Interview Conducted by Michael Cupoli
Round Eye has been kicking out the jams for over 3 years now and has become one of the best live bands around. Over the past several years, they have released a number of records, toured all over the place, and have worked with a lot of great musicians including one of The Stooges. Chachy is the singer and guitar player for Round Eye and he took some time to answer a few questions about Round Eye which includes talking about the late, great Steve Mackay, Daikaiju, and Morgan Short (Smart Beijing, DJ Compact Dicks). Nasty Wizard Recordings will be releasing a more experimental side of Round Eye\’s music and has paired them with a great rock band from Mexico called Sierra Leon. The Beijing release show for the tape split with Round Eye and Sierra Leon is December 4th at Temple with support from Motor Bike Girls, 子路, and Noise Arcade.
Our collective background is pretty varied. Pete, Jimmy Jack, Livio and I have, at times, completely different tastes in music. The music we play together is a hybrid of early American rock and roll, free jazz, and late 70s punk rock. The tag we usually get is \’Freak\’ – something or another. Experience wise, before coming to Shanghai and forming Round Eye I fronted a hardcore punk band called Libyan Hit Squad and played bass for punk band Superaids both based out of Orlando, FL.
Round Eye has been kicking around Shanghai for a while now. Can you give us a brief history of the band?
We had our 3rd birthday this year while on tour in the states. Crazy, crazy, it seems like yesterday that we began in Shanghai as a means for me to finish an album of material by LHS. Looking back on it now, I can see that when we started, things in Shanghai really quieted down. I think we were probably one of the last bands to enter the last high water mark that some refer to out here when reminiscing about the \’old days\’ of the Shanghai scene. Duck Fight Goose released \’Sports\’ on MM records and became Shanghai\’s indie darlings (and still to this day seem to be the only handle hipsters have on what\’s happening in Shanghai for some reason). Pairs released their double album Cockroach. Rainbow Danger Club, Fever Machine and Boys Climbing Ropes were packing it in or had already done so. Top Floor Circus put on some clothes and became a folky pop band and Stalin Gardens came, opened up for Car Sick Cars, and left in a hurry. Haha so here comes Round Eye a day late, a dollar short trying to do…something. But I digress, born 2012, released \”Full Circle\” EP, toured, toured, released s/t LP, toured, toured, enter end of 2015 and new uncut Nasty Wizard recordings!
Also to anyone outside of Shanghai reading this, realize there\’s still lead in the pencil here in underground Shanghai: GIVE, Dirty Fingers (formerly known as Wedding Night;)),谷水车间, Spill Your Guts, Pinball City, TMOOS, Air Walker, TORTURING NURSE, Red Scarf, Arcbane, Chaos Mind, Future Gaze, Undress for Success, PVA, Psyders, Parachutes on Fire, Blue Magpie, Scorpion Prisoner 69, Limousine, Spondees, and a ton more…
For the past couple years, Round Eye has been touring pretty intensively. What is it like to spend two months straight on the road? Any antedotes worth sharing?
I was actually just having a conversation with someone about the difference between a tour of consecutive dates and a tour of 3 to 4 date spurts in a period of months. Seems to me if the latter were considered touring, Round Eye would still technically be \’on tour\’ even though I\’m sitting here in my office typing. Whatever, who gives a fuck. Anyway.
An anecdote? One time in Cleveland\’s Now That\’s Class a local crackhead got me privy to a dude at the bar who had an interest in young men\’s dirty socks. He\’d pay up to 50 bucks for \’em. The dirtier the better I mean they had to have that acidic smell/taste to \’em. I unfortunately, had just washed my socks but told him that I would approach the guy if someone had dirty ones I could sell. The crackhead disappeared and came back with a plastic bag containing a pair. He said, \”here take these. Put them on and take them off in front of \’im. Don\’t tell \’im they\’re mine! just pretend they\’re yours. If he buys them just buy me a drink, k?\” OK! I opened the bag and sure enough tears came rollin\’ right down my face as the sock musk wafted up my nose. I put them on and was ushered inside by the crackhead (whose name was \”Baby Jane\”, I just remembered). The buyer was a fat bald dude with Dahmer glasses, rosy cheeks, biker apparel and a very flamboyant demeanor. He didn\’t look up from his glass as we approached. Baby Jane stepped forward and whispered something into his ear. The big guys\’ eye brows lifted with interest and he side glanced at my feet and said, \”oh yeah?\”. haha I took that as my cue to jump outta my boots and peel off my potential paychecks. He took \’em, pressed them with one hand to his nose, inhaled and shuttered like he came in his pants. \”Mmmm, now that\’s a man! Here you go, baby\” he said as he looked me up and down. haha Baby Jane was right! I pocketed the money, bought Baby a drink and returned to the dudes sockless with a shit eating grin. After that, Davey (singer for the Clits) told me during our set the biker dude was watching us play with the sock pressed against his face and his other hand rubbing is groin. Now that\’s class.
Haisong\’s a great guy and the sessions were super smooth. It was a double pleasure not only to work with him but also have Steve along with us in the studio. Those recordings are the foundation for our next release. They\’re actually the last recordings we did with Steve (and I believe the last recordings he ever made). We are currently up in the air as to who we are going to release the next album through but have very interesting options thus far. One video for one of the songs has already been shot in an amusement park in North Korea while the other will be shooting in Jan/Feb.
In 2012, when I first met Steve, he was a Stooge. He was an idol, a legend, majority of the reason Round Eye sounds the way it does and something for the fan boy in me to geek out about. By 2015, he was our very dear friend. It was an honor to work with him and its a very strange thing to know that our band was the final chapter of his career. When he passed we all spent October in mourning and in celebration of a life well lived, man. He was such a sweet guy and a magnetic presence and always so incredibly positive despite his health. To know him really was to love him.
Haha I heard about Beijing toting the whole Steve\’s last show deal and whoever is saying that is getting it wrong. Shanghai was his last gig; at On Stage. Beijing was the third to last (we played Yi Wu next). Just sayin\’.
The gigs with Steve were all a blast and completely surreal. Especially playing the tracks we wrote together. A highlight was definitely playing \”1970\” and \”Fun House\” with gnarly ass Zhao Kai barreling in on vocals. Hilarious. Steve really liked the Bedstars.
Though the tour was like a dream for us, the reality was very stressful. After Beijing, (Yiwu/Shanghai dates) it became apparent that Steve\’s health wasn\’t handling the travel and gigs very well and I found myself really watching over his every move and tending to him in any way I could. We had to tone down the gnarly of how we normally engage in our gigs and make doubly sure Steve was ok. We had many late night talks about this probably being his last tour of this kind (the diy thing), his declining health, his planned performance in France opening for Iggy Pop which he was very excited about and ultimately missed and his family back in Pacifica worrying for him. But god damn, he did it and touring China is not always the easiest thing to do. Steve was determined and extremely passionate about all of his projects. I dunno, man. Looking back on it now, I just think to myself \”fuck man did all of that really just happen?\”
I once over heard a very intense, intellectual conversation at Inferno between you and Morgan Short discussing who looked more like who. So, why do you think Morgan looks like you? Please state your reasoning.
Fuckin\’ Daikaiju! Man when you tour with a band like Daikaiju you realize very quickly that you\’re touring with one the best and you check your game haha. It\’s definitely very humbling! After all the ego shit sheds away (remember we played nearly 100 gigs with these guys in 5 different countries) and you start to get real, get ideas on how to go about and improve the live gig. You also see how important a live \’band\’ personality is at gigs. Sandy (the guitar player) and Brian (bass) were incredibly supportive and taught me so much about how to walk an audience through a gig and also how to loose excess baggage (in terms of guitars) with gear. Because of Sandy, all of my guitars have no back panel for easy access to replacing strings, no tuning nobs for less interference when strumming, keeping shit tons of duct tape at hand and to throw my guitar and anything else on the stage at the audience instead of at my members haha. I\’ve known those dudes since the Libyan days and they\’re like big brothers to Round Eye. Fo evah and always.
The music video for City Livin\’ is quite interesting with everyone moving faster than the band. How was the video made? Anything else you can say about the video?
City Living was something we did quick and on the fly strictly because we had to get something in the can so the promoters in the US could use it to push the album. There wasn\’t as much preparation as Suntan (both videos were created by our buddy Alessio Avezzano). We wanted to have something that showcased the city we live in and mimic visually the erratic spazzy quality of the music. It was fun but exhausting because we had to move in slow motion the entire time while miming the vocals of the slowed down music. Pretty weird to witness I\’m sure.
One close call we had with that one was the scene of us in the loading rig / tower thing. It was locked off so we had to climb along the sides of the structure to sneak in. It was so so high and we soon discovered something new when we reached the top: Pete\’s afraid of heights. If you look closely you can see that Pete\’s hand rarely leaves the inside railing; he was terrified. hahaha. While we were up there security guards came and cleared us out along with some kids who followed us in.
You guys are about to release a tape split with Sierra Leon on Nasty Wizard Recordings. What can you tell us about this release?
This is really awesome for us because it\’s more in line with how we wanted some tracks to sound in the original cut along with some completely new edits. This is the uncut version of the experimental tracks on the album and features more Steve. I\’m particularly happy that we get to release this thing on Nasty Wizard as I\’m a big fan of Cloud Choir and feel that this music fits quite nicely with the catalogue and also stoked to share some tape with Mexican rockers Sierra Leon who we were actually going to do a tour of China and Mexico with until things got shelved. Still waiting to hear about that!
MECCA is Scott Nydegger. Scott is the brain child of Radon Records and Sikhara. It was with Sikhara that I met Scott and Steve Mackay back in JUE fest 2012. I played bass for Sikhara in Xi\’an\’s Aperture Club and that gig was the first public performance I ever did in China. Scott lived in Xi\’an for quite some time in an unfinished hotel in the middle of a park next to a carnival. Of course. That gig and me meeting Scott started everything for me in China so working with him on this project with Steve felt very serendipitous. The last time we saw each other was outside of Portland, OR while on tour. Working with Scott is interesting because communication is almost entirely on line and you never really know where Scott will be next when you talk with him but you always knew something crazy was gonna come back in a zipped file for you no matter what and I mean \’crazy\’ in the best possible way. Scott and I always seem to be on the same page when it came down to production. So right now he\’s in Istanbul getting ready to jump for Mexico. After that…who knows!
I expect snow and an awful lot of mean muggin from Morgan in the back.
We have ten more shows in December (zibo/nanjing after Beijing) and tons more weekend dates all over the mainland. We\’re bringing over our tour buddies Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes (Indiana, USA) to China for their first ever out of US gigs, the return of Daikaiju to the mainland for a 60+ date tour with Round Eye through China, eastern Europe, and a couple of dates in…RUSSIA! Release this next album (Steve\’s final recorded material produced by Haisong and Li Wei Yu) by Spring annnnnd have a pint with Mike!