Interview with Chinese Man!

Interview with Chinese Man!

World music | Global Beats interviewed the French tip-hop band, a Chinese man who knows his skills in using unique and catchy tracks.

Chinese Man is a French trip-hop-influenced rap collective that emerged in the mid-2000s with its own record label and a series of EP releases. Comprised of High Ku, Sly, and Matteo, the Marseille-based group sometimes counts among its membership affiliates such as producer Leo Le Bug, Le Yan, Taiwan MC, and MC Youthstar.

With a sound reminiscent of early dub-heavy Gorillaz, Morcheeba, and DJ Shadow, Chinese Man combined genres with a heavy focus on beats and samples. Formed in 2004, they made their recording debut in 2005 with The Pandi Groove EP on their own Chinese Man label. A pair of EPs followed in 2006 (The Bunni Groove EP) and 2007 (The Indi Groove EP), before the release of The Chinese Man Groove Sessions (2007), a full-length album compiling the group's recording output to date. The follow-up album, The Chinese Man Groove Sessions, Vol. 2 (2009), was released a few years later and was promoted with a tour of France (a third Chinese Man Groove Sessions installment would be issued in 2014). In 2011, they issued Racing with the Sun and a remix album, Remix with the Sun, the next year. A pair of albums -- Sho-Bro and The Journey -- arrived in 2015. While Sho-Bro was only a short five-songs long (and a couple remixes), The Journey was a split collaboration with Tumi that featured appearances by familiar crew members like Taiwan MC, Tomapam, and Scratch Bandits Crew.

Their tenth full-length Shikantaza was released in early 2017.

Chinese Man has been touring through Europe with the record label – what has been the high point of the tour so far?

«Actually, we just started our European tour, so the high point is still to come! Our last gig in 2017 in Paris at Le Zenith was pretty special. It was a unique show with special guests like MariamaTaiwan MCIllaman and a string quartet, plus three circus artists. It was a version of the show that we probably won’t play again!»

You’ve certainly wowed fans in the past with exciting lighting and live percussion & brass – what can they expect on this tour?

«Our new show is quite different from the previous one. We don’t have musicians on stage anymore, but three incredible MCs: YouthstarGreen T and FP (from the band A State of Mind). We’ve developed the videos and light show a lot to make our show really immersive for the audience, and we play a lot of new tracks from our last album Shikantaza without forgetting the older tracks that the fans love. We hope you’ll like it!»

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world alive or dead, who would it be?

«Nina Simone».

Chinese Man are known for their clever use of samples. Where do you find most of your samples?

«All the samples we use come from vinyl. So we spend a lot of time looking for old and obscure records in flea markets, record stores, antiquary, friends or family collections».

We love your latest video ‘Wolf’. It’s quite a departure from the aesthetics of your previous videos – can you talk us through creating the concept?

«For this music video, we wanted to try something different. Mateo (from Chinese Man) had this idea of a guy running in the forest as a metaphor to illustrate several ideas – the questions of loneliness, finding a place in society, the link between man and nature, etc., but the video is also open to other interpretations.»

You are known for your distinctive album artwork, videos as well as live projections. Do you always work with the same artists?

«We’ve worked with Fred & Annabelle for our videos and with Julien Loïs for all of the illustrations and artworks since the beginning of our career. They’re almost like a part of the band».

You’re often defined as a trip-hop band. Would you agree with that definition?

«It’s a very vague music style so we’re okay with that definition!»

What do you think about the music scene in France right now?

«The scene (at least in our kind of music) is really interesting in France right now. There are a lot of very exciting independent artists and labels, and we’re close to some of them, like Tha TrickazLa Fine ÉquipeSmokey Joe & The Kid, and many more».

We’re really excited to see what the Chinese Man Records label has to offer on the 27th. Why did you decide to start your own label so early on?

«It really was our first idea to start a label. We had musicians, designers, and video makers around us and we wanted to create a collective to promote their work. Our main influences were labels like Ninja Tune or Warp, but we still have a bit of work to get to the level of those labels.»

Shikantaza is a remarkable album. It’s also your tenth full-length release, which is an impressive accomplishment, to say the least. How do you achieve such a high output of quality releases?

«Thank you! Our creative process is very instinctive, so it’s very hard to answer your question. We don’t have any ‘recipe’. We just try to make music that we’d like to listen to».

Finally, your name is certainly unique – what’s the story behind that?

«We want to keep that a secret, sorry ;)»

Author: April Coffey

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