Tzusing’s latest album, 绿帽 Green Hat, aims to provoke. To provoke those who feed into the damaging cycle of the patriarchy and who preserve traditions that are harmful not only to others but to themselves. Released on 31 March 2023, this new electronic album is packed with music he describes as “anxiety-inducing”. Over the course of these tracks Tzusing explores the concept of fear, the source of which is constantly all around us.
In 绿帽 Green Hat, Tzusing finds confidence in stepping outside of pre-existing traditions and expectations in order to offer a new perspective. The album title references the controversial Chinese symbol of the green hat and is the springboard for his further examinations of the power of shame and the anxiety of not knowing how to move forward as a man. Get ready to dive into a record that explores the one thing scarier than death.
Could you please start by introducing yourself to our readers?
My name is Tzusing, I produce music and I DJ.
I read that you moved a lot around Asia and North America growing up. How do you think that has affected how you were influenced musically and, subsequently, influenced the music you produce yourself?
I went to international school in Taiwan and Shanghai, and I think just being in international schools exposed me to a wider range of people. I’m 40 now so that was when I was a kid, before the Internet really became such a big thing. Towards the end of the 90s before I moved to the States, a lot of the stuff started going online already but stuff like MP3 trading wasn’t a thing yet and so it was just online record stores that had sample clips for you to buy the record but not full songs.
This is the 90s, and there I was exposed to foreigners that had experienced the rave scene in the US and brought in CDs so I was exposed to this music where a lot of other Taiwanese or Asian kids wouldn’t have been. Also, being able to travel to the States and buy actual mixtape CDs by DJs and stuff like that. Of course, there was also a small underground thing going on in Taiwan but records and music distribution just isn’t the same in Asia, especially at that time.
Is inspiration something you actively search for, or do you find it presents itself to you?
It comes to you. I don’t get that when people say they want to go out and be inspired. I guess you can put yourself in situations where you experience more things but no, it finds you.
Your sophomore album 绿帽 Green Hat is released Friday 31 March 2023! The title of the project was inspired by the ancient Chinese story of Li Yuanming and his wife, Cifu. Often left alone by her husband, Cifu began an affair with their neighbour. She would give Li a special green hat to wear when he would leave town, signifying to her lover that it was safe. The green hat became an enduring symbol of infidelity. Why did this story resonate with you so much?
When we were growing up in Taiwan, like I said we went to international schools and we were exposed to skateboarding, which I still do, and we were buying Western clothes and skate brands, like Independent. They had this hat with a green bill and my brother bought it. When he was wearing it at home my dad saw it and he got super pissed at my brother, he was like “take that shit off your head right now!”. When I saw that I was like “wow!”. It was such a strong reaction from my dad, and I was just really curious as to why. So that was my first introduction to this concept of the green hat and how pissed my dad got.
Also, even to this day Chinese people won’t wear green hats and if your girlfriend or wife cheats on you it’s super shameful and a big thing against your masculinity. It feels even worse than death, that shame. That is what is interesting to me: that there’s a thing scarier than death.
Following on from this, the album reflects on the shrewd pervasiveness of patriarchal heteronormativity particularly within Chinese culture. You explore the impacts of this oppressive culture on the men who suffer consequent feelings of inadequacy and are unfortunately encouraged to reinforce it. Do you think directly addressing this vicious cycle is an important aspect of being able to break it?
Maybe? I don’t think I’m breaking anything; I’m not destroying this culture or anything like that. I don’t think music really does that, I’m just highlighting it and I find it interesting. Again, I have to go back to my dad because a lot of the shit that I do deals with how I was raised. I told him when we were at dinner that I was going to call my record this and my job is to always piss him off, I get a big kick out of it. He was pissed and didn’t talk about it. Then a few months later one day he was like “why would you call your record this?” and I said I was calling my record that to piss you off and to piss guys like you off.
Am I really breaking anything? I don’t know. Will it break anything? I don’t know, but I think it is a problem. The thing is I also see it in myself: I’m a cis male, I have girlfriends and I’ve had to deal with these problems that you mention as well. So, one of the reasons for the title of the record is to address how, as a cis male in this modern age and knowing how horrible the patriarchy is, do you move forward in a correct manner? Because there aren’t many examples! This is why Andrew Tate is such a thing, right? Because young kids don’t know how to be a straight man and there’s no examples except for these assholes and kids are just trying to find an answer.
As a dance and electronic artist, how do you feel you most effectively utilise the genre to convey your message of deconstructing gender barriers and encouraging people to unlearn this cultural programming?
I merely bring it to light; I don’t know how my stuff can actually help people unlearn these things. I just think I’m dealing with it myself! I think my music is extremely anxiety-inducing, I’m pretty into that and electronic music has a really wide sound palette. What you can do with it is almost unlimited, so if you’re creative enough you can express all of these really nuanced emotions.
So you mentioned that your music is anxiety inducing and I also read that, on this album, you are attempting to approach fear from a fresh perspective. How do the tracks on 绿帽 Green Hat achieve this sonically?
There’s a lot of sub, sub is generally associated with thunder and these sounds that, throughout existence, we have associated with scary things. I use these kinds of tones and these kinds of sounds that we have anciently associated with fear but I’ve hopefully arranged it in a more contemporary and interesting way.
You said that you wanted to suck in the listener “before they’re completely aware of the message.” Why was this important?
Because the music has to be engaging first and foremost. It’s not about reading the blurb, it’s about the music, right?
The album has been described as a project through which you are “most eager to unify interests and inclinations” and that you have “truly found your groove.” How does this album differ from your 2017 debut album 東方不敗 and how does it exemplify your evolution as a producer?
I feel like on my debut record I was still coming out of this EDM industrial thing. I think it takes courage to make music outside of a more defined form and I feel like, with this one, I’ve gained more confidence. I feel more comfortable with exploring and really letting my ideas take these newer shapes.
You also recently performed at both CTM Festival in Berlin and Trance Party at Corsica Studios in London. How were those experiences?
They were super good! I really enjoyed both gigs, especially Trance Party, that was crazy. I couldn’t believe David Rudnick was my DJ, I’m a big fan of his graphics.
Following the release of the album, what does the future have in store for Tzusing?
I’m eager to see how people receive this album and more gigs in Europe! I also want to start working on new music as well, maybe do something more dance floor focussed?