I am recording an album in China at high schools and universities using student musicians.
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Tyson Meade, frontman for Norman, Oklahoma glam-punk rock bands the Chainsaw Kittens and Defenestration, has announced plans to collaborate on a new album with high school and college students in Shanghai, China. This will be the first album in nearly 10 years for Meade, who has been living and teaching in Shanghai for the past 5 years.
Meade walked away from a fulltime career in the music business in 1996 (just briefly popping up here and there since that time) after feeling like his creative well had run dry. "I had lost my inspiration to write songs," he explains. "Maybe the fire was gone. Maybe I no longer thought of the process as being inventive or mysterious. Maybe I thought I was no longer doing this for the purity of music. For whatever reason, I stopped writing music."
For a complete change of focus and pace, Meade began teaching grammar to international students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Shortly thereafter, Meade relocated to China, a country whose culture had always fascinated him. He settled in to a college prep position teaching at a boarding school and was eventually appointed Dean of Students there. He was incredibly moved by his experience as a teacher and slowly the desire to play and write music returned. One of his students in particular, a boy called Haffijy who played violin, was especially impressed with his teacher's musical past. "I played Haffijy some of my songs from my music days and he quickly wrote parts for them," Meade recalls. "Not only did he write parts, he played with such love and honesty that I was touched immeasurably. Birds chirped in some sort of Far East Disney way."
Meade was eager to explore a further musical collaboration with Haffijy. "I became very curious as to how he might score a song still in development, one that I had no preconceived notions about, one that I had just written -- though I had not written any songs in some years at that point," Meade says. "I was now driven to write a song."
The result was "Stay Alone" (listen here: http://tysonmeade.bandcamp.com/), which became the catalyst for the entire China project. Meade played the song for some of his Western music friends, including fellow Norman-based, alt-rockers the Flaming Lips (who covered the Chainsaw Kittens' "She's Gone Mad"), Jimmy Chamberlain of Smashing Pumpkins, Maria McKee, and Other Lives (Meade has previously collaborated with Other Lives’ Jesse Tabish and the Flaming Lips’ Derek Brown on a project called Winter Boys). After hearing “Stay Alone,” these friends became interested in being a part of this unique, cross-cultural project and have agreed to contribute to this record as well.
Meade will return to Shanghai this July and begin work with various high schools and universities both there and in the United States for the project. His goal is to write and record at least a dozen tracks, which he will release as an album next year. A series of live performances is also in the works.
"I lived in China for five years and every Chinese person that I ever encountered is wonderful," says Meade. "They love America and Americans and I would love for America to love them back. I want the people who hear this project to hear their jubilation for living and for mankind in general."
Tyson Meade is an American musician, painter, writer, and teacher from Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Meade has recorded more than a dozen critically acclaimed records for major and indie labels since 1984 with his bands Defenestration and the Chainsaw Kittens, whose 1991 debut SPIN magazine described as "The Smiths meets the New York Dolls meets the devil." He's also released records as a solo artist and has contributed songs to the soundtracks for “Hellraiser III,” “Clerks” and “Bug.”
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