100 Hair Tips with the King Brothers
Mar 18, 2008, 21:50
The planet Earth has only enough space for a few garage-rock bands—Frosty The Reatards (and Jay Reatard's other projects, including Lost Sounds), Guitar Wolf, The Persuaders, Mick Collins-led projects (Screws, Dirtbombs, etc.), and The King Brothers. All others should be barricaded inside Conrail freight cars and shipped off forever in an effort to spare the populace from another group of shits reliving American musical history. Of course, the aforementioned groups differ from their peers who could be mistaken for actors reenacting music of the past. These bands are hip and modern—they wear leather, drink booze, and get luckyâ€¦sometimes.
Certainly not in the case of the King Bros.' thunderous drummer, Jun who, on the band's recent tour of this country, was subjected to the furtively manipulative tools of an American woman who nearly naturalized this lad from the Far East. A monolith of a chick occupying space at the end of the bar at the Buffalo, NY, gig seduced Jun and persuaded him to marry her and adopt her three children. But, when he tried to grapple a little with his soon-to-be wife bar-side, she consistently backhanded him, knocking him back from the bar three feet or so.
Consequently, every single member of the bands' entourage, which consisted of five people (two women and three men), had to work this sly mama over a couple brutal turns before she relinquished her headlock on poor Jun and collapsed in an alley behind the club. Although the guy is rather fey, what ultimately prevented him fighting her off on his own was his 13-inch afro. You read correctly—a Japanese man with an afro. He permed the goddamn life out of his poor follicles. They now have the texture of a clown's wig, but it's still a sweet hair-do.
On several drunken occasions, Jun roared like a lion; he claimed that his hair-do instilled a lion's predatorial instincts within his heart. But these are minor incidents of the King Brothers' first tour of the United States, a tour I had the lucky opportunity to do lighting for. This action is emphasized because true light technicians do not operate lights or control stage lighting or simply construct structures for stage lights. It's my livelihood and my life interest. I do lighting.
The King Bros. tour was so very important to me because it provided an opportunity to create a stage on which a breadth of hues and shades, blended, would favorably capture the punk spirit of a Japanese garage band. Growing up with the tradition of Occidental rock, the diminutive anatomy of the band and, more specifically, the bone structure of their heads, are foreign to my understanding of how a punk band should look on stage. For example, I had to utilize darker versions of the color red (burgundy and crimson) in order flesh-out faces that are more level (shallow?) than typical American/Teutonic countenances. But, this causes conflict because red has a tendency to strengthen the intensity of the color yellow. So, if I allowed these intensely rich reds to dominate the stage show then the King Bros. mugs would have resembled gigantic banana-yellow smiley faces. A second color is needed to retain that full and ominous rock pose I aim for and to neutralize the slightly yellow complexion of the Asian man. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.
In addition to my responsibilities as a light technician, numerous editors for international magazines asked me to chronicle the King Bros. debut American tour for feature stories. All I can recall are the following highlights.
- While in Memphis, in order to experience authentic southern Black culture (grits, greens, gold chains, etc.), the King Bros., excluding everyone else who knew not to go, dined at some shady soul-food dive where someone lifted the band's tour money. Once they realized what had happened, they returned to the scene of the crime and questioned people in the neighborhood. Obviously, many neighbors asked them to leave the 'hood immediately.
- Deep in the heart of rural Missouri, the King Bros. were forced to play in a barn where each member of the group stood atop his own grain truck. When the music reached that ideal frenzied momentum, which allows those listening to peel off society's straight jacket (i.e. act completely retarded), the crowd hauled out an armada of vintage wheelchairs. They rode them like daredevils and then smashed them into hundreds of pieces. One man, who the crowd referred to as Dungfodder, attained such an incredible velocity in his chair that he simultaneously broke down the door to the grain silo and triggered its release mechanism. The show temporarily ceased so that Dungfodder could be pulled from underneath a mountain of cattle barley.
- At the club christened the Elvis Room in Portsmouth, NH, Maya (screams and guitar) tossed his guitar too high into the air and it got stuck up inside the club's decaying drop ceiling. While the other two continued with the best version of “Kill Everyone Blues” on the tour, Maya scaled the plumbing protruding the walls and crawled up inside the drop ceiling in order to get his guitar back. Well, these dudes are little folk but still too big to be applying stress to such a tenuously hanging structure. The portion of the ceiling directly above the stage crashed to the floor immediately. Keizo (vox and guitar) portentously sensed danger and flipped from the stage. Jun wasn't so lucky; the cheap aluminum frame of the ceiling pierced his drumheads and sliced both of his arms up badly enough for us to seek medical attention. The ER doctor told Jun that if not for his afro acting as padding, he would have definitely been knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion.
- During the uncomfortably crowded van ride from Boston, MA, to Providence, RI, Maya confided in me, using a mixture of Japanese grunts, Hollywood jargon, and sounds with no apparent lingual origin, that he and his band mates intend to star in a Hollywood motion picture. Plot: The King Bros. conquer Hollywood with guitars that are actually laser guns. The final scene of the movie will depict the King Bros. flying jetpacks around the mammoth Hollywood sign in the hills and scorching it with laser-cannon fire. Additionally, Maya disclosed that he wants to shoot a lot of people with a gun before he dies.
- Equidistant from Rochester, NY, and Albany, NY, cruising the New York State Thruway, we witnessed a raging car fire along the side of the road. Maya became possessed with some preternatural attraction to this junker of a Dodge Omni spitting flames at least 25 feet into the sky. He begged me to pull over (somehow I was forced to drive the van the majority of the time). I refused because we were already two hours late. Maya became enraged and grabbed the steering wheel while slamming on the brake with his left foot. The van's speed rapidly decreased to five mph and that is when Maya dived out the passenger door. This attracted the attention of the unfortunate family who owned the Omni. Their faces expressed something akin to a fusion of bewilderment and fear as this drunken, smelly Jap, with a filthy black mobster suit, an unkempt Mod-cut and a pair of mammoth shades that only 1977 Linda Carter would don, hurdled himself at the foot of the flames and started writhing about in the gravel, moaning and cooing like a wounded llama.
Rhythmic reconfiguration—each night the King Bros. fundamentally altered rock music's standard interrelationships in terms of rhythm. Their songs (“Go to Hell” and “Rot Now!!” and “Sell Your Soul” are notable jams) advanced rock through the gratuitous flaunting of unadulterated and needlessly incendiary attitude.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Jim O'Rourke once said that Guitar Wolf actually play cover songs. That's kind of true but he fails to consider the fact that true folk music is based on individual interpretation. Sonic progression/evolution aren't necessarily the explicit aims of folk music but they do occur if the interpretation is infused with strong personality.
After every decimated club and every exhausting performance, I would ask the King Bros. who their influences were. Each one would invariably say “The Stooges” and “The Rolling Stones.” And even though their recorded output (an LP and a 7 inch on Bulb Records) do not even begin to hint at the aesthetic leap from their influences to their own sound, the variable in this equation is rock 'n' roll attitude. That reads as a basic enough point but making the leap from another band's sound to your own is increasingly difficult in our current times when recordings attain demigod status. This is the reason why the aforementioned garage bands are the only ones worth keeping. Each one of them forces garage's aesthetic tradition and the pursuit of experimentation into slaves for their own unique interpretations. Jay Reatard irrevocably blurred the lines separating hardcore and garage on the Reatards last record for Empty. Then the Persuaders (ex-Royal Pendletons and ex-Monarchs) recently released an LP on Savage that is the first true fusion of Obituary-style dirge and sparse rhythm and blues-based garage. It's no surprise that each of these groups are involved with labels and musicians known for releasing more abstract noise. Ironically, Bulb's first releases were garage rock—The Monarchs.Â
The King Bros.' releases sound appropriate alongside the Persuaders because they play a more blues-based garage than the power-chord hungry groups like the Reatards and Guitar Wolf. But, they tear the style-apart severely with techniques reminiscent of many Jap noise groups and even Harry Pussy. The King Bros., as well as these other groups, are better, though, because their noise reaches the head by way of the ass.
Of course, I don't think any cause/effect relationship exists among the King Bros. and Harry Pussy but the garage rock that the King Bros. pummeled America with is some sick confluence of shrieking distorted-noise and heavy blues-picking that retains Black-syncopation surprisingly enough. The most coherent point regarding their music came from Jun one night. He said, “the King Bros. are actually two separate bands. Maya's songs with his screaming and Keizo's rock songs both attached to my drumming.” Fuck, that works.
Inevitably, though, they'll fall flat on their faces because attitude as a fuel for interesting skullfucking-rock has a low-viscosity breakdown. It lasts for only a couple records. In fact, the early reports back from Japan have the King Bros. on a subsidiary of Sony, producing some tame-ass garage.
Fuck 'em. No rock journalist ever asked Noddy Holder about the relationship between his music and ancient Druid culture. I'll let that comment stand on its own.
Article originally appeared in Your Flesh #44