Reptile + Retard: The Know China, But Still Don’t Know How to Spell Beer

[image credit: Rasmus Weng Karlsen]

A few months ago Danish duo Reptile and Retard completed a massive and very debaucherous tour of China. Here are some of the highlights published by Vice Magazine this week.

The article is accompanied by some very sexy images shot by Rasmus Weng Karlsen

…this long, half-nightmarish trip, riddled with police interference, sleeping on floors, eating suspicious-looking food and long days spent in a tiny van on sketchy highways–balanced out by lots of running around naked, swinging from ceilings, drinking pijos [actually spelled pijiu in Chinese Pinyin] (Chinese for beer), turning crowds into moshpits and partying with Chinese rockers–they were appointed one of the top five live acts in all of China.

Sounds like a typical week on the road. Though it’s extremely unlikely—and I’m willing to be convinced otherwise—Reptile and Retard were named in the top five live acts in all of China, they are an example to other international indie bands looking to tour China.

During the World Expo in Shanghai the police closed down random bars and clubs to demonstrate their power. We performed at a trashy punk-venue called Yu Yin Tang and, the expectedly, police turned up to close down the place, finding it too rowdy. We were a bit scared the moment they walked in but, as a reflex, our singer, Mads, just kept going. The crowd followed him and it ended up being one of our best shows, there was so much energy in the air. The cops eventually left.

[via Vice Magazine]

Where costs are a concern, a two-piece obviously minimizes the headache for promoters. But more importantly, they’ve been to China several times, they’ve combined their visits/tours with study and managed to secure bookings on a few ‘good’ festivals. The single most important factor though is that they met someone on the ground they could trust. Mads of Reptile and Retard explains below in an excerpt from an article posted by Mache on Layabozi:

Esben (Retard) and me [Mads], we are studying here [China]. We go to a private school called The Khaospilots, it’s a leadership, project management, and creative processes education…And about The Khaospilots we are educated to know how to navigate chaos, so we learn to be able to be creative with what happens along the road, you know it is like a hippie business school.

No we didn’t. We had some contacts, some friends that were here last year and told us some things. But we were really lucky to meet Michael [of Dada Bar], nobody knew us, and it’s hard to be a band that nobody knows and he took us under his wing, and helped us a lot.

The World Expo in Shanghai has been an amazing opportunity for a handful of international acts to dip their toes in China, without too much risk of drowning in debt and bureaucracy. I recently caught up with Yves Klein Blue here in Shanghai, an Australian indie pop-rock act who were invited to play a handful of shows for the Expo’s Australian Pavilion. Their experience echoed the comments made by Reptile and Retard, below.

With a dose of unwavering enthusiasm that transcended cultural and language barriers, Michael (lead for Yves Klein Blue) left the shy crowd with no option but to dance, eventually resorting to jumping off the stage mid-song and dragging/dancing a few people front and center. Watch the short clip below to see what I mean.

Shanghai Talk Magazine asked Reptile and Retard the difference between shows in China and Europe, and how they came to play at the Danish Pavilion:

It’s more of a challenge to connect with an audience that speaks a different language, but we can do it, it makes it more fun!

Last year we met Martin Røen, the guru of music exchanges between Denmark and China. At that time he was organising a tour for Danish punk phenomenon Clean Boys. Later, he was hired by Expo to put together the official music program for the Danish Pavilion. Martin invited us, as one of the youngest bands, to officially represent Danish Culture at the World Expo.

Here are a couple of free Reptile and Retard tracks:
Breathe Out by Reptile and Retard
Jesus by Reptile and Retard