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Q&A: Shonen Knife’s Naoko Yamano On the Overdrive Tour and ’70s British Rock Bands

Shonen Knife
Shonen Knife

For Australian punk fans, Halloween was all treat and no trick thanks to a new tour announced by Osaka’s Shonen Knife on October 30. It’s been six years since the knife cut a path to the land down under—an absence that Australian fans will hopefully forgive given how busy the band has been lately.

Shonen Knife released their 19th album (actually 20 if you count their Ramones cover album, Osaka Ramones), Overdrive, in April. With only scant moments to come up for air, the band has been touring ever since. Lasers were practically still etching CDs when the Overdrive tour kicked off in Manchester on April 30. The tour continue through Europe before ending back in the U.K. with a June 8 London gig. Shonen Knife picked things back up in the States on September 11 in Philadelphia. The band played their 1,000th show in St. Paul, MN and even stopped by good-old Austin, TX before closing the American leg of the Overdrive tour in Asbury Park, NJ on October 21.

With the another U.S. tour complete and a January tour in Australia on the horizon (with a New Zealand tour to follow), Shonen Knife founding member Naoko Yamano took a little time out for an interview via email with Nihongaku.

Nihongaku: How does it feel to have played more than 1,000 shows?

Naoko Yamano: I’m happy. Thanks to many peoples’ support, I could have such a wonderful experience.

N: What inspired you to go with a heavier sound on Overdrive? There seem to be a lot of songs leading up to this—songs like “Muddy Bubbles Hell,” for example.

NY: I recently like ’70s British Hard Rock and American Rock like Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Bad Company, ZZ Top, KISS and so on. Our previous albums…Free Time was a punk album and Pop Tune was a pop one. I wanted to make something new for me. Then I tried to write ’70s taste songs.

N: Shonen Knife plays a variety of genres and yet all of your songs sound like Shonen Knife songs. Do you think about consistency of sound? 

NY: Without conscious, everything become Shonen Knife sound.

N: It seems to me that the American media feels the need to remind everyone that Shonen Knife toured with Nirvana in the UK and that Kurt Cobain said you were his favorite band. Are you tired of hearing that?

NY: I want to say I’m tired of it but I can’t say. Haha! Anyway, I really thank to Kurt.

N: Can you give me any details about the next Shonen Knife album? Have you started writing it?

NY: I’m a lazy bone. I usually can’t start writing songs after booked recording studio. I’d like to write songs regarding this tour.

N: There is a specific song I’ve always wanted to ask you about. What inspired “My Magic Glasses?” 

NY: I wrote it when I bought my new glasses. I don’t want to put evident image. People who listen it can create your own meaning.

N: Shonen Knife’s show is so much fun. In your opinion, what makes a really great rock show?

NY: I want our audience get happy by our music and shows. I make a tiny bit of effort for playing shows.

Shonen Knife’s “Bad Luck Song” music video.
N: Shonen Knife fans in Japan seem to have synchronized dance moves for certain songs. Are those your dance moves or did they come up with them by themselves?

NY: I think our Japanese fans don’t have synchronized action so much like other Japanese bands’ fans. I don’t want force to our fans’ moves.

N: Are there any songs that you refuse to play live?

NY: No, there aren’t.

N: Recently, Hatsune Miku appeared on “The Late Show With David Letterman” and X Japan played Madison Square Garden. Do you think events like these (and your tour) will lead to an increased Western interest in Japanese music?

NY: I think so. I don’t know that we’ll get any effects from such things or not. Since we are living in Osaka and far from major music scene in Tokyo.

N: Shonen Knife has been playing in the U.S. since the ‘80s. Do you see yourselves having a role in promoting Japanese music to the West?

NY: I’m happy to promote Japanese delicious food!

N: Finally, what bands are you listening to right now?

N: Pilot and Judas Priest.

For more on Shonen Knife, visit shonenknife.net and Shonen Knife’s Facebook page. Keep track of Shonen Knife’s U.S. releases and tour information by visiting Good Charamel Records’ site

Photos by: Good Charamel Records

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