Hiya Joshua thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
I got into songwriting when I was 12. What led me to that was an amalgamation of reasons – some interesting, most not. I don’t think a ‘decision’ to do music was made until last year when I returned to the China Aster project after a 10-year hiatus. I stopped because I went to art school and didn’t have the money to continue. I also underwent a radical transformation of mind and character where I didn’t know who I was – the message and image of China Aster were up in the air.
I went to Goldsmiths where I questioned everything I did, but I navigated a way out partly through reading philosophy and critical theory, and by building a worldview. I thought academia would be where I’d end up but I felt alienated there. I also still felt a need to express myself musically and I thought that I was now in the right place to do that – now that I know who I am and what I care about.
Introduce us to you and your musical history.
I am Joshua Moore, singer, and songwriter of China Aster. I play guitars and synths. I work a lot with Oliver Marson, a solo artist in his own right, who co-produces stuff with me, as well as providing guitars and synths. Oli and I met when we were 16, bonding over a shared passion for The Beatles. We were playing in separate bands before forming China Aster. At the time, we had George Le Page (Balancing Act) on drums. Oli developed his own solo act whilst I was working through my borderline existential crisis in Goldsmiths’ library. Oli was always encouraging me to return to music; I’m very grateful to him for that.
What was life like for you before music?
Life before recommencing China Aster was confused and emotionally tumultuous. There was something utopian about art school but I was unable to enjoy that. I’m not sure that I really blame the harrowing level of self-reflection that I went through so much as the material conditions or lack thereof that many students experience. I think my ability to do music now is largely because I have a full-time job with better material conditions.
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
The earliest song that I think moved me as a child was The Beatles’ Nowhere Man. But UB40, Simply Red, and The Lighthouse Family were always being played by my parents. The Yellow Submarine film was the first DVD I watched. I was maybe 5. That animation had a massive impact on me.
Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?
China Aster is very much at the stage of just trying to get heard and seen. We have a small and wonderful following at the moment and we want to share the love.
What’s the biggest thing you have learned from someone else in the industry?
It often feels like you’re screaming into a void in the music industry but Oli has taught me to persevere. It’s a long game but you have to play to win. By ‘win’ I really just mean being in a place where your music can become something you can do at least part-time. That means growing the fanbase. And that happens through listening to and engaging with the fans you already have.
If you could wish for one thing to aid your career what would it be?
I wish to continue persevering. Life is hitting me now that I’m older. There are going to be times when spending money on a song is not going to an option. It could be easy to decide to throw the whole thing out but – forgive the platitude – where there is a will there is a way. Having a worldview helps – it acts as a regulatory ideal – a vision or an idea that gives more meaning to what you do and keeps you going.
Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….
Of course. China Aster is a project that aims to appeal to a ‘rejectariat’ – a broad and half-unserious term that I made up but which tries to approximate a coalition of all those suffering under today’s economic conditions. That’s most of us but not all of us. I’m going to offend some people. But there might be times when I offend people I don’t mean to. What I call the ‘rejectariat’ is a multiplicity with different struggles, identities, and desires but also so many synergies. I just have to listen and remember that the best ideas are fallible – they’re open to revision.
Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories? If not why not?
Just the one about how our economic system provides possible luxury for all but actual luxury for some.
What was the worst experience on stage?
I don’t think I’ve had any particularly awful experiences but I’ve definitely been a bit too drunk before!
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
We describe China Aster as induction into lucid daydreaming – a play on ‘lucid dreaming’. Night dreams are important but they’re about the unconscious, the dark theatre of our recalled past. Daydreaming, on the other hand, is about our future.
China Aster is influenced by the punk and post-punk movements. Lyrically, a lot of these bands incorporated one side to lucid daydreaming: critique – the ‘lucid’ aspect. But many of these bands lacked the message of a hopeful alternative – which is why I think they’re sometimes seen as being overly cynical and pessimistic. They’re not though. You can’t face the bleakness of reality without the hope of overcoming it. I think there was an implicit hope in punk and post-punk that China Aster wants to salvage and make explicit – the ‘daydreaming’ aspect. You could say that, whilst we’re influenced by punk, we also take the individualistic positivity of most pop music and turn it into a collective project.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.
Yes! We have a new song called ‘Reason’ out this month. The song seeks to
challenge binaries of logic and passion. It’s a weird-pop love ballad about how someone can give you ‘a reason to care’ but in the process, it becomes a love song about reason itself. The track defies cliches about the irrationality of love and the cold abstraction of logic, celebrating instead a relationship between passion and rationality. I was listening to a lot of Enya and Kirin J Callinan during the writing process, which might explain the synth-compositions and intense vocals on this one.s
What was the recording process like?
Like most of our recording processes, it’s all done in the bedroom (hehe). Unlike the previous songs we’ve release (‘If I Could Dance’ and ‘Post-production’), I produced ‘Reason’ myself in collaboration with Joshua Rumble (Black Country, New Road) who sound-engineered stuff and provided the mix.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
Despite the fact that the latest song was largely produced on my own, I think collaboration usually leads to a better product. When you write a song, it’s important to have an objective standpoint. Even this song still benefitted from co-production input from Joshua Rumble.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
I try not to have any regrets. Because this was mostly produced by me, I would want to see how someone else would’ve approached it.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Whether it is your mental health or the drudgery of your work, nothing is ‘natural’ or ‘meant to be’ per se, or simply ‘just the way life goes’. Perhaps we can say, in the words of Gang of Four, ‘natural’s not in it’!
In other news, we have another song out later this year called ‘Memories’, which returns to our more upbeat vibe. We’ve been working on a music video for this one.