Music theory's mad scientist staging new experiments
By Chen Nan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-30 11:10

Music theory's mad scientist staging new experiments

Dou Wei says his upcoming show in Beijing is not a return or a restart, but a debut of his newest creations.[China Daily]

As an influential figure in Beijing's music scene, Dou Wei dabbles in a cornucopia of genres - rock, pop, electronicand reggae - but has no intention of performing mainstream music on stage.

"I'm interested in, and can play, any instrument with strings. But conventional music - I mean songs with lyrics over melodies - doesn't want anything to do with me," he says, smiling.

"But music generously accepts me in other ways. If you listen to it with your heart, you can make something interesting."

That's why the 40-year-old Beijing native has gravitated toward experimental sounds.

Dou, the lead vocalist of pop-rock band Black Panther, or Hei Bao, in early 1990s - one of China's most famous rock bands - has immersed himself in music since his teens.

"I listened to all types of music," he says. "As I listened to more, I realized I am not only touched by typical music with lyrics but also by the sounds of nature and even odder noises made by instruments."

So he began exploring the sounds made by various traditional instruments, such as drums, dizi (bamboo flute), ruan (moon-shaped lute) and guqin (seven-stringed zither).

He has been recording these ancient instruments' sounds and digitally manipulating them to create hypnotic, moody or jumping soundscapes.

Since leaving behind mainstream rock a decade ago, Dou has been presenting experimental works with his band Not Sure. And on Saturday, he'll take to the Starlive stage with his new group Di San Xian.

The group brings together veteran experimental musician Wang Fan, and keyboardist and guitarist Xu You, who recently returned from Germany. The upcoming show will be Dou's fist of the year and the debut of his newest creations.

"I have never stopped making music and releasing albums, so this performance is not a return or a restart," he says.

"Those descriptions were media creations and have nothing to do with me. I'm still me."

The band was formed just half a month ago. Dou says it hasn't prepared any specific songs for the show.

"Anything that comes from the band will be improvised and natural," he says.

"I'm getting old and am tired of singing songs with lyrics. What I like now is pure music with originality."

Dou made his name as early as Cui Jian, the "Godfather of Chinese rock". He joined Black Panther in 1991 and later released several sold-out solo albums, including Sunny Days (1995), Mountain River (1998) and Dark Dreams (1994).

But his sentimental and self-indulgent nature propelled the talented artist into his own musical world. He has never run out of inspiration but disappeared from the public view for years.

In 2001, he released improvisational jazz-lounge recording One Stone, Two Birds with Not Sure. Every instrument, as well as Dou's voice, found a space for self-expression on the track. While sales weren't great, Dou had discovered a new way to make music.

"It's not that important to me that audiences accept my music," he says.

"I don't like to explain it much, because it's too abstract and personal."

He says showbiz is an unhealthy venue for developing original music, and commercial albums from Hong Kong and Taiwan have had negative influences in this realm.

"I don't have any contact with record companies now, because their way of promoting music is too commercialized and unsuitable for me," Dou says. "Also, I know nothing about showbiz. But one thing's for sure: I don't like it."

Source believe that Dou's hatred of the entertainment industry came from his marriage to, and divorce of, Asian pop diva Faye Wong.

He had withdrawn for years from the view of the public, who still never forgot his pivotal role in Chinese rock's development.

"I'm grateful for those who've followed my music for years," he says.

"Money's not a concern for me I now lead a simple life like anyone else, riding my bike and chatting with like-minded friends. I'm ordinary and comfortable."