We get very few Chinese bands, or at least bands based in China. So here’s one!
Grass Mud Horse plays Celtic punk and folk punk music written by me, Chris Barry. I am originally from Liverpool in the UK but I’ve lived a lot of my life in Toronto and Niagara regions of Canada. Currently myself and the band that plays with me are based In Qinhuangdao in northern China, a city famous for being where the Great Wall ends by dramatically plummeting into the ocean. My band currently consists of Will Wylie on drums, he’s from Texas, and Rocco Desta on bass, from Glasgow in Scotland.
How did you meet?
We live and work in China. We started going to a bbq to drink, eat and we started jamming songs there that I’d written. We decided to form a band around these songs, and we’ve just kept growing from that.
How long have you been playing as a band?
Since the end of 2018…so just over a year
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
Grass Mud Horse in Chinese is 草泥马 pronounced Cao Ni Ma. It is the Chinese name for Llamas or Alpacas. It’s very important however to get the tones right, as if you don’t you tell someone to go fornicate with the mother. Internet censorship here is very harsh and you can get in trouble for writing what the government deems offensive or morally corrupt so, to avoid trouble, young Chinese jokingly say Llama when they want to tell someone to f their m!
What are your influences?
The Pogues, Dead Kennedys, Dubliners, Wolfe Tones, The Clash, Dropkick Murphys, Bad Religion, Flogging Molly, Greenland Whale Fishers, Ramones…
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
It started just writing punk songs about our life in China, and we plan on releasing that stuff as an album later this year (it was very diverse: skate, oi, ska, even one song completely in Mandarin) But after a while more and more of the songs where Celtic punk, folk punk or what we call pirate punk domain, so I decided that would be the permanent musical direction. As I said though the none-Celtic punk stuff will be released as an album later this year.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Life, drinking, the China experience. Some songs are written from historical perspectives and folk struggles against foreign powers and that sort of thing. I guess typical tropes of Celtic music.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
Our live show has been stopped dead in its tracks after being detained by Chinese police for several days, and threatened with jail fines and deportation. We were asked to give information on other punk bands in China. We did not… but we have not performed here since. I plan to spend some time playing in Canada with a Canadian lineup for a few months later this year and will see what else can be organized.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
I broke a guy’s nose at a gig with the bottom of my guitar ‘cos he kept trying to get on stage to play “Sweet Home Alabama”… which he insisted he could do so much better than anyone else!
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
I play a Gibson SG, a Chinese made mandolin and various Clarke and faedog tin whistles
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
We just released our second single “No Prey No Play” (available on Spotify and all the other places) and we have an acoustic EP out a week before St. Paddy’s which is called the Quarantine Sessions. It was recorded on an 8-track porta-studio with the few instruments had with me over the last couple months whilst I’ve been locked down in Inner Mongolia due to the coronavirus outbreak here in China.
What are your plans for 2020?
Regularly release new music. A second quarantine sessions EP. An Album of our early straight up punk stuff. And also will release our first EP of strictly Celtic punk songs. Later in he year I will be in Canada for a few months playing with a Canadian GMH lineup.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
Would love to open for the Murphys or Flogging Molly. There’s lots of band I’d also like on the bill that I think are awesome. I’m not sure I’d say they’d be opening for us, but maybe right now I’d add Matilda’s Wake or Shanghai Treason.