Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cao Fang + Cheer Interview

Sorry for the late update. It took me awhile... to translate what I'm about to say :o)

On March 3rd, Cao Fang and Cheer Chen was interviewed together! Crazy isn't it? ^_^ Cheer was doing some promotion for her new album "A Fabulous Adventure" (which was officially released in mainland recently) in mainland China. And Cao Fang was invited as a guest with Cheer on a interview by the Beijing Nightly Newspaper.

I don't usually read Chinese entertainment news, but I do drop by Cao Fang's blog once in awhile. I did that on Wednesday, and guess what I saw? Cao Fang wrote a nice and long entry of her interview with Cheer and how she felt about Cheer's music ^_^ It was lovely. What's even more interesting is that there seem to be some music critics in China that labels Cao Fang's music similar to Cheer's, and some even claim that she is a "mainland copy of Cheer." Wow, I got really confused & mad when I read that. It's even funny - these people must not understand music at all. I love both Cheer's and Cao Fang's music, but their songs are very, very different, also original. I mean, just listen to any of Cheer's & Cao Fang's song and compare - both awesome, but in completely different aspects & styles. And I don't think anyone could "copy" Cheer's songs, or Cao Fang's. I mean, pop music is easy to copy, because it's so repetitive in its style and oftentimes it has simple melodies (there are of course, quality pop music ^_^). However, I have a hard time trying to find "similar" artists to Cheer/Cao Fang (as it is my nature to look for more music similar to what I already like) because their sounds are so original and personal. Creative. One of a kind. If I wanted to listen to some Shibuya Kei music, a lot of similar artists come to mind because they all follow the shibuya kei sound. David Tao, JJ Lin, Leehom in some aspects also sounds quite similar...

Anyway, since I read Cao Fang's blog entry first, here is my translation of what she said. I hope you guys/girls will find this interesting and exciting to read like I did ^_^ Wow, I still can't believe my favorite Taiwan singer and my favorite mainland singer got together and chatted :o)

Note 1: In Cao Fang's blog entry she sometimes refers to herself in the third person - I thought it might be confusing so I changed the translation to first person. (For example, Cao Fang is her college class leader, and she sometimes says "the class leader..." *_^)

Note 2: In China, adding "Teacher" with a person's last name shows respect to that person.

Cao Fang 3/4/06 Blog Entry: "Cheer Chen"

Yesterday, I sat with her. What if… our meeting wasn’t planned? Would it have been better?

Hmm, where should I start…

I started listening to Cheer around the time Yang Nai Wen released “Piao Zhe (Floating)”. Her melodies and lyrics have a very special and direct feel to them. So simple that it makes people comfortable. After that, I started to be aware of Cheer and her albums. So, Cheer became one of the few TW singers that I persistently buy the original (none-pirated) albums. During that time, I also started to like Yang Nai Wen and Chang A-Yue.

As for the rumor/saying that “Cao Fang is the mainland version of Cheer,” I don’t know where this saying is rooted in. Up until now I’ve tried to ignore this comparison.

1. This rumor/comparison to Cheer is an annoyance (I think Cao Fang is trying to say it degrades both her & Cheer)

2. A person doesn’t need other “versions” of herself (in order to be original)

3. Cheer is the kind of person that I like – Quiet, honest, diverse, persistent, humble, genuine, and artistically talented. This kind of person’s songs cannot be replicated.

4. If I replied to this comparison/rumor, I will be jumping into people’s bandwagon. Going with what they’re saying. Thus this saying is making me feel guilty/uncomfortable/untruthful. Anyway, I’m also is a very strong and independent person. So, when I found out that someone wanted to interview both of us, I hesitated and hesitated. This caused teacher Qi to thoughtfully open my perspective/change my mind: “right now it’s not the time to have pride.” I...%¥#·* I understand everyone’s thoughtfulness, but I’m really not a proud/elated person. I only mean what I said above. I’m afraid of being bothered and bothering others.

In the end, I still went.

Below are my reasons:
1. I am not an arrogant person 2. I like Cheer 3. Last summer after Cheer performed at Beijing’s Ri Tan center, we’ve already met there. This time, Cheer came to Beijing again, thus I should treat her to dinner. 4. There are many diehard Cheer fans among my college classmates, thus I, the class leader, can also do my classmates a favor by meeting Cheer and give her their messages. So I brought "温室LOMO" (this is a person's username online I think who gave Cao Fang Cheer albums) + my self bought five Cheer albums/EP and went to the interview!
As I expected, Cheer is easy to get along with. After we greeted, we weirdly sit together. Our conversations occurred intermittently. Because our meeting was decided so abruptly and unexpected, we were not well-prepared. Our conversations consisted of only occasional eye-contacts. What’s even more scary is that little C (Cao Fang’s cute doll) is carried away to play by a coworker, making me feel uneasy. 3 minutes later, I said to Cheer: “What should we say? I’m a little nervous, feeling weird.” Cheer said “Yes, I also don’t know why I’m so nervous.” After that, we smiled at each other, and started to understand each other more. I tell her “a lot of my classmates in Xi An love you, they all want to come and meet you.” She said “Really? I had no idea.” I said: “Will you remember 温室LOMO’s name? It is she who sent me your ‘A Fabulous Adventure’ limited edition.” She then says, “yesterday I saw your MV, three people already recommended “Meeting Me” (the album) to me. It’s very special.” I said, “You play guitar very well, I’m lazy, I play poorly.” She says, “My abilities are also limited.” A very humble person. In-between, Xiao Lai says, “I think you guys have the same ideas, your conversation is very interesting.” After that, our conversation became informal/relaxed. When the reporter is asking questions, Cheer always thoughtfully leaves time for me to answer questions. I also did my best to not interrupt her when several reporters ask her special questions. In-between the reporter questions, we also had small-talk/asked each other a few personal questions. After the interview ended, Cheer gave me her recent “Sixteen Days” DVD, with “to dear Cao Fang with love, thank you~let’s work hard together!” written on it. Of course, I also gave her a copy of “Meeting Me” with my secret message ^_^ I also took out my prepared five Cheer CDs, and on every copy Cheer wrote some special words. When Cheer is writing on “Sentimental Kills” I said, “please write a message to my classmates who die-hardly supports you.” So she wrote, “College classmates, thank you ah!” Hmm, this is my (the class leader’s) gain for her classmates! But which classmate should I give this to? Let me think more…

I was going to invite Cheer to eat Yun Nan dishes, but because of bad traffic, we ate Gui Zhou dishes. Also because of many factors, after dinner we said our goodbyes in a rush. After a crazily busy day, Teacher Chen was tired. She pointed to her black eye circles and said “what should I do?”........ ^_^

We agreed that when we’re not busy we’ll properly have dinner. Let it be. I wished her a good dream, and good luck to her new album’s promotion.

Another story: Yesterday during my meeting with Cheer, it was unusual that Mr.柯尔沁夫 (I think he is a Cheng Du music critic/judge person) was absent. It was he who introduced me to Cheer for the first time (at the concert she went to?).

Story 2: Yesterday a Yun Nan old friend text messaged me that the local radio station said that I was copying Cheer’s music. I said “Who cares. I am me, not someone who’s defined by people that she (I) doesn’t respect. Like you who understand me and is mad with that comment, because this comment is untrue and irrational, so, people who really understand my music will know who Cao Fang really is.” Also, I hope the people who puts me and Cheer together stop their act. “A fabulous adventure” is a very honest/sincere album, and so is “Meeting me.” Also, they’re very different.

Classmates from Xi An – I trust that you guys will give many cheers to Teacher Chen! Because she is a original, cute person liked by class leader (Cao Fang) 6_6

and here's the interview ^_^

Beijing Nightly Newspaper: "80% Perfect Conversation"

(Cheer has a new song called "80% Perfect Life" ^_^)

Let’s start with the topic of “the mainland version of Cheer Chen.” Many people think you two’s music are very similar. You two also heard each other’s albums. What do you two think about this?

Right now I already received three (the same) Cao Fang albums. A lot of people have recommended her album to me.

Cao Fang:
I don’t know when everyone started to set your music as the standard to judge my songs (set the bar?). I think our similarity is we’re females (jokingly?). We both look weak outside, but inside we’re strong. You sing so softly, yet I can hear that your inner world is strong. Actually, I also wish I’m like you myself. Many people view/think of me as a quiet/elegant girl, but their perception is wrong. My inner self is opposite of what they perceive. I feel that our views/sense of music is very similar.

You’re so right. You just expressed what I’m feeling. I think Cao Fang’s album is very clean, simple. Every song represents your own thoughts, you express your feelings freely, straightforwardly. Actually our songs are very different. When I listen to your music I would think, “what you’re singing intrigues/amazes me” or “I can’t even make my own melodies flow as well as yours.” Very interesting, it’s like the materials we use are the same, but what we make/the results are completely different.

Do you girls pay close attention to the music industry market?

I know there is a saying in Taiwan’s music industry that only elementary and middle school students buy albums. College students and above just download. That’s why music labels only make music that elementary school students would like and understand, giving up on college students. I don’t agree with this view of treating all music audience as fools. How do you know what kind of music they like? For example, when I was in elementary school, I listened to a variety of music. On the other hand, the music industry is truly affected by downloading. I often hear my music industry friends’ conversations saying that such and such labels went bankrupt, and such and such label tries so hard yet the sales rate always leads to disappoint. Many people in the music industry who once were filled with hope and optimism/confidence are now very depressed. I feel very lucky that my music can sustain my living expenses. Unfortunately, if some of my friends didn’t open a restaurant or clothes shop, they wouldn’t afford to have a singer’s life.

Cao Fang:
Actually I never thought that I would be able to release a second album. When I made my first album, it was just for fun. I thought my first album was a one-time thing. But in this business, even if the market is very bad, we have to be optimistic and stick to what we’re doing. If we’re persistent things will better.

Reporter: Right now everyone says that listening to you girls’ music feels very “bourgeoisie.” What do you girls think?

Yesterday I spent the whole night trying to figure out what “bourgeoisie” means. I don’t have a big house, nor a big car, I have a little saving, at most I can afford to travel abroad. If this is “bourgeoisie,” then this life is very similar to my lifestyle in Taipei—enjoying life with limited resources.

Cao Fang:
Whether “bourgeoisie” or “elegant lifestyle,” in my opinion “life should be controlled by our own selves.” Once, I had only about 1000 yuan left, and had to pay my rent next month. But I suddenly spent money and took a trip to the seaside, when I returned I only had 80 yuan left. But I was still happy. I think we shouldn’t worry/fret about life. With 80 yuan I will live happily, if you give me 800000 yuan it’s still the same.

If you give me 800000 yuan I would be happy to death! I remember when I first left my label and started to write songs independently. When someone wanted to by my CD they just directly gave me a call, keeping me very busy. At that time, life was very hard. I had to package my CD, and then mail the package myself. That time when I carried a box of CD, tears in my eyes on the way to the post office, thinking why do I want to make life this hard? But after I mailed the packages I would feel very happy, thinking there are still people that wants to hear my music.

A lot of music is written about love. Especially female writers do this. However, in you girls’ new albums your songs mentions less about love, and even when you do incorporate love, it’s less direct/straightforward.

Right now I’m drawn to the feelings that an image creates. I want to write a song that’s irrational, not just focusing on one image/aspect. The whole song is like a montage movie, every line of the lyrics is one image/picture. This way, will I be able to tell a story? Will people understand it? I think love doesn’t have to be expressed explicitly; there must be space left for imagination.

Cao Fang:
Because I learned to draw when I was little, when I write songs first I draw a picture before I make a melody or write lyrics. I think to express love, we don’t necessarily have to use love or an example story. Many irrelevant images or lyrics actually connect to love on internally. It fits perfectly to describe someone who’s in love with a puzzle.

Puzzle? Yes, we often have this kind of feeling.

What kind of music do you girls listen to? Who influences you the most?

Cao Fang:
I like music similar to 郁东 and . I’m not sure if “folk” is a good term to define their music. Anyway, I like true, warm things. I go through phases – sometimes I listen to very soft music, and sometimes I listen to heavy music. Recently I think 谢天笑’s music is very good.

Recently I’m listening to 法国香颂 (French music). Before that I really like 张楚, 窦唯, 何勇, 唐朝 and 黑豹's music. I’m also looking forward to Radiohead’s new album a bit. When you first listen to radiohead’s album you will think it’s very weird. But right now even more people write rock music because they want to find which direction rock music is going. When others said I’m a folk singer I neither deny it nor confirm it. Actually, I like/want to express rock music very much. It doesn’t matter what kind of music, it’s what the singer wants to express (what’s in the singer’s head) that matters.

Translation Credits: me w/ help from my dad ^_^

Blog Original Text
Interview Original Text


helikoppter said...

Lovely blog entery from Cao Fang and a really nice interview! Thank you so much for taking the time to translate both!!

duriandave said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
duriandave said...

WoW! Thanks Philly! It was interesting to read how images play a big role in songwriting for both of them. BTW, who were the Chinese bands/singers that Cheer and Cao Fang said they were listening to lately?

philly said...

Yay I'm happy that you enjoyed reading them Anna! ^o^ Translating was fun ^_^

Give me some time and I'll try to find out who those artists are (I don't know most of them *_^). Maybe it'll be a future blog entry :o)

placidian said...

I enjoy your blog very much! I like a lot of these C-indie pop artists, and it's nice to read your comments abou them Great job!

Brian said...

So, I just stumbled onto Cao Fangs music from that GE commercial and I would love to buy some of her CDs, but I can't find them anywhere. I'd love to get an actual physical copy of her CD and not just the mp3s. Shoot me an email if you have any suggestions. bhasden at

Anonymous said...

The information here is great. I will invite my friends here.