Formed in 2006 in the dirty industrial megalopolis of Wuhan, AV Okubo has captured the eyes and ears of China as the members express through music their reactions to the conflicts of a changing society. Frontman Lu Yan (vocals/keyboard) is an aspiring film director while Tan Chao (guitar) works a day job as a train engineer in a major steel factory. Filling out the band are Zuo Yi (bass) and Hu Juan (percussion), both highly active in the Wuhan music community, the traditional home of Chinas hardest and wildest punk scene. [Source: Maybe Mars website]
We met the AV Okubo frontman, Lu Di on a brisk, wet afternoon outside Wuhan's second-hand clothing market. Draped in the bounty of previous vintage clothing expeditions, Lu lead us through a maze of increasingly narrow laneways, flanked with walk-in wardrobes of other peoples' clothes, going cheap. Dig deep enough and you could find almost anything, from old suits, to (not-so-old) lingerie. As we walked, we chatted about the (predictable) absurdity of the scene deleted from the 3D cinema release of China's favourite western film, Titanic. We agreed the absurdity was that the film warranted a re-release at all.
Later that afternoon, Lu drove us out past the city limits to meet Mai Dian, a close friend who looks after a unique, artistic compound (which began as a squat), known as "The Youth Autonomous Center". We recorded a short but interesting conversation with Mai Dian, which for now, will remain in our growing archive of material, documenting the work of young, independent artists around Asia. The building occupied by the Youth Autonomous Center is owned by an old teacher in Wuhan and continues (in part) thanks to the protection of the teacher's son, who worked for the Government's Foreign Affairs department. "He's really interested in what we're doing...I think because he's travelled a lot and he's an open-minded person," explains Mai Dian.
Mai Dian also described his frustration at the commodification of rock music in China. "For me," he says, "rock and roll is a way to liberate or emancipate yourself from the controls imposed by society, family and the state (of capitalism)". While AV Okubo have enjoyed the benefits of capitalist interest at various points in their career, the philosophy and temperament of the band and their music remains true to their roots: the best post-punk act in the country, still based in China's original "punk city", Wuhan. They performed a special version of their track, "Everlasting Regret" for us, in the Youth Autonomous Center. Thanks to Mai Dian and the residents of the Youth Autonomous Center for welcoming us in their space. AV Okubo recently finished a tour of China with Gang of Four guitarist, Andy Gill. As indie music watchers in China will already know, Gill produced AV Okubo's imminent full-length release, Dynasty.
Andy & Charles