Beijing Vinyl: An Interview With Genjing Records

“2013 Is Going To Be The Year That Chinese Artists Gain Widespread Recognition”

Genjing Records (Image: Nevin Domer)

From Beijing hails China’s first vinyl-only music label, Genjing Records, promoting up-and-coming Chinese bands and artists through exclusive releases and global partnerships. Established in 2011, Genjing began as a launching platform for founder Nevin Domer’s hardcore band Fanzui Xiangfa, and has quickly evolved into a bridge linking China’s independent music community and its international comrades, already issuing over a dozen releases.

Recently, Jing Daily caught up with Nevin Domer and Pete Demola of Genjing Records to talk about the launch of their label, China’s vinyl market, their band roster, and what could be in store in the year to come.

Jing Daily (JD): What’s your background in China and what inspired you to start Genjing Records?

Genjing Records (GR): I (Nevin) lived in Dalian for a year in 1999 and decided to move back to China in 2005. I’d wanted to get involved with the music scene from the start and was playing in bands and going to shows. When (now-seminal Beijing live music venue) D-22 opened in May 2006, I became their booking manager. I’ve also been involved in (pioneering Beijing-based record label) Maybe Mars from the beginning and continue to work there as part of the creative team.

Through my involvement with D-22 and Maybe Mars, I was able to watch the Chinese music scene grow and realized that there was still a gap between the Chinese community and DIY scenes abroad. My band, Fanzui Xiangfa, had toured Southeast Asia and Europe and we self-released two split 7″s with some of the bands that we met on the road. I realized that I could help other Chinese bands to do the same. Doing so, I think, helps to cement the connective tissue between scenes abroad and those here in China by bridging that gap and helping to internationalize the Chinese scene(s).

JD: With everything being digitized these days, what encourages you to remain vinyl-only?

GR: The fact that everything is digital was exactly what inspired me to release vinyl. I don’t think that MP3 downloads are a bad thing, and for bands in China, it’s the best and easiest way to get their music to a wider audience abroad. But only giving away your music is not an option if you hope to make enough money to continue as a band.

DIY punk communities in America and Europe have always had a preference for vinyl, and especially today, I know a lot of fans who will only buy vinyl — not CDs. Those fans still download most of their music and listen to it first, but if it’s something they like, they will buy the vinyl. It’s a collector’s item more than anything and for those with a good sound system, it’s also the superior sound quality.

Besides a desire to create the same sort of collectors market for vinyl in China, I also realized that it would be important for Chinese bands to have releases on vinyl if they wanted to reach those fans abroad.

Yang Haisong (Image: Nevin Domer)

JD: What has the local reception to vinyl been like thus far?

GR: The local reception has been great! Before I started Genjing, you could count the number of vinyl releases for Chinese rock bands on one hand. Now, it seems like there are new vinyl releases every other month from a variety of bands and labels. More and more fans are discovering vinyl for the first time — either through the new releases or from a growing interest in secondhand vinyl — and a community of vinyl fans is taking shape.

JD: Who’s your target customer, and who has surprised you?

GR: When [the label] started, I figured most of my sales would be made abroad, but I was surprised to discover the number of Chinese fans interested in vinyl. Many of the fans are purchasing a vinyl record for the first time, possibly even without the intention of ever playing it — they have the MP3s and the vinyl is a collector’s item. However, there is a growing community of audiophiles who collect vinyl for the superior sound. They may not know anything about the band, but want it for their collection because it is a Chinese band on vinyl.

JD: Can you tell us a little bit about the bands you represent and their future prospects outside of China?

GR: Genjing Records doesn’t operate as a traditional label that “signs” artists. We usually do one-off deals to help artists release vinyl and to get distribution abroad. For this reason, we prefer to work with bands that already have some connections abroad and will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that we create for them.

Bands like Demerit, Gum Bleed and Wang Wen, for example, are already setting up their own tours abroad and can benefit from vinyl; (experimental folk artist) Li Daiguo has made a name for himself in experimental scenes in Europe and Dear Eloise, P.K. 14 frontman Yang Haisong’s noise-pop project, has gained a cult following in the US and Japan through the Internet.

We hope to give these artists one more step towards being able to tour and play abroad while helping good foreign bands gain exposure inside China through split releases.

JD: Being based in Beijing, have you had run-ins with issues like censorship? How have you dealt with that?

GR: We have not had to deal with censorship because all of our records are produced abroad and the number of sales inside China is still relatively low, too low for regulatory agencies to care at least.

Li Daiguo (Image: Nevin Domer)

JD: Approaching your two-year anniversary, how has Genjing Records changed?

GR: While Genjing was initially mainly a way for me to release 7″s for my own band, the label quickly evolved into a resource covering all of China’s DIY scenes, from punk to noise, post-rock to experimental. In 2013, we will continue to broaden our reach and by working with interesting bands from a diverse range of styles (but with a continued focus on DIY).

JD: What else can we expect from you guys this year and beyond?

GR: It’s shaping up to be our most ambitious year yet. 2013 is going to be the year that Chinese artists gain widespread recognition in music communities abroad and we’ll be at the forefront of that, pushing them on with vinyl releases and splits and creating bridges between the most exciting scenes in China and their counterparts across the globe.

We look forward to continuing to grow our distribution both inside China and abroad, namely in the States and Europe. And on the release front, we’re fortunate to be able to work with the most exciting artists inside China: Our spring release schedule includes efforts from Dear Eloise, lo-fi garage rock duo Pairs (Shanghai), Skip Skip Ben Ben (Taipei/Beijing), a new Beijing-based surf-influenced outfit called the Dyne and a really cool collection of sketches from Li Daiguo called “Music for Advertisements” that he conceptualized as sonic advertisements for seven locations around Chengdu during the six years that he lived there. It’s our most dynamic release yet, both in terms of the content and the packaging — it will come wrapped in a map of Chengdu.

In terms of international collaborations, we’re excited to be working with increasingly influential artists like New Zealand noise rock outfit God Bows to Math, American indie legends Lilys, Australian mainstays Underground Lovers and the super-refreshing American duo Hilly Eye.

We’re also planning on publishing more editorial content, features and podcasts on our website, so feel free to tune in if you’d like to learn more about vinyl and DIY culture in mainland China!

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