DJ Seen does have tales to tell. After I get all five members of Pico System to play a game in which they have to decide what kind of animal each of the others is most like (this does, believe me, occasionally yield some illuminating responses), Seen is voted a cheetah. Maybe it’s got something to do with his catlike fury as he goes about scratching up records on the turntable, or maybe it’s the way he lets his speedy napalm-like beats run wild, but vocalist Kimihiko Mabuchi says, “He’s the craziest member. He’s always jumping on things, especially girls. There are many stories about him.”
Tell us a crazy story, I say.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” says Seen. “I might get arrested by the cops. Actually I have been arrested by the cops.”
Oh, come on, tell us.
“I can’t talk about it because it was very serious,” he adds.
And Kimihiko chips in with: “Well, the way he drops beats could be considered criminal. They’re so lethal.”
Hmm, no crucial confessions. Disappointing. So let’s escape the interview at this Shibuya okonomiyaki-ya and cut to what matters most about Pico System — their thrilling live shows. The deep grooves they muster up remind me of Asian Dub Foundation or Happy Mondays, and their stage antics are just as entertaining. At Akihabara’s Club Goodman last week, singer Kimihiko climbed on to a table laden with FX boxes and dived into the crowd; guitarist Yoichi Murakami bounced around the stage Bez-like while mouthing along to each guitar lick and drooling so much foamy spittle that you’d think he’d just devoured a tub of Ecstacy-laced ice cream, then he’d suck on second guitarist Hajime Inoue’s ears or accidentally tread on his toes. The only two who looked calm were drummer Naoki Yamamoto and DJ Seen, safely ensconced behind their drum kit and turntables. And when the band needed a breather they delivered ambient soundscapes in an electro-dub style reminiscent of Audio Active.
Their rampant eclecticism is a result of their disparate influences: DJ Seen (DJ Krush), Hajime (Stone Roses), Murakami (De La Soul), Naoki (Miles Davis) and Kimihiko (Boredoms).
Pico System — in one form or another — have been together for about six years. Their recently released debut on Captain Mark Records contains only three vocal-less ambient tracks. Perfect to nod off to after a bottle of wine, but I was expecting at least one up-tempo track that would have better reflected the live performances. “Live we want to entertain the audience and shock them and give them a good time,” says Kimihiko. “But with the CD you don’t have that visual aspect so we decided to demonstrate the delicate nuances of our sound.”
“The spirit of our live shows is in the recording, but in a different way,” adds Murakami. “The energy of a track shouldn’t only be measured in beats per minute, but when we play live we can speed up the songs. Our music is very flexible.”
Those are the picks of the quotes about the music, so that leaves the band members. Hearing about bizarre personality traits and/or tales of debauchery makes for a better read, but it seems like I caught Pico System on one of their quieter ambient trips. Dinner was pleasant, but nowhere near as much fun as their explosive stage performances.
Pico System: June 28 at Shibuya Club Asia, (03) 5428-5739; July 20 at Shibuya Cyclone, (03) 3477-6969. See www.pico-system.com
The best rock ‘n’ roll stars are always the ones who act like they’re on stage 24 hours a day, or at least hoodwink us into thinking they are like that by regaling us with stories about their wild behavior. But it’s easier to score crack cocaine in the Vatican than to get a good rock ‘n’ roll anecdote out of most band members. Japanese usually don’t feel the need to hang their emotional laundry out to dry in public. I mean, the family might see it and blush.
This cultural trait does have its merits; the blaring conversations of pontificating Westerners in bars aren’t much fun either. But it’s not really rock ‘n’ roll, which, at its best, has always been about giving the finger to convention and entertaining us in the process. Read any interviews in the Japanese music press? It’s mostly soporific stuff that’d put a speed freak to sleep.
So, here’s a DIY guide (DJ Seen, pay attention at the back) to give band members an idea of what they should be saying in interviews. I mean, fans don’t really give a damn how you worked out that intricate chord pattern. They wanna know about you.
“Last night I . . .
1) strolled the streets meditating on the future of Japanese music
2) broke into the Imperial Palace
3) went to an S&M club in Kabukicho
. . . where I bumped into . . .
1) a princess in a bikini
2) seven dwarves
3) Junichiro Koizumi
. . . and after a few bottles of shochu we . . .
1) stole a rightist’s black truck and toured Tokyo blasting Guitar Wolf songs
2) stripped naked and climbed Tokyo Tower
3) threw up on the doorstep of a koban
. . . and after passing out I woke up several hours later and realized that . . .
1) I never want to end up in a police cell with a transsexual sumo wrestler again.
2) I’m so dumb
3) rock ‘n’ roll is my life, and I have no regrets about living it to the fullest.”
The best parties are out in the sticks. Kids there, starved of cool events, grab excess by the throat when they get the chance and don’t let go until they’re comatose. Live-house M7 in Koiwa is the perfect example.
On May 18, it felt like the lunatics had taken over the asylum after raiding a few breweries. The crowd was rowdy as Red Hots thrashed out a killer combo of hardcore punk, rockabilly grooves and catchy pop tunes. Guitarist Chimo stood taller than any of the guys in the venue and her voice was equal in stature. As she belted out her songs, you’d think she must be the result of a night of passion between Janis Joplin and Joe Strummer. With bassist Sachiko pulling legs-apart Paul Simonon poses and pint-size drummer Hideki borrowing tsunami-like rolls from Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” on the band’s mind-blowing party anthem “Love is Plastic,” the Red Hots were on fire.
Red Hots: June 28 at M7 (03) 5622-3520. See home.att.ne.jp/alpha/marimo/
Texaco Leatherman have been together for about 10 years but play few gigs and have only just released their debut album, “Duke.” Maybe the surge in popularity of garage-punk bands has made them realize that if they get off their butts they might be able to make a bit of cash out of this rock ‘n’ roll game after all. I hope so. At Shimokitazawa Shelter last week, they married demented blues with tribal grooves and showed they are one of the most original and outrageous garage-punk bands in Japan.
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