Music & clubs

Alex Zhang Hungtai: Dirty Beaches interview

Having spent a large part of his life adrift, Alex Zhang Hungtai has hit 30 and found his place amongst the lo-fi elite as Dirty Beaches. He shows up at KaterHolzig on February 25.

Image for Alex Zhang Hungtai: Dirty Beaches interview
David Black

Taiwan-born Canadian immigrant Alex Zhang Hungtai has spent a large part of his life adrift: wandering through Hawaii, New York, China and draggy Suicide-influenced lo-fi as Dirty Beaches.

Combining a sense of displacement with a filmic quality that embraces early rock ‘n’ roll though a filter of distortion, he’s sure to gauze up KaterHolzig when he shows on Saturday, February 25.

At 30, you’re a late bloomer.

I tried other careers and they just made me suicidal. I tried working as a cook for a while – a sous-chef – and then I worked in real estate in China and the Philippines and that really made me suicidal, so I moved back to Canada and decided to pursue music at 25, even though it is kind of late for most people that want to play in bands.

But yeah, I just went ahead and did it. I didn’t want to give up, because I just really didn’t want to live that lifestyle, you know, the nine-to-five.

But why all the rambling?

I think moving around really helped me to develop that kind of personality, and I think it influences my music. And it sounds crazy, but I do believe what you eat influences you. What you eat is important. I am a really adventurous eater. I eat everything.

Is there anyone who’s influenced you more than food has?

I would probably say, Wong Kar-Wai, who is at film director from Hong Kong. I have been watching his films since I was 16 and, you know, I became a smoker that year.

Ever since I started watching his movies, I don’t hear music the same way, I don’t see people the same way. When I look at buildings or my surroundings, I don’t see them the same.

When you are younger and you are walking to school or taking the bus, it is very boring, stuck in all of these everyday routines. But ever since I started watching his movies everything became film-like: I started paying attention when I was taking the bus, looking to see if things were old or new.

And, all of sudden, things weren’t so boring anymore. If I was at then supermarket and a song I recognized came up I would think, “That is so strange,” where as before everything was just background.

Alex’s publicist has contacted EXBERLINER to assure us that he has never, ever worked in the Philippines. Another veil of mystery for the man?

Dirty Beaches, Sat, Feb 25, 22:00 | KaterHolzig, Michaelkirchstr. 23, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Heinrich-Heine-Str.