Japanoise: the craziest music genre in the world

We take a look at the 20th century Japanese (or “japonoise”) noise scene, one of the craziest music scenes to ever exist.

One thing music fans love to do is have pissing contests about who listens to the most edgy and unique bands; do you hear Tourniquet? I raise your Death Grips. Do you listen to Death Grips? I’ll upload 100 Gecs. There’s no denying how much fun it can be to expand your horizons and find the craziest, boundary-pushing bands to challenge your preconceptions about music and impress your friends.

What if I told you about a music scene where bands demolished venues with bulldozers for their live performances? Or record 30 minutes of pornographic sounds on a disc and release it as a tribute album to a highly respected late Japanese emperor? Or perform live with only two members: one screaming and the other masturbating? That music scene is real, and it’s Japanese.

The Japanese band Hijokaidan performing live in 1982 (credit: unknown)

Japanoise (or Japanese noise music) is a genre and subculture that originated in Japan in the 1980s. It is characterized by the use of extreme noise, distortion, and experimental sounds, often blatantly atonal and arrhythmic. Japanese artists often employ unconventional acting techniques, and the genre is known for its emphasis on energy, intensity, madness, and often dangerous live performances.

Today, I’d like to explore the world of Japanoise by telling the story of four of its most significant, interesting and influential bands, so without further ado, let’s get started.

sonkaidan

Hijokaidan is the band that started it all. Originally a punk band by the name of Rasenkaidan (which translates to “spiral staircase”), the group drew inspiration from the burgeoning avant-garde and industrial music scenes of the 1970s, incorporating the elements of improvisation and the harsh noises of genres in their own music. in an effort to push punk to extremes. By 1979, the band’s sound was so radically different from where they started that they opted to give themselves an entirely new name. Hijokaidan (“emergency staircase”) was born and with it the Japanese scene.

Listening to Hijokadain’s debut album from 1982 Zōroku no Kibyō It is the best way to understand how brutal, absurd and hard the sounds of Japanese are. Following its intro track (the sounds of a man vomiting before being applauded), the record turns into a relentless cacophony of harsh noise from start to finish, pushing the definition of what music to its breaking point.

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If the band’s studio albums were extreme, then their live shows were nothing short of apocalyptic. Hijokaidan quickly built a reputation in their home country for the physically and emotionally demanding nature of their performances, both for the band and the audience. The group would wreak havoc on the stage, leveling equipment to rubble and littering the audience and venue with debris and debris.

We bought some earthworms and worms at a fishing tackle store and mixed them in cubes with eggs, milk, calamari, salmon roe, raw fish, etc. During the performance we tipped these buckets over our heads.The Hijokaidan guitarist told The Wire about a particularly memorable show from 1982.

There was also an incident in which Ebi-kun, a devoted Hijokaidan follower and arsonist, became so excited by the performance that he threw a firecracker onto the stage.

It was this madness, both from Hijokaidan’s studio recordings and live shows, that would set the standard for Japanese and inspire the iconic groups that would emerge in the ’80s.

The Gerogerigegege

The Gerogerigegege are one of those groups that take inspiration from Hijokaidan, and they are one of the most interesting and storied groups to emerge from the scene, so much so, in fact, that covering everything really interesting about them would result in an entire book. content value, so for today I will limit myself to some of his most interesting work and stories.

The Gerogerigegege lineup has consisted of many members over the years, but the two you should know about are founding members Juntaro Yamanouchi and Tetsuyah Endoh. Of the pair, the former is the de facto leader and main musician of the band, while the latter was the band’s designated exhibitionist, whose only job in the group was to masturbate on stage. This should tell you everything you need to know about what left-field Gerogerigegege look like.

While they have created more traditional noise music in the style of Hijokaidan, The Gerogerigegege are perhaps best known for their incredible “covers” of popular Western music. These versions all follow the same format: Yamanouchi would shout the song’s title in a heavy Japanese accent, tell the band with “one two three four!“Ramones-style, so everyone would make as much noise as possible for 30 seconds or so. End of cover.

Another highlight of The Gerogerigegege’s vast discography is their album Showa 1989. Created as a tribute to the Japanese Emperor Shōwa, who died in January of that year. The album begins with a minute of lo-fi solemn orchestral music, before moving into 36 minutes of raw sexual sounds from porn movies, finally ending with another minute of orchestral music to wrap the whole thing up.

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The wildest part? The Gerogerigegege released the record to stores with no indication that it was anything more than a legitimate tribute to the late monarch, so there is a very real possibility that several hapless dueling royalists bought it, only to find out what the album really was. late. date. The Gerogerigegege would not have had it otherwise.

Hanatarash

Let me set the scene: It’s 1985 and you’re at the Tokyo Superloft live music venue for a Hanatarash concert. Just as the performance is set to begin, a Komatsu bulldozer smashes through the back wall of the building, writhing and screeching as she crushes the stage to rubble. As the dust begins to settle, a crazed man named Yamata Eye emerges from the Komatsu’s cockpit in a berserker-like madness. He begins to make a Molotov cocktail in the rubble, and is eventually subdued by the audience before he can ignite it and complete his incendiary mission. You have just experienced a Hanatarash concert.

Hanatarash is probably the most extreme Japanese band that has ever existed, if not the most extreme. band ever exist. Formed in 1984 by Yamataka Eye and Mitsuru Tabata, Hanatarash had a simple mission: to take music and performing arts as far as possible.

His brand of noise music bears many similarities to that of his Hijokaidon ancestors, but it was on the live stage that Hanatarash truly set himself apart from his peers.

The band quickly gained a reputation as the The most dangerous band to see live. In addition to the infamous “bulldozer” (or, rather, excavator) concert, there are also stories of Yamataka Eye throwing heavy objects like oil barrels and operating heavy industrial tools while writhing onstage, at one point nearly amputating his head. own leg with a power saw strapped to his back. In one particularly gruesome tale, Eye allegedly sliced ​​a cat carcass in half with a machete (or a chainsaw, depending on which tale you believe) and hurled the innards into the crowd.

When it comes to extreme gangs, there is nothing more extreme than Hanatarash.

boredoms

Of all the bands being talked about today, Boredoms is arguably the most musical of the bunch, though that’s not saying much.

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Pioneered by the infamous Hanatarash frontman Yamataka Eye, Boredoms veered away from the harsh noise of Eye’s old band in favor of much more traditional instrumentation, even committing the cardinal sin of Japanese by giving most of their tracks a steady, upbeat rhythm. an occasional tune (horror!). The result is a sound closer to an extreme version of funk and rock than noise, so it’s debatable whether they really count as “Japanese”. Regardless, I chose to include them on this list thanks to their connection to Hanatarash and how interesting and engaging their art is.

While other Japanese groups specialize in making music that causes you to lose your mind, Boredom sounds more like the band themselves Losing my head. While he’s up against many, there’s also something strangely cathartic about witnessing Eye and his collaborators completely drop their inhibitions, cut down their instruments, and squeal like animals.

One of the most interesting things about Boredoms is the traction they gained in the “mainstream”. The rise of grunge in the early ’90s saw major labels and promoters scrambling for raw and subversive acts, resulting in the band signing to Warner Records and supporting Sonic Youth and Nirvana on their US tour.

Boredom quickly became a favorite of Cobain’s, so much so that he requested they be added to the roster for the 1994 Lollapalooza music festival as a condition of Nirvana signing up. Suffice to say, the band was not particularly well received by US festival crowds or harsh critics, with the New York Times calling the band’s set “incorrigible noise.”

Boredoms still play and release music to this day, writing on their official website that after “decades of noise, chaos, post-rock before there was such a thing, tribal experimentation, remixes, feats of trance-inducing rhythmic intensity, line-up changes, ongoing collaborations and doing what they want regardless of trends and fashion, The Boredoms continue, and remain as vital as ever.


The world of Japanese is expansive and often shrouded in mystery and myth thanks to language barriers, the passage of time, and the elusive nature of the artists who pioneered the scene, but I hope today has given you least a small sample. how incredible the scene really was and is.

I leave you today with the liner notes for The Gerogerigegege album. instrument disorder, which I think perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Japanese; “Fuck compose. Fuck the melody. Dedicated to no one. thanks to nobody THE ART IS FINISHED

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