Alex Zhang Hungtai (b. September 4, 1980, Taipei), known by his stage name Dirty Beaches, is a Taiwanese-born Canadian musician based in Montreal, Quebec.
Dirty Beaches released a number of EPs and instrumental-focused albums on cassette-only labels, before releasing the full-length Badlands in March 2011. Badlands was subsequently nominated as a long listed nominee for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. Dirty Beaches has also released singles including “True Blue”/”Sweet 17,” “Lord Knows Best” and “Lone Runner,” as well as videos, many of them directed by Zhang himself. Zhang has also recorded several original film soundtracks, such as for the documentary Water Park, by Evan Prosofsky.
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.” Zhang has lived in Taipei, Queens, Etobicoke, Honolulu, San Francisco, Shanghai, Vancouver and Montreal, 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.
In late 2012 Dirty Beaches recorded two new albums, one vocal and one entirely instrumental. Drifters/Love is the Devil released in May 2013. North American label Zoo Music will issue the album as a double LP and a single CD. Dirty Beaches will tour Europe and North America later in 2013. In early 2013 Dirty Beaches toured the Asia Pacific region for the first time.