- An Oral History of the Hanatarashi' by Satoru Higashiseto (interviews, translations and editing by David Hopkins)
- The Hanatarashi : The Ground is Littered with Discarded Penises.
- Eye Yamatsuka's first band, as far as I know, was called Jakotsubaba (literally "Snake Bone Witch" or "Snake Bone Hag" but actually a Japanese folktale version of Medusa). They were the world's first speedcore band and tried only to play every song as fast as possible with no technique at all. They were really shitty. Eye played guitar and he knows nothing about guitars. They just wanted to make a scene. I don't know anything directly about their live shows, but I've heard that they would just play and play and play, until someone or something stopped them. Eye developed the practice of ending Jakotsubaba shows by diving onto the drums, which was really the start of the onstage violence and destruction that evolved into Hanatarashi. Eye was also doing mail-art in 1984, as well as recording a few home-recorded cassettes as Hanatarashi, which were released by a label called Nohara Onko "Fields Sound Factory"). Condom Cassex was another label at the time; it may have been the same entity as Nohara Onko. The latter was so named because one of Eye's favorite things is to stand in the middle of a big open field and sort of fade out stand in the middle of nothing, do nothing, think nothing.
- The name Hanatarashi ("snot-nosed) comes from when Eye was a kid, he apparently had some kind of nose problem called empyema, sufferers of which tend to fade off into space. Eye wanted to combine this fading off with the feeling of wide open space and with a stuffed-up, uncomfortable nose. The word "hanatarashi" has a real childish, dirty, gross-out connotation - the snot-nosed kid with the greenie creeping down his lip - and that's plenty of meaning by itself. Jakotsubaba was clearly hardcore, but Hanatarashi were a noise unit and, when live, performance art.
- The other person who took Hanatarashi to the stage was Taketani, a painter who had taught art in school and knows a lot about contemporary art. At the time of the first Hanatarashi shows, he was also drumming and singing for a reggae and dance band, with tuned drums and all. Before that he was in a band called Danceteria, who once opened for the B-52's in Kyoto. Even though Hanatarashi was a noise band, his drumming was light and accessible. It was Taketani's ability and knowledge about the avant-garde combined with Eye's personality that gives us what we can consider Hanatarashi's style. Taketani painted the logo on the junk thecae used and anything else, even their gloves. Eye's ability to completely abandon himself to the perfornance supplied the rest.
- The very first Hanatarashi shows took place on the pedestrian bridge in Namba in Osaka (a spot used as a location in the movie Black Rain) using a boombox and various junk. They performed on busy Sunday afternoons, and were stopped by the police lots of times. Just from that they started to get known a bit as street performers and eventually had their picture in Focus once (an ultra-high-circulation weekly photo magazine).
- In late 1984 or early 1985, they were ready to take it indoors to halls, live spots. Most of today's legends about Hanatarashi arc from this time. I think the first Osaka show was at Studio Ahiru, part of which included a screening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hanatarashi used chainsaws, power tools and oil drums. Because Taketani was working day labor, he could get all sorts of great junk from construction sites pipes, bottles, cans, drums, wood, anything. He painted the logo on every piece, so it wasn't junk anymore. It became a stage object. It was really fucking dangerous at their shows. Eye seemed perfectly ready and willing to die at any time. He may not have been "performing," just going out of his head crazily. Also around this time at a Kyoto show, I think, the "animal cutting" thing with the dead cat that found got them attacked from all sides, especially the animal rights people, of course. Mark Pauline was doing the same thing at the time as part of his machine performances. You might say, "Why did they have to go so far?" I don't really like the idea of using animals' bodies, but the need of these people to push so far is interesting in itself. They themselves didn't kill the animals anyway, although we all thought someone would die at a Hanatarashi show. Eye once cut himself very badly in a performance at Candy Hall in Osaka. He was waving a circular saw around wildly and hit his thigh. He also threw lots of glass around. You can ask again, "Why did they have to go so far?" but I'm mostly interested in why they couldn't stop pushing, even when it was sure someone would get hurt. Sure, it was dangerous, but it was more a question of who was going to get it and how badly. Today many people think of the Hanatarashi as The Band That Killed the Cat, or as evil in some way. Personally, I like it when repressed people explode.
- One problem with smashing stuff as a performance is that some things don't actually make much noise when smashed, and, of course, micing the stage can be difficult. After the Hanatarashi became famous, the crowds were usually noisier than the performers. Their live sound was nothing like their recorded sound, although a few snatches of live shows appear on some records and tapes, but the live stuff isn't very interesting to listen to. It was the "virtual experience of war" that made their shows important. And let's not forget that there were voyeuristic and masochistic sides to this, too. In 1985 they finally played Tokyo on a bill with yBO2 and Merzbow. The audience were asked to sign waivers about personal safety and responsibility before entering. Everybody thought it was a funny joke, but after Merzbow and yBO2 played and Hanatarashi hit the stage, everybody knew it was no joke. They came into the audience riding and pushing a big handcart loaded with junk. They rode around and around, throwing glass, pipes, bottles and boards right into the crowd. This show got them a lot of underground media attention, and since the Tokyo press is the national press, all subcultural people soon knew about them.
- Hanatarashi ran on the Penis Principle. Their early slogan was "Take Back Penis," later changed to "Take Back Your Penis." Like a penis in its most common state (flaccid, that is), Hanatarashi and Eye himself are quiet, shy, soft, cowardly even, not really good for anything, maybe a little cute. But get an erection (or a stage / performance space) and we have strength, hardness, toughness, maybe aggression, surely explosion. Hanatarashi was a penis. That's why "Take Back Penis" was their slogan, and why all the song titles on their first LP have "cock" in the title.
- If you look at the cover of the first LP, you can see a penis collage. Eye had made it clearer, but Alchemy toned it down to avoid trouble with the printers. The chanting on the album is from a sect / cult called Omoto, a 20th century religion that Eye's grandfather believed in. The founder of Omoto was into automatic writing and prophecy. When he prophesied the defeat of Japan in World War II he got the whole religion into deep trouble. The chanting on the album is some kind of celebratory thing, and Eye's voice is also on there making the same sound. He's not a believer, though.
- Hanatarashi sold great for an indie. They had only played Tokyo twice, to fairly small crowds, but all the Tokyo music / art / avant-garde people and zines were crazy about it. They were really well-known, but after wrecking a few places, nobody would let them perform. Their reputation prevented them from being able to play live, even in Osaka. So they pretty much stopped. There wasn't much further to go in their chosen direction, anyway. And by stopping, they could be legends, monuments to live-fast-die-young adolescent glory, beautiful losers. Eye is far from stupid - he saw it as a good time to quit. He's a real expressionist and Hanatarashi were becoming cramped. Expectations were fixed, and fixed high.
- By Hanatarash 2, Taketani was gone. As a replacement, Eye got Omiya Ichi (also known as One), but he never actually performed live or played on any of their releases. Just the photos. At the time, One was trying to be a pro wrestler (now he's religious), and Eye wanted somebody scary-looking to replace Taketani. Hanatarash 2, like most Hanatarashi records and tapes, is Eye, mostly solo, with some found noise and some guitar distortion added by Jojo from Hijo Kaidan. It's a work of genius.
- There was supposed to be a show in Tokyo opening for Psychic TV. It was to be a four-man Hanatarashi with Eye, Taketani, Yamamoto and Hira almost the same as the early Boredoms line-up. They were planning to play real music (cover versions of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, I've heard), but the management of the place found out that Eye had brought some gasoline bombs, so they weren't allowed to play. That seemed to be the end of the violence thing, for the most part. Eye really wanted to be in a band.
- In 1988, maybe as early as 1987, Eye went to Tokyo for a Return of Hanatarashi show. Ichi didn't show up. The place had put chickenwire screen between the stage and the crowd. You probably know that if you throw things at chicken wire, the'll bounce back. Right away, Eye broke his nose on a flying bottle. The crowd went wild at the sight of blood. Many people were screaming for Eye to go further, to hurt himself more, to die for his art. He only performed for about 15 minutes and left the stage yelling, "I'm not dying yet!" That was probably the last ever live show. With all the early talk about dying or killing, it marks an important change and an appropriate end.
- The name Hanatarashi is still pretty well known, and when Eye needs cash, he can run off 100 cassettes and sell them in one day. There are tons of these. No one has a complete discography.
- Comments about Hanatarashi by Eye Yamatsuka :
- "Hanatarashi used to be pretty negative. I've gotten a lot more cheerful. The most recent Hanatarashi live show was horrible. One of my worst memories. I tried to do a show in Tokyo in about 1988, maybe. Omiya couldn't come. There's a bit of this show on Hanatarash 3. The crowd was unbelievable - everybody shouting, "Fuck you," "You must be impotent," and "Give us a break and die!" Stuff like that. Really rude. Lots of hardcore kids were there and they were intent on seeing me hurt. They hated me. They definitely made way more noise than I could, and that's probably why I'll never do Hanatarashi live again. It will be like that or become like that. The audience would never let me get up on stage and create noise like, say, Hijo Kaidan can do. If I don't destroy stuff and get hurt, the'll be all over me. Hanatarashi isn't noise to them. It is to me. I don't want to be dark and negative. It's amazing, really, how little sound comes out of something you're smashing with all your might. I was stupid. I knew nothing about P.A.s. I really wanted to emphasize the sound / music aspects more than I wanted to "perform," but I can't really remember what I was thinking about back then. Taketani was kind of a body guard, in a way. I really chose him more for his looks than for his drumming. Kind of a scary skinhead / gangster-type. Our most memorable performance was the bulldozer show. Well, it's referred to as the bulldozer show, but actually it was a mini-backhoe. You know, the dinosaur-shaped thing? I've always liked that shape. We got on this thing and rode it, bang!, through the doors of the hall. It'll spin a full 360 degrees, so we were spinning and driving through the audience, chasing them around, when suddenly there was this wall we spun into and opened a rather large hole in. The wind came blowing in. The shovel part got stuck in the hole and, trying to get it out, we pushed a switch that started the tractor tipping up, like it was about to go over backwards. I was worried that Taketani would get crushed and die. So I stopped it, arched up like that and we got off. Strapped to our backs were two saws - kind of like a weed-eater shape, but with a real circular saw blade at the end. We whipped 'em out, fired 'em up and worked on the walls and stage a bit. Most of the audience took off but one woman sat calmly and watched. We pretty much trashed the place. Backstage we'd left a couple of Molotov cocktails to use for the finish, but unfortunately when the tractor had wrecked, it spilled a bunch of gasoline. It smelled pretty strong, a lot of vapors in the air, so we were looking at a pretty big explosion if we even lit a match. Then about 10 people grabbed me and held me down because I was too excited and out of control. That was the end of the show. Nobody got hurt there, but it cost us several thousand bucks to pay for all the damage. We'd also broken the backhoe and had to pay for that. Our second ever live show was even more extreme. I cut my leg with a circular saw. When I jumped from this big drill press thing that I was up on down onto a desk, the power saw hit something hard and bounced back into my thigh, about two inches in. Since it was a vertical cut, all the muscles were still connected. If I had cut myself sideways, the show would have stopped right there. I knew I had cut myself, but I was so excited I didn't feel any pain. I really surprised myself that time! Blood spurted way out. Even though there was a lot of blood, I kept running around for about 15 minutes. It was some kind of extreme emotional state. I really thought, "Oh, I'm going to die" without feeling anything in particular one way or the other. Mind of ashes. State of shock, maybe. The best-sounding show we ever had was one in Kyoto where we had prepared a lot of different glass things. The place was all concrete walls and no windows. We smashed everything."
- A Couple of Remarks About Hanatarashi by Jojo Hiroshige (Alchemy Records owner/Hijokaidan member) :
- "The "i" disappeared from Hanatarash after the second album was finished. I've heard many reasons to try to sound like the English word "trash," to take the ego ("I") out of the band, to take Eye ("i") himself out, etc. From my experience with Eye, I'd have to say there probably isn't any reason, just an urge he got. Alchemy was going to help put out the second album, so after Eye had given us some tapes, we were all in a studio mixing, cutting, overdubbing, etc., and I recorded some guitar noise. I don't know which tracks it's on or if it's really on there at all."
- from Fool's Mate, 1985 :
- EYE: I've been beat up a lot ever since elementary school. Just all of a sudden someone will punch me. When I think about getting hit, my nose starts to run, and by the time I get home my nose will be all stopped up. Really crammed full of snot.
- Yamatsuka's family have been believers in Omoto-kyo for a couple generations. The founder of that religion had a group before the war that was anti-fascist and anti-imperial and is said to have plotted a coup d'e'tat.
- EYE: My grandfather was a real serious believer and participated in the Omoto incident. He lived with us, so ever since I was small I've heard their prayers.
- The religion was pretty heavily persecuted after that conspiracy. If you listen to the much-delayed Hanatarashi, you can hear Yamatsuka singing some celebratory song of the Omoto religion.
- They're deeply in debt as a result of their performances, and have been pushed to the point where they have no goals and no purpose except to explore the absolute extremes. Audiences are anxiously waiting for Yamatsuka's masochitstic "final spurt."
- from "Imperial Music --The Hanatarashi" by Eye Yamatsuka, in Fool's Mate, 1984 :
- "Tomorrow's insanity, violence and even destruction are tied together in today's dancing. Don't allow yourself to be seduced by it! All of you who have been bullied, you have the most horrifying weapon. Armored noise workers! Grab the machines and put them to noise work! Work for war, not love! The ground is littered with discarded penises. Earn the lightness of radicalism and with it, express fantastic sex everywhere. Your penis will grow in proportion to the discrimination against others that you do."
- from "Report of "Real Experience-of Emperor Hanatarashi,'' in same issue of Fool's Mate of preceding quotes :
- "Ten minutes after the show begins the room is full of broken glass. The fence set up to protect the audience was the first thing to BC destroyed, and they are throwing pieces of the fence around. The audiences arc huddled like refugees in the corners of the hall. A broken pipe spewed water into the room. A gas burner was flaming. So much metal and glass and concrete was being thrown against the walls that I got cut just watching. The fire extinguishers were smashed. There was no applause, or indeed any sound from the audience. The fire alarm went off. The room was getting too smoky to see. There were little bits of dead dry meat stuck to the walls and ceiling from the animal cutting. Yamatsuka is clearly insane and I never want to see anything like this again."
- from "The Hanatarashi Interview" in POW, 1985 (POW changed its meaning every issue. This time it was "Performance of War". The interviewer was Yokoyama Sakevi of GISM) :
- EYE: I'm not charismatic at all. Hanatarashi is much more interesting to read about than to see or hear, but I guess that's true for everybody.
- EYE: We don't wear uniforms for anarchy. I want to go in a completely unfree direction. Freedom and anarchy are for the '60s. Those are clothes you put on to take off. Uniforms are cool. Throughout history, uniforms have been the most erotic clothing. Anyway, I never said anything about anarchism or any stupid political shit. Only critics talk like that. When I'm dressed for Hanatarashi, anything can happen.
- You can see an "N" in the Hanatarashi mark. I later saw it as breaking a circle into diamonds. Some patterns must be broken, even if only superficially.
- I want people to be confused.
- TAKETANI: To go nuts, to stab someone in the back. It's kind of like guerrilla warfare.
- INTERVIEWER: What about killing?
- EYE: Of course I'm interested and could say I'd like to kill someone, but I never think about it during a show. I wouldn't want the social responsibility that goes along with killing.
- INTERVIEWER: Would you like to kill a woman?
- EYE: Yes, definitely. There are a lot of mass murderers that only kill women. It's like the final act of sex for them. In real life they're even afraid to talk to women. I want dissatisfaction. I want stress. I want people to make fun of me. That makes my own creations more precious to me. Good or bad, right or wrong, who cares? Only strong or not strong... I want a really powerful weapon. Emphasizing the tool is fetishism. Emphasizing the penis is fascism. This is war, and love will destroy the world.
- The following is a section on Hanatarash(i) from a Boredoms interview/article in THE WIRE magazine (issue no.233, September 2002)
- YOUNG, LOUD, AND SNOTTY
- To properly understand how The Boredoms evolved their mutated punk disco to the incredible percussion-driven sound of today, it's necessary to return Eye to his dark past as the major catalyst behind one of Japan's most notorious 1980s noise/performance units, Hanatarashi. He first brought himself up to speed playing appaling electric guitar (by all accounts) in an early speedcore outfit called Jakotsubaba (meaning Snake Bone Witch), and ending most shows by diving onto the drums. He carried over this Metzger-like destructivism into Hanatarashi, Japanese for "the snot-nosed". Asked at the time for the origin of the name, Eye responded: "Just all of the sudden someone will punch me. When I think about getting hit, my nose starts to run, and by the time I get home my nose will be all stopped up. Really crammed with snot."
- Drawing inspiration from San Francisco performance group Survival Research Laboratories (who created gladiatorial robots out of auto parts, decommisioned military hardware and dead animals) and self-destructive hardcore icon GG Allin, Hanatarash (the "i" was later dropped) set out to be the most extreme act on the planet. Their tongue in cheek manifesto taunted the people they would have to kill to get there: "KILL ALL THE NOISE ARTISTS! WE HATE WHITEHOUSE. PISS OFF NWW. ASSHOLE C93. SUCK PTV. FUCK COIL. WE LOVE DISCO SOUND." Featuring Yamatsuka Eye (his original name, which he would change several times before he started calling himself Yamantaka) on vocals and "bodyguard" Taketani on percussion, Hanatarashi's various attempts to create "a visual experience of war" are the stuff of legend. Most notoriously, Eye hotwired and mini-digger and ran amok with the machine in the hall where they were performing. But things only got out of hand when Eye accidently smashed a hole in the wall with the digger's shovel, carved up the joint with circular saws, and split petrol on the wreckage.
- Another time, Eye took an electric saw to a dead cat which he found in an alley just before going onstage. The live reviews read more like despatches from a war zone: "Ten minutes after the show begins, the room is full of broken glass," described the shaken reviewer. "The fence set up to protect the audience was the first thing to be destroyed, adn they are throwing pieces of the fence around. The audience are huddled like refugees in the corners of the hall. A broken pipe spewed water into the room. A gas burner was flaming. So much metal and glass and concrete was being thrown against the walls that I got out just watching. The fire extinguisher were smashed. There was no applause, or indeed any sound from the audience. The fire alarm went off. The room was getting too smoky to see. There was little bits of dead, dry meat stuck to the walls and ceiling from the animal cutting."
- By now, Eye was branded with a reputation for being hostile, unpredictable and dangerous. "Yamatsuka is clearly insane," insisted the same reviewer. In reality, Eye was much more unassuming. "I'm not charismatic at all," he admitted to interviewer Sakevi Yokoyama in 1985, "Hanatarashi is more more interesting to read about than to see or hear." Even so, listening to Hanatrashi's ultraviolent early recordings reveals that they're fuelled by the same energies firing the present Boredoms quartet. Only he now channels his earlier destructive impulses into a higher, more spiritual level of communication. No longer driven to repel and terrify, the only thing Eye wants to tear down today is the invisible boundary between performer and spectator.
- From 'THE ART OF NOISE' a Boredoms biography article by Kevin Hainy, June 2005.
- 1982 to 1985
- Deep within Osaka's noise underground, an artistic breeding ground that had been bustling since it began in 1979, a violently extreme singer / noise musician / performance artist named Yamatsuka Eye begins performing with his open-ended performance-noise troupe, the Hanatarashi (translation: the Snotnose). An explosively violent reaction to seemingly all that surrounds them (as well as what's embodied within them), the Hanatarashi's extremely demanding physical performances and abrasive industrialized noise assaults (firecrackers and chainsaws were two commonly used instruments), led by Eye's inexplicable language of piercing spontaneous vocal combustion, quickly make them and Eye Japanese legends in their own right. One folkloric tale captures Eye bringing a dead cat on stage and tearing it in half with a chainsaw. Eye himself has verified two such incidents, one when he accidentally cuts open his leg with the power-saw that's strapped to his back, and another when he causes a whole lot of damage to a club while driving a mini-backhoe through it. The Hanatarashi's self-titled debut LP is released by Japan's Alchemy Records in 1985. The word â€œcockâ€ appears in all eight of the track titles.
- Almost as legendary as his days with the Hanatarashi is Eye's name. Many believe it to have some sort of mystic significance. The truth is he derived it from his younger sister's name, Aiko. â€œI took the Ai part, writing it out like the English word 'eye.' No story, I just did it,â€ he told Oakland-based zine Browbeat. Over the years Yamatsuka Eye has changed to Yamantaka Eye, Yamataka Eye, eYe and EYE with the second â€œEâ€ reversed. His real name is Tetsuo Yamatsuka.
- From :
- Snot-nosed. Fucking snot-nosed. Hanatarash pours out of your mouth like a coarse slur aimed directly at the son of a bitch who just laid his fist into your jaw. Historically-speaking, Hanatarash (Hanatarashi [literally meaning "snot-nosed"] as known earlier on in their development) were an outfit that developed from Osaka, Japan in 1984. Yamantaka Eye, who later started Boredoms, and Mitsuru Tabata made up the original line-up of this front (to refer to them as a band seems unwarranted or insult. Somewhere between these two junctures. Maybe more simply like a half-yellowed bruise that didn't hurt as much as it does now when it was a deep hematoma blue. Just before the heal). From its early, fierce development the duo were known for starting all-out, throwdown, drag-out war with the crowd present to see them. However, the waves were not so intense in its early stages. Using machinery and tools to create sonic baths to drench the crowd, soon the two became more violent in their performances (more especially the young Eye). Contact mic-ing and beating a dead cat lead to Eye nearly severing his leg off with a circular saw during a live performance to sheets of glass and oil drums being tossed into the crowd to a cruscendo of blowing through a venue's rear wall with a backhoe. An unimaginable presence of violence and noise brought out crowds to see such a sight, though only after having signed a waiver to excuse the onslaught and total abuse offered by Hanatarash. The faction was finally stopped when in the late 80s a ban was placed on them and their performances. Years passed and Hanatarash had the ban temporarily lifted to play a handful of shows so long as they promised to leave the destruction behind. Hanatarash spoke volumes with their presence in the mid to late 80s by defining what extreme an artist or artists are able to extend themselves to. Now as noise makes its way into pop culture sound and punk icons have made themselves known by similar trademarks, Hanatarash seems a vague and distant past of an extreme. A ghost of what boundary had been hurdled over in simulacra and sound. Still, it is undeniable how powerful their violence and sound was and to what extent how many in the modern avant-garde world will never be able to duplicate it.
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