CLASSICAL Chinese music meets American punk-rock band covered by Aussie alt-rockers.
That’s the result of a “loose idea that seems to have taken a bit of form” from Regurgitator bassist Ben Ely.
“Our manager Paul Curtis was booking music for the National Gallery of Victoria and Andy Warhol and the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei had an exhibition,” he said.
“Paul asked: ‘if Regurgitator was to play at this exhibition, what would you do?’
“And I said just off the top of my head it would be interesting to do the ‘banana album’ (The Velvet Underground’s debut 1967 album The Velvet Underground and Nico) with some Chinese classical musicians.
“My wife’s a dancer and she’d just done a tour of China with this really great Chinese classical musician (Mindy Meng Wang).
“Then he submitted the idea to the art gallery and they really loved it and it was really, really fun to do and nostalgic.
“And then all these other people kept asking us to perform that show, so it’s had a bit of legs and we’re now travelling around with it.”
The experience has since been performed at the Sydney and Brisbane festivals, Mona Foma Festival in Hobart and Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival and will hit Perth for two shows on June 30 and July 1.
“It was just a weird, random idea that popped in my head,” Ely said.
“Mindy’s classically trained as opposed to us – we’re kind of self-taught rock musicians.
“So I just thought that would be interesting – this idea of a cross-cultural get-together.”
Playing The Velvet Underground and Nico from start to finish, the show features Mindy on the guzheng (ancient Chinese string instrument) and Australian musician Seja Vogel, who has previously toured with Regurgitator.
“We try to stay fairly true to the record but obviously a little bit different with the instrumentation with the guzheng, which adds quite a beautiful, lyrical element in there,” Ely said.
“You have these really pretty, beautiful classical Chinese moments with loud rock music at other times and it’s quite nice.
“It’s really nice in this format to have other musicians who are really good at what they do and they bring this whole other world into our band, which makes it really great.
“It makes you sit back and think about playing less at times and maybe even quieter to hear their parts come out.
“We’ve got classically trained people with a punk band basically.”
He said they have also thrown an extra The Velvet Underground song from a different record for the encore “just to try and lighten the mood and let people go home with a good vibe”.
The show has also developed with the addition of visuals curated by Ken Weston, who was the “in-house AV guy” they met at Mona Foma.
“It’s a really good component of the show because at the time The Velvet Underground were playing, they used to enjoy having a light show with oil lamps and making a real psychedelic experience but with this guy, he creates this really incredible imagery.
“The visuals alone are really entertaining which is good.
“I find it hard to face forward when the show is happening – I’m always trying to look at what he’s doing.”
And though fans won’t get any Regurgitator hits at these shows, the wait to hear new music is almost over, with their first record in five years soon to be released and a national tour in August.
Who: Regurgitator, Seja Vogel and Mindy Meng Wang
What: performing The Velvet Underground and Nico
When: June 30, July 1
Where: Maxine’s Claremont City, Gate One Theatre, Claremont Showgrounds