Interview by Edgar Barrington
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Aside from being the best band on Earth The Registrators are also the nicest guys on Earth. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Hiroshi Otsuki and manager Takaya Nagashima took me out to an izakaya (one of those places where naked women crawl around with sushi on them) where we drank a lot and did an interview.
If you only know the band for their Rip Off Records debut Terminal Boredom and masterpiece Sixteen Wires, sorry to be snobby, but you are missing out on their best stuff! Released only in Japan, Velocity took everything great about Sixteen Wires to the next level, more pop, more new wave, unbelievable songwriting, ballsy yet perfect effects, and a high budget recording that does the band justice! Next was No Fantasy, a little tougher, a little more lo fi, but essentially 7 more under-3-minute wonders (double 7″/CDEP).
The Modernist: I was wondering about being a band in Japan, where you practice, how often you’re able to practice?
Otsuki: We rent a practice studio for four hours a week. We want more time but the rest of the band, they have jobs. We are always doing new songs, arrangements and things. I wrote many songs and we want to change, so we would like to practice more but now it is difficult.
Do the other guys in the band have jobs?
Yeah they have jobs. Jun, the guitarist works in a hospital…
Oh really? I didn’t know that. What does he do in the hospital?
He is not a doctor! Desk work. Our bass player, Ren, he is a cook. Deira, drummer, works in a record shop, Disk Union. I don’t have a job. I’m a loser. (laughs)
In the US you have an LP of rare stuff as well as a singles collection on Rip Off, and here in Japan you have a complete sessions CD as well as a CD of old demos, why do you release a lot of old stuff?
Each single only 1000 copies were pressed usually, maybe 2000. New people, a new audience, they want to hear older sounds, so we release older stuff. Also, I want money. For a 7″ single we never get money, maybe only 100 copies. Anyway people want it so I do it.
From your older to newer stuff you’ve become a lot more new wave, maybe power pop. Can you tell me about the change in style?
(groans) You know Set Me Free? Kind of pop, our first song. I always loved melodies but I also love punk, aggressive punk, straightforward punk. I love a lot of music, new wave, rock… I want to write original music but I don’t know how but I always change. Maybe the style changes but it’s still basically the same.
About your actual recordings, Velocity was very high quality, high budget, then No Fantasy sounds back to more lo fi. Why?
Before Velocity I didn’t know a high quality recording studio. I wanted to record in a high quality studio, but after I did then I want to try recording myself. I want to have choice in equipment myself, I did record it myself —
You recorded No Fantasy yourself? In your practice space or…
Yeah practice space. Now I have a lot of equipment and next album maybe we’ll use the same equipment. I’ll record it only the skill will be a little higher next time, next time, and next time… I want to buy more basic equipment, better equipment, to make many records in the future.
Where do you get ideas for lyrics? What inspires your lyrics?
I don’t like to write lyrics but… I’m always angry. (laughs) I’m always angry but also I always have romantic…. something, I don’t know romantic… but — I love girls. (laughs) Many things, I wrote songs, kind of wrote more poppy songs. Usually more poppy songs are about girls, love songs, but I’m very crazy. Our pop songs have angry lyrics.
Yeah contrast, right. Next album maybe I won’t do that method though. Maybe pop songs with lyrics about girls. But I hope to be honest about my life anyway. I hope to write honest lyrics. I don’t care about the method, next time I will just try to be honest.
Why did you decide to write lyrics in English?
Remember I told you the kabuki story?
Rock n roll music was born in the United States, also England. United States and England are English countries, they speak the English language. You know Kabuki, Japanese culture, if they spoke in English it would be very strange, very funny — but that is what I do. I don’t know very much English, so Japanese English is very strange to United States people but I don’t care! (laughs)
Well said! What are your favorite bands in Japan?
Firestarter, also Caption, they are a new band from Osaka. They are a really great band. I don’t know other bands, maybe there’s good bands in Japan but I don’t wanna know because I’m an old man. (laughs)
What are some of your favorite bands, old bands, your influences?
Actually I wanted to know, are there late 70’s Japanese punk bands?
Yeah but I don’t like Japanese bands because they sing in Japanese. Very weird I think.
Yeah but people in the US would think that’s cool. I would, anyway. What are your favorite bands from anywhere?
Buzzcocks, many many, too many, but Oasis… too many…
Shout out a few more
Raspberries, Pilot, they’re from England, Clash, Sex Pistols, Damned, New Order! One of my favorites, New Order.
Yeah, them too.
I wanted to know, how come Rip Off Records did not put out “Velocity” and “No Fantasy?”
(groans again) Greg Lowery is a good friend but I want to get more money. Also I thought that we should sell more records in Japan. We have to play and also release more in Japan. Many reasons, maybe now Greg doesn’t like our style…
My other question is, why is Ren so good?
I don’t know, I think he is a genius.
I agree, he’s unbelievable.
He is a genius but he can’t write songs, he wrote two songs —
You know Tell Me?
(I said yes at the time but in fact I don’t)
He can’t write songs but he is a God at his instrument… (laughs) He can only play bass, other things he cannot do. He is an idiot. (much laughter)
Do you do an actual tour of Japan or do you stay in Tokyo, do one show and come back, go away to another show…
Yeah yeah, because we don’t have a van or tour bus. Also the Japanese freeway is very expensive.
Tolls? Why is it expensive?
I don’t know, the government sucks. Also the rest of the guys in the band, they have jobs. It is very difficult to go on tour, so we go somewhere, come back to Tokyo, go somewhere else, usually this style.
Do you think you’re mostly popular in the US or in Japan? Are your records distributed in the UK, rest of Europe, anywhere else in Asia, Korea…
Few, very few in Europe, but 5 years ago we went to Europe. I thought we sold 1000 records because we stayed fucking 2 months, we played 2 months!
Wow, that’s a long tour.
Yeah. We hope everywhere, United States, Europe, Japan… you make the Registrators more popular in the United States!
Do you think people hear your music or think about it differently in the US or in Japan or in different places?
Different. United States people like our more punk, older stuff but now in Japan some people like our new stuff.
What do you think about the future of the band? Where do you see the sound going?
Maybe the next album will be more aggressive… honest lyrics, more popularity I hope. I think more pop, I hope more hi fi, but then next album, next album, next album… I don’t know.
What did you tell me to buy that I was gonna buy? I can’t remember… you said you all love ELO?
There was another band like that that you told me.
Bay City Rollers?
Yeah! Which album?
I like every album but my favorite song is Rock and Roll Love Letter. Great song.
Thanks, I’ll get it.
Edgar Barrington is co-founder of The Modernist.
Order The Registrators “Complete Sessions” CD.