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Interviewing Chinese Jazz Improvisation Band Red Scarf

Music Journalism | Interview: China’s experimental jazz band RED SCARF

This interview was conducted during my internship as a cultural journalist working at the Shenzhen-based Enclave Media. Red Scarf is one of the most respected Chinese experimental jazz band, who love to improvise on stage. All members are conservatory-trained with virtuosity in instruments performance.

See Red Scarf:

Tomorrow’s music festival, Thus speak the band Red Scarf

2017-06-16 | Column: Music Guide for Young Artists

Part 1 Red Scarf and Past and Present

Enclave: Hello Red Scarf! First question: why did you choose the name “Red Scarf”? I also know that every member all has their own music projects. What kind of coincidence made everyone come together?

Red Scarf: I originally wanted to be called the Young Pioneer, but it was too long. Later, I thought about calling Young Pioneer Lamb Chops Neil, but it was a bit awkward and hard to remember. Later, I felt that it was not a taboo to call the Red Scarf. The three of us originally belonged to another band, so we won’t mention that band, but we came together because of we “taste music similarly”.

Enclave: Will the Red Scarf still appear at the OCT B10 Jazz Festival in the second half of 2017?

Red Scarf: I participated in both 2015 and 2016. I am embarrassed and will never end in 2017. In the second half of the year, I plan to participate in a music festival in Ningbo, probably in July. At the end of the year, I may go to the north, Xinjiang, or something else, but it depends on the situation. We will not limit our future plans too much.

Enclave: Is Red Scarf’s latest album already in production? What kind of innovation will there be?

Red Scarf: Yes, we will go to Guangzhou to record in two days. The content of the new album will be more specific. We recorded the first album freely and improvised. This one is more targeted. There is an argument before the experiment. It will not always be in the stage of improvisation.

Enclave: The theme of the previous picture is four very complicated characters, haha

Red Scarf: The previous album was very abstract, half of the arrangement consisted of free improvisation, the new album will be more specific. The new album emphasizes musicality, and it’s all well-arranged and fully specific music.

Enclave: Do you have discussions on the topics presented on the stage before doing a completely improvised Live?

Red Scarf: No, we totally improvise.

Part 2 Individual visit by band members

Enclave: Then let me ask everyone some questions separately. Mr. Li Xing, what brand of effects do you usually use?

Li Xing: There are too many effects, and they often change. There are some guitar forums where people will exchange second-hand effects. For a fixed configuration, LOOPS STATION was used more in the previous album. I will use some non-traditional methods to use LOOPS, which is a completely different method. If you listen normally, you may not be able to hear that LOOPS is used. The play method is not too conventional. I perfect my techniques by watching some videos and listening to videos of various effects.

Enclave: What is your personal favorite album? Do you like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music?

Li Xing: A lot, those in the 70s, I like Lou Reed, modern bands will be influenced by the Velvet Underground. From a contemporary perspective, what a good guitarist must have is the accumulation of avant-garde rock and psychedelic rock, as well as the albums that define New Age music among the classic jazz albums.

Enclave: Have you considered an experimental work of pure guitar?

Li Xing: Absolutely.

Enclave: Mr. Lao Dan, I particularly like your work “Antique”. Why did you name it? What is the imitation of the ancient?

Lao Dan: There are flute and xun in that song. Because xun is a very old musical instrument, my theme is to imagine ancient times. I use xun because its sound has ancient characteristics. In thinking, imagine yourself in that era.

Enclave: What kind of challenges do you think jazz composed of pure Chinese bands will face in terms of tonality and structure, and what kind of room for innovation will there be? Name-nothing-virtual seems to be this model.

Lao Dan: Ming-wu-xu still has a stronger national character. Min Xiaofen has a sense of blues and some innovative techniques. Their academic nationality is still very strong, and their experimental and jazzy qualities are not so strong. If it is a Chinese musical instrument to engage in jazz music, you must first jump out of the academic circle. If a musician who wants to engage in national experiments, first he must learn some national instruments systematically. After learning those things, if he wants to engage in avant-garde national music. It is necessary to completely discard the academic stuff and start to have its own set of things. (Academic) That set of things is too restrictive. The academic refers to the music that I usually learn in school. In fact, ancient Chinese music is very experimental. Before the reform and opening, many songs were influenced by model dramas, and the music styles were also in the form of ABA, with one beginning and one ending. Therefore, the academic school has been deeply influenced by this in the later period until now. If you want to engage in experimental folk music, you must discard all of these. It must have its own characteristics. Nowadays, the students at the academic school are all too similar. For example, Mr. Wang taught 5 students, and other teachers heard-“Ah, Mr. Wang’s students!”, so they are equally matched, the technique and music are the same, and they lack their own characteristics.

Enclave: Then you should be completely free from the shackles of the academic school now.

Old Dan: Oh, for so many years already. We were like that in college. Before my junior year and sophomore year, I was still practicing some academic stuff. Later I listened to a lot of things, all kinds of world music, and some jazz. Then I just I felt that there was a gap between what I learned and what I listened to, so I thought about it for a while, and put aside the shackles to engage in my own things. Some things are purely to practice for exams.

Enclave: You have worked with Japanese drummer Yoshisaburo Toyosumi. What is your experience of working with him?

Old Dan: He belongs to living history. He worked with the very early Kaoru Abe and other famous free jazz musicians. He has also worked with academic percussion masters, so he is a living history. There is also a certain gap in front of him. He is a master-level musician. Playing with him or learning a lot of things, he will tell you a lot, people benefit a lot.

Enclave: Some traces of masters can also be heard.

Old Dan: Yes because he will tell you a lot. What he experienced, how to play, and learned a lot through communication.

Enclave: Objectively speaking, the development of jazz in Japan is relatively good. Compared with China, what do the teachers think is the reason?

Boyu: Jazz is a world language, and the Japanese become their own language after learning from foreign countries. A buddy gave a lecture before and talked about Japanese jazz. Europe also has European jazz, and Japan can become its own jazz because of the integration of all aspects. Just like the Chinese folk music and jazz you mentioned earlier, integration is very important, not forcibly grafted. In fact, China also does this, Liu Suola, her thing is forced grafting. Although she has been in the United States for many years, she is also very educated and very basic, but there is no connection between the specific music and the idea of ​​how to produce results. carry out. Actually, I think there are all kinds of reasons. It can’t be said that it’s just academic, environment, historical backlog, all sorts of things. Frozen three feet is not a day’s cold.

Enclave: Then I will ask Mr. Deng again. There will be many music critics saying that your personal work is minimalist.

Boyu: Part of it is, not all of it.

Enclave: The song “Snow Ghost” is very interesting and a bit naturalistic.

Boyu: This is a fun thing in the past, there is a memory of an interesting thing. Naturalism… can also be understood in this way, but I think that music is often what you hear. There is no need to explain too much.

Enclave: How did you make it?

Boyu: That album was made entirely with computers and synthesizers. Doing it alone at the computer.

Enclave: Do you like Kraftwerk?

Boyu: They are masters of all masters.

Part 3: The future of free jazz?

Enclave: After talking about some real things, let’s also talk about something more in fantasy. The form of free jazz has developed to its peak. Will there be new possibilities in this field in the future?

Red Scarf: If there is a new possibility, I don’t think it is. This possibility was already done when the proposition was put forward. Later, it was in the post-free jazz era. Then I looked back. Electronic jazz is nothing more than a different form and tone. Like Miles Davis, he said in the 1980s that jazz is dead and this history has passed. In fact, at that time he began to do hip-hop prototypes. In fact, the most glorious period of jazz, from the beginning to the development to the end. Forget it, this era has passed. Our current music, whether it is free jazz, avant-garde, and jazz, all have the shadow of ancestors. In 1917, Duchamp kept the toilet in the library, and contemporary art began, but it also lowered the threshold completely, and anyone could do something in it. So craftsmanship, the kind of thing in classical culture, is very important, and it’s not good to lose it. In fact, it is a great reincarnation. Not only free jazz, there may be new auditory experiences in the future, bringing new things, history is in reincarnation, and the form of expression has changed.

Enclave: Form may also be a product of the times. Maybe after our society has changed, there will be innovations in the form of music. Will Red Scarf try to include vocals in the new album? Will you consider new traditional Chinese musical instruments?

Red Scarf: We are not very good at doing this. At most, we should roar twice, or use the human voice as a musical instrument, and experiment with the human voice. But I haven’t thought too much over there yet. There are no plans for a new instrument, and the second album is still saxophone. There may be a suona song. The music of the red scarf is quite bursting. Like I play the flute, it can’t be picked up in the song, it has no effect, and it’s very collapsed. Therefore, there must be more drastic changes in the blowing method. Suona’s tone is different from that of saxophone, so use his tone.

Enclave: Does the Red Scarf song have no lyrics. For instrumental music, someone has suggested that it is difficult for most listeners to directly touch “meaning”. How would you respond to this statement?

Red Scarf: Then they go to listen to the song. In fact, every timbre, rhythm, and tone arrangement have information in it, all of which are information. There are music fans who can understand this kind of music, and some fans are awesome, enthusiasts. They especially understand that, like the effect device we use, the rhythm, style, frame, and tempo can be counted clearly, and they will talk to us after the performance.

Enclave: Is the red scarf influenced by Japanese mathematical rock? Like Toe?

Red Scarf: Of course, there is. Because we also like it and listen to a lot. Math rock, avant-garde rock, art rock, we have all listened a lot. Japanese mathematical rock is also influenced by avant-garde rock, and everyone will go there in the end. When you have been looking for something, you find that it is there. Art rock is like such an entry in a music dictionary.

Enclave: What do Red Scarf think about the current independent music environment in China?

Red Scarf: No comments, we are just making our own music.

Interview: Zou Yudan

Editor in charge: Bear Forest (

The article is from the enclave app and may not be reprinted without permission