On the Thrash Heap
by Solomon West
Fresh from their tour of Ningxia's prisons, Tianjin's most efficient death metal band, Undetectable Wrath, have been kicking up a storm right here in Beijing. I had the pleasure of attending the first of their twelve gigs at Centro in the Kerry Centre and, when the dust had settled, grabbed myself a "punk rock Martini" (it's got an extra twist of lime) and had a chat with the guys.
Guitarist/vocalist Zhou Rui, 32, quit his job as a fish-tracker to become a fill-time musician in 1994. Five months later he was fired from the Tianjin Number Four Smooth Jazz Ensemble for repeatedly kicking colleague Li "Saxman" Wei in the groin and armpit. He formed Undetectable Wrath in 1997 with drummer Wu Yuejun during a drunken night at KFC. It didn't take long for them to hook up with bassist Ouyang Feng and virtuoso axeman "Gaaaaaahh". Since then, the band have dedicated most if not all of their spare time to the group.
SW: So, tell me about how Undetectable Wrath became the music combo that it is today.
Zhou: Back when we started, the Tianjin music scene was very constricting - everyone was into pigeonholing everyone else. There was this idea that you had to have a certain set of influences and hew closely to them. But we thought, hey, why be constrained like that? Let's mix it up a little, think outside the box. A little from column A, a little from column B. And that's what we ended up with - music that straddles the fuzzy, and sometimes painful, border between "caring" and "angry".
SW: Success has been a while coming, but things are starting to look up. How's that going?
Zhou: It's taken a while, but we are finally starting to see financial reward. Right now we're in negotiation for a sponsorship deal with Red Earth eyeliner.
SW: Do you guys get along well?
Wu: Yeah, there's a really good energy in the band. We're never afraid to try out something new with the guys. Like maybe if I decided to hit the cymbals with a stick made of metal instead of wood, or maybe made of string hardened with glue, we could try that and see what happened.
SW: Yes, you certainly have a unique sound. What's all that about, then?
Gaaaaaahh: Sometimes I put different sizes of strings on. Like, bottom E will be 12-gauge, but A will be 9. It makes it hard to play sometimes, but I think it is worth it.
Wu: We also always try to concentrate on the groove, like the rhythmic message backbone to the song. People come to our gigs and there's a mosh pit and dancing and so on - and that's great. But we'd also like people to go away having learned something about themselves.
Ouyang: Yeah, and we're also very open to lots of new influences. At the moment we're working on our fourth album, "When The Cheetah Bleeds", and for that we've been very much working with themes inflected with motifs from foreign countries.
SW: Such as?
"When The Cheetah Bleeds" is released on July the 8th, and will be available from at least three music stores in Tianjin.