She is a musician: the guitarist, and vocalist of Hang on the Box. Gia is constantly involved in many musical projects.
Gia is the singer of China’s first all-girl punk band Hang on the Box, who battled Beijing’s sexist rock norms. Hang On The Box was formed in the summer of 1998 in Beijing China. At that time Vocalist Gia W (Wang Yue), guitarist Yang Fan, bass player Yilina and drummer Shenggy (Shen Jing). The band is wildly regarded as one of the most popular and well respected bands in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China Mainland. Gia moved into fashion becoming a fashion designer, but her true love for music drove her back in search to try and new and different sounds. She is running many musical projects, she plays Electronic orchestra with a group called “OV” and makes new songs with “Punkgia” and “Gia Wang”.
How and when did you develop your passion for music? Did your family support you when they knew you wanted to start this career?
They understand me now and support me very much. It can be said that without my parents’ support, I could not keep going on it. It is very difficult in China. Of course, at first, when I was in high school, they didn’t understand. In their opinion, choosing to start a rock band was very risky. You couldn’t get a stable job and life security. And of course, I think that’s true in this sense, that if you choose a career that you love, you have to sacrifice. From 2011 to 2016, I was engaged in the fashion industry. At first, I started a fashion brand with my partner Adong. Since 2013, I started my own brand Gia Wang as a designer. But I found that I still belonged to music, so I went back to music, and if you say passion, I discovered that music is the greatest gift God has given me.
You are part of China’s first all-girl punk band, Hang on The Box, that smashed the gender barrier. What was the best goal do you achieved at the beginning of your career?
The gender barrier was a problem in China 20 years ago, but now it is not a problem in the world, even some feminism has gone too far. At first, I just wanted to have an all-girl punk band, that’s all. If there is a goal, I think it is to find the truth and the meaning of life, but I found it.
Gia is the guitarist, and vocalist of Hang on the Box an influential band from China, that toured in China, Hong Kong, but also in the US and Japan.
What are the major influences on your music? How did your sound change from your earliest records?
First of all, I think I’m a person who doesn’t stop improving, and I’m curious about music. For example, 3years ago I started to listen to Chiansmokers, Troye Sivan, Billie Elish, Lil Peep, and Joji. I’m found out that indie music and rock music moves slowly, I now spend more time listening to future bass and trap, while I also listen to classical music and experimental music. I like Nils Frahm very much. Now into the next 100 years, the history of music is changing, and this is a normal evolution.
Punkgia recently released a new song on Spotify, which is rooted in indie rock, but also has a trap influence .that I’m trying to explore. At the same time, I started electronic orchestral composition, as well as my own projects Gia Wang I worked with sound art and artists together.
What are the ideas behind your music? What do you want to tell? What keep you inspired?
“On the cross”
My father told me
he did not forget my dream
A sign of freedom
On the cross
Peep through the blanket of dark
The fire burned red
Walk on the edge of life
Dawn of despair
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”
From their beginning, HOTB was one of the most influential bands, one of the best and brightest bands to emerge from China’s growing rock scene.
Can you tell us about your main music project Punkgia?
Sorry, my main project is Punkgia/OV/Gia Wang is 3. Punkgia is freer, cuz Hang on the box have a long history, people’s fixed impression of HOTB is stuck in the early punk era, especially in China, and it’s hard for them to accept your change. In addition, I think the music style I want to make it more personal. Of course, my music key partner is my guitarist, whose acceptance of music is very high. We have no differences and his steps can keep up with mine.
Where did the idea for your Electronic Orchestral Experimental music projects with Over Voltage come from?
Last year I started using logic to make music. When I was doing a lot of practice works, I really enjoyed using brass and woodwind instruments, and also strings, such as the cello. Then, last summer I started to write a ten-minute piece on the cello, which was divided into three parts to express three different scenes. This piece is called “The fate”. I and OV’s Julian, we know each other because of their work in the fashion industry. he is also a musician. Last year, we often have coffee together and learned and exchanged about the arrangement of logic music software and the use of various synthesizers and effects.
Then we naturally started to try to combine the orchestra I played with the structural part of the Moog he played, and then my guitarist Yang Pippi, he plays noise and ambient with guitar, so we completed an album with three electronic orchestral tracks in almost two months. , and , OV is totally different from Punkgia and Hang on the box. OV only has music and does not sing. Our style belongs to contemporary classical, electronic orchestra and experiment.
The all-girl band HOTB became a target for some Chinese netizens when an image with the girls lifting their shirts and showing their bras start to circulate.
What are the main challenges that you face as a woman in making music in China? What changes in the industry, compared to when you start to play music?
The situation of the Chinese music industry is very bad now. Of course, on the surface, there are many music festivals. The market can sell a lot of tickets and it is economically successful. But the standards and values here are very poor. You can hear this tragedy from the works. For example, most of the bands are still imitating the European and American rock bands of the last century.
There is even a band that directly copied Einsturzende Neubauten’s a song from the ‘90s, they not only reproduce European and American bands. For example, if a Taiwanese band is very popular to sell tickets to the mainland, you will soon see a lot of reproductions bands, just change for lyrics and chords. Such an environment is really not conducive to the development of real music and art. I studied the history of western music, including classical music. They are not satisfied with the traditional image and creating a new history.
There were not many bands 20 years ago, but they all have their own characteristics. Now I can say that the Chinese rock band industry lacks works with their own style. Their values are affected by the market, making it difficult for people who really want to create to survive. China, this is the biggest challenge. Maybe money is their only belief.
Is there a song or more that you are particularly connected to? Are there any music dedicated to someone or to related to a moment that marked a significant change in your life?
I have a lot of favorite music and singles. Too many. I ca n’t just choose one or a few songs. If there is a single song that has a huge impact on my life, it is Jesus, God, Let me see the meaning of life, and the wonderful gift of music from God.
HOTB Chinese female punk pioneers that were the new face of alternative Chinese youth. The band usually sings about sex and relationship issues in a forward political manner.
Can you share with us any meaningful story from the backstage?
See the pictures below.
Playing music in China and abroad, what are the main differences? Does this affect your way of creating music?
I think I have answered clearly in the challenge, for what concern China. I have not had the opportunity to perform in the United States or Europe in recent years, but for me, I need to go to New York to meet some musicians and try to play and communicate with them.
Of course, there are some uncommercial performances in Beijing, most of which are experimental music circles. They are not affected by the market. These artists can create purely because this circle does not have many benefits.
Photos courtesy of Gia Wang