Kromosom – Japan Tour

This was orginally printed in retarded form in #346 (March 2012) issue of punk fanzine Maximum Rock’n’Roll. Those clowns printed the notes rather than the final article I sent them, half of which was a deranged stream-of-consciousness tirade merely intended to jog my memory when I got home and had time to write it up properly. The rest of it was a first draft and unfinished. I should have known better than to send them the notes… Here’s the proper final version, as it was originally intended.

PROLOGUE
To say I’m excited about this tour is like saying John Candy was a wee bit plump; in the weeks leading up to this I’ve been out of my mind with anticipation. JAPAN!! It’s my third time here and second with a band, but this tour is different…the line-ups are like something out of a rawpunk jazzmag, the quality of the bands we’re playing with threatening to blow us way out of the water thrice nightly. To make matters just a touch more interesting, our drummer quit the band three days after returning home from the U.S. tour in July (tour diary from which is here). That’s right, he decided that he couldn’t take the d-beat hooligan lifestyle and gave up on us like the nancy drew that he is, without a single care for the commitments he’d made.
Left in the lurch as we were, it was looking like we’d have to draft in a late replacement and spend three-to-four nights a week in the rehearsal room for the next month to even pretend we were ready. With the intervention of reality in the form of work, girlfriends, occasionally relaxation etc, this wasn’t the most attractive option…not to mention that he was an amazing drummer and it’d be nigh-on impossible to find a suitable replacement in that short amount of time. And even more unrealistic to attain the same level of competency which constant touring and playing live together engenders. Indeed…what a fucking dick. But at least I finally understand all those Victory Records songs.
At the eleventh hour, we struck upon an enormous piece of good luck: our mate Shin said he’d step into the breach. The owner of Osaka’s Punk & Destroy record shops, Freedom Fighter label and drummer for Framtid and Nightmare, we couldn’t have found a better replacement anywhere. And if you can rely on anyone to keep their word and honour intact, it’s a Japanese chap. Fucking score!

HELLO TOKYO!!
We arrive late on the 14th September at Tokyo Narita Airport after a grim 30 hours in transit from Melbourne. No border hassles and we exit into the departure lounge to meet Satoshi and Ebi from Iserismo, together with So who runs Hardcore Survives Records. Back in October 2010, Yeap booked an Aussie tour for Isterismo which went extremely well, meaning that they were more than happy to return the favour. We’ll be doing all nine dates of the tour with them, booked by Satoshi. Add to this that we had a split 7” released on Hardcore Survives two weeks ago, plus the fact that our 12” has now been around for three months, and the stars are aligned for a fucking awesome tour. We drive into Tokyo’s Koenji district where we drop our bags off at Shogo Isterismo’s place and head out for some traditional punky punky night street drinking and rice balls. Naturally after such a long journey we’re gasping for a good drink, and proceed to get smashed over the course of a couple of hours.

Morning brings a horrendous hangover after a mercilessly brief sleep. Ah well. I hang out on the balcony to get a bit of air and read my book since Yeap’s snoring is far too much to snooze through and Satoshi’s flat is smaller than my bathroom. The lads take forever to wake up so I go for a walk and get some Pocari Sweat (fuck you hangover) before we eat breakfast with Satoshi and make some banners for the tour. This evening will be our first rehearsal with Takoyaki San and although I was pretty sure I’d be taking it in my stride, I’m starting to get nervous….really fucking nervous. Perhaps it’s just the hangover and lack of sleep, or maybe the previous days spent in an enclosed space, but I’m getting edgy as fuck. We head down to Koenji square to get some food and check out some record shops. I pick up some awesome random shit in Record Shop Base (Tokyo’s best punk shop) before we meet Shin. It’s awesome to see the big lanky maniac again, though I’m defo feeling the nerves, especially when he admits that he’s been so busy that he hasn’t had much of a chance to learn the songs and just had half the LP on his headphones for the train journey…oh bugger. We buy some beers and Satoshi picks up two bottles of Jaeger and it’s down to the rehearsal studio. We play through the set and it’s, let’s say, “stunted”. Not bad, but not good.

We go out and have another beer and a chat with Shin, catching up with the mad shit going on in his life over the last few months. We head back in and…BOOM!! We play the set and it’s fucking incendiary! Get in there Frank! The horrendous weight lifts and it’s all fucking insane madness, smashing round the rehearsal room and feeling it. I’d been so fucking nervous; playing Japan is essentially the peak of existence for a punk band and to do so at less than your best is extremely humiliating. Without being too soap-opera about it, there’s a question of honour and pride involved; I could talk for hours about how bitterly disappointed I am in our ex-drummer’s decision to bail on us, as there’s no substitution for the hard graft we’ve put into rehearsing, touring, writing, recording and playing 30+ gigs over the last few months.
We head out and get some more beers and the sense of relief is palpable; fucking yes. Once more through the songs and it’s proper good. Oh fuckin hell yes…this tour is going to be insanely good. We finish up around 11pm and head down to Koenji to drink. The punks are out in force and Greg (who sorted out our U.S. tour) plus Alex from Perdition (who we played with in New York) have just turned up from the airport, we’re fuckin smashing the Jaeger and beers, Louis Vaginors and a couple of lads from Adelaide come and drink, Yeap’s taking advantage of his size over the locals and throwing people into the fountain, my inner scumbag is coming out and I’m being nasty to the gaijins, and it all fades into a wonderful alcoholic haze. Ah…tour!

I wake up feeling splendid and quickly realise I’m still drunk. A couple of ibuprofens and a beer works as insurance and Satoshi makes us some great food before we head down to meet Shogo at his flat and take a bus to Koenji for record shopping. The wrong bus, actually, since Shogo’s a total space monster. Yeap amusingly invests $70 in a Terveet Kadet LP at Record Boy only to find the exact same one for half the price at Record Shop Base five minutes later. Naturally this provides no end of entertainment to myself and Penke. I get an awesomely ridiculous Kriegshog t-shirt and a couple of good 7”s. We’re booked in to rehearse at 3pm so we meet Shin and get a few beers before running through the EP songs and getting ‘em down. It’s all fine but I feel weird…floaty and a bit out of it. Yeap’s the same. Can’t figure out if it’s from the long flight or the drink. So we have a beer about it.

After a couple of hours hanging out with Greg and the lads at their mate’s awesome UK EXTRA clothing shop we head down to where the gig’s on tonight. It’s a secret show; the Isterismo lads were freaked about our whole drummer situation so they’ve sorted out this warm-up gig at a tiny Brit bar on the third floor of some building in Asayagaya, just us and them. We get there and the owner and his mates are sound. The lad doing the mixing is this Scottish chap who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ewan McGregor and he certainly has his work cut out for him…Shin has to use brush sticks because of the neighbours while we’re saddled with 10 watt practice amps. The PA can barely handle Yeap’s vocals and we spend about half an hour pissing around to construct a serviceable sound…I split my signal between three teencey amps and the results are hilarious. We get our drink on and I’m becoming more and more partial to the local Yebisu brand. I’d only had their stout last time but the lager is decent, malty and clear. On tap so it’s the obvious choice. We hang out and drink and wait for the gig to start.

ISTERISMO play and they’re awesome. People are going bananas, smashing around, crowd surfing and the small room is packed. The sound is weak as hell but what can ya do. I’ve managed to maintain a reasonable level of inebriation so when we go on it’s fine. I can hear almost nothing except for the drums but it doesn’t matter; people are off their fuckin heads and going pure mad. Shin is fucking perfect…not a single error and it feels like we’ve been playing together for years. Legend! It’s Satoshi’s 28th birthday tonight; a lot of the time after shows here there’s a big party somewhere with food and drinks. Everyone gets a drink and the promoter does a speech about I don’t know what and everyone cheers and has a big laugh. There’s a cake for Satoshi, which Shogo mashes into his face after the candles are blown out. Someone throws it at Shogo and he ducks and it whacks some girl in the face. Ian Perdition shoves a ton of drugs down his face and turns into a shambling mess of a manchild. Tons more drugs go around and we proceed to get completely buggered before taking a taxi back to Shogo’s. Yeap and Satoshi head back to sleep and myself and Penke pinch some whiskey and go drink with Shogo and Zumi Slow Motions before heading back to Satoshi’s to crash out at Shit O’Clock.

TOKYO 2
We’re woken up by Yeap deciding that 7.30am is a great time to play one of his new records really loud in Satoshi’s one room apartment. We shout at him until he turns it off and I get another bit of patchy sleep before waking up properly. Yeap’s losing his voice due to the fact that we’ve not been rehearsing for the last month and is pretty worried about it… It doesn’t help that people smoke constantly everywhere here. I take a shower and get caught having one due to an inability to keep my ablutions quiet, which causes all manner of amused discomfort to the lads. What can I say…I’m a barely civilised barbarian at the best of times; all sense of decorum goes out the window on tour. Penke gets on the internet and ends up in a state of serious agitation due to managerial dramas in the footy, especially when it turns out that Western Bulldogs are still without a manager. He admits to having drunkenly written out an application for the job a few nights previous…aaaah, good stuff.

We need to be at the venue for tonight’s show by 1pm to soundcheck and sort everything out. It’s on at Antiknock in Shinjuku and the line-up is insane, though it’s all pretty much eclipsed by the fact that GAUZE are playing. Fucking GAUZE!! We get a couple of taxis since we’ve got a huge amount of merch to bring, along with our instruments. We also have to stuff all the tour records; we’ve had an extra 100 from the first plates pressed just for Japan and Shin’s done an amazing job of adding extras and making it all look fantastic; screen-printed outer bag with art from Sugi, an awesome pink obi, alternative printed covers, a screen-printed inlay plus a screen-printed inner sleeve. Unbelievable. It looks amazing but takes some serious assembly. We soundcheck and it’s excellent, though Yeap’s voice is slightly patchy and below its usual paint-stripping volume.
We finish stuffing the bags and myself and Penke run off to find a restaurant so we’ll avoid all the linguistic wrangling about veggie this and vegan that. We get some awesome rice, soup, pork and egg stuff and head in to check out Disk Union next door. Every time I’ve been in Tokyo I’ve ended up accidentally buying a fuckload of records in here…but this time I went way over the top. There was a sale on just for that day, with everything under 1,000 yen being sold for half-price. I pick up 15-20 classic LPs, all sorts of shit, and everything for $5 or less each. Dead Kennedys, Riistetyt, Devo, Bad Brains, 4-Skins…all sorts of great albums, in mint condition. We head back to the venue since it’s already after five and the gig starts at 5.30pm. It’s already filling up and we get in just as FILTHY HATE are starting. They’re Satoshi’s other band, Heresy/Ripcord style fast punishing hardcore. Two singers occasionally attacking the crowd and crazy energetic madness, it’s a good start to the night. Afterwards I bump into my mate Nenji from previous times here and we have a beer before LIFE begins and we leg it in. As always, they’re fucking amazing. Insane mix of anthemic hardcore and pure blistering rage.
Their bassist Nori is a tsunami of destruction, swinging his Rickenbacker around like a sword and bouncing off the walls. It’s like a hardcore version of Where’s Wally? …every time you look over to where a bassist might reasonably be expected to stand, he’s somewhere else: in the crowd, on top of the PA, in the corner behind the drumkit, behind the heating vents…they play one particularly amazing new song from the forthcoming LP and it’s excellent, really can’t wait for this record.

The place is packed and people are already going mental; the last show of the NDT tour was in the same place but tonight is already shaping up to be ten times crazier. I head out with Penke and Greg to get a beer and we stand around to drink and talk about how fucking mental everything is and accidentally miss ATF and half of AVFALL; it’s not like other countries where it takes a half hour for the next band to set up and start…it’s a straight-up changeover and start within five minutes. I’m pissed off cos I particularly wanted to see ‘em both; what I catch of AVFALL is deadly. Raw Scandinavian style chikan hardcore with a ton of OTT fury.
By this stage I’m nervous as fuck. It’s weird; it’s been about ten years since I felt proper nervous before a gig. I feel like I’m about to start a fight (which I suppose is true enough), that weird buzz of edgy aggression and violent energy. I go backstage and warm up and feel like a total nerd…GAUZE are in there doing their stretches and so on. I do some scales until my hands are limber enough, though all my muscles and joints feel like shit. I watch a bit of FEROCIOUS X but it’s hard to focus and enjoy it since our first proper gig with Shin about to start…playing right before the titans. Jesus. I’m cacking it mightily.

We set up and start and…it’s amazing! People are off their fucking heads, stage-diving and crowd-surfing, myself and Penke are killing each other (at one point he actually punches me in the face, the cunt) and Yeap’s all over the place. His voice is fine, though with the UFC match onstage I’m out of tune as often as I am in tune. At the end people are screaming for more, so we do one. It’s fucking awesome. I feel fucking amazing. We did it. No major fuck-ups and now GAUZE are about to play! Aaargh!! I run and get a beer before going back again to get a good spot stageside the better to watch the band. It’s totally packed and the anticipation is insane; people are utterly rapt. When they start I’m just sort of stunned. GAUZE are kind of a phenomenon; it’s difficult to understand from hearing the records just how seriously people get into the band. There’s a huge amount of people wearing their shirts and singing along to every word, and the intensity builds with each song. They don’t stop at all…straight through. I get more and more excited until I eventually stage-dive and go fucking mental in the crowd. It’s total warfare and nobody can get enough; a band at the top of their game for over 20 years, who have somehow combined all eras of hardcore. Fuck.
I head out to get more drinks and bump into some old mates, we hang out and I’m basically just sort of blown away by the whole thing. Someone comes out and shouts that ISTERISMO are on. I run in to see them and it’s fucking amazing; the sound is insane. Total nightmare of vicious chaos, Satoshi’s like a mad banshee whilst Jun and Shogo are desperately trying to destroy their instruments, Ebi keeping the whole thing in some semblance of order with a pounding assault of broken d-beat. Jun actually succeeds in destroying his bass and we have to run around sorting it out with different cables and pedals and I stage-dive into the classic move of not noticing the huge gap in the crowd…six feet down on my back on the concrete floor: …oof.
Afterwards it’s like some kind of punk bazaar with all manner of trading going on. I end up with about five new t-shirts and a bunch of 7”s and patches. We head out and trade shirts with Gauze and drink and take a bunch of photos before heading back to Koenji, where myself and the two lads go with Shogo and get some really great ramen with roast pork. We head back to the square and do some more drinking, somehow segueing into a session of ‘90s Britpop street karaoke. It’s gonna be an early start so we head back and get showered and lie down for about four hours kip.
Until tonight, the best show I’d ever seen was Neurosis in Dublin in the ‘90s. And now it’s this. Amazing: one of the best nights of my life.

NAGOYA
I wake up feeling tired but good; a hilarious situation ensues as Satoshi and Yeap attempt to transport six huge boxes of merch to Shogo’s house using only a skateboard. It goes fine for the first two seconds before the whole thing collapses into a crushed pile of vinyl and fabric, providing top-notch laughs to me and the Penkster, at least until we feel guilted into helping. We pile into the van at 8am and drop the Adelaide lads off at the station. It’s a decent tour van we’ll be taking, a 10-seater Toyota Transporter with plenty of space. Ebi, Jun and Satoshi are taking turns driving; I offer to help out but I’m hugely relieved when they say no…driving in Japan looks stressful enough, so I can only imagine how bad it must be when you can’t actually read the signs. The traffic on the way out of Tokyo is insane; as far as I can gather it’s some kind of holiday this weekend, though Sunday is the traditional family day here since so many people work on Saturdays, so the roads would probably be busy either way. Truckstops are amazing on Sundays here. Everyone’s out with their family so you see the maddest people just hanging out and eating crazy shit from the thousands of food options available. There’s all these Japanese soldiers in uniform with helmets and everything, plus U.S. marines in hummers decked out in full combat gear, the result being that it’s like some kind of mad Godzilla remake.

We’ve a longish drive with a couple of stops along the way, though it’s all fun since we’re just hanging out and talking bollocks with Shin, Greg and the Isterismo lads. We arrive shortly after 5pm and load in. Nagoya’s a bit mad; the punk scene here has a lot of connections with bikers and yakuza types, hence things are pretty violent and there can be a weird atmosphere around gigs. We’re playing a small basement club called Day Trip and there’s an eskie full of beers and chu-hi on ice so we crack into that. Punk clubs in Japan are fucking awesome; loads of them are really dark and intimidating, red lights and black paint etc. I still can’t understand how they make it work with rent for all the tiny fantastic shops and bars, since space is at a premium and a lot of these places cater to extremely fringe-interest stuff. With punk gigs, that’s why the entrance price is often twenty to thirty dollars, and I guess stuff in a lot of the bars and shops is fairly expensive, but it’s hard to imagine how they manage to meet the overheads.

Day Trip is full of mad-looking crusties getting charged up and sorting out merch tables. No soundcheck which is nice since I’m pretty hungover and couldn’t be arsed. My old mate Leader shows up and he’s kindly brought vegan food for the hippies, so we hang out and have a beer outside and he introduces me to his friend from years back who’s one scary motherfucker. He owns the dojo across the street from the venue and does MMA, his other mate is a judo master and they both have all sorts of violence-related accessories hanging off their belts. Fuckin’ ‘ell. Leader walks off and I keep talking to the two lads before noticing that there’s three or four musclebound tough cunt young lads hanging around in the background just sort of keeping watch and generally menacing people. This scary punk dude comes up and grabs my beer and starts drinking it and just looks at me. The two other dudes just kind of stare at me aswell. I start laughing and pull another beer out of my pocket and they start laughing too. Crikey. I stay for about a minute more and quickly leave to go back into the gig. I’m going into the backstage room to change my guitar strings when I overhear some kid I don’t know telling someone from one of the other bands that he’s a friend of Kromosom and he’s here on tour with us. He isn’t. He’s a punk tourist who happened to come at the same time. Now, I’m a fairly easy-going guy, but this is the fifth time I’ve noticed this chap taking advantage of us. People in Japan are so accommodating that they’ll do anything to help you out, especially when you have mutual friends. This means that by saying this kind of thing you’ll generally get away with not paying in, taking free shit from distros, getting people to do favours for you, eating band food, drinking band drinks and staying at band sleeping spaces. Which is all well and good, except that these things are generally quite limited and expensive, and there’s rarely enough money, food, beer or sleeping space to make sure everyone who’s playing every night or driving every day is comfortably covered. Now, I fully understand being a bludging cunt…but I don’t like paying to play. Especially when it’s financing some kid’s holiday…so don’t steal my fucking shit. Sorry…rant over.

ATTACK SS kick off the gig and they’re excellent, crushing chaotic brutal d-beat with two guitars and a manic singer. They end in fine fashion, leaving the stage one by one until it’s just the drummer. SYSTEM FUCKER follow and they’ve developed a lot since I last saw them eight months ago. There’s a stronger influence of the japcore style and their fashion has gotten ten times madder; as if it wasn’t enough that Yuta has the most amazing hair of all time, he spends the entire gig trying to kill himself with acrobatics, along with everyone else in the room. SHOCK TROOP follow with a mid-paced dose of harmonica pub rock, not that interesting but not bad, before FOLKEIIS explode onto the stage. FUCKING AMAZING. The NWOBHM influence that began to creep in after their excellent Hell Kaaos Night 7” has exploded into an insane mix of their previous Finnish HC influence, John Zorn and Ordo Ad Chao-era Mayhem. Incredible; their new record’s out soon and I’m so far beyond excited to hear it. What’s more they’re really fucking nice kids. Next up is REALITY CRISIS, who are probably the scariest band I’ve ever seen. The guitar player turns out to be dude who grabbed my beer earlier and he’s casting the evil eye around like there’s no tomorrow. I’m reminded of when I first saw them at the Kawakami Forever gig and told the bassist afterwards that they were awesome and gave him a demo of a band I was in…he threw it on the ground, trod on it and turned back to his mates, who all laughed at me. What a pack of hilarious mean cunts! Live, REALITY CRISIS are the fucking maddest band I’ve ever seen; even though this show wasn’t as nuts as the previous I’d witnessed, it’s still basically like watching a gang get on stage, pick up instruments and immediately start threatening everyone in the room.

I swear that they collectively smoked about 300 cigarettes whilst playing. The minute they begin the singer starts swinging out of the light fixture kicking people in the face while assorted band members attack the crowd. It’s seriously like a full fucking street-riot onstage, with the crowd going absolutely mental. The madness onstage makes System Fucker look like the Beatles. There’s a big speech in the middle of the gig from the short-haired vocalist, which we’re later told is him going totally mental at the crowd and promoter because there aren’t enough people there, which is apparently because it’s a public holiday so everyone’s doing family shit. Bt that’s not good enough, apparently. Either way it’s pretty scary. This band make most Western bands seem about as full-on as the Wiggles. Seriously. Next up is ISTERISMO and they fucking destroy; best set from them so far. Satoshi attacks the crowd while Jun goes wild on his bass, the crowd going even more nuts than the previous bands.

Next up is D-CLONE; I’ve really been looking forward to seeing these guys again and it’s just as I’d hoped: the most insane live sound I’ve ever experienced – so fucking loud. Seriously…four guitar cabs for one guitar? Christing heck! It’s incredible madness with both members literally trying to smash their instruments mid-song before throwing them back on and continuing. Musically (okay, okay, “noisically” then) the crazy song-structures are becoming more and more complex, which shows how far they’ve gone beyond the Disclose influence which uncomprehending detractors throw at them. This is Discharge in a fucking laser war on Ganymede…and it rules. Furthermore, D-Clone are the pinnacle example of how punk is live music…like almost every band tonight. Stamp collectors: keep your limited editions and coloured vinyl. Gimme a beer in my hand, a band onstage and next-day tinnitus any night of the week. After D-Clone I just have to ask Hiroshi to borrow his amps…there’s no way I’m going on with a pissy ol’ two cab set-up after that wall of noise. He agrees and we have a good show…friendly and violence, the traditional way!

Afterwards there’s a big party in Day Trip with lots of food, drinks and madness. Things almost get a bit hairy when Penky starts arm-wrestling cunts and some local hardmen get their stare on. Which, of course, is only pointed out to us after it’s too late. Luckily it seems that a lot of raucous laughter and idiotic behaviour keeps things civil, along with me rather graciously (if I do say so myself) letting some mad yakuza beat me in arm-wrestles. Just to be polite and keep the peace of course. Afterwards we head back to the lads from SYSTEM FUCKER’s house where an extremely odd porno party develops. I head off and take a shower while various ne’er-do-wells crowd around a screen and watching sweaty people bumpin’ uglies. I’m desperate for a good sleep, so I head upstairs around 3am and find an empty room and crash out.

TSUYAMA
Someone boots me awake around 7am and I’m wide awake immediately; I go downstairs to Ian and Alex Perdition passed out in unnatural poses. I find a permanent marker and decorate Alex’s face with a backwards Japanese temple symbol and sexy references. It turns out that those two and Yeap had stayed up drinking with the lads until 5am, at which point Ian passed out before getting up and whipping his knob out on top of Hiroshi’s girlfriend. Someone managed to wrestle him into the bathroom before any wee came out…dear-oh-deary me. We load into the van and get on the road to Tsuyama, a small mountain town in which an enclave of punks has built an awesome scene around the K2 venue. It’s a beautiful drive, in the middle of which we stop at perhaps the best truck stop in Japan. Aside from the amazing curry and ready opportunity to pinch things with impunity, there’s a shocking statue of what I take for a racist depiction of a black person, before being told it’s supposed to represent an Indian curry chef! Now, does this mean that it’s double-racist, or does a second instance of obscene-but-mistaken racism in fact cancel out the first? Either way, it’s a great photographic subject.

Not half as great as what comes next, however. If you’re not familiar with Mexican child rap sensation Mini Daddy, I suggest that you familiarise yourself with his work immediately. That way you’ll be able to understand just how amazing it is to see his brother-from-another-mother walking around a Japanese truckstop, with a mullet, a skeleton Mario t-shirt, and a madly coiffured poodle. Not to mention that his Dad just happens to be wearing a Jah Rastafari t-shirt and looking real mean. Good lord!

We arrive in Tsuyama and soundcheck before myself, Panky and Greg decide to take advantage of the brief few hours we have here and go for a stroll. Last time I was here we didn’t get a chance to look around, and the countryside is unbelievably beautiful, so we head off down along the river telling stories. It’s like the alpine forest is trying to reclaim the entire town; every crag, every promontory has roots and tall pines spilling over the edges. Mist and cloud cover swoops low, creating dense spirals over the thick green woods, whilst a number of wide rivers and swollen streams cascade down from the mountains, spanned by ornate delicate bridges. It’s breathtaking; more akin to the Norwegian countryside than my typical idea of Japan. We go into a liquor store and get a couple of tallies before heading down to walk along an interesting-looking stream below an old Japanese styl feudale castle on a hill. Our stroll takes us down to a seemingly abandoned temple/shrine, with everything there dedicated to cats. Someone’s knitted a jumper and a hat for one of the cat statues, which we can only imagine is a mischievous Japanese teenager prank: “let’s do something REALLY respectful tonight…it’ll blow peoples minds!”. On our way back to the venue we stop in at a supermarket and buy tons of awesome junk and I manage to half-inch a bottle of pricey Suntory Yamazaki 12-year-old single malt, nevertheless freaking out that the one elderly store detective has finally spotted his chance to become a local hero on the technologically superior anti-theft hardware Japanese stores most definitely must possess. But I was too quick for his crap old-man eyes, so no hassles.

We get back to K2 just before DEATH DUST EXTRACTOR kick off, but unfortunately Penke’s already gotten the final can of Miracle Body chu-hi so it’s back to being a pudgy mess for me. DDE begin and it’s fast, heavy crust, like a more punky Effigy with some Celtic Frost moments. I crack into the whiskey and it’s absolutely bloody gorgeous; smokey and full of body with a crisp, quick taste to it. Which I ruin with a shitty energy drink, because I drink too much of it too fast and am in danger of being too pissed to play. MASSGRAVE follow and they’re a mix of fastcore, crust and raw punk, classic example of how smalltown bands come together with disparate influences. DISTURD follow and it’s vicious, punishing crustcore with neck-snapping mosh parts: deeecent. Next up are LAST and they’re SO good; it’s like if you took ’80s UKHC thrash rhymths and married them to a d-beat framework with a total maniac on vocals and audacious guitar work. NIGHTMARE follow and it’s great to watch Shin behind the kit instead of playing on front of him…such an amazing drummer (and what a sexy little bastard!). It’s an energetic show with a load of classics ripped out and next up are SKIZOPHENIA.

These were maybe the best band I saw last time I visited, and they’ve gotten even better. A touch of the punkier side of Finnish hardcore mixed with ‘80s European classics all blended up with a ton of hi-octane energy and awesome OTT fashions. Things start getting loose with plenty of pogo and stupid dancing, and by the time ISTERISMO hit it things are getting well rowdy. By this stage the general madness is escalating every night and Satoshi spends half the set in the air; it’s sheer brutality and I love it! We set up and go for it and it’s insanity; the whiskey is gone, the mood is bright and it’s a proper fucking chaos night. At one point Yeap punches some dude in the face and he starts pissing blood out his nose, before he climbs a ladder down the back on the venue and launches himself off it to flatten about five enthusiastic teenagers. Myself and Penkethman are playing Mortal Kombat 10 against each other for most of the gig with the result that eventually his bass breaks and his has to borrow Jun’s. Meanwhile, the poor soundman is on a horrible fishing trip in which Yeap is the fish, the mic is the bait, and the mic lead is the tackle…which is unfortunately nowhere near adequate for the catch. Fuck…the bastard fish just broke the mic!

Afterwards we have a mad party and everything is excellent; people are so welcoming, there’s loads of great food, and this mad lad we met last time forces us to drink a buttload of tequila with him. I start taking the piss out of one the Adelaide lads for drinking all the beers and things start getting hazy as I’m never one to take the impolite route of turning down an offered drink. I remember a lot of pseudo-violence involving fireworks and a bunch of people going to a quiet house to sleep, with the rest of us going bananas in K2 to Blitz, The Blue Hearts and Bastard before we’re all kicked out and stumble back to the singer from Last’s gaff to continue the party. I vaguely remember getting there and it being totally packed with people, but subsequent to that things get fairly Polaroidish. According to Penke, what happens next is that there’s a load of food laid on for us, and Mr. Adelaide lays into it, eating all the noodles before anyone else can get a look in. Fucking crusty freeloading cunt. I have a go at him about it and he responds “calm down, princess”. Oh dear. Oh deary me. I’d been content to use deprecating humour as a pressure valve thus far, but since this is the Nth occasion on which this scabby twat has gotten in my face with his piss-taking behaviour, I can no longer keep it in. I lay into the poor cunt, telling him exactly what I think of how he’s acting. This only makes him eat faster, to Penke’s amusement. Eventually Penke tells me to “settle down and let it go”, and I only slightly remember this part, but apparently my response is “okay…okay…I just really want to hit someone in the face” after which I stare Adelaide out of it for a half minute. He takes the hint and goes to sleep on the balcony. Under ordinary circumstances I’d never indulge in this kind of aggressive spleen-venting, but he just went way too far…something had to be done. We drink on and pass out sometime around 6am.

FUKUOKA
Someone wakes me up and it’s fucking 8.30am. I’m still drunk so it doesn’t hurt. There’s only one solution: more chu-hi. I crack one and sit on the balcony with the Adelaide lads. Poor ol’ Aelaide is positively terrified; there’s no hard feelings matey boy, just sort your fuckin gash out. We walk up to K2 in a big gang and stop at a convenience store on the way where I get some manky food and rob a bottle of Kahlua. It’s just too easy over here. We take a heap of pictures and meet the rest of the lads who got a proper sleep elsewhere before it’s time to leave. Ushi from SKIZOPHRENIA is coming with us to stand in for Ebi on the drums for this and the following gig since the Ebster has to return to Tokyo for work. It’s no joke here; it seems that when you got a family and you get a job, you don’t let go of it or you’re gonna end up like one of these old dudes stacking shelves in the supermarket. The drive is amazing…some of the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen. It’s a dull overcast day with low-hanging cloud, and although I’m desperately in need of sleep, I just want to keep watching. There’s a potentially monstrous headache lurking at the back of my bonce so I eat some ibuprofen and codeine. Shogo gives me some sleeping pills he’s got and I have another chu-hi. Things start getting pleasantly fuzzy and before I know it I’m blissing out in the most wonderful way…the forest is speaking to me and I’m having all sorts of bizarrely amazing ideas…this feels like acid…Shogo mate, give us a look at the packet of your so-called “sleeping pills”…WHAT THE FUCK!!? Rohypnol!? Whoever knew that roofies, sugary alcohol and painkillers were such a potent combo! Fuck yeah, this rules! We pull in at a toilet truck stop and I have the best time ever wandering around and borrowing Greg’s phone to take pictures of the forest. We get back in the car and I’m off to the moon, chatting away to the forest and discovering the answer to the mysteries of how life develops. The forest is clearly the answer to Japan’s incredibleness and I’m spouting nonsense about the earth, ancestors and society… it’s only the next day that I realize I’ve been reinventing the nazi “blood and soil” mythology in new words. Hmmm…not the best approach. Luckily for everyone, I soon pass out and don’t wake up until we’re nearly at the venue in Fukuoka.

I’m amazingly refreshed and the city looks awesome. There’s a huge tropical storm on and it turns out we’re at the tail end of a hurricane. There’s gorgeous girls and mad fashions everywhere and Shogo tells us how all of Japan’s cutting edge fashions originate in Fukuoka. We load in and the venue is awesome; real tight and pokey but well laid out. And punk as all hell. I have a quick drinky poos and myself, Greg and Panky take off for a glance around the place before soundcheck. We go to a department store full to the brim with odd pervy stuff before we have to run back. Get there just as NEMESIS begin their soundcheck: HOLY FUCKING SHIT. Best new band in I don’t know how long…even just their soundcheck is unfeasibly intense, leading to that crucial smashy feeling. Aw yeeah. Head blown off. We hang out and have a few drinks, I change my strings and have a big chat with Shin about crap, begging him to just tell us to shut the fuck up and put us in our place when & if we’re out of hand, since the typical kindness and manners of people here mean that it’s way too easy to get away with being a massive knobhead 24/7. NEMESIS start up and it’s unbelievable. It’s their 7” launch show and we each go out and immediately buy about 5 copies each for friends at home. AI follow with their intense japcore sound though I don’t get to see the whole gig because of having to set up.

We’re on next and it’s an awesome show; less anarchy violence from us and more from the crowd. Really starting to feel Shin now without having to glance around too much; the pulse and beat that works its way into your veins as you become accustomed to each other. Mmm…homoerotic. Fukuoka proves itself to be the maddest city in Japan with a vast array of mad rooters going utterly fancy crazy during our set; no surprise that this was where the intense insanity of the original Kyushu noise punk sound originated.

END OF POLLUTION follow with an unexpected assault of heavy crust in the Amebix/Antisect tradition; heavy, ominous and hulking. Great show and I’m keen to hear some recorded output. ISTERISMO close the gig with an intense display of ricochet-laden Satoshi hysterics and a particularly spacey set from Shogo. Some dude picks up Jun’s bass and starts playing it and he goes fuckin’ spare and starts on the cunt and it looks like it’s all gonna kick off. Shit!! It gets calmed down and there’s no hassle in the end.

Afterwards we have a party at the club with loadsa cocktails, beers, food and so on. Shogo makes an incredibly delicious curry and we all chomp it down. Everyone’s really sound and there’s that great feeling of togetherness and unity that you get in scenes from remote places with a wide range of ages involved. I’m drunk as the proverbial monkey’s uncle by this stage. So is passed out in the tiny backstage room along with the guitarist from AI, this total mad cunt in a World Peace t-shirt who’s been punishing like a madman all night long. All too soon it’s time to go. It turns out we’re sleeping at the girls from END OF POLLUTION’s gaff.

We get there and it’s full of awesome toys, though it quickly turns out that someone’s got a big fetish for nazi stuff. Yes please. We briefly flirt with the idea of stealing a Hitler Youth dagger but decide it’d be just too mean, so instead we quiz the EoP bassist about it. Turns out her boyfriend’s a skin who’s very into this kind of thing. She’s familiar with Australia via Romper Stomper and comes out with a right shocker when we ask her what she thinks of the movie: “I hate yerrow monkeys!”. Crikey!! She’s got some Irish whiskey which I show an appreciation for and she suddenly becomes a lot more animated when she learns that I’m from that hallowed isle. I take a shower and pass out gratefully on the floor. Might as well take advantage of the four hours sleep we’ll be getting…

KAGAWA
We wake up and struggle out to the van. Get in and drive. Now that I’ve had a taste I need some more: gimme some frickin’ roofies, Shogo! I have an absolutely fantastic time, drifting off on a pink cloud. It’s much more mellow without the chu-hi and painkillers involved. I take my pants off cos it’s more comfortable. We stop at this hilarious truck stop and Satoshi dresses me in his kilt after I wander off pantyless. There’s a tent full of scantily clad ladies with blue hair giving free cigarettes to people. I wander in for a bit and they’re all really nice to me but I don’t feel like smoking and they get a bit disappointed. I kind of space out around the place and rob shit before it’s time to get back in the van and drive on. I have a bit of a kip and wake up to a beautiful drive; I just don’t want to sleep, there’s way too much to look at and talk about. We cross a massive series of awesome bridges over to Koichi and it’s turning into a massive pain in the arse to keep this fuckin’ thing updated too before I forget everything, but now that I’ve started… There’s thousands of little islands and some of the most beautiful post-industrial vistas I’ve ever seen. I really want to visit a Japanese cemetery up close; soon after we get to the town we’re playing at I spot a huge one on a hillside and manage to wheedle a go of looking at it out of the lads.

I’m still fuckin Buzz Lightyear and can’t get my pants on so Satoshi decks me out in his kilt again and we have a stroll around. It’s amazing. We’re strongly advised against taking photos at a random grave, but we do anyway because we’re punks. We drive on to the venue, arriving at the club nice and early. It’s an awesome looking place with a huge backstage, giving us the first chance to spread out in a week. Greg’s in his element! We meet the girls from AKKA and Masuda from AXEWIELD who we’d hung out with on the NDT tour and head off to get some proper Udon, the local delicacy. My food sensei Shogo orders and shows me how to dress it all up: it’s goddamn delicious. We head back to the venue in high spirits and I take the opportunity of an internet connection to catch up with shit…bad idea.

First up I have an email from the Aussie Deptartment of Immigration telling me that my work visa application is being disputed by them [it’s now dead in the water, leaving me a bit fucked…but that’s a whole other story]. Secondly, I get an email from Ireland with some real bad news about some horrendous shit from my home town that I won’t go into. I’m pretty freaked out. I hide behind my shades and watch the first band and try not to think about it. I watch AXEWIELD and they’re fucking amazing, but I’m totally distracted and feeling a proper dark mood descend. Afterwards I’m freaked and go to talk with Panky about it for a bit. I don’t know who plays next but all I want to do is get some weed. No weed so I start drinking heavily. Start getting pretty angry. I think we play next after switching with ISTERISMO but I don’t really know. I vaguely remember watching AKKA. Someone gets me some proper strong sleeping pills and I start taking them. Don’t remember anything else.

KYOTO
Wake up on a padded floor in an amazingly cool room and I’m extremely confused. Look around and it turns out we’re at Masuda Axewield’s house. There’s fantastic toys and cool shit everywhere including a mad Teletubbies display, which is a favourite of his wife. I feel fine, and well refreshed. Apparently we’d come back and I took more pills. Penke ended up snatching them off me and eating a couple to stop me consuming more. The story goes that I’d gone into the shower and come out and passed out, leaving the others to drag me into the sleeping room. No recollection. Anyway, I apologise to Masuda and try and make up for being such a knobhead. There’s tons of fruit juice and water which I can’t seem to consume enough of. We’ve got a day off today so the plan is to drive to Kyoto and hang out with the lads from Warhead. On the drive we stop at a buttload of gas stations and nick loads of shit. We’ve to drop Ushi off at the station so he can head home to Tsuyama; Ebi will meet us again tomorrow in Osaka.

We get to Kyoto and I’m still a total space mongo so I drink a load of coffees and energy drinks. We take a walk around one of the bigger temples and it’s hilarious. All these douchehounds start taking pictures of us and Panky laughs at this tourist spazzer with a big hickey. We see him a minute later and the poor cunt’s after popping his collar to stop people seeing – HA! There’s all sorts of fat ugly tourists around so we don’t stop for too long…just long enough to get some snaps with this Austrian lady from a touring opera group who begs a photo. Go on then, love. It seems we’re supposed to play a surprise gig at a rehearsal space tonight and I really, really, really couldn’t be arsed after the night I’ve had, but so be it. We head down there and schlep the gear in. Turns out it’s not a practice space but actually an awesome little bar; it’s a fuckin’ mad place. One tiny rectangular room with a bar with a door from it into a bigger square room with a stage and a big screen TV. Sort of horror-themed with this legend of a guy running it. He can’t speak any English but he’s wearing a Swans t-shirt and has great taste in movies, so that’s good enough for me. We start getting the beers in and the chaps from Warhead are cooking us dinner. Awesome! Basket Case is showing on the telly, followed by Zombie Strippers. We’re hanging out and eating, chatting, drinking and it’s a deadly buzz. Kenta shows up, this awesome straight edge photographer kid that we met last time, and Araki (the Warhead drummer) and his wife are there with their new baby. The poor little tyke takes one look at me and bursts out crying! I’m feeling these fucking intense feelings, due to what I’d found out yesterday plus the residual downers in my system, but there’s also a heightened sense of occasion, of synchronicity. The kid soon becomes curious and keeps reaching out to me, touching my studded jacket, and so I take her and hold her for a bit as she smiles and gurgles cheekily. I make the most hilariously inappropriate faux pas…let’s just say that when a six-month-old child has a picture of a rabbit on her jumper and you’re pointing at it, you should take care not to mix up the words “usagi” and “konojo”. Oh jaysus…I’m so embarrassed. But no-one seems to mind or find it strange, and despite the fact that very young kids usually bore me to tears, the kid is entranced by me so I pick her up again and hang out with her for a bit more and it’s fun. There’s this huge conflagration of my past and future in my head and it’s fucking mental; I can feel things changing. There’s meanwhile an odd tense feeling amongst everyone.

Panky’s feeling it too so we decide to go out and each get a 2-litre of water and an energy drink at the convenience store. We sit down to drink it and Panky starts shivering. He’s asking do I feel cold. I say no, I’m really warm and that he must be mental. Two minutes later I’m feeling it too. It’s exactly like I’m coming up on LSD or MDMA. I tell him what I reckon and he’s the same; that odd, dissociated feeling of cotton wool unreality before a trip kicks in. We’re freaked to bits. There’s three possibilities: number one and most likely, the alcohol we’ve been drinking the last three hours has reactivated the downers in our system, giving us an odd trippy feeling. But since it was almost 24 hours previous that we took them it’s hard for us to accept that this is the case. Number two and very unlikely, we’ve been spiked by someone for a laugh or to see how we’ll react. Number three and extremely unlikely, it’s a ghost that we disturbed at the cemetery in Kagawa exacting its revenge. Keep in mind that we’ve been drinking hard for a week and have intense downer paranoia and it perhaps doesn’t seem quite so mad that this is what was going on in our heads. When you get these intense drug feelings so strongly, you gotta wonder about it…whatever it is, there’s only one option: go with it.
We head back in and I have that fractal tension that precedes a trip; I can’t really talk to anyone. I hang out with So a bit and keep the jitters down. I go into the bigger room and Akira is showing and there’s way too much going on. It’s the scene where the Clown Gang bash Tetsuo, and again, the synchronicity is too much for me: Akira was the first time I ever felt any curiosity about Japan, in a nerd magazine called Commodore Format, when I was about 8 or 9. There was an article about the 100 movies that should be made into computer games, and Akira was one of them. The cover of it was displayed. I’d never seen anything like it. I got the video in Virgin Megastore a couple of years after and the comics soon after that. And now in the midst of this tour, coming up on fuck knows what, I’m watching it with all these people I’ve met through punk, having one of the maddest experiences of my life. The resonance is insane, and I come up hard, and after that everything explodes and it’s amazing.

The tension dissipates and we’re having a mad party and shit gets wild as all hell. Whiskey, sake and a bottle of gross plum wine that Yeap robs from a 7-11 mean we’re all steaming drunk with Warhead, who dive into our van totally out of control and decide they’re coming with us. Everything goes mad and I can’t write about the next three hours, but eventually we get to Osaka and the party continues. Straight down to Konton and get crazy wild on the piss with my old mate Yamazaki, the total fucking legend barman from Konton. He’s showing Mad Max on the TV, the singer from Corrupted is there and tells us he’ll be coming down to the gig tomorrow along with the dudes from Zouo, we’re drinking tequila and beer, beer and tequila, we head out on the streets and I smoke a fake joint from the rasta shop beside Punk & Destroy and get high as shit and wander off watching some skaters making a video. End up talking about proper good Japanese hardcore with this awesome skater kid and make him miss his friend landing a trick on the 87th attempt (very dishonourable) before I spot the other chaps again and we go into a convenience store and rob more whiskey. Shit is getting crazy out of control by the time I get back to Kansai Punk Support Centre and crash out. Holy fuck.
OSAKA
Wake up with a customary semi-clanging stuffed-up head and blunder my way down to Freshness Burger…not in the mood for anything eggy, soupy, ricey or noodly and I didn’t eat much yesterday, so I get a couple of burgers and a coke in. It does the trick and I wander off to check out the streets. Osaka is the best city in Japan; it’s so fucking awesome, especially the Amerikamura, where the KPSC is situated, along with most of the best venues and literally hundreds of fascinating shops. Every odd branch of subculture is celebrated to an insane degree here; everything. The record shops are blindingly amazing, with the staff intensely knowledgeable. The music shops have an incredible array of gear and expertise. The hip-hop clothing shops blare the best shit on their stereos and go so far as to sponsor visas for dudes from Nigeria and Uganda to come over and wear NYC style clothing…they pay these dudes to just hang around outside the shops all day to make them seem more authentic! It’s FUCKING MENTAL. I wander down towards Mandarake, the best manga and weird otaku culture shop there is: it’s a superstore of mania. Four floors of madness. I nearly spend $150 on a 1/6 scale model of Tetsuo in his semi-mutated guise, but when the shop nerd takes it out of the box it’s not that good, so I leave it. I buy a couple of things and then walking back towards KPSC I bump into Sugi on the street; he’s after coming from fuckin’ Hiroshima on a bus for the gig! That’s HOURS! We head back to Mandarake cos I wanna get some recommendations of obscure ‘70s horror manga off him, so he helps me find a ton of awesome books. We head back towards Shin’s place and bump into Greg and Panky who are off to Don Quixote to buy some stupid shit. I tell Sugi I’ll see him later and go with them.

Greg’s gotten hold of a map and we wind our way through the mad little streets of Amerikamura, past all these bizarre sex hotels and mad shops. We get down to a fashionable shopping area chockablock with cuties; there’s a plethory of head-the-balls apparently “working” on the streets, just hip young things decked out in fuck-knows-what kind of outfits giving out flyers and suchlike. It’s all very mysterious. We head into Don Quixote, and still in a bubble of tour mania, buy a ton of awesome crap. I get some fantastic manga jigsaws for my puzzle-hungry honeygirl back home and a ton of other mad shit as presents, but it all gets pretty headachey too soon so I head outside and get an ol’ Pocari Sweat to take the edge off. The best part is seeing this couple choosing dildos, the girlfriend making a big show of how she doesn’t really want to be there while making coy eyes at us with a cheeky shy smile the whole time. Ah jaysus.
Today we’re getting tats so we need to hurry the fuck up and soundcheck so we’ll have time to get down to the studio and get done before the gig. We go down and load in. The sound is fucking awesome. There’s a hulking tension built up inside me and even the soundcheck is a blessed relief; we fuckin kill it dead and it feels so good that afterwards I’m feeling uncontrollably randy and have to leg it to the bathroom for Relief Part III the second we’re done. Ahhhhhh…suddenly everything’s a lot more relaxed. Oof. We leg it down to the tattoo studio and get going…Shin goes first cos he’s go so much on today. The man never stops. He’s a bastion of industry. He gets the circle K on his frickin’ neck, which leads to his wife getting mad angry at Yeap –hahaha! The Isterismo lads go next, each getting the circle K in various places on their bodies, with handsome sex maniac Shogo hilariously getting it on the pubic region of his hip…”oh, you’ve got a tattoo? That’s so cool! Can I see it?”; “yeah, sure baby, but I don’t want everyone to see, just come in here a minute…”. Go on, ya chancer! The lads are all freaked as it’s the first tattoo for most of them. I reckon last night’s madness with Warhead marked their entry into the criminal underworld…now they’re fucked for life! While they’re all getting done I head back to raid various shops, spending almost all my time at Mandarake when I discover an entire floor of crazy photo and art books, trying to look at as many as possible in a short amount of time and select a few for later purchase. I wanna go first of us since it’s taking forever and I don’t wanna miss any of the bands. Myself and Yeap flip for it and he tries to cheat me on it, the cheeky cunt! Either way it doesn’t matter, since we end up not having enough time. Greg comes back later to get “chaos nights” in kanji on his bicep: tuff! Yet before that comes the genesis of perhaps the most intense shit I’ve ever experienced…

Myself and Panky meet Sugi again and whack some takoyaki into us before bumping into Greg. We meet Louis from Vaginors on the street and he tells us about this mad goth shop called Territory…from the description he gives I just have to go down there. We edge through some back streets and find the place. It’s down a stairs, in a basement. You open the door and beyond there’s a big rusty creaky old churchyard gate into the shop. Within, it’s like a creepy dank gothic castle from the 1700s…it’s impossible to actually see the dimensions and walls within. Everything is covered in layers of dust, cobwebs, velvet…bookcases, shelves, candles and decorations adorn every inch of space…red lights shine through the gloom. It’s actually scary. There’s a bigger-than-lifesize statue of Baphomet looking down on me, with a huge fucking boner. Suddenly one of the statues moves! My heart fucking leaps. It turns out there was a creepy goth chick standing there all the time. She glides away from behind the counter past a red velvet curtain into the back. Some kind of beast is ruffling its feathers out there…there’s a huge “caw!ing” sound…they’ve got a live fucking raven in the shop!! And then the singer from Corrupted comes out –turns out he owns the place!! There’s a huge stuffed white wolf, incredible satanic items and mad jewelry, occult SS artifacts and a ton of other mad shit. I want to buy it all but limit myself to a few select items because it’s very expensive. The dude from Corrupted is real sound and gives me a couple of extra things for free –what a legend!

We ascend back to reality and my mind is blown. Greg and Louis have legged it, presumably because the whole thing was just too freaky. I don’t blame them. Panky and I are out of it so we get some food and a beer from the convenience store and watch the early evening buzz of a Friday night in Osaka develop. Everyone’s getting their stocks in, having a quick bite before they head home to change and whatnot. I leg it back to Kansai to charge my hair before we go to the gig. Tonight’s line-up is insane…it’s kicking off when we roll up; LAST MEASURE are first and they’re awesome. Honestly I’d been biased against them cos they’ve got an American in the band (a nice chap called Jessie who I’d met before), but once more I’m revealed to myself as a profligate racist when their mad crasher crusty American hardcore knocks my head off. Leg it out for a beer before ZYANOSE are up, and they rule. Imagine, if you will, Confuse colliding with Hawkwind, on acid, composed and enacted on two basses and drums, with atrocious dental hygiene. So good. The venue is packed and people are going bonkers. FRAMTID follow and it’s the best I’ve seen them since the European tour in 2007. There’s some excellent new songs on display, boding well for their imminent second album and taking things back to their earlier sites of influence: crazy intensity, more backing vocals and anthemic repeated shouty bits. Shit is out of control and people are going nuts; there’s these three drunken crusty cuties laying waste to the boys in the pit and it’s fantastic, the first time I’ve seen Japanese girls go proper mental at a gig without being onstage! Fucking YES. I go down to warm up a bit because I want to be on form tonight and the cosntant punishment my body’s taking is exacting its toll in muscle stiffness and wrist/finger pain. ATTACK SS begin and it’s vicious, the singer is this huge tattooed skinny monster who’s just grabbing people and tossing them around like 50p coins. Next up is ISTERISMO. I stand down the back for the first few songs and notice all the lads from Zouo standing there too. People are going pure mental and I can’t take it anymore when they launch into their deadly pogo song off our split with them and have to get into it before running down to do a final warm-up with Panky. He’s after fucking his wrist in during ISTERISMO and it’s bothering him. Someone’s left a bag of beers backstage (basically a closet). Panky robs one just before Jacky Crust War comes back and tells us it’s Zouo’s beer…shit! One of them comes down and has a word in Jacky’s ear…“hey, they say that you guys can take beer from here if you want. It’s a present.” Heheh. Yeap comes down to say ISTERISMO are finished, bringing some kid with him who’s had his fucking face smashed during the gig. His entire eyebrow has turned into some kind of a gigantic tit. Amazing.

We set up and there’s a heavy buzz of anticipation. By this stage the thievery has gotten way out of control and my guitar case and jacket is laden down with multiple bottles of whiskey. I take a one out, have a few pulls and pass it round. Stick-count and we start; it’s fucking insanity from the first second. There’s no way we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the bands tonight, based purely on the lack of time we’ve had playing all together. The only thing for it is to make up the difference in ferocity. End the first song, get out more whiskey, have a swig, pass it round, repeat for the next three songs. People are getting real fuckin loose and we’re killing each other onstage. The band and crowd are crashing into me constantly, or I into them, so I’m way out of tune. Give it an occasional tuning between songs but fuck it. I start the wrong song after Yeap’s introduced a different one and him and Shin lose the plot at me. Fuck it. We go into the right song and charge through to the end. Not the tightest set of the tour but I reckon we make up for in energy; it’s Shin’s second night in a row playing with us as his second set, and he does well. People stream out for some air and dotted around the room are half full bottles of whiskey…come on, you creampuffs!

Afterwards is a dreamlike experience of hilarity, an immense night of total chaos. We get our drink on in fine style and it seems the guitar player from Attack SS has been instructed to apprentice himself to Panky; he’s matching him drink for drink at the bar, which Panky soon realises, downing each one immediately and forcing the poor u-14 squad to follow. Pretty soon Attack SS Jnr. is steaming drunk and falling around the place. Heheh. The sound young lad we’d met in Tsuyama is back, once more insisting on tequila shots. We get the beers in and Bad Dirty Hate play an afterparty set in the sub-sub-basement bar of Hokage. It’s great fun, a nice foil to the Spending Loud Night buzz of all the bands tonight. I’m hanging out when Jacky grabs me; “Cormy, you have to come with me”. He introduces Taiki to me again, the Corrupted singer, and says I need to go with him. He doesn’t speak any English so Jacky translates. I’m sort of freaked, not knowing what’s up, but I know Jacky well and trust him so I go along with it. They lead me down a maze of backstreets and won’t tell me where we’re going. Taiki eventually stops at a metal door down a narrow alleyway and unlocks it. We descend a stairs and enter this cryptlike space. I think it’s connected to Territory but I can’t see anything of the shop we were in earlier. One wall is a cage of thick metal bars and there’s an extremely odd aura. Jacky translates, and Taiki tells me it’s a shrine to Kawakami. Taiki was one of his best friends and much of Kawakami’s stuff was left to him. He used to tattoo in here. I’m sort of overcome; again, this intense synchronicity. It was back around the turn of the millennium when I’d just moved to Dublin and had been getting into crust that I got heavily into the Dis shit, ordering everything I could with Dis in the title from obscure Scandi and German tape distros. Japanese d-beat noise? Yes please. It was a discography tape starting with the Tragedy LP and the beginning of my love affair with OTT punk noise (I could shite on for pages and pages about Disclose and this is already way too long, but if you give a shit there’s a two-page article on my crackpot theories concerning Kawakami and his various projects in Zero Tolerance magazine #20 Nov/Dec 2007). My first visit to Japan had been for the final Kawakami Forever tribute and now on this trip I’m here, in this place, with these guys, doing this shit. I won’t go into what happens next but it’s insane; just the craziest occult shit I’ve ever felt. Taiki’s words and actions are some of the most affecting of my life, and I leave feeling humble and, frankly, mental.
I walk around feeling just out of it. I wander the streets of Osaka, enjoying the Friday night spectacle and end up hanging out with these hip-hop skater chicks. They’re pretty funny and curious but don’t seem to quite know what to make of me. Don’t even know what to make of meself at this stage. I wander back around towards the nearest beer shop to Punk &Destroy and naturally there’s dozens of punks out the front drinking, including all the lads. I’m just after missing the funniest thing I’ve ever heard of: while Panky was walking down the street after the gig he saw this tiny little poodle dressed up as a punk. He’s got a little leather jacket and a leopard skin pants on, so of course Panky picks him up to do a “num num num” on him. Being the exact point at which the dog chooses to do a big piss all over Panky. I can’t believe I missed it! I’d almost rather have been there for that than away doing what I was for the past hour or so! We have a great fuckin laugh about it and decide it’s time to head to Konton. On the way down through the myriad underground alleys and tunnels myself and Penkethman hear something in the background…through a door…could it be…yes it is!! Fuckin’ Oasis! There’s this tiny little jazzy Manchester bar with a suave barman and four patrons. We barrel in and order whiskey sodas. There’s this odd androgynous lady and I just can’t stop staring at her. She’s magical. We have a great big laugh and listen to Happy Mondays and Noel Gallagher’s new band (which is shite) and before long the bar is empty except for us two. We’ve had our fun so we leave and head down to Konton. I see my old mate Yamazaki and we’re on the drink again! From this stage on things get patchy. At some point we’ve left Konton and we’re walking along the street with a big crew of punks. My last Polaroid memories are as follows: laughing maniacally at an entire row of fashionable idiots waiting to go into a nightclub whilst walking along giving them all the finger. They seem equal parts scared and delighted. The singer from Avfall getting pointed at by a giggling group of pretty girls. This causes him to run grinning at them, roaring “bitches! bitches!”, at which point they all scatter, screaming. Penke picking up a bottle of whiskey in a 7-11 and walking out with it waving at the store clerk, who’s desperately trying to avoid eye-contact and smile politely at the same time. Somehow being high up on a building and throwing a bicycle off it. Oblivion.

MIE
I wake up in a dark room after some sleep to Greg telling me to come down to Freshness Burger. I leave the darkened room and discover that we’re back in KPSC. I’m terrified, with a strong dose of The Fear. I’m sure that Greg needs to tell me something and I have vague memories of monstrous behaviour from the night before… I’m worried that I’ve gone too far without having any recollection of it. I head down and order a burger, get a coke and a Pocari Sweat, and sit down with Greg, ready to hear the bad news… Paranoia. It turns out it’s nothing, he was simply asking me if I wanted to get a burger. Fucking hell. I wolf down my burger and check my email to see if I’ve gotten paid. I fucking have, and way more than I expected: thank you work, watch the fuck out Osaka! I rush off on an insane blowout, decimating two weeks wages in two hours on records in King Kong and books + toys in Mandarake. At every shop counter my heart is in my mouth that my debit card is about to explode and a squad of econo-cops will run in as red lights flash and shutters go down on the doors. My card continues to work and I score the most amazing collection of books. Amazing amazing amazing. Fuck it, this is why I work… I leg it back to Punk & Destroy II laden down with bags and pack up the van, utterly manic. We wave goodbye to my main man Chuhiro while his cool girlfriend Naoko (fiancé now!) comes with us to Yokkaichi. It’s an amazing drive as we ascend high up into the mountains. The scenery is heartrendingly, unbelievably beautiful. The lads have put Oasis on the stereo, we’re zooming through incredible forest, and Japan is just amazing. I feel so fucking great. It’s around then that I realize that I’m still drunk as a bastard, which is probably why I’ve been running around Osaka on an obscene spending spree.

The drive is insane and so’s my head. We take a break at a truckstop and I buy some healthfood to try and reset my brain. I later find a piece of paper on which I’ve scribbled “head is on the moon follow heart”. We pass this hilarious spaceship car with a little dweeb driving around in it. We arrive at Club Chaos and are met by all the lads from Contrast Attitude and Acrostix, and its great to see Gori, Shin and Tam again. Bring the gear in, meet all the local lads and say hi. Reality Crisis are soundchecking and by this stage I’m feeling The Fear something awful. Paranoia creeps and every time someone looks at me it’s all I can do not to run and hide somewhere curled up in a ball. I grab Panky and we head to the convenience store where I get in two cans of chu-hi. I’m a gibbering mess and we walk to this dogpark and sit down. Our paranoia isn’t helped by the other two lads reckoning we were too drunk last night and ruined the set, which neither of us agree with. It was fucking fun and even though it’s not the tightest we’ve ever played, people had a real good time. Greg agrees. We drink our chu-hi and within one can I’m okay again, semi-drunk from the alcohol in my system. This is the only way to get through to the end without going insane; there’s going to be no personal space for days yet, with very little sleep and a lot more intense experience. We start having a laugh again and lose the hellish paranoia, and I decide to not really drink until after the gig…just one or two to keep in check. We’re now ready to go in and check out Vortex, the most amazing punk shop in the entire world. We go absolutely mental buying tons of awesome stuff while the Japanese lads all go for food. Not hungry. Everyone’s too polite to tell us to hurry the fuck up and every time we start to leave, something else cool catches our eye. We finally catch on that the gig’s actually starting and they have to close up. Fuck! We leg it to the gig and ACROSTIX have already started. Double fuck!

We’ve not missed much, and I’m glad cos they’re amazing: perhaps the best live band in Japan, musically speaking. Their progressive bent is unbelievable, the way they’ve developed since the early Amebix influence remarkable. Some of the new songs have this excellent Motorhead vibe with Tam’s drumming underscoring some of the maddest songwriting to arise out of their unlikely amalgamation of japcore and crust. Unique and original. The beats and rhythms are unlike anything else; can’t wait to hear where this band goes. CONTRAST ATTITUDE follow and it’s awesome. I’ve never seen such a viciously intense band onstage who’re such a nice friendly bunch of lads offstage. My heart nearly explodes when they play Who Can Change The Future: probably my favourite punk song of the last decade, play this at my fucking funeral. PERSEVERE follow and they’re pretty cool but I don’t see it all as I gotta change my strings. Hiroshima punks with mad tattoos and a strong ‘80s UK feel. REALITY CRISIS are up next and they’re not quite as mental as the other day but still fuckin’ terrifying. My paranoiac head reckons they’ve put their banner up over our Hardcore Pollution tour banner as a two fingers to us and I’m feeling agro. Silly boy. ISTERISMO follow and attack the crowd like the mad bastards they are, Satoshi jumping off the stage on top of me so that I run around with him on my shoulders and throw him back onstage.

I’m still sober as a fuckin’ judge after just a couple of drinks all night. We play and people go for it; Shogo cracks a rib. It’s decent but not as mad as other nights; what with the accusations of last night I concentrate on playing guitar instead of attacking people. The Nagoya punks are present and the System Fucker boys are going wild. We pack down our gear and hang out for a while, but it’s boring being sober. Everyone’s real friendly and nice, the Persevere boys in particular. Their guitarist/singer seems really happy and gives me what seems like a heartfelt bow and handshake when I tell him that I visited Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial on my first trip here. We head to the afterparty…yessss!! It’s in this great proper traditional Japanese restaurant with amazing food. Last time I was here the vegans ruined it, but this time I’m going to make sure and get some proper food. Kenta, Gori, Greg, Shogo and Kyouichi sit with us and we have the whole room to ourselves, about 30 of us at four tables going nuts. Shin makes a big speech in Japanese about the gig and punk and all sorts of stuff which I don’t understand and there’s a massive round of kampai!’s and general madness. Sensei Shogo-san sorts me out with all the maddest Japanese fantasy food I’ve ever wanted to try but never had the opportunity to: mad sashimi, raw beef sushi, roe and fish, it just doesn’t stop. Reality Crisis turn up and there’s just the maddest buzz around them; I swear, these guys just emanate hassle and violence. My head is twisted into ribbons and later Panky admits to having the same unfounded paranoia as myself: I go to the bathroom alone and I’m just waiting for my head to get slammed into the tiles, checking my pockets for something sharp, just expecting a nasty kicking. And all because of some arm-wrestling in Nagoya. What a pair of dopey paranoid knobheads. No more downers for the lads. We go on having a deadly laugh and drinking heaps of beer before it’s time to go. The Reality Crisis lads head out being real friendly and shaking hands, saying we’d see each other next time and all the rest, and I feel awfully foolish. Calm down you dickhead.

We walk back to the new Vortex shop; it’s on the high street in Mie and four times bigger than the old one. They’re building it themselves and living over it too. It’s so nice…Shin Acrostix and his wife will run it, living above it with their kids, while Tam will finance it with his good job in the city. Making punk future. I’m utterly destroyed, really looking forward to a good sleep since we’ve got an early start to make it back to Tokyo in time for our final gig. I have a shower and a “gentleman’s leisure time” to try and calm down before putting on some fresh clothes and finding a spot to sleep. It’s not to be. Whatever’s been going on over the last week and half, it’s resulted in near total nervous failure. I can’t sleep. Everyone else is asleep and I’m just lying there trying to calm down and breathe deep. Stop thinking and drift off. Lights and images dance on my vision. Total exhaustion is giving me the poor-man’s-acid effect. With my eyes closed, red and blue spirals start to fade in, making circular patterns and forming smiling laughing faces. I try to keep my eyes open; whenever I close them I lie there seeing images of Kitaro and Hino manga, cute horror figures marching off cliffs and morphing into weird sex things. Red and black pulsing filth, noises weaving into an ambient fabric, I get up and walk around and I’m still feeling mental. No peace. I stay awake all night going nuts and take some more ibuprofen to try and shut my brain off. Dawn fades in and the sound of the city waking up becomes a tapestry of insane music in my head. Eventually peoples’ alarms go off around 7am and everyone gets up. My head is in shreds and I’m a paranoid wreck.

TOKYO FINAL
I can’t stand to be around anyone so I go and sit on my own downstairs. We make it to the van and say goodbye and I take some more rohypnol because I need to sleep or else I’m going to kill someone. It comes on hard before I drop off; the cracks are beginning to show after two weeks in close proximity with each other, and it’s the worst time ever to discuss anything, especially tour money. I totally lose my mind for another few hours and Shogo somehow manages to calm me down and make me feel okay. I eventually drop off after zoning out to soothing industrial landscapes through the countryside.
I wake up and we’re nearly in Tokyo and I feel okay again. All I really needed was sleep…over the past seven days I’ve literally had less than 20 hours. Sleep deprivation is hell. We go to Satoshi’s house to pick some stuff up before it’s time to drive on in to Shelter for the final gig of the tour. But not before a hilarious prank… We’ve gotten a bunch of awesome Kitaro statues in Osaka as presents for the lads, one each to represent Jun, Shogo and Ebi, especially because we’ll be giving Satoshi a very special present the next day. Satoshi’s been a little bit jumpier around me the last few days, understandably since I’ve not exactly been a paragon of sanity, and also because Shin’s been schooling him in being a tour manager when dealing with a bunch of knobs from the West: when something needs doing or it’s time to go, you don’t ask…you tell. He’s in a hurry to leave while we’re in his apartment whispering about shit and rifling through bags. We’re just deciding which of the figures are most similar to each of the three lads, but he doesn’t know that…in retrospect it looks very much as if we’re deciding what to do about his cheeky behaviour…we’ve been going on with all this d-beat hooligans nonsense for the last few days, so when we’re back in the lift he’s all edgy and looking at us. I look at the other lads and shout now and pretend to grab Satoshi, as if we’re jumping him in or getting him back or some nonsense. He jumps a mile and looks like he’s going to shit his pants and I feel really bad actually cos he’s such a nice chap…but it’s still frickin’ gold! We give him a big hug instead.

We hop in the van and I pick up my leather jacket from Shogo’s and eat an apple and drink some green tea and now I’m feeling okay again, pretty good actually. We arrive at Shelter and it’s a fucking cool venue. We head in and meet some old friends, set up and soundcheck, spending most of it on an ill-advised cover of Take ‘Em All. The sound is really great, the best of the tour so far, so we go and get lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Excellent food. I’m super excited about tonight; I think it’s going to be great. We give the lads their presents, explaining how the different characters remind us of them. They’re mad happy over it and we all go to take a walk around the various punk shops in the area. We meet Masaki and a bunch of the lads from last time in Tokyo. The shopping insanity continues and I get some cool shit; the best ever Poison Idea shirt and a hilarious enamel Macc Lads pin. The Isterismo boys have gotten me a present of an awesome Motorhead pendant which they give me and I’m dead chuffed. We head down to this other shop and meet Tom from the eponymous Tom & Boot Boys. We’d played with his other band Punk & Disorderly when we were here with NDT and he remembers and is stoked to hang out again. I pick up some more presents for people and I find a few cans of Yebisu stout in this butcher’s shop, my favourite second only to Guinness. What a drink. I go in and change my strings; gotta sound perfect tonight, no room for fuck-ups. Tonight is So’s gig; he’s set the place up perfectly and it looks amazing. It’s the first time the venue’s had a punk gig in five years because of the trouble that always arose previously. We hang out backstage with Shin and he tells a hilarious story about his first ever Tokyo punk gig, which was at this venue. He’d traveled up alone from Osaka, just a young lad, and didn’t know anyone. The Tokyo punks back in the day were right scary cunts and wouldn’t think twice about bashing some little twerp from the countryside. Shin got freaked cos his pole spikes were only about a foot high, whereas all the Tokyo lads’ pole spikes were at least two foot high. He was so freaked that he never went to gig and ended up sleeping on the streets!

The first band begin, ASMODEUS. It’s Antisect-styled crust with a very modern metal guitar sound. Not really the best but they’re pretty new. I get a drink and have a chat with people outside. Once again I’m taking it fairly handy until after we play; this is the fucking big one. This is all Shin’s oldest and best mates, the fucking Anti-System Mafia, and we want to do him proud. It’s the tour finale and he’s done us such an honour by taking time out of his hectic chaotic life to save our tour and break in Isterismo to the facts of touring a Western band in Japan. People can sometimes have an odd opinion of foreigners over here and this is the first time Shin’s played in an international band, and we want to prove that’s not made a mistake in lending us his talents…the whole thing is quite overwhelming. Four misfits from Australia, Malaysia, Ireland and Korea playing punk together in Japan and making it work. The other side of globalisation! REDNECKS are next on and it’s Ebichan’s other band, who he’s singing for. It’s manic thrash hardcore and it’s AWESOME. Afterwards I head out and head over to the convenience store to pinch a bottle of something. They’ve got fucking Hennessy!! Not seen this before in Japan and since I’m feeling pretty pimpish I grab that one. I bump into Souichi outside and we hang out and catch up a bit. He wants to swap his JD for my Hennessy –not likely mate, but have a swig! UNARM follow and it’s alright, but they’ve had a number of member changes and unfortunately it’s just not at all as intense as before. By this stage the Hennessy is kicking it and now I can see why all them gangsta chaps drink it. I’m feeling well groovy, boppin’ from side to side and gettin’ all yeeeeah. FORWARD are next on and they’re incredible, so tight and focussed, Souichi is the most amazing guitarist I’ve seen in a punk band for years whilst Ichiya is simply beyond anyone so far witnessed over the past two weeks. What’s The Meaning Of Love closes the set and is the highlight of the tour for me…Ichiya leaves the stage, getting down on the floor, surrounded by thirty punks all singing along…this is the fucking meaning of love! An experience I’ll never forget. Afterwards there’s LOADS of money on the floor; myself and Panky take one look at each other and shake heads after a second. Anywhere else in the world for sure, but over here we do the honourable thing and start shouting about it. Turns out it’s this sound American chap Patrick’s, he’d lost it stagediving and crowdsurfing. I warm up a bit until ISTERISMO start. Myself and Yeap have been chatting backstage and realise the boys are kicking off, so we leg it out and stagedive. Fool that I am I manage to pull Shogo’s cable out. Duh. The gig is intense and insane, perfectly embodying the general ethos of the tour: friendly and violence.

We set up and start and it’s madness from the first stick-count: total mania. We’re a good mix of the chaotic violence we started out with and the more competent tightness we’ve developed over the past nine gigs. I no longer need to keep an eye on what Shin’s doing, and he’s right with us too. The Hennessy is kicking in a big way and I’m having a great time, posing out and even managing to keep my leathers on right to the end, heheh! It’s a great show and a fitting finale; people want more, so we consider the Cocksparrer cover. The two lads don’t want to but Shin’s mad up for it…so we come out and do our shambolic cover followed by Sentenced To Life. It’s fuckin’ brilliant and I stagger off to crash out backstage before I realise I’ve forgotten my drink. I go back to grab it and see that Yeap is still bantering with the crowd so I go to shove him over the barrier to crowd surf; I miscalculate and he slips, bashing his face in off the metal crowd barrier…oh shiiiiit. I check to see that he’s not bleeding or passed out and then walk off, since I know he’ll be raging and want to kill me when he gets up. Bollocks anyway…I feel shitty about it but it was accident, so what can ya do. I head out and chat with my old mates Eiji and Heat from DSB and they’ve got a demo of their new band, Vespera, allegedly a mix of DSB and Polish punk à la Post Regiment (listened to it since and it actually does sound like this!). It’s handnumbered 53/100: “go mi”, since that sounds like my name…and has the added bonus of meaning “trash”! The amount of thought people put into things here is simply mind-boggling. I see various other old mates and drink some more before heading back in. The atmosphere is great and I start chatting to Ichiya after Souichi introduces us and it turns out he’s really into Ireland and Irish stuff. Ha! Turns out he’s well into Guinness, which I just happen to have a fresh cold can of in my pocket. I show him the right way to pour it and he’s dead chuffed. We have a good chat for a while about having kids and suchlike before I decide it’s high time to go and see how the human warhead is getting on… Yeap’s in a state backstage with an icepack to his head; I go to apologise but I’m told he’s too pissed off so I go and drink at the bar with Penke, Masaki and Greg instead. Everyone’s in a great mood and we have a mad time drinking and taking loads of photos with everyone. The afterparty continues until it’s time to load out and we take a couple of taxis back to Koenji. We head for a second afterparty to a small restaurant and I’m wrecked, needing some weed now to calm me down. I’m way too up again after various stimulants and I’m not looking forward to proper quiet nighttime with no distractions. We can’t get any weed so I just drink more before we head back to Satoshi’s. I have a shower and quickly fall asleep, thank fuck…but it’s not a pleasant sleep. Nightmares plague me and I wake up suddenly feeling hands around my throat choking me. I sit up with a gasp clawing at my throat and looking around. Nothing there. I sleep again and wake to see a pile of skulls under Satoshi’s bed; turns out it’s just paper bags. Christ.

FINAL DAY
We’ve got an appointment with Tokyo Hardcore Tattoo today for 10am so we head out with Satoshi to Koenji one final time and get some bananas on the way. Satoshi’s a bit edgy again and wants to do some shit to help with the nerves but I’ve had enough; there’s a holocaust in my head and I don’t need more stimulation. The shop is legendary, hence Satoshi’s reservations…there’s some serious characters down there and you don’t want to put a foot wrong. Well, he doesn’t want to put a foot wrong…we can do whatever we like since we’re dumbshit gaijins. We’re met by UK, our tattooist for the day, and Yeap goes first whilst I try to call my girlfriend. It’s impossible to find any public payphones. I get a sandwich and a beer and it’s Penke next, getting Rabiasan done on his arm, hangin’ with the dinosaurs. We’re all getting the same thing; Rabiasan with DBH below. I head down to Village/Vanguard to get some souvenirs, presents, perv stuff and art books before I go back and it’s my time. It’s a bit weird to have my arse out in the shop but we sort it out and poor ol’ UK puts a real brave face on her embarrassment at coming face-to-face with a spotty gaijin arse for, I presume, the first time. She does a great job and adds her own flourish with some freehand kanji at my request while I float away on a cloud on endorphins. As I lie and bliss out the hallucinations start to return; the endorphins keep it pleasant but I need to open my eyes and trace the whole path of how I came to be in this situation back to years in the past in order to ground myself again, remembering that it’s all real and nothing is amiss. After I go through this process I feel completely relaxed and secure again. It’s done and I hear the lads describing me to as “ichiban chikan” to Katsuta, the shop owner, previously of Tetsui Arei and currently in Extinct Government. Ichiban chikan indeed…very honourable, thanks guys! I get a THCT hoody and we take some photos before heading off in high spirits.

I find out that Shogo’s been admitted to hospital and it makes me feel awful; his chest had been hurting a lot the previous days and it’s gotten serious. Kinda floored, really hoping that it’s okay cos it’s hard to get a straight answer from the lads. We go for lunch and present Satoshi with a gift we’ve bought him for his birthday and for doing such a good job on the tour: the first EU’s Arse 7”. He’s over the bloody moon and can’t contain his excitement. But he’s done us proud, paid us well and given us the best tour of our lives. We get a delicious curry in before it’s time to pick up the van to take us to the airport. Good ol’ Shogo turns up and it turns out he’s cracked a rib. He’s proud as punch; another one to show the girls! We grab our stuff down from Satoshi’s and decide to load it all up into the van on the way. Having learnt my lesson from previous trips, I’ve brought an enormous empty suitcase to bring back all my loot in. I carefully load it up and there’s some extra room for the other lads’ stuff. The traffic is horrendous. We get there in plenty of time and are treated like rockstars, except the security knobheads rob my extremely expensive bottle of Suntory 12-year-old which I’d forgotten to transfer to my hold luggage after wrapping it in a ton of smelly socks in my clothes bag a week ago. Fuckin’ shite. At least it was free. Onto the plane and it’s one final roofie to kiss reality goodbye until we arrive for our two hellish connections in Aussie, and one Hungry Jack’s later we’re back in Melbourne, picked up by our gorgeous girlfriends and ready to head into work tomorrow…JAYSUS.

AFTERMATH
Just less than four weeks since we’re home and a bit of perspective has returned…it took two weeks to simply get over the physical and mental duress of the tour, and with the benefit of hindsight, certain things have become apparent. In retrospect, eating so many fucking downers unhinged me into the manic depressive tendencies which haven’t reared their ugly head so vehemently since my early twenties. It seemed the only way to sleep but I should have been cleverer about it. A lesson learnt, I hope. The first night back was a descent into hell; I was under such exhaustion that the second I closed my eyes I found myself in a dark cell, being pulled into the corner, through the corner and into a parallel colourless world. Struggling awake was akin to swimming up from 50 metres deep in the ocean, after which I was wide awake, panting, in terror of sleep once again. I read for a while, and eventually couldn’t keep my eyes open. Occult semi-lucid satanic nightmares followed and I had an odd night, eventually wrestling control from the shadowy faceless figures in my head. It wasn’t until two days later that I got over the fear that I was being possessed and had impregnated my girlfriend with the spawn of possession. Funny but not actually. It was only by this afternoon that I could listen to the Goatworshipper CD I got without losing my mind. It’s the closest to a nervous breakdown I’ve ever been and it was terrifying.
Even without the chemicals and alcohol, touring in Japan is madness. It’s like taking a holiday in the future, in an alternate reality, on the moon. Everything moves so fast and social rules and codes will never be understood by those who’ve grown up in the West. All these Nipponophiles who move to Japan trying to understand how it all works and be like a Japanese person…just give up and enjoy the rollercoaster ride, lads. You’ll never get it and you’ll always be a gaijin. The pure depth of experience we had on tour was incredible…we were constantly looking back on things that seemingly happened days ago only to realize that it was only that very morning that they’d occurred. Weeks worth of experience rammed into hours; less than two weeks in the country seemed like two months. Time inverted.
Overall I was once again blown away by the togetherness of Japan’s punk scene and I’ve come back full of inspiration and energy for new projects. The way people approach punk is so fucking real over there; the attention-seeking, anti-social, white-guilt ridden extremes which have turned the Western punk scene into a social club for perennial victims has got nothing to do with this place. People work hard at what they believe in, and make sure that they do it right. Compared to our U.S. tour three months ago and despite the huge amount of great people we met and awesome shows we had…it makes the place look like a fucking joke. The Isterismo guys are such fucking good lads and they went all out…the amount of effort that went into this tour is insane. I want to improve my Japanese just so I can have proper conversations with Jun and Eb …their constant behaviour makes it clear that they’re a pair of proper hilarious bastards. So, that’s about the size of it…Satoshi, So and Shin made this the best organised tour I’ve ever been a part of; Jun, Ebi, Shogo and Ushi made it a whole lot of fun; Greg, Penke and Yeap made it a hooliganistic rollercoast of audacious hilarity. Arigato mates, fuck the world and fuck you, we’re never giving up. KAMPAI!!

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