Maher Shalal Hash Baz
Glasgow: i3th Note, Fri 25 Jun
For a band who’ve never played a single gig outside Japan, none of whose records are available for anything less than nuts collector prices, Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s reputation as legendary kings of the international folk- primitive underground is still completely unassailable. Tori and Reiko Kudo, the mysterious group’s core members, have been active on the Tokyo scene since the 705, playing free jazz, Velvets inspired destructo-noise and beautiful, forlorn pop music. Yet their appearance at the 13th Note’s Salute! night on Friday 25th of June will be their first (and probably last) ever in front of a non-Japanese audience. In addition, ultra-special guests from the Glasgow scene will be playing a secret support slot (bear in mind that last month’s guests were Teenage Fanclub).The scene is set for a truly stellar night.
The sound of Maher is of a melancholic exhalation, equal parts Syd-era Pink Floyd, wide-eyed basement pop a la Beat Happening and midget jazz orchestra. Tori puts it best himself. 'I was working on a building site in Tokyo,’ he explains. ’One day l was working with another builder called Makazuki and he mentioned to me that he could play the euphonium. It’s like a big
Friends in high places: Toploader
Final frontiersmen: Maher Shalal Hash Baz
trumpet. I thought it would sound great alongside my really cutting guitar playing, which I’d learned from Syd Barrett records. I just loved the sound - and Maher was born.’
Tori and Reiko have been living in London for the past
‘three years, but have just been denied work permits
and must return to Japan in July. However, they’re worried about going home. 'In Japan, I had been supporting this political group called Eastern Asia Anti- Japanese Armed Front,’ Reiko explains. ‘Because Japan is economically very strong, they enter other weaker Asian countries and hire people under very bad working conditions. The Armed Front made an attempt on the Japanese Emperor’s life, exploding a train which he was on, but they missed him. They all got arrested. Tori was also a supporter and so he was investigated.’
Whether they’ll still be under investigation when they return is uncertain; but Tori’s philosophy has changed in the intervening years. ’My wish is to banish all national borders, but it's just futile,’ he sighs. ’In the late Eighties I changed my mind. I began to read The Bible. and it said that when God’s kingdom comes all borders will be destroyed. So that made it a lot easier for mel’
Well, that must have been damn scary. Yes. Says Washbourn, ’Belore the gig we were all backstage hyperventilating.‘
What happened once they got their breath back? They played the Reading Festival, released their debut single 'Achilles Heel', and recorded an album with Manics producer Dave Eringa. Then they jomed Weller, Gallagher, Trams and the Stereophonics at the Kosovo benefit gig at London's Forum. 'It was great,’ says Washbourn. 'The other four acts were absolutely maSSrve, so it was nerve-racking; but they were all really nice. None of them
Every fortnight we bring you a new musical reason for living. This issue: Toploader
Who? Five Iatls lri'iii E.‘:sll;~r‘itirr‘.r? who pretrj‘itaterl .iri l.llflltlllll|t(} rut out (‘zztriiparty st'rt‘irrittlo alter (-rtly a few local (rigs Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher are newton-s
So we can expect noble, lump-in-the- throat boy rock tailor-made for stadium singalongs? Pretty llltlt Ii Siritjer Joe ‘.Vd\l‘:l‘i)lllll has a \‘VOllOrlSll croak, and the lorthtririiinr; single 'Lc-t The People is (in himotrrs
graduate of the Oasis school of arms- aloft anthems However, the band Cite SteVie Wonder as their biggest influence, and Washbourn rates rock surVivors like Mick Jagger and DaVid BOV‘JIC’ 'They're still geing, reinventing themselves, and that inspires us to keep the momentum tip and not rest on our laurels '
What laurels are these? At one of their first London gigs, Paul Weller personally asked them to support hiiii on t0tir Thus Within six months of getting signed, they were playing to 17,000 impassioned Wellerites at Victoria Park
Good. What's the album called? Onka '5 Big Moka. Apparently this refers to 'a Papua New Guinean tribal thing', whereby one becomes ’the big man' by giving away all one’s posseSSions. This concept appealed to the band, reversmg as it does the materialistic concerns of Western socrety. Isn't that sweet?
Top/eager play King Tut '5. Glasgow Thu 7 Jul and The Attic; Edinburgh, Fri 2 Jul. The single “Let The People Know' is Out on 72 Jul
This issue: James Grant
What was the last record you listened to?
Te Deum by Arvo Part
What was the last single you bought? I have no idea, probably something like Love Action by the Human League What was the last album you bought?
Mute Variations by Tom Waits
Name a new band you'd trust with the future of music?
Name an album that's an unrecognized classic?
50 Tonight Tha: IMight See by Mazzy Star
Which artist or record first made you want to make music?
’Cum On Feel The Noize'. Me and my wee pal John used to jump about in front of my bedroom mirror With our tennis rackets on string and our Slade socks on.
Name a song you wish you'd written? ’Julia' by the Beatles
Who was the first pop star you had a crush on?
I remember thinking Davrd Bowre was nice until I found out he was a geezer, What song makes you cry?
'$IOOO Wedding' by Gram Parsons Name an influence on you that might surprise people?
Name a non-musical influence on your music?
The Heart IS a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Who would be on your dream Top Of The Pops?
Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zep, Ziggy, Nick Drake, the Velvets, Abba, the Archies, MarVin Gaye, Aretha, Est and me
What do you play when you're getting ready to go out?
When I was y0unger and had the time I used to construct my quiff to Golden Years and try and see Bowre in the mirror.
What would you play as an aid to seduction?
’The Charge of the Light Brigade' What do you sing in the shower? 'Goody Two Shoes' by Adam Ant
a James Grant plays the Concert for Kosovo. Edinburgh Playhouse, Wed 30 Jun.
24 Jun«8 Jul l999 THE lIST 39