Sludgy Stoner Rock: it’s a beautiful thing. I was reminded of that a couple of years ago when MADE IN CHINA’s ‘Heavy Low’ EP arrived in the NZRock mailbox along with a mountain of praise from SINATE drummer Sam Sheppard. As claimed by the title, the EP was heavy and the tuning was low… I too was impressed with this band.
Two years and a ton of live gigs later, Dunedin’s MADE IN CHINA have just released their debut full length recording ‘Vice’. Frontman Sam McKean brings us up to speed with the new album and his band’s story so far…
NZRock: MADE IN CHINA’s ‘Heavy Low’ EP sounded great and you’ve done it again with the new album ‘Vice’. Are you happy with the musical progression that you’ve made from the EP to this recording?
Sam: Yeah the music has evolved over the years and it’s been great to be able to capture the changes and new material on ‘Vice’. Of course playing live so much we get board playing the songs the same way every time so the material on ‘Vice’ and the way in which it’s performed is a good indication of where we’re at.
NZRock: When you listen to ‘Vice’ those riffs are massive so you just know that it’s going to sound amazing played live… and it does! What’s the trick to being so heavy on stage?
Sam: No tricks involved. We tend so move between faster punk-like riffery to slow, sludgy, doom riffs which in turn make the slow riffs sound bigger and heavier. That plus a chunky gat tone seems to do wonders.
NZRock: Where was ‘Vice’ recorded, who by, and how long did it take?
Sam: The album was recorded between the Dunedin musicians club and Albany St Studio in Dunedin. It was mixed by Mike Holland and Dan Cox who are both members of MADE IN CHINA and mastered by Dale Cotton also in Dunedin. It took longer than it should’ve – probably just under 12 months only due to the fact that we’re a very busy bunch of people.
NZRock: What piece of music are you the most proud of on the new album and what was the most challenging part to record for you personally?
Sam: I personally am very happy the way ‘Crash’ turned out. It’s like nothing else on the album and explores some of our more Bluesy/Sonic influences. For me the most challenging thing was maintaining a good gravel in the vocals throughout the recording process. It can get quite tiring screaming at a wall for hours on end.
NZRock: What inspires the lyrics that you write?
Sam: I am influenced mainly by things that make me feel high energy. Anything that pisses me off or is just very meaningful. i.e ‘Joseph’s Bed’ is simply an angry rant about people who are obsessed with power and material things. The reference to Mary and Joseph is about wanting the ultimate woman (the mother of Jesus) and destroying innocence.
NZRock: The cover artwork on ‘Vice’ looks awesome. Who did you get to do the design and did you consider anything else before you went with it?
Sam: We were in a mad rush to get the artwork done and asked a couple of mates to design us something, then we just chose one. The artists name is Tom Garden. He has a great sense of what would be suitable to represent our music.
NZRock: I always ask kiwi bands this but it’s even more appropriate when you’re a band that plays Stoner Rock… have you thought about releasing anything on vinyl?
Sam: We would love to release on vinyl but the costs at this point are just way out of our budget. Keep an eye out in the future!
NZRock: You used to do vocals and bass in the band but now MADE IN CHINA is a five piece with you concentrating solely on vocals. How has that change affected the dynamics of the band?
Sam: It has allowed us to write more technically challenging music as I no longer am relied on to concentrate on both bass and singing. It means that I am now a ‘frontman’ and can focus more on making a dick out of myself on stage through drunken antics. It also makes the band a lot tighter now that each member can focus solely on their parts.
NZRock: After watching MADE IN CHINA’s live set I think you’re definitely one of the more entertaining Kiwi frontmen to see on stage. Do you almost have to step into a different persona when it comes to getting up in front of the crowd?
Sam: Usually the music and the crowd is enough to get the adrenaline pumping. The persona is just a result of the crowd, the lights and music being played behind me. It’s loud and high energy. Makes me do all sorts of crazy shit.
NZRock: Sludge / Doom / Stoner music is really starting to take off in New Zealand now but it hasn’t always been on the radar. How did you manage to get a band together with members who all appreciate those genres?
Sam: We grew into that kind of sound by discovering that sort of music together. Just sitting around listening to ELECTRIC WIZARD, KYUSS etc etc. It’s just… so… cool. Who wouldn’t want to play that stuff!?
NZRock: You’ve opened for THE DATSUNS and EMENENCE (Brazil). I heard THE DATSUNS show was awesome. What were both of those experiences like for you and the rest of the band?
Sam: Playing in front of a huge audience is definitely something to remember and to aspire to do again. But all in all it’s just another gig. You still have to put in the hard yards. Those gigs are like little treats you stumble across every now and then. Love em!
NZRock: I’ve seen some of the door lists for your shows and there are some really out of it characters on there. Have Kermit The Frog, MacGyver or Chuck Norris ever showed up to any of your shows?
Sam: Yes… Both Sting the wrestler and Sting the musician are regulars at our gigs. Especially when we play Oamaru.
NZRock: Sam Sheppard from SINATE has been raving about MADE IN CHINA for years. What inspiration have you taken from those guys?
Sam: The Sinate boys have always looked after us. They were the first band to ask us to play as a part of their tour of the South a few years ago. Their passion for playing music is hugely inspiring for us.
NZRock: Have you and the rest of the band thought about taking your talents overseas?
Sam: We have, but it becomes difficult when young families are involved. Most of us have long term commitments that require us to live in New Zealand at this stage. But who knows what the future will bring.
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