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 Tenzenmen

Written by Luke Monks on November 25, 2008

Starting out as a noise project some 15 years ago, tenzenmen has evolved to the point where Hemsley is now using it as a catchall umbrella for all of his ‘crazy schemes’. With a motto of “do something”, Hemsley has involved himself heavily in the DIY scene for many years, helping not only local bands, but international acts find ways to circumvent the standard tour circuit and take the road less travelled.

With his roots in the late 70’s and early 80’s punk scene in the UK, Hemsley grew up with the DIY ethos. When he began taking a larger role in the Sydney underground, it was natural for him to explore the option of warehouse and arts space shows, where actually putting on a good show took precedence over making money.
In the past, Hemsley has brought out bands from South East Asia, but with his keen interest in Chinese history and culture, it was natural that tenzenmen would become involved with something from that region (though Hemsley says that he plans on continuing to work with SE Asian bands).

Having travelled to Beijing on several occasions and made friends with bands at local club D22, Hemsley became fascinated with the vitality of the emerging music scene in China.. Part of this scene was a record label started as an offshoot of the D22 club, Maybe Mars, which tenzenmen now licenses for release in Australia.

With the release of the Maybe Mars series, tenzenmen is exploring the world of underground Chinese music, ranging from melodic hardcore with English lyrics to noise rock sung in the band’s local dialect. The ambitious scope and variety of this project is nothing new for Hemsley, who has been running a wide variety of music related projects as a labour of love, with no thought of material profit.

With minimal help from the media, the Maybe Mars series and, indeed, tenzenmen, are focused on getting the word out on the street, building a catalogue and seeing what will happen.

“I have every confidence in the music I’m releasing so feel it could just be a matter of time before people’s curiosity is piqued and they start investigating,” says Hemsley.

Hemsley goes on to say that the goal of these releases is just to get some great music out for people to enjoy, and to contribute to something bigger, in a holistic sense.

With the difficulty of getting the Maybe Mars bands over to Australia to tour (it’s hard to get a visa and there are some insane ‘money in the bank’ requirements to guarantee that the bands will actually head back to China at the end of their tour), for the time being, the best way to hear this music is to grab a copy of one of the releases, which have faced their own difficulties in being released in their homeland.

“For any artist in China wishing to release a CD, lyrics must be submitted to the government for approval. I believe this is a requirement from the CD factories to protect them against possible closure for inappropriate material. However, considering these restrictions, some of Demerit’s lyrics are quite critical of life in China, and other bands can cleverly conceal other meanings in more poetic lyrics (PK-14 in particular are well respected among the more scholarly kids in this sense),” explains Hemsley.

With a new release coming out every six weeks, get in on this – it’s vital, with a spark that may be enough to reinvigorate the most jaded ‘punk.’

“In the west we already have a historical rebellious musical background to draw upon.  China has just discovered all this music – and all at once.  So influences can be drawn from many different fields and filtered through into what are hopefully new and exciting sounds. Bands like Mafeisan and Muscle Snog are really pushing boundaries even on western terms.”

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