The Mootekkis, an east-meets-west Tokyo-based 5-piece rock’n’roll band, were formed midway through 2008 and were featured on the front cover of Japanzine after winning the magazine’s nation-wide battle of the bands. They went on to get airplay on InterFM 76.1 one of Tokyo’s biggest radio stations and due to their no-holds-barred, beer-fuelled rock’n’roll they have also been targeted by local drum’n’bass DJ’s for remixes.
In August 2012 they embarked on a 10 day tour of New York where they played Manhattan hot spots Bowery Electric and Piano’s as well as New Haven’s Elm Bar and a handful of basement and loft parties in Brooklyn. Earlier in the year they took the stage at Metropolis Magazine’s “Saiko” event alongside internationally traveled Japanese bands – Tokyo Pinsalocks and Moja – and there’s no sign of them slowing down.
Brooklyn’s Ishmael Osekre, organizer of the festival Aputumpu and front man of Osekre and the Lucky Bastards, had this to say after seeing the The Mootekkis at a Bushwick loft party: “This was pure rock’n’roll in a way that most people around here haven’t seen for a long time…it was just amazing.”
What’s next for these five brothers from different mothers? What isn’t next?
Meet the members and read the interview after the break!
Birthday: August 10
Instrument brand of choice: Shure
Favorite colour: Black
Favorite clothing brand: Softcream
Favorite food: Thai and Mexican
Most known for saying/catch phrase: “Beer, anybody?”
Birthday: October 13
Instrument brand of choice: Fender
Favorite colour: Black
Favorite clothing brand: Dickies
Favorite food: Yakitori
Most known for saying: “No beer no life”
The Mootekkis are one of the most entertaining bands I have had the good fortune to speak with. Honest, point blank and ready to share with you their passion for their music at any moment. Having just released their debut album “Heckling The Dawn“, (which is fantastic btw, check out our review!) I caught up with them to find out more about this culturally diverse, yet unified by rock’n’roll band.
Q. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Would you please introduce yourselves to those reading about you for the first time and also tell me what was last in your left hand?
Mike – Hi, I’m the singer and a coffee was the last thing in my left hand.
Jude – Hi, I’m the guitarist and an iPhone was the last thing in my left.
Yocchan – Hi, I play bass and I was smoking a cigarette before.
Koji – Hi, I play guitar and I was holding my Nintendo WII U controller with both hands, does that count?
Takahiro – Hi, I play the drums and a drum stick, chicken that is.
Q. As a band with members from around the world, it begs the question, how did you all come together? And what was it about Japan that drew you to call Tokyo home-base?
Mike – I was introduced to Jude through a mutual friend in Tokyo, a guy called Jake Hodgkinson who took our magazine cover photo and recently did some freelance photography for Vivian Westwood. Koji was my ex-girlfriends, friend’s boyfriend. He’s an adorable fellow but often gets confused for Yakuza because he’s got a lot of tattoos.
Jude – Koji brought in his friend Yocchan. Funny thing is nobody knows why Mike and I started calling him Yocchan. His nickname is Yossy. I’m sure there’s a drunken explanation for that. Yocchan introduced us to new drummer Takahiro.
Yocchan – Spiritually, I think we were all brought together by a mutual hatred of J-Pop
Q. ‘The Mootekkis’ is certainly a unique, standout name. How did you decide upon it? What were the other top contenders?
Mike – Jude and I were discussing our favourite Japanese words over a beer in Shimokitazawa and “Muteki” was Jude’s favourite. It’s an old Japanese phrase for a samurai who’s defeated all his enemies. I liked the sound of it more than the meaning. Makes me think of a rodeo for some reason, maybe that’s where my dance moves come from?
Jude – We don’t have an exact translation for “Muteki” in English but the closest is “invincible” meaning that you can’t be defeated, but the state that you’ve defeated all your enemies is much more badass.
Koji – Mike had a long list of names but nobody can remember them. Lets just say the others can’t have been too good because Mootekkis was a clear winner.
Q. As an East meets West, or perhaps, West meets East group of musicians what has been the most rewarding aspect during your creative process? On the flip side, what challenges are unique to this type of collaboration?
Mike – I think the most rewarding thing has just been finding out how rock’n’roll and booze can somehow get a bunch of guys with different mother-tongues talking and sharing ideas.
Jude – Mike and I bring the slightly unhinged drunk western element to songwriting while Koji, Yocchan and Takahiro have paid their dues on the Japanese scene so it just mixes well.
Yocchan – The challenge of being in a band with Jude and Mike is guessing how late they’re going to be to practice.
Takahiro – All the Japanese bands I’ve been in before joining The Mootekkis, the song evolved from one members key melody. With Mootekkis I think its more of a jamming process.
Q. Both you and your music has been described by many as ‘pure Rock’n’roll’ Do you feel you fit this description? What is Rock’n’roll to The Mootekkis?
Mike – I think it’s just having a loose approach to life, drinking with your buddies, cutting loose on stage and having the best fucking time you possibly can. I think that comes through in our recordings as much as it does in our live shows.
Jude – I guess one of our music’s stand-out features is the straight up rock and roll edge that we try to emulate. It comes pretty naturally really.
Takahiro – Rock’n’roll for me is all about smashing the drums and having fun.
Yocchan – It’s my life.
Koji – A reason to wake up in the morning
Q. You’ve drawn influences from many a band, do you have one that stands out in your mind? Which artist or group would you love to take the stage with? Who has been a stand out in your shared stages of past?
Mike – I like Jim Morrison and the boozy “just rolled out of bed” rock n roll of The Strokes, The Libertines and the Cribs too. The band I’d most like to share the stage with would be the original Guns n Roses line up, for sure.
Jude – I have a lot of influences as a guitarist, but I guess my influences that I try to bring to the table for the Mootekkis are Angus Young ACDC, Jimi Hendrix, and some surf rock like the style of Jim Thomas of The Mermen. As for sharing the stage, the band that stands out the most from the Tokyo scene is Sunset Drive. Great band with a straight up rock vibe.
Yocchan – I’d like to share the stage with the Rolling Stones or Chili Peppers.
Koji – I was influenced by bluesman Johnny Winter.
Q. You’re outspoken critics of the noruma system employed by many venues, is it difficult finding live houses that don’t use this pay-to-play system? Do you find this affects the growth of the indie music scene in Japan?
Mike – Haha don’t get us started. There’s no buzz-killer quite like an old has been cock sucker with yen signs in his eyes coming up to you after a show and saying “Hey that was good, you owe me x thousand yen” It definitely sucks some life out of the indie scene but I think for a lot of Japanese bands it is the status quo so they just bare with it.
Jude – Yeah, it’s an annoying, greedy system that keeps bands in Japan marginalized. It doesn’t seem to be going away and probably won’t unless bands unite and stop playing at those venues which rob you.
Yocchan – A long time ago when rock’n’roll first came over from the West there was no noruma system, it was all live bars like The UK and US. But with the demand for bigger floorspace and better sound systems, it started becoming all about rent and money. We hate the noruma system but without it the livehouses would go bankrupt and bands would have less places to play. But some places charge way too much.
Q. Though we hear many bands say “they are all about the music’, you have made your music readily available to your fans and promoted free distribution of your work; most recently the release of your latest album ‘Heckling the Dawn’. In an age when online downloading is quickly becoming, if not already the norm, how do you as artists keep a balance between getting heard and getting remuneration? Is it truly ‘all about the music’?
Mike – I think it’s healthy to give back to the people who bring so much positive energy to your shows again and again. We crowd-funded our debut album and surpassed our goal by quite a bit, then sold a lot of CDs at our release party so we were just on a high and loving everyone when we decided to make the album free for a week. I’d be happy to give our music away but a band needs money to keep going.
Jude – As far as the music goes it is the most important to put it in as many ears as possible. But in the same breath, we need money to keep us going, so it’s good to find a balance. Make our merch cheap/reasonable for everyone.
Yocchan – I like the idea of giving the music away for free so long as someone covers the recording. When you become bigger money should come from touring.
Takahiro – I believe that the decision to pay for music should be in the hands of the fans. That’s originally why we set our album to “name your price” on Bandcamp. Mike said free because he got a little over-excited about sharing.
Koji – I don’t know what the other guys are talking about. I want money for beer, a Cadillac full of beer.
Q. The barrier between stage, artist and fans is often slim to none. What’s the craziest fan behavior you’ve experienced at a show? Do you have a favourite moment from your lives that jumps out in your mind?
Mike – The other day at our album release party I decided to crowd surf but forgot how much bigger I was than the Japanese girls in the front row and ended up crushing them. Girls tend to get pretty creative with our merch, cutting the T-shirt to reveal a lot more and sticking our stickers over their nipples. It’s good fun.
Jude – People occasionally get up on stage and dance and sing with us. One time there was a half nude model getting painted at our gig and she joined us on stage, dancing around and whatnot. It was pretty cool imagery.
Yocchan – One of our biggest fans is also the “sixth member” of our band. The guy’s name is Jason and first he was our fan. Then he was part of the entertainment challenging the band to a beer-chugging race. Then one day he blew us away with his guitar playing and we invited him to join the band on some songs.
Koji – We love Jason!!!
Q. In 2012 you had a short tour of New York. Do you have plans to return in the near future? Where else would you like to play around the world?
Mike – Yes! The tour was awesome and the first time for Koji to own a passport or step foot on a plane. Best time ever. Keg party gigs in peoples’ lofts, basement gigs with $1 beers. We played at Piano’s the venue I got my ass kicked by a bouncer at 6 months prior to our tour. Met so many good people we’d love to go back! Next we’ve been looking at Canada or Australia.
Jude – Yes! We’ll definitely do another tour. We’re looking at a few different countries, but we had so much fun in New York, that another tour is bound to happen soon. Hopefully, sometime this year.
Yocchan – We have to go back there! People in New York really understand rock’n’roll. I also want to play in Australia, The UK and Canada.
Koji – I felt so free over there! It was amazing.
Q. Complete this thought: I’ve given you a box. Inside you hope to find….?
Mike – I’ll just take the box thanks. There’s endless fun to be had with a box.
Jude – The wildest, craziest most debauched party… You’re gonna need quite a big box though.
Yocchan – A beautiful woman rolling around in money.
Koji – Two beautiful women.
Takahiro – Yes, two beautiful women who love football as much as I do.