We are giving away a pair of tickets for the show, to be in with a chance of winning email us with your full name and STOLEN in the header line before midday on October 7. The winner will be notified by email.
On October 8, the Chinese tech-pop band STOLEN will be headlining the Maze Club in Berlin, in-between stops supporting New Order on their European tour. We spoke to Mark Reeder, who produced STOLEN’S second album “Fragment” about his first encounter with the band, his comparison of the growing Chinese music scene with the punk scene in East Berlin, and what it means to go on tour with New Order.
KCRWB: Hi Mark, how are you?
Mark Reeder (MR): Very well thank you. Of course, I’m a bit stressed because of the anticipation of the tour, but I am confident my boys will deliver.
KCRWB: Thanks so much for catching up with us! Last time we spoke to you, we talked about you bringing over STOLEN so you could produce their album in Berlin. Would you mind recapping on what it was it that drew you to them?
MR: I was invited on a two-month tour of China with B-Movie, where the plan was, I would screen the film, give a Q&A and then DJ at their after-party. One of these events was at a festival in a forest on the outskirts of Chengdu, which is in spicy Szechuan province. I met STOLEN there. I spent three days at this festival and saw all kinds of bands, playing all kinds of music, however, although everything was familiar and very well done – they had long haired geezers in flared corduroy jeans playing progrock, or punk bands spewing carefully crafted critical texts, the usual Green Day impersonators, and even a disco show-band – but in reality there was nothing that I hadn’t really seen before… and then came STOLEN.
They were literally, outstanding! If this open-air festival had had a roof, they would have blown it off!
Basically, they were mixing psychedelic sounds, with techno and rock, but it was the way they presented it which made it feel completely original.
Their stage presence was dark and mystical, and it was very obvious that the majority of the young audience had only come to see them. The moment they hit the stage; the whole place just erupted. I was drawn into this wild enthusiasm; it was so exhilarating. I hadn’t felt a thrill like this for many years.
To be honest, I had the same kind of exciting feeling as when I first saw Joy Division (who were still called Warsaw) and back then, we had no idea where that would go.
They were not a punk band either, but they were raw and therefore they were playing at a punk festival, as it was the only place that would book them. I could feel the energy and hope that this young audience were absorbing from STOLEN.
I also realised that China has never really had its own musical face before, but here was a young band that was a true representation of a young, optimistic China.
After all, almost everything is made in China, so why can’t music be also made in China?
For sure, we can evaluate and compare them against all our favourite bands, and then it is easy to simply discard or deride them, that’s easy, but that is not what this is about.
This is about bringing us together.
Now here in the West, we all take the development of music over the decades totally for granted.
Yet the audience actually has no idea what these young lads have had to go through just to get to be playing on a stage. We can’t forget that they come from a communist country. Being in a band means you have to go to music school and take proficiency tests, even before you are allowed anywhere near a stage. Their lyrics all have to be vetted by the state censor, because they sing in English. That is normality for them. When I first came to China, there were policemen standing in front of the DJ booth making sure the crowd didn’t get too wild. That’s all changed.
Of course, once you have access to the music, it’s natural to want to copy your favourites from all the genres that have existed since the 50’s, there is nothing new in that, after all, the Beatles wanted to sound like Chuck Berry, and like any band, STOLEN are inspired by music they also like. Up until a few years ago, STOLEN were totally unaware that bands like Kraftwerk, Massive Attack, Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails, or Joy Division even existed. It wasn’t readily available music on the state-controlled music platform, which only provided safe, acceptable US pop-rock or r&b music, like R Kelly, Mariah Carey, Green Day or Bon Jovi.
Remember, there is no Google, Facebook, Twitter or Soundcloud in China. When they discovered this other world, it was such an enlightening experience. Suddenly, their musical style changed overnight, and the band was to evolve into something else, taking the best bits, and fusing all kinds of contemporary genres and by adding a touch of China into the mix and in their attempts to draw from it, they have ended up creating their own sinographic sound.
After their Chengdu show, we went into their home studio for a few days and made a couple of demo tracks, just to see if we could work together. The band were so excited by the result, they eventually released them in China. Then, after playing almost a year of gigs, the band came to Berlin and we recorded Fragment, their second album.
While recording, I decided to revive my label MFS, so that I could present STOLEN on an established platform to the Western World. After all, I had initially started MFS for Eastie kids after the fall of the Berlin wall, and now I was venturing further Eastwards, this time to the far East.
KCRWB: Now Stolen are supporting New Order in their European tour. How did it feel to get this kind of recognition for the band?
I was delighted that Bernard Sumner and the other members of New Order liked STOLEN.
My relationship with Bernard goes back over 40 years. We were in Poland together and I gave Bernard a listen after he had asked me what I was currently working on. When I told him I was working with a Chinese band he was very curious – a Chinese band? He thought I was mad, but after listening, he understood immediately the importance for such a band and what they could mean to a whole generation of young, fashionable Chinese.
Just before Christmas, he endorsed them on the New Order website. Then a few months later, he asked me if STOLEN would like to perform as their support act in Berlin, this one gig offer eventually became a European tour. STOLEN couldn’t believe it when I told them. They still can’t.
Even though it was announced officially on the New Order website, it still feels like a dream to them. New Order and Joy Division undoubtedly became the main influences for STOLEN – once they had discovered their music. They realised that they could expand and mix technology with tradition. Something they hadn’t been told was possible before. That’s why their music now has elements of all kinds, from techno, rock and psychedelic.
KCRWB: The tour starts on October 3, as a veteran of the music industry, do you have any good tour preparation tactics you will be encouraging?
MR: Veteran? That description makes me feel like a doddering antique. Yes, the main preparation I will be suggesting will be to take enough vitamins with us. Touring, travelling and the events themselves take so much out of you, that the last thing people think about is to boost themselves with vitamin supplements. The band are very professional in their approach and obviously, they want to make a good impression.
KCRWB: Tell us a bit more about the gig on October 8. What’s the line-up?
MR: The gig in Maze club on 8th October is a collaboration between COK bookings and MFS.
I have been working with Chris Lewis from COK on a music school project for a few years now, and we wanted to do something together and STOLEN coming to Berlin presented the ideal opportunity. He is a booker of new and alternative music and we thought this might be a good chance for STOLEN to do a proper little club gig, instead of only sold out stadiums.
Meanwhile, the Maze gig has become a kind of mini-festival with an array of international Berlin based artists.
One of my current favourite artists is Valery Renay, she used to be in Noblesse Oblige, but is now a solo performer and her shows are always something special. She will start the night by setting the mystical tone. Then we have Zachery Allan Starkey from New York City. He is a notorious figure in the New York club scene and he made a throbbing remix for STOLEN of Chaos, exclusively for the Japanese release of their Fragment album, this will be his debut gig in Berlin. Ryskinder are a band from Tel-Aviv and they will bring a bit of psychedelika to the evening. The DJs of the night are the wonderful BB Deng from Taipei (she’s usually known for playing techno, but in fact she honed her skills working as a DJ in an alternative music club), Acid Gold from Belfast and Average White DJ from New Zealand and Loris D’Ettorre from London, will add a little tribal darkness to the mix. We start early at 7pm, because it is at the beginning of the week, and we know people have to work next day, but it will be an eclectic and exciting evening, and surely one not to be missed!
KCRWB: Thanks Mark! We look forward to seeing Stolen on October 8. We have two pairs of tickets to give away for the show. Simply email ticketgiveaway@KCRWBerlin.org before 12p.m. on October 7 to be in with a chance of winning.