Dirty Beaches

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Alex Zhang Hungtai
Alex Zhang Hungtai (Dirty Beach).jpg
Alex Zhang Hungtai performing in Paris, on February 19, 2012
Background information
Also known as Dirty Beaches, Last Lizard
Genres
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, producer
Instruments sax, vocals, guitar, keyboard, synth, sampler
Years active 2005-present
Labels Zoo Music
Associated acts Last Lizard
Website dirtybeaches.bandcamp.com

Alex Zhang Hungtai (born September 4, 1980 in Taipei) is a Taiwanese-born Canadian musician. He currently makes music under the name Last Lizard and was formerly known as Dirty Beaches.

Zhang released several EPs and three albums as Dirty Beaches on cassette-only labels before releasing his fourth full-length, Badlands, in March 2011.[1] Badlands, unlike Zhang's earlier work, included his vocals on most songs. The album was long listed as a nominee for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.[2] Drifters/Love Is The Devil followed in 2013, pushing further into no wave, electronic music, jazz and ambient territory.

In 2014 Zhang decided to end the Dirty Beaches project after releasing the instrumental album Stateless, on which he played sax. As Last Lizard, Zhang collaborated with jazz and improvisational musicians and released new solo pieces on Soundcloud, Vimeo and Vine. In 2016 Zhang released the instrumental piano album Knave of Hearts under his own name.

Zhang has also recorded original film soundtracks for several documentaries, including Water Park (2012) and Who Is Arthur Chu? (2017), in addition to directing music videos for himself and others.

History[edit]

Dirty Beaches began as a one-man band, sometimes employing sampling, inspired by Zhang's longtime love of hip hop. In addition to his own years moving between countries and on the road touring, films are one of Zhang's influences, particularly those by Wong Kar-wai. Zhang said Wong's movies are "usually about the passage of time, and how in relation it distorts your relationship with everything else in life. The central Dirty Beaches character is a product of those experiences. Of someone traveling long distances in search of something, in exile, misplaced, with no home to return to."[3] Zhang has lived in Taipei, Queens, Etobicoke, Honolulu, San Francisco, Shanghai, Vancouver, Montreal, Berlin, Lisbon and Los Angeles,[4] among other cities.

Dirty Beaches has released work on record labels throughout the world since his first album Old Blood came out on Montreal's Fixture Records in 2007. Dirty Beaches has recorded and toured with musicians such as Dum Dum Girls, U.S. Girls, Ela Orleans and Xiu Xiu. In 2011, Zhang was able to leave a kitchen job to play music full-time. First touring solo, he then put together a live band with sax player Francesco De Gallo and drummer Jesse Locke. On tour, Dirty Beaches moved away from the sample-based rock n roll of Badlands to embrace a more improvised sound. In 2012, guitarist Shub Roy and electronic musician Bernardino Femminielli joined Dirty Beaches live and in the studio, and they remain members of the band as of 2013.

After the release of Badlands and a number of EPs and collaborations, Dirty Beaches recorded 75 minutes of new material in late 2012 and early 2013. One set of songs, Drifters, was begun at La Brique recording space in Montreal and features Zhang's vocals and songwriting, along with instrumental contributions by Roy and Femminielli and former bandmates De Gallo and Locke. Making use of live instruments- guitar, bass, keyboard, drum machines and saxophones- arranged into original loops, none of the eight songs include any samples of previously existent recordings, a change from Zhang's previous working methods. During the course of recording Drifters, Zhang's relationship of several years ended in Canada and he relocated to the studio of friend Anton Newcombe in Berlin, where he finished the record and also recorded Love is the Devil, an instrumental set of eight songs, in late hours when the studio was not in use.

Drifters/Love Is The Devil was released as a double LP, as well as on a single CD and in digital formats, by the Zoo Music label in May 2013. Dirty Beaches will tour Europe and other regions in spring and summer of 2013. Earlier in the year Dirty Beaches toured the Asia Pacific region for the first time.

In November 2013, Dirty Beaches played the All Tomorrow's Parties festival held at the seaside resort of Camber Sands, United Kingdom.[5]

In August 2014, Dirty Beaches announced his 3rd album, Stateless, which would be entirely instrumental and released in November 2014.

In a series of tweets in October 2014, Dirty Beaches announced their breakup.[6] In early 2015, Hungtai began releasing music under the project name of Last Lizard.

On June 4, 2017, Zhang appeared in the fifth, David Lynch-directed episode of the revived third season of Twin Peaks. Playing with Dean Hurley and Riley Lynch as part of the group Trouble, Zhang played sax in the scene. The song, "Snake Eyes," was issued as a single by Sacred Bones Records.

In January 2018, he appeared alongside Jessica Henwick the short film "Yo! My Saint", directed by Ana Lily Amirpour and featuring music from Karen O and Michael Kiwanuka promoting the fashion label Kenzo's spring line.

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

As Dirty Beaches[edit]

  • Old Blood (2007, Fixture Records)
  • Horror (2008, Fixture Records)
  • Night City (2010, Night People)
  • Badlands (2011, Zoo Music)
  • Drifters/Love Is The Devil (2013, Zoo Music)
  • Stateless (2014, Zoo Music)

As Alex Zhang Hungtai[edit]

  • Knave Of Hearts (2016, Ascetic House)

Collaborative albums[edit]

  • Split (2009, Campaign for Infinity) split album with Omon Ra II, as Dirty Beaches
  • Mae Mae (2011, free download) collaborative album with Apollo Ghosts, as Masterchef
  • Decadent (2010, Campaign for Infinity) split album with Generic Shit, Hobo Cubes & Street Gnar, as Dirty Beaches
  • Double Feature (2011, Night People/ La Station Radar/ Atelier Ciseaux) split album with Ela Orleans, as Dirty Beaches
  • Statement (2012, Clan Destine Records) split album with Ela Orleans, Slim Twig & U.S. Girls, as Dirty Beaches
  • Love Theme (2017, Alter) collaborative project with Austin Milne and Simon Frank, as Alex Zhang Hungtai

Live albums[edit]

  • The Spirit of Crazy Horse (Live at Landmark: Bergen, Norway) (2012, digital release) as Dirty Beaches
  • Âncora (2016, Grain Of Sound) collaboration with David Maranha and Gabriel Ferrandini trio, as Alex Zhang Hungtai

Singles and EPs[edit]

As Dirty Beaches[edit]

  • Chess Music EP (2007)
  • Seaside EP (2008, Fixture Records)
  • Bird EP (2009, Fixture Records)
  • Dirty Beaches cassette (2009, Night People)
  • Golden Desert Sun single (2010, Italian Beach Babes)
  • B Side cassette (2010, La Station Radar)
  • True Blue single (2010, Zoo Music)
  • Solid State Gold cassette (2010, Rose Mansion Analog)
  • No Fun single (2011, Italian Beach Babes)
  • Lone Runner single (2011, Suicide Squeeze Records)
  • Tarlabaşı single (2012, BRONSON Produzioni)
  • Dune Walker single (2012, Slowboy Records)
  • Elizabeth's Theme single (2012, Kingfisher Bluez)
  • Hotel EP (2014, BIG LOVE Records)
  • Neon Gods of Lost Youth EP (2014)

Collaborative singles and EPs[edit]

  • U.S. Girls/Dirty Beaches (2010, Sibling Sex) split EP
  • The Singer (2011, Soft Power Records) split single with Conor Prendergast
  • Xiu Xiu/Dirty Beaches (2012, Bella Union) split single for Record Store Day
  • Dirty Beaches/Tonstartssbandht (2013, Spacebridge Records) split cassette EP
  • Snake Eyes (2017, Sacred Bones Records) single by Trouble, a group comprising Dean Hurley, Riley Lynch and Alex Zhang Hungtai

Compilations[edit]

  • Expressway (2012, Bathetic Records) compilation co-curated by Alex Zhang Hungtai

Soundtracks[edit]

  • Practical ESP (2011) directed by Zoe Kirk-Gushowaty
  • The Hippo (2012) directed by J. Asher Lynch
  • Waterpark (2013) directed by Evan Prosofsky
  • Who Is Arthur Chu? (2017) directed by Yu Gu and Scott Drucker

Music videos[edit]

As Dirty Beaches[edit]

  • "West Coast Bird" (2009) directed by Alex Zhang Hungtai
  • "Shangri-La" (2010) directed by Alex Zhang Hungtai
  • "True Blue" (2010) directed by Alex Calder
  • "Lord Knows Best" (2011) directed by Zoe Kirk-Gushowaty
  • "Speedway King" (2011) directed by Alex Zhang Hungtai
  • "Lone Runner" (2011) directed by Kevin Luna
  • "White Sand" (2011) directed by Tsien-Tsien Zhang, cinematography by Christopher Doyle
  • "Neon Gods & Funeral Strippers" (2012) directed by Alex Zhang Hungtai
  • "Casino Lisboa" (2013) directed by Gary Boyle
  • "I Dream in Neon" (2013) directed by Michael Lawrence
  • "Stateless" (2014) directed by Alex Zhang Hungtai
  • "Time Washes Everything Away" (2014) directed by Loic Zimmermann

As Last Lizard[edit]

  • "Alex Zhang Hungtai: Last Lizard" (2015) directed by Emily Kai Bock

Videos directed for other artists[edit]

  • "Between" by Night Musik (2015)

References[edit]

External links[edit]