Power Pop Mania – Rockbottom Interview by Power Pop Academy

This is an interview from a while ago (December 2012) right after Rockbottom came off tour supporting their 3rd album, Revenge. If you’ve never heard or seen Rockbottom, they’re a fireball of furious energy on stage. In the interview they talk about their formation, the new album and tons and tons of philosophical ruminations on power pop. You think you love power pop? Rockbottom LOVES power pop. The original interview appeared on Power Pop Academy.

photo_rockbottom

Rockbottom: Kashima (drums), Inagaki (guitar, vocals), Koji ‘Cozy’ Watanabe (bass).

Power Pop Academy
I’m so excited to be interviewing Rockbottom. The first time I saw Rockbottom was a long time ago. I went to see them because they were Inagaki from Treeberrys’ ‘other’ band. I remember being blown away by the power on stage. Seeing how Inagaki went nuts up there, I got the impression that this was the band he really wanted to do. So, to everybody in the band, what is the idea behind Rockbottom?

Inagaki
Well first, thanks so much for coming to see us for so long! That was when we first started out. Rockbottom was pretty much just the band I wanted to be doing.

It’s not that I wasn’t doing what I wanted with the Treeberrys, but I just felt like we weren’t a really rock and roll kind of band. The Treeberrys were really influenced by 60’s British beat bands like The Hollies, The Move, The Who and so on, and we were also really into pub rock bands like Rockpile, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, so of course sometimes it was really fun.

But we didn’t really rock out, there wasn’t that kind of raw power or strong emotion. We couldn’t play that way. I think the closest Treeberrys got was the song ‘Let Me Be Alone,’ so there was a big part of me that really wasn’t satisfied. Treeberrys was my first band. Nowadays I like soul music but at that time I wasn’t really into that funky guitar style. Even now if you told me to play funk guitar I couldn’t do it.

But let’s get back to Rockbottom. From the beginning I always felt like my real feelings come through our songs. And also with Rockbottom I feel a tight kind of togetherness with the other members. I feel like that energy comes through in our shows.

Because, after all, Rockbottom was a band that started as a group of friends who went to buy power pop and punk records together and discovered all of this music together. When we go on tour, we go to record stores everywhere we play and we’re like fighting over who gets what section of the store first.

I knew Koji from the time More Fun started and Tommy was a member of More Fun.

So, we were really on the same page as far as being crazy about 70s and 80s power pop. We shared news and information about records we liked and knew lots of the same music. Rockbottom is an extension of that. We’re a band that started as friends who love the same kind of music. Then, after Cheap Trick’s show at Nakano Sun Plaza, Fink (Raydios) introduced me to Kashima. At that time, we were practicing with another drummer but when we got our first show, that drummer quit. So, Kashima joined the band. I thought, if we met at a Cheap Trick concert he must be the right guy, and it turned out he’s a drum wizard.

For that reason, I wouldn’t call it a concept, but power pop and punk bands’ names were our common language. Cheap Trick, Scruffs, 20/20, Shoes, Rubinoos, Flashcubes, Records, etc. Also Sex Pistols, the Clash, Buzzcocks, Dictators, Slade Sweet… I could go on forever.

Now, what would I call our ‘concept?’ I guess for us, we’re in this world where there are so many things that piss you off and things that suck, so I’m not into the idea of surrounding yourself with music to escape the world, but it’s something fun, so there’s that. I just want to say straight and plain the feelings I have every day.

Power Pop Academy
Watching you guys play or drinking with you guys, I feel that among the members there is shared respect, almost like a family. I remember you saying something like that at an after-party, that Rockbottom was just some old friends playing music together. What is the real quintessence of Rockbottom?

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Inagaki
Rockbottom’s members are friends. It’s like we’re more family than family. If a member has a problem, the others help as much as possible. It’s like that. Unfortunately, we had one member leave, making us a trio. But the three of us in the band now aren’t going anywhere. Nothing will change from now on.

Power Pop Academy
At the show with Suzy and Los Quattro the other day, I was struck by how fired up the members of Los Quattro were watching Rockbottom. You guys have supported big names in power pop that you’d never imagine would come to Japan like the Flashcubes and the Rubinoos. Do you have any stories to tell? Also, can you explain why Rockbottom is chosen by those bands?

Inagaki
There are lots of stories. Koji remembers them well!

Watanabe
The reason we’re chosen by bands is just that we’re the only band they know. We’re really just lucky they choose us and ecstatic about it. This year April the Flashcubes are coming for the first time in ten years and if you’ve never seen them, I recommend checking them out. You rarely ever get to see a band whose shows are that killer. They’re a true power pop band. Their music is the real deal, passionate and knowledgeable.

Power Pop Academy
I enjoyed watching Cozy Powerpop Night (a DJ/talk event held at Poor Cow) the other day on Ustream. Koji talking about when he was in American and all of that was really interesting. I feel like Japanese power pop is driven by strong feelings about the genre. From that event and other stuff, I feel like you have more of a definitive idea of what power pop is than we at Powerpop Academy. This is probably hard to answer, but what is power pop to Rockbottom?
What would each of you mention an album that makes you go, ‘Ah, this is power pop’?

Watanabe
Well, a lot of it comes from rock and roll that was coming out in the late 70s mostly due to Greg Shaw, and the other influence was punk rock. I think it was one of the styles of music that crystallized with the 60s kids coming of age in the 70s. I feel like the music that came out of this time is power pop and everything else is a refinement of that style.

Without a basis in rock and roll it’s not power pop. But again, if it doesn’t have some sympathies with punk rock, you can’t call it power pop. I think the Flashcubes is a band that perfectly realizes what I’m talking about.

By the way, everybody should go and see the Flashcubes at Shinjuku Jam on April 7th. Then, go and see the Barracudas, who are bringing Sire-era Groovies frontman Chris Wilson with them. They’re playing at Shindaita Fever on May 20th and everybody should go.

I think the Shoes are another great representative of power pop.

Inagaki
Power pop = the ultimate rock and roll. 20/20’s ‘Sex Trap.’

Kashima
It’s hard to pick one band but the first for me was ‘Raspberries’ Best Featuring Eric Carmen.’

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Power Pop Academy
We talked about this together the other day, but Inagaki, you said you like TFC. I was also surprised to hear that Koji likes Flop. I was worried that if I talked about post-grunge late-90s or 00’s power pop, you guys would get mad at me so I feel a little more at ease (laughs)! This is kind of going out on a limb, but what do you think of the 10 bands on the 2012 Academy Awards Best Album?

Inagaki
I’m not mad or anything but looking over the Top 10 I was a little disappointed that Rockbottom wasn’t there.

I want Tommy Keene ‘Behind the Parade.’ Can I mail order it from you? I was really excited about the new Posies album and Japan tour. Thanks This Time Records! There’s something Todd Rundgren or Toto like about The Sonic Executive Sessions. It’s not really power pop I guess. And Mike Viola is good too. I’d heard his name but unfortunately hadn’t had a chance to listen to any of his music yet. I’ll check that out.

My top 10 wouldn’t have any power pop except for Mike Viola. It’s not in my top 10, but Clandestine’s album is great. You should go and see them live.

I love TFC and I also like Flop and Pure Joy. But they aren’t power pop. I like a lot of bands from the 90s on but nothing that I’d really call power pop. I’m changing the subject here, but the Florians from Hamamatsu are awesome!

Watanabe
I personally wouldn’t put them in my top 10, but Clandestine made a great album and if you haven’t bought it, I really recommend it. Rockbottom guarantees it’s good!

I’m also into Tommy Keene.

Power Pop Academy
I want to ask you about the new album Revenge. The album is a bit of what I’d call a departure from previous albums. I feel like the recording approach is a complete change from before. I feel like it’s more colorful, but I want to hear your thoughts and feelings about it.

Inagaki
I wanted to make a record where there’s a sense of continuity running through it and where I think every song is good. I wanted to make an album that would appeal to people fighting the daily fight. I want them to listen to this album and get fired up.

Watanabe
I think we finally got a good balance between what we want to do and what we can do.

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Power Pop Academy
You finished up your Revenge Tour in December with a one-man show at the Shelter. Can you share your thoughts and impressions about the tour? What are you looking forward to from now?

Inagaki
First of all, thanks to everybody who came to see us on this tour. It was the best. Everywhere we went people were great. And thanks a lot to Florians, Frantic Stuffs, La-La Lees, Extention58, The Dials, The Choosers and The Thunderroads for playing with us. Everywhere we went there were great bands and great people who came to the show.

Watanabe
The tour was totally made possible by all the people who put on shows and everybody who came to the shows. That’s really the driving force behind Rockbottom.

From now, as things get shittier all around us, don’t worry. Let anger and dissatisfaction and great songs be your engine. We’re not a band that’s all about the songs or the anger, but putting them both together.

Power Pop Academy
Those are all of my questions. Thanks for your time!

ysonw

Track List
1. STARFIGHTER
2. SOMEONE IN THIS TOWN
3. SCRIPT TRAP
4. GIRL IN THE PAST
5. SHAKE SOME ACTION
6. THINKING OF YOU
7. FIND ME OUT
8. PERFECT LOVER
9. WHISPER IN MY EAR
10. READY GO READY
11. REVENGE

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