Kamattechan release major-label debut alongside darker indie LP

by Daniel Robson

Shinsei Kamattechan frontman Noko is missing. His three bandmates, chatting with The Japan Times in an eerily silent karaoke booth in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, reckon he’s ignoring his phone deliberately because he doesn’t like interviews unless they’re one on one. You might say he’s somewhat volatile. Actually, that would be an understatement: He comes across as completely nuts.

“He thinks that if someone wants to interview him they should go to his house,” laughs drummer Misako, despite the fact that, well, we’ve gone all the way to Kashiwa, the nearest city to the members’ middle-of-nowhere homes, at their request. But in the unpredictable world of Shinsei Kamattechan, logic is a rare commodity.

Want another example? The band this week made their major-label debut with the album “Tsumanne” (“Boring”) released by Warner Music Japan, and yet on the very same day, they also released another, darker album, “Minna Shine” (“Everyone Die”), via their management company’s own independent label.

Each album takes the startling promise shown on their March seven-tracker “Tomodachi wo Koroshite Made” (“To Kill a Friend”) in a different direction, with “Tsumanne” proffering relatively clean production and sample-heavy songs and “Minna Shine” showcasing the band’s more incendiary punk side.

“The original plan was that both albums would be released by Warner, but they took objection to the title ‘Minna Shine,’ ” says bassist Chibagin. “It was at exactly the same time as the president (and CEO) of Warner died,” he continues, referring to the shocking suicide of Takashi Yoshida in October. “There were a lot of changes within the company after that. They didn’t want to make us change the title, so they asked us to release it on an independent label.”

Noko’s lyrics tend toward violence, suicide and dysfunction, especially on “Minna Shine.” But Chibagin dismisses this as a reason for Warner’s refusal to release the album, pointing out that many of the lyrics on “Tsumanne” follow similar themes.

“Noko writes about whatever he’s feeling at the time, and he doesn’t consider how his lyrics might make someone else feel,” says Chibagin. “And nor should he. He doesn’t have any agenda.”

The two albums were recorded separately, in different studios and with different engineers; as such, they each have a noticeably different sound. “Tsumanne” is the more robust album, as you’d expect of a major-label release. It’s still pretty weird, with Noko’s pitchshifted vocals lurching over growling basslines and hyperactive keyboard melodies. “Minna Shine” is more turbulent and distorted, but both albums carry an uneasy tension that makes them fascinating.

Keyboardist Mono, who is unusually quiet as a broken hand means he must remain sober (“I had a fight with a wall on stage, and the wall won,” he says), is the only band member who still has a day job. He’s clinging on to his data-sorting position as “insurance.”

“We’re contracted for one more album with Warner, but the band might not last that long,” deadpans Chibagin. “I’d love this band to go on for a long time, but if staying together for years means becoming a boring band, I’d rather break up.”

“We’ve been pretty naughty this year,” says Misako, who posed in her swimsuit for the current issue of risque magazine B.L.T. “We’ve made trouble for so many people — I don’t think Santa’s going to bring us any presents!”

“Tsumanne” and “Minna Shine” are both out now. Shinsei Kamattechan will broadcast a live chat on Christmas Eve (Friday night/Saturday morning) at around 1 a.m. on their Ustream channel. For more information, visit