The former Can vocalist storms a storied underground music venue in Japan as part of his “never ending tour.” Roll over Beethoven, and tell Bob Dylan the news!
BY WADE T. OBERLIN
Damo Suzuki… The best show I have seen in Japan thus far, and on a SCHOOL night too!
On a Thursday (Oct. 24) at the UFO Club, the intimate venue dedicated to underground music akin to the homonymous alien club in London that catered to music-heads time ago, lucky ticketholders patiently waited for the instant composer and ex-CAN man, Damo Suzuki.
First up, death/goth rockers Plasticzooms… Treble to the max, these guys were wound tight, too tight to really swing. All loud scratchy angular attacks, plenty of posing and they sound alright (and look super-fashionable!), but it’s when they drop looking dead and have their twin guitarists work their spindling guitar scrapes that they really come to life. I’m the kind of guy that will giggle about seeing a corpse dance, and their front
woman (EDIT: front MAN… he was quite androgynous) posed and skittered all with a straight, dead face that sometimes gave way to howls, screams or subtle come-hithers as he slowly allowed his tongue to creep in and out. A blistering assault of a band, a little more looseness (and a sense of humor) would do them wonders. Keep those Bauhaus and Cure records close!
Pere Ubu was played in between sets by the DJ. Heart Of Darkness, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo… This was great.
Then, the main event. The first act, an ensemble made especially for Damo under his Network, warmed up and got into the groove as Damo took the stage, a man of 63 with long graying hair and a worn face. His first band was a JR Train in the red, with Damo intoning free-speak to his passengers. Three youngins’ behind the locomotive rocked rhythmically, zapping molecules with a deep, steady bass throb, ecstatic guitar jutting about and a heavy beat backing and bucking. At critical mass, Damo would then GLEEFULLY DERAIL his band into a controlled freakout, the longhair drummer donned in a mawashi standing upon his kit, bashing away as the guitarist jilted and seized like a man possessed. Bass moved in and out of the groove, eventually landing the metaphorical traincars at Damo’s command back onto another set of tracks, i.e. another full-throttle, straight-ahead pressure cooker. Fuck! It didn’t stop there. I imagined the Shinkansen achieving flight, ricocheting off modern Tokyo-cityscape at Damo and his band’s will, finally landing safely someplace close to Earth, relatively unscathed but with carfuls of adrenaline charged passengers left with ringing in their ears.
The first group, G/B/D, left the stage with Damo. I don’t remember what played during this intermission. The first group was incredible to behold, real rockers I haven’t witnessed in a long while. A girl in overalls (I think) put out Wobble-y sounds and wasn’t your token girl bass-holder. I also couldn’t help but jump to the thought that she looked like a Japanese Kira Roessler. The guitar player was incredibly adequate and with no posing necessary, he was a stone-cold rocker and he played HOT. My real freakout was seeing the longhair drummer tame his kit mid-freakout as Damo created some absolutely interesting sounds using his, uh, mouth.
The second act, made up of the Japanese rock band Gezan, began with a lone, shirtless bass player, playing freely and happily. Damo took stage for the second time, once again leaving his free-speak behind, supplying his audience with the next best thing in gibberish-id talk. Two male, longhair guitarists (One in flowing red robe, the other in a skirt and leather jacket) took the stage next, giving us their own cosmic-think through their respective mics and pickups. The only person here donning a short cut and not contributing much on “vocals” was a mean looking, bleach blonde drummer who could have been mistaken for Hitler Youth in his wife beater if he wasn’t, you know, Japanese.
The act started very free, slowly gaining cohesion as voices began to match and roll. This second act was very full, expertly performed, not straight ahead Kraut-damage but rather boisterous, dirty hard rockin’ and bluesy. Leaving the id-talk behind, Damo spoke repetitious questions in his made up language as his players derangely imped about, hopping and grooving and being generally fucking heavy. They would on occasion become atmospheric, but never long enough to fully immerse themselves in beatless Eno/Cluster/Neu fog… Rather the band dipped in and out, stomping bare savage feet through deep puddles of pure sound and space, only to reemerge with another Earthy rocker. Near the end, Damo took the group through a transcendent, heartfelt ballad… then after a brief moment, the group switched gears to a very abrupt, outlandish extended take that sounded a bit like a sped up, drum’n’bass backed Beefheart “Dali’s Car”, or a ZZ Top outtake, with his twin guitarists uttering nasally, PiL-esque “Chants”. The results freaked me out, and the girls just LOVED it.
After the second set came to a close, Damo addressed his audience calmly and simply. Then his cross-dressing guitarist freaked and after some rapid-fire thanks in Japanese, ended with the exclamation, “GEZAN AND DAMO SUZUKI MATHERFUCKERZ!”
It was my first show at UFO Club and it definitely won’t be the last. I left the venue totally floored. That meant something to me too. I’ve left a lot of shows tired, exhausted and wholly satisfied. I have seen Thurston Moore with his latest band, the reformed PiL, Boredoms with 90-something drummers in a circle. They were all excellent shows, near religious experiences that were very important to me. But this was the first time I think I have ever left a show not only tired and happy, but totally wrecked, exhausted and blissed-out. Tapped. By the time my head finally hit the pillow, I felt like I had finally finished a few rounds of incredible, spirited sex.
At the UFO Club, Damo performed his first set with an ensemble of three musicians listed as Margaret Hiroi, Toyoda Shigeru, and Takano Kyosuke. Damo’s second set was made up of the hard-rockers Gezan. Damo Suzuki is on a “never-ending tour”. He plays with different bands around the world, under the Damo Suzuki Network. If he ever comes to your corner, I recommend you grab a ticket in advance.
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