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Thursday, May 12, 2011
Go! Team hope to rock Japan in a good way
Special to The Japan Times
"People are scaredy-cats, aren't they?" laughs Ian Parton, founder of British cut-and-paste kitsch-pop outfit The Go! Team, when told that many Western bands have canceled their Japan tours in the wake of March's radiation-tinged triple disaster in the Tohoku region.
Luckily, Parton and Co. are no such sissies. The six-piece will bring their supercharged live show to Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo this month and by all accounts the gang are excited, if a little apprehensive at the possibility of aftershocks.
"I'm dying to see how the other members of the band react," cackles Kumamoto-born Kaori Tsuchida, the band's multi-instrumentalist, on the phone from England during a brief between-tours stopover. "They've never experienced earthquakes, so I'm kind of looking forward to seeing them freak out!"
Hey, even the bravest band would be a little jittery in The Go! Team's shoes: Recently, they appear to be cursed. Just a couple of weeks ago, rapper Ninja suffered an injury (a Ninjury?) when she was severely winded on stage, and was carted off to hospital in a Brooklyn ambulance. And a few weeks before that, drummer Chi Fukami Taylor tripped while exiting a stage in Spain and split her forehead open, requiring stitches. Sod the Japan Meteorological Agency: You can probably predict the next major catastrophe simply by looking at The Go! Team's Japan tour dates.
Still, as Japan prepares to enter a summer of likely power shortages and economic concern, a Go! Team show is just the thing to lift spirits. Always an outpouring of unmitigated naked euphoria, the band's feel-good lo-fi dance tunes, instrument-swapping and crowd-baiting antics are the perfect party starter.
"I was wondering what I can do (for my country), and my brother, who lives in Yokohama, said, 'Do your best in Japan and make people happy,' " says Tsuchida, who has lived in London for about a decade. "Too much jishuku (self-restraint) is not good. I think it's time for people to got back to normal and rock again."
The Go! Team sound has evolved subtly with each of their three albums, from the sample-heavy bedroom lock-in of 2004's "Thunder, Lightning, Strike" (recorded by Parton alone, and an instant indie hit) to a fuller band sound on recent disc "Rolling Blackouts."
Although Parton (who says "Wowzers" a lot, like Inspector Gadget) still writes and arranges the songs, the other five band members, who were originally recruited by Parton solely for live shows, have had more creative input this time around. This is partly thanks to how the album was recorded — not in a studio, but at Parton's home in Brighton, England.
"It turned out nice," says Tsuchida. "In the studio, there's always a time limit, which creates pressure. In Ian's house, I was there 12 hours a day for I don't know how many weeks. Then it was cutting, chopping, pasting."
"It's quite a schizo album from song to song; it keeps you on your toes in that way," says Parton. "But in the end, the album turned out to be more about traditional songwriting almost. I was a lot more interested in melody and it being sing-along-able, like classic '60s pop songs."
Let's qualify that, anyone going in to "Rolling Blackouts" expecting a Shangri-La's record will be disappointed, but certainly the band's usual chaotic mish-mash of guitar squall, toyshop keyboards, anthemic brass-wind, bombastic rapping and vinyl samples has been tempered by a melodic sensibility that sets it apart. The first example of this comes in "Secretary Song," featuring Satomi Matsuzaki of fellow mixed-heritage noiseniks Deerhoof, singing a cute pop vocal.
"I had this melody that for me sounded quite Japanese, and I put this typewriter sample over the top of it," explains Parton of the song's genesis. "So then straight away it became a song about a Japanese secretary in Tokyo who probably hates her job and wants to get out. I thought of Satomi because I thought the melody was kind of Deerhoof-y."
When the band play "Secretary Song" live, Tsuchida takes on vocal duties and Fukami Taylor re-creates the clickety-clack sample on a vintage typewriter next to her drum kit. Once, they even put a piece of paper in the typewriter before the show, and then delighted at the gibberish produced by Fukami Taylor's rhythmical assault.
Another pretty good reason to catch The Go! Team on this Japan tour is that you may never have the chance again. Parton revealed in a recent magazine interview that he was considering taking the band off the road; when asked about it, he says he's still mulling it over.
"There's certainly a sense that this might be the last year of touring, though I don't want to commit to that, really," he ponders. "Whether I carry on making Go! Team records I don't know — I've got too many ideas not to do something in some capacity. Maybe I'll just be some Pete Waterman-style behind-the-scenes character."
Tsuchida elaborates: "(Ian's) got a kid as well: His son is 2 years old, and it becomes quite hard to tour if you have kids. But we haven't talked about it yet, so I don't know."
You'd think the extreme merrymaking of The Go! Team's live show is partly to blame — it must be exhausting to pull that off night after night — but both Parton and Tsuchida dismiss the idea.
"Most people work harder than we do," notes Parton. "They have to get up at seven in the morning and get on a train, work in factories or whatever. We basically sound check and then we have an hour to thrash around in."
"It's physically tiring, but I like to rock out," says Tsuchida, who also plays in an occasional side project, Funanori, with Minutemen/Stooges bassist Mike Watt. "Without The Go! Team, I rock out anyway. I've become an adrenaline junkie."
"I always knew that I wanted to have a band that was action-packed," remarks Parton. "We never kick back: The Go! Team pledge is to trash like it's our last night."
On-stage injuries, wild instrument-swapping, vintage office machinery, magnitude-9 rump-shaking beats: That's the kind of night out Japan needs. But as Tsuchida puts it, "Make sure you're wearing trainers — don't come in high heels. It's dangerous."
The Go! Team play with De De Mouse at Nagoya Club Quattro on May 17 ( 264-8211) and Shinsaibashi Club Quattro in Osaka on May 18 ( 6281-8181); and with Riddim Saunter at Liquidroom in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on May 20 ( 5464-0800). Shows start at 7 p.m., and tickets for each cost ¥5,500. Members of the band will DJ at a Tokyo Indie/Vanity event at Trump Room in Shibuya-ku on May 20 (¥3,000;  3770-2325). Doors open at 11 p.m. For more information, visit www.thegoteam.co.uk; Kaori Tsuchida blogs at www.go-kaori.blogspot.com.