Interview: Joris of The Dropkicks

Kick out the jams, brothers and sisters - By Morgan Short, Jun 18, 09

Joris Zylberman is the lead singer and guitarist of Shanghai garage punk band The Dropkicks. A mainstay on the live music scene for the past couple years, The Dropkicks set themselves apart from the pack with their high-energy live shows, classic '70s punk sound, and sheer volume.

This Saturday the band is playing its last gig at Anar bar, as Joris sets his sights on Beijing. Head on down to catch The Dropkicks blowing ear drums one last time. SmartShanghai talked to Joris about the ups and downs of rock in Shanghai, their upcoming CD, and saying goodbye to The Dropkicks.


So maybe you could talk about how the band formed...

Joris : Well there was a night at a Japanese hotpot restaurant somewhere in Gubei in June 2006. It was the first time I reconnected with Toshi [bass player], five years after the time we were classmates together at Fudan University. Then we talked about Scandinavian punk-rock and Japanese garage bands -- it was immediately clear we should form a band. A few weeks afterward, we started rehearsals with two Japanese mates: Taka on drums and Yusuke on keyboard and backing vocals. The idea was to play as many gigs as possible, be a cover band at the beginning, and compose original songs later. But for the covers, our rule was to stick to the underground plus playing punk rock classics like Stooges and Dead Boys.

What was the music scene in Shanghai like then? Was there lots of places to play? Bands?

Joris : At that time, the Shanghai scene was given a new start with the opening in Autumn 2006 of 4Live by Zooma, ex-manager of Tanghui and New Tanghui. He gave us a decisive lift. Without him, probably no Dropkicks on stage. There was also Yuyintang at its old location, which was definitely the best venue. Live Bar was also going at the time. The best local bands at the time were Banana Monkeys and Crystal Butterfly. Chen Song, the band's former drummer, joined us in December 2006 and gave us the groove and the power we lacked so far.

What's been your favorite place to play over the years? I guess that's a choice of two venues...

Joris : 4Live was the best until its closure. Such a pity...

Then Yuyintang at its new address became the best. We like Live Bar, but the sound system has been getting worse and worse. Hopefully it will change ecause the place is so nice. LOgO is a special case -- chaotic sound quality but crazy ambiance. Recently, they improved their sound system and the stage has been widened.

Now, the new thing is Anar Bar Lounge, which sounds amazing. But still Yuyintang rules because it attracts the best Shanghai, Beijing, and foreign bands. Zhijiang Dream Factory could be huge but it lacks the magic and warmth of Yuyintang and a good system proportionate to its scale...

Any shows in particular that stick out as good memories?

Joris : I'll never forget when we played as a support band for The Subs in 4Live during Halloween 2007. The place was packed with punk loving people... Great souvenir memory. Another nice memory was at LOgO two months ago. It was a Saturday night and Hotter than Teppanyaki and the Snots were rocking the place. Then we played last, going on at around 2.30am. It was a complete delirium: pogo dancing, diving, crazy energy in such a small space... Overwhelming...

What's the worst show you've played?

Joris : The worst show was at Live Bar recently. The sound was so bad that most of people in the audience were looking at me with suffering eyes and hands over their ears. Ten people left ostensibly. On stage, I couldn't really hear the bass and the drums. I was nervous, playing without feeling. We just wanted to end it as quick as possible. Painful.

You guys started out doing covers. What sorts of covers did you do?

Joris : Our covers were underground punk rock like Backyard Babies, Turbonegro, Hellacopters. We also did '70s classic punk like Dead Boys and Stooges, '60s garage stuff like The Sonics, recent rock revival young bands like Jets, Mando Diao, Modey Lemon and Cato Salsa Experience. One of our favorites to play was "Does Compute" by Division of Laura Lee.

When did you start doing your own stuff? How would you describe your sound?

Joris : We started composing original songs in the end of 2007. Our sound was at the beginning a mix of our influences and mostly inspired by our covers. Big power guitar, punk and raucous vocals, and eight-beat rhythms played as wild as possible.

Then we changed a bit towards post-punk and recently incorporated indie rock influences, but we always played with wild energy and raw sound. In particular since Ben joined the band, a mental drummer. He replaced Chen Song last December.

I heard you were recording something. What's going to happen with the CD after the band breaks up? When will it be released?

Joris : Our CD is still in the works. We're did the recording at Gang Gang's studio near Jing'an Temple in March. We've been finished recording for a while but we're still not satisfied with the mix. Plus we're now recording two additional songs. We're trying to take our time with it to put out something we can be satisfied with.

Then the CD is going to be released as quick as possible, even if the band is no longer playing. We'll let you know for sure!

How come the band is splitting up? What are your plans for after?

Joris : We decided to split the band because I'm leaving Shanghai for Beijing. We thought it would be difficult to go on without getting consistent rehearsals every week. It would also be difficult to play consistent live shows as we've been doing in Shanghai. Toshi and Ben are now rocking with the amazing Snots and I'll try my luck in Beijing and form a new punk-rock line-up. Inch'Allah!

Any last words for the Shanghai Dropkicks fans?

Joris : I'd like to say that without our fans, our friends supporting us, or unknown cool guys sending us pics or videos, there would have been no Dropkicks. It was so good to be allowed to set free all this out-of-control energy and share it with everyone.

You may say Shanghai is not a rock'n'roll city like Beijing, but we had a bunch of mental moments here! And I guess it's only the beginning. Keep on rocking!


The Dropkicks kick out the jams, motherfucker, this Saturday at Anar bar. Free entry. Gets underway at 9pm. Good luck to Joris and the rest of the band.

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