Or, “Sakura” ya “Ashita” o “Shinjiru” Uta wa Mou Takusan!
Last week there was a talk event between OLH and subcultural superstar Machiyama Tomohiro in Itabashi. You may know Itabashi as one of those stops on the Sobu line between Ochanomizu and Shinjuku.
I couldn’t be asked to read what the event was about (heck, I only just read its title just now for this post…) but merely seeing the two parties involved with the event was enough for me to secure a ticket. The event was held in a large hall–bigger than Janus–and I found myself a seat in the elevated section of the hall surrounded by all manner of suspicious folk. That said, I probably should have found a closer seat, because right as the clock struck 7:00pm, Machiyama poked his head out from behind the curtain, and announced that right here, right now OLH was going to do a mini-concert.
The curtain rose to reveal a hilariously ghetto setup composed of Sinner-Yang (band leader, bassist) and Sonegawa Akio (keyboardist, tweet artist) at his keyboard and Mac. A really clunky beat came through the speakers, with Sinner-Yang and Sone-chan playing over it. After a while, the man in pink made his appearance, and delivered a killer performance of Annani Hantai Shiteta Otousan ni Beer wo Tsugarete. aCKy then talked to the audience for a bit by pointing fingers at them and yelling “Something in here stinks… IS IT YOU (OMAE KA)?! OR IS IT YOU?!” After that he kindly informed everyone that the second and final song of the mini-concert would be Suki na Otoko no Namae Ude ni Compass no Hari de Kaita . Sone-chan drove the song with his keyboard, resulting in a way softer version of what is already one of the band’s softer-sounding songs. It was really hard to re-create the sound of the songs with just two instruments, but aCKy’s vocals carried things so well that you didn’t even notice how ghetto the whole setup was.
After the mini-concert, aCKy, Sinner-Yang and Machiyama gathered around a table to talk about old American and Japanese songs (each party chose 10 songs; most of Machiyama’s songs were English songs, which most of OLH’s songs were old Showa Ballads) and how crazy their lyrics were. A perfect topic of conversation given OLH’s MO.
Given the complexity of the subject, it was a pretty hard conversation to follow, but there were some interesting anecdotes that I could pick up. Before they dove into talking about the song lyrics, Machiyama asked how much of OLH’s songs were based on true experiences. aCKy said that some of them are, but most of them just come about from him being nosy.
Aside from that, I’m just going to list off all the interesting things I remember:
- Machiyama telling everyone about how earnestly he tried to remember Led Zeppelin’s Lemon Song as a junior high school student, and how he learned years later that it was laced with sexual innuendo.
- Them realizing that Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones is about sex and other dirty subjects.
- Songs aCKy sings in love hotels.
- None of the characters in Gakkou no Sensei end up happily.
- 54 Kakan, Machibouke (covered by OLH on the album Ongaku Girai) is a reference to Hagiwara Kenichi’s 54 day prison sentence for marijuana possession. The song is written from his lover’s point of view, as she waits for him to come back. The three pondered if “days night” is actually proper English, then realized he just ripped it off from The Beatles.
- Whenever someone dropped a name of any of the writers behind these scandalous songs, Sinner-Yang made sure to let everyone know that he respected those guys.
Here’s one anecdote that will go on for a bit: The sole English song OLH chose was Randy Newman’s Sail Away, due to its biting satire. In Machiyama’s words: “You may all know Randy Newman as that guy who writes happy songs for Toy Story, but when we were kids, Randy Newman was a badass!” I personally had no idea Newman did songs like this either.
Apparently the song’s instrumentals are based on Ray Charles’ Georgia On My Mind. Machiyama: “What do you think Ray Charles thinks of this song? Do you think he got mad? No! He covered this song!!”
Sinner-Yang: “He just couldn’t read the lyrics.”
This then segued into a discussion about how in America it’s okay to make almost racist jokes like this, especially if it’s in the name of satire, and the race you’re commenting on approves. They dropped show titles like SNL and said that in America you can even say the N word on TV in the right context–that context being having a black dude around or having a black dude say it. But something even close to this would raise a ton of shit in Japan, so no one even touches subjects like this. “You can’t even call poor people poor” said Yang, “You have to call them ‘slow life’.”
What then proceeded to blow my mind was a Japanese explanation of yo’ mama jokes. They explanation of how you win if you can make the guy you’re making fun of laugh with your joke was hilariously straight forward and matter-of-fact. I guess this is what Americans sound like when talking about how weird and crazy Japanese people are!! I never thought I’d ever have yo’ mama jokes explained to me in Japanese ever.
Sinner-Yang and aCKy cited Sail Away as a big influence on them, to which Machiyama said…
“It’s just like how you guys have written your own biting satire in the form of Pachinko and Okaasan to Isshou, right?”
aCKy: “No! Our records don’t sell. Newman’s do. So please buy our records.”
On the whole, the talk was mostly about how years ago the topics of pop songs were harsher and more grounded in reality, and if one were to sing songs like these today, lots of people in very high positions of power would get very angry. Sinner-Yang’s explanation for this phenomenon was interesting: “Back then no one had any responsibility. The writer, the singer, and the listener were all absolved of responsibility because this stuff was just popular. The writer had no responsibility because they could just say they’re writing to match the tastes of the mainstream; the singer had no responsibility because they didn’t write the thing; and since everyone else was listening to music like this, the listener had no responsibility either.” Apparently the releases of some of these songs now-a-days are edited, as Sinner-Yang remembers extra verses in some of the songs when he heard them on the radio as a kid.
Throughout the talk Sinner-Yang and Machiyama were quite talkative, while aCKy was rather quiet. Given my short experience talking to him, he seems far more comfortable performing the character that he is on stage than actually really talking to people.
To close things off, OLH preformed a very disco’d out version of Ore no Sei De Koushien ni Ikenakatta, and the whole room was on their feet and dancing the whole time, yelling “Ore no sei de!” at exactly the right times. It was a ton of fun.
Then they kindly escorted everyone out, while reminding us to return the lyric sheet given out at the entrance so as not to be sued by JASRAC.
Bonus: Then I Met Zun
Since I was in the area, I decided to pop down to Akihabara and drop by my favorite watering hole, GAME BAR A-Button. When I texted my buddy to say that I was coming, he replied with this text:
“zuns here lol”
I’m not a huge Touhou fan, but meeting Zun was kinda cool. As you can imagine, he’s a pretty nerdy guy, and he was there to watch all the game trailers that premiered at the Tokyo Game Show, since he didn’t get a chance to go.
He was harshly criticizing all of them.
Amongst the people at the table was a mean feller from Nagano who, some weeks prior, had a six-hour drinking session with Zun, which basically boiled down to him making fun of Zun for six hours, and Zun retorting with, “I’m a badass, you know. I have a lot of money.” On that night that guy was kind of quiet, but when we could we both kind of messed with Zun a bit. After watching all the trailers, Zun regaled us with tales about his honeymoon in Europe, and how he couldn’t understand a goddamn thing anywhere he went. We then tried to coax him to come to America to chill, requesting that he covers our flights. After that he left, because he had get up early to go to Shizuoka the next day.
I should have gotten a picture, but he wasn’t wearing a hat.