Richard Deorian is all kinds of awesome, plain and simple – the man is basically the guru of the DIY scene here in Beijing, making music like a kid who just discovered the pleasures of masturbation – a joyous spewing of id all over the place. From his lo-fi trash blues project Low Bow, who left me stomping my feet, to the improv drone-gasmic electronic project Cloud Choir (along with jingweir zine creator Michael Cupoli), who left me uneasy and a bit paranoid, to countless other weird, wild, and pulse-jumping bands, projects, acts, whatever the hell you wanna call it, Richard Deorian is all action – shoot first, ask questions later. Well, looks like he might have finally took a break, cause I got the chance to ask said questions – here’s a look at what makes Mr. Dorian run run run.
What have you been up to these past months?
For most of the time I’ve been working with a variety of schools and radio stations as a former child star and envoy of Irish Chinese culture. Seriously, this has gotten me through almost 15 years of being in China. I only just got back from a series of teacher training conferences in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Qing Dao (where the beer comes from). Actually I have been recording a lot at home and going to the rehearsal studio at Andingmen with bald Michael where we have been going over some new LOW BOW tunes and trying to awesomeize them.
You make making music look easy – but really, how easy is it to make music?
Without sounding like a total dick, it’s so easy I can even do it and I know about 4 chords on the guitar. I think more important that music theory, feeling is all. If you listen to early Jay Hawkins recordings or Bo Diddly and you listen to raw emotion that is there; I don’t think these guys were thinking if their instruments were in tune. For me, no matter what the genre of music but especially if it’s a live show, if I can see the performer is putting their soul out there I mean really balls to the wall it never fails to motivate me. I think the test of any good show is after it’s all over you turn to your best mate and say, ‘we got to get our shit together’.
What exactly drives you to be so busy? Has Beijing been a receptive city in terms of fueling your need to make music?
I think back to SARS in 2002(?) and remember having fucking nothing to do for about 3 months. No work either mind you and that feeling of ‘fuck this’, it’s been the main motivating factor for not only making music but just moving on. I love dropping songs even whole albums if I don’t think it’s working. I think it can be just too easy to be precious about certain recordings and say, ‘just one more try’. Trust yourself, you will always get another go otherwise you’re going to drive yourself fucking nuts trying to get that perfect take. It ain’t going to happen. Unless you’re trying to re-record Queen, Day at the Races, you need to move on. Beijing is the city we love to hate. Basically it’s death but it’s also a great place to try new ideas. I defy anyone to say that life here is boring. So many places to do shows, make cdrs and meet interesting people and complete cunts. Perfect for making rock ‘n roll.
Your first self-produced releases were in 2010 – in over two years how do you think your approach to making music has changed? What experiences have you carried with you while recording your latest, Dig! The Guilt?
Well, having no formal training in music production I think most of the progress has been down to trial and error and then some more error. Have you ever deleted an entire album’s worth of material? I have. It’s always been my goal to keep the music as simple as possible hence the absence of a bass player. I think the main lesson has been, ‘serve the song’ that is keep in mind what you’re trying to say and stay on point. Also if something isn’t working don’t be afraid to dump it. There is always a simple reason you’re not ‘feeling it’: it’s fucking shite. Sorry but it’s true.
I’ve witnessed you playing drums and guitar at the same time all the while yelping into the mic – do you ever fear you’ll turn into one of those acts who wonder around town on St. Patrick’s Day with cymbals strapped between their knees, a harmonica in their lips and a banjo over their shoulder?
I wish I had the talent. I would rather be on Boyzone or Westlife and sell meth to high schoolers in Hai Dian district while singing ‘Danny Boy’. I think that little bald Michael (aka Noise Arcade) has added a lot to the sound of LOW BOW and the only solo stuff for me is sans drums and banjo
What were your experiences in playing in larger bands – is there any reason you like to keep things small, playing solo or as in Cloud Choir, a duo?
I only really played in bands with no more than 3 people. Just keep it basic and simple. Fuck, the last thing you want is a bass player with ‘a killer riff’ or worse a drummer with ‘a fresh idea’. Fuck that. If you can’t play any song on a guitar whilst drunk and in pissed stained trousers chances are it ‘aint going to be ‘a day in the life’. Bring it all back to the emotion of the live show and the contact that you hope to make with the five people right in front of you; just be honest to yourself, play the best you can and go easy on yourself. If you feel you had a great time chances are some other people felt the same way. Dig it!
How did Cloud Choir come about – finding someone else with the same appreciation of drone-filled noise has got to be pretty hard I would think?
I met small, bald Michael through Asian friend finder and he was a scorpio which as a Leo I knew I couldn’t turn away. Actually it was a lot more boring. We knew each other through a few other bands and friends and sparked up a friendship based on overprices synths and pan sonic. Also, we wanted to be in a band that counted each rehearsal as a recording session and each show as a release night. People fucking hate us which only fans the flames of our friendship. (PRINT THAT!) For me at least Cloud Choir is all about the moment and the feeling in the room where the show / rehearsal / recording session is taking place. It’s all about taking a chance and jumping off that cliff. If might be great, it could possibly be awesome but there’s always the underlying fear it’s going tits up. Grin as you stand on the gas and laugh in the face of those who say ‘you guys need a drummer’.
When you two are composing music what exactly is going through your head? Cause in my mind it’s like a horror movie soundtrack playing out before me – I can only imagine the carnival running in your guys’ heads.
Again as it’s 100% improvised and each rehearsal is more like a recording session (of which we have released about 4 cdr’s) it’s all about listening to what’s going on around me and the feel of the room. I love the idea of silence and breaks as the most powerful weapon in any musicians armory. Making a decision to hold back and wait is something that I think can be the difference between a great show and a pile of turd. I don’t make any apologies for bad shows. We are very grateful for all the bands and kind souls who have made it to our shows but Cloud choir is based around the idea of an individual experience; trying not to repeat and take chances during a show is where it’s at. I don’t think this is a format that could possibly work in any other musical context except for jazz which we can’t do ‘cos we fucking brain dead.
What have been some interesting audience reactions’ you’ve seen since your time here in Beijing, cause let’s be honest, this ain’t for everyone?
I guess walk outs counts as an ‘interesting reaction’ also people coming up to us saying that was awesome. It’s difficult to judge. Generally speaking when people say they enjoyed it I tend to take that with a pinch of salt. For me though, Cloud Choir is a great learning experience and a chance to really get out there and try something new. Surely the world ‘get’s guitar, bass and drums’ we make music that can’t be hummed in the shower. We hope
Anything else in the near future for you? How are you planning to spend your winter days?
Hoping to do more shows outside of Beijing. Shanghai, Guangzhou and HK are all on the list. Pairs as one of the more interesting and do it yourself bands out there have been and continue to be, a massive influence. Just get out there do it and develop a brass neck. Always wanted to do a show with Snapline? Send them an email, chances are they will be up for it. Why not?
Thanks a bunch Richard! Be sure to check out Low Bow this Wednesday, November 14th at XP and keep your eyes peeled on our calendar for when Cloud Choir, Low Bow, or any other of Richard’s projects play. And of course head to Low Bow’s douban page to stream his latest Dig! The Guilt as well as Cloud Choir’s bandcamp, who I hear will be releasing their latest soon enough. Cheers!