Interview conducted by Michael Cupoli
Lao Du is an amazing drummer who has been kicking around in a number of bands for years now. These bands include the lineage of Taan Towch, Horse Radio, and now the newly formed december3am. We discussed the end of Horse Radio, who oddly had their last show organized by Live Beijing Music, and their evolution of becoming december3am. Catch their first show on May 12th at DDC.
What is your background in music?
As a boy I was sent to an evil reptile flute teacher every Wednesday morning, and later to an old choleric czeckoslowakian to learn the trumpet. It wasn\’t about music, it was all about what they called education. My musical initiation was the discovery of that mighty Boom Tchak, the glorious 咚呲哒呲. Playing the drums seemed like a very reasonable choice. I was thirteen when I formed a band with two friends, doing mostly german punk covers of bands like Slime, Toxoplasma and Die Toten Hosen. A year later, in 88, I went to a Slayer show and that felt like a car crash, I left a different person. Not that I was into metal music much, I preferred punk and hardcore. The next ten years I was busy in various bands, playing all over Europe in squats and clubs. In the late 90s, I managed to get in and out of a degree course at a renowned Swiss Jazz school. Year 2000 I moved to Taipei and played in some bands there as well, including 瓢虫 the Ladybugs. I came to Beijing 2003 and didn\’t touch a drumstick for seven years. In 2010, after moving to Tokyo, I picked it up again, playing in a dadaist punk duo with a Japanese singer/guitarist who is now a buddhist monk.
How long were you in Horse Radio for? What is the history of the band?
I joined them in August 2013 I think. They were called Taan Towch at the time and already at it a year or two.
Horse Radio was listed by Live Beijing Music as one of the best bands for 2014. How did this honor change your life?
Instant stardom. Live Beijing Music was always very kind and supportive.
Since I have a strong feeling you aren\’t of Mongolian descent was there any sort of initiation ritual or hazing that was involved with joining Horse Radio?
I think there was no time for rituals. They had this big festival show coming up, so they were more concerned about me learning all the songs within a couple of days. And no, no hazing, they respect the elderly.
Horse Radio had four members in it and now it has regrouped as two piece called december3am. How did the change come about?
I quit the band. Actually we were a five piece originally. I don\’t know, I just couldn\’t see a future. Investing so much and being broke all the time. So it was obvious that the next logical step would have been to go on TV, join 中国好歌曲 or whatever, or sign with some label. It\’s all good, I can understand that, just for me personally that wasn\’t an option. Also people wanted to sing along to the hits and expected songs that transported certain grassland romantics, Mongolian cliches. The pure and happy song and dance of the ethnic minorities broadcast on Chinese television everyday, while in fact the grassland is all coal mines, power plants and fences, and we try to make our way across a street in Beijing, through heavy traffic and smog.
Musically too, there were limits. We started to do these long improv pieces, and not everyone of us was comfortable with the direction some songs took. At the end of last year we decided to record some of the new material. It was a kind of desperate attempt to keep the band together, but the results were a disaster. We haven\’t released any of it. I\’m very glad and thankful to have been a part of the band, and break ups suck. But than again, bands form and bands split, it\’s Rock\’n\’Roll. The last show Horse Radio played was on December 26. 2015 at Temple in Beijing, it was organised by Live Beijing Music.
Why is the band called december3am? Does this time have some special meaning to the two of you?
Diciembre 3 a.m. is an album I like of a Spanish band called Migala. We stole the name. It\’s kind of inclusive, not a specific date. I guess most good people are asleep at that time. Some still drinking for sure, some freezing, or maybe you just woke from dream. december3am could happen to anyone.
Last November for the Beijing Underground Showcase No. 2, the two of you performed as the Two Horses Duo. It was quite a different sound from Horse Radio even though you played some of the same songs. The sound more post-rock with a jazz feel to it. Is this similar to what we can expect from december3am?
Yeah. I don\’t know about post-rock and jazz. I never made it post the rock and the roll. I called it postpostpre-rock which is complete nonsense too of course. Horse Radio hasn\’t regrouped, december3am is a whole different animal. Even if we would do some old songs, the whole vibe is changed, it\’s another chemical bond, less stable. We\’re currently meeting daily, trying to figure things out.
I seem to run into you at Cellar Door quite often. What is your favorite drink there?
Until not long ago I used to be a professional session drinker, cheap Lager and Jameson, and I drank like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately that doesn\’t work any more. Now I walk my demons on a leash