This is an interview with Fifi of Firestarter and Otsuki of Registrators, and it’s old. Like maybe in the neighborhood of ’00-’02? Dunno but the Firestarter pic has Fink in it. Somebody with a better sense of dates and stuff can maybe figure it out. The interview is from the Loft website
Translator’s Note: I used the words ‘idiot’ and ‘moron’ to translate 恥知らず which really means something like ‘people who know no shame.’
JN: Okay, so there are three bands playing this two-day event together. How did you guys originally meet each other?
Fifi: Otsuki came to see my old band, Teengenerate. That was about nine years ago I guess. From then on we always hung out together. We met First Alert five or six years ago when we played with them in Kyoto.
JN: It seems like these three bands occupy a special place here in the Tokyo punk scene.
Otsuki: I don’t think we’re doing anything special. That’s just because the people around us are weird, isn’t it? They’re into weird shit so they see us as weird but we’re the ones who are totally normal.
Fifi: Maybe we occupy a special place because we’re so old.
JN: It seems like now there’s a kind of purist trend toward 70s punk or I guess you could say early punk rock.
Fifi: Yeah, well lately I don’t care as much about that as I did before. But there’s definitely some sort of kinship with 70s punk in what we do.
Otsuki: There was a time when I happened to be listening to a lot of 70s punk but I never thought I want to play exactly like this or that or anything. Of course, I was aware of that influence. At that time I really didn’t like that purist attitude. It was like people weren’t acknowledging today’s punk rock.
Fifi: Back in the day, they made fun of early punk rock. People knew it pretty well but they thought it was corny. They talked about it like it was some kind of joke. Especially the hairstyles and fashion. But we didn’t give two shits about fashion or image. We were just into music that happened to be 70s punk. It wasn’t just listening to what this or that rock writer said and taking it on faith that this is what’s cool now. We just listened to what we liked and let whatever come of it. We didn’t think about genre or fashion. So we planned to just keep doing what we like regardless of what this or that image of punk was.
JN: You got the punk influence purely from the music.
Otsuki: If you want to play music, that’s all there is. Even so, when you talk about punk there are always the spiky haired, ripped clothes people who think it’s all image and you really wanna put it to those people. I don’t mean in a violent way, but I mean you just wanna laugh in their faces. They can’t comprehend it any way but as an image thing, and some people lump us in with that. If you try to do anything new, they grumble about it and say it’s strange.
It’s like, what we’re doing is coming from inside, not an image we take from something else. That kind of ready-made image thing really makes me sick, you know? ‘Killed by Death’ and ‘Back to Front’ and all those other comps that came out back in the day, they had nothing to do with that image bullshit and that’s why I love them.
JN: When punk first came out, it was kind of tied together with fashion, so I guess it’s really easy to misunderstand that.
Otsuki: Yeah, but it’s fucked up to get sold on it that that’s all it is. I mean, if you look at little bit at the history, there are tons of bands that aren’t like that. These people don’t know that and all they talk about is punk this and punk that. Fuck them, play punk rock wearing bell bottoms.
Fifi: I bought the jeans I’m wearing at Uniqlo.
Otsuki: Yeah, so it doesn’t matter. But it bothers me that when you say ‘punk’ it’s that stereotype punk rocker image that comes to mind.
Fifi: Yeah, but everything’s like that I think. When you’ve got a thing called ‘punk,’ there are gonna be those who are only into the stereotype and those who aren’t. Of course, the stereotype people are probably the majority. If you stick to the stereotype, it’s boring. You already know where it’s gonna go. If you use some imagination and think of your own ideas, no matter what you do whether you call it punk or not, it’s gonna be interesting.
Otsuki: You can call all of this splitting hairs, but if one of these self-avowed ‘punks’ starts talking to you, they’re always coming from this stereotype framework. I hate that shit and that’s kind of one reason we’re not playing so much now.
JN: Maybe it’s a characteristic of Japanese people, that they like to split things up into genres. I think there’s a tendency for bands to do that to themselves.
Fifi: Yeah well, separating bands by genre is useful when you’re record shopping but that’s about it. It’s like, do you separate your whole life into genres? I mean, punk was all about overturning the existing rock paradigm which was boring and formulaic. Then, punk becomes its own formula and you’ve got the same hairstyle, the same clothes, etc. I’m not into that so I’m looking for something that’s different. That’s what I’m doing when I’m writing a song. If you fixate too much on genre, it leads you off track.
JN: I guess it’s easier when you separate everything into genres and categorize, so it makes sense that there are lots of people who do that to themselves.
Otsuki: But even if it’s just record stores or rock clubs genrefying, I think there’s a problem with that too. Because if you’re a band, you have to break into that scene. So, instead of letting others decide what genre you are, you decide yourself first. That way, you keep control over it. It’s easier to do that.
JN: When you’re in that position, it’s hard to really create something new from the ground up.
Otsuki: Things are exciting now because there’s so much different stuff out there and there are so many chances to hear it. I’d be super-excited if I was 16 today. I mean, now you can make whatever music you want all by yourself in your tiny bedroom. But still, it seems like there aren’t many people doing that. I mean, even thinking “a band is something that plays shows” is following a stereotype. People start bands on that premise but you don’t have to do that. I think that’s kinda fucked. I guess I’m the type that likes to start without any premises and do my own thing.
Fifi: People have always thought like that, that to be a band you have to play shows. I think it would be great if there were more bands that were like, “fuck playing shows, we’re just going to record.” Then, later if you decide to play out, that’s cool. But what I mean is, you should start off by questioning that.
Otsuki: It’s like what’s good or what’s bad, that’s not up to other people, right? I mean it’s something you judge for yourself. It’s like people that are superficial don’t know when they’re being real or not. Not just in punk rock but in anything. There are way too many bands where I feel like saying, “Why don’t you think a little more about what you’re doing?”
I mean I feel like telling bands that have black nails and ugly tattoos and stuff like that to quit fucking around. That’s so fucking dishonest. It’s like a butcher switching the labels on some spoiled meat so you don’t know it’s past the expiration date and selling it to you. Not really giving much thought to your music but putting all your concern into style and decoration, it’s a fucking con. If you’re doing that kind of insincere bullshit and you don’t even realize it yourself, you’re in real trouble.
JN: Yeah, because there are people who think doing that shit is part of being ‘rock.’
Fifi: Not only that but there are a lot of people playing that never think for themselves at all.
Otsuki: Yeah, that shit is boring. Because where you’re gonna play live or how you’re gonna put out records, those kinds of things are the least of your concerns if you’re playing in a band. You don’t start with shows and records and then make a band to do that. I wanna say to these bands, “Why don’t you go back to the drawing board and think about what you really wanna do a little more?”
That’s maybe just me, though. I don’t care what’s going on in the scene. I can’t, it’s impossible. People ask me, “Why don’t you guys go on tour,” and I’m like, “I just don’t wanna. I can’t be bothered.” It’s like, am I speaking another language? They don’t seem to understand me. They’re like, “You should play more live, you should put out more records.” Fuck off, I’m doing as much as I can here. This is my natural pace, you know? I feel like saying, “Here, I’ll buy you some records, okay? Go away.”
JN: But aren’t there also bands putting out a lot of stuff or playing out a lot who are genuine too?
Otsuki: Yeah, I guess so, but who cares. I’m talking about all of those bands that are super-hyperactive. They spend all their time sucking up to the audience instead of really sorting out their music first before they get in front of an audience. They act like it’s all about the music and then in the middle of the set, they’re like, “Our next show is…” Doesn’t it kinda give you a what the fuck feeling? Like, give us a break, get on with it already. Yeah, I know there are lots of bands like that and maybe some of them are good and basically genuine but I don’t wanna have anything to do with them.
JN: You’re not saying those bands should quit but just you don’t want to have anything to do with them?
Otsuki: Well, best case scenario is they quit, yeah. The world is growing increasingly idiotic by leaps and bounds. What you gotta be careful about is at least understanding you’re being an idiot when you’re being an idiot. I mean, there are benefits to having idiots around I guess.
JN: Right, because anywhere you go, there are gonna be idiots that pop up.
Otsuki: Yeah, even though we shouldn’t be okay with that.
Fifi: Yeah, idiotic people definitely have their uses in the world. For example, take TV commentators. How can you keep a serious face and talk like you know anything at all about what’s going on? You’ve gotta be a moron to do that. So, it’s great for TV stations that people like that are around. They put out the call and get flooded with people who wanna be on TV selling their pride off piece by piece for whatever chump change they can get.
Otsuki: Right. So, it’s good to realize that it’s not just the world of celebrities and TV, but even the scene around you is crawling with people like that. Even in the punk rock scene, they’re everywhere. If you don’t notice that, you’re in trouble.
JN: In the celebrity world, it’s really easy to see how that kind of shamelessness is used to make money, but if you look at it through the filter of punk, it gets hard to see why.
Otsuki: But I’m totally not saying it’s bad to wanna make money.
Fifi: For example, there’s totally nothing wrong with making some money off selling records. That’s a band’s bread and butter, right? Like Kiss selling figures. Kiss is the kind of band that does that. But it’s a different story when the guitarist of some huge band puts out his own book. Who the fuck wants to read your self-congratulatory autobiography? Let’s save the forests by not printing that piece of shit book.
Otsuki: Yeah, there are real authors who can that. I went to the record plant yesterday and I was blown away by how much trash record cutting produces. It’s not that I’m worried about the environment especially, but it’s more like look at all the resources it takes to make records. Think of all the shit bands making record after record. And all the bands who don’t sell any. It’s like, it takes a lot of resources to make a record, so let’s put in the time making it good first.
JN: There must not be very many people who realize that.
Otsuki: Yeah, but realizing something is a far cry from actually doing something about it. You should realize inside yourself what things you should stop doing, what you should give up doing, what you can’t do. You shouldn’t keep on doing something if you don’t think it’s right.
If you decide not to do something, you have to really not do it. Otherwise, nothing changed. It doesn’t make sense to be like, “I wanna do this or I wanna do that but I don’t feel right about it.” If you decide not to do it, from now on, don’t do it. Doesn’t matter what’s going on around you. Everything is like that, not just music.
That’s why, whether it’s a show or whatever, I want to be in control of what I’m doing. That’s why I don’t wanna play shows with anybody but my friends’ bands. Even if it’s an event that pays a lot or gets a ton of exposure or whatever, forget it.
JN: Like you want to decide what’s right and what’s wrong clearly inside yourself first.
Otsuki: Yeah, for myself, because there are lots of things I wanna do. But there are even more things I don’t wanna do. I think you should only do the things you really wanna do and nothing else.
Fifi: The things you don’t wanna do are the things you’re embarrassed to do.
Otsuki: It’s the same with just being alive I think. Because you want to hang out with girls, you want to get drunk, you want to drive a hot car, etc. Even though you can’t get out some shit, like working, you can cut out completely things like that as much as possible, then you can really focus on the things you wanna do.
JN: You mean you should really get rid of everything but your most important desires.
Otsuki: I mean, if you can really do that, it’s good. For us, we’re really into music, we realized that if you adjust a compressor pedal’s knob one tick, the whole world changes. The fact that you can just fiddle with a knob and it’s like ‘whoah, you can change it that much’ is really amazing. And then if you have one more person there to work with, if you can share that feeling with them, it’s a really wonderful way to spend your time.
That’s why for me, I like doing that more than going somewhere with a girl. I don’t have time to get tattoos, put on makeup or get piercings. I’m busy, you know. I can change the world with one twist of a pedal’s knob and there are lots of pedals to play with. So, maybe it’s a bit of a problem that I want to go that direction rather than play shows or whatever.
I think that kind of thing is much better than those live bands or people who play all the time or whatever, because you’re really laying the groundwork. I wouldn’t call us a live band, but with that groundwork laid, our shows are much better when we play them.
JN: Would you say the three bands playing this time around are partners who share that viewpoint?
Otsuki: Yeah, this is going to be a good show.
Fifi: These three bands’ members have known each other a long time and there’s not one member who says stupid shit, not even one person. We all have different opinions but nobody says anything stupid. It was like that from the first time we met. In the end, people that are hip to these things are hip to them from when they’re young, and idiots are idiots from when they’re young. It’s a given that people who are really into what they’re doing will produce great music.