June 10, 2004
by BOB DORAN
WHO KNEW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM DMBQ [photo at left], a Japanese quartet who reputedly play "psychedelic punk-blues." When I encountered the band's founder/vocalist/guitarist, Shinji Masuko, smoking a cigarette in the doorway of the Alibi, I asked him what kind of music he played. "You will see," he answered with an enigmatic smile.
What the elbow-to-elbow crowd saw that night was a flash of brilliance, especially from Masuko, whose intensity brought to mind icons like Bruce Lee, Iggy Pop and Jimi Hendrix. The DMBQ sound mashed all of the above genres together, adding a touch of metal, and an indescribable noise element, particularly when Masuko broke out something he calls a "noise mic," a homemade device that emitted space sounds and shrieks of feedback when he rubbed it on his body.
After casting his guitar aside, Masuko managed to propel himself through the throng, up onto a pool table in the Alibi, then threw himself into the crowd, riding a wave of hands to the bar, all the while wailing in Japanese. The audience did not speak his language, but his extreme passion was unmistakable.
When he was a little boy, playing records was Masuko's favorite pastime. "I liked the smell of vinyl very much; even now I like it," he recalled in an e-mail from Japan. "Moreover, I liked gazing at rotation of a turntable abstractedly, too," he continued, noting an early love for one of his parents' Lionel Hampton albums.
The records he bought for himself tended towards American and British rock, including the expected: the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Kiss, but he also enjoyed less mainstream artists like Captain Beefheart, Television, PIL and Throbbing Gristle.
He first tried his hand at music himself at the age of 13, when he bought a mail-order electric guitar. He says he was not entirely satisfied. "Although I am left-handed, I was not able to buy the left-handed guitar because it [cost] 30 percent more. When I played electric guitar first, I was very much disappointed -- the distorted sound [I heard on my] records did not come out."
He started DMBQ in Sapporo in 1987, choosing the name in a somewhat random manner, by asking the three other members to name their favorite letter. The results were applied as an acronym for Dynamite Masters Blues Quartet. He admits that he did not imagine the band would last. "I repent [that] I chose the name not so seriously."
The initial musical concept? "I deluded [my] friends with the word `blues' [when I] formed the band. The `blues' is very convenient word to assemble the friends for rock band. Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, Blue Cheer, Sonics, Led Zeppelin ... they are all the children of the blues, right?"
In truth, blues was just part of the plan. "I wanted to make a rock band full of noises. In short, I just wanted to make the noise which merely has a rhythm."
After relocating to Tokyo, the band became well respected in the Japanese underground scene, and somehow landed a contract with a major label, Sony, which Masuko attributes to "mere luck."
Asked how DMBQ has changed since the early days, he offered a list: "We studied so much thing through the band: the honest performance method of the guitar; how to apologize to neighbors for the complaint to loud noise; the method of the full power kick which does not destroy amplifier; the safe method of throwing drum set to the audience floor; how to jump down from a high place without suffering a fracture; and [we found that] musical instruments are not so burnable."
Why does he make music? He says the reasons are many. "Having fun, self-satisfaction, desire to expression, destructive impulse, harassment to common sense, yearning loud sound and huge sound pressure, appearance of unusual space, getting a kind of magic, communication beyond language, exposure of an animal instinct, embodiment of the scenery within a brain, dissolution of irritation, calming madness ... and more."
It's true; there is something calming in the cathartic madness of a DMBQ live show. Experience it for yourself Saturday night, June 12, when Humboldt Free Radio presents the return of DMBQ to the Alibi. Manila's lords of loudness, Dragged by Horses, open the show at 10:45 p.m. Admission is just $4. After continuing its West Coast tour, DMBQ revisits Humboldt with a show at the Saffire Rose on Wednesday, June 23. For more on the band, see www.dmbq.net
© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.