Known for combining punk and industrial elements with techno and experimental club music, FunctionLab have quickly become one of the most talked-about independent music labels in the country. As one of the co-founders of the label, Guan has had a major impact on the club scene in both his base in Hangzhou and farther afield in Shanghai. With his latest release, Tuning Forks, he creates a very peculiar atmosphere that feeds into a world of sound. Since that record came out, Guan’s label, FunctionLab, has also released an epic compilation album called Functory 03 featuring some of the most exciting names in underground club music today, such as Yikii, Laughing Ears and Zean.
We linked up with Guan to talk more about his own taste in music and the direction of his label, FunctionLab.
How did your musical interests evolve over time?
I first started making music about eight years ago. When I graduated from high school, I was playing in a punk band. I was a guitarist and occasionally a lead singer. At that time, I played with GG Lobster (now one of the partners of FunctionLab). I rarely listened to electronic music, and never went to a club. But I suddenly found that techno, synth punk and punk share a common spirit, so I started trying to make my club music.
“If I had to do only one thing, I might die”
Tell us about the FunctionLab setup.
The core members of FunctionLab are Juan Plus One, GG Lobster and me, who were all punk musicians. We were good friends before we began to make electronic music. Juan and I found that Hangzhou’s clubs were filled with foreign artists, so we wanted to hold local DJ activities and founded FunctionLab. Because we were both producers, we decided to distribute as well as make party music. What we want to do most is to motivate young people in Hangzhou to engage with avant-garde music, because we find that all culturally mature cities like Shanghai and Beijing have groups of pioneering young people who do this.
Right now, in China, there seem to be quite a few producers who combine rock music elements with club music. Would you say that you also straddle this line of combining industrial, hardcore music with techno and what we might call typical club music?
We all grew up listening to rock and roll and playing in bands. Although I don’t play in a band now, rock music still has a significant influence on my creations. Because we have experienced the pleasure of rock and roll’s emotional catharsis, that feeling still influences our thinking. When I am creating music, I care more about the emotions of music rather than the style. It doesn’t matter if it can be categorized as punk, techno or industrial music; I’m just trying to express my feelings. If I had to do only one thing, I might die.
Your music is very picturesque. Do you find inspiration from cinema, TV or art for the kind of vibe you want to create?
Yes, the movies that have influenced me the most are older movies, such as Kill Bill, The Holy Mountain and other sci-fi or cult movies. Cinema has been very helpful for creating a sense of ritual in my music.
What does FunctionLab have planned for the rest of 2019?
FunctionLab plans to release more than six records in 2019. We are also trying to collaborate more with foreign artists, as we want to focus more on reaching out beyond China. At the end of this year, I myself will release a new EP with Merrie Records, and I am still planning a tour.
[Cover image courtesy of Guan]