Tag Archives: Zibanchinka

CAR-87 – Zibanchinka: Hatsubai Chushi

Hatsubai Chushi

CD, Call And Response, 2011

This is part of a series of posts talking about music I’ve released through my own Call And Response label. I explain in a bit more detail here.

Since the start of Call And Response I’d been cultivating connections in Kyushu, and been lucky enough to almost immediately hit on the magnificent and life-changing Hyacca from Fukuoka. The wonderful Accidents In Too Large Field, also from Fukuoka, had contributed to my Wire covers compilation Post Flag, and I’d done stuff live with others. Fukuoka was and remains a musical hotspot in Japan, I think partly because its dominant position as the only really big city in Kyushu (and really the only properly big city west of Hiroshima) means it’s a centre for culture for a much larger area than its actual size.

I first heard about Zibanchinka from Hyacca. Hiromi Kajiwara also plays in a new wave/avant-pop trio called Miu Mau and she came back from a Miu Mau tour in Kagoshima on the southern tip of Kyushu raving to her Hyacca bandmates about this utterly mad band they’d played with down there. Hyacca then booked Zibanchinka for a show they were putting on in Fukuoka with Call And Response’s other main band Mir, who subsequently returned to Tokyo with a mad glint in their eyes. There was this really special, very young band from Kagoshima with a weird name and a lunatic live reputation (yes, this was becoming a theme for Call And Response bands) and we were the first people to discover them.Zibanchinka: Hari to Uruoi

I rarely book bands I haven’t seen for events, but enough people I trusted had been blown away by Zibanchinka that it seemed a safe bet, and yeah. Yeah it was. They were really good.

They were also very prolific, releasing four home made CD/R mini-albums in the space of not much more than a year, which amounts to more songs than Hyacca have recorded in their entire career. We started talking about releasing an album, and so we agreed to wait a while and try to get people interested before going all out with a CD. We put together a live DVD/R which was a bit of a mess if truth be told, and the process of which put me off DVDs forever, and they came to Tokyo a few more times. They recorded a wonderful cover of the song Abunai Doyoubi by 1970s idol group the Candies for the second of my private Valentine’s compilations in 2010, which went down well, then they found a good producer in Kagoshima, selected some favourite songs from their back catalogue plus some new ones they were currently working on and started recording.

The album was recorded, the artwork done, the band had settled on the title Hatsubai Chushi (literally “Stop Sale”) and it all went to press in February the following year. The recording went really well and the sound had really retained their energy and rawness but also captured the depth and richness of sound that the earlier recordings hadn’t got. It sounded professional, but it was still punk. It was a great recording. The songs were crazily short, with the whole album clocking in at shorter than the Hyacca record despite having twice as many songs, and tracks ranging from stuff like Still I’m Sad which was basically hardcore to the nonsensical avant-garde, psychedelia of Chugoku no Niwatori. Then the March 11th earthquake hit and the distribution company refused to put it out.

The problem was the band name. Zibanchinka means “ground subsidence” and while it’s a pretty dry geological term, it was one that was appearing a lot in the news at that time and was linked to a lot of people’s lost homes. No, the distributors couldn’t be seen to be promoting something like that at that time. When might they? No idea. Not for a long time. Tower Records wouldn’t stand for it.

Except that Tower Records in Kagoshima were desperately clamouring for it. The earthquake hadn’t affected Kyushu and while there had been plenty of benefit concerts and things, day to day life in Kyushu hadn’t been disrupted the way it had in Tokyo and certainly not the way it had in the real disaster zone. The weekend after the earthquake I was in Kyushu on tour with N’toko (who himself had been hit by the quake the moment he stepped out of Koenji Station on his way back from Nagoya) and the difference between the atmosphere in Tokyo and Fukuoka was present in everything. After that tense, stressful, anxiety-filled week, Fukuoka was like another country. Kagoshima lives in the shadow of a massive, continually erupting volcano so they’re no strangers to danger from nature, but subsidence was not a controversial issue for them. On the other hand, Zibanchinka had gone from weird, possibly clinically insane garage-punk weirdos to local celebrities in a snap once word had got out that a Tokyo record label was releasing them.

So the CD was here and ready to go, but the distributors were holding it back. In the end, an agreement was reached to let Hatsubai Chushi (the title taking on more and more irony with every passing day) out a couple of months late but only via Tower Kagoshima and online sales. Indie CD stores stocked it and it went down well. In Nagoya in particular they seem to have become extremely hip without them ever having played there. UK-based Japanese psychedelic riffsters Bo Ningen took a shine to them, perhaps bonding over hair styling tips, and toured together with them in Kyushu. In fact I suspect that the exploding popularity of Bo Ningen in Japan did a lot for not just Zibanchinka but any loud bands with that sort of long haired, straight-fringed “hime cut” hairstyle and hippyish clothes. Every time I see how popular the Osaka band Gezan have become, I always get a little bite of regret: that should be Zibanchinka up there!

In January 2012 Hatsubai Chushi was officially allowed in shops, by which time despite its troubles it was a qualified success. Then in the summer the band went on indefinite hiatus with bassist Nana already living in Yokohama and guitarist Maitake moving to Tokyo, the band just couldn’t make it work anymore.Zibanchinka: Nagisa no Hors d’Oeuvres

The last thing we did before the band shut up shop was make this silly and very simple video for the song Nagisa no Hors d’Oeuvres, shot in the space of about half an hour in the toilet the venue Heaven’s Door in the cool Tokyo suburb of Sangenjaya. It’s really the worst possible song to do as a video because it’s a very poppy “Showa pop” (60s/60s style Japanese pop) pastiche and totally unrepresentative of the album as a whole, but it was intended as the first in a series of equally simple videos that would cover the full range of material.

I’ve always loved videos where the director just sticks the camera in front of an intrinsically interesting bunch of performers and films them goofing about. The process of making N’toko’s Superhuman video showed me that things like that can work, and one of the things that I find most irritating about bands in Japan is the tendency among many of them to faff about endlessly trying to do something properly (and then often announcing after several weeks that no, they’re not satisfied with the results so sorry) rather than just getting out and doing something. I hooked up with matt Schley who’d done the N’toko video and explained the concept to him. He could dig it, the band were up for it, and it went so smoothly it was a joy to do.Zibanchinka: Syrup / Still I’m Sad / Toso

While Hatsubai Chushi was predominantly garage-punk with these off-the-wall postpunk arrangements and sudden bursts of Black Sabbath riffing, they’d been hinting at heavier, more psychedelic material by the time they came to a halt, which vocalist Iguz Souseki (her real name is far less dramatic) has been pushing further with her new band Futtachi. She’s starting again from scratch though, and all the momentum that Zibanchinka were building up has been usurped by other bands now. There are lots of other things I have to work on and I’m never short of bands I want to release, but every once in a while the thought stabs me like a knife, “I wish Zibanchinka would get back together…”

Hatsubai Chushi is available now from Call And Response’s online shop.

2 Comments

Filed under Albums, Call And Response, Reviews

Hyacca: Uneko

First up, I need to be clear that I’m not going to attempt to review this because I helped make it, but on the other hand, I love this band more than almost anything on Earth, so it’s obviously still an endorsement. Hyacca were one of the first bands I ever released on Call And Response Records and they’re regular features at my events when I’m in Kyushu and whenever I can get them up to Tokyo. I first met them in Fukuoka in July 2006. I’d just been through a rough patch and decided to take a trip for a few days to get away from it. I met up with Shuichi Inoue from the band Folk Enough, who I knew from his shows in Tokyo, and he invited a few of his musician friends along. The next thing I remember was waking up with a tremendous hangover and my pockets full of CDs by local bands. One of the CDs was a plain CD/R with just two Chinese characters written on it, that contained the best music I’d ever heard out of a Japanese band. Later, it turned out that this band was called Hyacca (literally “one hundred mosquitoes”, although there’s a pun on the Japanese word for encyclopaedia in there as well) and I started working with them.

The most recent thing they’ve done for me is the song Uneko, which they contributed to Call And Response’s Dancing After 1AM compilation album, released last October. Given the rather, um, easygoing pace at which the band work, this first new recording in three years wasn’t that unusual a time lapse, but I was determined that at least one song from the compilation would have a video made for it (actually She Talks Silence had already made a video for their song Long Ways, although the version on the video is slightly different to the album version). Since we had no budget, no time (just a couple of hours in the afternoon before their gig with Bo Ningen in Fukuoka), and no equipment apart from my wife’s small digital camera, this was never going to be a slick or professional looking shoot, so instead, I tried to go the other way entirely and make the footage exaggeratedly wobbly and unfocused. The key thing for me was that it should just look as if everyone was having fun and that it should show the band members naturally as the sort of people they actually are.

Most of it was shot in a karaoke box opposite the venue where they were due to play later, with some shots filmed later, at the izakaya next door (featuring cameos from a few other members of the Fukuoka indie scene and probably the backs of the heads of some of Bo Ningen, although honestly I can’t really tell). I want to point out at this juncture that as shitty and chaotic as the footage looks, I did have a pretty clear idea of how it was going to cut together as I shot it, and it’s to the great credit of Matt Schley, who did the tough job of editing it all together (and who also put together the video for Zibanchinka’s Nagisa no Hors D’oeuvres based on a similarly minimalist, no-budget concept), that he instantly saw what I was trying to do when he looked at the footage.

As far as the song goes, I don’t want to go on about it because you already know I love it, but I think it’s a great example of everything I love about Hyacca. They way they make music that’s structurally complex, almost math-rock, but play it with such energy and never forget to make it fun, always making sure there are neat little pop hooks or goofy ideas embedded in the arrangement.

As a postscript to this, you can see from the video that we got through quite a lot of beer in the karaoke box, and that may have taken its toll on the band, who went on to put in one of the most bizarre and chaotic live performances I’ve seen from them in years. Yeah, my fault.

15 Comments

Filed under Call And Response

Zibanchinka: Nagisa no Hors d’Oeuvres

A bit of self promotion here since this is a video my good friend Matt Schley shot for Zibanchinka, whose album Hatsubai Chushi I released through my label, Call And Response Records, last year. We filmed it in the toilet at Sangenjaya Heaven’s Door the last time the band were touring in Tokyo and here’s the result:

Zibanchinka: Nagisa no Hors d’Oeuvres

It’s a curiously poppy song for Zibanchinka, whose usual modus operandi is heavy, 70s guitar noise or one-minute post-hardcore garage-punk dirt scrambles, but it showcases the kind of Showa-era pop influence with which a lot of their music is infused as well as demonstrating what superb conventional pop songwriters they can be when they so choose.

The plan is to make a few more simple, cheap videos like this over the next couple of months showcasing different aspects of their sound, so expect more posts along these lines.

Leave a comment

Filed under Call And Response