Chengdu's Very Own Mothership - Time to Get High

Chengdumusic (CM): Howdy Rob, many thanks for doing the interview.

Rob Tanner (RT): Great to be here. Thanks for the opportunity to introduce us to your loyal readers and music fans.

CM: First question's an obvious one. What five things would Apollo 20 take with them in a lunar module orbiting the earth?

RT: Five each? .... We are 4 distinct personalities. One of us gets to bring 2 things? So that's unfair. Ok, collectively it would be Guitar, Bass, Drums, Amplifiers, and ScoobySnacks.

CM: And a second, not so obvious one, why did you choose the name Apollo 20?

RT: The name comes from a conspiracy about an alleged moon landing in 1976, where the astronauts went to the dark side of the Moon to investigate a crashed spaceship near the Delporte crater. They also find and retrieve an alien, and explore the ruins of an ancient lunar city. I came across the video on Youtube by accident, and was very intrigued. Kind of blew my mind, hoax or no hoax. The video is on Toudou as well. This all ties in with the Vimanas, the ancient Hindu flying machines, something that blew my mind a while back when i was reading about them in the Vedas and the other Sanscrit epics. . So, why not put them together? Since the dawn of time, humanity has felt the need to fly. And flying and flying technology has grown and grown. And now, the technology has broadened our ideas of truth. And now the truth is scary. So, taking an ancient myth and a modern myth, you are still left with many questions.


CM: How did you all end up in a band together?

RT: Quite serendipitously. In late spring last year, I was having a beer with Wang Guo, singer of the band 'The Hit'. We started chatting about what kind of music we were listening to these days, and he said he was listening to a lot of Doom and Stoner Rock. These sub-genres are not too well known, especially in China. I love that type of stuff. Melvins, Sleep, High on Fire, Altamont, Om, Kyuss, to name a few. The light bulbs and sirens started going in my head.... "We have to put a project together!" So after my holiday back to Canada was over, we went to work. It was as simple as asking my friends Jovian Brown (synth) and Adrien Brill (drums) if they were interested. When we got together in October of last year, I knew right away that this band was going to be special, so I chose not to rejoin my old band. We've been going strong ever since, and I am so lucky to have friends that are as talented as these guys are.


CM: We like the first few tracks we heard on Douban. What can we expect to hear at the Little Bar gig on the 15th?

RT: Because we are not headlining, our set at Little Bar is only about 45 minutes, so you will hear what you heard on Douban, plus only a couple others. As you heard, our songs are quite long. What you don't know is that those songs don't have a definite structure, and that improvising is an important part of our band. Our main focus in creating this 'Dopesterock' music is to induce a hypnotic effect on the listener. Depending on the vibe, you may hear a lot of different stuff you didn't hear in the two songs on Douban.


CM:.What's your songwriting process like?

RT: So far, the songs have come from me. I introduce the ideas to the fellas, then we roll with it. Naturally, others will offer suggestions, and we just keep cobbling away. I think I am very lucky, because the style and structures, or lack thereof, can be quite complicated, and the guys are all as excited as I am, so everyone is involved in getting the songs sounding the way they do. It has been extremely gratifying so far that all four of us are so excited about the project.


CM: How do you write your lyrics and what music influences your lyrical style?

RT: I wrote the lyrics to Lakshmi the Consort as a reaction to criticism I have received over the years of being an overly negative person. One night I awoke from a dream about a gang of hooded thugs chasing me because of something I said. I went upstairs and sat in front of the computer and wrote the lyrics straight away. The song is a love song, in fact, and why not write a love song to the most worshipped woman- a Hindu goddess? Our other song, One Day for Brahma, Wang Guo wrote after finding some information on the four Yugas. They are in Chinese, so in reality, I don't even know what he is singing. And Jovian added his vocal part that he wrote during his mixdown of our demo. So, I guess, lyrics are contributed by everyone. Stylistically, I cannot honestly tell you where they come from. The Hindu themes have just kind of came out of left field. I do not think I ever consciously thought about where the lyrics' style come from. Just that Hinduism is so trippy, and I want our band to be trippy. In Lakshmi, the lyrics were simply designed to bounce in rhythm to the guitar riff.


CM: Any other major influences musically as a band or individually? 

RT: We are into all sorts of stuff. Like I said before, Wang Guo and I love Stoner Rock, which I guess drives the band most of all. Jovian likes his electronic and hip hop stuff. Adrien just loves everything. It sounds cliche, but I don't think this band is easily put into a category. Some people have said it sounds 'post rock', but I don't even know what that is. Take the 's' out of that, and you are more spot on. I suppose you could say that our music is about -"What would have happened if Black Sabbath went to India instead of the Beatles?"


CM: Can you tell us a little about the sitar elements of your tracks?

RT: How that came about is perhaps the most synchronous moment in my musical life. I have always been a big fan of the sitar. Love it, mate. Ravi Shankar and Nikhil Banerjee are two of the greatest musicians ever to grace this planet. A couple of summers ago, I got into playing raga-type pieces on a guitar in open tuning. Used to jam with my good friend Oliver on hand drum. Although not much came out of it (no shows, no recordings), those sessions kind of changed me. It made me restless to keep going deeper and deeper into classical Indian music. It seemed so free... to improvise for 20 minutes and having it not sound too boring..... Then, while i was in Canada, after the aforementioned conversation with Wang Guo last summer, I found that this company called Electro-Harmonix had made this sitar emulator guitar pedal. I bought one straight away. Somehow, it fit right in with the stoner rock thing. So the two styles have just sort of fused together. Ragas can be over 90 minutes long, so its trippy and hypnotic, too. Sitar can be damn heavy, as well. Sitar music is extremely difficult to play on guitar though, let me tell you. I am still learning and wrestling every day with it. CM: What’s your take on Apollo 20's role in the Chinese underground community and the importance of underground venues around China. RT: We are a brand new band and our sound is far from ordinary, so we'll have to see how we are received. Its not your average stuff, to be sure. Our songs are long and complex, but I believe that the hypnotic effects we try to induce will be a kind of therapy for people here, both locals and expats. China is such a stressful place sometimes, so I hope people can find some means of escape through our stuff. As for venues, they are growing in both quality and quantity. Its promising. Chengdu certainly needs a few more within second ring road. The East Music Park is a fantastic place, although a bit out of the way. Lots of cool venues out there. The more venues, the more places bands can play, so I hope the trend continues to climb. The venue is where the nerves converge. the place where the collective conscience gets a bit more focussed, so the venue is obviously key. Back in about 2006, the equipment these places provided were so sub-par. Now you go in, and they have some top-notch gear. So now the bands can more properly reproduce what the crowd paid to see and hear.


CM: Is there a special audience you want to reach in China?

RT: We want to cater to those who are willing to take chances with their music experience. The further they are willing to go, then the better. Our musical style has not been heard before, anywhere. Its an experiment, to be sure. We are doing stuff that is against the current trends, and admittedly, on purpose. This verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/double chorus crap has to die, and I want to help kill it. To make songs that are the length of TV shows is more interesting and promising than to write songs that you want to be hit singles. Music belongs in bong circles, not in corporate circles. Music is art, not a commodity, right? The art in music is kind of losing traction. It needs to come back. You don't go to an art gallery to see some random Crayola scribblings. Art is about exploration, emotion, and experience. For us, we want the audience to be as high or deep as possible.


CM: Do you believe that Stanley Kubrick helped the US fake the moon landing in 1969?

RT: Anything is possible, isn't it? Its kind of cool to examine the untraditional viewpoints on topics such as these. Maybe the Apollo 20 mission actually happened? So much unexplained things happen. Goverments' try to trick their people all the time. I would certainly not be surprised if Kubrick helped fake it. Its important to second guess everything you read or hear about. Closer examination of both sides often reveal the truth.


CM: One last question. Ravi Shankar, George Harrison or Syd Barrett, choose one to invite to the Apollo 20 afterlife tea party.

RT: ooo.... tough one. Probably not Harrison. haha... If its just tea, then Ravi. If its tea and party favours, then thats more of a toss-up.


CM: Looking forward to seeing you in Chengdu on the 15th. Anything you want to share with our readers before the launch?

RT: Close your eyes, open your mind...... Believe the signs of the Reptile Master. Follow the Sonic Titan as it rides on the clouds of a new Horizon.





Apollo 20 play Chengdu's Little Bar on Friday the 15th March alongside AH and Amnesiac. Doors open 8pm sharp. More details on the band can be found at the following links:

Chengdu's Very Own Mothership - Time to Get High |


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