What, haven’t you heard of these guys before? Okay, sorry if the title is a little misleading, but this is an interview published in Follow Up with the putters together of the “I Don’t Like Sex” compilation that’s coming out in a few weeks. The record release is 9/21 at Rock-Ichi Rock-Za at Shindaita Fever with none other than Andy Shernoff making an appearance!! I should plug:
This is an interview with Masaharu Anno, Masao Nakagami and Koji Watanabe, who along with Hasegawa from King Records, put together the comp. Why the shit am I telling you all this? That’s what the interview’s about…
Teengenerate was here and then they were gone. Does that mean the end of Japanese rock ‘n’ roll as we know it? Did the garage scene evaporate before our very eyes? Don’t be a moron. This compilation is proof that it didn’t.
The three people interviewed here today put this comp together. They were there back in the day in the scene around Teengenerate. The words of these three mean a lot to all of us, yours truly included.
Teengenerate showed that the little stuff we do day by day can make huge changes in the world. This compilation, which these three put together, continues in this tradition. That right there is the strength of the Japanese underground rock scene.
Interview: Eiji Yoshinuma
Photos: Follow Up
Q: First of all, how did this comp come to be made?
Nakagami (Target Earth): It started with an offer from King Records’ Hasegawa to go along with the DVD release of “Get Action.” Then there was the idea of putting it out at the Rock-Ichi Rock-Za event presided over by these two (Masaharu and Koji) where Teengenerate did their reunion show last year. It all came together through everybody pitching in their own ideas.
For bands to include, we started by thinking of the bands that were around TG at the time, and then worked our way out from there. There were a lot of band around TG back then, but we tried to focus on rock and roll bands. We had a lot to choose from and there were some offers from bands that wanted to be included that we had to turn down.
Q: What kind of band was Teengenerate to you?
Masaharu (The Thunderroads): When I first saw them at Shimokitazawa Shelter, I thought, “There’s a band this cool here in Japan!?” I saw their earlier band American Soul Spiders but they didn’t make that kind of impression on me. What was cool was how Teengenerate’s songs were so tight, catchy and short. They were really together. When I saw the way Fink stood there and played the guitar, it was exciting. It was great because there weren’t any other bands like that around.
Nakagami: For me, it’s not a matter of comparing Japanese to overseas bands or anything like that. They were just really impressive. They were going against the flow of what was popular in Japanese rock at that time. But even more impressive was just the sound itself. I got to know them and they’re attitude and way of thinking about music was really cool. They had a huge impact on me.
Koji (Rockbottom/BabyBlue): I first met them in America and I was really surprised to see a Japanese band touring the States. After I came back to Japan, I’d see them in these underground places where they didn’t even advertise shows. It was punk rock but it was totally different from what I thought “punk rock” was. Like, they weren’t all dressed up or posing or anything. It was like a revolution for me. My whole attitude toward music changed. I was going to their shows pretty much every weekend.
Masaharu: I would see Koji at Shelter or other places they played but we never really talked back then. Fifi’s bar Poor Cow is what really brought us together. Just by creating a place for people to meet and hang out, he helped put the scene here on the map. Without Poor Cow, there wouldn’t be Rock-Ichi Rock-Za and some of the bands on the comp like Car Crash wouldn’t exist.
Q: Who are Car Crash?
Masaharu: They’re Poor Cow regulars.
Nakagami: Honma is a drunk that hangs out at Poor Cow. (laughs)
Koji: Everybody was goading him to start a band.
Nakagami: They didn’t all hang out there originally. I met vocalist Takadama because he was doing a solo acoustic thing and he sent a demo to my label. We started talking and that led to him starting Car Crash. Their drummer is Chigusa from the Romanes.
Koji: Why don’t you put his acoustic recording on the compilation too? (everybody laughs)
Q: What about the band Peripherique Est?
Nakagami: They’re from Belgium and they know Fink. They’ve also been to Poor Cow. They’re a current band so people who are up-to-date on newer stuff might know them. When we were choosing bands for the comp, we didn’t want to just put bands from back in the Teengenerate days. We wanted to put some current bands so we asked around.
Andy Shernoff also re-recorded the song “Teengenerate.” We wanted to put a Dictators song on the comp and when we contacted Norton Records, they said we should contact Andy.
With the movie coming out and the reunion, we thought it would be good to put Firestarter and Raydios on the comp. It’s kind of like saying to people who saw the movie, “Look, they’ve got these bands now.”
Q: I was influenced by Teengenerate too. It was through them that I started digging around and discovering a lot of bands I didn’t know about.
Koji: They really turned people on to a lot of music. That was going on all over the world. That’s what all of these bands had in common. They’d dig around in discount bins at thrift stores and stuff like that to find records. We used to say, “Don’t look up. Look down!” (*In other words, when searching for records, don’t just look at the regular bins but get down and check out the specially priced stuff too).
Nakagami: That was before the internet so if somebody said something to you about like Pezband, you had no idea what they were talking about. So, record stores would put stuff like that into the reduced price bins because they didn’t know what it was. So we dug through it.
Koji: When Teengenerate would go on tour in America, they would go crazy buying records and bring them back and show everybody what they got. It was like, “I gotta check that out.” We’d have these listening sessions where everybody would bring records to someone’s house and we’d stay up all night drinking and listening to them.
Nakagami: That’s what Poor Cow grew out of. Those were good times.
Koji: Also, this might have been around a different time, but I went to Shimokitazawa Disk Union and harassed the staff into putting in a power pop section. (laughs)
Nakagami: Stuff like Titan Records or Michael Guthrie Band.
Koji: Stuff like the Not Lame label’s catalog overstock. It wasn’t even well-known overseas at that time so it was all really cheap. Everybody went there to Shimokitazawa to buy stuff. Even the staff there were really into stuff like that.
Nakagami: Fifi and Fink knew pretty much everything and we had a lot of fun turning each other on to stuff. It wasn’t like we were just sitting there at their feet learning from the masters or something like that. We were all just having a good time, sharing music with each other. And we weren’t like hardcore record collectors, but just fans who were hungry for cool music. Bands really care about their status in the scene or whatever, but it wasn’t like that at all. It was really egalitarian.
Masaharu: Of course there’s a concept behind the comp, but really we picked artists who write good songs. It has to be all about the songs.
Nakagami: Yeah, it’s not about how well-known somebody is. Of course, it’s good if you can have some big bands. We offered to people who seemed like they’d give us something good. The Car Crash track is their first recording. I also really like the tv.orphans song.
Masaharu: Only BabyBlue strong-armed us into putting them on the comp (laughs). I really want to release this comp on vinyl. Let’s put it out at Disk Union and King Records’ Record Store Day!
Koji: Yeah, right. I doubt that. But if it happened, it would be the first Record Store Day that’s ever been worth a shit.
Masaharu: We just went on a US tour and people in the US don’t even have CD players anymore. They only have cassette decks or record players. That’s how much people still love analog. That’s why bands that put out vinyl get better known over there.
Koji: BabyBlue went to the UK recently and it seems like people there know Raydios. To us, bands like Teengenerate and Registrators loved overseas bands and got inspiration from them. But actually now bands over there are looking for records by Japanese bands. It’s like reimport cars or something. We’re just starting to see people overseas listening to and respecting Japanese bands. Fink always said, “We’re just clowns. It’s just a novelty for them to see these gooks playing rock and roll.” But that’s not the case at all.
Nakagami: There are tons of records in America, but people over there couldn’t dig deep like we did. When Fink talked to Teengenerate fans over there, he’s say, “You think we’re cool but first you should check out all the cool bands your country produces.” Of course, the people who put together the “Killed By Death” or “Bloodstains” comps were like that, but for most of the people he met there, they were learning about all this cool rock from these guys from backwater Japan.
Koji: I think this comp is just one part of a trend that’s going on in underground rock all over the world. It’s like, “Even in Japan they’re putting out cool comps like this.” We’re trying to do our part just like everybody else.
Nakagami: What’s interesting about this comp is that there isn’t one song that sounds like Teengenerate. All of it shows the influence of Teengenerate, but nobody’s copying them. That’s also something everybody got from the band, that you don’t just copy the bands you like.
Masaharu: This comp is the product of many drinking sessions with the three of us and Hasegawa at a place in Shibuya called Sanpei. During these “meetings,” we put together our own imaginary band called Kinshin Sokan (*transl: Incest). We’re not on the comp but if you take away any one of the four members of Kinshin Sokan, the comp wouldn’t have been made. Anyway, one of our song titles was “I Don’t Like Sex.” It means something like, “I give up all earthly desires and live for rock and roll! I don’t even like sex!” Instead, you take that passion or rage or whatever and go and buy records with it.
Nakagami: Fink said something like that in the “Get Action” film notes. He said that young people today put sex higher than music in their interests, and music is way down the list. So, it’s also related to that. Every time we were hashing things out about the comp, we were like, “Let’s put together a band like this!”
Koji: We got as far as saying, “Anybody who makes a living playing music is a pig!” (laughs) If you earn money from playing music, you have to put it back into music. If you’re profiting from it, you can’t make anything worth a shit.
Nakagami: Deniz Tek from Radio Birdman said something like that too. He said you should have a separate job from music. I guess I’m less strict about it. Of course, if you happen to make money playing music, there’s nothing wrong with that. But your goal should be to make good music, not sell. The four of us are on the same page with that. Masaharu can say it in a much harsher way than that (laughs). There was also the whole conversation about, “Why the hell is King Records putting this out?” (laughs)
Masaharu: Yeah, I said that but what I meant is that I didn’t think it’s gonna make Hasegawa much money. My personal motto is, “Jinsei, bo ni fure,” but I’m glad he’s putting it out. Maybe good things will come of it. (*人生棒に触れ means something like, ‘fuck up your life for rock and roll’ but not totally exactly)
Koji: If you do everything the same way, nothing ever changes. You have to go outside the box to make any kind of change. But it takes a lot of effort to make things change.
Nakagami: I want people to know that there are people playing music out there who are really serious about it. In the underground scene, everybody knows that. It’s a given. That’s true of the hardcore scene too. We can shake things up and make a cooler world, but you know there are always going to be people who fight it. Then again, even that fight is more interesting than no fight or nothing ever changing.
Masaharu: The process of putting together the comp was fun. It’s like heading off somewhere on your motorcycle and enjoying the ride more than reaching your destination. It’s also cool to feel like you’re starting something new.
Nakagami: I think it’s important that most of the songs are new recordings. You can feel how fired up everybody is. We even got Young Fresh Fellows to record something. There are a lot of label samplers that have previously released tracks but you rarely see something like this these days where so many of the songs are unreleased.
Masaharu: Everybody recorded something real that will still sound fresh twenty years from now.
Q: Okay, can each of you say one last final word?
Nakagami: It’s a compilation that defines an era. It’s something like Less Than TV’s TVVA comp. I hope it has that kind of impact, but I guess you never know that until later.
Koji: And I hope it sells. Anything you put out, you hope it sells. Please buy 3,000 at Disk Union! Wouldn’t it be awesome if something like this sold? I mean, if lots of people buy it, it could be like some sort of revolution. Something that was just a point in time could become a thread that keeps going.
Masaharu: It’s important to play in a band. Everybody should have a guitar with them just in case. If you’re not playing in a band, what the fuck are you doing? Kids, play in a band!