Biography of Dou Wei
2005-10-13 17:24:29 CRIENGLISH.com
Among Chinese rock scene, the innovative artist Dou Wei is like a profound mental meditator. Self-indulgent, a little narcissistic, he harbours such poetic and delicate virtues, and he has an insightful perception in human nature, the essence of life, and sentiment. Dou Wei's talent in music is unreservedly and unpremeditatedly incarnated in his music esthetics. He has an amazing ability of crafting music, and he's never short of inspiration. His music has been improving all the way along with his life style and personal experiences. Perhaps making and playing music is a special way to pilgrimage towards a higher level of consciousness. To Dou Wei, from his early era being the leading vocalist of 'Black Panther' up till now, each period in between has been an individual and unique experience and process of music adventure. Listening to all of his albums, one can see the diverse aspects of Dou Wei's music, sometimes distressed and melancholy, sometimes bright and energetic, sometimes dreamy and psychedelic, sometimes mild and serene...
What remains the same in his music is that the poetic, delicate characteristic, and the appealing and empathetic power, and Dou Wei's enthusiasm on pondering, and that astonishing psychological and spiritual influence of his music. Undeniably Dou Wei's radiating talent in music is so noticeable even when he was with the Black Panther, by that time they released a self-titled debut album "Black Panther-I" (1991) which was rather pop-rock oriented. That was his hair band era. Each of Black Panther members wore long hair, and the way they acted on stage wais more or less showing-off. Probably fed up with the fickle attitude towards music, and especially when his ever-growing ambition to make experiments on music could no longer be contented, Dou Wei eventually left the Black Panther, all together with his by then ground-breaking fame and his fledging music career with the band.
Yet one can still enjoy Dou Wei's masterpieces such as Don't Break My Heart, Take Care from that era and sense his unique musical consciousness and experiences. Had his hair cut short, Dou Wei formed a goth band The Dreaming in 1992. This band was short-lived, released one memorable single, The Ray of Sun. From then on he spent nearly one year working on his debut solo album "Dark Dreams" (1994), which sounds dreamy and surreal. "Dark Dreams" is his first solo effort and was greeted with both critics acclaim and mass recognition. An album heavily influenced by Bauhaus, the Cure, even some Reggae, yet Dou Wei showcased his full musical skill. In this album Dou Wei conveyed his ambition to make experiments on various music styles and materials, and his meditation upon life and human relationship was incarnated into such alternative rock music, in a stream-of-consciousness way.
"Dark Dreams" is generally a gloomy, gothic album, as one can notice in tracks like "In The Dark Dream" and Higher Beings. Such murky music reveals Dou Wei's self-consciousness and his reflection on darker sides of human potential. "If we can't make it in reality, let's do it in dreams". Take another song "God Bless" for instance, a cello humming like a sad river flowing, and an acoustic guitar created a melancholy atmosphere, and Dou Wei's amazing ventriloquial drum sound is very original; while another funky, reggae-ish "Oh! Be Good" sounds bright seemingly, in fact it's about the problems of family education and rebellion against parents, but in the end, "Nothing matters at all".
Overall, "Dark Dreams" marks Dou Wei's post-punk-gothic era. The "Black Panther I" and "Dark Dreams" are most welcomed by teen-spirit adolescents of all generations, probably because the rhythm and melody in these two albums are quite catchy, and the explicit lyrics are easy to understand. Some radio-friendly songs such as "Don't Break My Heart", "And You" or "Pleasant Phone-Call" weave romantic dreams of young lovers. While in other post-punk songs, some underline messages reflect what they think from the bottom of their heart, to the teen-angst youngsters these songs are buddies and pals aligned to fight against the authority, their parents and teachers, and meet their childish determination of never succumbing to anything. After he did an opening act for Radiohead in Hong Kong (BTW. Radiohead LOVEs Dou Wei's music and once invited him to tour with them, but that didn't happen due to Dou's visa problems).
Dou Wei released his second solo album "Sunny Days" (1995), which is, to everyone's surprise, so much different from his first album. It seems that after dreary rainy days, the sun suddenly comes out of the dark clouds and shines so brightly in the sapphire blue sky. "Sunny Days" radiates such warm, brilliant light, the rhythm is much more upbeat, lots of oriental music materials mingled here and there in the melody, and from then on Dou Wei tried to adopt a little bit traditional Chinese opera singing style in his vocal, thus he invented the unique "Dou's Vocal". Another well-respected musician and producer Zhang Ya Dong (Zhang Ya Tung, who happens to be his brother-in-law, but no nepotism here), helped with guitars and keyboards as well as the Midi. All in all, this album is a refreshingly turning point, and hints that Dou Wei was getting more mature both in his music and in his personal life.
But Dou Wei is never predictable. Perhaps influenced by the European electro wave, his third solo studio effort, "Mountain River" (1998), sounds much less acoustic, instead with Zhang Ya Dong helping on MIDI effect, this album is full of lush electronic sounds, drum beats and bass echoing. As the album title suggests, Dou Wei tried to paint a picturesque scene with his music, with that lounging, psychedelic ambient-electronic rhythm and vertiginous yet enchanting melody; the lyrics, printed without interpunction, are like casual subconscious nonsense, some words even seem a little bit ludicrous: "Meddlesome Tom and Peter / are laughing at Arthur / and that ain't no good..." ("Not At All") While some lines are glistening poetic gems: "The disappearing vision is floating / above the vanishing wreck of the past..." ("The Disappearing Vision") Dou Wei uses his leisurely, jaunty humming to show you a beautiful, redolent watercolored Chinese landscape. And as a native Beijing, facing the unavoidable fate of old city, he wrote "Demolish" to express his sympathy on something lost on the juggernaut of the modernization of the once tranquil alleys of Beijing, along with the photo of a wall ready to be put down. (no one knows how many memories are recorded on that wall, and now, it will vanished like a flame).
In the following year, Dou Wei formed his latest band "E", with Ou Ge on guitar, Chen Jin on bass, Shan Xiao Fan on drums, the four together released their fascinating studio album "Hallucination" on October 1999. Perhaps due to Ou Ge's britpop influenced guitar, comparisons to Cocteau Twins or Bark Psychosis are frequently quoted in album reviews. It indeed contains the kindred musical aesthetic, and true is that Bark Psychosis is one of Dou Wei's fave, but take a close listen to this album and you can tell that any accuse of simulating would be ridiculous. In this collaborating masterpiece, each of the band members is a skillful and inspired musician; while Dou Wei still plays the leading role, he distills the quintes sence of western rock music and blends it perfectly into his sumptuous Chinese music context.
His traditional Chinese opera singing style has been weakened, instead Dou's vocal is rather dulcet and tender, especially in the title song "Hallucination? Words seem less important now (there's no lyrics printed in the album inlay, yet some die-hard fans still try their best to figure out what he was singing, actually some lyrics as well as the song titles are very beautiful, they can even remind you of those elegant ancient Chinese poems), instead Dou Wei emphasized much more on music. For most of the album, he just murmuring, producing a human sound to add another twist to the music. Due to the band's concordant endeavour, the song arrangement is wonderful; lots of limpid acoustic guitar sounds are layering, rippling and deliquescing, with subtle, exquisite keyboard sounds tinged here and there, the music is atmospheric, intoxicating and haunting through out. There are two fussy riff surging tracks, to remind you, that are almost grunge like, it seems the post-punk king is back.
But that fusion guitar noise bombasting storm shall hush on the eventless horizon soon, everything would be overwhelmed beneath the hazy vapouring heaving ocean of Dou Wei's pacifying ethereal music. The art design of the album sleeve is also marvelous, a deep-blue colored waterscape in the rain, almost reminds the beautiful scenery of Gui Lin. In this transcendental and accomplished album you can see a well-rounded Dou Wei, mellowed both in his music and in his spirit; together with the three other band mates, they make four heroes for new music generations. As an ordinary fan, I can't tell whether Dou Wei gives a damn about his record selling or not, but in my humble concern, he is a gifted and serious musician who insists to create and perform music in his own way.
Every once in a while Dou Wei and his friends would hang out together in bars or clubs in Beijing, and when he's in the mood he'd do some groovy improvisational jam with other musicians. And this year the boys are quite active on stage, during the past months they did four gigs in Beijing, and on June 2nd they gave a live concert with other virtuosos in Xi'an. At the moment Dou Wei and his "E" colleagues are adding the finishing touch on their new album "Yu Xu" (Rainy Murmur). Dou Wei has always been obsessed with ancient Chinese poems, lately he's really into lots of poems from Yuan Dynasty, Song Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, etc. and in the up coming album the lyrics would convey inspirations from these poetries. All fans are eager to hear this intriguing album.
In the year 2001, Dou Wei has formed another band called "Not Sure Yet". It is more or less a one shot jamming band, no reluagr member, no reluagar music direction, no relugar schedule, just a few veterans who share the same musical taste get together and jam at will. The original members include: Wen Zhi Yong (trumpet), Chen Xiao Hu (bass), Dou Wei (drums), Deng Ou Ge (guitar), Shan Xiao Fan, Zhang Jian (keyboards), Chen Jin, Liu Xiao Song, Ma Pei, Ou Yang. They recorded a 2CD live album "One Stone, Two Birds" at Club Green in Beijing on June, 2001. It's an improvisational jazz-lounge recording. Every piece of instrument, including Dou Wei's voice, has it's own independent space to express itself. In the leaping notes, you could almost sense the unique loneliness, distance and cynicalness of being in a city. Midnight would be a good time to listen to this music, you can keep on doing your stuff, and the music would be a great background. Maybe you'll be distracted by it from time to time. When the veil of the evening falls, when the city calms down from the daytime bustle, or in a dusky bar - just let your body sway with the Not Sure Yet and your mood. (m.z.) "One Stone, Two Birds" was officially released through www.joyo.com on April 15th, 2003.
In 2002 Dou Wei has formed another new project called "Mu Liang Wen Wang" (Mu Liang stands for Dou Wei, Wen stands for trumpet player Wen Bin and Wang for dulcimer player and vocalist Wang Xiao Fang). This time Dou Wei has devoted to his new works that is similar to the neo-Chinese-folk. With dulcimer as the main instrument, added with some fragments of ambient music, a little bit experimental sound and noise, Chinese percussion segments, and jazz drums, MLWW has freed the dulcimer and flute and other Chinese folk instruments from the melody stereotypes, they even use the academic minimalism to create a layering, expansive atmosphere.
MLWW recorded a 2cd album "Live On, Gloriette by Water" on March 2002. As Dou Wei recalled the recording process was quite simple and fast, the three of them got together and talked for hours, mostly about things that has nothing to do with music. When their musical visions and feelings hit and kindled, they went into the studio and finished the first part of recording in a few hours, the second part took a little longer. "Live On, Gloriette by Water" is quite improvisational a recording, it might be the best effort of Chinese new music in the last few years, it is Dou Wei's new experiment with Oriental music, it conveys his music emotions and visions, it's a resplendent and difficult try. MLWW is a good new start for Dou Wei.