BEIJING - SKINHEADS MADE IN CHINA
Having previously hung out with Malaysian skins and Mexican skins, we went to meet some Mandarin skins in the form of Misandao, that Oi! band who recently appeared on the VBS Beijing Underground special. I met them at their tiny practice space in the old hutong bit of the city. They were dressed in full regalia - from the Fred Perry polo shirts and Doc Martin boots to the braces and bulldog tattoos - and were even drinking cans of imported British beers for added authenticity/novelty value. After watching them jam for a while, I talked to lead singer Leijun...
Vice: What's it like being the only skinhead band Beijing?
Leijun: We started a band because no one else in China was playing the music we wanted to hear. It's still the same. If I lived in London I probably wouldn't play in a band, I'd just go to gigs.
In London there are some racist skinheads.
Fuck Nazi scum.
What about Commie scum? Your song "Soul Of Chinese Cops" is pretty angry. What are you so angry about?
You can see my lyrics. There is the answer.
Do you worry that being so outspoken will get you into trouble with the police?
We don't have trouble saying what we want because Chinese policemen don't understand English. Our first T-shirt said: "Great country. Shit government." We love China, but we don't like the government.
What do you say to people who say that you're just a jokey band - just rehashing old Oi! music and playing dress up?
Copying is normal, but in punk you need to sing lyrics that relate to you and the truth about where you're from and your life, not some lyrics that don't mean anything. Some people say we need to sing Chinese lyrics, but the word skinhead and punk is the same in other languages and cultures. In French the word for punk is the same as in English. People recognise punk, skinhead or Oi in any language.
Do ordinary Beijingers bother you because of the way you look?
It's very different to Europe. Over there people don't really care about seeing punks or skinheads, but here some bars don't like us and won't let us in. They might have had some trouble with fights breaking out in the past, so now they're scared of skinheads wrecking their bar. Now they just call the police if they see any trouble from skinheads. People in China are not used to that kind of attitude.
What do you think about the recent surge in punk and emo bands, some of which were featured in that documentary Beijing Bubble?
Punk began in Beijing around 1999. We are the only real punk band left. All the others sold out to get signed and changed their attitude to do that. We will never do that. We eat the emo kids for breakfast. I don't like the attitude. You don't need to cry on stage. You should play powerful music, not be crying over a broken heart.
Beijing seems to have undergone a massive boom over the past few years. How do you feel about it?
My foreign friends come here and are surprised. They say Beijing is built up like New York. I don't like it. The foreigners coming to Beijing want to see the oriental old city, but now there are big buildings without that culture. What do you want to show in your architecture? To show that you're rich? I like natural things.
What do you do when you're not making Oi! music?
I write screenplays for directors. It's pretty shit. I'm ashamed of it really. I just write a stupid story and get some money.
*Watch Misandao on the VBS Beijing Underground special