In a royal visit like no other, Australia will be treated to an audience with Japanese punk royalty Shonen Knife when they tour as part of Regurgitator's 25th anniversary celebrations.
For the better part of 40 years, the ladies of Shonen Knife have defined Japan's national punk scene, producing vibrant and frenetic punk rock with a traditional DIY ethos.
Shonen Knife exploded from the underground in 1981 and have built a solid following of enthusiastic fans around the world. This year, they released their 19th studio recording 'Sweet Candy Power'.
The band still features original members and sisters Naoko (vocals, guitar) and Atsuko (bass, vocals) with their newest member Risa taking on drums and vocals.
Ahead of their tour with Regurgitator, Naoko and Atsuko kindly tell us about the new album, what Kurt Cobain was like in person and their friendship with Regurgitator.
How have crowds been reacting to the new album 'Sweet Candy Power' when you've played it live?
Naoko: When we play for example 'Dizzy', our audience clap their hands along with us or at 'Sweet Candy Power' they call out “candy!”. We get a shower of applause after 1970s British hard rock-inspired song 'My Independent Country'. It’s very fun!
What attracted you to punk and new-wave music rather than J-pop styles?
Naoko: I actually haven't listen to punk and new wave in these [sic] 20 years. I prefer 1970s and 1960s classical rock music or funk, disco and R&B music. I’m attracted to such music and make British and American style music with English lyrics, because I think English is a language of rock music. My melody lines go well with English lyrics.
Shonen Knife started at a time when punk-rock groups and all-female bands were rare in Japan; what were some of the difficulties you faced when trying to establish the band?
Naoko: They were not rare. We had many all-female bands or punk bands in Japan or in our home town Osaka when I started the band. They were underground and independent. There were no difficulties to establish the band. I think it was easier than today.
Drummer Risa joined in 2015 – what has she brought to the band since then?
Naoko: She is a very powerful drummer. Her drumming is especially suitable for hard-rock songs. I like that. Her smiling face attracts fans.
For Naoko/ Atsuko: some of your best memories of working with bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Red Kross in the '90s?
Naoko: All members of Nirvana were so kind to us during the tour. Kurt [Cobain] was so smart. He wanted to cover our song 'Twist Barbie' at their secret gig; I taught him the guitar chords and he mastered it very quickly. When our album '712' was released in 1991, Jeff [McDonald] from Redd Kross joined the recording but we didn’t get together at a studio. We exchanged tapes using postal mail and overdubbed. It was fun. His vocal was so cool.
Atsuko: When Shonen Knife toured with Nirvana, Kurt was always watching our shows from the side of stage, even if he was tired.
Can you tell us some current Japanese bands that are maintaining the underground, DIY ethos of punk?
Naoko: They are not new bands but I like these bands: Yellow Machinegun, Extruders and Convex Level. They are good.
How are you feeling about touring Australia with one of the country's favourite bands Regurgitator?
Naoko: I’m looking forward to the tour with Regurgitator. I've known them since the 1990s and they are cool. For our set, we’ve just released our new album 'Sweet Candy Power' from Valve Records, in Australia and all over the world. We will play songs from it and our best hit songs too. I hope audiences spend a good time [sic] with us.
So many of your songs are about food, especially sweets and candy; are there any Australian sweets and candy you enjoy? (Tip: Try the Tim Tams!)
Naoko: Yes, there are, of course. I love Tim Tams and nuts are my favourite. I really like macadamia nuts.
Have you tasted Vegemite yet? Thoughts?
Naoko: I’ve never eaten it, but many people have mentioned it. I should try it once.
What's the best thing about touring Australia?
Naoko: People are friendly, towns are beautiful, having wonderful nature. I’m keeping my tour blog and I will write about fun things during the Australian tour.
As Shonen Knife approaches 40 years of playing and touring, what are some of your proudest moments from your time in the band?
Naoko: Every time is my proudest moments. I hope more proud moments will be happening in the future, especially in Australia.
Regurgitator Australia Tour 201918-19 Oct - The Gov (Adelaide)
Thu 24 Oct - The Basement (Canberra)
Fri 25 Oct - Kingscliff Beach Hotel (Northern Rivers)
26-27 Oct - The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)
Fri 1 Nov - Prince Bandroom (Melbourne)
Sat 2 Nov - Corner Hotel (Melbourne)
Sun 3 Nov - The Lost Lands (Melbourne)
Mon 4 Nov - Howler (Melbourne)
Thu 7 Nov - The Cambridge Hotel (Newcastle)
8-9 Nov - The Metro Theatre (Sydney)
Sun 10 Nov - UoW UniBar (Wollongong)
Fri 15 Nov - Astor Theatre (Perth)
Sat 16 Nov - Metropolis (Fremantle)