Inspired by dark and exotic sounds, Ziqi Zhong produces unorthodox beats under the moniker of Anti-General. Due to platforms such as YouTube and SoundCloud being blocked in his native China, he has recently launched his own label, Mavericks, hoping to raise more awareness of underground music producers. We had a chat with him about Japanese folk music, Hans Zimmer’s Dunkirk soundtrack, and achieving your own personal sound…
MusicMap: The only information we can find on your SoundCloud profile is your name, “Anti-General”, and a description: “dark & exotic infused”. Where does your inspiration come from and what do you try to explain with your music?
Anti-General: Anything could be an inspiration for my work. Such as a sample, a picture, a film or a trip. There are different types of information carried within my music depending on its style, including stories, cultures, emotions and of course the vibes of dancing.
Through the sound of rain, drops of water, tribal chanting, wind and your own personal sounds, your music seems to carry the listener inside a film. Do you try to express images with your music? Which films have impressed you most?
Yes. But as different people have different perspectives of music, I guess the images my listeners receive are varied from person to person and may not even be the same ones I receive. However, that’s also an interesting part of it.
I’m pretty fascinated with film scoring, so I usually get impressed by original soundtracks. Hans Zimmer is my favorite film score composer for sure. His recent scoring for Dunkirk has definitely elevated it onto another level.
About the folkloric sounds you use in your music, do you listen to folk music from China to inspire you? How do you get those folkloric sounds?
They’re folklores from Japan, very close to China though. Some of the traditional Japanese instruments were actually shipped from China back in the Tang dynasty. So it may sound similar. In that case, I do listen to some Japanese folk music, but not a lot.
The sound is achieved by instruments that were actually purchased online. By means of which I can get a clean version of it. This helps me a lot when editing samples and writing melodies.
What is the process of composing one of your tracks?
When producing, I usually start with creating random stuff. This random stuff can help me come up with some images and stories. When I get an outline of the story I can push my music composition forward. In a nutshell, music writes the story and the story creates music. It’s not me who writes the music, but the music itself. This applies to all of my compositions.
How’s the music scene in a big country such as China? Is there space for each musical style /is there space for your music?
The music scene in China is definitely and rapidly rising. All kinds of music have their own listeners and market. I’ve got over 30k fans on one music platform in China. I just feel blessed that people love my work.
Why did you start your own label “Mavericks”?
As SoundCloud, YouTube and many other music platforms and resources are blocked in China, the less-known unique underground music is hard for Chinese producers to access. And because of these largely limited music resources, most of the producers are still in a status of copying the popular musical styles. “Mavericks” was born in this environment to raise producers’ awareness of unique and unorthodox music productions: to “stop chasing, start building”.
How did you build this personal style and sound you have?
Sometimes I just feel like I was born fascinated with dark vibes and exotic sounds. I just found that these two elements attracted me the most when experimenting with music. So I tried to add them to my tracks every time and it gradually became my personal identity. And in terms of sound design, I guess the key is the time that you spend learning and experimenting [with] synthesizers.