Accidentally cutting off legs with circular saws, cutting a dead cat in half with a machete and smashing sheets of glass over audience members, Hanatarash are no ordinary lairy punks who crank the amp up to 11. This is the story of the most dangerous band in music history if indeed, you can call such a thing a story.
It is a universal truth almost constantly acknowledge that a band in want of attention must be in possession of a singular niche. The annals of music history have proven that when it comes to notoriety, talent is one thing, but standing out from the pack is the next best thing. The battleground of cultural history is littered with tragically slain virtuoso’s who simply didn’t shine brightly enough to dazzle their way into the short attention span of the masses. Hanatarash are a band that seemed well aware of this.
Since the late seventies, the punk scene has been a relatively crowded one, at least in fleeting intervals. Thus, when Yamantaka Eye and Mitsuru Tabata got into the music scene they felt that punk had been sedated somewhat by the eroding over-exposure of its originally visceral edge. Popular culture at this point was relatively fresh out of the tin and it had always been about moving on to the next thing. Punk seemed like the last hurrah of pristine pastures and thereafter the venturing would have to be recycled versions of the old.
However, in Germany, new niches were sprouting out of the weird cultural potato of European rock ‘n’ roll, kicked up by the maelstrom of sui generis experimentalists like the inexplicably capitalised bands CAN and NEU! One of these bands was soon-to-be Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds member Blixa Bargeld’s pioneering industrial group Einstürzende Neubauten. Eye and Tabata heard about this strange new outfit and ventured to Germany to become stagehands and learnt by experience what it meant to be on the frontline of an artistic venture or perhaps misadventure if its not your cup of tea, which seems pertinent to say seeing as though it isn’t most people’s cup of tea.
Word spread in Japan about this strange new music and a booming ‘noise’ scene was spawned. Noise, in short, is, well, it’s a very difficult genre to explain on paper. Industrial music essentially came from the Duchampian notion of reflecting the roar of the modernised world. Marcel Duchamp being the artist who hung a toilet in an art gallery to reflect the absurdity of the First World War. Industrial music similarly saw the noisy, peace-sapping sprawl of concrete and thought that music should reflect that by incorporating the drones of the ceaseless world. Thus, bands like Einstürzende Neubauten brought heavy metal, in a literal sense, into the soundscape of rock ‘n’ roll. The notion of power tools and traffic were mingled into melodies. Noise music was the ante-upped version of this, whereby groups, in layman’s terms, just sort of created a horrible racket with drills and machinery.
Hanatarash, which is Japanese for snot-nosed, wanted to couple this genre with the punk antics of old seeing as though the snarling iconoclasm of neo-punks had become less kosher than a Prince Andrew interview. Seemingly, they took things too far. Much too far.
It took no time at all for them to become bombastically mental. In one of their first live shows, Eye carried a dead cat out on stage, although it is not clear from any of the dispatches how he came to be in possession of the aforementioned fatal feline, yet it is widely documented that he hacked it in half with a machete thereafter. Clearly, it has to be judiciously stated that there is no artistic merit to such debauched barbarism and even the most pretentious of Abstract scholars would have difficultly arguing otherwise, but nevertheless, it did get them attention.
At a later, show Eye strapped a circular saw to his back and via a cunning contraption managed to find a way to ensure that it was perpetually running, but in the ruckus of actually trying to play some sort of music, the saw became loose. It dangled from his harness and almost completely severed his leg off. Ordinarily, a circular saw would stop upon hitting a soft surface, but with his ‘cunning contraption’ preventing this, he was almost literally hoisted by his own petard.
At this stage, you might wonder whether the band considered the fact that little Paul Simon and his sensibly dressed singing accountant friend Art Garfunkel had crafted some perfectly lovely tunes with nothing other than four chords and some poetry, and abated from the unmitigated mayhem that came with each and every one of their tortured live shows. Alas, things only got worse, it would seem once you’ve almost cut your leg off and halved a cat, you have sailed, in a comatose state of amoral upheaval, right by the point of no return.
With warnings being brandished against them the end was in sight as red tape sensibly approached. Thus, Hanatarash’s loophole was to have audience members sign an injury waiver and subsequently smash glass over them. Naturally, this heightened restrictions further.
Then, at a long-awaited show in 1985, the audience tremored in a hush delirium of pure unabating terror, and, given that they were obviously the sort of people who would gladly go to such a show, a touch of excitement. They awaited the arrival of Eye, but he did not seem to materialise. Was he held up in traffic, or perhaps arrested and or sanction? No, he was outside starting up the bulldozer, which he then proceeded to smash through the side of the venue in a grand entrance befitting of absolutely nobody. He was allowed to continue his industrial, apparently musical demolition work for some time until the show was immediately halted as he emerged with a lit Molotov cocktail and threatened to hurl it into the crowd in a rather literal interpretation of an incendiary attack on the mainstream. In short, it was a show that transcended music and threatened to venture into terrorism.
The band were then unsurprisingly banned. They returned in 1990 after Eye promised that he would be normal. It is not the experimental legacy that pioneers like Damo Suzuki probably had in mind and by rights, this conclusion should condemn it as a potentially deadly farce, but in truth, it goes beyond all comprehension and lingers in the oddity of a legend that must be seen to be believed… and who in their right minds would want to see that?