Tomomi Nabana--vocal & guitar
Masashi Tabei--drums (left the band about the time they signed with Toshiba/EMI)
Tales Of... -- (16:07) -- (2003) -- Rudie & Records -- OCT-1802
|DETROIT7, led by a woman, earn the name. Its edgy, hard rock, and unique. I discovered DETROIT7 on the Factory site, and immediately went gaga! I had to have this EP. Now Im driving my neighbors nuts! The English lyrics (three of four) are brutal, yet artfully vague. The vocals are often distorted, but the band is tight, recorded well, and every instrument shines in its time. These four songs promise an amazing future of inspiring rock music. The variety is limited here, but the arrangements work methodically, like an elaborate assembly line whipping out molten hot tunes to burn our ears.|
Vertigo -- (22:32) -- (2003) -- Rudie & Records -- POCE-5570
1. Owari Wa Hajimari (The
End Is The Beginning)
|The videos are nice, fairly straightforward documents of the band playing their songs. Singer/guitarist Tomomi Nabana plays barefoot. Three of the songs are from Tales Of... and three are new. Tomomi has a unique vocal style--a snarl with a touch of whine--not quite as angry as her guitar playing can be. She and her henchmen rock it hard and fast, though there are softer moments which are no less powerful. The three musicians are raw at times, and artful at others. Their subtle arrangements highlight their rockin strengths, and are topped off with the richness of their musicianship.|
Come On -- (11:44) -- (2004) -- Rudie & Records -- POCE-5571
1. Come On
|Three songs, each a little faster paced and edgier than the one before it. The rhythm section is like a hungry animal, and the guitar has even more of a snarl than her vocals do. Come On is nearly six minutes at a steady jog, with a hint of sweetness. Buzz Off has a good riff and some bite, clicking off at two minutes. Shot My Right Temple changes pace, with built-in turmoil thats expressed in Tomomis distressed vocals, and then embodied in her raging guitar lines. They top it off with a good performance video of Ordinary Madness. Its DETROIT7 doing a hot lap for you.|
|1 Love -- (44:13) -- (2005) -- Rudie & Records -- POCE-5572|
1. Come On
2. Shot My Right Temple
|After two EPs, Tales Of..., and Come On, and a maxi-EP, Vertigo, 2005 unveils DETROIT7s first full-length with eight new songs. The new song structures and arrangements seem marginally simpler than earlier tracks, but the band still rocks hard, and the new tunes are already burrowing into my brain, and curling up, cozy and warm. Tomomi Nabana continues to develop her own brave vocal style, and is both caressing and belting things out with more authority. The videos are slick and rocking, and make me wanna see this band jerk these songs out live, and fill a room with their rich sound.|
EP Vol. 1 -- (13:17) -- (2005) -- Toshiba/EMI -- TOCT-22268
1. Love & Confused
DVD (region 2):
|Beautiful Song appears for the third time. The new drummer, Miyoko Yamaguchi, doesnt seem as gifted as Masashi Tabei. She tends to keep things simpler, but maybe actually stomps a little harder. The DVDs a treat. Each drummer gets a song. The four new songs all rock hard and strong. The moodier Taiyou O Tokashita Umi rises up to bring things to a majestic close. Nabana is stepping boldly as much with her guitar now as she is with her vocals. I continue to be impressed by this band, and am excited at the prospect of hearing their power and beauty continue to grow.|
EP Vol. 2 -- (16:24) -- (2005) -- Toshiba/EMI -- TOCT-22270
|Four new songs, which seem stripped down, as if previous songs were meant to express everything, like fireworks shooting off in all directions, and now the songs are concentrated truths, saying more in their simplicity than could be said in yesterdays effulgence. Moving from strength to strength, Nabanas rough, edgy guitar and bold vocals lead the band through some good, hard rockin stomps, and the simpler nature of the new songs gives them a richness that makes them stronger. But, enough with the EPs, I need to hear the new DETROIT7 expand their sound into a full-length CD!|
|Great Romantic -- (50:19) -- (November 29, 2006) -- Toshiba/EMI -- TOCT-26144|
|Its what wed hope from DETROIT7--a collection of hard rockin tunes with some raunchy guitar, and a few surprises. Again, songs weve heard before are rerecorded, but they keep improving them. Im starting to like it. Raise High! starts things off with their hardest rockin number yet. This Love Sucks and Mahou Tsukai Sally begin with folk/world music introductions, but electric guitar rains down unmercifully, because DETROIT7 rocks! Tomomis vocals are bolder, with added soulfulness, the drums are still pounding, the bass is still writhing and rumbling, because, yeah, DETROIT7 is still rockin!|
Third Star From The Earth -- (16:29) -- (2008) -- Rudie & Records -- RR-777
|This collection rocks! The songs are hearty and strong. Each one feels like an individual project--yet part of an essential meal. There are beautiful guitar break-outs that take the songs to a higher level and blossom in the sky like exploding fireworks. Nabanas vocals know exactly who they are now. Miyos drums are the rockin bones. Nobus bass is the flexing meat., and the guitar brings this creature to life and makes it both dangerous and delicious. More than half of the lyrics are in English. All the titles are. Designed specifically for the U.S. tour? Perhaps. Designed to rock your ass? Yep!|
Detroit 7 -- (33:10) -- (2009) -- Daruma Label -- 73089-2 (U.S. release)
|Detroit 7 and Third Star From The Earth, which the first three of these songs come from, make it seem that DETROIT7 are giving up some of the experimental stretching of Great Romantic, and locking themselves into a hard-rockin mode, one with a rough and dirty edge. Ah, but theyre great at the edgy hard rock, and they continue to throw in sidesteps and odd arrangements that happily keep things off balance. Id like to hear Nabana croon more. Still, her guitar playing, like a rude, spastic Hendrix, is regularly brilliant. So, if they just keep rocking, Ill happily keep bouncing off the walls.|
Black & White -- (40:40) -- (2009) -- Victor Entertainment, Inc. -- VICL-63336
|Seven of these songs were on the U.S. release. In Japan they’re all new. It’s the sturdy, load-bearing rock we’ve come to expect from Detroit7, with enough change of pace and presentation to keep it captivating. Nobu and Miyo are the high-powered engine that keeps this machine in top racing form. Nabana might slip in a ballad, mesmerize you with a hook, or charm you with her unique vocal drawl, but, now and again, she’s gonna lay out a lead wild enough to light the place on fire and burn it down, ‘cause basically, this band is here to rock you straight up. My advice is to let 'em!|
photo by John Li
Japan Nite: The Beaches/Detroit7/Ketchup Mania/Petty Booka/The
It was another great night of Japanese rock n roll brought to us by Audrey Kimura and Benten/Sister Records. They sold out and Knitting Factory was jam-packed with smiling, happy people who knew they werent gonna get another onslaught of Japanese rock like this until Japan Nite rolls around again next year. Oh yes, and, of course, all the bands told us they loved New York.
DETROIT7 were up next, and Tomomi Nabana, the lead-singer/guitarist, came out wearing some red devil-horns. They didnt last long, but I appreciated her sly humor. Once they started rocking they didnt stop. They ruled that stage, with Nabana, and Nobuaki Kotajima on bass, both regularly coming up to the front of the stage and putting the rock right in our faces. Meanwhile, Miyoko Yamaguchi, on drums, pounded away at her set like she was running a race. It was a beautiful and a stunning onslaught that just never stopped. As she sang and played guitar, Nabanas lower leg would regularly kick out to the side, seemingly uncontrollably. Even when Nabana stopped playing guitar to concentrate and emphasize her vocals, the onslaught of the rhythm section continued, and it was a wonderful thing to see. Even in the gentler Beautiful Song, where Nabana gets a bit more pensive and melancholy, the drums and bass kept roaring along. In truth, the raging cacophony of this rocking band didnt do justice to the rich beauty and layered textures of some of their recorded songs, but they put on one hell of a show, rocked it harder than any other band that night, and when Nabana stepped forward and opened up on one of her blistering leads, you just had to love it, and be in awe of her and her whole band. Even I didnt expect them to rock it as hard as they did, and I was close enough to see that Nabana was wearing a toe-ring on one of her bare feet. Actually, after a while, I wanted to move back away from the stage, assuming that the sound would be a bit cleaner farther back in the room, but I couldnt pull myself away from what was happening on that stage. Detroit7 rocks!
About half the crowd seemed to have gone home after being rocked so hard by DETROIT7, but those who remained used the extra space available to shake their booty to THE BEACHES.
Japan Nite 2009: Detroit7/Asakusa Jinta/Grapevine/SA/Sparta Locals/Omodaka/Flip--Bowery Ballroom--3/22/09
Ah, Japan Nite 2009! Japan Nite has become a tradition. Once a year, Audrey Kimura, of Benten/Sister Records organizes the Japanese bands for SXSW, and after the SXSW shows, she takes a bunch of the bands on a short, but slowly expanding, tour of some of the bigger cities of the United States. Thankfully, New York has always been included. Sometimes Audrey comes back later in the year, but the March Japan Nite show has become a tradition, and it's often the best show of the year. This year she brought seven Japanese bands. Wow!
It was getting late by now, and a good number of people had left before DETROIT7 took the stage, or maybe they had just lost count and thought they had already seen seven bands. So, in spite of the fact that DETROIT7 were smart, and got out on stage faster than any of the other bands had, they played to a reduced crowd. Hey, if you left, it was your loss. There they were, the trio that I was most excited about seeing, and they rocked the place forcefully. Nabana looked tired. She told me later she'd gotten only two hours sleep the night before, but when she started into a song she rocked it out like it was the only thing she knew how to do. In fact, their set tonight had a wide range of material including some of their earliest material, and some songs off their recently released, self-titled, first U.S. CD. There were romantic songs in which Nabana crooned, and then bent the notes of her guitar into a sweet melodic roar. At one point between songs she launched into ‘Star Spangled Banner’, doing her take on Hendrix’s version. At another point they did a hot version of ‘Louie, Louie’, and it wasn’t THE SONICS’ version. Miya, on drums, played again like she was running a race, just pounding the hell out of those drums, and most of the time she had a big grin on her face as she did it, often even bouncing up out of her seat as she ended a song. For one song, Nobu, on bass, stepped forward center stage, and started a song with a flurry of bass notes that just kept coming. He roared at us, his fingers flying about his fretboard for about twenty seconds, before the rest of the band joined him. Throughout the set, he and Nabana regularly moved about the stage as if guarding it. Nabana regularly stepped forward center stage, or off on the side of the stage to do a lead. This band raged, roared, and rocked hard, giving those who had stayed a true taste of the power of their primal rock. Nabana was able to show us the full range of both her guitar playing and her wonderfully raw vocals. It was a joy to see, and amazing to hear. The band was tight, and I'm not sure if it was because I was farther back taking pictures this time, or if it was just that Bowery Ballroom was more able to handle DETROIT7’s powerful onslaught of sound, but whereas last time at Knitting Factory they had seemed to overpower the sound system, and just be blasting away, tonight they sounded as amazing as I had ever imagined them sounding. It was a wonderful way to close the evening, and it was easily the highlight of another wonderful Japan Nite.
Making Some Noise In America!
Later that night, when Detroit7 took the Japan Nite stage on March 16th, they rocked it good and hard. You can read my report above. I've been following them for several years now, and was very happy to get the chance to meet them. Tomomi Nabana, on guitar and vocals, who introduced herself as Nabana, is refreshingly out-front, especially for a Japanese woman; Miyoko Yamaguchi--Miyo, on drums, is friendly and intelligent; and Nobuaki Kotajima--Nobu, on bass, is generally quiet, but relaxed, and in the game. Keiko Oka acted as interpreter/translator; and John Li photographed the interview. There was a problem with the mini-disc recorder, but with dedication, diligence, and a modicum of prestidigitation, Keiko and I, Paul Wheeler, have essentially recreated the event and managed to translate everything into English in the process.
Bulletin: Through a recent breakthrough in technology we were able to make contact with Dave, our departed mini-disc recorder, now in its afterlife, and Dave was happy to comment on his last Rock of Japan interview.
Back to the proceedings. Well hear some more from Dave later.
We met the band in their hotel lounge after their soundcheck, were able to push a couple of tables together, and quickly began chatting about a variety of things including Detroit7s shows in Austin at SXSW, which went well, their recent split with Toshiba/EMI, their own record label Rudie & Records, how I first heard and became interested in Japanese music, and how I had first heard Detroit7 (briefly covered in my review of Tales Of....). When they realized that we wanted to photograph the interview itself, Nabana and Miyo took a short break to make themselves more presentable, and when they returned we began the official interview.
Paul: How did you choose the name Detroit7?
Paul: Why the 7?
Paul: I read that the group formed in college?
Paul: What was the job?
Paul: How did you get signed to a major label so quickly?
Paul: Will you keep recording on Rudie & Records now
that you have split with Toshiba/EMI?
Paul: In 2005 you signed with Toshiba/EMI. Before that
your drummer was Masashi Tabei. The first record for Toshiba/EMI was
EP Vol. 1, and Miyoko Yamaguchi was on drums. Miyo, what was
your view of how you came to join the band?
Paul: Why did Masashi Tabei leave the band?
Paul: Most of your last record was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis. What were your impressions of Memphis and spending time in the U.S.?
Nabana: Ardent Studios was great. People think, Oh, look at this equipment! We can make a great sound with this. But its not the equipment. Its the engineer who knows how to use the equipment to make a good sound. Its all up to the engineers ear and their knowledge of how to get the right sound. Ardent Studios is great!
Paul: That was your first time in the U.S. What were your impressions?
Nabana: Miyo was in the U.S. before.
Miyo: I went to Music Institute in L.A. ten years ago.
Paul: You played a show in Memphis, too. How did that
Paul: Nabana, when did you start playing guitar?
Paul: As a female guitarist, who were your inspirations?
Paul: Nobu, how long have you been playing bass?
Paul: What were your influences when you started?
Paul: Miyo, when did you begin playing drums?
Paul: Did your brother have big lips?
Paul: Nabana, how do you write your songs?
Paul: What do you use for inspiration?
Paul: What do you listen to these days?
Paul: Nabana, describe Nobu in three words.
Paul: Nobu, describe Miyo in three words.
Miyo, describe Nabana in three words.
Thank you very much for joining us.
(aside) Make sure you destroy that thing. Whose idea was that, anyway? They're fired!
Thanks to John Li
for all photographs used in the interview, and all Japan Nite '08 photographs
and thanks to Keiko Oka for her assistance with this interview, and all her past help with Rock of Japan.