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Destined: DMBQ

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Tokyo's DMBQ bring together heavy rock, psychedelicisms, garage rock roots, and an experimental bent to create a stew that's more than a sum of its parts. They'll visit the U.S. for the first time in December, making this the ideal time for Dusted to introduce them to this side of the Pacific.

Destined: DMBQ

Tokyo's DMBQ defy easy description, bringing together as they do a number of styles and heating them into a stew that's more than a sum of its parts. Heavy rock, a strong tinge of psychedelics, garage rock roots, and an experimental bent are all there competing for attention. The result is a hugely energetic, unpredictable collection of full-on rock. I was fortunate to play a show in Tokyo with leader Shinji Masuko this past summer, and see DMBQ live in person. After watching the audience's overwhelming excitement, not to mention seeing Masuko sing the last song while hanging upside-down from the club's rafters, I knew that I had to help spread the word about this fantastic band.

DMBQ actually blasted off in Sapporo around 1987 or '88, begun by a young Masuko. He simply "wanted to make a loud noise," he says. A couple of years later, Masuko relocated to Tokyo and reassembled the band with new members whom he met there. As an odd coincidence, though, three of the members are actually from Sapporo. About the relocation, he says, "Since Sapporo is a small city, the music was also very small: the same audiences, same bands, same reaction... I thought my musical life wouldn't change if I continued to play in that town, so I moved to Tokyo."

Besides Masuko himself on guitar and vocals, DMBQ's members since then have been the following. Touru Matsui is the second guitarist, who also play with underground band Maria Kannon and was a member of Tatsuya Yoshida's (Ruins) Koenji Hyakkei. Bass is handled by Ryuichi Watanabe, who also has another band called UFO. And Yuka Yoshimura is the drummer. She's also played with Yoshimi's (Boredoms) band OOIOO, famous singer Ringo Shiina's Hatsuiku Status, Sugar Yoshinaga's (Buffalo Daughter) Metaltics, and more. Masuko and Yoshimura also play together in Hydro Guru, a garage rock side project.

Asked about the band's name, Masuko laughs and says that he got a favorite letter from each member and put them together: "It is meaningless." At times the letters have been used to make other names, though, such as a brief period as Dynamite Masters Blues Quartet, which they liked because it sounded like a "trifling blues band from the countryside."

What makes the band unique is the range of styles that come together in their music. Though the band say they "merely make music that we like," it's clear that the members each bring their own influences to bear. Asked about his own inspirations, Masuko tosses out a list as disparate as Blue Cheer, Whitehouse, Ike Turner, Throbbing Gristle, Television, and Merzbow. "Anyway, they are all something other than Backstreet Boys or Bon Jovi," he notes. When he originally started the band, he was just a music freak: "I thought playing rock'n'roll meant playing music freely. And anyhow, I was crazy about the psychedelic/progressive rock of the 60's and 70's."

The band's songs usually come about through jamming during practice sessions, though occasionally something will be composed the hard way, piece by piece. "Sometimes I make music like a puzzle," says Masuko. "But I always start with the music. I don't like making lyrics..." In fact, he prefers the band's instrumental songs, because "I don't like my singing voice! But singing during shows is OK, because I can't hear my voice over our loud equipment. I dislike hearing my recorded voice, that's all." Clearly he's the only one who feels that way, though. Asked about his lyrics, he mysteriously says he sings about "My own life, the pleasure of being alone, the pleasure of smoking, the guilty feeling which puts sugar into fresh milk, the disagreeable fellows of friends, affectations..."

From their first album at the end of 1992, DMBQ have released a total of ten albums, including a remix CD in 2001, Resonated. Remixers on that album included friends of the band such as Buffalo Daughter, EYE from the Boredoms, Nakakou from Supercar, and others. DMBQ's most recent album is "The Cold One," released by Japanese major label Avextrax.

Masuko credits the success of underground bands like the Boredoms and Guitar Wolf during the 90's for opening the eyes of the major labels to bands outside the 'idol' mainstream. These days the major labels ar home to quite a few exciting bands; Masuko notes artists such as Yura-Yura Teikoku, 54-71, King Brothers, Rovo... "Even Masonna is distributed by a major line," he points out.

DMBQ's popularity expanded gradually from the underground scene until they were given an offer from a major lavel. Masuko feels very lucky to be a full-time musician: "Most good musicians have to have a job to survive. It's not related to musical quality. Fashion comes first, and it's hard to evaluate musical essence. It may be the same in every country, though.

"As for the Japanese market, rock music is still a minor music anyway, though I think Tokyo's music scene is still nice. There are many good bands, and good clubs here. However, it is sad that many young people have shifted to techno music. I love the band sound."

This December, DMBQ will make their first visit to the United States, though Masuko and Yoshimura both came once before as Hydro Guru, touring with Bob Log III. They enjoyed the trip a great deal, though there were some surprises: "Since Japanese clubs have very powerful PA systems, even in the small clubs, I felt that the U.S. clubs were not so loud. The clubs in Japan are so loud that sometimes we feel nauseated! But the audiences' reaction was more direct than when playing live in Japan. It was good for me."

Once American audiences have the opportunity in December to see DMBQ's head-twisting live show, I suspect they'll feel the other way around: it will be good for them.

By Mason Jones

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