It's only rock 'n' roll

Updated: 2011-11-15 07:56

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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 It's only rock 'n' roll

Wang Feng is on a nationwide tour and will release his new album in December. Zou Hong / China Daily

Veteran rock star Wang Feng is happy to report that he's gone commercial, but insists he's keeping it real. Chen Nan reports.

Rock singer Wang Feng runs his hands through his dark, fluffy hair and adjusts his black-framed glasses in a coffee shop near the East Fourth Ring Road of Beijing.

He stands up and shakes my hand before asking: "Are you prepared?"

"I really can't tolerate unprofessional questions. I know it's rude to say so, but it's a kind of respect for both of us," he adds, in a gravelly voice.

The 40-year-old is wearing casual clothes rather than the leather jacket and tight jeans he typically wears onstage.

One of China's most influential rockers, he gets on a roll when talking about his national tour and the new album, which will be released in December.

The first stop at Ordos, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, on Nov 5, drew more than 10,000 fans despite the snow. Tickets sold out a month before the concert. Other stops include Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu, Guangdong province's Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai.

"After all these years in the business, I still go crazy when I sing in front of audiences who pour out their hearts and sing along with me," he says, lighting up a cigarette. "I like my singing drowned out by cheers."

The new album, Wang's 11th, has 26 songs selected from nearly 80 he wrote during the past few years.

After he uploaded the new song, Existence, on his Sina Weibo micro blog in October, more than 63,000 people listened to it within 24 hours, and it is now No 1 on the country's music chart.

Wang's use of Weibo was a pioneering move.

"If we had Weibo when the band and I were still an underground group, we would have had a lot more attention sooner," he says.

Zheng Yang, a veteran DJ of Beijing Music Radio Station's popular program, China Music Chart, says Wang's new songs have aggression and an uplifting spirit.

"He asks questions and makes sharp observations about society. But we can also feel optimism," Zheng explains.

Hao Fang, the Rolling Stone China's former editor, says: "At the age of 40, Wang Feng takes a kind of responsibility as a rock musician. He not only relieves his frustrations but also has poignant stories and makes observations about life in his songs."

Unlike other mainland rock musicians who are reluctant to talk about money, Wang says it proves his value.

He is the spokesman for Shanghai GM's new series of cars, the first time a major rock singer has worked on such a commercial venture.

Music critic Hao says, "It's a big event in Chinese rock circles because it shows their commercial value. For such a long time, Chinese rock singers have been poor because they don't get enough attention. But their music is great and they deserve to be treated like pop stars."

Not everyone agrees with this assessment, however. Cui Jian, the godfather of Chinese rock 'n' roll once said that a rocker shouldn't share a stage with pop singers.

"I don't think a pop music gala is rubbish," Wang says. "I believe I can change the formula."

Wang has released an album every two years and says he's always inspired.

"My hope is to sing until I am 70 or 80. I am real on the stage and singing my songs. You can feel that."

It's only rock 'n' roll