“I saw your review about my band I was so disgusted with your review They’ll say you’re right and I’m not right But I’m OK ‘cos it’s nothing to me.”
The Gimmies — “Dirty Trick”
At a poorly lit bar in a Shibuya side street the atmosphere has turned a little tense.
“Each of The Gimmies knows who you are,” says guitarist/vocalist Sora Shitty, leaning across the table toward me, his intense piercing eyes only partially shaded by a trucker cap on which is emblazoned “Mr. Horsepower.”
“And we’re surprised you’d want to meet us after what happened,” adds fellow guitarist/vocalist Kawave, his face inches away from mine.
Even though the lyrics above don’t refer to anything I wrote, the words give the impression that The Gimmies view journalists with more than a little suspicion. I’m a little concerned. Err, what did happen? I ask meekly.
“It was at Higashi-Koenji UFO Club last year,” says Sora. “You were drunk and at the front of the crowd and you were knocking against mine and the bassist’s mike when we were singing and they were wobbling. The bassist got pissed off so he threw the mike at you. And then me and you were scowling at each other intensely.”
Errr, I can’t remember, I say. Is it too late to apologize?
“No worries,” says Kawave, lifting his beer. “I’d rather get some crowd reaction than a boring crowd doing nothing.”
Phew, I’m off the hook.
It’s a good thing The Gimmies have the power to forgive because they’re probably gonna need plenty of it. As word catches on about one of the best live bands in Japan the mosh pits will get more frenzied and I fear a few more hallowed mike stands may take a beating and a few more “sorrys” and “no worries” are on the cards.
So what drives Gimmies fans into mindless headbanging and mike-molesting negligence? Good old Stones-meets-Stooges rhythm and blues, basically. But it’s played so fast and so tightly that you imagine before each gig their minds are interlocked backstage by a mad amphetamine-dispensing rock ‘n’ roll scientist. The Gimmies are the leaders of a pack of speed-rock bands and they make the garage bands they tend to share bills with sound feeble in comparison.
“The music industry is pushing this retro garage rock as the latest trend, but we don’t consider ourselves a garage band, even though we play with garage bands,” says Sora.
“I like garage and punk,” adds Kawave. “But I also like the kind of rock music that punk and garage fans would consider crap. Garage bands don’t think we’re garage. Punk bands don’t think we’re punk. Pop bands . . . well, forget that. Ha ha ha.”
When I tell my friends about you, I say stuff like “Kings of Leon, but twice as fast and 10 times better.”
“Never heard of them and the name’s totally uncool,” says Sora.
But you do have this dirty Southern rock feel to you. Stones-like, but also a bit Nashville Pussy or Cobra Chicks.
“I don’t think we’re like that, even if we might listen to some of the same stuff they probably listen to: ZZ Top, Ramones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC . . .”
Listening to the band’s 2002 debut, “Auto Shut-Off . . . Any Questions?,” you can see how all of those bands might have influenced The Gimmies, but though it was a pretty good disc there was something missing — it failed to reflect their superadrenalized shows and, especially, the sharpness of their playing. At times it was too muddy, too metal, a bit too, well, ZZ Top.
“It was due to the production,” says Kawave. “The songs aren’t metal at all, but the way the guitars are recorded can change the feel of songs. Our studio skills were then too poor to create the sound we wanted and also we didn’t have enough money for the studio so we had to rush it.”
Sora and Kawave (plus bassist Kim and drummer J.J., who aren’t here tonight) have just finished their second day in the studio recording the followup album. They’re recording it in Tokyo, but they’ve signed with Dionysus Records in the States and a single will be released on vinyl by the German label Sounds of Subterranea. Then the discs will be imported to Japan. A pretty absurd situation for one of Japan’s finest bands to find themselves in and a sad indictment of the bigger independent record labels here who (apart from a couple) don’t have the guts to test exciting new rock ‘n’ roll talent on an unsuspecting public.
“Most of the bands that we play with have the same problems,” says Sora.
Are the new songs any different from the old stuff?
“The next album is sounding more like MC5 and The Stooges,” says Sora. “More rock, less punk.”
“I think some of the new songs have more soul and groove,” adds Kawave. “But, don’t get me wrong, they still totally rock!”
The album is being engineered by Asme of Japan’s The Young Ones (whose album made No. 14 in Fuzzy Logic’s 2003 Top 20) and will be mastered by MC5’s Michael Davis.
“They’re both bassists so maybe on this one the bass will be too loud,” says Kawave with a smile.
But it’s not all rock ‘n’ roll for The Gimmies. Sora might prefer “black-influenced stuff like The Stones” but he has a soft spot for “white music like The Beatles,” and it’s all down to his mum.
“My mother was John Lennon’s penpal,” he says. “She wrote a poem and sent it to him and he replied. They exchanged three or four letters. She also told me to stop listening to the Dave Clark Five when I was young as it was kid’s music, and she got me to listen to The Beatles. My mum liked John best, but in her hatsuyume [the “lucky” first dream of the year] before I was born she dreamed of kissing Paul.”
“That’s how she got pregnant with Sora and that is why he turned out like that,” says Kawave.
You gotta be kidding?! I love the anecdote, but it doesn’t make sense. Surely, Sora’s mum’s hatsuyume was rolling round on a bed of broken glass with Iggy Pop while Keith Richards downed whisky and played guitar in a corner. That sounds much more like it.
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