Interview: Ramblin’ Roze – Bringing Howlin’ Blues Rock to Beijing and Beyond

Ramblin’ Roze are leading the charge of China’s new crop of ’70s influenced, heavy blues, stoner, sludge and doom bands that have been popping up in the country in recent years. The five-piece band put out their debut album, Howl of the Coomb in 2020, and since, have been featured in publications such as Burrn Magazine and have played some huge festivals around China such as Heaven on Fire in Wuhan. Proving that the Roze can grow in any soil, they recently played the Plague Fest, put on by black metal label Pest Productions, being the only band on the bill to play heavy blues rock among corpse painted ghouls. We talk to guitarist Wake Chen about the stoner scene in China.

Could you comment on the stoner/heavy rock scene in China? Are there any different characteristics compared to bands in other countries – such as sound, lyrics, album art, philosophy, drug references.

This retro wave is now spreading in China as well, and there are more and more bands in this genre these days. There was the Wild Dog Fest hosted by Never Before and the appearance of the SSD style label SloomWeep, both of which made the genre growing stronger. I don’t know how to compare them to foreign bands, because each one is special, and you’d better listen to them all.

There isn’t much of a history here in regards to the genre. Not many bands have toured China which could be considered “legends” of stoner/doom/hard rock. Like – there is no memory in the average fan of seeing Ozzy in concert as a child or hearing “Sweet Leaf” on the radio. How do you think people became interested in starting these bands. How did you?

It’s about getting to know the bands you like and seeing who their influences are. I would listen to a lot of ’80s stuff and found out that they were all influenced by ’70s music, so, we dove into it! After that, we wanted to play with a style that blends everything we like together, and we learned a bit towards Skynyrd, Zeppelin, Sabbath inspired stoner/heavy rock, but we didn’t want to limit our style and wanted to express it more naturally.

What is the history of Ramblin’ Roze?

The band was formed in Beijing in 2016, and interestingly enough, none of our members are from Beijing. We started out with a style that leaned towards 80s hard rock, but after a change in personnel and the catalyst of alcohol, the musical aesthetic has shifted a bit. We started to throw ourselves into the arms of 70s heavy blues rock. We then released our debut full-length album Howl of the Coomb and also had the opportunity to play on the main stage of the biggest music festivals in China: Midi x East Sea Music Festival. Recently we played at the Plague Fest, which was interesting due to us being a heavy blues band among several black metal bands.

What is Ramblin’ Roze inspired by?

Reflections on life after daze, motorcycles, women, alcohol and mysterious events. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Allman Brothers, Mountain. Graveyard and Church of Misery.

The sound lends itself to being ghostly and “Mountain of the Dead” is about the Dyatlov Pass incident. Do you have more in mind like this?

Of course, the band members are interested in mysteries. We may create another piece with such a theme afterwards, but also want it to come out naturally.

Bands like Down or Eyehategod have a lot of songs about New Orleans and these bands you can always tell are from there. Do you feel the scene has this kind of identity yet, where the bands can be seen as Chinese just by listening to them/reading the lyrics?

King of Lazy are from Yunnan in the south of China, and listening to their music you can feel the mysterious and rainforest-like atmosphere there.

Do you feel as though Japan accepts this style of music more than China? How about the surrounding Asian countries?

Maybe that’s right. Bands like Boris, Church of Misery and Eternal Elysium are some of the more famous ones. But on the other hand, Japan has a history of playing psychedelic rock, so if fans can accept some heavy psychedelic rock, it might be easier to get them to accept stoner. I don’t listen to many bands from other Asian countries, but I recently heard a Malaysian band called Jangar that is pretty good.

If weed was legal in China, do you think the scene would be bigger?

Yes, that’s for sure hahahaha!

Van culture is a part of stoner in places like Canada and the US. On the topic of touring, or even the Rollins quote “Get in the van”, that doesn’t seem to be something people do in China. But I could be wrong, do you know anyone with a van?

I don’t know anyone who actually owns a van, and if you want to go on tour by van in China, you need to pay a lot of toll fees and other fees, which is not as convenient as in the US. Before COVID, we were going to do an RV tour and festival with Never Before, but it was cancelled.

Grunge and Kurt Cobain are also popular in China. Does this lend itself to people getting into stoner?

From what I’ve seen, the fans around me who listen to traditional heavy metal and hard rock are more receptive to stoner. To be honest, I’m not sure if Chinese grunge fans know about Kyuss.

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