Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Fukuoka Punk Rock Mafia

For Golden Week (one of Japan’s three nationally sanctioned block holidays) I headed down to Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu to catch up with my close acquaintance Andrew Bentley. Andy’s been living in Japan for around two and half years now, and the fact that I’ve been here for nine months without taking a trip to see him is to my shame. Still, I done gone put that right now.

I’ll go into the joys of Fukuoka some other time, but for now let’s talk about punk rock music. Andy plays drums in a punk band called 5 Minute Advantage, and to be honest both his drumming and his Japanese had improved a lot since the last time I saw him. Actually, that’s hardly surprising since he’s been both living in Japan and drumming in a punk band. I guess that’s what you get with the whole living thing. Better at things.

The rest of Andy’s band consists of Kuma and Crazy Non Maedirt. Kuma seemed to be a great guy, and asked me many questions in Japanese and English about music, the UK, lyrics and the English language that I was hard put to answer with my terrible Japanese. Bless the guy though, he was tenacious and we never ended a conversation with mutual incomprehension, which let me tell you, is always a danger.


This turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration as he later acted as something of a translator between me and another guy who was listing all the obscure European punk bands that he liked. However he did use the phrase “Fucking Punk Rock Mafia” more than most people do, and he did tell me that he found singing English lyrics difficult while I was there since he was so self-conscious. That kinda caught me by surprise because there was very little that was "self-conscious" about Non.

The first night I was in Fukuoka we headed down to a pretty fancy rehearsal studio, where we had a “mini-session” with a bunch of their friends. First of all Kuma’s other band The BJs played some songs. Yes, they’re really called The BJs, but I’m pretty sure they don’t mean… what it can sometimes mean… I didn’t have the nerve to ask for clarification. Anyway they ended on a 5 Minute Advantage song, which was a cool touch. Then 5 Minute Advantage tore through their harder, punk stuff, sounding really good! Then Non orchestrated a crazily ad hoc jamming session whereby he went around the room, distributing instruments and creating a variety of different bands and combos. He handed me his guitar first and, frankly my chops were not up to jamming with Shuji and Uela (I’m pretty sure that was his name, he spoke no English whatsoever but he had fantastic taste in music). I did manage to fuck my fingers up nicely though with some ferocious power-chording, and later acquitted myself pretty well with singing duties on Nirvana, Undertones and Ramones tracks. And, of course, I got everyone to play Louie Louie. Afterwards we went to a 24 hour diner and drank macha lattes and talked about music. It was a fantastic welcome to Fukuoka!

5 Minute Advantage have apparently played only one proper show, at which Non was so drunk that he fell over during the first song, knocking over the PA as he did so and scattering the crowd before him. I wish I’d been there.

For the Japanese take on the whole experience head on over to 5 Minute Advantage’s page, where Kuma wrote all about it:

Andy, Kuma, Me, Waki & Non

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