Pushers Forever, Forever Pushers

Here’s a blog post from Target Earth Blog about yet another cool Tokyo band from twenty years ago that you’ve never heard of but should. Their recently reissued CD on Mangrove Label is available here

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The Pushers were together for about a year around 1994 and they only played about ten shows. Now, their demo cassette, the only thing they ever put out, is getting an official release 23 years later and they played a show to commemorate the occasion.

The members were Fifi on vocals (who was in Teengenerate at that time), Noguchi from Beardsley and later Muddy Frankenstein and TRIO on guitar, later Knocks guitarist Ishimaru on guitar, Hara who would later be in Tonight and TRIO on bass, and Uganda on drums, who was in Pees and would later play in Tweezers, Samantha’s Favourite, and other bands. People say they were kind of the precursor to the Tweezers and I’d say that too, but they were a bit different as well.

In the CD’s liner notes, Noguchi writes that it started with him and Ichimaru. They ran an ad and that’s where Hara joined, and then Fifi came into the band and that’s the core of the group. They had a number of drummers until they got Uganda.

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My brain just gets foggier year by year so I can’t remember so well, but I’m pretty sure they put out the demo tape before their first show. It was called “P.F.F.P.,” taken from the Dictators’ “D.F.F.D.” Kind of ironic that a band naming its tape “Pushers Forever, Forever Pushers” would only be around for a year or so.

At the risk of sounding corny, it is “Pushers forever” for me. I seem to recall going to an all-night show at 20000V and we drove and in the care somebody played the demo. The show was great but what really left an impression on me more than the music was the t-shirts they were wearing. They all wore the same plain yellow t-shirt with a different band’s name scrawled on it – “MC5,” “Registrators,” “Early Damned,” etc. They later told me they’d decided to write bands they liked on their shirts.

It was the heyday of Teengenerate and it was weird to see Fifi just singing and not playing guitar (although that’s what he does now in Tweezers and Firestarter). It was also weird because the songs were poppy. I loved them at first listen.

I once asked Fifi about the name of the band and they said they took the idea from the Putters, a Seattle band that was on Empty Records. Who knows if this is true or not. The liner notes say their sound was akin to bands like Vacant Lot, Eastern Dark, Queers and the Ramones, but I heard they were also really into the Fastbacks. Basically, they were doing 90s fast pop punk in real-time, not playing some kind of style from the past. This was before there were so many strict genres around like melodic hardcore, emo-core, pop punk, power pop, etc. They were kind of a forerunner to bands that played those styles but since they didn’t put out an official release, nobody really talked about them much.

Pushers were like a bunch of kids deciding to get together and make a band. They weren’t kids of course, but this playfulness and sense of naivete was what I loved about them. Bands then were usually wearing whatever, but Pushers were always wearing some kind of themed t-shirts. They’d wear t-shirts they’d boiled white, or Obake or Q-Taro shirts they’d won from a UFO Catcher at the arcade where Ishimaru worked. Their look was cheap and that was one of the fun things about them.

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They were fully a band of the 90s, but they did covers from the 60s and 70s like the Dictators “Stay With Me,” Easybeats “Friday On My Mind,” and Dave Clark Five “Anyway You Want It.” My favorite was their cover of New York Dolls covering “Showdown.” A lot of it was Fifi’s idea but I’m pretty sure 60s freak Uganda had something to do with it as well.

I was a huge fan of Teengenerate but I really enjoyed Pushers too. I asked them to play my events sometimes and there’s some clip on YouTube from one of those events (I wonder who recorded that?). It’s nice to see that, but a YouTube video can’t quite catch the feeling of being there. But who knows, maybe they weren’t as great as I remember them live. Things twenty years ago can look rosier than they actually were.

The Pushers only played about ten shows and then broke up. I don’t know why. This CD has their last show at Shinjuku Jam. I went to the show but, like always, didn’t take any pictures. They were together an even shorter length of time than Teengenerate.

After that, Ishimaru started the Knocks and Chloroform. He ended up playing a really important role in the Tokyo punk scene. Hara started playing drums for Tonight and also got involved in Chloroform. Noguchi ended up in Muddy Frankenstein and Fifi and Uganda went on to do Tweezers, which was important, but to me the real significance of Pushers is Noguchi and Hara later forming Trio. After Pushers broke up and Chloroform started, everybody got into 70s punk and melodic punk and the Pushers got totally forgotten.

Twenty years later, they started making the Teengenerate “Get Action!” documentary and unearthing all kinds of video footage from the 90s and somebody found some Pushers videos. It was the first time I’d heard the name “Pushers” in a long time.

Two years after that, the demo’s master tape resurfaced. To put it really simply, the mastering of that tape became this CD.

Last summer, me and Base Records’ Iijima held a joint photo exhibition in Koenji. Iijima told me that he was putting out the Pushers CD and they were going to do a show. I was so excited to hear that.

Then, it was already November. I was surprised – what? It’s a daytime show at the Shelter? But that’s somehow just like Pushers. I had to do some stuff at home and barely made it in time. The Shelter was packed. Instead of Uganda, it was Tsubasa from Hateman and other bands on drums, and it was Fifi, Hara, Noguchi and Ishimaru all wearing color t-shirts and playing super-fast pop songs.

I know there are lots of people who hate seeing old bands get back together. They call it nostalgia. But to me, getting together to put out a CD and play a show, to put something out in the world, is just fine. It’s also good that people who are seeing the band for the first time can see how great they were. How was it for me? It was a little sweet and sour. I think that part of what was good about the original Pushers was their naivete/innocence, but even without Uganda and his crazy MCing, it was great to hear Harabo’s “one two three four!” and see Ishimaru jumping around. I thought, yeah, this is Pushers.
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It was a fun show and it seemed like just as it started it was over. I had things to do but lots of old friends went to Poor Cow together after the show to celebrate and knowing the members of Pushers, it must’ve been a pretty good time.

Pushers got back together for just this one show and I don’t know if they’ll do it again but if they do, I’m there.

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