SHONEN KNIFE is easily one of the most identifiable Japanese trios in rock and pop history. These ladies have been at it for three decades and show no immediate signs of stopping. I first heard their sound as part of the fun/ny compilation called If I Were A Carpenter (1994) where they did an amazing rendition of Top of the World (sheer genius here). Since those early days they have had a few personnel changes, tightened their sound and colorful presence. They are back to show off their captivating new record Pop Tune and will be visiting Dante’s for a live show this upcoming week (8/9, 9PM) and you should be part of their audience! Watch their new video or listen here. We had some time this week to discuss the latest and greatest in their world.
TJ Norris/Toneshift: Right off your brand-new ‘Pop Tune’ release the tracks ‘Ghost Train’ and ‘Osaka Rock City’ really rocks with a dose of 60’s pizazz. Can you say something about this retro sound that you have perfected?
Shonen Knife/Naoko: I’m inspired by the Beatles, Pilot, Small Faces, Jefferson Airplane, Strawberry Alarm Clock and such kind of ‘60&s and ‘70’s pop for this album. The theme of “Pop Tune” is Pop.
TJN: I’ve only heard your songs in English, have you recorded works in Japanese and do you think they would translate as well to your international fan base?
Naoko: For this album, we have only English version. For Japanese issue of Pop Tune, I attached Japanese translation of the lyrics as a leaflet.
TJN: This is the second time you have been to the Northwest in the last few years, what do you think of it out here and how different is your audience here as opposed to in other cities?
Naoko: I think people in the Northwest are so cheerful and friendly. At some cities, our audience are more gentle and others are energetic. It depends on cities and venues. I only can say the atmosphere of our show is always happy.
TJN: As a trio with some personnel changes over the years, how do you manage your longevity as a band over thirty years?
Naoko: I never look back and look just forward. I didn’t noticed so many years have passed and I always keep my mind fresh. The present line up is the most powerful.
TJN: ‘Welcome to the Rock Club‘ recalls a similar hardline guitar as found on the classic ‘Rock Animals‘ (1993). When writing new songs how are there certain formulas that work best, and how do you keep your sound fresh.
Naoko: Everything is without conscious. I might be developed and the bassist Ritsuko and the drummer Emi play very well for recording. It’s the one reason why the sound is fresh.
TJN: The fact you chose to revisit Ramones songs on your ‘Osaka Ramones‘ was just a brilliant turn. In many ways your short tunes are similar to theirs, and you brought new melodies to their otherwise quick quips. What was your relationship to the band? Who selected the particular tracks and why?
Naoko: I selected the tracks that are my favorites and wrote about the relationship with Ramones here.
TJN: Of your entire discography, what is your favorite record you’ve made, and why?
Naoko: I like Pop Tune!! It’s the present Shonen Knife.
TJN: Thank you, anything to add about your tour, anything fun, strange or unexpected along the way?
Naoko: I hope everybody enjoy Pop Tune album and please come to our show and get happy!
Addendum: The concert was lovely, and truly unique for electronic performance. On stage, Jóhannsson, was joined by a mini quintet symphony, four stringed instruments as well as a second laptopper (Goldmund who played as the virtuoso pianist opener) doing percussive sounds. The black and white projected films had glitches, were dark and slightly non-responsive, but the music was introspective, harmonious and trance-inducing – so I closed my eyes and drifted off with them. A blend of field recordings, dark ambient with lots of dramatic classical overtones. With an attendance of about 80 people on a beautifully warm evening all I can say is many missed this one – and they were kind enough to do a single, short encore as well.