It would be very easy to mistake the output of Alex Zhang Hungtai as being from the 50's & 60's. 

His recent LP Badlands, which was recorded live with a F99 Sony dynamic mic revives early rock 'n' roll over an eerie and evocative lo-fi aesthetic. It's unlike anything you've ever heard before, with its raunchy reverb, haunting industrial drones and Hungtai's whooping vocals. It's stylised nostalgic minimalist rockabilly and veers from creepy and awkward to fuzzy and brilliant.

We had a chat with Alex about his inspiration for the LP, summer jobs and the Canadian music scene. 

 

Hi Alex, so tell me about Dirty Beaches – how you got from Taiwan, via China and Hawaii to Montreal and the amazing track that brought me onto your music – Lord Knows Best?

Life and circumstances. Nothing out of the ordinary, just family stuff. Living life and dealing with the cards you've been dealt with. A lot of that goes into the music. A scramble of information and cumulation of experience. A lot of interviews ask for very specific details about music, but the truth is, there is no specific formula. Unlike cooking recipes, there are no specific steps that you take in life that will guarantee you certain results.  A lot of it is trial and error.

 

Your music sounds like it’s emerged from a 60 year old time-warp, is that an intentional sound?

I think for some listeners they can enjoy the fact that badlands is a lot like a fucked up travel between time, since time is a very prominent and heavy theme on the album. I wanted to create a directionless, wandering character that sets a drift this vast landscape in search of something that he can't quite put his finger on. It is this desire that leads men or women into abandoning their families, and every bit of their possession. That was what I wanted to make for that album.  

I'm ready to move on to new things where I left off from previous albums and eps, which were more hip hop drum machine based, and experimentation's with drones and ambient instrumental music.

Talk me through the Badlands EP sound – where did you record it and how did you achieve that sound?

It was recorded live (no overdubs) by myself with a F99 Sony dynamic mic onto tape, in the apartments I was living in Montreal and Vancouver.

Can you describe the album to our readers in no more than 10 words?

LIVE LOVE DRIVE

 

I read that you used to do graveyard shifts at a porn store – how was that?  From my limited experience of porn I recall that the music is usually pretty poor – did you take any influences from those days?

 

It was just another summer job in 1996, when I was 16. But I did watch a shit ton of movies that year and I became a avid cinema lover after that. Everything you do in life influences your work.

"Knowledge without mileage = BULLSHIT" - Henry Rollins

 

So what sort of cinema has influenced the album - did the Terrence Malick kill-spree feed into this album at all?

A lot of stuff has influenced the writing of Badlands, not necessarily just cinema: beat literature, my father, and my own experiences with time spent on the road, etc.  Film wise, I really enjoyed Robert Siodmak's interpretation of Hemmingway's 'THE KILLERS' (1946) about a boxer out of luck and got swept in to a crime in which he dearly pays for. Film noir has been a big influence on Badlands, another director Jules Dassin really influenced the cityscape imagery I tried to imagine driving through and leaving. The 3 Jules Dassin films were: 1) The Naked City 2) Night and The City 3) Thieves Highway. Highly recommend it. Great films. Naked city trailer (here).

 

Have you ever produced any music videos for your own tracks? 

Yes, many. If you look on Youtube you will find the majority of official DB videos are made by me and my dodgy digital point and shoot camera.

 

From reading your blog you seem to be really involved with the Canadian music scene? Who are you digging at the moment?

There are quite a few amazing bands in Canada right now. I am very excited about the scene here. I love promoting it because I loath people who only complain and shit on hard working bands and music based on their own particular taste without doing any prior research. I prefer to use the internet to spread information about what I think personally is worthwhile in sharing, not what I dislike. There is enough fucked up shit in the world, and I seriously don't think someone talking shit about bands is something we need to read about. But if there's something good and worth sharing, that's something nice to read about and worth finding out because its positive and promos are free.  Free and good is nice.

  • Femminielli - Montreal
  • Hobo Cult Records - Montreal
  • Ell V Gore - Toronto
  • Grand Trine - Montreal

Yeah I like free and good - what's the best free thing you've ever got?  I once got given a 1940's sheep-skin coat, that was pretty cool.

My sister's 1994 Toyota. She gave it to me when I was 17 after she left Hawaii, I had it for 7 years and drove that thing to the ground. No Joke. The tires fucking flew off and shit. I miss that car.

What are you listening to right now?

Lantern



Dirty Beaches debut album ‘Badlands’ is out now via Zoo Music/Italian Beach Babes on import

Dirty Beaches heads out on his debut European tour on the following dates from mid-July 2011:

  • 07-15 Amsterdam, Netherlands - Sleazefest
  • 07-16 Manchester, England - Great Bridgewater Street Tunnel
  • 07-18 Nijmegen, Netherlands - De Affair Festival
  • 07-19 London, England - The Dalston Victoria
  • 07-21 Lisbon, Portugal - ZDB
  • 07-22 Porto, Portugal - Festival Milhoes De Fiesta
  • 07-23 Toulon, France - MIDI Festival
  • 07-25 Paris, France - The Apartment Show
  • 07-26 Paris, France - Espace B
  • 07-27 Bordeaux, France - Skate Park Des Chartrons
  • 07-31 Prague, Czech Republic - Creepee Teepee Fest!
  • 08-01 Bari, Italy - Giovinazzo Festival
  • 08-03 Padova, Italy - Giardini Sospesi
  • 08-04 Ravenna, Italy - Hanna Bi
  • 08-06 Teramo, Italy - Soundlabs Festival
  • 08-07 Madrid, Spain - La Casa Encendida
  • 08-09 Barcelona, Spain - Heliogabal
  • 08-10 Barcelona, Spain - Luchador Records
  • 08-13 St.Malo, France - La Route De Rock