Leading up to the Zebra Music Festival, we'll be featuring some of the players in Chengdu's music scene. In this post we talk with Xiaodi, who currently plays bass with Soundtoy (声音玩具) and formerly with Ashura (阿修罗).
An earlier version of this was originally published in CHENGDOO citylife, issue 6 ("Consumerism").
Photo by Greenwall.
Xiaodi is 26. He came to Chengdu from Shijiazhuang, Hebei, four years ago. He plays bass and is fond of saying "music is my life" and "fuck!" Late one night he told this story.
Translated from Chinese
When I was small, if you had a tape player, especially if it was Japanese, a really good machine — that was really excellent. My father gave me one from Tianjin — he had gone there for a few days on business. It was very small and thin. It had been smuggled. The smuggled ones, were of course, much cheaper. The brand started with A ... something, I forgot.
I had this tape player, but I didn't have any tapes to play. So I started looking for tapes so I could use the recorder. Then I found a tapes shop. There really weren't many. At that time, near my home there were only two.
I went inside to buy some tapes. They sold Chinese music, but I wanted to buy foreign music. The boss looked around, just like he were selling drugs, before he took out the foreign-music tapes. He told me they were from America. There would be a boat from America to carry the tapes that were taken from the trash there. The boss would go to Tianjin because it was a port city and bring them back to his shop in Hebei.
One tape cost about 40 yuan. At that time 40 yuan was really a lot — today even 100 yuan wouldn't be as much as 40 yuan was back then. But I didn't have to buy clothing because I was a kid and other people did that for me, so I could spend money that my mom gave me on tapes.
It was foreign music, so I didn't know which tapes to buy. To decide I would look at the pictures. My first one was Iron Maiden! I liked the skeleton! At the time I thought it was really cool. I thought it was really trendy even though in other countries it was already played out. I let my friends listen to it, and they all thought it was crap.
Pondering the lights at the Hemp House.
The tapes were damaged. That's why they were put in the trash in America. Each one had a hole in it — otherwise it wouldn't have been in the trash. In order to listen to the tape you would have to repair the hole yourself. If the hole was near the ribbon, that would be a problem. But sometimes the hole would be in the corner, or even at the top and didn't go through the casing. If that were the case, it would be really expensive!
If the police had caught the shop owner they would have arrested him and fined him heavily, confiscated all his music, and for sure he wouldn't be able to sell again. But that was when I was small. Nowadays if you want to buy that kind of music it's very easy.
Of course it wasn't just me. Anybody at this time who wanted to listen to music would have experienced this. You should ask somebody ten years older than me. They really have stories to tell.
Catch Xiaodi with Soundtoy on the ZMF main stage Friday, May 1 at 6:30 p.m.