“Every day, I feel unsafe everywhere,” said Zhang Nan, singer and guitarist for the metal/punk hybrid The Unsafe. “My life is dark—my love has died. I only want to play rock and roll: I don’t want to do anything else.”
The 26-year-old spent two years enrolled in an IT program in Birmingham, England. “But it was so boring,” he laughed. Solution? To take guitar lessons from one of the axe-slingers of grindcore pioneers Napalm Death. “But I forgot his name,” he laughed. (You can Google it.)
Zhang returned to his home city in 2002 wearing old-school English hardcore punks Charged GBH and The Exploited on his sleeve as influences and started a band with guitarist Da Meng, formerly of Ouch!, who in the late-1990s was one of the country’s first hardcore punk bands.
From 2002 and 2005, The Unsafe was part of the Beijing Rejects: a crew of seven nihilistic old school punk bands—including Kill Tomorrow and Last Chance of Youth—who espoused anti-authoritarian philosophies and lifestyles. “We had no work and no money,” reflected Zhang. “But we had a happy life.”
Their songs from that time—notably “What’s Free?,” “64,” and “Blood Is Not Red”—are well-developed bursts of stripped-down songs with buzzsaw guitars and “fuck you” vocals. “Our lyrics are about freedom and our lives,” Zhang remarked.
In 2005, they became increasingly influenced by New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Motorhead and Iron Maiden. With their Tokyo gangster fashion sensibilities—open lounge jackets, slicked-back hair—and finely-honed wall of harmonized guitar riffage, they are virtually unstoppable—and a dark horse for Beijing’s most dangerous band of 2009.
The quartet, rounded out by bassist Zhao Xiaoxi and guitarist Fang Zhimeng, entered the studio late last year to record their fourth record—the first to showcase their new sound, as well as American drummer Mark Cole.
Although unsigned, the band is planning to shop the recordings to various labels to see what develops. “In the future, we want to make more real rock and roll,” Zhang said. “We want to discharge!”
The Unsafe will perform on Fri, Feb 20 at D-22. See listings.