HIROSHIMA - In the shadow of Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Dome, where dimly-lit music venues sit atop the ashes of a former atomic wasteland, the spirit of punk clings like stale smoke after a bar show.
One of its champions is Never Again which, on Jan. 28, celebrated its 20th anniversary at Club Quattro with a punk rock round robin, interspersing its own tunes with covers of classic punk songs featuring vocalists from no less than eight local punk, metal and hardcore bands.
It was the kind of celebration that wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago.
“Back then, there were walls between the genres,” explains Yoshinori Nishizaki, aka Nisshing-Boy, the bleached-blond, bass-playing frontman for Never Again. But after spending two decades playing music in the same city, it was only a matter of time before the walls came down.
Never Again’s party guests included singers from AI, Dr. Breaker, Pistons, Asphalt, Concre, Down Hill Project, Ace in the Hole and the now legendary Origin of [M] — many of whom have been blowing out speakers at Hiroshima nightclubs just as long, if not longer, than the birthday band itself.
To those familiar with the mysterious stains and questionable aromas of punk history, the name Never Again is particularly apt for a punk act out of Hiroshima. In 1981, British punks Discharge released a track of the same name that consisted of little more than four haiku-like lines describing the aftermath of an atomic bombing — each followed by the brutally shouted words “Never, never, never again!!!”
Yet surprisingly the choice of names came entirely by accident.
“We needed a name, and I happened to be wearing a Discharge hoodie with that album cover on it,” recalls Nishizaki, who was 16 at the time. “So I pointed to the words and read, ‘We’re called Never Again!’ I had no idea what it meant at the time.” It was only later, when showing an overseas punk band around the Peace Park, that one of its members explained the damning antinuclear message of the Discharge song.
Nowadays, Nishizaki couldn’t be happier with his choice of name, however coincidental.
“My grandmother was a hibakusha (atomic bombing survivor). Because of punk’s message, I was able to better understand what she went through,” he says.
Nishizaki also feels that Never Again’s music has grown more positive over the past 20 years.
“We used to sound more aggressive, angrier,” he says, raising his fists — the words “Stay Punk” tattooed in gothic letters across his fingers. However, when he became a father two years ago his perspective changed. “The anger is still there, but I realized it’s not enough to be angry. You have to create something that goes beyond that.”
Nishizaki recently met Indonesian punk band Marjinal and felt inspired by the group’s work with homeless youth in Jakarta.
“I want Never Again to make a difference, too. All the hardcore bands have kids now,” he says, gesturing to his drummer standing across the green room with a little boy perched on his tatooed arm. “The bands and fans have all come together, I want families to be part of the scene, too.”