This is an old interview but a good and fun one and anyway there’s no new content for me to translate (SEND ME STUFF…). Well, as per usual, the shit I love isn’t popular so nobody’s interviewing, reviewing, blogging about, or otherwise obsessing over the coolest bands I’ve ever heard… and so it ever goes. But I have a few “historic” interviews and things like this one lined up. This interview is from around 15 years ago for the release of the comp/3-way split “Demonic Freak Scene,” put out on Timebomb Records. The interview was done by Tsune from Young Parisian. It was originally published in a chopped-up form in Doll magazine but here’s the whole thing.
Welcome to the Psychedelic Jungle
Time Bomb Records is proud to announce the release of “Demonic Freak Scene,” a compilation with three of the best freak-out bands from Osaka’s psychedelic jungle, the Go-Devils, the Baitones, and Acid Eater. Here’s an interview with the Go-Devils’ Momo (vo/g) and Angie (b), the Baitones’ Dai (vo/g) and Miwa (d), and Acid Eater’s Mazo Yamazaki.
– Let’s start with the Go Devils.
Dai: I first saw them about ten years ago. Go-Devils were the first garage punk band I ever saw live. I was really blown away. I was thinking, “Wow, Japan has bands like this??” That was around the time I first started getting into garage myself.
-I also first heard of them about ten years ago from an edition of Doll that was all about garage punk.
Momo: Let’s not talk about stuff that happened ten years ago (laughs). The current lineup has been going for five years, so let’s try to stay within that.
-Sorry (laughs). Did seeing them have an impact on you?
Dai: Yeah. They were wearing like leopard print bikinis and playing stuff like Tesco Vox amps. It was all fuzz and howling and screaming guitars… It was so cool.
-If you just listen to the Go-Devils, it’s hard to believe they’re a Japanese band. It seems like Japanese bands usually have more singsongy melodies.
Yamazaki: Can you sing in perfect English?
Momo: Definitely not. I try my best though, especially after going to the US.
Yamazaki: Like, would a foreigner understand the lyrics?
Momo: I hope so…
Angie: We were actually pretty meticulous about that. Like, “This should be past tense,” and stuff like that (laughs)! We’d re-record it if it wasn’t just right.
-What do you think about that, Mazo?
Yamazaki: I can’t speak English at all, so I can’t say anything. I understand English when I hear it, but my singing is like, not English but it sounds like English.
-You mean, Mazonglish? But are you singing specific set lyrics?
Yamazaki: No, not at all. I don’t have anything like “lyrics.” Actually, I try to make sure that what I’m singing has no meaning. I don’t have lyrics but I have textural phrases. I’ll put vocals on top of the music and make up shit that sounds like English. Then, I just listen to it and if it sounds good to me, it’s all good.
-Like an onomatopoeia in manga. Do you write down those lyrics?
Yamazaki: I basically write them in katakana (laughs). I’m pretty sure a foreigner wouldn’t recognize my covers at all. Do the Baitones write in English?
Dai: I try my best but I think it pretty much ends up sounding like nonsense.
Miwa: I could never understand what he’s saying (laughs).
Dai: But I think it really sounds like a foreigner singing!
-It’s weird that the guy who plays the most overseas sings in made-up English (laughs).
Angie: I saw Masonna once and he had a stun gun and it was really scary.
Yamazaki: Ah, that was special. It was when I was performing together with my boss (noise artist Jojo Hiroshige). He asked me to play in as crazy a style as possible, and said something like, “Don’t play with an instrument, use a weapon,” so I was bringing like a bat or a stun gun (laughs).
-That sounds fucking scary (laughs). Okay, about Mazo’s Acid Eater…
Dai: I saw you guys for the first time last year and it was insane. I’ve hardly ever seen a band totally change the venue’s atmosphere like that.
-It makes you wonder what year it is.
Dai: I was totally thinking, where am I (laughs)?
Momo: If somebody from a 60s garage or psyche band were here today, they’d be really blown away by them I think.
Angie: I feel like it’s a really modern sound.
Momo: Like, it’s much crazier than anything from the 60s.
Yamazaki: Yeah, it’s really difficult. When we listen to records, we think that the old bands from back then sound cooler, right? Even cooler than new garage bands today. But it seems like the more you try to replicate that sound, the more you get away from it so it’s tough.
Momo: Yeah, that’s right.
Yamazaki: It’s pretty tough when you’re recording too. If you try to sound like the past, it ends up sounding weak. But I also don’t like that crisp modern sound. So, to what extend do you mix it up?
-I think Acid Eater’s sound is like the 60s sound echoing in your head. Recordings from the 60s have a weak sound, but if you play that music in your head and you imagine how it could be louder or wilder, that’s what Acid Eater sounds like.
Yamazaki: The best thing is to try to create that kind of image. It’s like reading a record review and getting an image in your mind of how the record must sound, and then you go and buy it and it doesn’t sound like that.
-In the same way, the Baitones are kind of more Cramps than the Cramps.
Momo: When I first saw the Cramps, I was surprised that they sounded so much like the record live. It was like a weak sound in a huge venue with all this space. But the Baitones are totally different.
Yamazaki: I wouldn’t really say they sound like the Cramps.
Dai: Well, no matter how hard we try, we’re not going to BE the Cramps so… it’s hard to create your own style, though.
-You don’t like the idea of copying somebody?
Dai: Nah, not really. It’s how you get started though, I guess.
Yamazaki: Haha, the first time we met, I asked you what kind of stuff you play and you were like, “Cramps.” (laughs)
Dai: It’s much easier to just say that.
Yamazaki: But watching you, I was like, yeah, sounds like Cramps (laughs).
Momo: We’ve played with the Baitones forever. It’s crazy how different they are on-stage and off. They undergo this weird sudden transformation when they get up there. here.
-Yeah, the first time I saw them, Dai was bleeding really badly and had to go to be taken to the hospital.
-At the end, he was swinging a wine bottle around like a windmill and hitting the bass drum. Somewhere along the way, the bottle broke and then there was blood everywhere. He went to the hospital in his leopard-skin cat suit and Miwa went with him in her stage clothes too.
Miwa: The nurse told me I should be nicer to him (laughs).
-Hahaha! She thought you guys were doing some weird kinky shit (laughs).
Yamazaki: Around last year I started to hear people say I should check them out. The first time I saw them, he was bleeding all over the place too.
-Is that a regular part of the show (laughs)?
Dai: No, it just kinda happened (laughs).
Miwa: Daisakkai (laughs)! (*editor’s note: I think this is the name of a fortune teller’s bad luck sign or something)
Dai: I was swinging my whip, as usual, and I think I cut my hand on a cymbal maybe? Every time I strummed the guitar, blood would come spurting out.
Yamazaki: There was more and more blood after each song (laughs).
-I think it would surprise a lot of people who only know you from Masonna that you play this kind of music.
Yamazaki: Actually, I never really listened to noise. I’ve always been into psyche. When I started Masonna, the idea was to play rock and roll without songs, without melodies, without instruments, without even members, and so that ends up being noise and screaming. I hadn’t played in a real band and I wanted to do something like that.
-Did that end up being Christine 23 Onna?
Yamazaki: Yeah, we were playing instrumental stuff, like soundtrack music. We really didn’t want to play in a regular rock band so we created this kind of unit. When we decided to start playing live shows, we got a keyboard player and drummer and started basically reproducing our recordings live, and it naturally got closer and closer to rock and roll.
-You mean it got loud.
Yamazaki: Yeah, shouting and going crazy. I wanted more and more to play in a rock band. Then, we started trying to do garage rock covers, and it eventually got to be totally a regular band.
-You got even more garage rock once you started Acid Eater.
Yamazaki: I started to get really into garage rock. It was all I was listening to. But unlike the atmospheric sound of Christine 23 Onna, I wanted it to be tougher and, I guess you could say, more punk rock? I wrote new songs to use for Acid Eater and I wanted to try singing, not just screaming, but make the show more intense. The main difference, I guess, was that I was no longer resisting the idea of just playing as a rock band, and I was really happy with how it turned out. This is exactly what I want to do. But we’re better live than on record, so I hope people come and see us play.
-It seems like there aren’t too many bands around doing that now.
Momo: I see lots of different influences in the bands that around but not a lot of 60s punk.
-There are a number of GS or 50s style bands. Go-Devils are much more in line with the punkier side of the 60s though, I think.
Momo: But it’s changing a little now.
Angie: I’d like to play something with a little more groove to it.
Momo: We get accused of being kind of lethargic or aloof or something, but these days I’m listening to a lot of what the 60s bands listened to, going back to blues and soul and stuff like that, not so much the wild garage stuff. I like to listen to older stuff and see how 60s bands took it and reinterpreted it into something new. So, I guess I’m not such a serious garage rocker, but it’s more like my band has the same influences, so it sounds like garage.
-I see. So, it’s not so much that you set out to play garage, but that’s just how your sound came out. What’s in store for the Baitones? Are you going to keep going straight down the Cramps’ road?
Dai: Right now, I’m thinking of buying a baritone guitar – that’s a kind of half-guitar, half-bass instrument – and getting more of a lower tone going. We’re really digging the early Cramps sound now, so I’d like to get more of those bass rhythm accents.
Yamazaki: The record has a really good guitar sound.
Dai: I brought the Cramps’ “Psychedelic Jungle” to the engineer and said make it sound rougher and more distorted than that. I was trying to get a sound that was somewhere between Link Wray and Duane Eddy. Then I said, we want the drums to sound like Mo Tucker playing rockabilly.
-Whoah! Cool idea! Does all of you bring an idea like that to recording sessions?
Momo: We did. We talked a lot about what we wanted it to sound like. I’m the one with the least power in my playing, so I thought let’s use that to our advantage and make it part of the sound. Of the four songs, we wrote two just for this recording and the cover was for the record too. Each of us has our own way of playing and feelings, so we wanted that to come across.
Yamazaki: We thought about the sound a lot too. We wanted it to sound a little shitty, not explosive like when we play live, but like it was recorded in a studio. I asked fuzz collector Nakamura (Peace Music) to loan me one and he sent me five (laughs). Then a friend brought about five more. All vintage. But I didn’t have time to mess around with all of them. I wanted to do that and make some changes with the mix. There was various other stuff too.
Kodama: If you give these guys too much mess-around time, it goes on forever.
Yamazaki: We love messing around with the sound (laughs).
-I bet you could shut yourself up in a studio for about a year (laughs). Okay, so please give our readers some idea of what you’re going for.
Dai: I dunno… Cramps (laughs).
-Of course (laughs).
Dai: The Cramps just make you feel good, don’t they? To see somebody get up on stage and use instruments to show their dark, negative side, like it turns into something positive. That’s what I want to do. I’m basically really negative, but playing rock and roll makes me feel alright about things.
Yamazaki: We’re pretty clear about our aims. I basically want to go back to being a teenager and play in a punk band, but give it my own flavor. I first started listning to 60s stuff from the “Nuggets” comp, stuff like Seeds and Music Machine. I love the fuzz and the organ and stuff and I want to go back to that. Stuff like the “Acid Dreams” comp. I want to make it psychedelic, give it a dose of acid and not just straight garage punk. Psychedelic, but not slow and sludgy, just fast and wild.
Momo: When I saw “60s punk” on the jacket and bought and listened to a “Pebbles” record the first time, I’d only been into R&R and 60s British rock and 70s punk up to that time. I thought, it’s like punk but with some psychedelic touches to spice it up. And I think the fuzz is really essential to that original 60s punk sound. I want to keep the primitive element that’s a hallmark of 60s punk and 70s punk. Also, I like that we’re a girl band that doesn’t really sound like a girl band. Sometimes people hear us and they’re like, I thought you were guys (laughs).
Angie: But on the other hand, it’s not like we’re trying to play like guys (laughs). There’s power in being a girl band too.
Momo: I think it’s fine to just stick with 60s garage. I’m always in search of that sound. I don’t see any reason to try to find something new.
-You’ve got your hands full with that。
Momo: I want to spread the gospel of primitive garage rock (laughs). And give it as much fuzz as possible.
Yamazaki: Me too… fuzz, fuzz, fuzz…
-Fuzz has now been mentioned about 6 times in this interview (laughs).
Momo: I want to find just the right fuzz.
Yamazaki: All three of us do. It’s a fuzz festival.
Momo: Fuzz festival! I want everybody who loves fuzz to buy it.
Yamazaki: Let’s have a fuzz-off for the record release!