BiS Kaidan

BiS Kaidan

Ever since we added Babymetal and their J-pop-meets-death-metal steez to the Weird List earlier this year, a bunch of you have written in to point out that actually, Babymetal aren’t even the most extreme example of adorable headbanging Japan has to offer. For truly insane idol-meets-noise Japanese weirdness, we have to go to a short-lived project called BiS Kaidan.

BiS Kaidan was a collaboration between an idol J-pop girl group called BiS (short for “Brand-new Idol Society”) and the veteran noise band Hijōkaidan, who have been churning abrasive noise collages like this one since the late ’70s, occasionally accompanied live by smashing up equipment, pissing onstage and throwing garbage at the audience. (Japanese noise bands, in case you’re not familiar, do not fuck around. The Gerogerigegege used to jerk off onstage and eat each other’s shit, and an early version of the Boredoms called Hanatarash, during one show, once took out the back wall of the theater with a backhoe.) BiS already had a bit a bad-girl rep for mixing hard-rock guitars into their music and making music videos like this one:

So it was a match made in heaven. Or hell, depending on your tolerance level for listening to the dog-whistle shrieks of Japanese girls over guitar feedback and caffeinated punk-pop.

BiS Kaidan were only active for about two years, from late 2012 until this past May. Shortly after they disbanded, BiS broke up, as well, in a move that’s pretty typical of idol groups, I guess, since hardly any of them stay together once the members exit their teens. Wish somebody would tell American and British teeny-bopper groups about this tradition. I saw Take That on The Graham Norton Show the other night and those guys are definitely way past their expiration date.

During their brief run, BiS Kaidan played a few shows that, based on the YouTube videos we’ve seen, look like a cross between a GWAR concert and a pillow fight at a Japanese girls’ boarding school. Aborable and horrifying. Adorifying!

While the BiS ladies were wreaking havoc with Hijōkaidan, they were continuing to produce their own, increasingly out-there music and videos. We’ll leave you with “STUPiG,” which is like some kind of cyber-horror cross between Dir En Grey and Lady Gaga set to the most headache-inducing hardstyle EDM you’ve ever heard blasting from a Honda Civic with a street racing spoiler. Not even Miley Cyrus went this scorched-earth on her cutesy teen-pop roots.

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Here’s a new gamelan-inspired track from Yoshimi P-we of Boredoms and her band, OOIOO

OOIOO

When she’ s not drumming up a storm in Japanese noise-rock pioneers Boredoms or inspiring Wayne Coyne (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is named after her), Yoshimi P-we fronts her own percussion-heavy band, OOIOO. Past OOIOO releases have run the gamut from neo-tribal rave-ups to psychedelic post-punk, one album never quite sounding like the next. It looks like they’ll continue to surprise on their first album in four years, Gamel, which takes its inspiration and much of its sonic palette from the classical Javanese instrument called the gamelan.

A massive set of bells, chimes, gongs and tuned percussion, a gamelan requires multiple players and is capable of producing a dense tapestry of sound. (I was lucky enough to attend one of the few colleges in America that had a full gamelan, and hearing the full thing in action, even in the hands of inexperienced players, was pretty amazing.) Instead of faithfully recreating that sound, OOIOO have incorporated elements of the gamelan into a mix of other electronic and acoustic instruments to come up with something that, judging from lead track “Atatawa,” sounds completely new.

Gamel is due out July 1st on Thrill Jockey. It’s available for pre-order here.

Melt Banana

Melt Banana

For our 250th Weird Band of the Week, we decided to go the crowd-pleasing route. Over the years, a metric fuck-ton of you* have said we should add Japanese noise rockers Melt Banana to the Weird List. Well, today, you freaks finally get your wish. Now please stop posting embeds of “Sick Zip Everywhere” in the Submit a Band comments, will ya?

Now in fairness to all y’all, Melt Banana are indeed a pretty weird band. In fairness to us, “Sick Zip Everywhere” is nowhere near their weirdest track. It’s just one of the few with an official video, and it does that whole B-movie karate flick “Hey, let’s badly dub American actors trying to sound vaguely Japanese over actual Japanese people!” thing that everyone can’t get enough of.

Here’s a better example of Melt Banana at their weirdest. This is from a “live” album they recorded with John Zorn in 1998 called MxBx 1998/13,000 Miles at Light Velocity and yes, those squeals that sound like turntable scratches or dive-bombing Roland 303s are all coming from Ichirou Agata’s guitar.

Pretty cool, right? The only other guitarist I know who can get tones like that out of his effects pedals is Tom Morello, although I’m pretty sure in a dueling guitars fight, Agata would kick Morello’s ass. Even though he always performs with a surgical mask over his face. What am I saying? Especially because he performs with a surgical mask over his face.

Agata formed Melt Banana in Tokyo in 1992 with Yasuko Onuki, a singer he had been playing with for about a year in another band called Mizu. With the addition of bassist Rika Hamamoto and a rotating cast of drummers, they developed a balls-out style that made even their one-minute songs sound kinda epic. Here, for example, is an early track called “Dust Head”:

By the way, Melt Banana’s first two albums were produced by none other than Steve Albini, the punk-rock “super producer” whose other credits include Nirvana’s In Utero. But he’s also the guy behind this band, so don’t hold that against him. He recorded MxBx (as the kids like to call ’em) in his basement studio in Chicago and the albums definitely have a dirty, Midwestern basement vibe to them.

Melt Banana are also famous for their covers. Here’s my favorite.

After 20+ years, Agata and Onuki are still at it…although they cut Hamamoto loose in 2012 and now operate strictly as a duo. They released their last album, Fetch, in 2013, and their music is still completely…well, bananas. Sorry, I had to go there.

So there you have it, weirdos! Think we can get to 500 bands? Stick around and let’s find out.

*Metric fuck-ton including but not limited to: Frostoriuss, Spoon, Josh Gold, Alex, Lou and Genericus. Thanks for your patience and suggestions, dudes and dudettes. You complete us and shit.

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The Gerogerigegege

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We’ve known about this week’s weird band for a long time, but honestly, we’ve put off writing about them because they’re disgusting. But it’s been a slow week, so I’m finally gonna bite the bullet and tell you about the perverse world of The Gerogerigegege. If you’re not ready for the gay avant-garde Japanese version of GG Allin, stop reading now.

Still with me? Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. The Gerogeri (as I’ll start typing from here on out, because I’m a lazy American) was founded in 1985 as a punk/noise band by Juntaro Yamanouchi, the son of a classically trained Japanese pianist with a fondness for cross-dressing and live Ramones albums. Besides making music, Yamanouchi also sometimes performed in S&M shows at gay clubs, which is where he met fellow S&M performer Tetsuya Endoh, aka Gero 30 or Gero 56. I’ll let Yamanouchi himself, in a badly translated interview, pick up the story from here:

“The contents of the show was nothing but to eat each other the shit of GERO 30 and mine and twist about in our pee and shit. While we played such performances, the audience, mainly middle-aged people, was jacking off. Anyway, all we could hear in the darkened space was panting voices of such men and excited snorts. Such experiences, beyond all description I could give, has been made most of the time in the pieces and lives of THE GEROGERIGEGEGE.”

“Gerogerigegege,” by the way, roughly translates to “Vomitdiarrheackackack.” So yes, much of this band’s music (for lack of a better word) is based on bodily functions. Sometimes pretty overtly so.

So with Gero 30 and a rotating cast of additional bandmates in tow, Yamanouchi and The Gerogerigegege began playing the Japanese punk clubs, where they soon became famous for shows that sometimes included pissing, shitting and vomiting onstage, and nearly always included the spectacle of Gero 30 jerking off. And when I say he was jerking off, I don’t mean he was just quietly rubbing one out behind the drum riser. He was more likely to be standing on top of an amp with a vacuum cleaner hose attached to his naughty bits. In fact, the most notorious Gerogeri video in circulation depicts just that. (Don’t worry, the naughty bits are scrambled.)

Yamanouchi and co. churned out a ton of material during the 15-odd years of the band’s existence…everything from full-on industrial noise to more abstract, ambient stuff to Ramones-inspired proto-punk. (Yamanouchi counts off the start of nearly every Gerogeri song with a Dee Dee Ramone-like “1, 2, 3, 4!”) Their most famous album, 1990’s Tokyo Anal Dynamite, featured 75 songs delivered in just over 30 minutes—although pretty much the only way you can tell when one song ends and the next begins is when Yamanouchi yells “1, 2, 3, 4!”

In addition to traditional album and single releases, The Gerogeri were also famous for pulling prank releases like Art Is Over, which consisted of an octopus tentacle glued to the inside of a cassette case, and “Ai-Jin,” a flexi-disc single that was presented at a “Release Memorial Performance” at which all 2,000 copies were burned. (About 25 copies allegedly survived and are now worth a lot of money, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

There’s probably no way to age gracefully after jacking off onstage for 15 years, so it’s no surprise really that both Yamanouchi and Gero 30 mysteriously disappeared shortly after the release of the band’s last album, 2001’s Saturday Night Big Cock Salaryman. Rumors abound as to what became of them, but no one really knows for sure. Many have pointed out that Gero 30 would be pushing 70 by now, so he’s probably spanking his monkey to Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs in some old folks’ home. As for Yamanouchi, he’s either dead, in a mental institution, or living under an assumed name somewhere. Or maybe he’s in the Seychelles partying with Jim Morrison.

It used to be almost impossible for anyone who wasn’t a collector of “Japanoise” rare vinyl to hear what The Gerogerigegege sounded like, but thanks to the miracle of YouTube, a big chunk of their catalog is now there for the listening. (Video of their live shows is rarer, unfortunately.) This clip from Tokyo Anal Dynamite is only 23 seconds long, but it sums up what they were about pretty neatly. It’s called “Boys Don’t Cry,” but it’s not a Cure cover. At least we don’t think it is, but with this band, it’s hard to tell.