Shonen Knife will be playing several gigs in Europe. This is an unedited version of our interview with Naoko, singer and original member of Shonen Knife. For the edited version in Spanish, click here. Don’t forget to give us some feedback!
First of all, thank you for your time. We know you’ve a busy schedule. How’s the tour going?
Naoko — Our European tour will start from May 6th. We have shows in Japan in April. Every show is going well.
You’re a very popular band in the indie scene, perhaps not so much in Japan but mainly in the USA and Europe. What’s the secret of your success? I think people see you as one of the true heirs of the Ramones and other garage bands. Am I wrong?
Naoko — I think we are famous in Japan, too. Especially we have good followings to artists. We are not in J-Pop scene, though. J-Pop is rather plastic and not Rock. We are more Rock. We have a good fan base in the USA and Europe. It because we are a very unique band. Music is pop, lyrics are unique and fun, wearing matching outfits, all female, speaking clumsy English. Especially I’m influenced by American and British rock music not by Japanese Pop. People in US or EU might feel some essence of western rock music from us. Talking about Ramones, we opened up for CJ Ramone in this February in Tokyo. CJ played Ramones’ songs for enlighten person about Ramones. Daniel Ray, the producer of Ramones played the guitar and Brant Bjork played the drums. Their show was so fun. We could have a chance to go to dinner with them. They were great. I like Ramones a lot.
Your fans know your story but there are many people out there who don’t. Could you tell us something about the beginnings? How did you form Shonen Knife and how did you get to make your first recordings?
Naoko — In earty ‘80’s, I was bored of daily work. I wanted to start something interesting. At that time, I liked to listen to late 70’s punk, new wave rock like Ramones and Buzzcocks. I decided to form a band with my friend Michie and my younger sister Atsuko. When we played a gig in Osaka, a guy from a record label “zero records” made an offer for us to release an album. Then we released the first album from zero records in Kyoto, Japan. Then Calvin from “K records” in Washington in America bought our album when he visited in Japan. He made a contact to us to release an album from his label. In this way, our music spread to all over the world.
You’ve toured with a lot of big names. Nirvana is perhaps the biggest but there are many others. Do you have any memories/anecdotes about those gigs you’d like to share with us?
Naoko — The tour with Nirvana was a good memory for me. All members were very kind to us. Kurt wanted to cover my song “Twist Barbie” at their secret gig. So I taught him the guitar chords. I’ve ever opened up for Ramones show in Osaka for 2 days. It was their farewell tour. I was very excited because they were my long time idol. We covered their songs “I wanna be sedated” and “Suzy is a headbanger”. Joey admired our version. We were very honered.
I’m particularly fond of the 90s. I think it was a great period for music in general. I enjoyed the mutual homage between Shonen Knife and Redd Kross and the live version of “Catnip Dream” by Jeff Buckley. I also enjoy all the songs you play by other bands. Which covers are you playing on this tour?
Naoko — It’s secret but you must be surprised and having fun.
We’ve just read in the GC Blog that Etsuko has left the band and SK will be moving on with a new drummer. Our understanding was that she would be taking a break. But now it seems to be a permanent decission. Is this true? If so, have you found a new drummer?
Naoko — New drummer Emi is excellent and very rock. We’ve already had 2 shows in Japan. Our groove is improved very much.
This is my official comment for the changing drummers.
You might have read in our drummer Etsuko’s blog,
that Shonen Knife will be moving on with a new drummer.
Shonen Knife has always been playing with our full
force, and we always will.
At first, we were thinking of using a support drummer
while Etsuko was away, however, that left only Ritsuko
and myself and once again I found Shonen Knife to be
a 2 piece band.
As a numerical formula, it’s reads “3 minus 1″.
We will be lacking one of our members, and it just doesn’t
feel right with a minus one. It doesn’t feel as powerful as
we could be…
Continuing Shonen Knife performances and making music
with that situation just isn’t as much fun, and I began to
feel it would be unfair to our fans to have a band that was
less than the best we can be.
Also, I’m not sure when the time will come, but it’s important
to me that Shonen Knife is the best band it’s ever been until
As we move ahead, all of our current members are now full time
members of Shonen Knife.
In the future we may again share the same stage with Michie,
Atsuko and Etsuko, but to be sure, Shonen Knife will always
give 100% and make sure to give their best at shows, and on
albums for you, and we will always have a lot of fun.
We hope you like the new material and we appreciate all of
your support !
Naoko, Shonen Knife
In our blog we have devoted a lot of attention to female Japanese bands. We always ask this question but: why do you think there are so many good girl punk-rock bands in Japan, like Lulu’s Marble, Detroi7 or yourselves?
Naoko — I don’t know Lulu’s Marble but I know Detroit 7. Detroit 7 is nice. It’s very natural for women to play rock music in Japan. I don’t know the reason.
What music are you listening to at the moment? (All of you please!). Any new Japanese bands you’d like to recommend?
Naoko — I mainly listen to ‘70’s American Rock and ‘70’s British Hard Rock. I like ‘70’s a lot. At the moment, I like to listen to Judas Priest and Pilot. I don’t listen to Japanese a lot. I like Acid Mother Temple.
Ritsuko (bass) — Recently I often listen to Travis.
Also I often listens to Judas Priest and Black Sabbath by the influence of Naoko.
Further more, I like young Japanese guitar rock band such as Cinema staff.
Emi (drums) — I listen to Shonen Knife every day !
Because I’m a brand-new member !!
To remember and play Shonen Kife’s songs is
FUUUUUUUUUUN for me!!
Finally, we would like to thank you again for the interview. You rock!