Profile: Bob Blunt on SMZB frontman Wu Wei

By , 2012年 9月 27日

Sometime pangbianr contributor and tireless chronicler of Pan-Asian underground music Bob Blunt sat down with some of Chinese punk’s leading lights for a short article in Pan Magazine. Here Bob sends pangbianr a more extended cut of his conversation with Wu Wei, the Wuhan punk legend who fronts SMZB and tends local watering hole/default drink-yourself-sloppy spot Wuhan Prison. SMZB has been around for a minute — here’s Yan Jun writing about them in 2002 — and are currently about to set off on their “15+1” anniversary tour of China. Below find Wu Wei’s response when Bob manages the chutzpah to trot out that old chesnut: “What is punk?”



I get the impression that I am shitting Wu Wei, the front person, guitarist, original founding member and lyricist for SMZB, when I ask him this generic question and fair play to him:

What does the word ‘punk’ mean to you?

‘Um, actually, first I have answered this same question a hundred times. In China for me punk should mean a real man, an honest man, a rebel who fights for his family and his friends’.

So why even consider it? Well, I’ve asked Wu Wei this simply because punk is an illusory term, particularly for blokes like me who analyze this kind of music journalism caper; I mean how can punk in 2012 have any semblance when there are so many watered down versions, when a sound can be created at will without coming from a true place, and/or when a venue pops up on one side of town using its moniker, but hardly having any real message or meaning behind any real fight?

SMZB originated out of Wuhan 15 years back and are on the cusp of an October tour throughout the country. Their shows of full of high energy and their lyrics indicate the good fight for what punk defines.

Wu Wei rides the crowd at Wuhan’s main punk livehouse, VOX

‘The way I see it is that a lot of young guys think the coolest thing is to be a rock star but essentially the way they are talking and the way they are acting is more like a bad guy or a gangster because they think that it’s about being cool. I understand but for me punk is to be a real man, a good man, a real person—it isn’t just about appearance. For me deep down I don’t really care about what these bands are playing. I just care about their attitude and what they are singing about. I mean it is easy to write slogans, but how about what you do with it and how about your life and what you can say?’

The band has chocked up 7 albums, with ‘Ten Years Rebellion’ released on the coveted Maybe Mars label on 5 year back. It has been an interesting road which has taken Wu Wei and original members from the Beijing Midi School circa 1995, then back to Wuhan, their home, a year later.

‘Sure the members have changed a lot and when I started I was the youngest guy but now I am the oldest guy. In 1996 there were many real punk bands around in Beijing, people like Underground Baby, but now there are so many rock bands and hardly any punk bands. The way I see it is that maybe people don’t want to take risks like they used to.’

BB: Risks what you mean eh?

WW: I write the lyrics and they are about what I feel about society and what life means to me. I guess a lot of people like my attitude but I wish it can change people and they can feel what I am singing about and do the same things.

The band has toured overseas a few times now and interest has been big in countries like Germany, with one visit made to even Thailand. This autumn they’ll conquer many cities in China on a tour which has in the works for months.

SMZB 2012 “15+1” Anniversary China Tour

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