To mark the launch of Skullcandy‘s wireless Push™ earphones, we teamed up with the brand to present a series of stories celebrating those in the creative community who push themselves to the limit and break boundaries.
In the first episode, we caught up with skateboarder Wang Di, while in the second we heard from tattoo artist Yao Meihui. In this third installment, we talk to Shanghai-based rock band Oh! Dirty Fingers about music, creativity, life, and persevering on this path.
On the very first listen of Oh! Dirty Fingers, you can tell that they’re not your average rock band. From the lead singer’s muddy voice to the breakneck drumbeat and distorted chords, they’ve thrown out the rules of songwriting with their brash, rowdy style. They have little regard for mainstream tastes, and their music constantly pushes the limits of the rock genre. That’s what makes them a presence you can’t ignore in today’s indie scene.
Founded in 2013 by frontman Guan Xiaotian, Oh! Dirty Fingers started out as a college band. After cycling through a roster of members, the group now features Guan on vocals, Bing Xiaohai on guitar, Zhang Haiming on bass, and Alexandre Leal de Almeida on drums.
“I never thought about whether it’d be hard,” says Guan. Music wasn’t a conscious choice after college—he just followed his heart and found himself on this path. “I’ve always liked music. I never gave much thought to life after graduation—all I knew was, I didn’t want to do anything else, and I’d never be satisfied unless I did something involving music. When I like something, I can’t give it up.”
脏手指乐队最初在 2013 年由主唱管啸天成立，当时还是一支学生乐队。之后经历几次团员的更迭，现在则加入了吉他手邴晓海、贝斯手张海明以及鼓手赵子龙。
Listen to some of our favorite tracks from Oh! Dirty Fingers below / 点击即可试听脏手指的几首歌曲
In 2017, the band signed a deal with Maybe Mars to release How’d I Turn So Bad? On this raucously crude album, they don’t just talk about crushes and flings, they shout all their dirty secrets at the top of their lungs for everyone to hear. On the track, “I Like Your Girlfriend Too,” Guan sings,
I like your girlfriend too,
I want to see her when she sleeps.
I’ll talk to her when you’ve got nothing to say.
Bring flowers when you’ve given up on romance.
Or the song “Undercover Cop”:
From a righteous vantage, looking down at all this scum
Wipe them out, wipe them all out
Wipe out this whole generation
Wipe out the dancers with their smutty moves
Wipe out the books that lead them astray
“I imagined what it’d be like if I were an undercover officer at a club,” Guan recalls of his initial inspiration. “If I had to spend all night watching that depraved grinding, I probably couldn’t take it.” Often the explicit, raw lyrics are inspired by their own lives. The band has no deeper message, and they don’t pretend to offer the truth and insight that society expects of lyricists. They’ve always stuck to a simple artistic principle: make music about the world they know. In a music scene full of romantic ballads, only a group this unflinchingly frank can satisfy an audience’s thirst for the new and the real. Almeida notes, “We don’t stick to one style. But we always use the same formula: keep it simple.”
A fan on their way to an Oh! Dirty Fingers show once received some good advice: don’t wear white shoes—they’ll get trampled and covered in dirt. But don’t worry if your shoes get smudged, because these live performances are the essence of Oh! Dirty Fingers: passion, chaos, and a need to push the envelope.
Their strings tend to break, their drumsticks split in two, their instruments take a beating at every show. On stage they always go all out—they never hold back. Guan describes the exhilaration of singing to a crowd. “You feel like you can touch the sky. There’s nothing in your way, there’s nothing you can’t do. You’re unstoppable, you can shatter boundaries. ” Their ground-thumping concerts make your eardrums feel like they’re going to burst, pushing listeners to their auditory limits.
Some people call them a punk band, some people call them punk’s bastard children. Guan laughs and says, “We’re just a rock band, it’s as simple as that. In music, I think it’s really important to stay free, stay fresh, and stay creative. And freedom doesn’t respect stylistic boundaries. You can’t limit your art.”
They take a pure and sincere approach to music, and this is their most important quality as artists. Oh! Dirty Fingers has never surrendered their own creativity to cater to the market or to other people’s tastes. Nor have they ever shied away from exposing the restless, reckless spirit of youth. They follow their own rhythm, and even though they’ve faced their share of doubt from the outside world, they stubbornly keep making their music. “It’s not that we don’t care at all what others think, we just care less than most people,” Guan notes. “If you worry too much about what everyone says, you won’t make it in this business.” It’s better to boldly express yourself than to keep quiet and go unnoticed.
Music isn’t an easy path. In China, a lot of young artists find a day job to get by and just make music on the side. Oh! Dirty Fingers is a full-time band—music is their whole life. For all the members, this is probably the only way: their music and lives are inextricably bound together. “Songwriting is a calling for me,” says Bing, and Zhang feels the same, “Music is just an authentic response to life.”
Guan nods in agreement, “Finding another job and just doing music in my spare time would be a little strange, in my opinion. If you don’t give it your all, the things you write split off from your life. If you can’t convince yourself, how can you convince anyone else? Creating gives our lives meaning, so to speak. It means challenging restrictions. For us, pushing limits is about constantly creating, never stopping, and doing the unexpected.”
管啸天也如此同意，“找一份其他工作，闲暇时再做做音乐，在我看来怎么说都有点奇怪。如果你不全心投入，写出来的东西和生活脱节，连自己都说服不了，该怎么说服别人？创作吧，可以说是我们一个重大的生命意义，本身就是一种对极限的挑战。Pushing Limits 对我们来说，就是不停地创造，不停地创作，和出人意料。”