Interview with Daisy Zhao of CAssette
Beijing based band, CAssette’s sound range from pop, to rock, with touched of post rock, and electronic music mixed in. Their music is catchy and clean fronted by the amazing vocals of Daisy Zhao. The best way to describe her voice is sexy, sultry and emotional and her vocals has been compared to asian pop stars Shiina Ringo and Faye Wong.
Daisy, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell me a little about where you grew up and when you first became interested in music?
Thank you for finding me on the almighty internet and having me for this interview ; ]
I was born and grew up totally in Beijing, this big crowded city, and fortunately, or unfortunately, the neighborhood where I lived was an apartment district (what we call Da Yuan) of an Academy of Forestry which is far away from downtown. I lived at the foot of a mountain (there were many trees there, as you can imagine) People who lived there also worked there. They came from different cities in China. Most kids, just like me, all went to the same kindergarten and then the same primary school. The school recruited other students, like two- thirds of them, from other military Da Yuan around ours as well. So to sum up, I grew up in a beautiful, peaceful, simple place which may lack of traditional Beijing stuffs but can make many other Beijingers jealous : ]
Interested in music? I don’t consider myself ever interested in music haha! It’s been with me all the time, just like you cannot say you are interested in eating apples everyday.
I remembered when I was a little kid my mother took me to my grandma’s home every weekend. Grandma has been living downtown till now and it’s a long trip especially for a kid. We went there by bus. I can still remembered how much I enjoyed the bus trip because I would sit near the window, look out the big world and sing to myself all the long, long way. If we could not find a seat or the seat wasn’t near the window I would get very frustrated but once I was succeed to get one I would start to worry if anyone would notice my singing? I really don’t know how those stupid , self-created melodies came to my mind!
Did you have family members who were musicians?
No… My father’s mother used to be a dancer when she was a young lady, my father said she sang at times too. I can hardly remember her, she passed away when I was in junior school. She lived in Guangxi which is my father’s hometown and is nearly the most south in China, much too distant from my life, but she is always a beautiful young lady in the photo and the princess in the fairy tale to me.
When you were young who were some of the artists you would listen to?
May I say I’m still very young? ; ]
I went through periods of time where I listened to different types of music. In the beginning it was Michael Jackson, then the Cardigans and the Cranberries. Later on I was into the two female vocalists of Slipknot and System of a Down along with Miserable Faith and AK-47 (two Chinese nu-metal bands) followed by Dead Can Dance and Massive Attack. After these I think I can say I’m grown up and getting old ; )
I bet you really cannot imagine how young kids at my age used to find ways to listen to the western rock music, that would be an adventure story, I can write a book for you ^^
How would you best describe your style?
To describe it in the worst way: to nurture our own dreams which may have been already extinct or never originated… always hold in awe.
Another worst way: A zoo. Where most animals should not live here but now live here happily or miserably, all by a naïve but rather complicated, incredible and brave, cruel as well as fancy principle, I mean the cages. And the visitors, who should have not been able to see these creatures but somehow bought the tickets and came in, they hold different moods and expects, they may be frightened to death but thanks to the cages they will finally feel safe. But after all it’s not anybody’s habitat, it is just a zoo. You can still go back home to have a sound sleep, although you may come up some weird but beautiful dreams.
Sorry I said it will be the worst way… I think that is what our music is like, not just about the style.
How did you meet your band members and come up with the name CAssette?
Me, and Kram our guitarist, had a band called Children Alpha whose name was, in some stupid childish way, similar to Radiohead’s Kid A when we were still university students. After CA split up we were both quiet for a while until one day Kram talked to me on the net and said that we should play together again and he had already thought of the band’s name, cassette, which he said meant CA settled (sounds like a Chinese or Japanese way to say cassette). So we started to write new songs but this time, former drummer Kram became the guitarist. Our friends Wu , who used to play with the guitarist of CA as the vocalist ,was invited to play bass. Finding a drummer was a big problem. I can write you another book about them haha. Now our girl drummer, Kraft, is our sixth drummer and we really don’t want her to leave.
Cassette is an English word, kind of hard for Chinese people to remember. Too many S’s, T’s and E’s. >_< Besides, here we already had some bands named Careless, Graceless, Carsick Cars which look almost same to people here, so I wrote our name as CAssette. I just love the way it looks and it is more easy to remember too. I don’t want to emphasize my former band Children Alpha though I loved it deep and missed it hard.
Your album is named “A Boy with the Red Elephant” Can you tell us a little about the making of it?
It is our first time to make an album. It is thanks to Kram, who majored in recording and has his own studio, and Wu, who majored in oil painting (he did all the art work). We did all the work ourselves on this Ep album. From writing songs to recording them, mixing them and to printing and wrapping them up. The master work was done in Belgium by one of Kram’s friends. That’s a very dangerous long story and we will definitely do it all over again in the near future. T_T
Who would you say influenced you musically?
I wanna just pass all the big names most of whom I have already grown out of… I’d say my ex-boyfriend who used to be (is he now? sorry I don’t know anymore) a drummer of a metal band and never had a chance to perform… he just opened up a big, wild, new world for me as an adolescent. His influence has been even more extensive than I can realize now. And Kram and Wu as well. They are my best friends in music and life forever.
Your vocals have been compared to Faye Wong. That is a very impressive comparison, don’t you think? How does that make you feel?
I think quite a few people in China like to compare all the girls who have an airy or sweet voice to Faye. I was obsessed with her voice for one semester in my high school. That’s after all my friends in school already bought many cassettes of hers and my grandpa told me who Faye Wong was from the TV show, Spring Festival Gala. I guess you know this is like the ‘Chinese super bowl”!
I barely listen to Chinese pop music. I guess I loved Faye just because she sounds like Nina Persson from the Cardigans or Dolores from the Cranberries sometimes. Well, if anyone would compare me to Nina or Beth Gibbons from Portishead I think I would feel more flattered!
Out of all your songs which would you say is the most meaningful to you and why?
I should have put it: A boy with the red elephant is the answer because it was the first song I wrote for CAssette!
But meaningful? I don’t think any song we wrote is meaningful. They are all monsters who bite our heart, at least my heart, from rehearsal room to on the stage. They are just like the pretty bad boys who like to break your little heart! Seriously.
How do you think your music has progressed since the beginning?
At the very beginning we were a six- piece band but now only four left. The survivors became more close and open to each others ideas so our music got more free and honest. In brief, we can write a song in a shorter time and with a better mood.
What is the music industry like in Beijing for independent artists?
I would rather say there haven’t formed any industry we can call a music industry here but just like the whole economic environment here, it is under the effect of multiple factors and growing inconceivably rapidly. Good luck to everyone involved in it.
What do you hope to be doing five years from now?
In regard to CAssette, I hope we can attend big music festivals in China and even internationally, make more Eps, write more songs, get more fans, try to make people compare me and us, more to former me and us, and less to other names.
Where can we go to find out more about you?
Me? Here’s my blog , http://blog.sina.com.cn/teardroppy
I put my novels here but I bet no one has the patience to finish reading them. FYI, they are all written in very graceful but difficult Chinese.; p
Listen to Daisy Zhao
A Boy With The Red Elephant
Dog Day II