I love getting to know women in this industry so willing to take chances and build their community from the ground up. That is the case with Zhihe Peng (Shika) the owner of Puppy Fat Records ,an indie record shop and label based in Shenzhen, China. I am also happy to continue to expand the reach of Women in Vinyl from the US and Europe into Asia, so thank you Shika for that. Puppy Fat Records operates as not only a record store but also involves artist management, event promotion, and record releases while continue to expand the reach of musicians in Asia. Thus far, this one woman team has successfully organized over fifty shows for artists all over the world. In the tiny bit of free time she has, you can catch her reading, hiking or finding a peaceful spot for some meditation.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I started listening to foreign indie music when I was in high school. This is also the reason why I chose to study abroad in Tokyo afterwards where I think the atmosphere is full of music. During my years in Japan, I went to over a hundred shows and music festivals altogether, such as Fuji Rock Festival, Patti Smith‘s Tour, and so on. Of course, I also collected a pile of vinyl.
Later, after I returned to China, I worked as an Operations Manager in a co-working space based in Shenzhen. Like all those common urbanite nine-to-five jobs, my life was pretty boring since there were not many shows taking place during those days. One day, a great idea just emerged in my mind: Why don’t I create my own label, and then invite my favorite musicians from overseas to China. Then, in May, 2017, I organized the first indie-pop music festival in Shangha. I was so lucky to successfully invite more than ten groups of artists to this music fest, and it was more rewarding to include three very incredible Japanese bands in the lineup. The shows I organized happened to enrich the mundane life and the bland music scene in China.
As my full-time job was very stable and idle in the beginning, I spared some free time to work on my record label. However, things started to change in 2018. While I was busy managing the live tour of a Japanese band called Siamese Cats in seven cities inChina. It became so hard for me to get a long consecutive leave from my full-time job. I had to quit and devoted all my energy to the label.
When it comes to my enthusiasm to music and vinyl, I was not driven by any particular motivation, because all I wanted to do is create some meaningful and fun stuff. Music is just a huge part of my life.
What is a day in the life like?
Bombarded by tons of emails and messages from day till night. To stay ready for any upcoming tasks, I have been constantly immersed in a lot of new music. Yeah, I am definitely a workaholic.
What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
I enjoy my customers asking me more details about the vinyl they are not familiar with, and I would love to share some thoughts and recommendations with them. It also makes me very happy to listen to their own stories behind the records, as well as telling me all these interesting things about their vinyl collections.
In your opinion what has been the coolest thing to come through your shop / the thing you had to keep / almost couldn’t put out for sale?
I am a huge fan of The Wedding Present and Tenniscoats. I was their promoter and arranged their Tour in China. There can not be a cooler thing than doing something for your favorite bands and musicians.
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
From January to May last year I was locked down in Wuhan and couldn’t get back to Shenzhen. With no one taking care of the store, it was near the point of shut-down. But luckily, thanks to my friends, they helped me a lot in shipping records and some regular customers still came to visit so that my records shop had gone through this hard time. When I went back to Shenzhen, it was already June last year.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
If this is not your dream job, then don’t get into it. You will encounter lots of difficulties which make it hard for you to keep on.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Absolutely! I love buying vinyl at the physical stores. I am especially obsessed with the design and the printings. Also, I love those little surprises hiding in the vinyl package when you open it. I collect 7” vinyl issued by those DIY or low-key labels.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
I don’t have a team and I do this all by myself. It’s not an easy thing to recruit someone simultaneously reliable and fond of music. Therefore, I need to do everything alone and it makes me exhausted. I relocated my stores twice last year and it really consumed my energy.
During the time of COVID-19, the fluctuation of international logistics is also a disturbing thing for me. It is so unstable and took lots of time to get a new vinyl abroad. Since my store focuses mainly on new release, Chinese audiences may not be able to perceive the niche market of the records industry. In terms of these issues, I can’t t stop worrying about my business and occasionally get upset.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I see increasing number of people in China have been trying to get into vinyl industry since last year. And people in China are much more willing to buy vinyl than before. This is fantastic!
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Please support local records shops, and buy more records. Please also support the indie music scene in Asia, since there are many wonderful bands and musicians.
Tell me what you’re listening to right now:
I highly recommend a psychedelic rock band from HK called Virgin Vacation. They are amazing!
Website / Bandcamp: www.puppyfatrecs.bandcamp.com