INTERVIEW | As One Merch
One of the best parts about hardcore and punk is the DIY culture that is so embedded into the psyche of those who are heavily involved. It is this DIY mentality that inspires people to start bands, start fanzines, start blogs, start websites, start photography, start learning graphic design, start their own stores, labels, distros, the list goes on and on. All of these people are those who are acutely aware that there is something lacking, a hole that needs to be filled, and then go about to start something that fills those gaps. And by doing so are able to help others involved in the scene. This is at the heart of the punk rock/hardcore spirit in a nutshell.
Our buddies behind newly launched merch company As One Merch out of China are just that group of people. They saw a need, a service, that was missing within the community of China and have set about, SPECTACULARLY, to fix that.
Below is an interview with some of the members behind As One Merch: Li You (Vocalist of Unregenerate Blood/Co-owner of Real Deal Records), 红桃 (Photographer), 于子洋 (Vocalist of D-Crash), and 张宁 (Editor).
(For those wondering, As One Merch will soon be accepting PayPal as well. So sit tight – enjoy browsing through the website and checking out all the bands in China whose merch they print and make available for the masses. As soon as you find something sick that you want to grab, make a note of it and come back when PayPal is up and running.)
MAIN SITE: http://www.asonemerch.com/asone
Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/asonemerch/
What was the inspiration to start your own merch company?
Well, there are already a bunch of merch stores in the US and Europe but in China, most of the local bands sell their merch only at shows or on an individual store they set up on taobao.com. We don’t have an online store that focuses primarily on promoting and selling band merch…
Since my own band, Unregenerate Blood, has been printing merch for many years, I already have pretty solid relationships with people who work at clothing factories. Besides that, I have also been working in the internet industry in China for many years. So with all my experience in both merch production and internet services, the idea just popped into my head one day to combine all this.
As for the name As One Merch, the inspiration comes from the Warzone song As One! I firmly believe that all bands and people in our scene must be united AS ONE!
Were there any merch companies around the world that you looked at as a template? What were you looking for in a merch shop?
Yeah I’ve been buying merch from overseas stores for some time now. Companies like All In Merch, Impericon, Core-Tex, Kingsroad Merch, Cold Cuts Merch, and so many others….as a hardcore kid myself, I’m pretty obsessed with band merch like shirts, hoodies and hats!
What has been some of the struggles of getting As One set up in China?
Actually, we’ve been very lucky because it seems that we have entered the market at the right time and with the right things in place. First of all, we need to have a variety of support in terms of having the right personnel in place and then of course financial backing. Luckily we were able to get all of this just amongst the people who are involved in As One. Secondly, bands from this part of the world have ALL been looking for this type of company that can help provide this type of service.
But at the end of the day, the one thing that we can’t control is a consumer’s purchasing habits. In China, hardcore, punk and metal people actually do enjoy buying merch. We tried to branch out and collaborate with post rock or electronic music and it really hasn’t been good.
The crew proud of the products they produce to help the bands they love!
We’ve seen the Dagger merch you guys have printed and are really impressed with the quality. How are you handling quality control?
Well we do everything in person so we’re watching and touching everything from the material supply to the factories. That’s how we check that the quality meets our standards. If we aren’t satisfied with the quality, then we will refuse to sell them. This is our most firm belief.
How has the reception been so far to As One Merch?
As One Merch has been online since last December and the reception from both bands who have been cooperating with us (Reflector, Brain Failure, Curry 3000, Real Deal Records, etc.) and the users have been pretty good. The way it works is that bands just send their designs to us, and then we handle everything from there. Which means printing samples, beginning production, etc. Then what we also do is get the physical merch ready to be sold online AND get the merch delivered to the bands on tour at the different cities that they’re going to hit. This way bands don’t need to bring any merch with them and we can just handle making sure the merch arrives at the venue before they arrive. As a band member who has been on tour before, I think this is a pretty helpful service that we provide.
Clearly orders are piling in!
How big is the team behind As One and what do they each do?
The core members of As One Merch are all from local bands (Unregenerate Blood, D-Crash) and hardcore punk supporters, photographers, etc.. This company is for the kids run by the kids! Basically, there are several parts in our daily operation. Business development is the first thing, we need to frequently discuss and cooperate with bands and factories and make sure that all the components of the supply chain are taken care of. Then we also cater to more specific demands that bands may have. For example, if they would like to create some sort of special limited edition product then we get involved in the design stage.
Apart from product, we also think we need to be involved on a cultural level by providing some sort of hardcore-punk related fanzine. This fanzine could be articles that we’ve seen from around the world, or that we drafted ourselves, that we translate into Chinese. This whole culture is about gathering like-minded people together so we think getting this type of information out is very important.
Here’s a link to one portion of the NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990 book that the whole As One Merch/CNHC Festival crew has been painstakingly translating into Chinese and laying it out with amazing visuals including photos and video.
Back to our merch store, online customer service as well as the website design was a core element as we set up our company to make sure to provide buyers with a better shopping experience.
Then finally, of course we have technicians who give us their full backing by keeping our website running smoothly.
Everybody working As One.
That translation work you guys are doing is CRAZY! When you guys do these translations of overseas text like the NYHC book how long does the whole process take? Are their any difficulties in the translation process?
It started with the American Hardcore book by Steven Bush which was translated by Krist (Real Deal Records) back in probably 2015 or 2016. We put up parts of the book a week at a time over a period of almost 52 weeks on the WeChat app that is so popular up here in China under our CNHC Festival account. Then the NYHC book was also translated by both Krist and Li You. Actually, because we had so much passion and love for this project, translating was actually not that bad. Now the biggest issue is time. We’re both so busy that we haven’t had a chance to continue translating the rest of the NYHC book – we’ve actually stopped after chapter 3! Hahahahaha…
A Mainland China hardcore-punk compilation CD that was released under Real Deal Records
What has been your favorite collaboration so far? How did it come to be?
Hat Trickers, Dagger, N-Bomb, Curry 3000 and Never Before are our favorite collaborations so far. They’ve all been very helpful. For example, Hat Trickers is a band from Japan who came out to China to play at Chong Qing Punk Fest, so we decided to work with them. The collaboration with Dagger suddenly thrust As One Merch into the world of hardcore kids and especially put our name out there outside of China. This allowed us to especially introduce our brand to kids much further away from us. N-Bomb is an underground hardcore rapper in Beijing. Curry 3000 is a young band formed by well established band members of other bands that have a HUGE support base. Stoner metal band Never Before’s collaboration is for their appearance at Wild Dog Fest. We were at that show and it was a BLAST! We’ve known each other for along time so it was great to help each other.
What is your ultimate goal/hope with this company?
Hopefully more and more people know how important it is to buy merch to support local bands. Buying merch is really the same as going to a regular store to buy clothing that you normally do.
What is the best selling product?
The best selling product so far is N-Bomb. As mentioned above they’re an underground hardcore hip-hop collective – their crew Dungeon Beijing is crazy hot right now so there are TONS of people who support them. As a result, the collaboration was so successful that their stuff has been out of stock for awhile now.
With your experience now, what would your suggestion be for bands trying to sell merch in china? What are the designs that you feel do the best?
It depends. I think a design that shows a band’s true character attracts people the most. For example, a series of merch designs for Hat Trickers really displayed the band well – it’s super Clockwork Orange inspired! Haha…
As for the best designs, D-Beat/Crust band D-Crash’s new T-shirt is so sick! The pattern is large and bold and has done really well in terms of pre-sales. Actually, it broke our sales record so far! Then the idea of Human Centipede’s long underwear is the most interesting! Hahahaha…Spill Your Guts T-shirts are always cool and wild.
After having it done for about 6 months now are you hopeful about the future of the site?
Our next step is to make an overseas website so that our foreign friends can register and purchase merch from As One. There are some kids from Europe and other places who’ve been inquiring, so we think we really need to do that. The work has begun and are hoping to complete this version of As One by July and then we will be able to start accepting international orders!
What is the current state of hardcore in China?
The hardcore scene in China is not huge, but I think it’s healthy, tight and it’s always growing. Most of the hardcore kids I know have immense passion to promote this culture and music. Local labels haven’t given up on organizing hardcore shows, translating books about hardcore, putting on screenings of hardcore documentaries, and yes, we have the annual CNHC Festival which is in its 7th year now. One of the things that we’re always most proud of is that we’ve built a cool bond between hardcore kids, punks and skinheads who regardless of musical style are all supporting each other. This way everyone is learning the roots of this culture.