Who were you into?
Like super into? Ah, there was this muscle girl band. Yeah, the first time I saw this anomaly I was so interested. I thought, probably no one else knows or cares about this... it's strange bouncy rock... Anyway, I am crazy for Otsuki Kenji. He has shown up in my dreams before. He is like a god to me. Ryotaro Sugi's “kimi ha hito no tame ni shineru ka” was the song that got me into him, because a caller to a radio show requested it and they played it.
What kind of songs did you request on the radio show, if any?
Ah, what was it... Ousmane Sankhon's “Africa no Onna” was definitely one. (laugh) But after that program they aired a program called “Yanpara” (short for Young Paradise) so I also discovered a lot of music through that program as well as the one playing classics.
Was junior high school a rough time for you?
Yeah, it was, but it was also fun in its own right. Even though I wasn't interested in schoolwork nearly as much as I was music, it was alright. I started coloring my hair at that time and my music style was really branching out. I wasn't into the same stuff as most of the guys in the southern half of the Boso Penninsula. You would think they would, with us all living with the same radius of the same radio station airwaves, but no. So like, even though I was part of the last Yankii generation, being interested in both idols and bands and strange combinations of things, it wasn't very cool, my personal style. Even talking about it now, I can feel the depressed stage from when I entered high school. (laugh) So, then came the conflict-- I was at this school and wanted to be fashionable, like beat punk fashion. But I also didn't want trouble. So sometimes I would go into the city, change my clothes at Chiba Station, and enjoy myself outside of the countryside. I'd have my hair in a regent and put on tartan clothes or something else funky, like I was going to a photo-shoot. I was like Yuki Hyodo!
So like, I started out as a drummer, that's where these arms first came from, and so we are writing original songs, with five other members, and it is like the perfect “Nagomu Kei” band. We were writing one song at a time, but the other members were all super nerdy types. They were also funny guys, and super dark, if you know what I mean.
Sounds like Mie (prefecture) life during that time. The lifestyle of Yankii, band boomers, and otaku.
Yeah, that's right. During that time, the radio stations were playing more and more edgy music. And it seemed like so many people were trying to launch their own radio programs. For me, that space in time was probably one of the happiest. And Yankii culture was, of course, blossoming like a flower. I think had I been living and going to school elsewhere, maybe my youth wouldn't have been so exciting or interesting. Whenever I wasn't with the band, I was alone. Every Sunday I would go to the walk-able areas of downtown and wander, or hit up live houses, or whatever by myself. Of course, I could feel most excited by these things if I experienced them alone, even to the point of being genuinely moved. I thought, “Oh, this is so cool” or “I wanna be like these people”. Out of all of my friends, I was the one who spoke most extravagantly about that world and that culture. In fact, I would show off my music, playing what I had recorded on my cassette player, and people would criticize what I was listening to very harshly, like “why are you listening to that garbage? Turn that shit off!” But it was still interesting to see what everyone else thought of it, so I found it fun in my own way. At my yankii friends' houses, we'd listen to stuff like Eurobeat and BOØWY, stuff like that.
So in the yankii culture, people will form a bond with music, right? So in high school, what happened?
So, the people I was in a band with, we began meeting more and more irregularly. About a year after entering high school, Kisarazu had this event, like a party. So like, I went there, and there were so many people of so many types. People were dancing like crazy, partying hard. It was awesome! Everyone there was really good-looking. Up until then, I thought I was the only good-looking yankii boy in the whole scene, but I couldn't compare to these people. I looked like “that hot guy's friend”. Like I was just their little “middle schooler friend” even though I was in high school. There were lots of rockabilly and punk types there. And lots of bikers. I was surprised, 100 percent knocked out. “I am meant to be like these folks! These are my people!” I thought. So from that point, there was no turning back...
Ahhh....To be honest, I think I know what event you may be talking about. (laugh)
It started at about 9pm, and it would only last about an hour or two. Afterward, everyone would go to a cafe near the train station and some people would stay until nearly morning. At that age, I didn't have much money, but I looked forward to going to this event as often as possible. I was very fond of one senpai who was this psychobilly dude, and he was very massive and strong-looking. I was the only person he seemed to acknowledge most of the time, which made me happy! We began doing the pogo dance at these events. I had no idea if it was cool or dorky, but it was fun. So we would dance to a lot of crazy rockabilly and psychobilly songs, with that punching upright base guiding us through our movements. The DJ would also play 70's punk rock and Japacore (Japanese hardcore), rockabilly, Nagomu Kei, anything that had a strange style to it, that kind of mix. I would seriously bring a memo pad in my pocket so I could make a note of anything I really liked. In the middle of the songs I would ask my senpai “Do you know this song?” and make a note of it. If no one on the floor knew, I'd ask the DJ if he wasn't busy, or the staff. Every day, I was always looking for new music. I also started hanging out with older people, maybe 5 or 6 years my senior. I wish I could go back in time and help pull myself out of that circle sometimes, but at the same time I don't, because where might I be today if I hadn't gotten dragged in with some of those folks. It wasn't all happiness from this point. Anyway, a guy two years my senior invited me to organize an event, but I figured maybe I didn't have enough of a network to do it on my own. My senpai and I chose the location and began planning on our own. I was maybe almost 17 at this point. I had to handle tickets, design, flyers, everything. People started trying to suck up to me because they wanted free tickets to events, but I was keen on that from day one. People would be like, “But I know this guy or that guy, or whomever, why do I have to pay?” The tickets weren't even expensive. I thought, “What the hell are these people saying?” I am just a high schooler trying to help my friend. I am not some king organizing anything exciting. Why are these people like this? This isn't like the number one event in the world, and neither were any of the subsequent events I tried to plan. It made me a bit hot-headed. I went to all of the older guys and said, “Why aren't you doing this yourselves?!” And they were like, “You have such an attitude!” One senpai, that we called Ken chan, stood up for me. He said, “He's not just some small ass boy!” Which made me feel better. I felt much better after these events than before them. After he stood up for me, I actually found him crying later on, I guess he really pissed some people off. Anyway, he became my closest friend at that time. That guy happens to be who you all know now as KING. He had gone to a different high school and was very popular in his area. I hadn't thought much of him until he stood up for me though, so I am thankful for that moment.
So I was talking to him and was like, “let's start a project together and let's host our own event!” We became close very quickly. We didn't understand how to do the whole DJ thing at that time, I knew I was bad at it at first-- but I already had some turntables at home, so I felt I could already technically call myself a DJ. (laugh) We didn't know what we were doing, but we also didn't want to strictly be a cover artist. People had no clue what we were up to. They thought we were going to make another rock band or were working on something else, but then we recorded two songs. Not long after we were invited to an event where we performed just those two songs as a duo, opening for 5 other bands for an audience of maybe 20 people. But I remember thinking, “I just have to show people who we are” and at these early performances, you bet I was recording every little bit so I could give copies to people. And the copies to people I knew well I added a personal message as an intro. More and more people became interested in these demo tapes with a personal touch, and so I was a senior in high school, but busy with this project. I also began working part time at a T-shirt shop, which helped us to print our first shirts. I thought, “damn, this is fun!” As I started thinking about what companies to try entering after high school, I thought about being an event planner. I wanted to get myself into a position where I could promote good music as well as myself, but also get paid for it. Even now, I think promotion is a hugely important part of being a musician.