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Shanghai showcases the future of Chinese rock

ON Saturday night local rock fans can catch some of the best bands in China, and Sam Riley caught up with indie recording label Maybe Mars' Nevin Domer to discuss the future of the country's burgeoning rock scene.

Despite being in action for just a year, Beijing indie record label Maybe Mars has big plans for 2009 and is set to launch some of China's most exciting new bands both at home and abroad.

The label was established last year by D-22 club owner and Beijing rock scene stalwart Michael Pettis.

Maybe Mars, along with fellow indie label Sound Destruction, will showcase some of the best upcoming rock bands in China at a gig on Saturday night as part of Split Work's Jue Festival.

Coming to Shanghai from the Maybe Mars stable are the popular Carsick Cars, Snapline and all-girl three-piece outfit Ourself Beside Me.

Carsick Cars is one of China's rising stars of the developing indie rock scene and is gaining attention overseas, opening for Sonic Youth for three of their European shows as well as performing as the curtain raiser for Dinosaur Jr.

The band is also planning an extensive overseas tour this year that will take in a range of cities, from Moscow to New York.

Nevin Domer, part of the creative team at Maybe Mars, says the label was established with the aim of producing world-class recordings of some of the exciting young rock bands in the Beijing rock scene.

"There was not any label really ready to support the bands and make sure they had good-quality recordings and the right resources that they needed to put out good albums," he says.

"So, Maybe Mars came out of that desire to record some of the good bands that are playing in Beijing because there were no really good solid albums from those bands."

The label spends a lot of money and time trying to get top-class recordings, says Domer.

Snapline, who borrows from dance and electronic beats together with ethereal guitars, recently worked with Martin Atkins on their latest album.

Atkins was the drummer for John Lydon's post-Sex Pistols band Public Image Ltd and he has also recorded and performed with Killing Joe, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails.

With electronic and dance influences, Domer says Shanghai's music fans will have a lot to like about Snapline, who are known for their high-energy performances.

Also performing at Saturday's gig at the Zhijiang Dream Factory is Ourself Beside Me, who are set to launch their first release this year. Domer says the label has high hopes for the all-girl band.

"It's a relatively new band for our label and will be putting out their first release which is like weird psychedelic garage, it is very hard to describe their sound," he says.

"But we are very excited about this release and the band in general, not just for China but for all around the world," he adds.

China has few stalwart indie labels like Modern Sky, who have been around for more than a decade, and many independent labels are still searching for a viable and sustainable business model.

It's a problem that Domer says has been exercising the minds of the Maybe Mars team as they tackle their second year.

"Getting together and surviving has not been too difficult for the first year, but creating a viable business model and looking at how to survive into the future is something we are still struggling with," he says.

"I guess our short-term goal is to put out great CDs and create a sort of book of releases, but now we are going to be coming up to 20 or 30 CDs we have to figure out a way to use that book to keep things moving."

Domer says the label is looking at a range of revenue sources, including digital distribution and selling ringtones to their bands' fast-growing fan base.

While noting Shanghai's rock scene has some way to go to become established, Domer says there are still some of the city's bands catching the label's attention.

Maybe Mars is working on a release by Muscle Snog, who are on the south China label Miniless Records that specializes in experimental rock recordings.

"There are some great bands from Shanghai, but it just hasn't gelled into an actual rock scene so much," he says. "There are some great bands but there are not enough of them and not enough real solid venues to form a consistent scene but hopefully that will change."

The Maybe Mars and Sound Destruction Showcase will kick off at the Zhijiang Dream Factory (66 Yuyao Rd, Jing'an District) from 9pm and anyone who wants more information can go to or call 6255-4062.


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