interview | ESCAPE PLAN
Beijing rock band Escape Plan has started touring once again, bringing with them an album spanning 3 years work, titled “Earth.” They performed at the Shanghai Mao Livehouse on April 6, where we had the honor of sitting them down for an interview.
For more from Escape Plan on NeochaEDGE, link here. /// Castor
“Reality depends on whether or not the subject is or isn’t willing to believe.” ///
Where were you before you came to Shanghai?
Mao Chuan: Suzhou. At a small theater.
Did anything unexpected or interesting happen there?
Mao Chuan: The theater usually only has performances of traditional Chinese opera. This was the first time that it hosted a rock show, so we were like “is it okay for us to play here?” The old man that manages the theater usually does the lighting for Chinese opera and finishes around 6 or 7. Last night, he had to stay up and do the lighting for us the whole night! The lights inside the theater were super bright at first, so when we first started playing everybody was feeling a little bit awkward. But when we sang “The Brightest Star in the Sky,” everyone started singing along, and that’s when everyone started getting hyped. Afterwards, things just kept getting better and better, becoming like a real punk concert.
Why did you change your name from “Perdel” to “Escape Plan”?
Xiao Dong: Right now, we have a producer from England, and we’re considering expanding to foreign markets. Our producer said we should use use the name Escape Plan, because no one really understood our previous name.
Mao Chuan: Perdel doesn’t have any meaning, it’s just the combination of perfect + delete. After that, we looked up the meaning and it had something to do with the medical terminology for a woman’s uterus. Foreigners wouldn’t realize the meaning, though.
Hong Tao is the newest member of Escape Plan. How did it feel to join a new band?
Hong Tao: The biggest challenge was probably that our lifestyles weren’t the same. I used to be kind of a recluse, since I didn’t have a lot of performances. I would just stay at home all the time. But now, since we have so many performances, I have to go outside… I’m still a recluse, but it’s a little better now.
How many times has your band been on tour previously? How was it different this time?
Mao Chuan: Three times previously. This time around, we had finally released our new album. This was good, because each time we were on tour before we told our fans that we would be bringing our new album the next time we came around. So two times, we didn’t follow through on our promise.
The time between your first and second album is pretty long.
Mao Chuan: Yeah, three years. We recorded for two years, completing it in the third year. We had to re-record a lot of the songs a lot of times.
What’s your favorite song from this album?
Hong Tao: “The Brightest Star in the Sky.”
Li Jian: Before it was “Take Me Away,” but now I think “Where is your Embrace” is the best. The second best thing about this album is the message within it: you must live your life, there must be pain, and there must be tears. To really appreciate life is the message that exists within this work.
The song “Goodbye Goodbye” from the current album was also featured on the previous EP in the form of a piano solo. Who created this piece?
Mao Chuan: I probably wrote a lot of the songs…
Who did you write it for?
Mao Chuan: This song was initially called “Beijing Love Story,” and this was three years ago, before the movie of the same name was released. Afterwards, I thought that this song had a lot of “goodbyes” in it; I guess it was dedicated to the girlfriend within my subconscious.
At the time, how did you think to use a piano solo?
Mao Chuan: At the time, I just wanted to do that type of music. When we first started recording, it wasn’t that good, but suddenly I had the inspiration to just use a piano for simplicity, and it sounded pretty good.
We believe many people love the song “The Brightest Star in the Sky.” There is a line in the song in which you sing, “I crossed the lie to embrace you.” What were you thinking about when you wrote this line?
Mao Chuan: Does complete honesty between people actually exist? I can feel when people are lying to me. But still, I hope that I can be the kind of person that believes in the people that I love, even when I know that they’re lying to me. I don’t think there’s such a thing as absolute truth in the world; everything is subjective. For example, you’re sitting in front of me. I’m willing to believe that you’re sitting in front of me, I won’t believe that you’re not sitting in front of me. Reality depends on whether or not the subject is or isn’t willing to believe. So when I say that “I crossed the lie to embrace you,” it means that I will believe the person that I love to the best of my ability. When you really love someone, even when you think that they’re lying to you, you will still try your best to believe them.
So would you consider yourself a persistent person? Before, there were rumors that the CCTV performance of “We’ll Get Married in 2008″ was planned to be sung by another singer, but you were opposed to it?
Mao Chuan: This isn’t a rumor, this is fact. They wanted to give the song to another singer, without giving any money to us, without a contract, and we wouldn’t be allowed to sing the song afterwards, isn’t this nonsense? It seems that because you’ve experienced so much, you were able to create such a remarkable album.
After these three years of struggles and finally completing the album, how do you feel?
Hong Tao: Since we’ve finished the album, now we can move on to the next step. You shouldn’t get stuck in a period of time, keep on moving, this will be better for the future.
These days you guys seem really enthusiastic, making a lot of moves.
Mao Chuan: That’s right, after finishing the album, of course we’ll have to do a lot of things to publicize it. This year, we hope to do at least another single or EP, we’re already gearing up for that, and maybe even have the blueprint for a new album ready. Li Jian is probably the most influential in terms of changing the style of our band, keyboard works more on the electronic side. Maybe later on Xiao Dong will play more advanced guitar, I’ll play a little less. Anyways, our attitude is getting more and more positive as time goes on.
Your image has always been relatively enthusiastic and positive. This album seems to be a little bit crazier; are your coming works going to reveal a darker side to your music?
Mao Chuan: Works of art definitely don’t come from a state of happiness, it doesn’t matter if it’s painting or music. If a person is really happy, they definitely won’t create amazing art. All of these works, they are all rays of lights shining through gloom and depression. Just think of Bob Dylan, for example. All of the artists that we respect and admire, they all create with a dark side, and perhaps they use their art to see hope. Music and art are these types of works, they allow people to become full of hope even in the worst of times.
What bands do you listen to usually? Which artists have you been influenced by?
Mao Chuan: I’d say B-52. Even though their electronic compositions aren’t too many.
It’s still really enthusiastic, youthful.
Li Jian: B-52 is youthful? Maybe you’re talking about May Day, they all have “fives” in their names.
Mao Chuan: (Laughs) Mine and Li Jian’s styles are completely different. But when the two of us collaborate, it’s just like, we crash into each other.
Do you have any conflicts while creating?
Mao Chuan: We fight. Fight to the death.
Mao Chuan: Sometimes it’s him, sometimes it’s me (laughs).
You guys have participated in many mainstream media music competitions before, right?
Mao Chuan: That’s right. We’ve even collaborated with Chen Chusheng before. A lot of people wouldn’t acknowledge us when we first started, but after seeing how we were they accepted us.
You’re what you are in this year Mao will still collaborate with Japan’s Summer Sonic to bring a Chinese band to perform in Japan. Last year it was you guys, this year are you still going?
Mao Chuan: I wish, now we want to go to England’s Glastonbury (laughs).
Before, you guys said that if this album doesn’t sell at least 10000 copies, that you would break up?
Mao Chuan: First off, this isn’t speculation. Even if it was speculation, it would be genuine speculation. We worked on this album for three years, if it didn’t sell at least ten thousand copies, don’t you think it would be really pitiful? Why wouldn’t we worry about the sales and just leave it up to fate? That wouldn’t work. Maybe the success or failure of our future lies in the hands of a small segment of people who are really passionate about art. The album is a really important product for musicians, just as important as the live concert. Paying to download an MP3 and buying an actual album are two completely different things.
A lot of Chinese musicians go from being “underground” to “mainstream.” Do you think that this is an improvement in the music industry?
Mao Chuan: Of course. However, if some artists, in their transition from the underground to the mainstream, abandon their principles, I think it’s an inevitable consequence.
Xiao Dong: Nowadays, many musicians know how to market themselves. Anyways, who doesn’t want more people to hear their music? Underground, mainstream, I don’t think that’s the most important thing.
Are there any Chinese musicians that you really like?
Mao Chuan: There are a lot. Reflector, Re-TROS, New Pants are all really great. Our keyboardist really likes New Pants.
Li Jian: “Someday I Will Leave You.” (Singing~)
So what are you guys trying to experiment with in the future? What are your future plans?
Li Jian: We’ll always continue to make music. Regarding style, it will be a bit different, maybe be a little bit more electronic. Anyways, we’re all getting older…
Mao Chuan: Or maybe getting younger…
Li Jian: Right now, I hope that music and life can become more balanced, we’re not going to be like some crazy kids anymore.
Mao Chuan: Maybe our collaborations will become less and less, but the real collaboration will occur within our hearts.
“Escape Plan’s album, titled Earth, embodies many messages: We live in a crazy world, the progression of time will show us everything and help us find life. Work, family, and the environment seems to have no direction for human development, rather there are many questions and problems which we must cope with. Fear and suffering of the inner world of this era has become commonplace. Take a look at this album, touched by the words love, sun, absence, sadness, life, marriage, the stars, embrace, chemistry, and goodbye. These solitary words are related to every corner of life and survival. What Escape Plan is trying to say is, when faced with these themes which involve both the self and Mother Earth, they can for a moment forget even their most lost and desperate times. ”
The evening performance of Escape Plan is a high. In the presence or absence of people, they show one that they can find their own shelter in the face of the world, and no longer have to keep running, trying to escape all that night.