Shonen Knife – The Best Japanese Rock Band Ever
Aside from Bo Ningen, obvz.
Shonen Knife combine massive guitars, ridiculous lyrics about animals and hair whipping with cute sixties outfits and a passion for Motorhead. Thirty years in the rock ’n’ roll business has seen the Japanese mega band open for Nirvana, perform as a Ramones tribute band and even have a tribute album recorded in their honour, featuring, from L7 to Sonic Youth, the doyennes of the DIY scene.
Pictures: Jack Sunnucks
What made you want to return to a more 60s sound for your new record Pop Tune?
Shonen Knife: I wasn’t especially aware of the 60s apart from pop. Pop is the starting point of Shonen Knife. Our last album, Free Time, was a punkish album and I wanted to make a different one. I like to listen to various kinds of music but one of my basic favourites is the Beatles, so I took them for inspiration.
What was it like for Ritsuko and Emi singing lead vocals for the first time?
Shonen Knife: They performed very well. Having all members singing is ideal. It’s fun if you listen to three different voices in one album, isn’t it?
Yes! Your image has always been very important – does Atsuko (who lives in California) still make all your outfits? What fashions inspire you?
Shonen Knife: Yes, she does. Atsuko and I were inspired by ’60s and ’70s fashion like Pierre Cardin, Mary Quant or Yves Saint Laurent for stage costume.
How should I dress to get the Shonen Knife look?
Shonen Knife: You can make a dress by yourself or get it at Yves Saint Laurent boutique.
OK. Shonen Knife songs have a very positive message – why is this important to you?
Shonen Knife: I don’t want to listen to negative things in music. Music should be fun and has power to make people happy.
I love your blog and how much you write about food! What are some memorable meals you’ve had round the world?
Shonen Knife: Food is the most important for us. I like Spanish dishes. I had delicious tapas during European tour. In Britain, I like the pub a lot.
What music do you like to rock out to, both past and present?
Shonen Knife: I like Pilot, Judas Priest, Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Japanese band called Extruders. I sometimes listen to death metal and classical music, too.
What do you like to do when you’re not touring or rehearsing?
Shonen Knife: I play tennis twice a week. I also like to watch tennis tournament on TV. Then, I like to cook and eat my favourite foods.
You often sing about animals, from bison to cats, jellyfish to slugs. If you could be an animal for a day what would it be?
Shonen Knife: I would be a homo sapiens because I rather like the concrete jungle over a grassy place.
Which other bands have been most exciting for you to meet?
Shonen Knife: Motorhead. Lemmy from Motorhead.
Amazing. Where do you find the inspiration for your songs? Every new album has so many new subjects.
Shonen Knife: I get the inspiration from my daily life. I don’t have any conscious to keep making music. It’s very natural for me to make music. As long as there are people who want to listen to our music, I like to continue to play.
If Shonen Knife were a rock ’n’ roll cake, what would be in it?
Shonen Knife: Green Tea cream.