Interview: Q&A With Chinese Man – Skanking in the Air (January 2018)

The day before Chinese Man Records Party at Electric Brixton, we caught up with Guy from Chinese Man to hear what we can expect from the live show. Plus, got some insights into their influences, and the story behind their latest video – ‘Wolf’.

The trip-hop collective based in France are known for their skills in finding and using unique and catchy samples to create tracks that are influenced by hip-hop, jazz, reggae, and dub. The night will see them perform tracks from latest release Shikantaza, and will feature appearances by MCs from the album such as Youthstar and A.S.M., as well as electro-Cumbia duo Baja Frequencia, and experimental electronic artist Mophono.

Limited tickets for this show are still available, so get yours now if you’d like to catch this one-off showcase from the Chinese Man Records label.

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 Mariama, Taiwan MC, Illaman 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: Youthstar, Green 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!”

You’ve had quite a selection of top-class MCs on your albums and tours – are there any more exciting collaborations in the pipeline?

“We’re really focused on the live show, actually, so we don’t have any recording projects at the moment”.

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 Trickaz, La Fine Équipe, Smokey 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 ;)”