IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #13.991
J Church and Honey Bear Records – Dead Fall
This zine is bound for glory...

  

TOUR, FEST, ETC.

Okay, here we go. We're gonna hit the road. Of course, I'm not ready. Anyone else out there going to the Fest? I'm gonna be wandering around aimlessly for two days. I don't really drink that much and I can't hack warm weather. Of course, I've got my tour goals:

1) Snow Globes
2) Postcards with either A) giant vegetables or B) jackalopes
3) Small pieces of original art, smaller than 5" by 5"
4) Every record store with a dollar room across the south.

NOVEMBER
16 Jackson, MS – The Red Room w/ The Urchin (Japan), Toys That Kill
17 Pensacola, FL – Sluggo's w/ The Urchin (Japan), Toys That Kill,
Sexy, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, Bent Outta Shape, Bloodbath and Beyond
18 Gainesville, FL – hanging at the Fest
19 Gainesville, FL – Common Grounds w/Ted Leo, Radon and a million more
20 Gainesville, FL – probably starting to get a little sick of the Fest
21 Atlanta, GA – tba w/ The Urchin (Japan), Black Cougar Shock Unit
22 Chattanooga, TN – Ziggy's tba w/The Urchin (Japan), Sexy
23 Denton, TX – Hailey's w/The Urchin (Japan)

I still need a ride back to Austin after the Denton show. Any ideas?

  

2005 "CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH" JAPAN TOUR DIARY PT. 3

MAY 31st – Nagoya (Huck Finn)

I love Nagoya. We spill out of the van and I don't think I'm the only one in a weird state of mind. This tour is probably easier on me than on anyone else. First off, I'm from the States so we do these long drives between shows all the time. I've probably done over a hundred six to ten hour drives in my life. It's no big deal. I don't think that's nearly as common for the Japanese. On the other hand, I'm Asian meaning I'm not exactly the tallest guy around. At 5' 5" I have no trouble fitting into the little Japanese vehicles. In fact, I think American trucks and cars are stupid big. But I think Ben and Chris suffer every drive. I'm still in a weird state of mind and I go off by myself for a little bit just taking a lot of random photos of the city.

I love Answer Records. It seems like there is a cool record shop in every major stop. I don't know how they do it. American punk stores last for a few years and that's it. Something about the lifestyle versus the discipline it takes to run a successful record shop doesn't mesh in the States. Over here, it's just so impressive. Answer is just one shop that's been around forever and is still great.

I love the Daiei. I remember going to the Daiei at the Pearlridge in Hawaii to buy Blondie records. It seems like every time I've been to Nagoya (which is pretty much every time J Church has been to Japan) we hit the Daiei near Huck Finn for food and drinks.

I really love Huck Finn. Since last time, the club has been renovated with an upstairs bar. We've had a lot of fun nights here.

I get to catch up a bit with Taylow from the Genbaku Onanies and his wife Kanako. Kanako used to do Japan's best Morrissey/Smiths fanzine and Genbaku Onanies are one of the countries best, longest lasting punk bands going back to the late `70s.

First up tonight are Navel. This is easily the best time I've ever seen them. They are also some of the nicest guys around. They have that guitar sounds that mixes Husker Du with Les Thugs. It's that open chord, almost folk type guitar playing with layers of distortion. Every song seems to have a well thought-out blueprint. I can't wait to hear the newest record.

The Act We Act have, in fact, nothing to do with Copper Blue. They are a thrash band of sorts, I guess it's what the kids these days think of as screamo. Not totally though as they've probably got more in common with the first Melt Banana recordings or even Violent Onsongeisha more so than the Locust or something like that. Again, it's an ice change of pace to have a band here and there playing something other than melodic punk. I wish more shows crossed genres.

Mass is drunk and the Urchin are fast and loose. He usually seems so reserved it's great to see him yellng and flipping off the crowd. The kids in Nagoya are always way up for it. It reminds me of the first couple of times we ever made it to Torino or Leeds or Chicago.

Our set is chaos. More busted strings. Crazy crowd. I never break strings. What is going on? It's totally crazy. People are flying everywhere. At one point, the drummer from Navel does a stagedive. I think he hurt his head or something. It was freaky. He looked okay but said he felt terrible. Eventually he had to leave by ambulance. I'd never seen one here in Japan before. It looked like some futuristic little white vehicle with another of the many Japanese robotic voices you hear everywhere. Two people hopped out with a strange, hydraulic stretcher. They were wearing all white with masks looking like the cover of that George Romero movie. It was like they were looking for biohazard or something.

  

JUNE 1st – Mie, Ise (Question)

We drove all night to Ise after the gig at Huck Finn. We're staying with folks from the Because. They seem to live in this weird little apartment structure that I can't figure out if it has a shower or not. There doesn't seem to be. It's funny how so much of this country seems so futuristic and then you find places with no individual showers and nobody seems to have AC this hot summer. But its fucking Japan and the good will always outweigh the not so good.

I don't know much about Shinto. I probably know as little about it as I do about most religions. I didn't grow up with any kind of religious dogma, but I did have a lot of friends that were Japanese Shinto. I mention this because we spend the day in Jingu where there is a famous Shinto Temple. But in my context, I just felt like a tourist. I don't get very excited about religion, but it was interesting. After walking down a little drag of gift shops and ice cream vendors, we get to the Uji Bridge. This Japanese style bridge is flanked by what look like some sort of ornamental designs but are actually just there to keep away debris in the water. On the other side we start marching through a small segment of the forest of Jingu. I can see how this would be really beautiful, but with the hundreds of Japanese tourists, it is more like a ritual where we are the only total outsiders. Many old folks are making the walk in what seems to be their best suits and dresses. There are deer roaming around freely. I think they're sacred or something (I'm probably saying something totally blasphemous and not knowing it) so they're pretty acclimated to people. There is also a Karp pond that is sort of weird. Chris reaches down and starts petting the Karp. It's hard to imagine why the fish would enjoy that. We make our way up to Geku, 1500 year old sanctuary for priests. Everybody is making their way up to do their business. Yoichi warns us that we can't take any photos and that it is a very sacred place. Just as he says this he drops his can of beer.

Question is a ridiculous venue. It's cool. But it's funny. The room can probably only fit 50 or so people. But the sound system is as big as the outdoor room at Emo's. Along with records and shirts, there is a stall for free veggie curry. Man, I love Japanese curry. I make it all the time back home. This might be my favorite meal so far.

Meltlee is the first band on. I never know if these names are rough interpretations of something English or phonetic versions of Japanese words. I'm not sure what Meltlee is about. But they are a solid melodic punk band that are more in the tradition of older UK pop punk like Mega City 4 or the early Birdland records. They do like their big endings.

This is our first night with the Because and they are amazing. They seem to explode onstage. The songs are catchy without relying on pop progressions. The bass is thunderous while the two guitars chime out patterns, neither one especially lead or rhythm. We're doing the rest of the tour with them and it's gonna be cool.

Drift Age are up next and are also gonna do the rest of the tour with us. I vaguely remember playing with them a year or so ago. I remember thinking they were pretty good. But I mostly remember finding their stickers in everything I own up to six months after coming home. Tonight they are great. Their bass player really goes for it putting his whole body into every song. It's funny how melodic punk in Japan has sort of taken a stylistic turn and becomes it's own sound. I don't totally know how to explain it. But it has a lot to do with guitar tones. Whatever it is, it really does unite otherwise drastically different bands like The Because, Drift Age, I Excuse and others.

It's our last night with the Urchin, which is sad. I love these guys and I like playing with them. We've toured with them in England, played with them in San Francisco, now we've done Japan with them. Hopefully they will come to the States next time.

Our set is sort of funny. I liked it. I think we're at that stage that I love in a tour where everything is like a machine. Having that confidence gives us leeway to do other things in the set. It's my favorite thing about touring. Ben is sort of having a weird night. I'm just going to assume that it's burnout as he goes off on an angry tangent from the stage because a dude in the audience is wearing sunglasses. I dunno. I don't wear sunglasses indoors. But I don't care either. Ben was pissed and kept calling the guy "Joe Cool" like Snoopy. It was actually pretty funny.

After the gig, we pack up and drive some more. It's back to the Navel house, which is big, clean and has heated carpet. Not that we've needed heating lately. I am utterly filthy and exhausted.

  

JUNE 2nd – Ehime, Matsuyama (Hoshizora Jet)

Jet is a cool club. We played here last time, too. This is the club that is either owned by or is somehow connected to Guitar Wolf. So, it's a little sad being here just a few weeks after the bass player passed.

Yumi, the old drummer for Minority Blues Band, came out tonight. It was really great seeing her again. It's funny. She was so quiet and shy with that band. But tonight she is friendly, talkative, and has actually learned a fair amount of English. She is really cool. I wish that band was still playing.

Drift Age and The Because are ripping it up tonight. Last night was a lot of fun. But with all the running around, I think a good rest has got everyone more in the playing mode tonight. I know I was feeling a little beaten by the sun and curry yesterday. Add that to the higher level of performances from the Japanese bands and we were going for it a lot more tonight. Man, these Japanese tours are so short. By the time we are really hitting our stride, you realize that you've only got a couple of more shows to go.

We stay with the singer from Drift Age. He's a really cool guitar player. He reminds me of a gunslinger up there. He's got that confident stance with his axe riding the hip. There aren't too many guitar players like that. Mick Jones did that sometimes. I think I remember Sonic Smith did it sometimes too. It's cool.

  

IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM

MA MERE (dir. by Christophe Honore)

Paris! Revolution, art and cinema… and not necessarily in that order. The reinvention of their cinema IS art and IS nothing short of the revolution. This latest daring feature for the near perfect Isabelle Huppert is proof positive. This modern version of Bataille's post-Oedipal psychodrama is not merely another piece of shocking French cinema. It's an attempt to find the philosophical roots.

Helene and Pierre are mother and son. Abandoned on the Canary Islands, their affluence becomes the metaphor as boredom leads to sexual curiosity, though not with each other. In fact, it would appear that Helene has had the head start. With her husband having essentially isolated her on the island while he's gone off for work, she becomes involved in the island's notoriously debauched nightlife.

As this becomes slowly revealed to Pierre, his own rite of passage becomes confused in Helene's confused desire to be mother and free spirit. As some sort of misplaced compromise, she asks her young lesbian mistress, Rea, plaything to sexually educate her son. While watching voyeuristically from a distance, she sees Rea strip and fuck Pierre in an open public breezeway.

From their the story becomes a complicated meditation on power and death with Helene slowly removing herself from the story preceding her own suicide. Another young blonde girl, Hansi, a sadist, becomes part of the group and Pierre must decide the difference between the maid and groundskeeper who are paid servants and Rea and Hansi, also paid servants, who may have genuine feelings outside of sex and commodity. This all leads to an annihilation of a shocking conclusion.

Despite the outrageousness of the behavior of the characters, you are never taken away from the story. There's something sick and believable about every part that I've only ever seen in a couple of the Larry Clark films and Catherine Breillat films. Huppert as Helene is fantastic. That woman deserves every lifetime achievement award there is. Her name is synonymous with revolutionary performance and utterly sophisticated career choices. Louis Garrel, who was incredible in The Dreamers, is also fantastic. Maybe because he is still young and a little overconfident, he matches Huppert's overwhelming presence with a youthful power that is perfect for the role.

Exciting things happening in Paris: this is the new nouvelle vogue.

  

SHUTTER (dir. by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom)

I had wanted to review this for Shocktober, but I ran out of time. I wrote a couple of other things for Halloween that I still haven't finished. I'll leak `em out later in the year.

What with Japan, Korea and to a lesser degree China making a lot of new, hyper-stylish horror flicks, Thailand is starting to get in the mix. Man, Shutteris one of the best of the bunch. With elements borrowed from Ringu, The Eye (first and second) and more, it still manages to take some of the old ideas and make them extremely startling and thought-provoking.

The story starts with a young couple, Tun and Jane. They're meeting up with the Tun's school buddies for drinks in a restaurant. What on paper might seem like a funny, drunken reunion is instead a mix of sickness and anxiety. The room is over lit and the camera keeps spinning and spinning like the scene where the kids meet the gangster in Bully. It sounds like a fun night of drinking but it looks like a headache. It's a warning from the directors that this movie, like many Asian horror flicks, are about perception and things not being what they appear.

Joking around on the drive home, Jane is distracted just long enough to hit a pedestrian on a dark rural road, crashing their car. Looking out the back, she sees what appears to be a lifeless schoolgirl lying in the road. Tun starts to freak out and insists they split.

Days later, Jane is racked with guilt while Tun is in some sort of denial. Their ways of dealing with the accident collide as a photo Tun takes (oh, he's a photographer) of Jane has an anomaly in the print. What at first seems like a flare on closer inspection seems to be the face of the dead girl staring at Jane. The real story starts from here.

It's a creepy as hell tale and is more suited as a primer to contemporary Asian horror cinema for it's faster (though not too fast) pacing. The film also touches on the other films I mentioned. There's the traditional stringy haired ghostly girl doing the creepy crawl a la Kwaidan . There is the upside down ceiling walk of the ghost. There are the pale images that could be alive or dead as in The Eye. And those aren't even the most scary moments.

Japan will probably always be the leader in this market as they've got the money and the head start. But with these innovations and well-written stories, Thailand could be as much a competitor as is Korea. The beauty of these movies is that they really don't rely on CG and are better for it.

This DVD is starting to show up everywhere and it's worth checking out. Allegedly there is gonna be a Hollywood remake in the next year or two. That promises to be a pile or crap like everything else Hollywood touches. Check out the original before they do something stupid like dub it in English.

  

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