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Interview with Hua Dong, Re-Tros: Before the Applause and Beyond

Last Updated on 2024/01/01

Re-TROS (Rebuilding the Rights of Statues) began in the underground music scene of Nanjing, China in 2004. Formed by lead singer/guitar/keys Hua Dong and, singer/bassist Liu Min, Re-TROS soon became a seminal band in Beijing. Hua Dong was exposed to rock music from an early age and began writing songs in his teens.

After a few years of studying in Germany, Hua Dong returned to Nanjing where he began drumming for Chinese post-punk band PK14 and met bassist Liu Min. Min and Dong soon moved to Beijing, enrolled local drummer Ma Hui, and formed Re-TROS, began playing out in Beijing clubs, and recording their debut EP for Modern Sky Records in 2005, which includes keyboard contributions from Brian Eno on several tracks – the two shared a studio in Beijing. Drummer Huang Jin has joined the band for about a couple of years.

The band has since toured the world playing festivals in Europe and the U.S., supporting bands including Gang of Four and PiL. Dong credits Bauhaus, Joy Division, Television, and Pere Ubu among his greatest influences. After a hiatus of few years, Re-Tros recorded their amazing ‘Before the Applause’, released 15 September 2017, recorded and mixed by Hector Castillo Mixed at The Basestation (NYC).

Interview by Matteo Damiani

Bandcamp | Facebook

This is a selected interview from
Planet China Vol. 03 issue

China-underground:  How did you meet and how did you start to create music?

Hua Dong: I’ve been enjoying listening to music when I was young, from pop music to rock, I was really into the atmosphere made by different musical instruments and voices. When I was about 14 or 15, I started to listen to many rock bands from the UK and the USA, someday a friend of mine introduced an album called “17 seconds” by “The Cure” to me, which was very impressive. The music was super simple and cool, then I thought, well, would be wonderful if I could also play in a band and perform on the stage in front of a lot of people just like what The Cure did. I guess that might be the first flame to me of thinking about the possibility of creating music.

CU: How did you choose the name of the band?

HD: The Name was chosen by all three members of the band. Each of us picked up a word and we built these three words together to a whole name. My choice was “ the right”.

CU: How is changed the Beijing underground scene from the early 2000s?

HD: Honestly, I’m not the right person who can tell you about the development of the BJ underground music scene. I’ve been keeping a distance from the main music circle in BJ since the first day I arrived here and just focusing on my band.

re-tros beijing band

CU: What are the major influences on your sound?

HD: The 70’s and 80’s Post-Punk/ New Wave used to be the main influence of Re-tros, such as Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Television, the Birthday Party… but now we are more interested in many experimental/electronic bands/ musicians, such as Battles, Liars, Xiu Xiu, Steve Reich… their music made me think about more musical possibilities and dimensions, which are super funny.

CU: ‘Before the Applause’ really impressed me. It’s innovative in its way, and it doesn’t sound mainstream at all. How was it received from the local Beijing audience? And in the rest of China?

HD: Thank you for enjoying “Before the Applause”, it’s our second full-length record after 8 years. And also the direction of our music is changed a lot as well, from early Post Punk to fusional style. I think the audience is divided into two different parts, some of them are pretty into this record and really enjoy the change of our music, and others of them cannot receive the change of Re-Tros and still like our old music direction, I can totally understand this audience very well, but unfortunately, we won’t be back, I’d definitely make Re-Tros keep on moving forward and trying to do more interesting things.


CU: How did you meet Hector Castillo in NYC to record ‘Before the applause’?

HD: We met Hector around 7 or 8 years before when we were in NYC to take part in a project called “Rubber Tracks”, sponsored by Converse. Hector was the engineer who worked with Re-Tros in the studio for one week. He’s amazing and super nice. That’s the first time we met him.

CU: How is your sound changed from ‘Watch Out! Climate Has Changed, Fat Mum Rises’?

HD: I think the album “ Watch Out “ was more like a bridge between our first EP “ Cut Off” and the new one “ Before the Applause “. We were trying to add more elements to our music to make it more on-limits and interesting. “Watch Out” was the little step of our first experiment, it’s a little bit conservative but indicated the change of Re-Tros.

CU: Do you have any plan to work on a movie’s soundtrack?

HD: Yes I’d love to. But the most important premise does not affect the plan of Re-Tros’ own record or rehearsal.

CU: Will you tour worldwide again anytime soon?

HD: I think so.

retros beijing band

Topic: Chinese electronic music,Chinese electronic musicians,Chinese electronic music scene, china electronic music, china electronic music scene, best Chinese electronic music,Chinese experimental electronic music,Chinese electronic music artists, modern Chinese electronic music

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