Interview: Japanese Voyeurs
One of 2011’s bands to watch, Japanese Voyeurs have already received considerable coverage from the likes of Rock Sound, even before the release of debut album Yolk. Michael Brown caught up with the London-based rockers ahead of their headlining gig at Clwb Ifor Bach to ask a few questions…
You were recently on the Rock Sound Exposure tour with Dinosaur Pile-Up and the Xcerts; how was that? Was there ever any rivalry with the revolving headliner concept?
Steve Wilson [drums]: Not at all, it was brilliant. They’re really good friends of ours anyway; it was a lovely reunion.
Romily Alice [vocals/guitar]: The revolving headliner thing was good because people tended to stay and watch all the bands. There were a couple of nights where one band drew a big crowd for no apparent reason and everyone came to see one of us but most of the time everyone was pretty keen on seeing everyone.
The majority of the press liken you to the 1990s grunge scene; is that a fair comparison?
SW: We’re obviously into all those bands but you just get labelled with the bloody grunge revivalist thing.
Tom Lamb [guitar]: Grunge metal. We’ll take grunge metal.
RA: There’s other stuff as well.
Who would you say are your main influences then?
RA: We like grunge bands that are heavier: Tool is one of my favourite bands and then bands like Melvins don’t really fit in with grunge in the sense that they’re a lot doomier. We love that kind of thing. We’re big fans of Down and Pantera too. Anyone for any more?
Johnny Seymour [bass]: We’re trying to think of the other side, the lighter side.
RA: Beyoncé. (laughs)
SW: Mogwai: they’re one of my favourite bands of all time. Bands like Dillinger Escape Plan as well, things like that. Between us we’ve got quite a range.
RA: There are a lot of bands that I like, but I don’t know if I’m influenced by them; I don’t know if they come out in the music.
Romily, who are your influences vocally?
RA: Lyrically, I think what Buzz from the Melvins does is amazing: it’s literally this assortment of awesome images that seem to make no logical sense. Sound-wise, I don’t really know. I guess David Yow from The Jesus Lizard; I love his rawness. I guess those two are my favourites.
The 1990s had clear musical trends; do you think there’s a definable music scene at the moment?
TL: There’s lots of stuff like MGMT but I don’t really know what it is.
JS: There’s that new type of metal. When you usually think of metal, you think of Metallica and loud, hairy men but now there’s loads of hair-straightened, sexy young men like Oli Sykes [Bring Me The Horizon frontman]. (laughs)
RA: It can be quite hard to find more modern bands that you like but through touring and searching about we’ve ended up finding a bunch of newer bands. There’s this one band called Dopefight; we saw them play and they were incredible and I’d never heard of them. It’s just three guys and their album sleeve is a picture of buds and the back cover is Chinese takeaway!
Considering his pedigree with the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Melvins, what was it like working with Garth Richardson on your debut album?
SW: He’s one of the nicest guys we’ve ever met; he’s awesome. He just got it from the very beginning and he made sure we were as comfortable as possible when we were doing the whole thing. He took us into his family home for a week in pre-production: he’s a great guy. He’s not in any way intimidating.
RA: There’s no ego or anything and he likes pranks; he likes a joke, mostly at Rikki’s [Waldren, keyboards] expense. (laughs)
Romily, I’ve heard that you have your own guitar effects pedal business. How did you get involved with that?
RA: I’d always been interested in pedals and how they work. I’d wanted to do it but it’s quite an intimidating thing, especially if you don’t have that much cash: you’ve got to buy all the stuff and I never really had the time to give it a go. Then when we were in Canada, I got stuck up there for six weeks on my own; it was just me, Garth and his assistant, Nigel. Nigel knew how to make pedals so I said that I wanted to do it and he taught me. I’m not really sure what I want to do with it. It just depends on sourcing parts: pedals are expensive to make and I’m waiting on all the cash. (laughs) It’s on hold for now.
Any prospects for a business on that front?
RA: I hope so. As long as I was still making them I wouldn’t want to be some bogus person going up to people on the street yelling “buy my pedal!” while some poor children in China are making them.
What can we expect from Yolk? Any ballads?
RA: Yes! One whole ballad and there’s cello in two songs. I think we wanted to balance it out. I love bands like Slayer but you forget how heavy it is when you listen to a whole album: you’re so bombarded that you grow numb to it and we didn’t want that to happen with our album.
JS: Yeah, Slayer have got it all wrong. (laughs)
RA: I love Slayer, I really do! Don’t make a tagline like “we fucking hate Slayer!”
And finally, when will the album be released and why’s it taking so long?
RA: Why is it taking so long? I’d like to forward that question onto Alex Close at Universal Music! No, it’s just because, with downloading and everything, we want to make sure we’ve played to as many people as possible before we put it out; unless you’ve made that connection by meeting people and letting them see you live or unless they have some crazy morality, there’s no reason for people to bother to actually buy your album.
Emotional blackmail then?
RA: (laughs) Yeah, we’re just trying to manipulate as many people as possible. It’ll be out on 4th July.
RA: Is it? I might have made that up then. (laughs) It might just be a familiar date. It is coming!