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By Cool Han

Proximity Butterfly, a spiritual quest and an odyssey of discovery


The first sight I saw Joshua Love the legendary vocalist of Proximity Butterfly, he was lying on the sofa with a philosophical expression blended with mystery and solemnity. He looked at the ceiling, at the cold black in it that pulled so loudly, as if he was thinking about a question like TO BE OR NOT TO BE.

It was about one hour before their new record release show at Yugong Yishan Club (Dongcheng District, Beijing) which marked the beginning of their Beijing performance tour in May, 2008. Their new album The Antikythera Mechanism was supposed to be released that night, however, only one assistant from the record company was sent to them bringing nothing but a claim that the CD hadn’t been prepared yet. “They repeatedly told us to wait until tomorrow for about three months. Today is our record release show but they still couldn’t make it out.” Timm Walker, the drummer and backing of this band looked at me with his sad eyes. “We are on our own and we finished the record within one week before sending it to them. But what have they done during these months? I can’t believe their low efficiency.”

He was not the only one who got confused and depressed more than once by the dazzling version of this “mechanism”. Joshua keep silent, Heather just shook her head slightly. Like before, they would keep on working even harder instead of complaining. As an underground band, PB “has been the forefront of Chengdu bands by overcoming what many simply accepted as the impossible.” Without such a passion and determination, how could they stand out and make a difference?

Established in 2003 and gradually gained popularity among Chinese audience, PB labeled itself as psychedelic music and it was never too shy to show respect for its predecessors like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jane’s Addiction and the Mars Volta.

Right now the band consists of four members, Timm Walker-Drummer, Heather Judson-Bass, Kavian Royaee-Saxophone/Bass and Joshua C. Love-Guitar/Vocal. Though each one has a long story to tell, when we chatted, they rarely talked about their past. It seems to me that they chose to live at present, concrete their music walls and pure their souls. They are Proximity Butterfly, they believe in flying high.

Joshua, Heather and Timm, they are deep inside of wisdom, in their twenties and thirties. So when does PB’s odyssey of discovery first get started? This was five to six years ago, before Joshua who had heavily focused on Hegel, Aristotle, Kant and Nietzsche couldn’t really understand people’s way of living in a real world where they “drank until they were blind …sucked down late night martinis and complained about their jobs being too hard”, before the Canadian girl Heather “spent a few years doing volunteer work across Canada and Israel and was never settled with just going back home”, before she first came to China teaching English in Chengdu where she met Joshua, probably the most important person in her life, before it took one year and a half for her and Joshua to get to know and understand each other, before Joshua met an artist and college student Chen Duxi who shared the same philosophy and music dreams with them in Chengdu, before a bunch of idealists began to think about starting a band and finally the same bunch of realistic idealists made it real, before a young German guy Timm joined PB as drummer when Chen Duxi left the band and relocate himself in Beijing to learn painting, before PB released their first album and got upset on the release show of their second CD.

Before all that, back in the beginning of their journey, was it harder to fly, and harder to believe in flying? Does everyone fly? Do some fly all the time and others hardly at all? Is it easier or harder to fly in a foreign country? I didn’t ask. After all, PB had been flying away from this secular world for a long time, with Joshua’s long hairs and lyrics, Heather’s long dresses, Timm’s long solos and Kavian’s long impromptus. Why not make its flying literal? It was a way of being chosen.

“People are same. It is culture that makes the difference and shapes people’s mind.” Joshua believes so. He “came to the land of dreams” from America because he was to “challenge his ideas, ways of living, thinking and being”. But after six years of living in China, he still couldn’t “settle down” spiritually. “It’s not your home, you don’t belong to it.” It is not a cultural shock, but something deeper and harder. “You may talk with a Chinese guy for twenty minutes on the train but he still couldn’t understand what you are talking about. It’s not about language but about the feeling.”

For Timm, playing music is just one way to absorb himself into the “local music, painting, film, custom and social dynamic”. Besides that, the 22 years old German has been learning Chinese at a local university in Chengdu. When negotiated with the assistant from the release company, he remained calm and cool, reserving anger to himself. He definitely would have no difficulty using Chinese to pour out his irritation and depression if he wanted. However, he didn’t.

Then Heather Judson came in and sat down. Like Joshua and Timm, she spoke fluent Chinese, much higher than conversational-level. “At the very beginning we played it just for fun. Heather said in Chinese. “There are many foreign bands in Chengdu. Some are making big money; some are just making fun and killing time. ” “Yes it’s like love affairs, they come and go, fall in love and break up.” Timm smiled and added. But when others gave up and broke up, they kept going and united themselves like a family. Gradually, new comers became locals, outsiders became insiders.

The show was on. Once they were on the stage, they became the center of the world. Repetitive beat and lyrics, dazzlingly beautiful lighting effects, dancing people, absorbing audience, like a miracle. “Some performances are like movies. You just get the feeling from it. As for our shows, we hope it is an experience for our audience continuously, no stop. Not just one feeling but many different feelings.” When Joshua explained his music to me on sofa, his eyes were closed. When he started singing on stage, his eyes remained closed. I knew he was flying. They were flying.

They were flying all the time, the past as prologue, the present as reality and the future as climax. It was April 29th, Beijing. No one knew what would happen on May 12th, Sichuan. The Proximity Butterfly finished their Beijing tour and returned Chengdu. They were there, when the earth was split up and the hearts were torn up. They were there, they didn’t leave. After the disaster, they gave several earthquake benefit shows in Chengdu. If Chinese people are building a wall of love and a room of heart for these who lost heavily in the disaster, Proximity Butterfly is bringing “another brick in the wall”, in its own way.

There are so many ways to feel heavy in this world. But there are also some people manage to get rid of gravity and fly. Even whey fly, they never forget to help the hapless and bring them together. Who was I to say that Proximity Butterfly was just a butterfly, that an odyssey of discovery in China was just an odyssey?

    第一次见到变色蝴蝶乐队的传奇主唱爱书华时, 他仰面躺在沙发上, 带着哲学家才有的表情,庄重而神秘。他望向天花板,也望着那中间冰冷的黑暗。那黑暗似乎在努力地拖拽着什么。而爱书华好像思考着“是生存还是死亡”这样沉重的哲学命题。












Last Updated on Thursday, 30 October 2008 22:23