It’s been sometime for The Amazing Insurance Salesmen, the fusion rock band, which mixes punk, jazz, funk, and psychedelic to create some truly bitchin tunes that kick up the tempo and leave you gasping for air. Over a year ago, they took home the China title for the Global Battle of the Bands and released their EP, “Escape” last year before taking a breather. Well they’re back at it again, having been seen tearing it up all over town, including at Yugong Yishan back in April where they reminded me of how badly we needed those boys back in town. Before they grace the stage at Temple this Saturday I asked a few questions separately to lead vocalist/guitarist Djang San and bassist Maikel. Here’s what they had to say. ￼
You guys took a bit of a break back in 2011 but have came back full throttle since 2012 – how does it feel to be back in full swing?
Djang San: Well it feels good. During the break we took we all did different kinds of music and became better as musicians.
Maikel: It’s good to be back, but better to be in front; we all had some time to reflect and come up with new ways to play together. T
The three of you hail from different countries…did you find it initially difficult to work together?
Djang San: It\’s not always easy to understand each other but I think in the end the contradictions are what makes the band interesting on stage.
Djang San: At the beginning it was tiring for me, as I am the only one in the band speaking fluently Chinese and English, I had to translate all the conversations from Maomao to Maikel. Now we have developed some kind of body language between the three of us, and our conversations are a mix of gestures, few words in Chinese, and few words in English.
Maikel: Yes, Djang San had to do quite a bit of translation in the beginning when I just came to China but it’s not always the language that is the barrier. Also 3 individuals with (sometimes) big egos can clash. At times I had to bang some heads together, but I think now we’ve developed a better understanding of each other.
It seems like a lot of care goes into your densely packed songs arrangements? What’s the process behind making new material? Does improvisation ever play a part?
Djang San: I used to come with the songs almost finished and all the ideas for the arrangements and ask the guys to follow me, sometimes showing them what to do. Now we compose more by jamming together, and so the identity of each member of the band shows more. Maikel tends to come up more often with ideas for songs and bass lines, I also push Maomao by asking him to create his own ideas of rhythm. I wrote songs like \”In the park\”, or \”Babies\” when I was 16 or 17, I changed the songs so they would fit in the band.
Maikel: In the beginning it was more of Djang San’s effort, but now it’s more of a group effort. Djang San’s industrious study of (Jazz) music added a lot to the song making process. But improvisation does play a part and we are all proficient enough on our instruments that you can hear part of each member’s contribution in the songs. Listen to the song “Escape” and guess what band I like. Listen to “Caravan’s” drum solo and you can hear Maomao’s style. Listen to “Love is just a dream” and hear a French Hendrix.
You guys like to engage the audience in this playful banter between songs that I find hilarious? Did that form naturally on stage or did you guys plan it out?
Djang San: Haha, I think the three of us share the same feeling of absurdity towards life. To me most things in life are completely absurd, and I like to put this feeling in the words and songs I write. Musically one of the ways to express absurdity is to never stand on the same rhythm, or come up with something in the song that has nothing to do with the song. One of my inspirations for that is Frank Zappa, but also the Pixies and Jacques Brel, Albert Camus and Boris Vian.
Maikel: Our banter is carefully scripted and played out according to the venue we play and the position of the moon…no that’s bs, we go along according to how we feel that day…and according to the flow of beer. Has Beijing been a good environment for creating music?
Djang San: It has been so far, I\’m not sure about how it will be in the future.
Maikel: so many interesting things happen here every day; it’s hard not to find some inspiration for a song.
Are AIS cookin’ up anything new in the near future? What are your summers looking like?
Djang San: Well we are hoping to record something new soon. We are still working on new songs and those are the ones we want to record, I think we\’ll do it when we feel we are ready for it.
Maikel: We got some gigs lined up at 2 Kolegas, Mao Live, festivals including Zebra and recording new material. We also plan to do an unplugged session for Mogo.
Djang San: We also might change the world and be the first band to play on the moon. ￼
Thanks guys! Great answers – chew on those words readers till you get your fill this Saturday at Temple. And this as well.