Am I amazing or what? I translated this article from French. Yes, that’s right. I can translate from any language on earth.
Actually I just ran this interview from Noisey by Léopold Dahan through a free translation site and then tried to make sense of it. You can find it en français here if you’re the kind of person who would do that.
In addition to being one of my favorite groups, Teengenerate is a band that had the good sense to break up before it turned bad. But when I was invited to their 20th reunion concert, I hesitated. Traumatized by a Sex Pistols concert in the mid-90s, I’d sworn to live in the present and to never again fall into the trap of reunions. My uncertainties were reduced in crumbs on August 3rd 2013 at around 8pm at Club Fever in Tokyo.
All the veterans of the Tokyo rock scene were there in the pit: I saw members of Jackie and the Cedrics, the 5678 ‘s, Guitar Wolf, etc. “Get Me Back”, “Mess Me Up”, “1979 ” … The songs followed each other so quickly that I only began to realize where I was from the third song. I was totally in a trance when they whipped through “Six And Change” and “Sex Cow”. Brother, they knew. After two encores, including a rendition of “Wild Weekend” by the Zeros, they were gone. Curtains.
I was on my knees, unable to comprehend what had just happened. I found myself face to face with Fink, the singer. Although he was still disheveled and with sweaty hands, I chatted with him so that he could tell me the history of the best group of the 1990s and of his passion for the United States.
Noisey: How did you form the band?
Fink: We started 20 years ago in 1993 and broke up in 1995. We played for about three years, at a time when there were very few rock’n’roll groups in Japan.
Everything that we liked then came from the United States. So we decided why not move there. We had already played at the Garage Shock festival (in Bellingham, between Seattle and Vancouver) organized by Estrus Records and released a few EPs with my first group, the American Soul Spiders, in which my brother Fifi also played. It’s thanks to this network that we could play in the USA in the early days of Teengenerate.
We wanted to make it simpler and more direct than my previous group, a mix of the Real Kids and DMZ. At the time, the groups that were playing at Garage Shock were all garage-rock, which makes sense, so we wanted to show people how cool punk rock was too. That’s why we could tour the US.
We were signed to Crypt soon after, which also got us over to Europe. This was a very intense three years. I did everything you could ever dream of doing with a group.
F: With Teengenerate, yeah. We all had other groups after and we are still playing today. The pretext of this concert is that it’s twenty years since the formation of the group. We’re doing other things now but we were offered the event. This is just an anniversary concert, not a reunion. We don’t plan to play again.
N: You had a lot of pressure to do it? The 250 tickets were sold out in four minutes, I heard.
F: Not at all. I wasn’t sure anybody wanted to see us since we hadn’t played in over 15 years. I wondered if the kids knew about us. I was reassured when I saw how fast the tickets sold.
N: You’ll also play in Spain in November. Why Spain in particular?
F: The promoters of Funtastic Dracula Carnival have been asking us to come and play for five years. They even came to Japan to see us! We were really impressed with their motivation but we kept saying no. We finally said yes because it’s the 20-year anniversary and a documentary is coming out soon.
N: I suppose it’s the same in the US, but when you love punk-rock, you must’ve heard Teengenerate at least once. I have the impression that very few people know you in Japan.
F: By putting out our albums abroad, we gained a wide audience, especially during the last tour. But this is the first time we’ve played to as many people in Japan as overseas.
N: Did you feel a difference between American and European crowds?
F: Not really. The fact that we didn’t sing in Japanese, which most Japanese bands did at the time, probably played a part. There are a lot of groups who sing in English now but that wasn’t the case then. Many didn’t want to. This scene didn’t exist yet. That’s the reason we played in the United States.
N: To show that the Japanese also could play punk-rock?
F: More like we were looking for a scene that suited us.
N: Do you think that Japanese groups deserve greater recognition outside of Japan?
F: There are a lot of good bands today. But whether in Japan or elsewhere, you need to dig a little more. We went to the U.S. because we were fascinated by it. There was no internet at the time. The only way to find music that we liked was to pick it up on the spot and that’s what we did. When you have the chance to live in the native land of rock’n’roll, I think there are better things to do than listen to Japanese bands … You have to start by knowing its own roots. But groups should first focus on the history of their own country before listening to Teengenerate.
N: Last June when I interviewed Seiji from Guitar Wolf, he told us they were very saddened by the break-up Teengenerate.
F: Yeah. Guitar Wolf wanted to tour the United States so we told them to come with us. It was during a concert in Vancouver that Goner Records spotted them and decided to produce them. This is how it all began. I wanted to show these guys that Guitar Wolf was up to par with the best American groups.
N: Unlike Guitar Wolf, which is still going, you broke up quickly. Was this so you could become a cult band?
F: Yeah, it certainly helps to turn you into a legend. But Teengenerate is nothing to worship. It’s just an old group that knows exactly what it wants to play.
N: If you don’t mind me asking, what are your songs about exactly?
F: Unlike Guitar Wolf, I write the words after composing the song. The meaning doesn’t matter but just that it fits the melody. I just wrote basic English words that I can remember. But since it’s not my native language, some of the phrases may be a bit… strange.
N: That might be why I hear French on the live version of “Gonna Feel Alright” – ‘au revoir, ben oui, c’est comme ça.’
F: Haha, that’s cool. The English of a British or French person is never the same as that of an American. In France, for example, take the Dogs – a group that I love – when they sing in English, you definitely feel the difference. It’s the same for us. Even if we try hard to have perfect pronunciation, it will still be Japanese English. But our bad English doesn’t prevent us from being a good band. As long as the words fit the music, you can sing in any language, English, Chinese or whatever.
N: A friend asked me to ask you if you’ll ever reform American Soul Spiders.
F: Haha, never! The singer lives in the US. But I play some American Soul Spiders songs with my current group The Raydios. Tell your friend he’s a big geek.
N: Thank you, Fink.
F: Thanks to you. It’s nice that there are still people who interview us after all these years. Anyway, I’m not ready to stop playing.
A big arigatogozaimasu to Koji and the whole team of Rock-Za Rock-shi.
Leopold Dahan has no Twitter. He is punk.