The mighty Frantic Stuffs from Osaka, Japan. Here’s an interview with one of the baddest-assed punk rock bands in Japan today.
After rockin’ for 15 years, Osaka punk band Frantic Stuffs is finally putting out its first LP “Last Wave,” on Episode Sounds.
Armed with nothing more than a raging passion for the music they love, the ‘Stuffs have unleashed a record upon the world that’s a stew of the style they’ve developed over the last decade and a half. If you ask them, they’d say they just play the good ol’ straight-up punk rock of old, but it’s not some boring purist nostalgia punk act. When you see the frenzy they whip up at their shows, the artificial lines between “punk,” “rock and roll,” “hardcore,” and etc. etc. fall away and that’s their unique charm.
There are a lotta bands around these days flying their “proto-punk” influence flag (espesh in the US of A) but the ‘Stuffs have been doing that all along and they stumbled upon it naturally. They’ve developed their style time, slowly absorbing the influence of their favorite rock and roll, and then letting their own mutant brand of punk rock and roll ooze out naturally.
“Last Wave” is a collection of 10 songs that condense all of those punk rock influences from the 70s to today with all of its blood, sweat and other bodily fluids it’s best not to acknowledge or name.
(Interview by Tep / Photos by Yada)
What kind of bands have been the most influential on Frantic Stuffs?
Naoki (guitar): I guess I’d say so-called “proto-punk,” Detroit rock like the MC5 and the Stooges, and early US punk. I like that sound. I’ve always listened to stuff that was really good and also stuff that wasn’t so good, but now as I get older, I think it’s okay to suck as long as you have your own sound. In particular, Liquid Screen had a big impact on me, especially guitarist Imai-kun. If you put a gun to my head and asked me to name, I dunno, three others, I’d probably say Johnny Ramone, Andy McCoy and Steve Jones.
Sagayan (bass): When I first started playing, it was 70s punk rock, everything from obscure stuff on Killed By Death comps to the more well-known bands. Then I got into Detroit rock like MC5 and hard rock from the 70s. But I’d say my foundation is punk rock. Like Naoki said, start with punk as a point of departure and then make your own thing out of it.
You guys started in 2000 and that’s quite a long history. Has the band changed in any major way?
S: I haven’t changed one bit since when we first started. I always just wanted to play punk rock and play with cool bands. The band hasn’t changed at all either. Fifteen years ago we wanted to play overseas and we still wanna.
N: At first, we were into playing 70s punk but there’s only so far you can go with that. One day we just stopped giving a fuck and just mixing it all up – punk, hardcore, power pop, hard rock – anything we liked, and just sort of threw it all together and I guess that’s how we got our own sound. It all just came together.
What was it like playing with bands from overseas like Rubber City Rebels、Dogs and Sonny Vincent?
S: We’d always loved and respected those bands so much and tried to emulate them so it was great to play with them. And late-70s punk and proto-punk like RCR and Dogs were a huge influence on us to start the band in the first place.
N: As for Sonny Vincent, I loved him ever since I first bought that Testors 10-inch compilation at Nat Record in Osaka. I’ve got everything he’s put out and I always wanted him to come to Japan. It was so cool that Tsubasa (Rough Kids) and Bisco managed to invite him. For us, to play as his backup band for the tour was one of the highlights in our existence. It was like a dream come true.
Tora (drums): I was filling in at first, so it was all three of us playing as his backup band. But when Luis (Herrera, ex-Sorrows) got to Japan and I first saw him play, I was like holy shit. He was on a whole other level. Seeing the Dogs was another highlight for us.
You guys changed drummers a lot. How did Tora end up joining?
N: When the previous drummer quit there were several people I had in mind but me and Sagayan talked and we decided to approach Tora. He said yeah and it worked out great. Tora really adds a lot and he has his own personality that he brings to the band.
S: Tora was playing in a band called Aiwana so I wasn’t sure if we should ask him or not, but he and Naoki were pals who hung out and went to shows a lot together so we went ahead and asked him.
How did you end up putting the record out with Episode Sounds?
S: At first, we were thinking of releasing something like a demo on cassette with five songs. When we asked Bisco, who did a really good job recording it, he said, “Why don’t you put out an album?” We were talking a little about putting out an LP, but then we switched drummers so we kind of forgot about that. But then when it was looking like it was going to happen, we were really thrilled. I didn’t think we’d ever get out shit together to put out an LP.
When you first started, you didn’t think you’d put out an album like this?
N: Not really. The songs on the album go way back. They’re songs we’ve been playing a long time, so it feels a little like a “best of” album. Our engineer Ippei (LM Studio) knew exactly what I wanted for my voice and guitar so it went really smooth. I helped out with Louder doing their record with Ippei, so it was easy to explain what I wanted in terms of arrangement and sound.
S: There’s a kind of tradition of Japanese bands putting out these kickass records, like the Young Ones, Firestarter, First Alert, Louder… So, it’s really cool to feel like a part of that, even if we’re just at the bottom of the heap. I listen to it and I can’t believe it’s my own record.
Tell me about the recording.
N: At first, we recorded it to sound just like we do live and didn’t change anything. But then we tweaked a little. For example, I’d add another guitar track to a part where I thought two guitars would sound cool on a phrase or something, then we’d listen to it and keep it if it worked, or scrap it. But for the most part, it sounds like we do live.
S: We love the sound “Killed By Death” or “Bonehead Crunchers” but we decided to record with a cleaner sound. We go for a kind of 70s sound live and tried to get close to that, but we were mostly thinking about what it would sound like when you played it back at home.
T: I really loved the Frantic Stuffs before I joined, so it was great timing for me that right after I joined, they started talking about doing an LP. But then it really stressed me out and I felt a lot of pressure, so the night before recording I got fucked up and I feel like you can hear the alcohol seeping out of my pores and the bags under my eyes on the recording. I wasn’t happy with how I played at first, but Ippei and the other two told me it sounded great and helped me get over it. Those guys know what they’re doing so I just shut the fuck up and was like, yeah, this album kicks ass.
You guys seem to pay really close attention to arrangement. How do you guys write your songs?
S: Me or Naoki make a kind of vague idea of a song and then we complete it at practice. So we throw out a lot of stuff and it takes a lot of time even to write just one song. When we first started out, sometimes I would bring in a complete song and then Naoki would do the vocals, but now whoever brings the song does the vocals. I don’t think we pay so much attention to arrangement but we definitely aim for originality and try not to copy anything or anyone.
N: A long time ago, I would just bring a riff to the studio and we’d all flesh it out together. Now, I pretty much come up with the whole arrangement for just my part, get everybody to play it and then it comes together. That’s probably like 80% and then the rest if where everybody comes up with it together. I don’t think we could do that now, take just a phrase and turn it into a song.
The record jacket is great. How did it come about that Sora (Wotzit, ex-Gimmies) did it for you?
S: I really love Sora’s artwork. I even have some of it hanging up in my house! So that’s why we asked him. I really love how it turned out.
N: I don’t really think we’re much to look at, so I thought an illustration of some kind would be better than a photo. So we asked Sora, who has been a fan for a long time. He knocked it out of the fucking park, 1000%! I mean, I think it really stands out at the record store. If it was me, I’d buy this record.
T: I love it.
Okay, so at the end here I wonder if you’d tell me about “Rock’n’Roll Overdose”?
S: It’s a fanzine I do. It totally has nothing to do with Frantic Stuffs. I’ve always been a record fanatic and so it’s kind of my life’s work. I buy stuff at the record store and post about it there. I’ve even had some of the ex-band members of stuff I’ve posted contact me through the site! I think there are fewer people buying records these days and not so many kids getting into buying records, so it’s a chance to hopefully get people interested in records at least a little. So, it’s a place for us record collectors to keep nerding out about rock records. Of course, my favorite stuff is 70s punk and power pop.