Revolutionary Wudaoying institution School Bar has been a core component of Beijing’s buzzing rock music scene. As well as hosting big names, the kickass live music venue is devoted to supporting local underground talent in the capital, having fostered many up-and-coming musicians early on, from their first gig to their debut album release party. Now, bar owner Liu Fei is shifting his focus to a newer venture – an actual music school dubbed Let’School. We sat down with the rock-and-roll aficionado to talk about the ambitious project and all things music.How long has Let’School been in the works?
We started to plan about two years ago. My partner Liu Hao, the Casino Demon bass player, [and I] thought that maybe we could do something brand new. You know, because at the live bar we can only produce new blood and give people [finished] music. But with an academy and education – I mean, we’re called School! – it’s another business.
I love the movie School of Rock – the first time I saw it, I thought “That’s what I want to do!” We have a lot of friends that are all good musicians. So, why not open a real school to teach more and more young people to pick the guitar, bass or drums and just play? We wanted to make more people want to [learn] rock.
What made you passionate about music?
I’ve been in the music business for over 15 years, even during my studies in university – but only management or event organizing, with festivals and live music. I tried to play some instruments. On the guitar, I maybe know three chords… but everyone probably does. I tried to study drums too. I can’t learn music deeper. So that’s why I’m not a musician.
But I wanted to be involved in the background. When I was a [kid] and I got my first chance to [hear] rock-androll, I thought ‘That’s real music,’ because in the ‘90s it was all pop music from Hong Kong and Taiwan, so it was another kind of thought. And the lyrics… Yeah. It really touched me. That’s why we opened School Bar – sure, to invite famous musicians, but also to help new bands get the first showcase of their life.
"I love the movie School of Rock – the first time I saw it, I thought 'That’s what I want to do!'"
A music academy is a different side of music. A venue is a venue – that’s so easy for me. But education is another business. So in the first month, we were all f*cking confused. But I guess that’s how everything starts – at the beginning. We have to do it.
What makes Let’School unique?
I think [what makes] Let’School special is that we want to do it like it is at School’s basement. With people’s first time seeing a live show in School Bar, they think ‘Wow, that’s so cool. Maybe I can do that.’ At Let’School, you can. You can learn all the instruments and the music. Our teachers, they’re all at the frontline of Beijing’s underground rock and roll scene. They’re all musicians and rock stars, so they can teach them how to be real rockers. [They can] teach them how to collaborate and help them rehearse. If you study guitar, I study bass and another girl studies the drums, we can meet here and make a band. Why not?
We’ll invite musicians, businessmen and tour managers to teach a special class for our students too. So not only are you learning the instruments, but the business. And every one or two months, we’re planning to do a showcase of Let’School, to give [our students] a stage. We can [even] help them record their EPs or songs. So it’s a full circle. That’s the most special thing.
What do you like about Beijing’s current rock scene and what do you think is missing?
I think for the past few years, it’s getting better and better. The crowd [at School Bar], they’re all young people who come to see a showcase – it’s a part of [their] lives now. That’s what I think is better. More and more young people take instruments and make bands and what I think is the most different, is that lots of young bands have their own jobs already. So they don’t care about the money. They’re just playing the music for fun. [They’re] choosing different music. There’s not only indie rock, there’s hip-hop, electronic – they can get lots of information now.
I think 10 years ago was Beijing’s indie rock golden age [though]. D-22, Maybe Mars – lots of amazing bands. [It was] an explosion of a whole generation of Chinese indie rock. We’d all drink together [after the shows] and talk about our future, music, girls and all that. But now when the show's over at School Bar, they just [leave.] They don’t [connect] with other bands. But now there are more music venues. So that’s good.
Who is your school geared toward?
Chinese students. Some of them will come here at night, after finishing a job, just to do something different. Maybe in the future, if we can invite foreign musicians who are in Beijing, we’ll try to do an open class for all students. I think that makes sense. I just want [people] to come here [to] enjoy music and the real [spirit of] rock-and-roll.
[Images courtesy of Let'School]
For more info, visit www.letschool.cn or add them on WeChat: letschool