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The Nirvana of China


When I say ‘Nirvana’, I am not referring to the Buddhism concept of transcendence but the
American band. The Chinese band I am referring to is Xie Tian Xiao (谢天笑) and the Cold
Blooded Animals (动物乐队). I first came across the band in 2001 when I wandered into a
record store somewhere in Daxing District, south Beijing. After asking, then miming a rock music performance the shop owner gave me a cassette. I had no idea what the music
was, as long as it wasn’t the ‘Back Street Boys’ or ‘Kenny G’ I was happy! I went home
and listened to Xie Tian Xiao for the first time. The music reminded me of Seattle Grunge
bands like Pearl Jam or Mudhoney and I became an instant fan.

A few months later while wandering the cold streets of Beijing I wandered into a bar to
discover a live band playing. I suddenly realised the music was familiar and that it was in
fact Xie Tian Xiao. I joined the crowed and started singing a long. Following that concert I
became a regular attendee of Chinese rock concerts and a few years later joined a (not
successful) Chinese band.

Xie Tian Xiao started his music career singing Beijing Opera, however this changed when
he was placed under juvenile "house arrest" for stealing bicycles, he relieved the boredom
by teaching himself to play bass and guitar. In 1990, he began composing his own songs.
A year later, he moved to Beijing to develop his musical career.

In 1994, Xie Tian Xiao formed his first band, Hunters of the Cloth (出家的猎人 / Chujia de
Lieren). While there was some limited success, his career didn’t really flourish until
1997when he founded the band Cold Blooded Animal (冷血动物) with bassist Li Ming, his
childhood friend from Shandong, they soon established a loyal fan base.

Between 1997 and 2002, Cold Blooded Animal performed hundreds of gigs in Beijing,
released their first album (2000) and played on tour in China and the U.S. In 2001, they
were the first Chinese rock band to appear at the South By Southwest Music Festival
(SXSW) in Austin, Texas. During his time in the USA Xie realised that his music style was
almost indistinguishable from the American bands he was playing along side. Xie added
more Chinese musical elements to his compositions. The guzheng, an ancient Chinese
string instrument featured heavily in his second album Xie Tianxiao X.T.X, released in
2005. The album received great acclaim in China and the band sold 100,000 albums that
year, as well as sold out concerts across China. Xie gained the nickname "New Godfather
of Chinese Rock", as opposed to Cui Jian, the original “Godfather of Chinese Rock”.

In 2009 the band released their third album, 古筝雷鬼 (Chinese zither reggae). Just like
the title of the album suggests Xie blended Chinese traditional folk sounds with distinctive
reggae melodies. The bands fourth album was released in 2013, entitled 幻觉 (illusion), it
is a far softer and more poppy album that previous releases. The fourth album took the
band into the mainstream and today they play to sell out stadium concerts across China.