Sunday, May 31, 2015

Heres to the next 10 years

It has been exactly 10 years since my exile from America.  If your a friend of mine, then you've probably heard this story, as it turned my life upside down.  A bunch of dudes in their early 20's playing in a band dreaming them big dreams, moving to the big city.  We left Honolulu and set sail for San Francisco.  Things quickly fell apart, once I crossed that border into Canada and tried to come back to the US, that was the end of that dream.  Papers, visas, legalities, and realities.  What could've turned out from that dream, I don't know.  All I knew was that it was over.  Fast forward to Shanghai, fast forward to Montreal, fast forward to Vancouver, fast forward to Berlin, to Lisbon, and now here I am, back in the USA.  10 years from one dream to the next.  At one point I could've been a good husband in Vancouver.  I could've been an artist in Paris or Zagreb.  I could've been a recluse living in the outskirts of Reykjavik.  I could've been a father in Berlin.  But that's not how life works. I simply forfeited any chance I had of making those dreams into reality.  Maybe subconsciously I'm afraid that the rug would be pulled from underneath me again. More papers, visas, legalities and reality scenarios.  Afraid of investing time in friendships and relationships because it can all disappear at the snap of a finger once that visa runs out, or some ill fated joke god decides to play on me again. Losing everything once was enough, I thought.  I remember one night when I first moved to Montreal, drunk and hanging out with strangers, attempting to socialize and make new friends, while walking outside to the closest metro station in the snow I heard someone's alarm clock go off from some nearby apartment.  I stared up at the night sky with the street lights illuminating the snow falling down wishing it was somehow just some bad dream I got stuck in, and I would wake up in San Francisco with my bandmate Tony asking me if I want some pasta he just made.  I'd close my eyes and reopen them, repeating this motion until someone patted me on the back and told me I was gonna miss the last train if I don't hurry.  Needless to say, I didn't wake up in San Francisco the next day.

A lot of things didn't happen for a long time.  For 6 years or so. From one dead end job to the next. There was only one dream I held on to: Music.  Anyone who plays music in North America knows this reality. Years and years of relentless touring, playing to 5 people, 10 people, 30, 50 if your lucky. And then luck smiles down upon your hard work, 10 years later since you first joined a band.  I almost quit this dream a few times.  But then that dream takes you far. From east coast to west coast, across the Atlantic, Northern Europe to Southern Europe, west to east, over the pacific to Asia, the middle east, city after city, country after country, foreign looking flags flying high, girls in heels, stockings, and mini skirts, hotel, motel, holiday inn, comfort inn, motel 6, motel 8, what have you. Then all the rooms starts to look the same, people that didn't want to talk to you all of a sudden wants to talk to you, some people want autographs, some people want to take a picture with you, which is very flattering but then some people just want to touch you and then run away.  Little by little you lose sight of what dream your supposed to be in.  I was supposed to be someone's husband, someone's son, someone's brother, someone's uncle, someone's friend.  It's just work, I told myself and continued on for another 4 years of this dream.  I worked hard.  I played hard.  Tried to be polite. Searching for some meaning that I don't even know if it exists or not.  For 4 years it felt like the needle skipped on the record and we were all stuck in some loop.  That tune got old quick.  You can only cry so many times, you can only move forward and not look back so many times until you realize the trail of fire you left behind, until there's no one left, waiting for you.  

I was born to run.  

Heres to the next 10 years.

Alex Zhang Hungtai
May 2015, Los Angeles

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Night Musik - Between

Night Musik - Between from Alex Zhang Hungtai on Vimeo.

Last year when Dirty Beaches were on tour in Japan we did a music video for Shub's solo project Night Musik, shot by my friend Mike Lau (who shot the Badlands album cover photo) on location in Shinjuku mostly. Story follows a man who succumbs to his shadow, playing on the theme of self obliteration/liberation, control vs constraint.  Please support Shub, who is a incredibly talented independent musician.  I love him very much like a brother and I hope you all will like his music as well. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Los Angeles

Since the end of DB I've stopped blogging all together...The beginning of 2015 saw me back in Berlin, I guess I wanted to see what I missed but only to realize I've moved on and was completely out of sync with the city.  The lifestyle, the night life, all that hedonistic craziness was no longer appealing anymore, it felt incredibly distracting. Regardless, it was great to see some old Berlin friends there...The Berlin winter reminded me so much of that heavy winter I went thru during 2012/2013 of the Drifters/Love is the devil period, I had to leave.  I set sail for Istanbul and Beirut visiting my friend Khodor and just chilled there for a few weeks...During this visit a very important vision came to me. I'm not really the tripper type who takes too much hallucinogens nor the hippie spiritual type, but while I was coming down with a cold during a rainy night with the electricity knocked off, I saw a vision.  It was so dramatic that I'll spare you the cringe worthy details...soon after the vision appeared before me, the electricity came back and the rain stopped.  I sat there in the kitchen with my mouth half open, still not really sure what it was that I saw. It was a fucking weird night. Immediately two days later, I booked my flight to LA.

All my original plans to stay in Berlin for a bit and later return to Vancouver went out the window. LA had been my final destination plan for 2015, but instead of taking 6 months to a year to move there, I went straight for it. Upon arrival the city welcomed me and took me in. New friends, old friends, even running into old high school friends from Hawaii (!!!) and everything was in sync and everything fell in its place.  I wanna thank Juan for letting me crash at his place upon my arrival, and Julia for helping me find my place in LA.  I'm now writing on my desk in my room, living in a small modest house in east LA close to Alhambra with two room mates. My neighbors are mostly Mexican families, and some OG cholo dads raising their kids now, working on their cars or lifting weights in their garage on sundays. Its quiet and from our rooftop I can see the palm trees, the mountains and the skyscrapers of downtown LA.  My room strangely resembles the room I lived in Honolulu back in 1998, or the room in Montreal 2005.  Mattress on the floor, a desk, and books and shit everywhere hahaha.  Upon my first week moving to LA, I scored some commercial music syncs (once I get the paycheck next month I won't have to work for a while) along with soundtrack jobs. As my friend Dean Hurley aptly described, "You got baptized by LA.  Welcome to Los Angeles, my friend." Everything just felt right. I remember waking up and walking out to my rooftop in my underwear in February and it was 85 F... (about 25 celcius?) at that the moment, it truly felt like a long 10 year winter in my life was over....

Before I rant on, theres some music updates:

1) Before moving to LA, I also played in a free jazz trio at cafe Oto in London with my dear Lisbon friends Gabriel Ferrandini (drums), and David Maranha (electric organ, me on tenor saxophone) We played two 45 min sets with a 20 min intermission in between. It was recorded.  It is now being mixed by my friend Jonathan Schenke in New York. And I can't wait to share it with you all.  Its pretty wild...not for timid ears. Musically its not the direction Last Lizard is heading, but a one time thing, as we vowed to play together as a trio whenever the opportunity arises and see us all in the same city, and tap into something higher than play music as some sort of religious, personal exorcism, an exercise leading into your unconscious, letting it guide you and lead you where your supposed to be...I felt like I ran and I ran bumping into walls violently, and spun around and kept running forward. Whenever I ran into a wall I spun around the corner and kept running. I felt like I lost 15 lbs and all that heavy shit inside me was repelled.

2) During the same London trip, I also recorded a session with old friends Simon Frank (Hot & Cold) and Austin Milne.  We drank a bunch of buckfast (cheap ass caffeinated wine LOL  Needless to say we went a little ape shit crazy...With Austin and I on dual sax, and Simon on synth and drum machine.  This will take some time to edit or even comprehend what we did hahaha.

3) I'm also currently writing two film scores, unfortunately I can't disclose any information as of now, but will definitely post more info about them in the future.

4) 2 upcoming shows as Last Lizard:
I had recently played the Lougheed House in Calgary, Alberta.  My first show as Last Lizard. I want to thank Evangelos for bringing me there, and all the people that came to show means a lot to me. Truly.

The next two shows are A) May 22 at Obey Festival in Halifax, opening for OG free jazz saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, and B) May 23 at Arcosanti festival in Arizona, a strange utopia town built by Paolo Soleri in 1970. Can't wait to play in the open desert amphitheatre...

The first release as Last Lizard will take some time to conceptualize, and prepare but after the ending of Dirty Beaches, I am now on my own time and schedule. I am in no rush to be anywhere...after all, I'll always be making music until I die.

Last but not least, heres an article I read about La Monte Young giving advice to musicians which I find very inspiring and I want to share this with all of you:

God Speed,

Pacific Boy

Los Angeles, May 2015.

Photos by Michael Grondin