SSKHKH’s index: Recordings; Video; Live shows; Interview; Other projects; Other releases

--SSKHKH were my fave band. They rock hard, and Aiha’s lyrics and vocals are often stunning--

SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER

Aiha Higurashi--guitar & vocal
Nao Koyama--bass & vocal

Takaharu “Takape” Karashima--drums & vocal (“Takape” left the band after Pretty In Pink ‘99.)


Seagull To Hell -- (16:27) -- (1993) -- Trumpet Trumpet Records -- TT502

  1. Losey Is My Dog
  2. A Prince Happy
  3. Davy Baby
  4. Seagull’s Theme
  5. Thurston & Kim & Me
  6. Mon Amour (4-Track Demo)
Aiha & Sachiko Ito were the original SSKHKH. Five friends are listed as helping. Nao and Takape are not involved. Aiha seems a bit embarrassed by this CD now. She needn’t be. The first three tracks were released on a 7-inch (10/92). The others were done while Aiha was on a break from New York (5/93). Her head-first approach to recording began here. Swear words appear in tracks 5 & 6, but her vocals are cuter on this CD. There’s a love song to her pet, a fun band theme, some hot guitar, and good tunes overall. The songs only hint at what was coming, but the sweetness is pleasant.
 

Swallow Up -- (16:03) -- (1994) -- Cardinal Records -- BDCAR-CS0001

  1. Swallow Up
  2. Stand Still
  3. Sing It For You
  4. Dreamer Goes Anywhere Else
  5. N.Y. Nite Fever (4 Track Special)
I love this CD, ‘cause it intoduced me to the band. Friends have noticed a NEW YORK DOLLS influence. It rocks and demonstrates some of the quirkiness of the band. One song stops, inserts a bit from someone else’s live show, then starts up again. Another starts with ‘Saturday Night Fever’, then switches to a home-made demo. Aiha, the singer/guitarist/songwriter is clever, honest and she sings in English. I listened to it in the store, loved it, and bought it on the spot. The band were quite surprised to find I had a copy of it, as it apparently sold out almost immediately.
 

Fly -- (20:50) -- (1996) -- Polystar Co., Ltd. -- PSCR-5431

     1.  It’s Good It’s Real
     2.  Fitting (Motorhead and Fuck Version)
     ----Extensive Experience (not listed)
     3.  I’m A Diva
     4.  Choking
     5.  If I Happen To Fall Down (In Your Arms)
     ----Creepy (not listed)

I was expecting greatness, but the range displayed here surprised me. The CD opens up with a rocker, of course, “You little baby/ You wanna suck my tits/ Try to smell me/ Don’t you realize/ You’ll never find me anywhere in the whole world.” My favorite, ‘If I Happen To Fall Down (In Your Arms)’, is a beautiful ballad featuring pedal steel guitar with birds chirping in the background. Don’t relax, though. They close with a rave-up featuring wild guitar and some kind of totally out of control synthesizer. I wanted a full length SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER CD even more now.
 

Side Walkin’ 10" -- (16:13) -- (1996) -- Pamgrier -- PG-002

Side A: 1. Side Walkin’ (long version)
Side B: 1. Heaven
             2. Side Walkin’ (8-track Demo)

‘Side Walkin’’ is a blues strut. It’s a minute before Aiha begins singing. The band rocks in a few minutes later, then take it back down. Nine minutes in Aiha’s name-checking American cities. The band brings it up again in the last minute. At nearly eleven minutes it’s a tough sell, but Aiha’s sensual blues moans, and Nao’s minimal back-up vocals work it. ‘Heaven’ is similar to ‘Side Walkin’’ as it’s a blues strut about a relationship. The 8-track has at least two Aiha vocals, doing leads, back-ups, and imitating the guitar. It’s intriguing how little it sounds like the blues improv of the A-side.
 
Give Them Back To Me -- (56:42) -- (1996) -- Hate It, Damn It Records -- HDR-001CD
  1. Gimmie
  2. You Come To Me, And Give Them Back To Me
  3. Hawaiian Bed
  4. You And Me, Now
  5. Outa Head (8-Track Version)
  6. No Bed Of Roses
  7. Naked
  8. If I Happen To Fall Down...
  9. Gimmie (Brilliant Shit)
  10. Good-bye Blues
  11. Fly
  1. Happy Pills (Service Version)
  2. Mid Summer N.Y.
  3. Evil
  4. Long
  5. Evil Reprise (Eat Shit And Die Version)
  6. Blind (Yo Yo Session)
  7. Darling, Here I Am (Mono Version)
  8. Watch Me Dead (Fly Session)
I listened to this, their first full-length CD, several times before I even began to get a handle on it. It’s a big world to crawl into. It includes a song each from Nao (bass) and Takape (drums), as well as a Yoko Ono cover. Members of VIOLENT ONSEN GEISHA, D.M.B.Q., THE EVIL HOODOO, BUFFALO DAUGHTER, and MUSEUM OF PHOTO, all join in the fun, and Jad Fair makes an appearance too. Each track seems to head off into a new horizon. Some of these untamed qualities are probably attributable to Masaya Nakahara, of VIOLENT ONSEN GEISHA, who co-produced it with the band.
 

Pink Soda -- (19:52) -- (1996) -- Polystar Co., Ltd. -- PSCR-5533

  1. Foolin’, But Don’t Look Back Baby (Jamaica Mix)
  2. Pink Soda
  3. Asking For It
  4. Loopy
  5. Pink Soda (Too Drunk To Sing Version)
  6. Subterranean Homesick Blues
  7. Walk Away (No End Demo)
On this one the band continue their subversive attack on popular music with a Bob Dylan cover. Odd moments include Aiha answering the phone, “I can’t talk right now.”; and as a saloon singer in a Jamaican bar. It’s filled out with lots of great rocking tunes. One of my favorites is ‘Asking For It’, in which the phrase, “You can give me some money.” is repeated until the break when she adds, “Hey you/ Come in closer/ Hey you/ Wait a minute/ It’s alright baby/ Me and you/ Yo baby/ Fuck you!” The experimentation is still going on, but they seem to know where they’re going now.
 

It’s Brand New -- (43:21) -- (1997) -- Polystar Co., Ltd. -- PSCR-5601

  1. It’s Brand New
  2. School Lunch
  3. A Touch
  4. A Shotgun & Me
  5. Red Talk
  6. A Shotgun & Me (Real Body Remix)
  7. She
  8. Cream
  9. I Feel My Heart Move
  10. Criminal
  11. Darlin’ Here I Am
  1. Sister Of Joy
  2. Elvis
There’s still much experimentation going on, but now it seems to be along the chosen path. They’re using the all-out rock less, but only because they’ve discovered a wider range of ways to express themselves. It’s a softer approach, but it still seems capable of veering out of control at any moment, and sometimes it gleefully does. The most striking song is an a cappella duet, both Aiha, in which the vocals are unaware of each other, and a drum track, also unaware, slowly encroaches. This sounds like a band much more in control, stretching in subtler ways.
 

Sweet Home -- (18:38) -- (1997) -- Polystar Co., Ltd. -- PSCR-5654

  1. Angel
  2. As Long As We’re Together
  3. Flower
  4. Bare Foot
  5. Sweet Home
The songs on this CD seem fully developed. There is still a good deal of rocking going on, but it flows easily in and out of softer moments. The results remain unique, and the more fully fleshed-out song structures show off Aiha’s growing gifts as a songwriter. Nao (bass) has added piano and recorder to her contributions, and guest musicians introduce saxophones and “virtual” strings. Surprisingly, it feels perfect, and allows Aiha to more easily express the mixed emotions and beauty her vocals have always promised.
 

17 -- (50:09) -- (1998) -- Polystar Co., Ltd. -- PSCR-5703

  1. Coma
  2. Double Life
  3. Down To Mexico
  4. Rhythm Voice
  5. Slow Start
  6. Living On The Same Planet
  7. Don’t Cry My Bunny
  8. Sister Sister
  9. Count 0 Number 1
  10. Drive A Car
  11. Seventeen
  12. Down To Mexico (Demo)
There’s a definite primitiveness to this disc. It’s as if they’ve started over from scratch. The band is stripped back to guitar, bass and drums. Often there’s even less than that supporting the vocals. A few songs feature violin, but often as an alternative to the guitar. As always, the material is wide ranging, but the song structures are as simple as Aiha’s ever written, and when they aren’t rocking, the sound is sometimes barren. This band has always experimented with its sound. Cutting back to the basics may have been the biggest stretch yet.
 

Pretty In Pink -- (13:03) -- (1999) -- Polystar Co., Ltd. -- pscr-5754

  1. Heaven
  2. I’m Crazy 4 U
  3. Hello, Baby It’s Me
  4. Pretty In Pink
Starting with a rumbling bass, SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER cruise through four of Aiha’s idiosyncratic pop songs. There’s some piano, but mostly it’s guitar, bass & drums, and these songs sound full, even when instruments drop out. As the title suggests, the songs are sweet, seemingly dealing with Aiha’s new family, but SSKHKH’s rough edges keep the sound real. It’s Aiha’s vocals which are deservedly featured here, but I’m also enjoying Nao’s added bg vocal presence. This is a band that is obviously working together, playing pop music that fits today!
 

No! No! No! -- (37:41) -- (2000) -- Polystar Co. Ltd. -- PSCR-5861

  1. No Star
  2. No Telephone
  3. No Luck
  4. Baby Run
  5. Red Dress
  6. Introduction No. 9
  7. Krazy 4 U
  8. Grapefruit
  9. Everyone’s Fave
  10. A Guitar For Me And Milk For Her
  11. Motor Psycho
  1. 8
  2. Do I Love You Enough
I don’t much like the hairdos. Otherwise, everything on this CD is wonderful. Takaharu’s gone, leaving just Aiha and Nao. The drums are split between Yoshiki Watanabe and Yasunobu Arakawa. Violin, cello, saxophone, keyboards and samples come and go, and Yoshiki & Aiha’s daughter, Juniha, makes a brief appearance in ‘Guitar For Me And Milk For Her’. The maturity is still here and the rocking attitude is back strong. It’s a stripped-down band, but the added instruments fill up the sound, and the songs are varied, real, and warm. It’s a worthy addition to their oeuvre.
 
No! No! No Star 2000 -- (43:58) -- (2001) -- Polystar -- PSCR-5935
  1. No Star
  2. No Telephone
  3. No Luck
  4. Introduction No. 9
  5. Krazy 4 U
  6. Motor Psycho (Chill Out Version)
  7. 8
  8. Johnny My Love
  9. Everyone’s Fave
  10. Check 1, 2,
  11. Down To Mexico
  1. Drive A Car
  2. Angel
  3. 17
Aiha’s motherhood has kept the band in Japan lately. This is what we’re missing. Recorded on their No! No! No! Tour in July of 2000, it features mostly recent material, one new song, and ‘Check 1, 2,’ a ten-minute improvised introduction of the touring band, including Aiha, Nao, drummer Yasunobu Arakawa, plus keyboards, a violin, a cello, and a tenor sax. The supporting players are subtle and ‘Check 1, 2,’ is the only song they cut loose on, but they definitely add a resonance to the trio in front, and the result is some good rockin’ fun. It’s for those of us who can’t wait for the next U.S. tour!
 

Sentimental Journey -- (17:51) -- (2001) -- Polystar -- PSCR-5952

  1. Sentimental Journey
  2. Count Zero Zero Zero 1
  3. L´amour
‘Sentimental Journey’ and ‘L´amour´’ are both on Future Or No Future. Both are strong, and in both Aiha uses Japanese and English, (enough English to upset the FCC). In ‘Sentimental Journey’ a man recites French synchronized to Aiha’s whispers, reminding me of The VELVET UNDERGROUND’s ‘The Murder Mystery’. ‘Count Zero Zero Zero 1’ (9:17), starts and ends with the ‘Count Zero Number 1’ riff from 17. Inbetween is a sweet tune with piano, shifting into extended rocking interludes with rambunctious drums. For true fans this may be worthwhile. For tasters, I’d recommend the full meal.
 

Future Or No Future -- (38:37) -- (2001) -- Polystar -- PSCR-5957

  1. Evolution
  2. Lullaby
  3. Sentimental Journey
  4. Fuck It Up And Get Hurt
  5. Think It Over
  6. Let’s Dance
  7. Chik Chik A. A.
  8. L´amour
  9. Mo’ Mo’ Gimi’ Mo’
  10. Neat Neat Boy
  11. Future Or No Future
  12. Six In The Morning
All of the songs are originals. The usual instruments add to and color the sound. Pop/rock/beautiful & still edgy--this is a very strong release, and seems artfully aimed to expand their audience without betraying their fans. The production is simple. The sound is full and unified. Individual songs have unique spins that surprise and delight. Five have Japanese along with the English, a new development. Some songs are just plain catchy, while others have the soulfullness we’ve come to expect from this band. The antics are toned down. The language and the rocking aren’t. Evolution indeed!
 

Lullaby -- (11:12) -- (2001) -- Polystar -- PSCR-5979

  1. Lullaby
  2. Psycho Melody
  3. Doko E Iku No? (Where Am I Going To?)
‘Lullaby’ is on Future Or No Future. Cello and violin expand the sound, while Aiha explains her distaste for lullabies. Tracks two and three are tasty rockers. All three songs include some Japanese, which seems a new trend. In ‘Psycho Melody’ Aiha wants to break in and touch you. The bass pulses threateningly, and the song closes with screams that mimic the guitar. ‘Doko E Iku No?’ rocks easily with, “I’m a runaway girl” repeated as the only answer. A buildup is resolved with a nice falling guitar line. Inside, the lyrics are printed with two charmingly childish illustrations by Aiha.
 
Dying For Seagulls! -- (76:34) -- (2002) -- Polystar Co., Ltd. -- PSCR-6039
  1. It’s Good It’s Real
  2. If I Happen To Fall Down
  3. Pink Soda
  4. Asking For It
  5. It’s Brand New
  6. Red Talk
  7. Angel
  8. Down To Mexico
  9. Seventeen
  10. I’m Crazy 4 You
  11. Pretty In Pink
  1. No Star
  2. No Telephone
  3. Evolution
  4. Lullaby
  5. Sentimental Journey
  6. Think It Over
  7. Doko E Iku No? (Where Am I Going To?)
  8. Johnny My Love
  9. The Word I Love You
  10. Oui Et Non
It’s SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER’s first collection, and it’s a winner! The depth and variety of this band are stunning, and here it is on display in chronological order. If you’re looking for a place to start with this band, here it is! Material no longer available was ignored, but the tracks are well chosen, including many of my favorites. The three new songs at the end don’t quite stand up with the rest of the material, but they’re icing on the cake, and ‘Oui Et Non’ sounds like an early demo, which is fun. The only way to significantly improve on this would have been to make it a double CD.
 
Red Talk -- (60:48) -- (2002) -- Arrivederci Baby!/Cherry Red Records -- CIA0002CD (U.K. release)
  1. Sentimental Journey
  2. Pink Soda
  3. No Luck
  4. A Shotgun And Me
  5. Angel
  6. Pretty In Pink
  7. Chik Chik A. A.
  8. Grapefruit
  9. Asking For It
  10. A Guitar For Me And Milk For Her
  11. Count 0 Number 1
  1. Psycho Melody
  2. She
  3. Sister Sister
  4. 8
  5. Mo’ Mo’ Gimi’ Mo’
  6. As Long As We’re Together
  7. If I Happen To Fall Down (In Your Arms)

Movie:
          Sister Sister

Here’s the proof that Dying For Seagulls! could easily have been a double CD. Red Talk is another good compilation, and shares only six songs with it! In exchange for the three new songs on Dying For Seagulls!, here you get a movie of ‘Sister Sister’. It’s basically another opinion of a great band’s best material. If I had to make a choice, I’d probably choose Dying For Seagulls! by a hair, but Red Talk has some great songs not included there. You can’t go wrong either way. Perhaps we need one more compilation of the best of the unavailable material, which Red Talk also ignores.
 

---VIDEO---


Motorhead And Drive Video
     1.  Coma [Directed by Emiko Nakayama]
     2.  Double Life [Directed by Keigo Oyamada]
     3.  Down To Mexico [Directed by Mei Sumita]
     4.  Rhythm Voice [Directed by Emiko Nakayama]
     5.  Slow Start [Directed by Yasunobu Arakawa]
     6.  Living On The Same Planet [Directed by Aiha Higurashi]
     7.  Don’t Cry My Bunny [Live at Osaka Club Quattro]
     8.  Sister Sister [Directed by Nobuyuki Ohashi]
     9.  Count 0 Number 1 [Directed by Aiha Higurashi]
   10.  Drive A Car [Directed by Aiha Higurashi]
   11.  Seventeen [Directed by Mei Sumita]
    ----SSKHKH leave the building (unlisted)
   12.  School Lunch [Directed by Koichiro Tsujikawa]
    ----Photo session for 17 cover & credits (unlisted)
Basically, this is 17 as a video, with ‘School Lunch’ (from It’s Brand New) and a few bits of documentary fun replacing the demo of ‘Down To Mexico’. These are, thankfully, not like the big-budget, Hollywoodized videos you see on MTV. Some are even filmed on Aiha’s camcorder, but most are well thought out presentations of the songs, and professionally done at a reasonable expense with some artful editing. It’s a great introduction to this uncompromising band. The low budgets present them honestly, and you feel you are seeing the band, rather than a glossy production. It’s fun, too!


---LIVE---


Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her--Mercury Lounge--2/27/99
        Wow! This is one of those days I will always remember. I woke up early, met the band (my favorite!) at 11AM and interviewed them with Hitoshi taking pictures. The show itself was way too short, perhaps half an hour, but it was marvelous and they definitely left the crowd wanting more. Afterwards people crowded around the stage to buy CDs, singles, tapes and stickers. I’ve never seen that big a crowd buying the band’s stuff after a show. They started off a bit shaky, but soon had the audience in their grasp. They played some of my favorites and everybody in the band did a fine job. Aiha is more than just fine, though. Her vocals live were amazing, switching through a kaleidoscope of sexy, cool, sad, raunchy, and proud. She didn’t stop there. She puts on a show, shaking her hair, writhing seductively with one arm behind her head, expressively directing the band with her arms, and bending over backwards, staring into the audience while grinding away on her guitar. Her breathy vocals are stunning, and most of the show I felt like she was staring at me as she sang, but I’m sure I was not the only one. I was very impressed and can’t wait to see them again. Dan joined me, and both Aimee and Hitoshi showed up during the show. They were all glad they came.

Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her--Knitting Factory--7/16/01
        That was definitely one of the best shows I’ve ever seen! Yeah, I know. I’m prejudiced, but believe me, this was a great show! Bob showed up, and though he’s not a big one for rock bands, he readily admitted he had seen something special tonight. NEED NEW BODY played before them, and though I had heard good things about them, I knew seeing SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER again was going to be enough for one night. Besides, I was enjoying just sitting in the same room with them. The crux of the show, I think, was that Nao had some troubles with the amp. They didn’t realize it at first, and tried changing her cord, then changing her bass. They would start the song, realize it wasn’t working, and try something else. Then they’d play through a song, realize it still wasn’t working, and try something else. Finally they brought out a new amp and the set started. It took about twenty minutes, and the good sized crowd waited patiently. Meanwhile, Aiha was doing an improv stand-up comedy act, which kept everyone, except Nao perhaps, entertained. Song, after wonderful song, was pulled out, and kicked around. They played songs from throughout their career, as far back as their first full-length, and every single one was a classic, and done in good style. Yasu, the new drummer (though not a bandmember proper), and Nao were right there, did a great job, and let Aiha rule the roost. Did she ever! In between songs she kept up the wise-cracking. The early equipment problems had set her off. She rocked, strutted, yelled, and cooed her way through song, after song. This band has a deep repertoire, and their range of styles continues to grow. It was not a jaw-dropping set. None of the band-members are trying to show off what great musicians they are. It was just kick-ass, fun, rock music. We, the audience, were having a damn good time, but Aiha was obviously having the most fun of anyone in the room. At one point she climbed down off the stage, and moved out into the crowd, cranking hell out of her guitar the entire time. At some points she’d chide the audience that they couldn’t be New Yorkers, ‘cause they were all too nice. At others she’d tell ‘em, “Say something.” and then, “Don’t speak. If you don’t like it, go home.” She got funnier and funnier as the set went on, and the wonderful songs just kept coming. Mid-song, she dedicated ‘Angel’ to Joey Ramone. They closed the set with ‘Count Zero Zero Zero 1’ from the Sentimental Journey CD. It’s one of their longest, most expanded songs to date, and gives Yasu his only real chance to let loose on the drums. Aiha let loose quite a bit herself, and so did a number of people in the audience, who began leaping about in joyful celebration. The band was called back for two encores. The second time, Aiha walked out and said, “What? You want more? Really? It’s late! Go home and have sex with your wives. Oh, you don’t have one? I don’t have a husband. Buy a CD, go home, and listen to it. It’ll sound better!" They closed the show with a rockin’ version of ‘Pink Soda’.


--Interview--


We did some shows, and we didn’t have our band’s name yet. I asked one of my friends, and he chose Seagull Screaming..., this name from the album called The Big Express, from XTC, and everyone liked that name, ‘cause it’s too long...

Aiha, Nao, and Yasu, met Chinar and I on July 15th, 2001, at a small restaurant on Sixth Avenue, on a sunny afternoon. We would have had to wait for a table, which none of us wanted to do. Instead, we followed Aiha down the block and around the corner, and soon settled in on the second floor of a Pommes Frites [Belgian (French) Fries] shop. At one point during the interview, Aiha pointed at a window across the street, saying it was the apartment she had lived in during her stay in New York.

Takape, Yasu & Divorce

Before the interview had really started. I mentioned Takape, who’s no longer with the group...

Aiha: He’s been really a good friend. And he’s still a good friend of ours, but, I don’t know... As a drummer... I need more skills, ‘cause Nao is rehearsing really hard. I’m not really good at rehearsing, but I need it. When I come up with some songs, lines and material, I need a more skilled drummer. So, I talked to Takape, and he understood. He (Yasunobu Arakawa) used to be the manager of our band, but he was also a big fan of ours, and I knew he was a super drummer, and he knew every song I made, so I just asked him to be in the band. He said, “OK”, but he’s playing as a support drummer. Not like...

Paul: ...not a member of the band?

Aiha: Right.

Paul: Your husband is a drummer as well, right?

Aiha: Yeah. I got divorced. So I’m raising my child by myself. Six months after she was born, we got divorced. It’s OK to talk about. I’m really open about it. It’s sort of casual. I mean, it’s OK for me.

Paul: Well, I’m sorry it didn’t last.

Aiha: Yeah, I’m sorry too. I mean... Yeah, I really hoped that it’s gonna last long. I mean, ya know, no one’s gonna get married thinking about divorcing, but... It’s just unfortunate... and we are still friends, so...

Nao’s Home

To get an insight into their private lives, I asked them both to describe their homes. Nao described her apartment as small, and inexpensive. Everything is wooden except for a big, fake, brick fireplace. She complained that there was no room for anything because of the fireplace. “That’s why it’s so cheap!” laughed Aiha, who also offered that there were pictures of Nao’s boyfriend everywhere you looked.

Very Unusual

Paul: I noticed that this time you’re releasing two singles from the album, which is a new thing.

Aiha: Very unusual, and usually we don’t take songs from the albums. We usually make new songs for the singles, new songs for the albums, but this time we have some, ya know, same songs, I mean, overlapped.

Paul: So, did Sentimental Journey, the single, do pretty well?

Aiha: Yeah. I guess so. (laughter) I mean, I don’t know about commercial stuff, and I’m scared about, ya know, how much we could get into it... I’m really satisfied with it, simply because I love that song!

History Lesson

Paul: Please give me a brief history of SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER.

Aiha: I started with my tape-recorder, putting my voice on it, and I couldn’t play guitar at all. I make songs by humming, and I picked my phrase from my brain, from my mind to the guitar. I don’t know any chords, still. I mean, I only know A and C, (Editor: If you know her guitar playing at all, that’s difficult to believe!) but I can play anyhow. So, I met a girl (Sachiko Ito), and she became one of my best best friends, and she never played bass, but I asked her, because she looked really great, I mean, with bass, and she has some taste, too. So, we did some shows, and we didn’t have our band’s name yet. I asked one of my friends, and he chose Seagull Screaming..., this name from the album called The Big Express, from XTC, and everyone liked that name, ‘cause it’s too long... (laughter) You know, it seemed really difficult to remember, because it’s long, so people can’t remember. I don’t know... Seagull something... really long one, ya know, so... (more laughter)

Paul: Right. I bought the first CD I found, Swallow Up. I bought it because I liked it a lot. I usually don’t buy EPs, but I bought it because I knew I would never remember that name.

Aiha: (laughter) Good one! Successful! (more laughter) Yeah, then I came here, and spent two years here. Then I got really bored, ‘cause I knew I was gonna continue my musical things. I came here for studying in university, but I knew that was not what I really wanted to do. So I went to a lot of shows around here to see the bands. It was so exciting! I saw Jad Fair, WEEN, John Zorn, Thurston Moore, SONIC YOUTH, SLANT 6, many others. That means lots. I was like, I couldn’t stop myself, ya know, being in a band again, and I called up Nao, ‘cause I remembered her face, and she was like energetic, and eager to be in a band, and she mentioned she used to play a guitar, but she never played bass before.

Nao: Me, too.

Aiha: (laughter) But I just called up Nao, and, “I’m going back to Japan. Will you be in a band with me?” and she said, “Yes.” Alright! Then I bought a bass for her here. She bought it, and I called up Takape, and we started to rehearse. Then, time flew! Yeah, really. Time flew, and it’s been like seven years since then?

Nao: I think so.

Aiha: Yeah. So, I’m doing bands like almost ten years.

Aiha’s Home

Aiha replied that she and Juniha (her daughter) live in a small, fourth-floor apartment, not far from her parents. It faces west, allowing them a view of the sunset. She described Juniha as very talkative, and quite mature for one year and ten months old. Already she can recite her A, B, Cs, and sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ in English. Some of Juniha’s favorite pastimes are having fingernail polish applied, and trying on Mommy’s shoes. Those are pretty big feet to step into, but it sounds like she’s getting a good start.

Music at Home

I asked them both what kind of music they listened to at home. Nao beamed when explaining that she listens to punk music almost exclusively. Aiha stated that, when she gets home, loud guitars are the last thing she wants to hear. She prefers softer folk and classical music to help her relax.

Getting Bigger

Paul: How is your band doing in Japan now?

Aiha: It’s getting a lot bigger than before. We can do shows on tour in Japan (at) a lot bigger places, and we managed to participate in the biggest festival, Fuji Rock, or this year we’ll participate in Ezo Festival. It’s name is Rising Sun Festival, in Hokkaido. This is a really, really incredible festival. It’s not too commercial like Fuji Rock. It’s very nice.

Paul: How big are the places you’re playing now?

Aiha: Now... how can I explain it? We draw, only our band, like eight hundred capacity, eight hundred to two thousand. If we do shows with other bands, like two thousand or more. So, we’re getting bigger.

Nao--Illustrator

I talked with Nao about her illustrations for manga (comic books). She continues to illustrate for Moyoko Anno, a famous manga author. One of the most well known titles Nao has worked on is Happymania. She also freelances, and recently was involved in illustrating promotional material for an independant film called Body Drop Asphalt, a wacky movie about a young woman who writes an imaginary love story for herself, and becomes a successful novelist.

Influences

Paul: Did your time in New York influence or inspire your music at all?

Aiha: Actually, I used to live in London, too, before that, before I came here, and it was just a short time, like six months, ‘cause I wanted to learn English, and I really liked music in England. I really liked British punk stuff, and other stuff too. I liked electro, or house, acid-house, any kinds, or garage, ya know, dance music, anything. So, a lot influences me--living in New York, living in London, but, ya know, living in Tokyo is also exciting.

Baby Pink

Aiha has started up a T-shirt Company called Baby Pink. When I have more information about it, I’ll post it here. She’s also been writing columns for various websites and magazines.

Punk Rocker of the World

In ‘Check 1, 2,’, from No! No! No Star 2000, Aiha introduces Nao as “punk rocker of the world”. I asked Nao if she truly was the punk rocker of the world, and she replied, in her succinct way, “I hope so!” Aiha laughed and added, “She is so great! She is always thinking. Wherever we are, she is always thinking something weird.”

Future Or No Future

Aiha attributed the unified sound of Future Or No Future, their latest full-length release, to Yasu. She explained that when he joined the group he was unfamiliar with punk-style drumming, or punk at all, but she liked that he was technically skilled. Though he was a big fan of their band, he was much more influenced by Frank Zappa, and PHISH. She and Nao have been training him in punk-style drumming, and in the process, admit they’re learning from him, as well.

All interview photos by Chinar Gupte


--Other Projects--


GAL

Nao Koyama--bass
Yoshiki Watanabe--drums & guitar
Aiha Higurashi--vocal & guitar

Gal -- (16:22) -- (1999) -- Polystar Co., Ltd. -- PSCR-5805

  1. Little Girl
  2. You
  3. In The Air Into The Sun
  4. Flick
  5. In The Air Into The Sun (Reprise)
There’s a sweetness and a sadness here, straining towards beauty. The songs are good, and the production’s fine, though it’s probably a home-recording. Aiha’s vocals, as usual, are the highlight. In ‘Flick’ you even get to hear her sing in Japanese! Besides Yoshiki Watanabe on drums and occasional guitar, this is SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER. It sounds like it too, though a tad more mature. Given that this is all material she could have easily handled with SSKHKH, you’ve got to figure Aiha wanted to work with Yoshiki Watanabe. Perhaps in the future they may explore farther afield.
 
RAVOLTA
Aiha Higurashi--vocal
Tsutchie--dj

Sky -- (32:39) -- (1998) -- Skylarkin Corporation -- SKYDISCO-00598

  1. Navigation
  2. Sky
  3. Faith
  4. Since The Morning
  5. Tiny Pieces
  6. Close Your Ears
  7. Swing
  8. Take Me Home Tonight
  9. Sky (Crystal Clear Version)
If you want to hear Aiha outside the realm of SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER, here it is. Aiha holds up her end of the partnership well. She’s created some good songs for this project. A few of them are gems. Tsutchie is from SHAKKAZOMBIE. Granted, my knowledge of DJs is limited, but often the sounds he provides to back Aiha’s vocals seem scanty. They pale to the “jammin’ and brutal magnificent sounds” promised in ‘Navigation’. Yet, this CD is growing on me. It’s great to hear Aiha and her “beautiful Japanese accent” in new surroundings. Yes, that’s George Michael’s ‘Faith’.
 
AIHA HIGURASHI
Aiha Higurashi--guitar & vocal

New Life -- (7:28) -- (2003) -- Ki/oon Records -- KSCL 543

  1. New Life
  2. The End Of Shite
  3. Motorcycle Blues

This is a single/EP that came out shortly before Born Beautiful with two songs not on that CD. ‘New Life’ is a nice song, and it’s easy to understand why they chose it as the song to plug from Born Beautiful. ‘The End Of Shite’ is a song she gave to Yuki, and produced it as Yuki’s first solo single. Because of the success of that, Sony gave Aiha a solo contract. So, why not put out her own version of it? It’s another good song. ‘Motorcycle Blues’ is kind of an afterthought, with a repeated guitar riff, and vocals drifting inside echoey effects. “Do I understand?/I don’t know/Go riding on my motorcycle”

 

Aiha Higurashi--vocal

with Wig Wise:
Yutaka Aoki
Kazuhiro Nakamata
Takahiko Akiyama

Fantasy -- (6:06) -- (2003) -- Ki/oon Records -- KSCL 631

  1. Fantasy
  2. Outa World

‘Fantasy’ was later released on the Born Beautiful full-length. The word fantasy evokes a dream. It’s a gentle song, but, of course, Aiha takes the air out. The last verse is, “It’s just a bunch of shit/It’s just a bunch of dreams or it’s just a bunch of fantasy”. ‘Outa World’ is an even softer song, but it too is dissatisfied. It closes with, “Why can’t I belong?/Why can’t I decide?/I just wanna go on/go on what?” This was her second solo single. She’s obviously still uncertain about her direction and future, and being Aiha, it’s not surprising that that’s what she would choose to sing about.

Aiha Higurashi--vocal, guitar & bass

Kosaku Abe--drums & percussion

Born Beautiful -- (38:11) -- (2004) -- Ki/oon Records -- KSCL 635

  1. New Life
  2. Cherry
  3. Baby Beautiful
  4. Fantasy
  5. Angel Girl
  6. Koibito (Lover)
  7. I’m Your Girl
  8. S.S.S.
  9. A Rhythm Like My Heart Beat
  10. Sin
Aiha’s first solo outing is markedly different from her work with SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER. Most obviously, it doesn’t rock. Much of it is sweet. Occasionally it achieves beauty, and sometimes the layering of tracks create interesting effects. Most of the songs involve her feelings and relationship with her daughter. It’s a new Aiha, and the sound is so simple and gentle, one might easily sample and move on, but if you stay, it’ll be hard not to relax and let its charms seduce you. Her newfound maturity has made her more accepting of herself and the rest of the world.
 

Aiha Higurashi--guitar & vocal

Asa-Chang--drums & percussion
Kazuhiro Nakamata--bass

Yumemitai (Cherish My Life) -- (9:52) -- (2004) -- Ki/oon Records -- KSCL 754

  1. Yumemitai~Cherish My Life (It’s Like A Dream~Cherish My Life)
  2. Beautiful
  3. Steve, Steve, Me

'Yumemitai' was released later on Platonic with most of the Japanese translated or rewritten into English. Otherwise, the arrangement is basically the same--a sweet, slightly awkward song about love. 'Beautiful' is a simple throw-away, but I like its simplicity. I especially like the background vocals which are Aiha heavy-breathing rhythmically. 'Steve, Steve, Me' is probably the most straightforward and honest of three love songs. Aiha in love! On the cover she seems to be performing a magic trick. Does Aiha believe that love is a magic trick? Oh! Maybe that’s me? It’s a very sweet CD.

 

Aiha Higurashi--guitar & vocal

Abe Kosaku--drums & bg vocal
Timo Ellis--bass, guitar, drums & bg vocal
Zak--track making, editing & analogue synth
Miho Hatori--track making, editing, drums, triton & bg vocal

Silly Girl -- (9:17) -- (2005) -- Ki/oon Records Inc. -- KSCL 769

  1. Silly Girl
  2. Secrets
  3. Over
‘Silly Girl’ switches between a digitally constructed track and a more standard rock band format, which gives Aiha a chance to rock out a bit, and it’s always nice to hear her do that again. ‘Secrets’ and ‘Over’ are both constructed tracks by Miho Hatori, formerly of CIBO MATTO. ‘Silly Girl’ and ‘Secrets’ sound like songs, and in both Aiha uses both Japanese and English. ‘Over’, in English and French, comes off as more of an improvised track around a simple riff. This CD is a departure from Born Beautiful, and announces, with a new full-length on the horizon, that Aiha is not done stretching.

 

Aiha Higurashi--guitar & vocal

Yutaka Aoki--guitar & track making
Kazuhiro Nakamata--bass
Yuko Araki--drums

Platonic -- (52:58) -- (2005) -- Ki/oon Records Inc. -- KSCL 825
  1. Yumemitai (Seems Like A Dream)
  2. Platonic
  3. Living Source
  4. Naked Sun
  5. Till The Time Comes
  6. Secrets
  7. Evergreen
  8. Joy
  9. Fall Apart
  10. Mermaid
  11. Silly Girl~Album Mix
  1. Dead Horse
  2. Good Morning Everyone
This is beautiful and mature pop music. Aiha’s used a lot of musicians here, but most for only one track each. Pop, rock, jazz, and digital track making all appear, and even some of Aiha’s quirky comments on sex, love, and life are back. Keigo Oyamada (Cornelius), Miho Hatori (CIBO MATTO), and Yumiko Ohno (BUFFALO DAUGHTER) have all helped out, and though it doesn’t often rock like SSKHKH used to, it’s stretching in the same way that band did, as if its hunger for new sounds is unquenchable. There’s a real feeling of contentment, though, and it’s comforting, like pop music should be.
 

Aiha Higurashi--vocal, guitar, percussion, keyboards & bass

Keishiro Iwakatani--guitar
Junpei Kamiya--percussion & drums

Perfect Days -- (36:05) -- (2009) -- Felicity/Blues Interactions, Inc. -- PCD-18601

  1. What To Say
  2. Take Me Home
  3. Sorry I Am Crazy
  4. Out Of My Bed
  5. The Sun And Moon
  6. Becoz Of U
  7. If We Belong
  8. Baby Baby Baby
  9. Perfect Days (I’m Crazy For U)
  10. Some Sunny Day
  11. I Know

Wow! It’s a stripped down sound. Most of the contributions by Keishiro Iwakatani (three songs) and Junpei Kamiya (five songs) sound like Aiha could have done them herself, though Iwakatani does have a smoother guitar style. There’s variety in the sounds and songs, but they’re presented simply, boldly, and honestly. Perfect Days, as much as any SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER album, is an expression of who Aiha Higurashi is. At times it brings to mind the scary honesty of John Lennon’s first solo release. It’s Aiha baring her soul--much of it beautiful--almost all of it inspiring.

 
LOVES.
Aiha Higurashi--vocal & guitar
Takahiko Akiyama--drums
Iwatani Keishirou--guitar & sequencer
Lucky Me -- (53:26) -- (2007) -- Ki/oon Records -- KSCL 1188
  1. Sky
  2. I Want You
  3. Hide And Seek
  4. Lucky Me
  5. Kill! Kill! Kill!
  6. What You Gonna Do Babe?
  7. My Name Is Happening
  8. Tokimeki Flying (The Thrill Of Flying)
  9. See Ya Comin’ In
  10. Double Fantasy
  11. Feather
  1. Kazaana (Air Hole) ~ Dedicated To Shinji Sato From Fishmans
  2. Jessy
This fractured, art rock should make Aiha’s SSKHKH fans happy, though only the punk esthetics are in place. There’s rocking going on, but though her compatriots in LOVES. happily jump through as many hoops and odd styles as could be wished, they rarely find themselves outmaneuvered. It’s great to see Aiha rocking again, and wonderful that she’s in a situation where she can stretch to her heart’s content in all sorts of crazy and beautiful directions. Hiroshi Nakamura’s support sax is a treat. Plus, the extravagant packaging suggests Ki/oon is behind this band. That’s a good thing!

Naked Me -- (13:41) -- (October 17, 2007) -- Ki/ooon Records -- KSCL 1199

  1. Naked Me--LOVES.
  2. Speed Champs-Élysées--LOVES.
  3. Theme Of Quiet Room Ni Youkosu (Theme Of Welcome To The Quiet Room)--Hajime Moji
  4. Komono In Butsudan (Komono In A Buddhist Altar)--Takashi Mori
Welcome To The Quiet Room is a recent Japanese movie about a young woman’s trials in a mental ward, to which LOVES. contributed ‘Naked Me’ to the soundtrack. Tracks three and four are instrumental songs from the soundtrack. ‘Naked Me’ is a sweet, somewhat haunting, song about waking up on the street naked, leading to some healthy self-examination. Track three is a pensive piano piece with strings, and track four is a light pop/jazz number. ‘Speed Champs-Élysées is the only track not from the movie, and is a spacy rocker with moogish keyboard effects, and a wild sax.
AIHA HIGURASHI & LOVES!
Aiha Higurashi--vocal, guitar & keyboards
Takahiko Akiyama--drums
Iwatani Keishirou--guitar, bg vocal & sequencer
Hiroshi Nakamura--saxophone
Kentaro Nakao--bass

Now Is The Time! -- (34:01) -- (2008) -- chance! dance! record -- DDCZ-1542

  1. Walky Talky
  2. Accidentally
  3. No Way To Hollywood
  4. Now Is The Time!
  5. You Are
  6. A Beg
  7. Hate The Sunshine
  8. My Slits
  9. Tonight
  10. Yura Yura Connection
‘Walky Talky’ is a distorted techno introduction to a new version of LOVES., now Aiha Higurashi & LOVES! The distorted techno aspect continues, but only minimally. At the core is a very proficient band defining and commenting on Aiha Higurashi’s unique nuggets of pop/rock sparkle, seemingly crystalized from her very life experience. On display is beauty, sweetness, and, Aiha’s off-handed rockin’ attitude. That’s not all! There’s a good deal of rocking from this very tight band, and loads of Hiroshi Nakamura’s bleating sax ornamentations. LOVES! is refining something vitally potent.

--Other Releases--


Wake Up Noon 7" -- (11:39) -- (1997) -- Pamgrier -- PG-004

Side One:
     1. Wake Up Noon--Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her

Side Two:
     1. The Sound Book--Grodd Men
     2. Rism And Mosh--Grodd Men

This is a split 7" with GRODD MEN. ‘Wake Up Noon’ starts with a rant from Aiha about hoses and butterflys in her head. She’s joined by Nao gently singing, “I feel nothing inside”. It’s half a minute before music drifts into the mix. The band switches between an uptempo pulse and a stuttering strut, while Aiha sings about problems with waking up. It’s a nice tune spun into an odd orbit by the novel intro. The GRODD MEN are a trio of two guitars and drums with improvised vocals and a psychedelic squeal to the guitars. Both tunes have a strong r&b stomp. ‘Rism And Mosh’ is an instrumental.
 

Bend It! Japan 98 -- (43:17) -- (1998) -- Polystar Co. Ltd. -- PSCR-5689

  1. Ball In - Kick Off -- Cornelius
  2. Colo Colo Meets The Stripes -- Citrus
  3. Hunting On Paris (tecno jacno zero-return rec.) -- Salon Music
  4. 48 (‘98 Version) -- Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her
  5. Aquarela Do Brasil (Lopes) -- Yoshié
  6. Gimme Gimme Gimme Captain Wings -- Wack Wack Rhythm Band
  7. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like Football) -- Hirohisa Horie & Aiha Higurashi
  8. Booed Leather -- Freedom Suite
  9. Kamo Feels The Noize -- Pate + Genta
  10. You Can Work It Out -- Hideki Kaji avec Yugostar
  11. Back Home -- Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper
Interspersed with wacky soccer bits (it’s quite popular in Japan now), are samples of Trattoria’s artists. Highlights for me, of course, are SEAGULL SCREAMING KISS HER KISS HER’s ‘48’, a fine rockin’, no-brainer; and Hirohisa & Aiha’s shattered, hip-hop take on THE ROLLING STONES’ classic, which sounds like it may have been the inspiration for RAVOLTA. Most of the rest of this is light, good-spirited, pop music of varying styles. Other highlights include SALON MUSIC, with a classy slice of faux euro-pop; and PATE + GENTA, who dredge up a sludgy repetitive riff and messily bury it in the middle of the soccer field.