“I’m not sure. I guess it is because of our name.”
This is the simple answer offered by guitarist and vocalist Manabu Deto when asked why his band, the Nagano-bred postpunkers Ogre You Asshole, have gigged alongside more than three dozen foreign underground and alt-rock acts during their Japan visits, making them one of the most sought after local openers.
The first international touring artists the quartet warmed up for were Portland, Ore., space-rock group Yume Bitsu in August 2002. Since then, they’ve received offers to share stages with the likes of Foo Fighters’ guitarist Chris Shiflett’s Jackson United side-project, Minor Threat and Fugazi vocalist Ian MacKaye’s (one of the pioneers of hardcore) The Evens, Half-Japanese’s Jad Fair, and punk-cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls.
Despite having never played outside of their native country, their associations with so many acclaimed performers have helped Ogre You Asshole establish a small overseas following. One of their better known fans is Johnny Marr, formerly of The Smiths and currently a member of Modest Mouse and The Cribs.
In a recent interview with The Japan Times, the highly influential guitarist professed, “I would love to play with Ogre You Asshole. I love ’em. They’re not afraid to be poppy. Some guitar bands just don’t have the nerve to be poppy and second-guess themselves, you know.”
The two parties can discuss possible future pairings when Ogre You Asshole supports The Cribs during their upcoming Tokyo appearance at Akasaka Blitz.
“We are happy that he knows about our music,” responds the humble Deto. “If the chance came to one day have him be a part of the band, I’m not sure how we would react.”
“Of course we enjoy his work with The Smiths and having watched Modest Mouse and The Cribs, we feel that he would bring good changes to our band. It’s hard to know exactly what changes, though, until we tried it. He would definitely make us more popular.”
Marr’s association with Modest Mouse makes his compliment much more special. The Issaquah, Wash., group are one of Ogre You Asshole’s primary influences. Modest Mouse was the first foreign band they experienced live in concert. Bassist Eric Judy is also responsible for coming up with their unique and memorable moniker when original drummer Arata Nishi had a chance meeting with him.
“Nishi saw Eric Judy on the street near the Hot Lab live house after Modest Mouse’s gig in Matsumoto during their Japan tour in May 2001,” recalls Deto. “Nishi was a high school student and said to him, ‘Please name our band.’ Judy was drunk and replied, ‘I can’t.’ Then he wrote ‘Ogre You Asshole’ on Nishi’s arm.”
Adopting Judy’s scrawled inebriated message, school chums Deto, Nishi, guitarist Kei Mabuchi, and bassist Norihito Hiraide played their debut gig under their new name four months later.
They shared the tale with Judy in April 2008 when they opened Modest Mouse’s show at Tokyo’s Duo Music Exchange, but he had no recollection of the encounter.
Unfortunately Nishi, the member responsible for approaching Judy in the first place, was no longer a part of Ogre You Asshole when they realized their dream of performing with their musical heroes.
“Nishi had to leave the band in 2004,” explains Deto. “He was sick and had an intracerebral hemorrhage. Takashi Katsuura was going to a college in Matsumoto and we invited him to join Ogre You Asshole. Nishi is still involved, though. He draws the artwork for all our albums.”
Deto readily admits the band have learned much from interacting with foreign musicians. In fact, they were unaware of the exact meaning behind their moniker until a Texas group shared its origin with them at a concert they did together in 2005.
“The various cultures and attitudes toward music from the different artists we’ve performed with have inspired us a lot. We’ve been able to discover many new things. American Analog Set taught us that the name Ogre You Asshole is actually from a line in the movie ‘Revenge of the Nerds.’ “
This, of course, resulted in the group setting out to watch the 1984 American comedy and its three sequels. They paid homage to the flick and its two competing fraternities, Alpha Beta and Lambda Lambda Lambda, on 2007’s “Alpha Beta vs. Lambda” sophomore full-length.
“The original movie was our favorite because it was the funniest of them all,” Deto says. “We are more like the Lambdas because we are nerds, not athletic people.”
Ogre You Asshole released their third and most cohesive album, “Fog Lamp,” on Oct. 7. Issued by VAP Records, the initial pressing of the disc includes a limited edition bonus DVD. Written this past spring and recorded in the summer, the eight tracks presented are intelligent and melodic. And aside from a more prominent pop edge (which Marr pointed out), “Fog Lamp” strays little from the catchy sounds they’ve crafted on their previous efforts.
“With our other CDs we already had the songs prepared and decided to create albums with them. This time around we decided to create a new album and then started to write the songs for it. The atmosphere in the studio was really relaxing and easygoing.”
Although they may consider themselves uncool like the fictional Lambdas, judging by their rising profile in Japan’s various rock ‘n’ roll scenes, others don’t seem to have the same geeky image of them. The enjoyable “Fog Lamp” is unlikely to cast any dorky or dweeblike shadows on them either.
Ogre You Asshole play Oct. 18 at Shibuya O-East / Duo Music Exchange, Tokyo, as part of Nest Festival ’09 (1:30 p.m.; advance tickets cost ¥3,500); Oct. 21 at Akasaka Blitz, Tokyo, with The Cribs (7 p.m.; advance tickets cost ¥6,000). They will perform throughout the country from Oct. 30 until Nov. 5 with Sunset Rubdown (advance tickets cost ¥3,500) and from Nov. 15 until Dec. 22 for the “Fog Lamp” release tour (advance tickets cost ¥2,800). For more information, visit www.ogreyouasshole.com