IN MY EARS #29: DIY or Die! Genjing Records and Qiii Snacks
by Josh Feola
Selected track：Die!ChiwawaDie! - 夢中情人 One From the Heart
入耳 In My Ears is a weekly music column by Josh Feola 赵识, Beijing-based writer and musician and founder of pangbianr.com
Continuing from my article last week on small DIY labels splintering off from bigger ones, today I want to spotlight two of my favorite — and definitely the most DIY — small labels from China: Genjing and Qiii Snacks.
Genjing Records and Qiii Snacks Records
Genjing is a vinyl label started in 2011 by Nevin Domer, who’s been a familiar face in the Beijing underground scene for over a decade through his role as manager of D-22 and “the guy that sorta does a little bit of everything” at Maybe Mars. Domer got the idea to do Genjing after his band Fanzui Xiangfa went on tour in Europe but had no merchandise to sell. He realized that since people in the West still love vinyl records, it’d be a good idea to put some Chinese bands on vinyl, and have them share a split 7” with a band from overseas, so that everyone could hear everyone else’s music and tour in each other’s countries.
From that simple goal, Genjing has grown a huge catalogue, and almost single-handedly kicked off a vinyl resurgence in China. Vinyl records aren’t as common in China as they are in the West for a number of reasons. During the Mao years, music publishing in general was pretty much limited to English-learning materials and patriotic State songs. If you go to the Panjiayuan antiques market today you can still find flexi discs of old Red Tunes. By the time rock bands started forming in China, cassettes were easier and cheaper to make, and then came CDs, and now MP3s have killed them all.
But in the West, collectors still value vinyl. Nevin himself has a huge record collection, and wanted to add some Chinese artists to his stacks. So he did what any DIY hardcore punk would do: started his own label. Six years later, bigger names like Maybe Mars and Modern Sky (not to mention Douban’s music publishing arm, D Force) have also gotten into the game, sometimes printing vinyl as the only physical format alongside a digital download.
Genjing has been pretty quiet all year, but they’ve just put out their 47th release, a split between Nevin’s hardcore band Struggle Session and Guangzhou’s Die! Chiwawa Die! The latter is part of the excellent Guangzhou label Qiii Snacks Records, which is also the very definition of DIY. There’s not much happening in Guangzhou in terms of underground music, but what little is there, you can be sure this crew is making it happen.
Qiii Snacks grew out of an older label/collective called Full Label, which organized concerts at non-traditional venues — practice rooms, rooftops, skate shops, etc — and released hand-drawn comics. I worked with Full Label a few times through my booking platform pangbianr, contacting them whenever a visiting artist wanted assistance in putting together a DIY China tour. Pretty much everyone that I sent to Guangzhou and who had a show with Full Label said it was the highlight of their tour. Qiii Snacks got started in late 2015, and is more of an actual record label, focused on releasing music from Guangzhou and elsewhere in China (they’ve put out releases for Foster Parents from Shanghai and The White Tulips from Xiamen, both of whom played in Beijing last weekend).
Struggle Session/Die!ChiwawaDie! split
Anyway, Genjing’s latest split is a happy and hardcore celebration of these two great exemplars of true DIY in China. The music might not be for you (unless you like fast, sloppy, and loud, which I definitely do), but the ethos behind it is something I hope more motivated kids in scattered pockets around China will adopt. If your tastes veer more to shoegaze and post-rock, take a spin through Qiii Snacks’ Douban page and you’ll find several treasures within. If you’re more into punk and noise rock, stay tuned to Genjing, who will be releasing splits featuring Beijing bands Birdstriking (with New Zealand’s Die! Die! Die!) and The Diders (with Canadian hardcore legends DOA) in September.
Qiii Snacks Records
About the author
Josh Feola is a writer and musician based in Beijing. He’s organized music, art, and film events in the city since 2010, via his label pangbianr and as booking manager of live music venues D-22 and XP. His ongoing event series include the Sally Can’t Dance experimental music festival and the Beijing Electronic Music Encounter (BEME). He has written about music and art for publications including The Wire, LEAP, Sixth Tone, and Tiny Mix Tapes. He also co-authors the Gulou View opinion column for the New York Observer. As a musician, he formerly played drums in Beijing band Chui Wan, recording on and touring behind their debut album, White Night. He currently plays drums in SUBS and Vagus Nerve, and also records and performs under the name Charm.