Kansai No Wave History — 1981
Going through some stacks of papers in my office, I stumbled on two pages of typed manuscript that someone gave me years ago for possible inclusion in Ongaku Otaku magazine. It’s the beginnings of a history of the Kansai “no wave” scene, written by Hijokaidan/Alchemy Records head Jojo. I no longer remember who gave it to me or who translated it (probably David Hopkins?), but I thought it well worth typing up and posting here. It was “to be continued” but this is all I have. Another, similar writeup by Jojo along with T. Mikawa, is available on the noise.as site, a highly recommended read. Some later history of the Kansai scene by Jojo also appeared in Public Bath’s Show-Kai zine back in the 90s. Anyway, here you go.
Kansai No Wave History — 1981
by Jojo Hiroshige
The beginning of 1981 saw the start of a series of concerts at Studio Ahiru called “Answer 8!” put on at a pace of about once every four months. The project was run by Hayashi of Unbalance Records and the shows featured several Kansai bands and one guesting band from Tokyo, a lineup that was unusual at the time. The very first one featured Zelda from Tokyo, and from Kansai, Hijo Kaidan, Auschwitz, Upmaker, Hillgate (which later became Honey & Costume), and Jelly.
Unbalance Records was the only real independent label in Kansai, and gradually reviews and news about it began to appear in music magazines. Hayashi also began to distribute records put out by Doll magazine on their City Rocker label.
Kansai experienced an explosive increase in the number of bands, some of which are still active today. Laughin’ Nose and Continental Kids, who later became quite well-known, started around this time, and other hardcore bands of the time included Nashi and Memai. Other unique bands, ranging from the vaguely progressive Cupie Box and Erotics, to Bide & Vibrators showed up. From Kyoto, Noizunzuri’s first incarnation and EP-4 brought a high level of confusion and chaos, making us both laugh and shake with fear.
Inu had already signed to a major label, and rarely played out live. Stalin started upsetting club owners with their particular brand of wildness. Stalin played a show at Taku Taku in Kyoto, performing with Neomatisse, Auschwitz, Hoburakin, and Hijo Kaidan. The matching of Hijo Kaidan’s performance, which included on-stage urination, vomiting, and the throwing of raw fish, with Stalin’s, which featured total nudity and blood-letting, was quite inspiring to both. In the audience were Hiryu and Kamikaze who later formed influential HC band Masturbation. Because Michiro of Stalin hurt himself rather badly at this show, their show the next day in Osaka at Mantohihi was performed under the name Lenin, and featured roadie Saji (later the singer for Sodom) on vocals. Hijo Kaidan joined them again, performing under the name Shuno Kaidan (this is a pun — Hijo Kaidan means “emergency stairs”, with Kaidan meaning stairs; Shuno Kaidan means “summit meeting”, with Kaidan in this case a different word meaning conference — ed). The day after this show, Hijo Kaidan returned to Taku Taku to pay for the damage they had done to mike stands, etc, and the place still smelled like raw garbage. Particularly strong was the smell of garlic. When the No Comments, that night’s featured band, showed up for sound check, one of them said, “Oh great! You’re making curry for us!” I giggled in the shadows.
It doesn’t exist anymore, but down in Osaka’s Tennoji, there was an outdoor concert space, and around the holidays in early May a rock event, “The Spread of Fireflies”, was planned. Participating Kansai bands were Nashi, Auschwitz, System, Cupie Box, Upmaker, Headache, and Zigzag. From Tokyo, Jagatara came down. When I think about it now, it was a really weird lineup with a wide variety of styles, from hardcore to new wave to tribal funk. As the first outdoor rock event there, we’d been told that there had to be a limit on the volume. I’d like to say that everybody had a great performance, but actually, the Kansai bands were, um, not very impressive.
In September, Hijo Kaidan were invited to play in Tokyo at Keio University’s school arts festival. They were already known somewhat in Tokyo as having an “intense staging” on the order of The Stalin. The show was in a large classroom, something like a big lecture hall. Playing with us were Stalin, Taco, Fushitsusha and Banko. We had been told in advance that anything we wanted to do would be okay — no conditions. As part of the performance, a fire extinguisher was actually broken and the room was completely filled with fire-smothering gas and white powder — completely filled. The audience all fled from the room, and the PA room people got angry and cut off the sound, ending the show midway. There were some words between the PA operators and the management so the show could continue. Stalin came on and started to play, but suddenly, the frustrated and angry members of Hijo Kaidan rushed the stage, took over the microphones, and with bats and chairs smashed every window in the hall. There was glass everywhere. The PA people were so scared the entire event was cancelled then and there. The bands who were to appear in the second night’s show, Taco and Fushitsusha, were pretty upset, of course. Haino Keiji of Fushitsusha said to us, “You call this self-expression?! I’d just like to see you try and keep doing this shit!” I remember him being really livid. Anyway, we all stayed after and properly helped clean the place up, and you know, Hijo Kaidan has now continued for many years after that.
At that performance, in the audience was Yokoyama Sakevi, who came up to us and said he was getting ready to start a band. Sure enough, GISM soon appeared on the scene.
At the end of August, there was a weeklong event called “Flight 7 Days” at Shinjuku Loft in Tokyo, featuring bands from many independent labels. One day was to be Unbalance Day. For most of the Kansai bands, being able to play in Tokyo was almost like a dream back then. In charge was label owner Hayashi, of the band Auschwitz. (At this time he was also playing extremely noisy guitar as one of the front persons in Hijo Kaidan.) NG, a strange heavy band playing something somewhere between noise and electropop, and in their first-ever Tokyo appearance, Hoburakin, whose bizarre sense of humor seemed to mystify Tokyo people, along with Hijo Kaidan, 9 members strong, still pissing and vomiting and throwing fish, rounded out the bill. They had promised each band a guarantee of ¥10,000 but only a hundred people showed up and they lost their shirts. We went home still stinking of fish and fermented soybeans, but happy that we had represented the best that Kansai had to offer. We let them see the unpretentious, direct approach that is so different from Tokyo’s, and were satisfied, and strangely proud to be doing something that they couldn’t do. We were willing to be ugly.
In the fall, Hijo Kaidan added some female members and played a gig at Kyoto’s Doshisha University with Neomatisse, Honey & Costume, and a few others. This developed into what was probably our most violent show ever. We threw everything — mike stands, tables, instruments, chairs, everything — into the audience. We chased everyone except the band members and the PA operators out of the hall. This seemed the logical extension of what we had formed to do. Now I can laugh about it but then we were quite serious. That intense energy and spirit, call it youth or strength or whatever, gradually moved over into the hardcore scene.