The Boredoms attract small, stellar group of fans


May 20, 2005


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 long time."



  • 8:30 p.m. Saturday
  • Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie
  • Tickets, $20
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  • 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 among them.

    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 Boredoms.

    "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."

    Without major-label 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 project, 00I00.

    "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 different."

    When it comes to the future of the Boredoms, the group shows no signs of quieting down any time soon.

    "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."



    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 history.

    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.