to Modern Sky.

What made you want to branch out from just being a record store to starting our own label?
The record store is only a part of the whole. Aren’t there a lot of foreign bands who started out from record stores? So since I already had a record store, I decided to build my own label to help bands produce and release their records. Some bands we like we also end up signing.

If you could talk with yourself two years ago, what successes or changes do you think would most surprise you?
Actually at present there isn’t anything I've done right now that really surprises me - I don't really have that much success that I can talk about because in my mind I'm still only getting started. If I end up being surprised, it will probably be in five years from now, but whatever happens it will all have been a part of my plans.

What with all the free music on the internet, why do you think people still come and buy CD’s and records? What does your store offer them that they can’t get online?
I think real record collectors will always continue going to stores and buying records - there are a lot of advantages to real records. We do our best to help customers find the records they want because we often help them order all new records from abroad. Basically they're all records that you can't find here in China.

I know you are friends, but if you and Xiao Zhan from Rockland [a record store in Houhai] got into a fistfight, who do you think would win?
I would definitely win! See I've got a lot of girls who are fond of me, so if he ever tried to hurt me one of them would definitely take him down. …Nah, I’m just kidding. We’re friends, why would we fight! But we do often bust each other’s balls.

Indie Music Two-Year Anniversary is Friday 1 and Saturday 2. See event details.
Liz Tung

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