Suck on this, all ya’ll who ever questioned my taste in music. A little chronology of events: April – yours truly is digging through Bandcamp searching for something good to play on the radio (not the easiest task) and finds this project from Shanghai called AM444. Later the same month – AM444 gives trippin’ the rift an interview that sits in yours truly’s inbox waiting to be edited due to the author going through all kinds of mini-crises. June – your truly gets an RSS update from the UK’s Guardian Music Blog, where in the post ‘June’s best new music from across the MAP‘ he finds what? Yep, AM444, which is described as “a jazzy, funked up, dubbed out Chinese language sonic assault and some of the most exciting music to come out of Shanghai in a while”(C) and their debut album Eye Wonder is referred to as “a landmark release for Chinese underground music”(C). ‘A landmark release’ bitches! And trippin’ the rift discovered them first. I should quit my job and go work as a talent scout for EMI. Nah, I’m not gonna do that, I know you’ll miss this blog. But enough about myself (really), let’s talk about (and with) Jay.Soul and ChaCha (aka AM444):
tipkin – Tell us a little bit about your project. How did you meet, how long ago, what does the name mean?
ChaCha – AM444 is producer Jay.Soul and myself on vocals. We met when Jay first dj-ed at Shelter in early ’08. We liked each other’s music so we planned to work together back then already.
Jay – Being both busy with a lot of other projects it took a while to actually happen. Last year ChaCha freestyled along with a dj set of my own productions. The vibe was so good, we decided to finally get the ball rolling. The name AM444 is derived from the time in the twilight of the night that ChaCha often noticed on her clock, for example after going out: 4:44am.
tipkin – Why did you choose electronica as your style? You call your music “Electronic Soul”, but I couldn’t help but see similarities with trip-hop. Do you agree? What is trip-hop to you? What are your music influences?
Jay – We didn’t choose any style actually and we think there’s quite a wide range of different sounding songs on the CD. We’re just trying to create good music. Genres are not important. My background is mostly in hip-hop but also soul, funk, electronic, jazz, reggae, etc.
ChaCha – It’s hard to label, but yes a lot of people think it sounds trip-hoppy. I really love trip-hop, but also am into pop, dubstep, reggae, etc. etc.
tipkin – You are the first trip-hop project from China that I’ve ever heard about. Do you think this certain exotic angle works in your advantage, or do you think it could work against you and that some people may see you just as “this Chinese trip-hop band”? What are your songs about?
ChaCha – We’re not worried about that. There’s not a lot of artists yet doing similar things so that can also be an advantage. My lyrics are in Mandarin and talk about – of course – emotions and feelings, but usually a bit different from average songs. For example “Eye Wonder” is about most of us having turned into digital zombies, always glued to our screens, iphones etc and spending more time online and less time meeting people face to face.
tipkin – What is electronic music scene like in China? Is it hard to find distribution? Do you play live shows?
Jay – Electronic scene is rapidly developing (as everything else in China…). We’ve only played a live show as AM444 once so far but are definitely gonna play more. Shanghai just hosted the big Midi Festival … (previous 10 years in Beijing) and the electronic stage was a massive hit. CD distribution is pretty much non-existent as they’re virtually no real cd/record shops. Everything is bootleg.
tipkin – Congratz on the “Eye Wonder” video! Looks great. Do you want to talk about it – what’s it about, how was it made?
both – Thanks! See [answer to question] 3. We made it with a local film production company who were very interested to make a good music video. We mostly shared the costs and came up with a lot of creative solutions to keep it as affordable as possible. Due to some investor politics, for now we can’t disclose their company name. Hopefully this will change soon, because they’ve put in incredibly long hours and delivered a great video.
tipkin – What are the plans for AM444?
ChaCha – Once we’re both available (I just got married and Jay’s becoming a father soon) AM444 will tour different cities in China and possibly other Asian countries.
Jay – Also, we’ll start recording more material as we both see this as a long-term collaboration.
So, if you’re in Asia, you might get lucky and catch AM444‘s show, if not, check out their trippy video here and their funky album Eye Wonder on Bandcamp.
AM444 – “Eye Wonder”