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  • interview | shanghai’s whimsical red red mushroom

    red red mushroom@ NeochaEDGEOn her Last.fm page, Red Red Mushroom (蘑菇红) describes herself as:

    “Red Red Mushroom = Xiao Hong (小红, or “Little Red”), an 80s generation girl from Shanghai. She’s just a dumb kid whose favorite activities include wandering around the city, sleeping, daydreaming, eating strawberries, dragging friends to the park for picnics, taking photos, playing guitar (sometimes chords she doesn’t even know), writing songs, recording simple demos with a cheap microphone in Red Red Mushroom’s tiny house. She never tunes the guitar right, often sings out of tune, and writes really dull lyrics. She’s been on a few compilations and has done a few live shows. She has no big dreams. The simplest life is the happiest life.”

    So this is Red Red Mushroom, a lovely young woman who sings with her heart and soul. Her songs sound like a girl’s murmurs in her private time – sweet, genuine, and comfortable. Chatting with her, I was quickly overwhelmed by her simplicity and the persistence she puts into her music. Her whimsical song names, girlish lyrics, and unique, lazy singing style have already won her kudos from the Shanghai indie music scene, as well as the Neocha and Douban communities.

    Because my fondness of her music and a curiosity about her life, I reached out to Red Red Mushroom for an interview. I hope our chat helps you get to know more about this remarkable emerging Shanghai-based musician.

    At the bottom of this post I’ve also shared some tracks from her Neocha.com profile. Have a listen and let us know what you think in the comments section.

    For more from Red Red Mushroom on NeochaEDGE, link here. /// CL

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    Your music is just so great. When did you start to become interested in music?

    From about elementary / primary school or so. Music class was my favorite. Back then I started out by playing harmonica. I was pretty good. I remember nailing my final exam song: Song of Joy.

    Did you learn how to sing from a teacher? What about how to play other instruments?

    Nope. Not from teachers. Actually, I didn’t start playing / learning guitar until I was in university.

    Wow! Well, you play quite well.

    Come on, are you serious? Hahaha. I’m actually a pretty lame guitarist.

    red-red-mushroom-neochaedge-2Well, whatever, it sounds sounds good and that’s all that matters. So, do you “officially” consider yourself a musician now?

    I play music just for my own entertainment, you know, for fun. I guess I’m truly one of  those so-called “indie musicians” everyone talks about. I’ve never thought about getting signed by a label or anything. Music is just for fun. It’s a very pure thing to me. I don’t want to pollute it with any kind of pressure.

    Oh, I see. I read something on your blog about a company or label, so I thought you were signed or something.

    No, I think that was with reference to my day job “company.” Believe it or not, I have a formal / professional job – I’m a teaching assistant at a children’s art school.

    Ah, OK. I get it. So in your spare time you play and record your music. Seems like a nice lifestyle.

    Yeah. It’s not bad.

    Your name is Red Red Mushroom – that’s pretty interesting. How did you come up with it?

    Well, it’s really just a nickname. I have a lot of nicknames, Xiao Hong, Mushroom, etc. When I was recording some songs for a Dew11 compilation album, the producer wanted me to have a stage-name so I just made up Red Red Mushroom. At any rate, all my friends call me Xiao Hong (小红).

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    “… my inspiration comes from life! I’m a very sensitive person and
    easily form attachments to all sorts of little things.
    All of these things impact my mood and feelings. My inspiration comes
    from the little things in life and my feelings toward them.

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    The first time I heard your music I thought of Chen Qizhen (陈绮贞). You both have that very feminine pillow-talk kinda sound. Very pure, very innocent, very comfortable and soothing. Do you listen to her much?

    Yeah. For sure. She is actually kind of an idol of mine. Many people say we have similar voices and compare us to one another. Some say I’m just imitating her. Haha. At first this sorta bothered me, but I’ve gotten used to it. It seems more and more people lately are saying that my songs and my voice are actually quite different than Chen Yizhen’s music if you really listen closely.

    In what ways is your music different than Chen Yizhen’s?

    Chen Qizhen sound is more mature and has more charm. My music still sounds very childish, or, you know, naive and silly. Haha.

    I don’t think it is naive. I think it’s just more sincere, unadorned, and simple. But, how do you define your style?

    Simple, cute, relaxing, innocent, naive, carefree. Sometimes it’s a bit lonely, sentimental, or melancholic. Overall, I think it would categorized as “folk music.” My songs are very folky.

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    “…it’s my music and they’re my songs, so I guess I can get a little wacky
    and call them whatever I want – no one should care…”

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    Where does your inspiration come from? What do you do to get inspired?

    My inspiration comes from life! I’m a very sensitive person and easily form emotional attachments to all sorts of little things. Like, if I buy a new doll or a toy camera, or if visit a new place, or if I spent my whole afternoon sitting on some corner street observing passer-byers or cars or houses, or if I try a new kind of dessert, etc. Sometimes I suddenly start to think of my childhood and all the old stories of my life just take me over. All of these things impact my mood and feelings. I’m just a very emotional person. My inspiration comes from the little things in life and my feelings toward them.

    red-red-mushroom-neochaedgeMany people are emotional, but you are able to turn your feelings into beautiful music.

    Hahaha, yeah. I guess. Music and singing are just an emotional outlet for me. Some people choose to paint or whatever. It’s the same kinda thing.

    Tell us about where your whimsical and eccentric song titles come from.

    Hahaha. Well, in the end, it’s my music and they’re my songs, so I guess I can get a little wacky and call them whatever I want – no one should care.

    Besides Chen Yizhen, what other musicians / bands do you like? Who has influenced you the most?

    Hmm. Let me think. Kings of Convenience, The Radio Dept., The Workhouse, Mazzy Star, and Faye Wong.

    Cool, you’ve included two of my favorites – The Radio Dept. and Faye Wong. Tell about your live performances. Have you meet a lot of interesting people through your music?

    I mostly perform in “live house” shows organized by my friends. Through these shows and the “indie music community” I’ve made a lot of new friends, for example, Shanghai underground folk singer Wu Xueying (吴雪颖), Beijing indie-folk singer Dong Jiajia (董佳佳), and (Big Pirate) Tyakasha.

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    “…having more people like my music is not that important to me.
    What I care about most is how I feel. At shows, the audiences reaction isn’t important,
    what’s important is how I feel while I’m playing. My emotions and feelings are
    most important. If the audiences says its a great show, but I don’t think I
    sang well, etc., I’ll still feel pretty bummed. My music is about me, not them…”

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    Big Pirate Tyakasha (大海盗塔卡沙), isn’t that the name of one of your songs?

    Hahaha. Yeah. This person actually exists though. I promise! The latest edition of Neocha.com’s e-magazine Blow Up featured him! [Editorial note: NeochaEDGE chief editor Adam J. Schokora also recently did some modeling for a Big Pirate Tyakasha photo shoot. Very funny.]

    You seem to have gotten quite famous. A lot of people are supporting you in the Neocha and Douban community. Did you ever really want to be famous? What kind of plans do you have for your music in the future? What do you want to do with your music?

    If being famous means more people will like my music, then I’d be more than willing to become famous. But if not, then forget it. But actually, having more people like my music is not that important to me. What I care about most is how I feel. At shows, the audiences reaction isn’t important, what’s important is how I feel while I’m playing. My emotions and feelings are most important. If the audiences says it’s a great show, but I don’t think I sang well, then I’ll still feel pretty bummed. My music is about me, not them.

    As for doing something with my music. Hmm. I’ve never really thought about that. Do you mean something like promoting environmental protection through my music? Haha. Or like becoming a professional musician? Hmm. I do want to put out my own albums, but I definitely don’t want to be a professional / industry musician or sign with any label or whatever.

    Well, if you put out an album I would buy it.

    Hahaha. Thanks! However, I think you’ll have to wait for a long time before that happens. I’m just so damn lazy.

    Tell us about the creative process with your music. How long does it take you to write a song?

    Usually I first come up with a melody, then I add lyrics. I often come up with melodies while walking around the city humming to myself or while looking out the window on the bus. If I’m onto something catchy, I’ll use my mobile phone to record it immediately. Then, when I get home, I’ll perfect it. Sometimes I come up with melodies while just messing around on my guitar and randomly singing or humming stuff. Often times they just come out very naturally.

    The whole songwriting process usually goes by pretty quick for me. One time I finished two songs in a single afternoon. Actually, if I don’t finish a song in an afternoon or so, I rarely finish it at all. It will just linger as a lonely verse or two. Not a song, but just a small segment of a song that I may pick up sometime later, etc.

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    “…90s generation kids seem to be paying more attention to
    indie music – from both Taiwan and Mainland China.
    Actually, that’s true for 80s generation kids too…”

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    Of all the songs you’ve written, which is your favorite? Or, which are you most satisfied with?

    To tell you the truth, it’s really difficult to pick just one favorite.

    red red mushroomOK, well, which do you like (a lot)?

    Hahaha, that’s even hard stay. When I listen to my songs now, I think most of them are pretty silly. There a few that I quite like. I’ll chose those when I get around to putting out an album.

    Do you have any idea about how old your listeners are?

    Yeah, I guess I do. They are 80’s and 90’s generation kids. From 16 – 28 years old or so.

    Do you think the 90s generation kids have any obvious music preferences? Do they represent different tastes?

    They seem to be paying more attention to indie music – from both Taiwan and Mainland China. Actually, that’s true for 80s generation kids too.

    Do you watch Super Girls? What do you think of Zeng Yike (曾轶可)?

    Errr…well, I appreciate her creative spirit and think it’s worth encouraging. I don’t watch Super Girls. I heard some stuff about her from the Internet. Seems a lot of people are talking about her these days.

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    “…it’s hard to find good people (for a band). I’m picky because I don’t
    just want some random band mates to play music with. If I were to
    make a band, I’d want it to be like a family and for all of the
    members to be like brothers and sisters…”

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    It seems you write all your music on your own and only perform solo. Have you ever collaborated with other musicians to make music? Is there anyone in particular you want to work with?

    Sure. I’ve worked with Chinese indie label Dew11 and have been on one of their albums. When I work with Dew11, Blur Oasis is the one that arranges / produces my songs. He is such a nice guy.

    I don’t have anyone particular in mind that I really want to work with, but I’ve always wanted to make a proper band. However, I’ve had some difficulty in doing that.

    What kind of difficulty?

    It’s hard to find good people. You know, those who are nice and that I can get along with. Those that I have a lot in common with me. Those that have a similar worldview and outlook to me. Those whose musical abilities and tastes are in-line with mine. Those whose schedules don’t conflict. Those who don’t take rehearsal as a life or death matter – I’m pretty chill.

    I’m picky because I don’t just want some random band mates to play music with. If I were to make a band, I’d want it to be like a family and for all of the members to be like brothers and sisters.

    How often do you perform or have shows? Where?

    I haven’t had too many shows this year because, honestly, I really am just too damn lazy. I turn down a lot of out-of-town show invitations. Last year was a busy year though. I played once every 2 months or so at all sorts of places. Sometimes at a live house, sometimes at coffeehouses, sometimes just at my friends’ studios, etc.

    Which musicians / bands on Neocha.com do you especially like?

    There’s quite a few. Like Lava Ox Sea from Hefei, The Lost Pillow from Nanjing, 吴雪颖 from Shanghai, and 董佳佳 from Beijing.

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    “…commercial brands can support Chinese indie musicians by
    providing recording studios, rehearsal space, music equipment,
    performance opportunities…by recording and pressing records,
    and of course by promoting and marketing our records / music…”

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    If you could collaborate with a commercial brand, which brand would that be? What kind of benefits does such collaboration bring?

    I’ve never thought about this. I just play music for fun. If I had to pick a brand, I would say Tyakasha. His illustrations together with my music would be very cool.

    If a commercial brand wanted to support Chinese indie music, how could it do that?

    By providing recording studios, rehearsal space, music equipment, and performance opportunities. Also, supporting by recording and pressing records, and of course promoting and marketing our records / music.

    Do you pay attention to commercial campaigns in China like Converse’s LoveNoise tour or Pepsi’s Voice of the Next Generation? If so, do you think these brands are doing a good job? Do you think campaigns like this are good for the Chinese indie music scene?

    To be honest, I haven’t really been paying too much attention to those campaigns. But, in some way or another, they’re probably help pushing along the Chinese indie scene.

    What is the biggest obstacle to Chinese independent musicians?

    The biggest obstacle for us is whether we can create something new and something that sounds good. Nowadays, more and more people are starting to pay attention to Chinese indie musicians. The Internet has been an effective tool in helping us promote ourselves and our music.

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    “…one comment in particular has left a deep impression on me. It was left by
    someone named Evilplague on my Douban page: ‘I really like the fresh and
    clear
    voice of Red Red Mushroom. Your fans may not be able to bring you
    anything material, but know that we are here supporting you as you
    continue with your music.’ I’m really grateful for comments and support like that
    …”

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    Besides music, what else do you do to express yourself? Where do you and other artsy Chinese youth / hipsters like to hang out in Shanghai? What do you usually do?

    I like to go out and eat snacks, go walking, play video games, or have dinner with friends. I like roaming the streets of Shanghai by myself and taking pictures. On weekends I often go to Fuxing Park to watch the oldsters dance. Watching them dance makes me feel so happy.

    red-red-mushroom-neochaedge-3You like walking in Shanghai, huh? Where?

    I like walking around Fuxing Park. There are a lot of quiet paths near the park and Huaihai Rd. It’s a peaceful sanctuary in this big, busy city. There are also many historical buildings, art galleries, and old trees in that area. You can always see the oldsters out walking around in these parts.

    What are your plans for the future?

    I want to travel more, you know, see more places. I’d like to go to Northern Europe. I really need to get over my laziness problem. I’d also very much like to properly record and put out an album before I’m 25.

    Have you ever considered participating in any commercial talent competitions? Do you think other indie musicians would like to participate?

    No, I won’t be participating in any of those shows. I don’t think others will either. Most of the local Chinese indie musicians I know like to keep a low profile. They are all pretty chill.

    It seems a lot of people leave comments online after hearing your music on Neocha and Douban. Do you pay much attention to their what they say?

    Yeah, sure. I do pay attention to them. In fact, every time I read them I’m quite touched. For the special comments that really mean a lot to me, I’ll jot them down on a notebook that I occasionally pull out when I’m feeling down or lacking confidence. One comment in particular has left a deep impression on me. It was left by someone named Evilplague on my Douban page: “I really like the fresh and clear voice of Red Red Mushroom. Your fans may not be able to bring you anything material, but know that we are here supporting you as you continue with your music.”

    I’m really grateful for comments and support like that.

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    More Creative Inspiration

    Comments
    1. Charisette says:

      今晚又来听蘑菇红。。。

      好舒服的声音!

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