TOKYO (TR) – As the recorded sounds of the rotating helicopter blades and the first few notes of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” begin coming over the sound system, the elbow-to-elbow crowd at rock club Shelter in Shimokitazawa know that apocalypse is now upon them.
Eddie Legend of the surf-garage band MAD3 strolls onto the stage sporting a biker cap and picks up his guitar, decorated in shiny studs. Drummer Kyo, who has already bowed to the audience and taken a seat behind his kit, then spins his stick in his right hand. Haruto, his dark wraparound glasses reflecting the stage lights, holds his bass at the ready, his legs slightly astride.
The band quickly explodes into “Jack the Violence,” the title track of their debut on label Time Bomb, and the assembled pork pie hats and leather jackets surge into a roiling swarm. Fists rise into the air as Eddie rips the fingers of his left hand up and down the neck of his guitar. The pace is that of a locomotive; the trio seemingly never surfacing for air.
MAD3 have polished its instrumental sound since that release eleven years ago to the point of being true technicians of the genre. While their new album “Lost Tokyo” showcases more of their trademark fuzz and feedback, it is also an attempt to rip apart the superficiality that envelops the metropolis and blow it back to the Meiji Period (1868-1912).
“This is not the real Tokyo,” explains Eddie, thin-framed and his dark hair hugging the curve of his cheeks, prior to the show at an area coffee shop.
Tokyoites traipsing around in geta sandals, for example, is not what the band desires; rather it is bemoaning the slow decline in integrity and purpose, especially in music, that has coincided with the nation’s rise following World War II.
At the mere mention of popstresses Kumi Koda and Ayumi Hamasaki, the two current queens of J-pop puff, Eddie reaches down his throat with his index finger, one of eight tattooed with a letter in a gothic font that together read “R-O-C-K R-O-L-L” when the guitarist makes a fist with both hands.
“The city has lost its soul,” says Eddie. “We want to change Japan into a rock n’ roll country.”
The introductory number of “Lost Tokyo” begins with haunting, whispy screeches and pounding drums before shifting into the rapid-fire guitar chords of the title track.
“Basically nothing has changed,” says Haruto of their style, which was forged with the jackhammer rockabilly that dominated their debut. “But our technique has become more established than before.”
The new album was a chance, however, for experimentation. The release was born in a recording studio that was once a bowling alley in Yokkaichi, an industrial city along the coast of Mie Prefecture. Producer Shu-Hey Rock, who is the drummer of the band Gasoline, sold the band on the value that added space could bring.
“Once the recording process started,” says Haruto,” we began to realize the advantage of using the entire floor. Unlike in a regular studio we could spread out with all of our instruments.”
“Spy from Kyoto,” produced and mixed by Gabba of the legendary punk band Chaos U.K., is standard machine-gun fuzz, but its successor, “Requiem,” is a twisting tour of slow blues-inspired guitar and bass lines. “IL Matt,” a ranchera number, features acoustic guitar strumming and Kyo banging on wooden and rubber dolls for percussion. The album closes with the marching music that is “Metamorphosis for Catharsis,” which features prominent placement of a cello.
Such variety would have been unlikely on prior MAD3 releases. “Napalm in the Morning” (1998), which includes a clip from the film “Apocalypse Now” that is used for the band’s live opener, powers through seven straight-ahead rock songs, including versions of “I Need You” by the Kinks and the the Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie.”
MAD3 are very much enthralled with ’50s-era rock n’ roll of Elvis and Eddie Cochran. It traces its formative years to a series of events from the early ’90s called “Back from the Grave” – extensive bills that often included the surf guitar sounds of Jackie & The Cedrics, the biker gang rock of Guitar Wolf, and the rockabilly of The 5,6,7,8’s, who used to have Eddie as a member. Together they formed a nucleus for a very real Tokyo garage rock scene. Their debut 7″ single “Prince of Fuzz” was released on Australia’s Giant Claw label.
“Slowly,” Eddie says, “each band developed its own unique sound.”
It is also partly about projecting an identifiable image. By the end of a MAD3 show, Eddie has shed his jacket to reveal colorful tattoos crawling the length of his frail arms. Kyo has staggered up to begin destroying his drums and cymbals in true rock fashion, his long hair flipping around his head as he kicks and throws his equipment.
“But the most important thing,” Eddie explains, “is to create another great album.”
“Lost Tokyo,” whose purple cover features an ornate golden three-petal konan (or family crest) that was designed by the band, is the second release on its own label, Rock n’ Roll Kingdom, the name for which was take from the band’s twelve-track opus from six years ago that includes a raucous cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.”
Next year will see MAD3 touring Europe for the fourth time. The band as well hopes to embark on a “space-rock opera,” a musical piece which Eddie says will be sprinkled with religious themes and elements of reincarnation.
“We want to see if this world reaches a limit or end,” he says of the musical’s goal. “So we will be searching for the end of the world through music.”
Note: This article originally appeared in December 2006 on the Sake-Drenched Postcards Web page.