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B-Side China Podcast: Sinking Beijing w/ Tom Ng, Josh and Simon Frank

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B-Side China is a podcast monitoring the flip side of cultural stories in the PRC, initiated by Josh Feola for RADII.

Today we talk to three outsider-Beijingers, who have a few decades of experience in the Chinese capital between them. Brothers Josh and Simon Frank have lived in Beijing off and on since early childhood, initially touching down in the city due to their parents’ jobs at the Canadian Embassy, later integrating into a deep seam of creative energy in the late-’00s music scene centered around storied venue D-22 via their duo Hot & Cold, and later still adding Beijing-centric lines to their CV via stints at VICE China (Josh) and 798 art gallery Long March Space (Simon).

Tom Ng, born and raised in Hong Kong, moved to Beijing almost a decade ago with the two other members of his erstwhile band, The Offset: Spectacles, and though those two have moved on to other places, Tom just kinda stayed stuck here. He currently plays in the duo 工工工 with Josh and co-runs Modernista, a fashionable throwback bar in one of Beijing’s embattled hutong neighborhoods.

Top to bottom: Josh, Tom, Simon; catch all three in conversation with rapper Bohan Phoenix here

Josh, Simon, Tom and I all met back in 2010, when those three were running their cassette label Rose Mansion Analog and Beijing was virtually brimming with “contradictory” freedoms and “weird and dystopian but super fun” vibes. In the near decade that’s passed, Beijing’s international image has been cleaned up, some of its weirder fringe elements have been swept away, and the city has lost some of its status as a magnet attracting musicians and artists from the provinces looking to “make it” in the capital.

On this episode of B-Side China, we discuss the paradoxical process by which the infrastructure for creative industries in Beijing has grown at roughly the same speed at which the roughness that gave the art being made there its edge has receded. Beijing may be sinking, but alternative centers like Chengdu and Hangzhou are on the rise — on recent tours of China, all three guests have noticed a new, multipolar network of artistic energy emerging where Beijing once reigned supreme.

Find more episodes of B-Side China here, and more RADII podcasts here. Find 工工工 on tour in the US in September and October.

Opening track: “What’s the Point” by Simon Frank; Closing track: “Siren 追逐劇” by 工工工

Cover image: Simon Frank

You might also like:

CITY MIX: Something in the Hangzhou Water

B-Side China Podcast: Chengdu Underground with Kristen Ng

Yin: 工工工, Bohan Phoenix & Simon Frank on Growing Up Between Cultures

Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.

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