Charging up The Stage

Artist: Electric Eel Shock
Published: 2004-01-17

You get the feeling that Japanese garage metal trio Electric Eel Shock could do with the help of some kind Lucas-conceived spacecraft to get them around, such has been the scale of their touring over recent years.

"The United States is a huge country for the rock n' roll tour, so we had to drive about seven or eight years every day," says lead singer and guitarist Akihito Morimoto, suggesting EES may already have been employing some kind of time/space defying transport to beat their busy schedule.

"Eight hours!" bassist Kazuto Maekawa interjects, laughing at his friend's mistranslation.

Hours, years, whatever. EES covered a hell of a lot of ground in 2003, taking in more than 20 countries, and travelling over 75,000 miles (not including flights), and you wouldn't begrudge them searching for a light-speed alternative to the tour van they drive themselves.

Not that Akihito is complaining: "Eight hours, not eight years," the ever-grinning guitarist amends. "And played rock n' roll, and er, take a nap, and have to go to the next city. Very very hard, but very very fun time," he stresses, eyes all serious and glaring.

EES are sat around a circular table prior to a support date with Canada's own Danko Jones at London, England's Mean Fiddler, their slight figures insulated by ridiculously large, padded winter jackets, almost insulting the venue's central heating.

A band that has built quite a reputation for oozing personality and creating frenetic live atmospheres, they are fittingly charismatic in conversation. Akihito, hidden behind a straight-from-70s-porn perm is every bit the exuberant front man, ready to gabble insatiably despite the language barrier; his broken English overcome by comic gesticulation, and distorted by streams of laughter.

Drummer Gian is conversely quiet, but is equally talented at bypassing actual words with actions, emphasis, and just sheer silly sounds. This is most clearly demonstrated when EES come on stage, Gian rambling incessantly into his Mic: "COOOO! Helooo London. COOO Loonndon," in an unfathomably high-pitched voice, before standing up and pretending to beat his chest and head, thumping the bass pedal in time with his mimed motions.

The deep-voiced Kazuto is seemingly the more sensible figure of the three, but only through sheer default, and certainly not to the extent that he offers any unwelcome modicum of seriousness or the pomposity to EES's unassuming and completely genuine dynamic.

"I think you can feel some positive attitude, but I can't explain...what," Kazuto says, struggling to define the X factor his band certainly command.

Akihito is more willing to give it a shot: "Japanese people have a lot of power," he says, a theory of national identity for which the singer is a fine ambassador.

"We can't speak English very well. We try to..." says Kazuto, attempting for a second time to define this presence, before waving his arms and making various motions, "we try to explain without the language, it's our own way."

"Yeah, like body language," Akihito concurs.

One of four supports this evening, in front of a small crowd at a medium-sized venue, they are only afforded a short set, but still manage to show-off their credentials well. First on stage is Akihito, his guitar dangling on its strap from his shoulders, a four-pack of beer aloft in one hand, with a current opened can clenched tightly in the other, he bellows: "HELLO LONDON," as if to 70,000, his eyes bulging. The frosty atmosphere is quickly thawed, as EES burst through a raw and invigorating set. Gian beats his the drum kit mercilessly, two sticks per hand, untraditionally keeping the lower half of his clothing on, clearly still dissatisfied with the venue's heating arrangements. Kazuto and Akihito thrash out their bass lines and riffs, the front man spitting out every word, revitalising his throat with lager between each song, and the audience respond with suitable verve and approval.

But to overstate their 'craziness' and 'presence' and mistake it for a gimmick would be a miscalculation of style over substance. While the band's antics and energy may make them likeable and enjoyable to watch, it is the merits of their particular brand of rock n' roll that makes EES something special.

"[It] used to be that we played with some more members, four or five or six or seven, and finally we make the band only a three-piece, and we try to go harder as only a three-piece, because we had our sound," says Kazuto of the band's road to distinction.

"Electric Eel Shock have funk music flavour, or soul music taste, but back to our routes, it was heavy metal," Akihito adds. "Now we want to play a kind of heavy metal sound with a garage sound, little bit starty and noisy sound."

Whatever your definition, the Rock n' Roll Monster's roar is certainly one that deserves praise and attention, and the band return to the studio over the first few months of this year, with a record expected to be out by the autumn.

"We want the listener to feel our live show from our album, so we want to try and make our album [so that] somebody can feel the live performance from the album," says Kazuto of their impending fourth album, the follow-up to 2002's 'Go America'. If they can come anywhere near realising this difficult feat, it will be something special, further scaling the improving deviant of studio form thus far. And if not, it's fairly likely you'll be able to catch the in-flesh version at some point over the year, with the band going back on tour in Europe as of March, and hopefully crossing the Atlantic later in 2004.

"We have played in Canada in Ontario January in this year [2003], just one show in Canada. We want to tour Canada. I've never played in Vancouver…and Prince Edward Island," says Akihito.

Montreal completely flummoxed the band on their last visit, the French signs making the language gulf even bigger, but it's about time they paid the country a comprehensive visit.

The ultimate goal, though, is to tour with a clearly mutual hero: "Ozzy Osbourne!" they say in unison, Akihito adding a very firm: "Oz Fest."

Ozzy is now possibly at the height of his fame, and with EES having campaigned so successfully on a grass roots level to achieve infamy; it may not be long before we see them on a similar plain. They currently release records on independents or their own label, but will the prospect of a big-time global deal become a reality any time soon?

"If they love us, I want to sign," says Akihito, furiously scribbling on his hand with an imaginary pen and laughing. "It depends on if somebody loves us, or just to make money."

If they don't love you, guys, then they clearly haven't seen you yet.

Writer: Tim Newbound

Photo:Tim Newbound

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