'Sound Kapital': Beijing's rock scene through the lens of Matthew Niederhauser
On November 5, 2009, Matthew Niederhauser, 28, unveiled his "Sound Kapital: Beijing’s Music Underground" (powerHouse Books) to the world at Brooklyn’s powerHouse Arena. To celebrate the release, the most detailed and anticipated photographic chronicle of contemporary Beijing’s rock scene, Niederhauser brought Beijing’s underground to the United States, enlisting the likes of P.K.14, Carsick Cars and Xiao He, three of China’s most revered independent bands on tour in New York at the time, to perform at the event.
Now, nearly five months after the initial release, after releases in London and Washington, D.C. and praise from the New York Times, NPR and PBS, Niederhauser is bringing "Sound Kapital" to Shanghai’s Dada Bar as part of the 2010 JUE Festival and Tim Franco’s monthly Shanghai Photographer’s Night.
I have to admit that trying to get a band up into the room to take a photo is sort of like herding cats. Sometimes I have to run all over the club to get them together. Otherwise, there has definitely been nudity, substance abuse, and other interesting material that can't be shown in the book.— Matthew Niederhauser
Prior to last November’s release, we spoke to Niederhauser as he was making his press rounds. Additionally, just a month ago, after touring the United States and Europe to promote "Sound Kapital," he reflected on his book and the experience.
Before the melee
CNNGo: How long have you been in Beijing and how did your experience lead to the composition and publication of "Sound Kapital"?
After the first week of heading up to D-22 I knew I wanted to get involved with the music scene and Michael Pettis was eager to get me on board to do a rigorous documentation.
The first red wall portrait I took was of Hedgehog with the boxing gloves. It is still one of the best and set the aesthetic for the rest. Since then, I have literally photographed hundreds of bands at D-22, Yugong Yishan, 2 Kolegas, and Mao Livehouse. Once I set myself on such a project I become compulsive. More importantly, the music rocks and most major media covering the scene have come to me for photographs.
CNNGo: Obviously Beijing, at this moment and for the last several years, is unlike any music scene in the world. What are your thoughts on being a part of this period of Chinese “pop” history and how do you think the city and musicians have influenced your work?
In most of the images I try to portray them in as straightforward a fashion as possible. Some of them like to act up, but the baseline I was trying to create a social document of all the bands. There are hundreds of photos that should be in the book. It was never about only shooting the best bands, but trying to capture everyone involved in this creative outpouring.
CNNGo: You've been published in many publications on various topics, why did you choose to make your first book about the Beijing rock scene? What is it about rock photography that has captured your attention?
CNNGo: Do you have any favorite anecdotes that occurred during the composition of "Sound Kapital"?
I have literally photographed hundreds of bands at D-22, Yugong Yishan, 2 Kolegas, and Mao Livehouse. Once I set myself on such a project I become compulsive. — Matthew Niederhauser
CNNGo: Do you think the world is ready to embrace Beijing rock? How can you and your book help introduce Americans/non-Chinese to what is going on in Beijing?
CNNGo: In what cities have you already had releases and distribution?
CNNGo: How was the release tour?
CNNGo: What has the reaction been to "Sound Kapital"? What do you have planned next?