I first experienced the
full-throttle chaotic assault that is the Boredoms in 1994, when the
Japanese art-rock/noise-punk band was slated as the opening act of
Lollapalooza, performing shortly after the gates opened, as the
alternative-rock masses were still filtering into what would eventually be
called the Tweeter Center.
Thoroughly intrigued, I
made my way to the edge of the stage for a closer look, joining the only
other four people in the massive arena who seemed to be enjoying this
discordant cacophony: the members of second-stage headliners, the Flaming
Lips. The Oklahoma band would become so enamored of the Boredoms that they'd
pay tribute to the group's drummer with the title track of their 2002 album,
"Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots."
"I still do not know the
reason. It was [a] surprise to me, too!" Yoshimi Yokota wrote of the Flaming
Lips' tribute in an e-mail interview conducted through a translator.
"Our backstage areas
were very close [during Lollapalooza]. All the Flaming Lips were very nice
to our broken English. Also, the Lips had a guitar player Ron [Ronald Jones]
whose mother is Filipino. Something about him and the Boredoms is very
similar. His guitar play was so fun to watch. And he had so many polka-dot
T-shirts! He gave one to our guitar player Yamamoto [Seiichi]. It did not
look good on him, but Yamamoto liked the shirt and he was wearing it for a
Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie
In addition to meeting
kindred spirits half a world away, the best thing about Lollapalooza was the
intramural exercise, Yokota added.
"When we wake up, then
next thing we have to [do] is to get on the stage and play. So we were very
sleepy when we were playing. But we have long day after we finish our show.
So we played sports every day backstage. We played baseball games with the
P-Funk All-Stars. We played basketball with A Tribe Called Quest. We played
Ping-Pong with monks from Tibet. We were playing very hard."
From the beginning, the
Boredoms have played very hard, as well as displaying a joyful sense of
humor that has transcended all language and cultural barriers. It has won
the band a small but devoted cult following worldwide, including plenty of
other high-profile fans on the American rock scene, Sonic Youth and Nirvana
The group was formed in
Osaka, Japan, in 1986 by vocalist, visionary and driving force Yamatsuka
Eye. Like all of the musicians who've constituted the Boredoms at various
times, Eye has been identified under several different aliases -- including
Yamantaka Eye and just plain "eYe" -- on the band's many recordings, which
began with the debut EP "Anal by Anal" in 1986 and the album "Osozeran No
Stooges Kyo" ("The Stooges Craze in Osozeran") in 1988.
The band's second album,
"Soul Discharge," was the first to be issued in the United States, appearing
on the indie-label Shimmy Disc in 1990 at the cusp of the alternative era.
At that point, thanks to the raves the group was garnering from the
underground media and its rock-star fans, Warner Bros. signed the group to a
major-label deal -- something that is unthinkable today, given that the
combo makes what many casual observers would describe as "unlistenable
noise." But unexpected signings like this one were common at the time, since
the labels were never sure which purveyors of unlistenable noise might be
"the next Nirvana."
The Boredoms made no
concessions to the mainstream -- "We just wanted the [American] CD to [have]
the exact same art design as the Japanese one," Yokota wrote -- and its
Warner Bros. albums, " Pop Tatari" (1993) and "Chocolate Synthesizer"
(1995), boasted the usual disorienting collage of feedback guitars,
screeching analog synthesizers, screaming vocals and arrhythmic percussion
played on just about anything that was handy at the time.
Warner Bros. dropped the
Boredoms after those two discs, which remain the best introductions to the
band, but the group has remained intact and prolific ever since, releasing
new albums on a variety of small and adventurous labels, and stretching out
to incorporate elements of Krautrock and electronica. It currently goes by
the name "Voordoms" at home in Japan, but it continues to gig abroad as the
"I do not know the exact
reason any more [for the name change]," Yokota wrote. "But we do not care
about the names anymore. We are BOREDOMS anyway."
support, the band has been an infrequent presence on American stages, though
it traveled here to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in 2002,
which found Yokota playing with both the Boredoms and her equally noisy side
"All Tomorrow's Parties
is lots of fun," Yokota wrote. "I did both 00I00 and Boredoms last time, so
it was a little long to stay there, but I might be able to do one more band
[next time]." As for the distinctions between her projects, she added, "I am
only doing what I like to do in both bands. And it happened to be a little
When it comes to the
future of the Boredoms, the group shows no signs of quieting down any time
"I believe our sound
evolved in natural ways in these years," Yokota wrote. "We always made our
sounds. We never succeeded commercially, though. But we are happy doing
music. We love to do new recording."
REASONS TO LIVE
Speaking of the Flaming
Lips -- Steven Drozd, Wayne Coyne and Michael Ivins -- Oklahoma City's
beloved psychedelic-pop weirdos are the subject of a new documentary, "The
Fearless Freaks," from director Brad Beesley, who has previously
collaborated with the group on several videos and their forthcoming film,
"Christmas on Mars" (theoretically due this holiday season, though we've
been hearing that for five years now).
Beesley is a talented
filmmaker with a wonderful eye for eccentric characters -- his earlier film
"Okie Noodling" examines the subculture of Oklahomans who catch giant
catfish with their bare hands by diving to the bottom of muddy rivers, or "noodling"
-- and "The Fearless Freaks" is similar to the new Roky Erickson
documentary, "You're Gonna Miss Me," in taking a cue from "Crumb" and
spending as much time offering vivid portraits of the artists and their
family members as it does relating the standard "Behind the Music" band
The film leaves as a
mystery how this strange group has managed such a successful career, but
it's a must-see for anyone who wants to know these artists better as people.
"The Fearless Freaks"
screens at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble. The DVD,
now available through Shout Factory, comes with a bonus disc featuring
deleted scenes and live clips.