Japanese underground music scene is known for some incredibly extreme and controversial projects. Some obscure genres that originated in Europe and the United States, like noise rock, grindcore, and crust punk, were embraced by the Japanese underground culture and infused with a hefty dose of the Japanese trademark weirdness.
Nowadays, some of the most popular extreme bands hail from Japan, and their roots stem from the melting pot of the Japanese music scene of the 80’s.
Hanatarash, meaning “snot-nosed” in Japanese, was a Japanese noise rock band from Osaka that was active from 1983 to 1998. The band’s founder and the only constant member was Yamantaka Eye, a musician, visual artist, and performer. Since the beginning of the 80’s Eye created a considerable legacy and earned worldwide praise for his musical projects and his Dadaism-inspired airbrush paintings. Most notably, Eye collaborated with the prolific composer John Zorn and they recorded several albums together.
Eye created Hanatarash with the idea of an artistic outlet for his negative emotions. Aside from conventional instruments, the band used a variety of unusual noise-making objects, including power drills, electric tools, and heavy machinery. Eye wanted to create an atmosphere of despair and discomfort that would shock the audience, and the band quickly became infamous.
The band’s notoriety reached its peak when Eye started turning their live shows into dangerous performances: at a live show in 1984 Eye strapped a circular saw to his back, and the saw almost cut his leg off. The following year, at a show in the Superloft venue in Tokyo, the audience was required to fill out forms due to the possibility of injury during the show. In the end, the show was canceled before it even started because Eye was preparing to throw a lit Molotov cocktail onto the stage.
The most extreme performance of the band also happened in 1985, when Eye drove a small bulldozer through the back wall of the venue and onto the stage. The act shocked both the audience and the unwitting owners of the venue. The concert hall suffered significant damage, and the police stormed the venue. Eye was arrested and spent several months in prison, and he also had to cover the expenses for the repair of the venue, as well as paying a considerable fine.
This incident ended the band’s spree of extreme performances, but it also inspired many artists of the Japanese underground music scene who continued the tradition of scandalous live shows.
Some musicians in Europe and the United States are known for their controversial on-stage behavior, but none of them were ever brave enough to orchestrate genuine destruction as a statement of their artistic discourse.