Haunted – the history of The Evil Hoodoo

The Evil Hoodoo is getting back together to play at this year’s Rock-Ichi Rock-Za at Shindaita Fever on September 3 and I’m excited as hell. Definitely one of the garagiest of the garagey garage punk bands, and plenty dark and noisesome to boot. Here is a history of the band by Masao Nakagami just published on the Target Earth blog.

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Although the Evil Hoodoo are considered to be a band in the true tradition of garage rock that plays music faithful to its 60s roots, they were never really part of Tokyo’s garage scene. Their existence was like an air pocket, and like an air pocket in the sky, it caused some turbulence.

One thing that speaks to this fact is that the band’s Japan releases weren’t put out by recognized garage rock labels. They were put out by upstart labels like Mangrove and Target Earth, which went on to focus more on other styles. In the US, they had a release on Get Hip and a post-breakup compilation CD on 1+2.

Somewhere around ’93, guitarist Ishikawa put up a flyer looking for bandmates. It was answered by Tacya (vocals), Sooky (bass), Usami (organ) and Ogaman (drums), who became the members of the band and there wasn’t a single membership change through the course of its existence (although the members’ names sometimes changed, but I’ll keep them consistent here).

The band was originally called Vox Wah Wah Pedal and its first gig was the last Back From the Grave show at Shinjuku Jam. Back From the Grave was the Tokyo garage punk scene’s flagship live event, and after this last show, the bands all took their stompin’ 60s sounds to new venues and established themselves there. But Vox Wah Wah Pedal never went along.

The band had an uncompromising sound and style that was all its own. Their sound was dominated by the organ and they looked the part of 60s garage rockers. They used the Vox Wah Wah Pedal commercial as their coming-on-stage music. There wasn’t a single band in the Tokyo garage scene that was so purist in their approach. The Evil Hoodoo wasn’t a bunch of garage rock dorks studying 60s bands and making a carbon copy like some kind of preservation society or museum piece, but rather a group of wild kids who meant it. While most garage rock bands at the time focused on covers, they wrote their own originals from the very beginning. The illustrations by Ogaman for their flyers and record sleeve artwork helped to create this unified look. There was no mistaking they meant it.

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When 1994 came along, the band became the Evil Hoodoo, taking its name from the Seeds song. Word about the band began to spread as they connected with bands like King Joe’s Magnitude 3 and Mach Kung Fu, and punk rock bands in the vicinity of Teengenerate. I sometimes booked the band with Teengenerate.

In the midst of all of this, Mangrove put out the band’s first EP. The serial number was ROOT-003, but since Mangrove releases 001 and 002 actually came out later, it was Mangrove’s real first release and a really big deal for the label. The single has three songs that were staples of their live set, “Hell-O,” “Haunted” and “Black Strings.” Unlike typical garage rock fare, its sound was noisy and fierce, really bringing out the energy of their live shows and matching the spirit of the 90s.

In 1995, Get Hip put out the band’s second EP, “Arlly! Go Away!” With slightly tamer production, it was closer to an orthodox garage rock release and helped to gain the band some recognition overseas. In the fall, I put out their third release “Outta Tonight” as the first release of Target Earth Records. It’s hard to explain why I decided to make it my first release. I guess the timing was right. I wanted to launch my label and I was ready to, and there just happened to be this great band around.

The recording was done by Arai-kun from NG3/Ron Ron Clou, which might seem like an odd choice, but actually the band had some connections with NG3 and Sunny Day Service, and Usami was a member of SDS. The recording was done with one mic and basically one take for each song, with some vocals and tambourine added afterward. Arai-kun managed to create a true analog sound reminiscent of recordings from the 60s and 70s.

The result is what I consider their greatest work in terms of sound and attitude. They decided to have the record release at Shinjuku Jam. But right before the show, I got a call from Tacuya telling me that the band was thinking of breaking up. I thought, “but you’re just about to put out a record,” but the band had already made up its mind. They played the record release show at Jam and Komori-kun’s Free Form Freakout event at the end of the year, and then they were done. They were only together for three years, but what a three years it was. Even though they weren’t part of the Tokyo garage scene, they were the most thoroughly garage rock band of all.

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After that, Ishikawa and Sooky started the Teenie Cheetahs and when Tacuya joined, it grew into The Outs. Ogamans joined the boyfriends and Usami played as guest in various bands. They reformed as The Evil Hoodoo in 2002. It was basically brought about by Deckrec but the band also played for Mangrove’s 10th anniversary show. By this point, the band was about halfway to legendary status and the shows were full of fans who had never seen the band in its heyday.

It’s uncool and old-fartish to say, “Nobody knew them back in the day, maaaan.” But it’s true with Evil Hoodoo. Call it bad timing, but they didn’t make a huge splash in the garage rock scene. There were sometimes lots of people at their shows but they weren’t there to see Evil Hoodoo. It’s just like Teengenerate. So, if you hear people saying something about how huge they were, it means they just happened to see them at a show where there happened to be a lot of people. Either that or they’re straight-up lying. The truth is that there was a lot to the Evil Hoodoo and, like Teengenerate, they’ve amassed a following in the years since they were active.

The Evil Hoodoo are getting back together again to play Rock-Ichi Rock-Za on September 3 at Shindaita Fever. Actually, I wanted to do something with them to celebrate 20 years of Target Earth last year, so I guess this is kind of it. For various reasons all original members couldn’t do it, but it’s sure to be a great show. It’s been ten years since their last reunion, so I’m sure there will be many more young fans seeing them live for the first time.

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