Text/Photos (c.) Exile Osaka
Everyone is intrigued by Faxed Head — the mysterious band from Coalinga, California. When I heard they were coming to Japan, I almost burst a nut. I had purchased their debut CD a while back, and found myself putting it on whenever I had a dose of the blues or was feeling homesick. It is the one album that has never failed to uplift by sagging spirit.
Not much is known about Faxed Head other than the members were involved in some sort of accident that left them horribly disfigured. After seeing the Mel Gibson movie The Man Without a Face, in which a disfigured man is shunned by society, they decided that there was only one option: suicide. Fortunately, a stroke of good luck at the last minute prevented these lost souls from taking their lives. Having failed at suicide, they came to the conclusion that the next best thing was to form a rock band. In what USA Today has described as “a moving testament to the power of the human spirit,” Faxed Head have inspired legions of disaffected youths to run away from home, sniff glue and drink themselves into a mind-numbing stupor — anything to escape the pain and mundacity of daily life.
I was seriously bogged down with planning lessons at my junior high school, so I never got around to coming up with questions for the band. I thought that it might be a really good experience to have the seventh graders write letters to Faxed Head because each one of the members seemed to have a great deal of interest in Japan. I was hesitant at first to suggest the idea to the Japanese teacher I work with, but to my surprise she was very enthusiastic about having the students write letters to a “famous rock band from America.” The students also were very excited and worked hard coming up with questions and drawing pictures of themselves.
The seventh graders also were preparing for the annual school cultural festival, so they were pressed for time. But some of them stayed after school to finish their questions. Keep in mind that the seventh graders (most of them only 13 years old) have only been studying English for about six months, so the majority of these questions were translated into English by one of their teachers. Most of the students wanted autographs (“Please give us your sign”). In one class, some of the students got greedy and requested free CDs, T-shirts, shoes, and one naughty young lad even asked that the band send a guitar to the school. (Another boy wrote, “Where do you SEX?” on the questionnaire. I didn’t want him to experience the evils of censorship at such an early age, so I left it alone.)
As the school day came to an end, I discovered that one of the groups had not handed in its questionnaires. I told the homeroom teacher, and (to my surprise) she reprimanded a girl who she thought was responsible. The poor girl looked all over for it but came up empty-handed. She came into the teacher’s room and burst into tears because she clearly remembered handing it to me. To make a long story short, it turned out that she did hand it in and the teacher made a mistake. The real culprit had already gone home, so we had to call up her house and wait until she brought it to school.
The members of Faxed Head were happy to oblige most of the students’ requests for autographs, CDs, stickers, and T-shirts. McPatrick Head was kind enough to donate his costume … Uh, I mean, his skin and hair, which he metamorphosed out of just for the occasion. And now, here is the Faxed Head interview, as done by seventh graders at Osakabou Junior High School. Hopefully, this will lead to some sort of cultural exchange program between our school and the city of Coalinga, California.
Do you live in America?
Fifth Head: What do you think?
Do you have lovers?
Fifth Head: Our music is love.
When did you start Faxed Head?
La Brea Tar Pits Head: When we were in elementary school — we drank milk and spit it into fans and created “milk metal tension core.” That was back in ‘82.
Fifth Head: When our last band, Brown Fjord, died in a plane crash while touring Scandinavia in late August 1985. (I was the only survivor.)
When did you start singing?
Fifth Head: Shortly after my vocal cords were removed — I had throat cancer due to inhaling the ashes, still burning of deceased band members.
Who decided on the band name?
La Brea Tar Pits Head: M.C. Patrick Head had a rap act in ‘87 called the I5 crew, a highway in California. It was right after he shot himself …
What does “Faxed Head” mean?
Neck Head: Self-replicas take over all of space.
Do your mothers play the concert, too?
McPatrick Head: No, they are home sick.
Did you buy your masks or did you make them?
Fifth Head: We do not wear masks. We never have and we never will; these are our true faces and bodies. We are the victims of an unsuccessful suicide pact—we tried to kill ourselves by filling an abandoned gas station bathroom with airplane glue fume, but unfortunately I opened the door by mistake, moments before all of the other members lapsed into unconsciousness. (I seem to be the miscreant in the “band” …)
Please send us T-shirts.
Fifth Head: Why should we? (Don’t you know we are homeless?)
Why did you begin music?
Fifth Head: Life was too painful. We needed a way of blotting out the agony of daily life.
Aren’t you shy singing in front of the audience?
McPatrick Head: No, because I am on medication.
Do you like Pop music or classical music?
Yes, I like pop music if the vocals are good, like The Four Freshman.
Do you sometimes quarrel in your group?
Fifth Head: Only when Graph Head tries to pass of his solo project as “Faxed Head solo project …”
What type of women do you like?
La Brea Tar Pits Head: Smart girls and pretty girls.
Neck Head: Living women — the kind who have heads.
Is Japanese rice tasty?
Fifth Head: We like Spanish rice much better.
Do you like Japanese food?
McPatrick Head: Zaru Soba! We love zaru soba and zaru udon and Vitamin CC Lemon drink.
Neck Head: I like things that are not squirming.
Fifth Head: Okonomiyake (Kansai Pancake), Takoyaki, sushi, sukiyaki, unagiyaki…
Do you like American food?
McPatrick Head: No.
Please give us your mask and shoes.
Fifth Head: Please give us hair, sweat, toes, sembei (Japanese cracker), and eyelashes. Domo Arigato.
Please give us some signed tapes of songs that you recorded, and your masks, and signed t-shirts, plus ten locks of your hair.
Graph Head: NO!
Do you speak Japanese?
Neck Head: I speak all possible tongues.
Is your band interesting?
Fifth Head: Your decision.
Is the record selling well?
Fifth Head: No.
What kind of animation is popular in America?
McPatrick Head: Bad animation, like the Flintstones.
What is the best thing about Japan?
La Brea Tar Pits Head: “The lights and the trains, the lice and the mice, we like it all, we’ll be back twice…” We like Kyoto and the Temples and we love Buddha.
McPatrick Head: It is very friendly to the handicapped.
Fifth Head: It’s especially good for spending $$$ on Norwegian Death metal bootleg CD’s.
How is San Francisco different from Japan?
Fifth Head: Not as many Japanese people.
How many Countries have you been to?
La Brea Tar Pits Head: Oslo, Norway (Hardcore Black Snow Metal); India, Bombay (Near Death Papadom Metal); Tokyo/Osaka Japan (Sake-Rake-Snake Metal); Amarillo, Texas USA (Armadillo Road-Kill Tequila Metal); Saturn, Space (Sun-Ra Astro-afro Metal).
Do you like fishing?
Neck Head: No. It hurts the fish and my hair gets tangled in my line.
What are your hobbies?
Fifth Head: Mime, break-dancing, streaking, wig sculpture (art form), nose picking (difficult choice), painting tire logos on the back of rusty Burma Shave signs (when no one is looking).
Who is the most favorite baseball player?
Neck Head: Vin Pint.
Do you like Japanese Tires or American tires?
La Brea Tar Pits: Both.
Who is the most popular singer in America?
Neck Head: McPatrick Head.
Do you like President Clinton?
McPatrick Head: Yes, he likes rock and roll.
The students were really excited when I told them that I had obtained McPatrick Head’s skin and hair. I think a few of them thought I was pulling their legs because it seemed too good to be true. But then disaster struck. I thought that I had left McPatrick’s Head at Japan Overseas headquarters but when I showed up to pick up the mask, Sam told me that it wasn’t there. The next day I had to tell all of my students that the head was gone. They were really disappointed. A few weeks later I went to Bears to see a show and Yamamoto informed me that I had left the mask backstage. Now, McPatrick’s Head is made of flannel and real hair, and after Faxed Head’s tour of Japan it reeked of McPatrick Head sweat. It was also filed with dried spit and other fluids. I had to lug the damn thing home on a crowded train without a bag and the other passengers looked at me with horror. I felt like the elephant man. But the upside of the story is that McPatrick’s Head made it safely to Osakabou Junior High School and my students enjoyed trying it on, although several complained about the putrid smell. Then we played Simon Says and the winners received handmade Faxed Head stickers. Since there weren’t enough CD’s to go around we donated the ones we had to the school library. The students sang songs for Faxed Head and we captured the whole thing on video to send to them. McPatrick’s Head was also donated to the school and it is still there today. Some of the students said that they would wear it at the next cultural festival. Domo Arigato, Faxed Head!
Faxed Head in Osaka Japan. I have more photos. Will add them soon
BONUS MATERIAL: Handwritten questions and drawings from students.
Hideo Nomo was big at the time.
Above (illustration by student) Below: Message from Faxed Head.