I don’t want to rave too crazily but I first saw the force of nature that is Texaco Leather Man my first weekend in Japan at the 2004 Back From the Grave Halloween Ball at Shimokitazawa Shelter and I think that was the moment when I let the gods know that they could kill me now and everything would be fine and dandy. Glad that didn’t happen because a whole ton of cool shit has happened since then, but when they took the stage, I knew I’d made the right choice in coming to Japan even though I worked for Nova, the shittiest among shitty eikaiwas and each day was a living hell until the weekend. For those who don’t know, Texaco Leather Man are a perfect example of a Japanese mutant punk rock band that takes everything from the Monks, Keiji Haino and thrash metal and twists it all into something wonderfully weird that you’ve never heard before. And singer Mokkos is swinging a sword at you.
This is an old interview from 2003 when they released their LP “Duke.” The translation’s a little shitty in parts but I couldn’t give Fuck #1.
Texaco Leather Man is one of the greats of Tokyo garage punk along with Guitar Wolf, Mad3, 5,6,7,8’s, and Jackie & the Cedrics. Finally, 15 years after their formation, they’re putting out their first full-length. Including new versions of previously recorded songs, it’s a masterpiece that really showcases well their unique style. Texaco Leather Man’s style isn’t just garage rock, but also incorporates elements of psyche, punk, hardcore, metal, and noise, greedily gobbling up genres and spitting them back out into a new, mutant form. Known for their excessively loud and unruly live shows, they’re a band not to be fucked with.
Interview by Taneyuki Shiina
──I don’t think this is an album that fits into the category of”long awaited.”
Mokkos: No, it just happened that way. Basically, recording has never really gone well for us. That’s all. We never felt a great urge to do it.
──But you always wanted to put out a full-length, right?
Mokkos: I guess we thought about it maybe every five years or so.
Osama: We recorded stuff before but partway through, things would always fall apart. At the end of the day, we were never that serious about putting something out. It’s on principle, kinda.
──What was different about then and now?
Osama: This time we managed to get our sound. That’s it, I think. Our engineer Nakamura did a great job (Soichiro Nakamura from Yuru Teigoku, etc.).
Mokkos: If we really cared about it, we could’ve done it, but we just didn’t. We only record when we feel like it. This time, it just worked out and we decided to put it out. Things just randomly fell into place.
──Is there some kind of concept behind the album, like it’s the distillation of 15 years of playing or something like that?
Osama: (laughs) No way, not at all! Concept? I thought I must’ve misheard you. I thought you must’ve said “send later.” Like,”Yeah, we’ll fax it to you later.” Sorry, that wasn’t funny…*
(*The interviewer said kousou (構想 – idea/concept) but Osama’s saying kousou (後送 – to send later)
Mokkos: (laughs) If we didn’t get it right this time, we would’ve shelved it again. This time, we were like, “Yeah, this’ll work.”
──Like, how was it “right” this time?
Mokkos: It’s not embarrassing to listen to.
Osama: That’s part of it. Everything we recorded before was horrendous.
──Really? That single that was recorded live at the Shelter was good, wasn’t it?
Mokkos: That was fine because it was just a recording of us playing live. But when you go into the studio with the intention of making a record, it doesn’t sound the way you really sound. It’s like, “This is embarrassing. If we put this out, people will think this is what we sound like.”
Osama: You can’t put out something that fucking embarrasses you. ‘Course, our live shows are kinda embarrassing too (laughs).
──What about the title “Duke”?
Mokkos:I think there’s some interview somewhere where somebody explained this already, but basically, this band is our hobby. I mean our past-time or something like that. So, our hobby or past-time or whatever the fuck it is is a precious thing for us. It’s not just to make money or have a “career.” So, we do whatever we want. It’s like a duke doing something as a diversion, right?
Osama: That’s right. It’s like the amusement of a noble during the Middle Ages or something. Nobles are serious about their hobbies, like fencing and shit like that. Exactyl because it’s their hobby, they have to do it well or they look stupid. That’s how we feel about our live shows, records, etc.
Mokkos: We walk the line between serious and stupid, and we’re really serious about that. I mean, we’re not a comedy band or anything. But it’s like, we strive to be a band that looks and acts stupid, but the songs and the lyrics are really together. We’re trying to get that perfect balance. If our songs were shitty, we’d just be a comedy band (laughs). We don’t want to look cool; we want there to be something a little off. Rather than fitting into any kind of category, we want to make people a little uncomfortable and freaked out.
──This album has some stuff you’ve released before on singles and comps, so in that way it almost feels kind of like a collection. But listening to it now, it all sounds fresh. Some of the songs are old, but they sound like the garage rock sound that’s big today.
Osama: I’m glad you think that. We tried to make it easy to understand.
Mokkos: We changed things around a lot at first, but then we realized it’s better to just do it straight the way we always do it
──You guys are known for your unusual live shows, but if you don’t know about that and just listen to it, it sounds like pretty straight-ahead orthodox garage rock.
Osama: Yeah, the songs are all basically three-chord or one-chord.
Mokkos: If you add effects and fuzz and a bunch of other stuff, it turns out sounding weird. You shave off all of that extra stuff. We were thinking it’s best to strip off all of the extra and leave a sound that just sounds good. Of course, next time we might try a totally different approach. I don’t know if the next one would be something you could call “garage.” I think you should just do what you wanna do. When you start a band, you hope you can create something cooler than the stuff you usually listen to. That’s what you’re going for.
──This is probably a stupid question but was there aｎｙ kind of competition among the bands that made this garage scene like Guitar Wolf and Mad3 to try to get to the top of the heap?
Osama: None at all.
Mokkos: At that time, we were too busy working to think like that, just trying to eat (laughs). It was like, leave me alone and let me do my thing. That’s why everybody was calling it a “hobby” (laughs). I love playing live, but music isn’t exactly just a hobby. it was more a problem of working too hard. It was like, “Don’t miss a meal!” You were left along, like it was a hobby. That’s why people were always calling it a hobby (laughs). I basically love playing live, but it’s not exactly a hobby. I mean, it affects people.
──What do you focus the most attention on live?
Mokkos: Acting stupid. In a cool way.
──You explain yourself very well
Mokkos: That’s what I was hoping. I mean, the door is 2-3,000 yen, right? If you’ve got 4 or 5 bands, you just have to give them 500 yen worth of entertainment, otherwise you’re ripping them off. That’s it, and also there’s being in front of an audience, putting something you’ve created in front of people. Maybe you know what I’m talking about? You have to put your work in front of people.
──Is there going to be a tour for the record or anything like that?
Osama: Tour? I wish.
Mokkos: Nah, I put my job first (laughs). It took us 15 years to put out an album. Rather than putting it out and going right out on tour, I’d rather go when we feel like we want to. It doesn’t look like we’ll tour this year, or maybe next year too. But even if we tour next year, we’re gonna call it our record release tour (laughs).
Osama: Sounds good! Let’s have a ten-year long record release party.
──You’d have to do a record release show at the Shelter first.
Mokkos: Okay, I’ll try to finish work as early as possible that day (laughs).
──How about playing every song you’ve released so far?
Mokkos: Our live shows are more of a short burst, like an explosion. It’s not that we can’t play a longer set, but we prefer to compress a lot into a short time. We used to play just five songs in a set and it was enough. Concentration level is important when we play in front of people. We don’t play a long time, but after 10 songs, everybody’s pretty much had enough.
Osama: Ten songs is about 30 minutes. Add an encore and that’s 33. But we take a long time to get out on stage, so maybe about 50 minutes (laughs).
Mokkos: I get lightheaded and weak-kneed during the first song and it doesn’t get much better for the rest of the set.
──Shouldn’t you say something more like, “I’m invincible onstage?”
Osama: I’m invincible onstage!
Mokkos: That was forced.
──Well, today you guys can take as long as you want to get on stage because we’ve got Nov and Atsumi DJing.
Osama: That’s right. We’ll get Boris to play 2 hours and we’ll just play 10 minutes.
Mokkos: Even though it’s our record release, the crowd looks like it’s gonna be thin.
──Do it right, and it’ll be a heavy blast of rock and roll that will blow the roof off the place.
Mokkos: That’s probably our body odor
Osama: Come and smell the manliness! It’s good, eh!? A “Duke” should be somebody who stinks to high heaven.
──Well, I guess that stuffy air inside the Shelter turns into quite a stink pit.
Mokkos: Come and savor the heady aroma of a duke’s armpits! … That should get people there.