Interview: Black Kirin
We would like to pay tribute to victims rather than spread hatred. We also hope that more people will know what happened in Nanjing and understand the meaning of peace.
We all have our perception of China. It’s a vast nation, that has spread over the world and seems to hold many mysteries for us. What most people don’t know, is that it’s also a great place for some good metal music, which started back when Tang Dynasty (not the actual dynasty, but the band), brought the sound to the land of the Red Dragon.
One of the bands that have been pushing the sound further than ever and also across the boundaries of the nation is Black Kirin. The band revolves around guitarist and songwriter Sen Fang, who started the project back in 2012. He’s been vigorously producing music since, which has yielded 3 full-length albums, 2 EPs a live record and a series of singles. Black Kirin is now a full-fledged live-band and touring the country. Their last album, named after the ‘Nanking Massacre’, made me want to know more about the group. The album deals with atrocities committed in the city of Nanking, during the second Sino-Japanese War, a black page in history for sure.
Getting in touch with the band was no easy task, but thanks go out to Jiayu for translating and mediating between myself and the band. Also thanks to Sen Fang answering these questions.
E&D: Could you tell me a little more about Black Kirin? How did the band get started and how did you guys get into metal?
Sen Fang: Black Kirin started as my personal project. It became a formal band in 2015. We mainly just write songs and release them, Black Kirin doesn’t even play lots of shows. Like other people, we know that’s what we wanted when we first heard the metal music.
E&D: What bands inspired you to make this sort of music?
Sen Fang: We’re happy to use a variety music (not limited in metal stuff) to describe BK’towork. Besides traditional metal music, Chinese music influences me a lot. The track ‘Da Qu’ (the Great Song) from our latest album is adapted from the work of Chinese folk music composer Jiang Ying. We hope that our music helps draw people’s attention to traditional Chinese music and culture.
E&D: What does Black Kirin mean?
Sen Fang: Kirin is the name of a patron saint/beast in Chinese Myths, “Ki” refers to the male one and “Rin” refers to the female one. Our materials are based on Chinese history and culture, so here comes the name.
E&D: What inspires your music? I hear the metal elements, but it’s so totally different and often so reminiscent of traditional musics. So where do you get all this from?
Sen Fang: Our aesthetic and way of thinking about music may be different from traditional metal music. As the traditional music you mentioned, or the folk music, world music, these are all crucial element forming our music.
E&D: Do you use any special instruments?
Sen Fang: I am good at composition myself, rather than instruments. Besides the “Guzheng” (古筝) and “Erhu” (二胡) we used in our debut album, this time we add “Xun”(埙) in the track ‘Wangchuan River’. It is a kind of old wind instruments which makes the fantastic feeling we want to put in our music.
E&D: To me, when I listen to your music, in particular your acoustic record, I think its very different and very (if I may be so bold to say it in this manner) Chinese. Can you tell me a bit more about those elements and how you combine them with metal.
Sen Fang: When composing, Chinese music elements are avoided to be used as the conventional way in orchestration, otherwise, it will make it stagnated in fusion. Usually, we make it back to our linear music thinking, which we are good at, and then we can make sure any instruments what we use can produce perfect Chinese music. Acoustic instruments appears more like the bridge in our latest album, making the album more complete.
E&D: So how do you guys go about making new music, for example, the latest one, titled Nanking Massacre. How do you start and work together in the writing and recording process?
Sen Fang: The project of our latest album started from early 2017, including MIDI, tracks and project management, then we began recording. This album is mainly made by me and the drummer (Sicong Du), I took part of harmony and frame then Sicong improved them. In the end, other members complete their parts.
E&D: What can you tell us about the album, its theme and subject?
Sen Fang: Our debut EP album Nanjing and two full-length albums are all related to Nanjing Massacre. We would like to pay tribute to victims rather than spread hatred. We also hope that more people will know what happened in Nanjing and understand the meaning of peace.
E&D: You’ve been taking a lot of topics from national history. What sort of message are you trying to bring across. Is it simply telling about history, or is there more to it?
Sen Fang: Human nature is truly shown in the war environment. So we want to relate to the victims as well as tell the history .
E&D: I’ve always understood that there’s quite some censorship in China. Do you guys have to deal with that as a band? Can you freely sing songs about whatever you want? It’s often suggested that China is very closed of from the outside world. Is that so?
Sen Fang: Yes, I can. Fortunately, that has changed a lot and it doesn’t have a negative impact on our band operation. It doesn’t seem that hard to spread our music, we are looking forward to make our releases available for fans overseas.
E&D: I’m interested how black metal, like the style you’re playing, came around and which bands made it into what it is today.
Sen Fang: Strictly speaking, we are not black metal. There are many kinds of metal bands in contemporary Chinese metal scene, each of them has their own style. I would say we are learning from each other.
E&D: What future plans does Black Kirin have?
Sen Fang: We hope we can arrange more performances and shows, meeting our overseas fans.
E&D: If you had to compare Black Kirin to a dish, what would it be and why?
Sen Fang: Hot pot, I love it.