Interview and photos by Paul Silver
In our modern world of increased mobility and reduced opportunity,
it’s become commonplace for people to move from place
to place. Sometimes the move is local, sometimes long distance.
And sometimes the move may be to another country. To some
such a move may be an adventure, and to others it may be
a necessity, whether it’s to find a job or to escape
a dangerous situation. The members of Round Eye are all
Western ex-pats who have relocated from disparate parts
of the globe and converged in Shanghai, China. They’re
there for the adventure, for the opportunity, and for the
music. There they found each other.
Round Eye describe themselves as “the sexiest, hairiest,
loudest, and most near sighted band in the land of China.”
It’s an apt description. They’re certainly the
hairiest. Definitely sexy. Very loud. Near the start of
their recent US tour and the morning after a long night
of playing music, eating San Diego burritos, and drinking
too much Scotch whiskey, Malört, and baijiu, the band
sat down to talk about music, their name, China, North Korea,
and the future.
Q: Where are each of you from and what are the
circumstances that led you to move to China?
Jimmy Jack: I’m from New York. I moved to China because
I was a history teacher in New York, but after 2008, because
of the job market, I couldn’t get another teaching
job. So I moved to China. I teach history there at an American
Livio: I graduated as an architect in Italy in 2012. After
that I briefly worked in Italy as an architect, but the
pay was pretty horrible, so I moved to London, couldn’t
find a job, and then I had nothing to lose and went to China,
where I am working as an architect.
Chachy: I was born in Chicago, raised in Florida, and in
2010 the economy went to shit. The drummer of my previous
band lived in Beijing from 2007 to 2009. He came back, told
me all about it, and I put it in the back of my mind, maybe
in the future. Then he passed away so I decided to break
up the band, break up my life, and find a new life in China.
I teach music to elementary school children.
Mac: I’m from San Francisco, and I needed to leave
for my own personal sanity. I was traveling and running
low on money, and I met these women who were from Taiwan.
They said, “Hey, you can show up there (China) and
teach English, maybe make enough money to get back home.”
One thing led to another and I got into the music scene
there. Then twelve years went by, and here I am. Now I’m
a teacher at an international elementary school.
Larry: I’m from Scotland. Money; that’s why
I live in China. The economic downturn. Same reason for
most of you guys. Job opportunities. I teach English in
Q: Do your students all speak with a Scottish accent?
Larry: Oh, I teach them Scottish! [Laughter]
Q: What do you teach them that’s Scottish?
Larry: Just the common slang. A common one would be “aye.”
“Aye” just means, “yes.” “Is
that right, kids?”
All: “Aye!” [Laughter]
Q: How did you all meet and become a band?
Chachy: I guess it started with my previous band, Libyan
Hit Squad. We were based out of Orlando, Florida. We had
around a ten-year run. That was the band I broke up to move
to China. But we still had unreleased material, recording
sessions with Greg Ginn of Black Flag. He used to come to
our shows fairly frequently in the later days. When I came
to China I thought I was done with music, but I still had
these sessions lying around and I thought it was a waste;
they were really good. So I decided to re-form a group to
finish what we had started, and that group became Round
Eye. Jimmy Jack was the first person I met to start that
Jimmy Jack: I had no idea that there was a live music scene
in China. I lived there for five or six months before I
met Chachy. The only live music I knew was Filipino cover
bands. I had no idea there was an underground anything going
on. I was talking to a co-worker and she mentioned that
she had gone to a dinner and spoke to this extremely hairy
guy [Laughs]. He said he wanted to start a band, and he’s
looking for a drummer. She knew I was a drummer, so she
connected me to Chachy. That was six years ago.
Livio: It was almost the same thing for me. I was in China
for one year without knowing anybody in the music scene,
and a colleague of mine used to sing in a band. They were
good friends with Round Eye. The band was already two years
old. They were thinking about changing the bass player,
so I contacted Chachy through this woman and a few months
later I was in the band.
Mac: Very similar. I thought I was hanging up my spurs when
I left Taiwan. I thought, OK, I’m just going to work
now, those days are over. And then my co-worker, who’s
a drummer in the scene, said, “Hey, there’s
this band that needs a saxophone player.” I asked,
“Ska, or reggae, maybe a cover band?” He said,
“No, they play…I don’t know, here.”
[Laughter] And he gave me a tape. And then I met Chachy
in a bar in our neighborhood, and thought, “we’ll
give this a go.” And look at them. They’re so
handsome, how could I say no? [Laughs]
Q: How long ago was that?
Mac: About two years.
Larry: I’ve just been playing with these guys for
two months. The Shanghai music scene is so small. I play
in a hardcore band, Spill Your Guts, and these guys needed
a guitar player. The music scene, it’s incestuous
in Shanghai. Everyone knows each other, especially the foreign
Q: “Round Eye” is considered by some
to be a derogatory term for white people. How did you choose
that as a name, and what sort of reaction do you get to
it in China and elsewhere in East Asia?
Chachy: We chose it because in China if you’re a foreign
band and you come up with any name, the majority of people
are probably not going to remember it. They’re still
going to refer to you as a “laowai” band, the
band of foreigners. And the name “Foreigner”
for a band was already taken. [Laughs]. We went with Round
Eye because “round eye” is actually a derogatory
term for a Caucasian made by white boys in 1940s Hollywood.
It was supposed to be a fake term that was used in a fake
way by the Japanese toward the Americans during World War
II. And we thought it’s funny, self-deprecating, and
just easy for people to remember. And reactions? To be honest,
it’s just been a chuckle.
Jimmy Jack: In Asia I’ll hear, “Oh, that’s
a pretty name.” Because in East Asian culture it has
nothing to do with us white dudes. To the East Asians, it’s
nicer. Think Japanese animation. But here, mostly Asian
Americans who have never been to Asia or people who are
ultra-liberal will come up to us and tell us, “you
know, this name is pretty offensive.” To whom?
Chachy: The Chinese don’t know this term, round eye,
as a derogatory term; they don’t use it. If they use
a derogatory term towards you it’s usually something
to do with your nose.
Livio: “Long nose.”
Chachy: Or “white ghost.”
Q: That’s interesting, because when I was
promoting last night’s show (Round Eye in San Diego)
on Facebook, I had a couple friends ask me, “isn’t
that a racist term?” [Laughter]
Chachy: But they never come out and just say,
“Hey, that’s racist.” They question it.
We never got anything too serious until one time when we
were supposed to be playing a Chinese restaurant in Salem
(Massachusetts) [Laughter]. “I’m not gonna have
a fucking band called Round Eye in this restaurant!”
Jimmy Jack: Meanwhile they burned fucking witches, right?
[Laughs] And I don’t think this name is fair for us,
either because I have astigmatism, so my eyes are not round.
[Laughs] That really fucking bothers me about this name.
Q: In my research, I’ve found precious little
information about the etymology of the term “round
eye.” Some sources anecdotally confirm that it originated
in movies, others say it was coined by American GIs in the
Korean War to refer to themselves, and others reference
its status as derogatory term.
Chachy: I’ve never personally heard, read, or seen
the term “round eye” used by a local of any
Asian country as a derogatory slang against a foreigner.
My sources for the etymology are more than likely very similar
Q: Your sound is very unique, blending elements
of hardcore, classic punk, and weird art-punk. And you’ve
got saxophones! Tell us about where this sound came from
and how you developed that.
Chachy: Steve Mackay of The Stooges. At that time, sax wasn’t
really around. Downtown Boys hadn’t come out. Sax
is making a comeback in punk rock, but at that time I just
didn’t really see it. And sax used to be as common
as the guitar in rock and roll. A big go-to record for me,
as I’m sure with a lot of people, is “Funhouse,”
by The Stooges. And one of the first people that I met in
the music scene (in China) was Steve Mackay of The Stooges.
I went to his solo show. And at the time Jimmy Jack and
I were rehearsing and developing the sound, and I sent Steve
a fan letter saying, “I love your stuff, you’re
a huge influence on this group that just started.”
And he said, “Come on and have dinner with me.”
So I went over there, met up with him and Scott Sikhara
(Radon Ensemble) and he asked me to play bass for a date
in China in Xi’an. That turned out to be my first
live performance in China. He joined us from then on. He
was on our second and third releases. I love saxophone,
and I love what it does to the music. It gives it kind of
a serrated edge. It’s a neglected part of rock and
Q: And what about the non-standard song constructs
that you use; where does that come from?
Jimmy Jack: You get bored playing similar stuff. It happens
a lot where Chachy will write a riff or someone will do
something. Chachy has a great ear for other peoples’
music, and he’ll say, “You know what? That sounds
like…” and he’ll mention this obscure
band and this “B” song that you’ve never
heard before, and “no, we’re not doing it that
way, we’ve got to change it.” It’s good;
it keeps variety and different stuff going on. I like that,
because I don’t like playing the same thing, especially
Chachy: I don’t like being in a box. We listen to
everything. Everyone in this band has such different personalities
with what we listen to. When I go home, I don’t listen
to punk rock at all. I listen to jazz, and not just jazz,
weird shit like Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and the crazier
stuff from (John) Coltrane. And doo-wop, old 40s and 50s
rhythm and blues. That’s the stuff I like to expand
Q: What do the rest of you like to listen to?
Jimmy Jack: I like Katy Perry. No, I think it’s all
different because I look at my mom, her era of music is
bubblegum rock, pop rock from the 50s and 60s, and her music
stops with “Rubber Soul.” That’s the last
Beatles album that she understands. [Laughs] Anything after,
she gets confused. My dad’s genre starts there and
moves forward to classic rock stuff. So being in a car with
either one of them, I grew up with this. And I have an older
sister who was a punker in the 70s and 80s and she came
with her own ideas of music. I think all those different
kinds of music help me come up with different ideas.
Livio: I’ve been listening to pretty much everything.
I used to play in an Afro-beat band in Italy, so I also
have that influence. When we write it’s also that
part that comes in. At the moment I’m listening to
the classics, like The Beatles, David Bowie, and I’m
listening to a lot of American grunge from the 90s. I love
these bands. That’s probably my favorite genre. It
never gets old for me. Soundgarden, Fugazi, Faith No More,
all of them. But it’s not just that. When Chachy comes
up with these names of American bands that never got to
Italy, I check them out. Every time it’s something
new. I never really stick with one thing, but if I have
to say what I enjoy the most it’s probably that.
Mac: I listen to everything. But if I had to be honest,
there are two styles of music that I have a really hard
time getting into: country music and, honestly, punk, as
I understood it before I joined this band. I never listened
to it before. Didn’t like it. Still don’t, and
I don’t really consider this band punk, outside of
the context of maybe the attitude and the idea. But musically,
I think that’s my own naïve understanding of
the genre. For me it’s eye opening, because we play
with these bands, sometimes legends of the scene, and I’ve
never heard of any of them. And these guys fanboy on something
and I don’t even know who that is. I go and listen
to it and I’m like, “This is awesome! This is
Larry: I share Mac’s perspective. It’s a cliché,
but I listen to all rock and roll, other than traditional
70s punk. I never enjoyed it. It’s not so much what
I listen to now, I think it’s what you grew up with;
that’s what influences you. I remember driving around
with my mum and dad in the car, and they just used to play
three bands: The Beatles, Motorhead, and Neil Young.
Q: So, the band plays in the punk scene and most
people consider it to be a punk band, yet two of you say
you don’t listen to or particularly like punk. What
do the rest of you think about that?
Chachy: We are a punk band! But I understand their apprehension
with the label. The lay of the land in regards to punk rock
can sometimes seem two-dimensional. It’s this or that.
When someone who isn’t necessarily part of the underground
scene asks what kind of music we play, the answer tends
to deviate, and if we were simply to reply with “punk,”
I’m certain that in most cases a very different image
from I think punk is pops into their head.
We’re punk because of our aggressive performance and
sometimes simple three chord structures to the songs. We
also have leanings towards 80s hardcore by way of speed
and screaming in some songs. But then there are the atonal
song structures, surrealistic album themes, prog rock riffs,
doo-wop and R&B melodies, horn usage, and straight up
noise of other songs that would have a died-in-the-wool
Doc Marten stomping mohawked soldier of punk running to
the nearest Hot Topic for refuge.
I love punk music. I love what I discovered as a young kid
and understood later as an adult to be punk music. To me
it’s probably the only genre, along with jazz, that
has not only the room for exploration and expansion, but
also the energy.
Jimmy Jack: Personally, I don’t care how we’re
labeled. Short people think I’m tall and tall people
think I’m short. Who the fuck cares?
Livio: Round Eye is what it is because we all listen to
different things and come from different musical backgrounds.
I don’t consider Round Eye strictly to be a punk band,
either. I really hate labeling musical genres, especially
my own music, and especially when there isn’t a clear
definition of the genre itself. What is punk, after all?
Is it the attitude, the lyrics, the outfit, the chord progression,
the DIY-ness? I don’t have an answer to that. To me,
it’s probably a bit of everything. That said, I don’t
mind if most people consider us punk. I can live with that.
Q: Your LP Monstervision is named after
the TV show that John Bloom hosted as his Joe Bob Briggs
character, and you actually got him to do Joe Bob Briggs
on the record. How did that come about?
Chachy: It was the same as with Steve Mackay, we sent him
a fan letter [Laughs].
When I messaged him he was totally surprised that I knew
who he was. I used to turn on the TV at 2am, and there he’d
be, in front of his trailer park, talking about Halloween
4 [Laughter]. It’s great, because you get the movie,
but you also get this guy, and he gives you useless trivia
about how it was made, other movies starring the actor who
played the third victim in Halloween 5, it’s great!
We just sent him a letter and he was totally flattered and
enthusiastic about it. Jimmy Jack went and met with him
in New York.
Q: Was the stuff he did scripted for him or was
Chachy: It was half and half. I gave him the direction.
He actually used some of the lines word for word that I
gave him, like most of the intro. He put in the “Ni-howdy.”
Jimmy Jack: Which was brilliant.
Chachy: But it was a team effort.
Jimmy Jack: We’ll see him in a video soon, because
when I went to New York I filmed him mouthing one of our
songs. He’s a really nice guy.
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about China. What
sort of punk or underground scene is there in China?
Chachy: With China, you have to talk about cities. There’s
no Chinese punk scene where it’s all connected with
people working together. It’s trying to be like that,
but it’s still segregated into clans. So there’s
a Shanghai scene, a Beijing scene, a Chengdu scene, a Guangzhou
scene, and they never really mix. In terms of Shanghai,
it’s very small. I’m always trying to figure
out how to explain it best. Like Larry said earlier, it’s
very incestuous, and that’s true, among the locals
and the foreign communities. Shanghai is a very mixed community.
Beijing is mostly Chinese. Chengdu is certainly Chinese,
and Guangzhou is mostly Chinese. Shanghai has got a mix
of foreign and local players. But it’s small. In the
city of twenty-four or twenty-five million people, there
are probably only four rock and roll or punk bands, and
maybe three dozen bands of all genres. There are maybe three
of four live venues that you can play at.
Q: What type of venues are these, are they dive
bars, DIY spaces, or larger clubs?
Chachy: There are maybe two dives that you can play at,
and there’s the Yuyintang, which is like the CBGB’s
of Shanghai, and there’s the House of Blues style
chain venue that’s called Mao Livehouse, and they
have several locations throughout China. To put it in perspective,
Public Image Ltd. played there. It’s about 2000 capacity.
The scene is super incestuous and super small, but the audiences
are very large. It’s not uncommon for us to play to
capacity, around 250-300 people, because the audiences are
there, but the bands…being a musician is not promoted
among the Chinese people. If a boy or girl wants to pick
up a guitar and play in a band, it’s not something
that’s encouraged within the family.
Mac: And you have fewer foreign bands, too, because, let’s
face it, even out here, when we grew up, learning an instrument
was a cool thing you could do. And the younger generation
now, that’s shifted into a more electronic format.
You have a lot more people that when they’re that
age they want to be a DJ or learn some software.
Q: Or they want to be a YouTube star.
Jimmy Jack: I want to press play! [Laughs]
Mac: The new foreign community that’s coming in, you
have less people that play instruments or are even starting
Chachy: It’s really tough on the music scene in terms
of foreign players, because it’s such a transient
city. As soon as their work contract is up, people go back
home. It’s rare that you have guys like us that are
rooted there and stay. People come and go, even the locals.
They’re there for three years, and then they go do
a Master’s degree abroad.
Mac: And Shanghai, being the city that it is, like Los Angeles,
people from everywhere in China move there, they make it,
they stay for a few years and maybe they go back home or
to another city.
Q: Why is it that, in China, it’s discouraged for
people to be musicians?
Chachy: It’s got a stigma.
Jimmy Jack: You can’t make money.
Q: It’s interesting that in a so-called communist
country that would be a consideration.
Chachy: It’s communist-capitalist.
Mac: It’s communist in name only.
Chachy: Money rules everything there. That’s all they’re
Q: What are the biggest misconceptions that we in
the United States have about China?
Jimmy Jack: That they’re all good at math! [Laughter]
Mac: I would say that it’s a communist system. It’s
not. It’s crazy capitalist. It’s like the Wild
Jimmy Jack: Originally I was supposed to move to Korea,
so I didn’t do any research or think about China.
And then, when I decided I was going to China, I remember
flying over the first time. The lights are out in the cabin,
everyone’s sleeping in the airplane, and I’m
thinking to myself, “What the fuck am I doing? What
is this?” And I kept thinking, “You’re
going to North Korea. Everyone’s going to be sad,
everyone’s depressed, everyone’s quiet. Poverty,
and this regime are holding these people down.” When
I got there I was really surprised that it’s not at
all like I thought.
Chachy: It’s so fucking capitalist. To put it in perspective,
they have a Starbucks outside of the Great Wall of China.
Mac: Shanghai has the largest Starbucks in the world.
Chachy: The city changes so much in so little time because
of the influx of cash. The whole world is doing business
there. And before the tariff war, many liked Trump. You
know why? Because he’s rich. He makes a lot of money,
and they’ve seen that as a sign of success. But opinions
may be changing now.
Q: What other misconceptions might we have?
Livio: Back home everybody thinks that in China they work
a lot. But that’s Japan. They don’t know anything
Chachy: They do work a lot.
Livio: They stay a lot at work. [Laughs] There is a difference.
I’m very serious. I have colleagues that stay overtime,
but they’re not working, they’re just staying
there. It’s crazy.
Mac: Another aspect of it is when you grow up you learn
this idea of China that they’re very collectivist,
that it’s about the “whole.” And here
we’re very individualistic. Out there, I’ve
never been in a place where it’s more about the individual.
People are completely in their own world, and it’s
about what they’re doing. They have very little awareness
of how their actions are affecting people around them or
they don’t care.
Chachy: It depends on the context, though. I’ve seen
that whole collectivist thought thing when it comes to nationalist
pride. There are a lot of moments where something would
happen in the news, and they don’t have anything else
to go by, and you can sense the pride. The propaganda machine
is very healthy out there.
Q: Speaking of the news, what’s the freedom
of the press situation in China? Is it all state controlled?
Mac: You can access whatever news you want by using what’s
called a VPN (virtual private network for the internet),
and they’re easily bought and used.
Chachy: Every year they’re threatening to shut that
shit down, and it never happens.
Livio: But the average Chinese person doesn’t really
use that. They don’t need to because they don’t
care. They just get what they receive from the government.
Mac: And the language. If they don’t know English
and they just want to read the news in Chinese, it makes
Larry: They’re not politically aware.
Q: What’s the reaction of the Chinese authorities
to punk bands and the underground music scene, including
yours? Have you ever had to deal with censorship or shows
being shut down?
Chachy: All the time. We have to deal with it on a day-to-day
basis, just being foreigners. It’s illegal for most
foreigners to perform for money. You have to be registered
and you have to put your shit through the Ministry of Culture.
Because it will happen where they have undercover cops at
the venues and do an impromptu check of your visa. That
happened at several festivals a few years ago. We also had
a tour completely shut down by the Ministry of Culture.
Q: What reason did they give you?
Chachy: It was a perfect storm of bullshit. It was 2015
in Shanghai. Before that, every New Year, they would have
about 500,000 people congregate onto an area called the
Bund. It’s where the Yellow River separates the city
in two, the east and west sides. People would gather there
to watch the fireworks. In 2015 there was a stampede, and
over thirty people were killed. It was because of a lack
of security. After that they started cracking down on events
where a mass amount of people would get together. Our tour
with the English band The Boys was shut down, partly for
that reason and also for lewd artwork on a poster that depicted
a Young Pioneer, which is like the communist girl scouts,
menstruating the dates. [Laughter]
Jimmy Jack: Not menstruating! They were shooting out. [Laughter]
Chachy: It’s a beautiful piece of art.
Jimmy Jack: I even got a piece of it tattooed!
Chachy: So that whole thing got shut down and I had to go
have tea with the Ministry.
Larry: The government don’t like that shit.
Q: What happened when you had tea with the Ministry?
Chachy: On the afternoon of our first show, I was at work
having lunch. I received an urgent text from Gil, our former
guitarist, saying there were several agents from the Ministry
of Culture at the venue for our first gig of the tour. They’d
shut down the bar and Lao San, the owner, was shitting kittens.
I needed to call him, stat. I stepped out and called, and
he explained the whole thing. Tour was on hold pending further
investigation. We were summoned by the authorities to have
a meeting at their headquarters in Shanghai that night.
Throughout the day I received messages from each venue in
each city of the tour, one by one, stating that the same
thing had happened to their places. I distinctly remember
the knots in my stomach as the reality of the situation
sank in. It wasn’t the cops, it was a branch of the
big Red Communist government taking an interest in us and
our little tour, and they were not happy. You hear stories
about stuff kike this, but when it happens to you it’s
quite overwhelming. I thought I was for sure getting deported.
I had a quick meeting with the other guys in Round Eye and
The Boys, went home, put on a suit and tie, met up with
Gil and we were off. The headquarters, a compound of early
20th century deco buildings, was located just down the street
from my apartment. Gil and I went to the gate; the guard
let us in and directed us to the back of the lot where a
single light on the second floor of the last building was
on. Two agents met us at the foot of the building: one young,
stoic, and uniformed and one old, friendly, and plain clothed.
They ushered us into the building and into a white walled
room with one window overlooking the compound. We sat at
a dark wooden table on which were a computer, a file, and
a tea set. The young agent sat at the computer and began
typing while the older agent and Gil started a conversation
about tea. At this point it's worth mentioning the importance
of Gil being there. My Mandarin is so-so at best. Gil, however,
is 100% fluent and carries a Beijing accent to the older
agent's delight. So while I was sitting there sweating and
nodding and wondering when the other shoe was going to drop,
Gil and the older agent, who we later found out was the
second in command of the Ministry's Shanghai division, talked
"tea," the origins of the tea we were drinking,
the tea of his hometown, what teas they preferred and how
best to tea bag a westerner for all I knew. Tea tea tea.
Finally, with a smile, he mentioned our tour and began leafing
through the file on the table. He began by explaining the
sensitive political situation in China in the wake of the
tragic New Years Eve stampede that killed well over 2 dozen
people on The Bund and that mass gatherings were going to
be controlled and monitored if not all together prohibited
for the time being. All the while, he was leafing through
the file which contained our passport photos, still images
from my WeChat and social media postings, a photo of me
wearing a Santa outfit and handling a dildo during our recent
Christmas gig at Yuyintang, a photocopied image of the controversial
flyer, a photocopy of the "clean" flyer, copies
of The Boys contract with Yuyintang and their passport and
visa images. When he passed the last page he closed the
file and said jovially that China would cancel the performances
for Shanghai and that we were prohibited from performing
indefinitely. They took our visa information and the young
officer spoke up then and suggested a harsher penalty on
us but the older guy just waved him off and told him he
trusts we understood. Gil and I both bowed respectfully
The whole meeting lasted nearly 2 hours and after we wrapped
it up, the older dude asked if he could take a picture with
us! I believe Gil still has the photo. We shook hands, left
the building, left the gate, and ran to the nearest bar
heaving a huge sigh of relief. The tour was cancelled, we
couldn't legally play for a while but No one was getting
fined, put in jail, or deported.
Q: You went to North Korea not too long ago. What
were the circumstances of the trip? Did you go there to
Chachy: We went there just to be tourists. In Shanghai,
there’s an agency that organizes tours such as these,
called Uri Tours. Jimmy Jack asked, “Do you want to
go to North Korea?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.”
We called our other guitar player and he just hung up the
Jimmy Jack: Yeah, he didn’t say anything.
Chachy: He didn’t want to go. Our old bass player,
Bob, wanted to go. When we were finally in the plane on
the way over there, we got the idea to make a music video
while we were there. We investigated that a bit further
and found out that it was possible, in a designated area,
of course. It’s for a track off the “Monstervision”
album, called “Sifter.” We were just hanging
out in an amusement park.
Q: What was your perception of North Korea and the
Chachy: I thought it was the craziest, weirdest fucking
shit I’ve ever seen. It’s interesting to see
a society like that. You only read about it like from 1930s
Germany or 1950s Russia, 1960s China. But to see it, to
see how people live under conditions like that, it’s
Jimmy Jack: It’s exactly how I thought it would be.
Like I said, flying over China, thinking it would be like
this. Every time we left the city and came back to the city
(Pyongyang, capitol of North Korea) we did the same route.
It never deviated. We went out to a farm and they were like,
“Look, we can grow tomatoes!” And you would
see five green tomatoes. Congratulations! [Laughter] Twenty
million starving people in the country and you’re
showing me you can grow five fucking tomatoes? It was a
trip, man. And the weird thing was when we went to the amusement
park. That’s where most of the video was shot. We
arrived there and maybe fifty people were there when we
arrived, spread out in this amusement park. Not a huge Six
Flags thing, but it had roller coasters and stuff. And we
were on this one ride where you spin a lot, and about 200
people just came walking in, all at the same time. And you’re
thinking this is a totally planned thing.
Chachy: It was like “The Truman Show.” It was
obvious they were putting on a show for us. At points it
broke, and you could sense something was going off-script.
I remember I was in the bathroom, washing my hands, and
these three high school boys came up to me and asked, “Excuse
me, are you from America?” “Yes, I am.”
“Oh, what do you think of our country? Do you like
it here?” Lots of questions, very quickly, like they
were in a hurry. And I was very interested in talking to
them, just schmoozing with North Koreans. I finished and
turned around, and they were hauling ass, they were leaving
really quickly and quietly, fast walking. I tried to catch
up behind them, saying, “Hey, guys, come back!”
And they were ignoring me; they didn’t want to be
seen in public talking to me. You could tell they were very
nervous about talking to me. There was a lot of that. I
remember I was outside of a temple watching these two kids
painting landscapes. I thought that was very cute, they
were painting whatever they were looking at, like the temple.
And I was watching, not really thinking about it, but then
about fifteen or twenty minutes went by and I realized they’re
not really painting. They’re just acting like they’re
painting. The paint was dry; nothing was being altered,
it’s still the same. They were just putting on a show.
I stuck around for another ten minutes to make sure, and
that’s exactly what was happening. They were just
Q: Just to give an impression to tourists how idyllic
Chachy: Yeah. As soon as I realized that I got creeped out.
Q: You guys have toured all over East Asia, most
of Europe, and the United States. Is China your permanent
home now for all of you, or do you see yourselves ever moving
either back to the US or Italy or Scotland or anywhere else?
Chachy: I’m never moving back to America. I know that
for sure. My mother is Dominican, my family mostly live
in the Dominican Republic. The only ties I have in America
are through either my mother or father’s sisters and
brothers. It’s become reverse culture shock. I’ve
been away for too long now, and when I come back I’m
reminded constantly of why I left in the first place. Especially
things like guns. There are things I miss. I miss my friends,
I miss my other relatives, and I miss cheese. [Laughs]
Q: There’s no cheese in China?
Larry: Shite cheese. [Laughter]
Jimmy Jack: The reason I’ve stayed in China this long
is because of the band. And then I met my girlfriend who
became my wife, so she’s the second reason why I stay
in China. But if Round Eye comes to a screeching halt one
day, then I’ll be focused on how to get the hell out
of China. I would love to leave at any moment. I’m
mentally done with living in China. Every day I get so angry.
Q: What do you get frustrated with?
Jimmy Jack: I get frustrated with people bumping into me
or people staying in my way or people pushing.
Larry: People screaming down the phone.
Jimmy Jack: Yes, or someone pissing on the sidewalk. There’s
no personal space. In the winter it’s a humid cold
that gets in your bones and you can’t escape it, or
it’s summer and it’s so humid and you can’t
escape it. The pollution.
Livio: I don’t have long-term plans, but I believe
I’ll stay there for the next five to ten years, easy,
because of my job. Also, of course, because of the band.
Mac: I could never stay there for the long-term, but everything
that Chachy said. I really don’t want to come back
here. I would, for family. As my parents get older I certainly
would do that, but it wouldn’t be because I want to.
Living internationally is fantastic, and the people that
you meet are like-minded in that they also like living internationally.
Maybe not in China, but definitely somewhere else.
Larry: Yeah, likewise. I think the UK, and the West in general,
after 2008, the crash, there’s just a lack of opportunity.
And China has that opportunity. China is just growing and
growing. You can make money and live there very comfortably.
Q: If you could predict the future, both for Round
Eye and for international relations, what would your predictions
Jimmy Jack: Round Eye will denuclearize North Korea. [Laughter]
Personally, I’ve done it so many times in my life
where I look at the future. If I’m in a band or I’m
playing a sport or whatever, this is just here and now.
I love what I’m doing and what we’re doing as
a band. We make our albums, we make our music videos, and
we go on our tours, and for me, personally, I’m absolutely
happy with that.
Chachy: All of the predictions I’ve tried to do have
not come through. I think we just keep doing what we’re
doing and make as many friends as possible, because that’s
the most fun part of it. Predictions for China? Let’s
hope Trump gets out of office soon, so it’s a positive
Jimmy Jack: And let’s hope China stops…they’re
kind of at the point where they’re cracking down now.
They opened up for awhile, but now it seems like the doors
are slowly starting to close again.
Chachy: Xi Jinping (President of China), that guy is no
joke. He’s there for life. Even my Chinese friends,
of course the liberal minded ones, think this is fucked
up, haven’t we learned anything? They’re very
nervous. The punks in China are very nervous about Xi Jinping.
Q: We’re nervous here, too, because Trump
has talked a lot about how much he likes the concept of
“President for Life.” There are people who would
be willing to go along with cancelling elections if Trump
says we can’t guarantee that there won’t be
fraud. There are people predicting that Trump isn’t
going to want to leave office, even if he loses the election.
Chachy: Man, it’s an interesting time. I never thought
things would be like this. It’s crazy.
You can check out Round Eye's music at roundeyeband.bandcamp.com
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