“Hong Kong is lovely, it’s the easiest place I’ve ever lived in my life, everything is so easy here, I don’t know why, it’s really strange.”
Sitting in a street side noodle bar with Quan Yeomans, as the thriving hordes of Hong Kong residents stream past us, this statement comes as quite a surprise. However, having moved to Hong Kong a few years back, Quan does seem quite at home, in spite of how overwhelming I find the city.
“Have you been drunk the whole time or something?” he asks me midway through my second beer. “Ease up on the drinking, things will make a lot more sense.”
Having formed Regurgitator in Brisbane in the early 90s Quan has been a prolific member of the Australian music scene since The Gurge first released Tu Plang back in 96. With six Regurgitator albums under his belt, as well as working with side projects such as Blox with Spod and Happyland with his former partner Janet English of Spiderbait, you might expect Quan to have taken a break now that he’s living overseas. You’d be wrong.
He has instead chosen to undertake the often difficult task of starting a solo project, releasing his debut The Amateur late last year. Writing under the name Quan (no points for originality), the new project sees him tackle electronica and hip hop, while still keeping that kinetic energy synonymous with Regurgitator, as well as Quan’s trademark postmodern lyricism and sceptical cynicism.
“Its all computer recorded, there’s no live drums, it’s all programmed. There’s no loop samples or anything, its all intricate programming and it’s bit laboured cos I spent so much time working on it. It’s very lyrically based which I only realised when we played the first show at the Big Day Out. I realised how much the audience has to deal with my lyrical bombardment.”
Regurgitator have long held a reputation as an explosive live act, and Quan hasn’t calmed down when it comes to performance.
However, having to climb a quivering mountain of nervous energy, excitement and anxiety every night before a show isn’t child’s play, so to make things easier Quan has developed a few pre-show techniques to rouse the blood. “I usually get my drummer to slap me a few times before I go on, and we have water-fights as well, which helps.”
If you’ve ever seen Quan on-stage it will come as no surprise that he would need a bit of a Texas kiss before bouncing out before an audience like a man possessed. In terms of writing though, Quan needs no slap and tickle to get his creative juices flowing, if anything he needs help stopping.
“I have a lot of time on my hands and I tend to use it to express myself, whatever I’m thinking. I spend a lot of time alone, a lot of time in front of the computer working on my own making music I like, it must because of some compulsive behaviour trait that I have, and I think that’s really reflected in the type of music that I make. It’s probably not very good for me. At one point in my life I’d like to give up computers, I’d like to take at least 5 or 6 years off looking at screens. It’s an addiction, it’s certainly an addiction.” Well at least he’s not smoking crack.
The conversation shifts to touring and we begin discussing what it was like to play in mainland China. “We were told that there would be people in the crowd watching and monitoring us but we never had any issues at all. These people are more concerned with what is said about the government, not about sex or drugs or rock and roll. They are concerned if you have an opinion on the way they run their country.
“I think a lot of people assume that China doesn’t have much of a music scene but cities like Beijing in particular have a long history of punk music, and there’s a band scene there that’s quite thriving. Hong Kong on the other hand has one of the most naïve scenes in the world. It’s a city that’s so financially oriented that it has no need for a subculture. There’s an indie kid crowd but they don’t really have any understanding of music or culture in general and it’s a really strange place because it’s quite a sophisticated city in many other ways.”
We’ve finished our food by this point and Quan tells me he has to head home. Frightened, confused and still wanting to ask a few questions I beg him to help me find the right bus to get back to my hotel, and seeing the look of dismay and animal fear in my eyes he graciously agrees to guide me to the bus stop.
As I follow him through the bustling crowd I ask him about the possibility of a new Regurgitator album, and I check my wallet for the fifth time since leaving the noodle house.
“I think we can definitely expect another album, but when, I have no idea. Ben (Ely, bass) needs to take some time off and find himself again because he’s been having a bit of a hectic year. I think he’s going to do some travelling and I won’t see him very much this year at all but I think we’ll be getting back together towards the end of the year and talk about what we’re going to do at the beginning of 2010.”
We arrive at the bus stop, Quan looks a little perturbed for the first time, more than likely due to how completely useless I am. He goes to leave and throwing good taste and courtesy aside I decide to fire off one last question. I ask if he is considering moving back to Australia anytime soon, and turning around with a look of resigned annoyance on his face he answers me:
“I was actually thinking about moving back there in March this year,” he says a hint of venom in his voice. “I went back, but when I came back here, I was so much happier. I’m addicted to this city, the vibe is completely different here in Asia and something about the architecture here just gives me satisfaction about living in the city, I don’t know what it is, it’s really strange, but I won’t be moving soon.”
Hell, with arsehole Aussies like me bugging him on every corner of his homeland you can understand why.
Be sure to catch Quan when he plays with Ratatat at The Manning Bar on the 8th of May or when he plays the Come Together Festival in June.
The Amateur is out now on Valve Recordings through MGM.