A file photo of Silver Ash band in 2002. The band wins over fans for its original visual rock outfits and stage presence.
Starting with pioneers Silver Ash, visual rock has been catching the attention of Chinese fans with its wild aesthetics and melodies. Chen Nan reports
Hard rock buff Hong Ge chuckled as he gazed at the mirror.
He felt ridiculous wearing makeup, especially eyebrow enhancement.
But when he finished doing up his face, as required by China's first visual rock band Silver Ash, he felt transformed.
"I was afraid to be called 'womanly', because rock was strong and masculine in my mind," he recalls.
"I never thought men could appear so beautiful dressed up and wearing cosmetics."
He was 21 then.
His long hair had been styled into a wild and elaborate style, highlighted with several colors. Bright crimson lipstick was smudged around his mouth, and his eyes were lined with thick layers of smoky-colored eye shadow.
"All of the members are transformed in appearance before going onstage, creating a dazzling tableau for audiences," the 31-year-old drummer says.
Founded by vocalist Wang Xiaobei and Hong, Silver Ash paved the way for visual rock.
The genre emerged from Japan in the 1980s. It is distinguished by gaudily costumed performers, such as those of X Japan, Luna Sea and L'Arc-en-Ciel.
The lead singer, Wang, who is a huge fan of Japanese comics, came up with the idea of starting the group, Hong says.
The vocalist sketched the characters they would become onstage as cartoons, Hong recalls.
In 1996, Wang became obsessed with rock 'n' roll, and thought of forming a band named Silver Ash. The moniker is meant to convey images of enchanting snowfalls.
"Wang showed me his paintings," Hong recalls.
"I thought it was impossible to create these figures in real life. But he insisted."
Wang then set about designing the costumes and getting the band going musically.
"The costumes were exquisite and designed according to each member's figure," Hong says.
Clad in homemade gear ranging from military uniforms to black tuxedos, the five 1.8-m-tall men have gone on to win a nationwide fan base of screaming women since 2001.
"We weren't too worried about how crowds would receive us when we first played," Hong recalls.
"We were young and rebellious, and proud to be different. Chinese rock bands back then were mostly hard rock and death metal but lacked visual pizzazz.
"We wanted to break with convention and offer something fresh."