Interview: Banana Peel 香蕉皮

While musical trends come and go, punk music in China has stubbornly and righteously held its ground, baptizing discontented, impassioned, and unadulterated individuals in a moshpit   of sweat, tears, and booze for over two decades. In the south of China, where the humidity swells and the lush green mountains are bountiful, one band has held the flame of punk alit – Banana Peel. Formed in 2002 in Guilin, the band have carved out their spot in the China punk hall of fame, staying true to their roots whilst delivering one ska-infused, rockabilly-touting, reggae-teasing punk rock anthem after another. Featuring members of SMZB, Fanzui Xiangfa, Underdog and more, they’re a powerhouse ensemble – not only in southern China, but to legion of punk fans across the country. I talked to the band about their scrappy beginnings, punk in Guilin, and fighting the good fight.


LCM: Banana Peel have been around for nearly two decades. Can you still remember what your first show was like? What did the punk scene look like then, especially in Guangxi?

BP:The first real performance of the Banana Skin was held in 2003 in Guilin’s “SuanLeBa算了吧”. At that time, the ticket only cost 5 yuan, and there were about 300 people in the venue. Because “SuanLeBa算了吧” was a wooden building built on the roof of a farmer’s custom-built house in a village within the city, in order to avoid accidents, we had to stop selling tickets. I remember that there were many people outside who wanted to buy tickets to watch the show.

At that time, punk culture was sweeping across China like a heat wave, and it was irresistible to us. Guilin is the punk capital of Guangxi. Many students who wanted to play in bands specially applied to the University of Guilin – many forming the first band of their lives here. Everyone was faultlessly yearning for a utopian life.

香蕉皮乐队的第一场真正意义上的演出是在2003年桂林“算了吧”举办的 。当时门票只要5元钱一张 ,场地里大概挤了约300人。由于“算了吧”是一栋搭建在城中村农民自建房屋顶的木质建筑,为了避免意外的发生 ,我们只能临时停止售票 ,我记得当时外面还有很多想买票进来看演出的观众。 

当时朋克文化像一股热浪一样席卷了整个中国 ,对我们来说那是一股无法抗拒的吸引力 。桂林则是广西的朋克之都 ,有很多想玩乐队的学生特意报考桂林的大学 ,然后在这里组建了自己人生中的第一支乐队  ,大家非常单纯地向往着乌托邦式的生活 。

LCM: How has the scene down in south China evolved or changed over time?

BPNow not only in South China, but even across all of China there are fewer punk bands, and even fewer people playing in rock bands. People are chasing another trendy things. Maybe the virtual world on the Internet is more real than playing in a band. Haha!

现在不只是华南地区 ,全中国都没有几支朋克乐队了 ,而且玩摇滚乐队的人也越来越少了 ,人们都在追逐另一种正在流行事物 ,也许网络虚拟世界比玩乐队更真实一些吧 ,哈哈 !

LCM: Speaking of change, it’s been over six years since your debut 魔鬼列车 – what has happened within the band since then?

BPIn recent years, our band lineup has changed repeatedly, and everyone lives in different cities, so rehearsal is of course a harder task for Banana Peel. Since the  Devil Train album, we get together three or four times for rehearsal every year. Each rehearsal cycle is about four days. We wrote 11 new songs over six years. Compared with Devil Train, these songs are more mature in terms of arrangement and instrumentation.

 这几年我们的人员经常变动 ,而且大家都住在不同的城市 ,所以排练对于香蕉皮来说是一件比较辛苦的事情 。从《魔鬼列车》专辑以后 ,我们就这样断断续续地每年排个三四回练,每次排练的周期大概在4天这样 ,6年写了11首新歌 ,这些歌曲从乐器的编配来说比魔鬼列车成熟了很多 。

LCM: What drew you to punk music in the first place? Who were some of your inspirations? 

BP: I first listened to grunge and some nu metal. I was a typical follower, a little trendy guy. In the winter of 1999, I watched the first punk performance of my life in Guilin’s “Plug In  插电吧”. I was captivated by the music of SMZB 生命之饼 and ShitDog粪狗. At that moment, I decided to start a punk band.

我最早听Grunge 和 一些New Metal ,是一个典型的跟风派 ,小潮男 。1999年冬天我在桂林“插电吧”看了自己人生中的第一场朋克演出 。当时就被“生命之饼”(SMZB)和 粪狗 (ShitDog)的音乐震憾了 ,从那时开始我就决定自己也要玩一支朋克乐队 。

LCM: While most people know Guilin as a tourist destination, not many people know what’s it like to grow up there. What is life like in Guilin? Is there something about that part of China that fits your band’s mentality?

BPGuilin was once a rock and roll town in South China, but that is already history. Due to the relocation of universities and the loss of local talent, Guilin’s rock atmosphere has lost its vitality. In the eyes of the people, it is just a city where people live in peace and retire, and it is very suitable for playing reggae or self-gratifying punk rock. Now the only hope of Guilin’s rock scene is the “Pure Friendship Club 纯洁友谊俱乐部”. There we can still pursue our unfulfilled dreams we had when we were young and are stilling working hard for.

桂林曾经是华南地区的摇滚重镇 ,但那已经是历史了 。由于大学的迁移 ,本地人才的流失 ,桂林摇滚氛围已经失去了以往的活力。它在人们眼里只是一个安居养老的城市  ,很适合玩雷鬼音乐或者享乐主义朋克摇滚 。现在桂林摇滚乐唯一的希望就是 “纯洁友谊俱乐部 ”,这里还有我们年轻时未完成梦想 ,我们为之而努力 。

LCM: The intersection of punk and skateboard culture has always fascinated me. Why do the two get along so well? What do you get out of skateboarding personally? How has your relationship to skateboarding changed over the years, especially as you (and more importantly your body) have gotten older?

BPI think the biggest thing in common between punk and skateboarding culture is: both have the rebellious spirit of selfness, don’t they? The biggest enemy in our lives is ourselves. Punks live in the moment and every day they’re a new self again. Don’t live for others. Skateboarding requires defeating oneself, defeating fear, and challenging every action that cannot be accomplished by oneself.

我认为朋克与滑板文化的最大共同处是:两者都具有自我反抗的精神 ,难道不是吗 ?我们人生中最大的敌人就我们自己 ,朋克们活在当下 ,每一天都做新的自己  ,不要为了别人而活 。玩滑板需要战胜自己 ,战胜恐惧 ,去挑战每一个自己完成不了的动作。

LCM: My friend the other day remarked how she missed the 80s in China and wished she could stay in that era. Being a band that grew up during that time, what are your thoughts of your generation? Do you ever feel nostalgia for a simpler time? Do you feel that society has regressed over time?

BPI also miss our 80s, because the chaos of that era created many punk artists and brilliant rock bands. We had no conditions to download music and browse through videos over the Internet. Music magazines and CDs were spiritual food – ones that were directly accessible to us. This will bring people a hard-won sense of cherishment and joy, or will people to go to the scene to get close to the energy conveyed by rock music – all of which was real and could not be copied. Nowadays, many people are living in their own virtual worlds. People are beginning to exclude each other. Society is full of uncertainty and doubt. Is this the evolution of humankind?

我也很怀念我们的80年代 ,因为那个年代的混乱秩序造就出很多朋克艺术家和优秀的摇滚乐队 ,我们没有条件通过网络下载音乐和浏览视频 ,音乐杂志和打口CD是我们可以直接触摸到的精神粮食 。这会给人带来一种来之不易的珍惜感和喜悦感 ,或者去现场近距离接触摇滚乐给我们传达的能量 ,这一切都是真实的 ,不可复制的 。而现在的很多人都活在自己的网络虚拟世界中 ,人与人之间开始互相排斥  ,社会里充满了不自信与怀疑  ,这难道是人类社会的进步吗?

LCM: Is punk music more necessary than ever today? Why? What message do you hope to get across during your tour?

BPYes, this era needs punk music more than ever. People have become lazy because their lives are too easy, too lazy to think positively, too lazy not to care about any misfortunes around them…Punk is synonymous with sharp and active – all punks are warriors who are not afraid of failure in life. “Since you can’t change others, then change yourself.” This is the message that Banana Peel hopes to convey to every punk during this tour.

是的,这个时代比以往更加需要朋克音乐,人们因为生活太安逸而变得慵懒  ,懒惰得不去积极思考 ,懒惰得不去关心身边任何意外的发生 ……朋克摇滚永远都是尖锐积极的代名词 ,朋克们个个都是生活中不怕失败的战士 。“既然无法去改变别人 ,那就去改变自己吧  ”。这是香蕉皮乐队在巡演中希望传达给每个朋克们的信息 。

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