Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Five: 5 (or 6) Questions for Zachary Mexico

I'm kind of jealous of Zach Mexico. He writes books and poetry, plays in bands and speaks Chinese. He's well set for whatever THE FUTURE throws him at with MAD SKILLZ like those.

His new-ish book is China Underground out earlier this year from Soft Skull Press/Pop Matters (Review on Deckfight here). Zach even has TV talents such as displayed here in a piece about China's Tsingtao Beer on Current TV:

Zach took a few minutes to answer a few questions about China Underground.

1) Have you heard about or caught up with any of the characters since the writing of the book? Are most of them still on the same path?

Yeah I've seen a bunch of them. The screenwriter character and I just went surfing together in Hainan Island. Everyone is still doing pretty much the same thing, and no one has changed.

2) I saw in the liner notes that you spent some time with Current TV in China during the Olympics. How was that experience and what type of effect did the Olympics have on the Chinese underground culture, if any?

A lot of clubs were shut down and concerts were cancelled. A few of the coolest places in Beijing were rented out as corporate suites for the duration of the Games, which was kind of a bummer because we didn't have as many places to go at night.

3) Do you think there has always been this type of "unexplored underground" in China? Or is it really just the outgrowth of capitalism that now allows some to form punk rock bands or to pursue their art?

For sure, I think there has been an artistic underground -- look at Lu Xun and Shen Congwen and some writers from the beginning of last century. Now it's just different: anything you do that's not directly related to making money is subversive in some way, because this cash-focus is just such a dominant paradigm.

4) The story of Hassan in "The Uighur Jimi Hendrix" really stuck for me--maybe just because of his confidence and brashness. Which stories do you find yourself continuing coming back to or remembering? Or is too hard to pick a favorite, like trying to choose a favorite child?

I like them all. The ones I always think about were the ones that didn't get finished for one reason or another. There was a lot of great stuff in some of those, and I just think: what if, what if!

5) Also, kind of the oddest 'underground' story to me was the Killing People Club one. I don't know it just seems like an odd game to create such fanaticism. Was that the only game/club like that at the time that created such a frenzy or was there a lot of other type gatherings--something like a really popular Gin Rummy fad that you just didn't decide to about? Are the Killing People Clubs still going strong?

They are still going strong. People are really into Magic: the Gathering now, or a homespun equivalent. I agree that the game was odd, and there were surely other games - tons of my friends spend most of their lives playing mah-jongg, and others play games online.

6) Finally--working on any new writing or band projects?

There will be new albums from both my bands out in January: The Octagon is releasing "WARM LOVE AND COOL DREAMS FOREVER" on Serious Business Records, and Gates of Heaven are putting out a greatest-hits compilation called "GOLDEN MASTER."

Right now I'm hard at work on another book about China, as well as a surf-noir screenplay set in Hainan Island.

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