When I first caught Kṣitigarbha 地藏 at ALL club earlier this summer I was immediately smitten by their bewitching blend of prog rock theatrics, psychedelic wonder, and rock and roll zest. The Shanghai-based genre-defying troupe make music that’s potent – a mythic and transcendent swirl of influences and tones as mind bending psychedelia, world music and neo folk is filtered through ravenous and robust rock and roll chops. Simply put – it’s something that demands to be seen live. The band will be joining Beijing renegade art-rock synth-doom duo Guiguisuisui this Friday, October 9th at C’s in Shanghai for their ‘Among Worlds’ tour.
Q: How did you all end up together? What were those beginning days in rehearsal like? Did you all know what you wanted to accomplish musically?
A: It might just be my mind, but upon reflection, each story of how the encounter of how Dizang became (not.) Dizang (and is still becoming) could be its own little comic, short film, or maybe even episodic game. It might just be my mind.
Luckily, the Foundation for Dizang has released an infographic that can help makes sense of some of the timeline and iterations.
Our first goal was to help realize and develop a set of songs that Colin worked on for years. I’m sure tho, that everyone came in with personal aspirations, based on their relationship and desires to music.
Q: While of course there are elements of improvisation in your music, it’s clear a lot of thought and care is put into the way each song builds and unfolds. What’s the process of putting together a song?
A: As we’re moving away from the initial songs, we are having to find our way.
Here’s my observation, for now: It oscillates from free flowing to highly structured to. There are common patterns through each approach we’ve experimented with.
Here’s a simple take:
Start wide, and narrow it down with each pass/repetition.
Kinda like drawing.
Start with a sketch then go into the details.
The ideas we’re working with are from all parts of the band. We used to do it all during rehearsal time, but lately we’ve been trying to get step 1 and 2 (and possibly 4) done before coming to the practice room. Luckily, tHe Foundaton for Dizang has released an infographic that can help makes sense of some of the inspirations and influences.
Q: I noticed at one of your gigs that you guys are having quite a bit of fun on stage performing. Is there something freeing about performing live? Do you think too many bands, especially ones that fall into the psychedelic category, take the genre too seriously?
A: Hmm… Yes. Personally, I feel so. Tho I feel so about most aspects of capitalist societies. Too serious. It’s all good to be serious about what you want to achieve and express, but if the seriousness gets toooo serious then the present moment is lost.
So for us there’s an aim to meet the stage with a sincere connection, freedom*, gratitude, etc..
A wabi-sabi-ish moment.
*dare to extend yourself past your comfort
A lot of times I see seriousness expressed as a desire towards the “Cool”.
The aesthetic of cool is totally valid, and its fun to exist with those accompanying emotions, However, those are not the only emotions humans feel.
Hmm.. A running thought:
…Perhaps one could say that music is a form of celebration. A live show is a collective experience. I’m enamoured with the idea of us being able to celebrate and embody a vast range of emotions, together. Emotions that might lie outside the realm of the Cool.
Perhaps there’s a greater sense of connection waiting. I havent yet been able to open myself up fully on stage. But i think I know where my aim is.
Q: A new track was released a couple of months ago. Can we expect any more this year? What’s next for the band?
A: Oh, I heard 一藏 is coming soon to an internet near u. (There’s also rumours of a shiny new 二藏 in production)
Q: Is there overarching philosophy to the band — either to the way you approach music or what you hope to convey with you music? Does spirituality come into play at all in the band?