Alternative rock/noise band
Since forming in the mid-1980s, the Boredoms, known for their sometimes unlistenable creations, have become Japan’s most prominent “noise” bands. According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine of the All Music Guide website, “Unless you have an extreme amount of patience or enjoy listening to the soothing sounds of heavy machinery, chances are you won’t be able to tolerate the Boredoms. Which is exactly what they want, by the way.” Inspired by the early output of Sonic Youth and with the support from that band as well as Nirvana behind them, the Boredoms arrived on the alternative/college music scene in the United States in the early 1990s. The group did not speak English fluently, but lyrics were seldom an issue in their compositions, which mixed hardcore punk, free jazz, and sometimes ambient music. Although many felt that the band failed to differentiate themselves enough from their primary influences, namely Sonic Youth, the Boredoms themselves declined to concern themselves with others’ opinions, believing that their music did have something new to offer. And according to numerous other critics, the group had, by the time Americans discovered the Boredoms, established a sound that was uniquely their own.
Even those who reacted with less enthusiasm to the Boredoms’ noise-rock experiments admitted to their tireless and inventive work ethic, and the band’s willpower and high-reaching special effects using pedals and amplifiers endeared such albums as 1994’s Chocolate Synthesizer to many alternative music fans across Japan, Europe, and the United States. By this time in the band’s career, their albums had become more accessible to mainstream listeners, though the band always remained less interested in commercial Japanese pop, which is often as bland, rehearsed-sounding, and mechanical as the Boredoms’ creations are eccentric and unpredictable. In addition to holding Sonic Youth in high esteem, the Boredoms also looked toward legendary jazz artists, as well as rap, pop, punk, and rock and roll musicians to serve as inspiration.
The Boredoms included the following members: vocalist Eye Yamataka; drummer, percussionist, trumpeter, keyboardist, and vocalist Yoshimi; guitarist Seichi Yamamoto; vocalist Toyohito Yoshikawa; bassist Hilah; percussionist E-da; and drummer ATR. These various names illustrate one aspect of the Boredoms’ playfulness with image and language. Similarly, the group named its 1999 album Super ae —the “ae” digraph, pronounced like “eye,” was once common in Latin and Latinate English but is now seldom used. The name confused some Americans and other English-speaking people unfamiliar with the ligature, who thought that the album title was actually “Super Ar” or “Super Are.”
An ever-evolving bundle of energy based in Osaka, Japan, members began creating wild music together in the early 1980s. At that time, the group consisted of Eye on drums, Yamamoto on guitar, Hira on bass, and an unnamed female singer performing vocals, and they called themselves Acid Maki & Combi and Zombie. Upon that band’s demise, the remaining members and others mutated into the Boredoms. Obviously drawing from the early work of Sonic Youth, the group also combined the sounds of other acts from a diverse range of styles. Some of those influences included the free jazz style of Sun Ra, the Beastie Boys, and the Residents, and the guitar stylings of Funkadelic. Eye, who also designed most of the artwork for the group’s album covers, said that Funkadelic not only inspired the Boredoms musically, but also cited them as a jacket art influence.
In 1986, along with co-frontman Toyohito Yoshikawa, Eye led the Boredoms to their first Japanese release, Anal by Anal, which included songs like “Anal Eater” and “Born to Anal.” Two years later in 1988, the group arrived with an even weirder album, Osorezan to Stooges Kyo, an outer-space, sonic whirlwind of eclectic songs such as “Call Me God” and “Feedbackf**k” that covered both quirk-rock humor and death-metal posing simultaneously. Both of these records were combined and released in Japan in 1989 as Onanie Bomb Meets the Sex Pistols; Warner Brothers later issued the album with different packaging in the United States in 1994. Also in 1988, as
For the Record…
Members include ATR (also known as Atari), drums; E-da, percussion; Hilah (formerly Hira), bass; Eye Yamataka (formerly Yamatsuka), vocals; Seichi Yamamoto, guitar; Toyohito Yoshikawa, vocals; Yoshimi (also known as Yoshimi P-Wee and P-We YY), drums, percussion, trumpet, keyboards, vocals.
Formed band in Osaka, Japan aroundl986; released debut album Anal by Anal, Trans (Japan), 1986; soph-more release Osoreazan to Stooges Kyo, Selfish, 1988; also released Pop Tatari, WEA 1992, rerelease on Warner Bros., 1994; initiated a self-funded American tour, also toured with Sonic Youth and Nirvana, 1993; released Chocolate Synthesizer in Japan, toured with Lollapalooza ’94, 1994; released a more tempered album entitled Super ae, 1999.
Addresses: Home —Osaka, Japan. Record company —Birdman.
the group’s name and music spread throughout their native Japan and caught the attention of European audiences and recording artists, the Boredoms earned the opportunity to meet and perform with their idols, Sonic Youth, for a live show in Japan.
The Boredoms’ next project, 1989’s Soul Discharge, revealed more concrete, albeit minimal, reference points. For instance, the song “52 Boredom” made reference to the pop sounds of the B-52s, while “JB Dick+Tin Turner Pussy Badsmell” recalled the grooves of Funkadelic. A daunting album by most accounts, Soul Discharge made use of guitarist Yamamoto’s accomplished improvisational technique, especially during interludes with drummer Yoshimi. After the initial release of the album, Soul Discharge went through several subsequent pressings for which bonus tracks, both new and alternate versions of previously released songs, were added.
In 1992, the Boredoms released their first record for WEA, a major Japanese label, entitled Pop Tatari. In the United States, Reprise Records issued the album the following year. According to the band’s biography on the Yahoo! Music website, one critic analogized Pop Tatari as the “least commercially viable album released by a major label since Metal Machine Music, the Lou Reed album.” But despite the album’s disinterest in mainstream appeal, it nevertheless was considered by many reviewers to represent the apex of the Boredoms’ output. With Pop Tatari, the Boredoms put forth an endless show of their audio noise spectacle, self-depreciating, humorous conceit, and a surprising display of their grasp of free-jazz. The band’s drummers also figured prominently throughout the album, pushing the band forward as well as setting up blocks in the music’s path, especially for “Bod” and “Okinawa Rasta Beef (Mockin’ Fuzz2).” Likewise, singer Yamatsuka highlighted such tracks as “Heeba” and “Telehorse Uma.” An excessive work by all accounts, the album ended with a ten-minute song that includes sounds that more or less document the entire history or rock and roll entitled “Cory & the Mandara Suicide Pyramid Action or Gas Satori.” By now, the Boredoms had started to distance themselves from comparisons to Sonic Youth.
In order to further their cause and market Pop Tatari in the United States, the Boredoms set out on a self-funded American tour in 1993. Another American tour followed later in the year when Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and others asked the Boredoms to join them for a series of live performances. In the meantime, the group released two more records in Japan: the LP Wow-2 and the EP Super Roots issued by Reprise Records in 1994, which initiated the Boredoms’ Super Roots series. All of these albums, Super Roots 2 EP, Super Roots 3, Super Roots 5, and Super Roots 6, were dominated by unedited musical encounters among the band members, with the later volumes combining both ambient and hardcore sounds and often consisting of just one long piece. For example, Super Roots 5, released in Japan by WEA in 1995 consisted of a 64-minute, 19-second single entitled “Go!”
According to Eye, the band approached these records from a different standpoint in comparison to other releases. “The Super Roots series doesn’t have any part in rehearsing when making songs,” he explained in an interview interpreted from Japanese for the internet magazine Alles. “We go to the studio, discuss what we’ll do in the studio facilities, and have fun realizing on the spot what we have thought of, jokes and so on, normal song making, recording a product that’s already finished inside your head is boring. Not that it’s boring, but while making songs the usual way, we also wanted to record jingle-like stuff…. Like placing between songs little amusing pieces.”
Both 1994 and 1995 proved significant years for the Boredoms. After releasing Chocolate Synthesizer in Japan, a more accessible work that earned praise by many music professionals, the band joined America’s most prominent rock/pop summer event, Lollapalooza ’94, with acts such as the Beastie Boys, George Clinton, and the Smashing Pumpkins. In the fall of that year, the Boredoms toured Europe, followed by a triumphant return tour through 13 cities in Japan and the release of Super Roots 3 as the year came to a close. After returning to the U.S. and Europe in 1995, the Boredoms released Chocolate Synthesizer in May of that year in America. Capturing the attention of alternative and college-aged listeners across the U.S., the album rose to number ten on the College Music Journal (CMJ) chart. Following the release in 1995 of Super Roots 5 —there is no fourth volume—in Japan, the Boredoms returned in 1996 with Super Roots 6 released on Reprise.
In 1999, the Boredoms released a more tempered, yet not exactly mellow album entitled Super ae that emphasized groove, a world beat style, and chant over sonic aggression. “Traditional music is always in our heart,” the group’s vocalist Eye revealed to Mark Jenkins of the Washington Post in 1999. Nonetheless, he insisted that the band did not consciously intend to tone down their sound. “It just happened to be like that,” he said. “We never [plan] on something.” For the album, Eye mentioned that American and European influences like the hardcore punk band the Minutemen and Soulfly, a Brazilian American band that combined heavy metal and Afro-Brazilian drumming, figured prominently. Notable tracks from the album included a tuneful rock song entitled “Super Shine,” which resembled the Rolling Stones’ “Sing This All Together,” as well as the tracks “Super You,” “Super Are,” and “Super Are You.” The Boredoms supported the release by touring in both Japan and the U.S., including a performance at the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in New York City in June of 1999.
Throughout their time together, the Boredoms played with various affiliated or side project bands. As of 1999, Eye was also a member of the hardcore punk band 1, Yoshimi played in a band called Ooioo, and Hilah and E-da were members of the group AOA. Yamamoto, meanwhile, was affiliated with a list of bands too numerous to mention. According to Eye, Yamamoto himself even had trouble remembering all the groups he played with. Prior to his membership with 1, Eye worked on other projects, including the groups UFO or Die and Hanatarash, a band often compared to Einsturzende Neubauten and known for involving bulldozers, fire, circular saws, and othert actics during live performances. Eye also collaborated several times with New York-based avant-garde saxophonist John Zorn. In 1999, the singer published a collection of artwork entitled Nanoo, which he described to Jenkins as “my mind-expanding-song book with collages and drawings.”
Anal by Anal, (Japan) Trans, 1986.
Osorezan to Stooges Kyo, (Japan) Selfish, 1988.
Onanie Bomb Meets the Sex Pistols, (Japan) WEA, 1989; Warner Brothers, 1994.
Soul Discharge, Shimmy-Disc, 1989.
Pop Tatari, (Japan) WEA, 1992; Reprise, 1993.
Wow-2, (Japan) Avant, 1993.
Super Roots, (EP), (Japan) WEA, 1993; Reprise, 1994.
Chocolate Synthesizer, (Japan) WEA, 1994; Reprise, 1995.
Super Roots 2, (EP), (Japan) WEA, 1994.
Super Roots 3, (Japan) WEA, 1994.
Super Roots 5, (Japan) WEA, 1995.
Super Roots 6, Reprise/Warner Brothers, 1996.
Super ae, Birdman, 1999.
Robbins, Ira A., editor, Trouser Press Guide to ’90s Rock, Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1997.
New York Times, June 11, 1999.
Washington Post, June 11, 1999, p. N15; June 15, 1999, p. C09.
All Music Guide website, http://www.allmusic.com, (February 16, 2000).
“Alles Interview Boredoms,” Internet Voice Magazine alles, http://www.express.co.jp/Alles7/bor1.html, (February 16, 2000).
“Boredoms,” browbeat—issue numero uno—boredoms, http://www.browbeat.com/browbeat01/boredoms.htm, (February 16, 2000).
“Boredoms Profile,” Internet Voice Magazine alles, http://www.express.co.jp/ALLES/7/bor_p.html, (February 16, 2000).
“Boredoms,” Rolling Stone.com, http://www.rollingstone.tunes.com, (February 16, 2000).
“Boredoms Biography,” Yahoo! Music, http://www.musicfinder.yahoo.com, (February 16, 2000).
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