Interview: Perpetual Motion Machine

I’ve only seen Perpetual Motion Machine three times now – and they are genuinely one of the most kickass underrated bands in town, whose high-octane new wave rock will get any crowd sweating beads within minutes. With an album out already, another one, “名利修罗场” available now for free download here, and countless fans elsewhere (they even have nifty t-shirts flying about town), its time we got to know theses homegrown Beijingers a bit more, 30 year old Baijin on vocals and guitar, Tianyang Lee, “the monkeyman”, also 30 on bass, and Jianxi Lee, “the sheep man”, 25, on drums. Here’s some of the highlights of our conversion we had on my green pristine (cough fake grass) rooftop a couple weeks back – oh, and be sure to catch them tomorrow, Wednesday, at Temple.


How has Beijing shaped you guys?

BJ: Beijing has changed so much – we’re messing more and more the old Beijing

TL: We grew up in a four-section compound, our neighbors’ close by. Now, there’re tall buildings everywhere, people live further apart, it doesn’t feel as good

JL: I’m a relatively new beijinger, so I don’t have the deep-rooted impression like these two – Beijing is bustling more and more, which is good in many ways, as it allows for more opportunities, but the crowds can be jarring

When did you become afflicted by rock n’ roll?

BJ: When Black Leopard released their first album back in 1994

JL: When I was in the fifth and sixth grade of primary school, I listened quite a bit to Michael Jackson – the rock and roll elements really stuck out and interested me so I began playing the drums

TL: I started with Black Leopard and Tang Dynasty – but I went crazy when got into foreign rock and roll in 98’– Nirvana, Metallica. This was when I started playing the guitar. Girls love guitar players you know, and playing made me happy – we built our first band when we were in university in 2000.


How did Perpetual Motion Machine get started?

BJ: I started to build this band after I became frustrated with working for a pirated book company.

TL: I met Baijin in a show where we exchanged our contact information. Soon after he called me and asked if I wanna to build a band – after that we just starting plotting

JL: I’ve known Baijin since 2009, when we both were in different bands – Baijin was in charge of our publicity photo, and borrowed my camera – eventually we agreed to join forces

What’s the biggest challenge of making music in China?

JL: The hardest challenge is to persist. We can’t make a profit making music here, so we proceed pursuing just to fulfill our lives

BJ It’s hard for the Chinese to accept this kind of music, and in general, there’s a lack of creativity in the business – but I feel positive about the future of rock n’ roll here

You guys have a knack for marketing yourselves? What’s your secret?

TL: I’m a good drinker, so basically I’ll be responsible for the marketing. Our drummer takes care of the financial issues. The main tasks bestowed upon our singer is composing…he used to be a good drinker, but now it takes him a whole day to finish a bottle

BJ: We’re still looking for someone we can trust, who’d be great at marketing and have lots of ‘guanxi’ – still waiting for him to show up

What has influenced your sound the most?

BJ: Part grunge, part new wave, and even local opera, and a bit of electronic music – these have all helped form our sound. Music is our way of expression – of us, our culture – everything we want to give the audience. So at the end, it’s you, your human aspect, who has more influence, not the musical style

JL: If you want to be famous, your style has to be fixed

TL: A band must have its own character

BJ: Perpetual Motion Machine means Sun in Manchu, where I’m from…a lot of our musical inspiration came from old Manchu Dynasty 100 to 300 years – with those eight-foot drums that the Manchuria army used in their marches

How does the audience play into your performances?

JL: Well the effect is huge. If they’re excited about it, that’s great! But even without an audience, we still strive to give it all we got.

BJ: Our performances are driven by our need to have fun with the audience – this goes all the way back to offering sacrifices to the gods in the earliest of times. The band and the audience should be intertwined with one another, to get the full effect, that moment of pure joy


Awesome guys, thanks a bunch!!! Don’t forget to check out Perpetual Motion Machine tomorrow night at Temple and at the Old What? Bar on Friday, August 3rd. And stay tuned in the near or late future for the full video interview (geez, how many times have I said that before?) – seriously need to get working on those. Oh, and thanks to Foukographer, whose photo I used above. Oh, and to Aiping Xu, who spent the time translating this whole interview. And finally, click below for the abridged chinese version.


白金: 北京的变化太大了,在发生这些变化的同时让人对旧的北京更加怀念了。

李天洋 : 从小都在四合院长大,人们之间的距离很近,现在都是楼房感觉上没有以前好了

李剑玺: 我是后来来的北京,对北京的印象没有那么根深蒂固,觉得北京变的更繁华,有它的好处,比如接触的人层次也高了,但片面的来讲,人多了感觉心也烦了


白金: 1994年,黑豹的第一张专辑。

李剑玺: 五六年级有一次听杰克逊的歌,有一些摇滚元素在里面,自己就想接触这种摇滚形式,就选择了鼓。

李天洋 最早听黑豹,唐朝,真正喜欢摇滚乐是在1998年听一些国外的摇滚乐像,nirvana,metallica.并且开始学习吉他(其实也为讨女孩子喜爱),觉得摇滚乐能让我真正快乐,组成的第一支摇滚乐队是在2000年,上大学。


白金: 乐队是我挑头的组建的,我当时做盗版图书,一上班就感觉在犯罪,那时上班很烦。之前有过很多乐队不是很成功。

李天洋 : 我和白金在一次演出上碰到,互相留了电话,有一天白金打电话问要不要组建乐队,然后就在老what密谋了一下

李剑玺: 我和白金2009年认识了,当时都各自有自己的乐队,我们以前乐队的宣传照是白金操办的,相机是我的,后来又一次白金给我打电话问我要不要加入现在的乐队。


李剑玺: 最大的困难是坚持,摇滚乐在中国不挣钱,以快乐为目的

白金: 中国人对这种音乐形式不理解,从业人员整体缺乏创造力。但是摇滚乐是有前景的


李天洋 我比较能喝酒,我一般都是外联,鼓手是财务,主唱是创作(主唱以前比较能喝,现在一瓶啤酒需要喝一天)

白金: 我们一直在找这个人,我们互相能够信任,并且这个人要有很强的业务能力和人脉,我们一直期待这个人的出现


白金: 我们的音乐主要是由一部分垃圾摇滚乐,新浪潮摇滚和一些地方戏曲,还有电子音乐组成的。我们的音乐风格基本上固定了。我觉得音乐是一种表达形式,只要是表演的东西,最终展现的是你这个人和你所掌握的文化,想传达给观众的信息,不是音乐形式,人是最重要的

李剑玺: 摇滚乐要想受到大家喜爱,风格一定要固定

李天洋 我们的音乐风格在中国现在是没有其它乐队有的,乐队一定是要有自己的个性
白金: 我是满族人,永动机是太阳的意思。 我们的音乐素材来自于中国前100年到300年之间的民间的艺术,具体归结到满洲人打的八脚鼓,是在行军打仗取乐用的。唱腔和段落上的结构影响我们音乐很多


李剑玺: 挺大的,观众要能玩起来我们也会更好,不过要是一个观众没有,永动机的演出依然很疯狂

白金: 演出就是一小部分带动一大部分一起玩,来源于最早的祭祀活动,观众和乐队是一体的,一起进入高潮

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