Listen and buy
Warmed Over Band
by Edgar Barrington
Warmed Over Band are 3 young and fashionable men who take music quite seriously. Kicking around the Tokyo punk scene in one incarnation or another since 1999 they have finally honed their sound into an original blend of punk-influenced superbly-written rock, with a 7 song CD available from The Modernist Recordings. I sat down with them a rainy Sunday in December near their practice studio in Shimokitazawa, a small neighborhood in Tokyo where everybody walks around with a guitar, to talk about their band, their history, the Tokyo rock scene, and the acceptance of happiness.
[from left to right]
Tsuneaki, drums and chorus
Kosuke, guitar and vocals
Satoshi, bass and chorus
They started life as the Usuals -- Kosuke, Satoshi, and Tsuneaki, plus another guitar player / songwriter - Megumi. An important part of the Warmed Over Band story is their transformation between these 2 bands. They requested I not write about it in too much detail, but the first time I saw a Usuals 7" and realized it was the Warmed Over Band guys plus 1 girl, I could guess that romance was a factor, and they were willing to confirm that.
This not only impacted their sound but gave them fresh fodder for songwriting material as well. Kosuke explains:
When we were The Usuals, we loved punk rock, only punk rock. But as Warmed Over Band, we don't want to play only a punk sound, we want to be... free. When we were the Usuals, we wanted the twin guitar sound and very BIG sound and...
Kosuke: but now we don't want big sound and we don't need punk speed. We think middle tempo, middle speed songs are very good.
One of the first songs I heard was "Think You're Happy." This is commonly understood amongst the band and Satoshi usually wears a pin with the slogan on it. To be honest I never quite understood the lyrics.
If you have no work, no money, nobody's love
Your past, you don't wanna recall
You don't need any records
You cut your wrist
But you don't take your risk
'Cos there are your hands
You can always cut it again
When you said smash my face
You broke my faith
'Cos there are your friends
You can always smash it again
In your heart no bird......
Should think you're happy......
Kosuke: It's about Megumi. We wanna say that lyric to Megumi. "You are very happy," but she thinks "I'm not happy I'm..."
Satoshi: She say she wanna die.
Kosuke: And she say we hate her very much, but not so much.
Only a little?
Kosuke: Only a little.
So you think she is happy?
Kosuke: Yeah. Many people in the world, they don't have their hands, in poor countries... but Megumi has her hand, so even if we only have our hands, we are very happy, we think. So she is happy because she has her hand.
I laugh and I'm pretty sure he turned to his bandmates and said, "I'm serious" in Japanese. Anyway I think it's a beautiful idea, and one that fits their transition from a straight punk band quite well.
Speaking of genuine hardship, these guys work their asses off simply to practice and play shows.
Kosuke: We practice most Sundays starting at 10:00 am.
So what time do you leave your house to come to practice?
Kosuke: Maybe 6.
Why so early?
Kosuke: Highway is very expensive. I don't have much money so, in the morning, I don't take the highway. If I go by the highway, maybe it takes 1/2 hour. By usual streets, 3 hours. Then the train ride, maybe 1 hour.
How much is the highway?
Kosuke: 3000 yen. [about $25] So when I come home I use the highway. Very sleepy.
How long do you practice for?
Kosuke: Usually 4 hours.
So now, what Tokyo bands do you like?
ALL: Firestarter [featuring Fifi and Sammy from Teengenerate], Keen Monkey Work, Caption, Registrators [now sadly defunct]...
Are most bands friends, or you don't talk so much?
Kosuke: We don't have many friends. So we like Firestarter, Brightliner [featuring Hiroshi and Jun from the Registrators], but usually we don't talk.
When we play live, we talk a lot, other times we don't talk.
So friendly, but not close friends.
Kosuke: Yeah. Other bands are very friendly. [laughter]
Kosuke: Yeah. [laughter]
Kosuke: When we were the Usuals, we were not friendly. We didn't hate them and they didn't hate us but we don't talk so much.
How about punk clothes and fashion in Tokyo?
Kosuke: We don't know.
But you see many people...
Kosuke: Many people dress in punk fashion but they don't listen to the music, only fashion. I think it's good because many stores sell rock fashion clothes. In Japan now, especially for girls, shops sell t-shirts, Ramones t- shirts, AC/DC, but the girls don't know the band, only fashion. But there are many punk or rock t-shirts.
So how did you discover punk, when was the first time you heard punk music?
Satoshi: When I was a high school student, my friend liked the Sex Pistols, Television, Ramones. I played in a band with him.
Satoshi: Bass. This friend lent me a CD, the Sex Pistols. WOW. From there...
Tsuneaki: High school. I heard the Sex Pistols.
From a friend?
Tsuneaki: Friend. In Junior high I heard the Sex Pistols. But in high school I understood it.
Kosuke: When I was a high school student I loved heavy metal.
For example? Like death metal?
Kosuke: Metallica and German metal.
Kosuke: Helloween, Gamma Ray. But it's very difficult to play so I didn't like it. The first time I heard the Sex Pistols I didn't like it. Then when I was 19 or 20 years old I listened to the Clash. Very good.
Kosuke: 1st album.
A lot of punk music is very rebellious, angry, anti-society -- destroy, you know? When you liked punk, in Japan, did you feel like...
Kosuke: When we were young guys we thought punk was violence.
Kosuke: But we think punk rock is music so we don't think about society. But we like Oi! punk.
Your favorite bands?
Tsuneaki: Business, 4 skins, Last Resort, Blitz, Cockney Rejects...
Kosuke: But we don't know their lyric, so only listen to the music.
But your music is very melodic, nice chords, Oi!....
Kosuke: Simple simple simple. And I went to the UK maybe 10 years ago. We love skins so walking streets, we saw and said "Hey wait! Please take photo."
Kosuke: Yeah, together.
They were friendly, no problem?
Kosuke: Yeah, no problem. Very friendly skins. I think in the UK punk rock is only music for the kids. Kids don't think violence or society, only music. Joy. Same in Japan. I think the UK is the same.
How about in America, what do you think?
Kosuke: I never went there so I don't know, but I wanna know very much, in US the music scene, rock scene, but we don't know about it. Underground scene we don't know.
But in Japan people are maniacs, like punk fans in Japan have EVERY record...
Kosuke: Yeah yeah yeah. Very expensive, 7".
Do you buy lots of records, original vinyl?
Kosuke: Not so much. Japanese band members, many people have many records, Keen Monkey Work, many people have many records but we don't have many records.
What are your jobs?
Satoshi: I'm construction worker. Make mansion [apartments].
Tsuneaki: Rooftops, mansions, or school... and balconies, painting...
Kosuke: I make machines. Cars. Motor.
Anything else to add?
Satoshi: Thank you!
Bright, interesting guys, and the record is available in fine stores everywhere, or $10 US ppd from The Modernist Recordings.
Edgar Barrington is co-founder of The Modernist.
this interview in The Modernist's forums.
You buy now.