Originally published on Genjing Records
Okay, this isn’t, like, a secret or anything, but all of us here at Genjing World HQ Beijing PRC are pretty massive fans of the transcendental, globe-trotting, motoric, synth ‘n bass stuff brothers Josh and Simon Frank make under the moniker, Hot & Cold. Not only are these gentlemen wildly talented and retardedly intelligent as stand alone individuals, they’re just fucking incredibly nice…so nice in fact, that we are borderline intimidated by their über healthy bravado, pretty much, full stop. In order to counterbalance this well adjusted bullshit, we tasked label douche, Matthew Kagler, to interview these elusive cats who consistently travel, travel and travel some more “sans computers”. Check out the interaction between these three below the jump. Oh, and if you haven’t heard, Genjing recently put out a (biological) bros vs. bros split featuring none other than Tonstartssbandht and, you guessed it, Hot & Cold. We’ve literally got six copies left of this release that aren’t already in distribution. Just ‘sayin. Anyhoo, enjoy.
It’s hard for us to keep up with your whereabouts (collectively), these days. Where are you both based at present and what are you doing there?
Simon: I’m in London, England finishing a Master’s in History that previously brought me to New York, where I’ll be after the summer remains hazy.
Josh: I’m back in Beijing, working for Vice, primarily.
You might be sick of answering this, but how, specifically, do you go about working on new Hot & Cold material whilst living different cities, half a world away from one another?
Simon: We both play music separately (Josh as Parallel Pyres, me under my own name) so we’re always trying out ideas. Even if a concept goes into a solo song we think about how to apply it in Hot & Cold, or some specific ideas just seem right for us to play together. But a lot of it is the alchemy of playing together in the same room and going a bit crazy. That’s one reason we haven’t gone too far into exchanging files online.
Both of you spent the vast majority of your formative years in various locals about the globe. Did that particular brand of upbringing influence the music you made early on as Hot & Cold?
Simon: On the one hand you don’t really think about it, it’s your childhood and just seems normal to you. On the other hand we were exposed to a lot of music that made it clear Western structures and tonality weren’t set in stone: Indonesian gamelan, South Asian qaawali, even Peking Opera percussion. Our parents sort of collected gongs, percussion instruments at one point, so when we started, that was available. “Weird” didn’t seem so weird and we just started banging gongs.
Tell us a little about “Betel Nut Girl” and “City Walls”, the two tracks that appear on the split with Tonstartssbandht that Genjing recently birthed?
Josh: I think “Betel Nut Beauty” and “City Walls” are a refinement of a lot of ideas we’d been working with since Conclusion/Introduction. It’s basically transnational blues. Those two tracks were recorded in a basement in Liupukang, Beijing. Our winter recordings tend to have more of slow-burning vibe. “Betel Nut Girl” was written while Simon and I overlapped in New York. The idea was partially to make a Thai psychedelic blues song. “City Walls” was written in Beijing. I really like how the drum machine ends up sounding kind of like Velvet Underground toms. It’s pretty evocative of Beijing winter for me—especially because I had just moved back here.
Josh, you recently told me about an observation your mother made at one of your live gigs here in Beijing a little while back – had me giggling in the office for a good, solid couple minutes. Mind sharing?
Josh: Oh, yeah. Right. Our mom was at a show while we were playing “Betel Nut Girl,” and she saw someone texting about us, writing “it sounds like the Beatles went to India but they didn’t learn any chords.” I thought that was pretty good, and surprisingly factually accurate, haha.
What was it like working with Yang Fan during the recording of the tunes that made the split. How did that come about? What role did she play, if any, other than engineer? Is there more material from that session?
Simon: I met Yang Fan sometime around 2008 or 2009 and actually played keyboard for Ourself Beside Me for a few shows around then — nobody ever believes me when I say I played keyboard in an all girl band. She has experience engineering through doing music for theatre, and had previously recorded the “Conclusion/Introduction” tape which ended up on our LP. Up until recently the production role in Hot and Cold has been the compression of the tape — as artificial as anything else, I know — but Yang Fan took a more hands-on approach here. For example, she put the drum machine on Betel Nut Girl through a little practice amp and a digital reverb pedal to give it a really thwacking, tinny sound, pushing it towards the karaoke-in-hell sound we were going for. We recorded “Flynt” from the Skip Skip Ben Ben split in the same session and totally hadn’t been planning on it, Yang Fan and Tom (from the Offset: Spectacles) just encouraged us to use the energy burst from finishing the other songs to forge ahead. [Ed – Spoiler Alert! Genjing are dropping Yang Fan’s debut full length LP this year!]
Speaking of your split-mates, Tonstartssbandht had pretty glowing things to say about you two. What are your thoughts on those dudes, both personally and musically?
Simon: Andy and Edwin are endlessly inspiring guys, both musically and personally. I really admire their attitude towards life — total freedom while still being respectful and responsible.
You guys put out a killer split with Skip Skip Ben Ben a little while back. How did that come about and how can peeps get copies?
Simon: Copies are around through Gary Records. It’s the Taiwan connection, Josh is really good friends with Ban Ban through time studying in Taiwan, and I actually met Robyn from Gary on a trip there. The split came together through those connections. [Ed – You people really should purchase this split!]
Backtracking time-wise a bit, Junky from Torturing Nurse is credited as producer of your Maybe Mars debut, Any Monkey is Dangerous. What was your relationship with him like in a production oriented capacity? I literally have zero idea what that must’ve looked like and have always wondered.
Simon: Junky mastered the album, which we recorded digitally at home on a single mic in Josh’s bedroom. His first mix had crazy stereo panning, which was disorienting in a very cool way but I guess we weren’t ready for it.
Speaking of ‘Monkey’, have you ever read the write-up Aquarius Records in San Francisco gave it?
Simon: Yeah, it’s a bit funny, just goes to show you should put stuff out there and some of it might stick. It’s cool how great they think it is, but Josh and I can barely listen to that album. The more tossed off, experimental songs that we didn’t think about at the time sound a lot better to me now. It’s interesting to think about because that album is maybe actually ‘experimental’: we didn’t know all the hip references – just wanted to make noise. I hope we’ve kept some of that feeling still.
Simon, I hear you (fairly recently) spent some time in the New Delhi music scene. As a former Delhi resident myself, I’m quite curious about how things are evolving, underground wise, over that way?
Simon: Yeah, stuff is definitely growing in India. I think maybe around 2012 it looked like some interesting guitar bands would surface, but now it’s going in more of a solo electronic production direction. However opportunities to play, actual releases remain marginal. Something I’ve enjoyed recently is this dark electronic project Jamblu by my friend Kartik, who’s also in a band called Peter Cat Recording Co.
Hot & Cold have been around for a while now. What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played and why?
Simon: Hmmm, playing the Zhangbei music festival in 2009, with Vince Li from The Offset: Spectacles joining us on viola. Kind of embarrassing in retrospect, but they tried to turn our sound off, so I jumped off stage, started ripping up cloth stage decorations and ran back onstage evading security as Josh kept a looped beat going and started packing up our gear. XP with Chui Wan, Snapline, and broken air conditioners this past summer was objectively better, but still a memorable show.
Where are your favorite brick and mortar record shops? Why are they your favorites?
Simon: Soundscapes in Toronto is actually a mostly-CD store that has transitioned into records. But their selection is one of the best, and they have a big local consignment section. Even on trips back to Canada before I lived in Toronto it was really important in getting me deeper into music.
What artists/bands are you excited about in 2015?
Simon: Deadly Cradle Death! Best band in Beijing, seriously. Waiting on their split on Genjing. Always so hard to remember what you’ve been listening too… definitely a lot more hip hop and electronic music. Saw Lotic DJ a few weeks ago and it was confusing and great, buzzing noise meets Afro-Portuguese rhythms and grime. I’ve been listening to the bands HTRK and Total Control, both kind of fold droning rock or punk into more restrained by still intense electronics. [Ed – We’re also pretty stoked to work with Deadly Cradle of Death!]
I happened to be a fly on the wall at a mixing session you had with Jordan Mitchell here in Beijing a few months back. From what I remember, things had gone in very minimalistic, highly danceable direction. I think I likened it to Factory Floor at the time. Are those tunes part of a new project you two are putting together?
Simon: Still Hot & Cold, we’ve got material for a single but trying to figure out the mix and the best context for it. Trying to push things to a new space.
Shit, while we’re at it, what specifically does the future of Hot & Cold look like?
Simon: Depends on the circumstances, but we’re always going to brothers, so whether we’re playing harmonium and tabla, computers, or chanting, playing for an audience or not, it’s going to be Hot & Cold
Will Hot & Cold be playing any live dates in the near future?
Simon: With the grace of God.
What would your ideal merch item be?
Simon: A new LP. Or a well designed and simple dark colored jacket. [Ed – We hear you about the jacket, dude.]
Best gig you’ve seen in the past six months?
Simon: Alex Zhang Hungtai (Dirty Beaches, now Last Lizard) on sax with David Maranha on organ and Gabriel Ferrandini drumming at Café Oto in London in February.