采访:张思安 Zhang Si’an Interview

By , 2011年 6月 4日


If you’ve ever stopped by Jiangjinjiu, Jianghu, Salud, or any one of Beijing’s jazz bars for a live music fix over the last 10 years, you very well may have run into guitar guru Jean-Sébastian Héry (aka Zhang Si’an). And if you follow the Beijing rock scene at all, you’ve no doubt heard of his band, The Amazing Insurance Salesmen. Besides having distinguished themselves by winning the China title for the 2011 Global Battle of the Bands and going on to compete in the world finals in Malaysia, AIS recently played in front of thousands of avid fans at the Chengdu Zebra Festival and have just now released a new EP, “Escape”, on CD Baby and iTunes. I asked Zhang Si’an some questions about his history as a musician, a Beijinger, and AIS’s driving force.

pangbianr: How long have you been playing music? Did you have any bands in France prior to coming here?

Jean-Sébastien: I studied violin for a year when I was eight, my mother put me to it, she loves classical music and gypsy violin. I learned for a year and then I passed an audition to get in the conservatory of music in Bordeaux. I think the music teacher at the exam was in a bad mood or something. Anyway, he was not too nice with me, at the end he said I would never become a violin player, nor any kind of musician, and that I should stop doing music right away….

That made me stop music completely. I got back to music when I was 16. I was completely depressed and I needed something to make my life have meaning again. There was a guitar in my brother’s room, I started to play it and every time I would be pissed off at something or feel frustrated I would play the few chords I had learned on the guitar and scream in my room for one or two hours to scream all my feelings away.

Eventually I started a band in high school with two classmates, it was called “Soda”, it later became “Karma Blues Experience”. We played a few gigs in Bordeaux, then the drummer moved to another city and the bass player moved to Canada.

I had started to learn Chinese in high school, then went to study it in university. That’s when I started to write songs in Chinese, just for fun. I first came to China in 2000 to see one of my sisters who was back then working in Beijing and get some Chinese lessons.

I wanted to know if there was anything interesting in the music world in China. One of my sister’s friends brought me to the River bar, which back then was a bar located on the south street of Sanlitun. At the River bar, I met with the guys from Wild Children and artists such as Xiao He, Wan Xiaoli, Wang Juan, Maizi (who at some point got involved in the bar next to the River bar), Buyi and I got to see bands like Sound Fragment, Second Hand Rose, Brain Failure etc…. I started to go there as much as I could and we would jam for hours and hours until very late in the night. Zhang Quan from the Wild Children then gave me the opportunity to play every Wednesday night at the bar, which is what I did for six months.

It is at that point that I really started to write songs in Chinese. Xiaopeng from the Wild Children introduced me to the history of Chinese rock music. I discovered Cui Jian, He Yong, Tang Dynasty, Douwei, even started to listen to Wang Fei etc… Whatever people say I still think Douwei is one of the greatest Chinese musicians alive.

pbr: How long have you been living and performing in Beijing? How have you seen the music scene change in that time?

JS: I’ve been performing in China on and off for the past ten years, with jazz formations, folk and rock. It is pretty hard to explain the changes that have happened. I think the biggest thing that has happened is that the music scene is getting more and more attention from outside, which is a good thing. There are also more and more mixed nationality bands and deeper cultural experiences between Western and Chinese musicians. When I started to sing in Chinese, my idea was to make people understand each other better, and show that it was possible to do something different. I think I’m still struggling with this idea of bridging cultures, especially because most people just don’t want to explore or understand, but just be happy in their little comfortable life.

pbr: Amazing Insurance Salesmen fuses many different styles of music. How would you classify AIS? What are your personal influences?

JS: AIS is a fusion rock band, with punk, jazz, funk and psychedelic influences. My personal influences range from Pink Floyd to Grant Green, JS Bach to Radiohead. One of the original things in the AIS is that we are from three different countries but still manage to work together and create something beautiful and strong.

pbr: Recently Amazing Insurance Salesmen has been playing high profile shows around China and abroad, including a gig in Malaysia for the Global Battle of the Bands finals and a spot on Chengdu’s Zebra Festival. How do the different cities and counties you’ve experienced compare with Beijing? Where have you gotten the best reception?

JS: I think we got the best reaction when we played at the Zebra festival in May. It was the first time for me to play in front of such a big crowd (probably a few thousand people). I remember getting a chill from head to toe when I got on stage and heard all these people cheering our name in the audience, it was pretty cool. Malaysia was pretty nice too. I think wherever we are we always manage to get the audience into the music, whoever the people are, and wherever they come from.

We are going to play on the 18th of June in Wuhan and 19th of June in Shanghai for the French music festival « Fête de la Musique », I think it will be quite cool.


pbr: AIS is about to self-release an online EP. Where did you record it? The initial release will be digital-only; do you have plans for a future physical release?

JS: The EP is called “Escape”, it has just been released on CD Baby and itunes. We might later release a CD version, but it’s not for sure.

We recorded the EP with Martin Rawlins in Beijing. We did the main tracks in one day, then all the rest at his place, where I also added some guitars and vocals. The recording went very naturally, we had played all these songs enough to record them well. I didn’t count but for as long as we have been playing, I think we have played close to 100 shows.

Amazing Insurance Salesmen – “Escape” EP available on CD Baby and iTunes

pbr: What are your favorite venues in Beijing? Favorite artists?

JS: Favorite venues for rock: 2Kolegas, Mao livehouse, Yugong Yishan
Favorite venue for folk: Jianghu, Jiang Jin Jiu
Favorite venue for jazz: East Shore, Jianghu, Alanting

Favorite artists: Subs, ReTros, Nucleus (are getting better and better), Dongzi, Xiao He (I just like the fact he is the only one to do something as crazy as that), Wufei, Arrows Made of Desire (especially the last songs they put on Douban, just great) and many more….

旁边儿: 你做音乐多长时间了?来北京之前在法国有参与或组建其他乐队吗?

张思安: 我8岁的时候学过一年的小提琴,我妈妈让我学的,她喜欢古典音乐和吉普赛小提琴。学了一年后我就通过了波尔多音乐学院的试演。我觉得考试那天面试老师心情不好还是别的什么


终于在高中的时候我和2个同学一起组建了一个叫做“苏达”的乐队,后来又改名为“命运蓝调体验 ”。我们在波尔多的几个酒吧演出了几次,之后鼓手去了另外一个城市,贝司手也去了加拿大。



就是因为这样我才真是开始写中文歌。 野孩子的小鹏给我介绍中国摇滚乐历史,我知道了崔健何勇唐朝窦唯,甚至开始听王菲的歌等等……不管别人怎么说,我总觉得窦唯是很了不起的中国音乐人。

旁边儿: 你在北京生活、演出多久了?这几年间,你认为你所接触的音乐圈有什么变化?

张思安: 过去十年,我在北京以爵士形式,民乐和摇滚辗转表演,很难解释过往所发生的变化。我觉得最大的改变就是外界的人们开始越来越对的关注音乐世界,也不为一件好事。 也有越来越多的混合国籍乐队展现着更深度的中西方音乐家之间的文化体验。我开始用中文唱歌的时候,就是想让人们更好的了解彼此,也想让大家看到做一些不同的东西是有可能的。我觉得我还在桥接音乐文化的世界中挣扎着,特别是因为当下大部分的人不愿意去发掘和理解,而更愿意开心的活在他们幸福美满的小生活中。

旁边儿: 保险超人乐队融合了不同了音乐曲风,你们怎么来给乐队分类呢?

张思安: 保险超人乐队是一个融合了朋克, 爵士,恐惧,迷幻音乐元素风格的摇滚乐队。 而我个人的音乐音像却是从平克·佛洛伊德(英语:Pink Floyd) 到爵士吉他手Grant Green,从約翰·塞巴斯蒂安·巴赫(德语:Johann Sebastian Bach) 到收音机头(Radiohead)。乐队最有意思的地方是成员虽然来自三个不同的国家,却做到能一起工作并创作一些美丽又给力的东西。

旁边儿: 最近保险超人乐队声名鹊起,国内外巡演,其中包括在马来西亚全球乐队总决赛上的演出和成都斑马音乐节的表演。你们感觉不同城市和国家之间的表演与北京比起来怎么样?你们在哪里最受欢迎?

张思安: 我觉得观众反映最强烈的是五月份在斑马音乐节的那次演出,是我第一次在那么多人(估计有好几千)面前表演,我记得在舞台上的时候有一刻我从头到凉到脚,表演时听到所有人欢呼我们的名字,这种感觉好酷。在马来西亚的时候也很不错。我觉得不管我们去哪里,我们总能把观众带到音乐中去,不管他们是谁,来自何方。


旁边儿: 保险超人将自行发布一张网络唱片,你们是在哪里做的录音?首发是做的数字版的,着眼未来,你们对发行唱片有什么计划?

张思安: 网络唱片名叫“逃走”, 已经在CD Baby 和itunes 网站上发行了,估计之后我们会发一张CD版本,但还不确定。现在就可以买到.

我们是在北京和Martin Rawlins录的唱片,一天之内就把主要部分录得差不多了,剩下的是在他家完成的,我也加了一些吉他和我的声音进去。录音进行得很自然,因为足够的练习,我们都很驾清熟路,我不太记得练习了多少遍,但就表演也超过100次了。

Amazing Insurance Salesmen – “Escape” EP available on CD Baby and iTunes

旁边儿: 你最喜欢北京哪些表演场地?最喜欢的艺术家是谁?

张思安: 最喜欢的摇滚场地:两个好朋友,愚公移山,Mao Livehouse
最喜欢的爵士场地:东岸/江湖 Alanting

最喜欢的艺术家:Subs, ReTros, Nucleus (他们越来越好), 东子小河(我就喜欢他做的那些疯狂的东西),吴非Arrows Made of Desire 欲望之箭 (尤其是他们放在豆瓣上的最后那首歌,很不错)

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