cheynne murphy

Made in China Part 4

Microphone Man and the "Lecture"

Perhaps one of the most craziest experiences I had on the 2016 China tour was when I received this email. It was to deliver a "lecture" and this was the detail provided.

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I even received an obscure request to B-Box?

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So this was the level of detail provided. So we set off for the appointment. Down the University Boulevard. I started chatting to Ben about his fear of public speaking and joking that he will be getting up for the ‘lecture’ (which we thought would be in a small classes room) when I looked over and saw a bunch of these posters with the Horse Called Freedom band! Hell they had grabbed the image off the net and turned it into a poster. They were pretty damn big also. Starting to think this quick talk maybe a little more? 

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As we neared the lecture room there was a line of Chinese students either side standing to attention.

Lecture Chinese guard of Honour

We walked in to claps and a 500 seat theatre nearly full.

Lecture Audience

My name was in neon lights. Even more remarkably they had blown up about 50 balloons and written my name on one balloon in Chinese and in english each alternate balloon. I was pretty freaked out!

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We were whisked to the back. They had a whole show planned. Dancers, performers. Do you ever get the giggles? Because of the whole situation and knowing that Carl and Ben (after our earlier chat on public speaking) were in the audience. When I was asked to walk out on stage you can see in the footage I was cracking up. I didn't think I could get it together.  The whole situation was just so bizarre. I am even wearing my silver hotel slippers which were way to small and blistering my feet. I was interviewed and had to give more responses slowly as each line was translated. I thought it would be a short interview 10 mins maybe. I kept asking is it finished soon. I had the microphone thrust into my face to continue. An hour later I had finished! I was asked about Australia, our animals and music. I used an analogy of the famous Chongqing hotpot to describe the process of producing music like cooking. In another twist they invited students down to ‘interact’. No-one came down at first but then one and then about 10 others. One of the boys was visibly sweating and shaking. They had met very few westerners! They even asked me to compare Byron Bay girls with Chongqing girls for prettiness. I used all my skills of diplomacy to nebulously answer both are beautiful. Just different! Here is a movie mashup of the concert they put on in my honour and the bits and pieces mentioned above!

 

After a crazy few hours Jay and I got to perform on stage. They had no microphone stand so to improvise they elected an upstanding student to hold the microphone to my mouth and as I moved he followed.

 

Absolutely bizarre experience and to this day I don’t know why I was the only person out of the 100 international acts to talk and share. No idea why this happened. That night was capped off with an intimate performance in one of the university ‘live-houses’ as they call them. A two tiered box like room. It was crazy performing close and personal to these students. They seemed to love it. I am sure they were taken by the powerful drumming of Carl. The good looking Asian-Australian Jay on guitar and the cool grooves and pads of Ben and Paul. It was a day to remember. 

Getting ready to play in the "Box" i.e., Live House

Live House Jay Ready to Go

Jammin

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The obligatory selfie - Chinese love the selfie!

Crew shot -with band

Obligatory hotpot. Some cheap Chinese wine. Signing out!!

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Made in China: Part 3

Day three rubbing has me rubbing my eyes and deciphering last nights trip down the rabbit hole. This day marks the start of the tour official with a gig at the local basket ball stadium. After the obligatory morning lobby meeting, we take off with the hoots and honks of a cab run through Heshuan. The driver actually had to tie the boot down with Jay’s violin hovering precariously on top. We make it through the haze with no accidents or damage and head toward the main stage with a light grey mist and feelings of trepidation and excitement.  It becomes apparent very quickly that the sound guys don’t speak English. In fact we have not met a person (including our translators) who speak anywhere near fluent English. Paul has a hard time getting his laptop set up happening.  Ben and Jay are rather enthused by their big ‘amperage’. Big stacks for both of them. 

 

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Soundcheck

I was spun out by the three tiered stage and glad I brought a big lead. I had visions of leaping up the stages to jam with drummer Carl aka the Gunners. Or maybe not. The thought crosses my mind does the band actually remember the songs? I am also slightly concerned with my mini-maton acoustic being slightly out of tune. Ben on bass has a very good ear for pitch. In this case out of pitch. Seems the new environment is playing havoc with the little guitar (later a new set of strings seemed to resolve things at the next gig fortunately - but not after asking another band to borrow their guitar, only to find out, just before the start of this set that his battery was flat forcing me to limp through the set with my battling acoustic!) Ben you know what I am talking about!  I finally get to meet Robert who booked the band. He has a cool swagger. Leather jacket. Man of few words. He would later agree to sing /record Chinese to one of our songs. We hope he is happy with the show. Sound check done we return to watch a few of the bands early. They were actually pretty tight. Very eclectic sounds happening. Definite leaning toward rock. I even got handed a flag in admist a sea of smiling faces and instructed no the right technique.

The gig was awesome. First in ChongQing. Bright lights big sounds. We kind of rocked it in a loose way. So much fun! Ans so much more to come!

Ben’s selfie with the crowd shows our buzz. 

Ben’s selfie with the crowd shows our buzz. 

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Made In China: Part 2

PART 2 - Made in China - Origins of New Gold Mountain by Cheynne Murphy

Waking up in a country so different as China is strangely exciting. You know that feeling when you wake up and it takes a few seconds to remember that you are actually in another country, half way around the world. The thing about travel is it gives you such perspective. Insight into a bigger picture. The sign on the hotel floor acts as subliminal programming to keep the population 'happy' (or just a gold old fashion exercise in positive thinking! )

Sitting on the toilet and contemplating (as you do) not really sure which button to press to maximise my happiness:

Quick shower, mindful of my skateboard injury not being exposed to too much water (I was told there are issues with the health of the tap water). I had left home in such a hurry and didn’t get a chance to book my travel insurance in. That came back to haunt me many times on the trip. But that’s another story. Time to jump in a lift and sample the breakfast buffet. 

There was very little on this buffet I could recognise. I saw something that resembled chicken and rice and some noodles and a few veggies. I was actually thinking about how many mouths there are to feed in China and where all the meat comes from. It was everywhere but I had question marks on its farming and origins. What was the process? Where are these big animal manufacturing plants based? My suspicion was that blending of animals in some kind of mass factory meat processor may have been happening?  This clip opens with my good friend EJ and some of his band members from Areef.

We all meet in the lobby and we were presented with a range of possibilities of how to fill the day in. As excited as we were there was one objective for us as a band. Rehearse. Our new China friends didn’t know that as a collective we had not played a note of music. That in itself was intriguing to me. I love risk and music. Ben our bass player quite directly explained to the lovely Junia, “not sure if you understand but rehearsing is the number one priority”. The look in his eyes conveyed his seriousness and cemented his place as a serious musician on the team.

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I had been told by my smiling assasin, EJ that there were in fact rehearsal rooms over somewhere (he pointed toward a shopping centre and gives some kind of vague direction). As we took off with some student translators it became apparent they were not really clear about where this rehearsal room was. We ended up climbing the stairs into what seemed like a deserted building and were shown some rooms that had floor to ceiling mirrors, gym pads, table tennis tables but importantly no musical instruments. We were told that for each gig there was a ‘backline’ of music equipment provided for the band. So we restated nicely “we need things like drums, microphones, bass amps, guitar amps. This must not be the place because our friend (EJ) assured me there were rooms full of gear ready for bands”. There were a lot of puzzled looks and the students seemed somewhat distressed about the situation. It was interesting to note that despite being translators, most of the students only had very basic English. We didn’t know that. It became a process of deduction. I decided that I would go looking based on EJ’s earlier instructions. In China you always get confronted by scale. What appeared like a local shopping centre suddenly became Dr Who’s Tardis with escalators everywhere, levels upon levels of shops and I quickly realised I was looking for a needle in the haystack. Eventually after hours of running around a message got through about the mysterious rehearsal studio location.

We were led past some graffiti walls into a bunker. When the room was pushed open we were greeted with checkered walls and a whole range of gear complete with tags on it. It was that new! So we began setting up to play music. After some ‘lost in translation’ moments we had a set up happening and started jamming.

Music has this 'liberating' possibility or alternatively it can be 'excruiating' if it doesn’t gel. From the first few songs it became apparent that the gamble had paid off (albeit a work in progress) and there was some inherent music chemistry happening. Coming into the trip I was aware of each individual ingredient for the ‘band’ but still not sure how it would come together ( given we were playing a basket ball stadium show first up on the Wednesday  had some concerns). It was great reconnecting with old band mates, new musical brothers and after 3 hours we had the makings of a show coming together. We even had new Chinese friends continually standing by the door and taking in this very different brand of musical expression. Needless to say we established very clearly that another rehearsal tomorrow would be crucial again. Upon walking out we wandered into another room where we found out we would be playing on the second night. It was the live house. We were greeted by the sound engineer who promptly offered us cigarettes in a polite but serious fashion. Felt like the 1970's in Australia. He was mixing the sound for this local band. Apparently the singer sings in a rural southern style. Fascinating but unique with some very interesting melodies and this strange Chinese trumpet???  Check it

Later that evening, we bonded over some beers and a sumptuous traditional Chongqing hotpot.

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Everyone opted for an earlier night on day 1.....except Ben and I. We were ready to sample some Heshuan nightlife. We wandered up just three doors from the hotel and went into the first bar. The Chinese don’t seem to really drink that much (especially according to Australian standards!) so there are not a lot of choices. As soon as we walked in we were greeted with stares of amazement. There were no westerners in this bar. In fact there were almost no westerners at all in Heshuan (we saw less than 3 in total through all our travels there). Upon finishing our first beer, we were surrounded by a whole crew of local drinkers. Whilst we had no english communication whatsoever it was clear that having a good time was on everyone’s mind and we laughed away together not quite sure what anyone was saying. In fact I found everything so bizarre I just kept giggling. Almost hysterically. After we put down our first beer, there was a table of drinks and it seemed like all the night club patrons had moved around our table. There were a few well dressed younger Chinese men and we had thoughts they were part of some Chinese mafia. They started getting quite serious around having our attention:

They were harmless enough but they were really focused on getting some social leverage out of Ben and I. Suddenly one grabbed my arm and took me up to the Karaoke stage where an androgynous local singer was performing and requested I dance. "When in China"…so I danced in a sea of neon lights, chinese phonetics and a growing beer buzz. This became known as the bunny dance because at one point I pick up a big bunny side of stage and cuddled it. Why was the bunny sitting there?

At one point, one of the ‘bosses’ as Ben and I had called them even held onto me for some kind of Chinese waltz. Or was he gay? We had no idea what was happening. I kept giggling. Ben tried to leave and he kept getting stopped and ushered back to the table. We were drinking beer from thimble size glasses. Overtime our glass was empty, our friends would ensure a quick refill. At one stage they even placed two cases of beer next to me.

I went to sleep in a haze of Chinese faces, a cacophony of foreign sounds, some karaoke and dreams of pink bunnies. Like Alice and wonderland we had fallen into the rabbit hole. 

Made in China: Part 1

Made in China Part 1 - tales of the origins of New Gold Mountain by Cheynne Murphy

Confucious say: "when one journey ends another begins". Not sure if he did...but someone said something like that sometime. I had only just finished stamping the new Celtic Heart album when I received a Facebook message from Ej the engineer and co-producer of Firesonsgs for the soul EP about a trip to China: 

“Morning, will you by any chance be interested to perform at a music festival in Chongqing, China? Me and my project band will be going there for the second year. It's nothing fancy but from my experience it was fun.  The catch is that there could not be any payment for the shows because it is part of a university's welcoming festival. You are however will be fully taken care of (flights, other transports, food, hotel, translators, small trip). And you are free to bring along band members and crews whom they will cover for as well. Festival is between 24-30th October. Let me know if you are interested mate “ 

So I went through a process questioning if it was real or not. But EJ is a man to be trusted, so I took it on face value and accepted. Who couldn't trust this face?

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I had been playing with a harmony based trio that included Mark Heazlett (co-producer of Celtic Heart) and Mat Akehurst (drummer on A Horse called Freedom). Initially they said yes. however for different reasons eventually both guys opted out. I knew I had to get to China. Even thought about going solo with the 12 string. I love playing with other musicians, and if the intention was right I believed I would get a good crew for the project. Time was running out. There was hesitation from various people I ‘felt’ out.  I then invited my old originals band from Sydney - Spinifex. We used to play around Sydney in the 90's.

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We were only a small indie band but I had this kind of "Spinal tap" moment where I thought it would be good to invite the whole band to do a reunion tour in China and film it. The bass player declined but Jay Kong (violin and guitar) and Carl Hemmings(drums) said yes. A week later Carl also pulled out on personal reasons. He also has anxiety around flying. I then asked Dave Atkins (sometime drummer from Wolf Mother, and key figure of the Resin Dogs) who was giving a lecture at SAE where I teach. He said in a text: F%^$# yeah and told me he knew of this dope bass player Ben who may be up for it if we needed a bass player.  Based on one phone call I booked him in.  It seemed trust was going to be a key component for this adventure. 

I did one quick rehearsal with Dave and we had a plan to use some loops with organic drums, however again something came up for Dave and he pulled out. When Dave pulled out I called Carl again and this time he seemed ready and took the plunge. He only got his visa approved the Friday before leaving. We left Sunday. Paul Pilsneniks who co-produced the Horse album was in from the get go, originally for audio crew support but then included to play keys, backing vocals, and percussion. It was to be his first ever band gig. I also had the hidden agenda he would record the band at a later date. Here Paul introduces himself:

 

I also went through a process of what 'set' to tour and decided that the Horse Called Freedom was the best vibe for the trip and based on Carl’s ‘John Bonhamesque’ (Led Zeppelin) take on drums I focused more on the rock element (featuring the tracks A Horse Called Freedom, Back At the Start, Burnished Gold, Good Feelings). I did some research and found out that Hotel California was a big deal in China and also Blowers Daughter (Damien Rice) was quite popular. I learned ‘Hotel’ as one of the first songs ever on guitar and I loved Blowers daughter so they got included. Because Jay and Carl were coming I wanted them to connect to the set, so I included one of the first songs he, Carl and myself wrote called On My Mind. It was a long song and never really got completed until this tour (See Track 4 of Made in China EP). Also Snake was in the set which features Jays violin prowess. (you can here this on Track 1 called On the Edge of letting Go on the Made in China EP which was formerly known as Snake in the old band)..

Right until we left, I was dealing with one line emails from my contact in China ‘Robert’. The biggest email of the itinerary which includes a 'lecture' I was to do is below. The details of said 'lecture' are outlined in Part 3 but lets just say it was more than a "lecture' - it was in a huge auditorium seating 500 Chinese students complete with coloured balloons written in my name. This became the theme for the trip. What you expect may not arrive but won't you don't expect will arrive in spades. Email example here:

I was also getting random emails from other Chinese people, ‘Mark’ who said he works for Mr Lin. They spoke of this lecture I would do. But no real details whatsoever. For example suddenly the concept of B-boxing just appeared in an email:

The final hurdle happened for me just 3 days before flying out. I face planted on a new skateboard I had just bought and I was in Tweed hospital emergency getting treated. Given the water issues in China, I am thankful no infection happened but it remains a blemish on all photos and footage from the trip :-)

Remarkably we all got our visa’s, and there we were at Ghuong Zhou airport in the humidity and throng, meeting as a group for the first time. Bonding began whilst waiting in the queue at immigration and on the plane to Chongqing (Deepening through music, good times, laughter and a few hotpots).

 

When we landed the big question was : would my contact Junia be at the airport to get us to Heshuan (1 hour out from Chongqing airport). We had genuine trepidation based on the communications trail.

Our thoughts were answered as we came around the gate to collect luggage. A smile that would guide and support us throughout the whole of the Chongqing trip. Junia was here. Here's a pic with Junia, Carl and me.

Bags loaded, dark night, on the road. No idea where we were really, nor where we were going. Finally end up at the hotel which was pretty amazing to retreat to. Huge separate rooms (that would end up being a saving grace for us to have our own ‘retreats’). Drinks overlooking the streets of Heshuan and marvelling at the artistic nature of the printed language - Hanzi. We had arrived. (Stay tuned for Part 2 ).