Violent Onsen Geisha: Nakahara Has Left The Building
I was watching one of these quiz shows that are all the rage in Japan, corny moronic nonsense like Tick Tack Dough or Hollywood Squares. In most cases the guests are shown a video and they answer dopey questions based on what they’ve seen. Bona fide edu-tainment. The only difference is that in Japan famous celebrities, not common folk, compete for prizes — something which does not make sense to me. Anyway, on this particular show the celebrity panel was shown a short segment about Boryoku Onsen Geisha aka Violent Onsen Geisha aka film critic Masaya Nakahara. The narrator pointed out that Boryoku Onsen Geisha had remixed a track by a popular indie singer named Cornelius and the camera zoomed in on the credits listed on the CD as if to prove the national television audience that this was no crackpot, this was someone that trendy young consumers should know about. The celebrity contestants (who one year ago would have made faces to show how perplexed they were by such a strange performer) all tried to show how hip they were to the noise scene. One middle aged comedian mentioned that he knew about Einsturzende Neubauten, some young singer said that she was really into “noise music”. As I got up to turn off the TV I heard the host of the show say something about “noise idol”.
The meteoric rise Violent Onsen Geisha is fascinating when you take into consideration that the Japanese recording industry is tightly controlled and extremely conservative. A few years ago VOG was releasing tapes on Vanilla Records in Kyoto, an extremely influential label that is also responsible for early releases by Masonna and C.C.C.C. Now VOG’s mug is splashed across the pages of everything from TV Guide to the Japanese equivalent of The Saturday Evening Post. (It’s kind of pathetic how the Japanese media suddenly took interest in VOG only after his major label debut Que Sera Sera was released by giant conglomerate Toshiba EMI. Kansai labels such as Vanilla and Bron never get credit for anything.)
Violent Onsen Geisha has created some of the most spectacular albums to emerge from the Japanese underground scene. Start with Shocks Shocks Shocks, a reissue of the first Vanilla cassette on CD by Ring Records in the USA with stunning cover art. It’s raw sounding and filled with VOG’s trademark off the wall samples, jeep beats, and sheets of pure noise. The relatively new Teenage Pet Sounds is a maxi single but it has close to an hour of music. It’s much more produced and commercial sounding than his earlier work but a blast to listen to, especially on headphones.
Nakahara pulled of a prank that is also a part of underground folklore. He convinced people that there were other members in Violent Onsen Geisha who died under mysterious circumstances. Everyone now claims that they were in on the joke all along, but the truth is that there were many who believed the story and reported it as fact.
There’s been a boom of young bands who have started their own cassette labels who list Nakahara as a major influence. Nakahara is the “cassette tape superstar” and the rare appearance of Violent Onsen Geisha at Japan Overseas Night at Bears in September was highly anticipated. Machine Gun T.V. and Masonna played highly entertaining sets, Masonna was especially confrontational at this show, he grabbed an audience member and shoved him around violently. Solmania was scheduled to go on next but for some reason Ohno (and Nakahara) had not arrived yet.
After about 45 minutes they walked through the door, much to the relief of Bears manager Yamamoto Seiichi. After Solmania finished his set the lights came on and there was another delay. Suddenly, the inside of Bears was pitch black. It was impossible to see the stage but I assumed that Violent Onsen Geisha was on because everyone moved up front to get a better look. It was a long set of pure harsh noise and it ended abruptly. Later on I found out that Violent Onsen Geisha didn’t even appear that night. He popped in a prerecorded cassette and took the bullet train back to Tokyo. When it became apparent that Nakahara was not coming back an angry fan (Mikio of Prisoner #6) picked up the cassette deck and threw it on the floor. Was it live or was it Memorex? That is the question to be decided.