New Japanese Indie Music Platform Minna Kikeru

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Japan’s New Indie Label Music Platform “Minna Kikeru” みんなきける

It wasn’t all bad news in Covid 19, 2020.

Take the new indie, alternative Japanese music platform that has come on line, called “Minna Kikeru”. It’s got around 100 releases there to stream and download by artists that, up until about a month ago, you would have been hard vinyl-pressed to find anywhere else. 

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The platform was initiated by one of my all time favourite artists in Japan, Tenniscoats (which we’ve written about here), and the Majikick label they run. In the interests of full disclosure, this is also the label that puts out the music I make in Japan, so I have a connection.

It’s not a one man band though. There are releases from labels including kuchikuchi, Tomoaki Saito Records, Alien Transistor, haptic perception (via nagoya), Sweet Dream Press, Pong-Kong Records, kurumi kadoya (via nagoya), Mrs.triangle, Basic Function, Is College Collective.

The innocent directness of the name, Minna Kikeru meaning “Everyone can listen”, breezily sums up the platform. It’s for people to get access to all this music they never would have found before, but sorely deserves to be.

I’ve been doing some translations for them so I’ll read you a couple of things I’ve done in Japanese and English.

Here’s the blurb they wrote about the site in Japanese and English.

Minna Kikeru Overview

Minna Kikeru は、majikick recordsと篠原敏蔵、モトの協力により、2020年にスタートします。

以前より計画は進めていましたが、奇遇にもこういった時期に巡り合わせました。

現状、手に入りにくい日本のインディミュージシャンの音楽にそれぞれアクセスし、楽しむことが出来、また、マージンをできるだけ少なくし、様々なアーティストやインディレーベルの自立を助けることを指針としています。

楽しんで、良いインスピレーションを得られますよう願っております。

Minna Kikeru was started by majikick and Toshizo Shinohara in collaboration with Moto in 2020.

Planning for the site had been happening for some time and it seemed almost fatalistic that the Covid-19 crisis would come and speed up the need for its completion.

The aim of the site is to provide access to Japanese independent music, which has been relatively hard to find, and to help a range of artists and independent labels create a sustainable future.

It is our hope that people enjoy the site and find some positive inspiration from what they find!

Tenniscoats

プカプカブライアンズから派生し、1996,7年辺りから録音を始め、さやが歌うように植野とつくったバンド。サイドギターに小野悟、ドラマーは久順。大学の部室に、8トラックオープンリールとミキサーを持ち込み録音、テープが伸びる寸前まで作業を重ねた。フレーズの立体感、初期の弾けるような新鮮さと熟考が混ざった不思議さのあるポップ。出した方がいいよ、と背中を押す久順の言葉でリリースと相成った。

After starting PukaPuka Brians, somewhere around 1996-97, Saya started singing with Ueno and together they created the band Tenniscoats. In a room of their University, they set up an 8 track real-to-real machine and a mixer where they would record, overdubbing to the point of making the tape stretch. 

They created a pop that combined equal parts freshness and careful consideration. Satoru Ono (E.Gtr), Hisatoshi (Drums) and a selection of friends joined in to realise the album.The album sat unreleased for some time, with Saya not feeling confident enough to go ahead, until So Hisatoshi gave them a gentle nudge with a “stop your worrying, you’ve just got to put this out”.

Yuko Ikema

SSW, 池間由布子のセルフリリースによる、2015年リリースの2ndアルバムです。majikickハウスの4トラックカセットMTRで録音されました。素朴て温かい由布子の人柄のように、その歌声も初めて会うのにどこか懐かしく、不思議さがあります。糸を紡ぐように導かれる「拝啓、朝」に始まる曲たちは瑞々しく、身近でいて美しい。植野隆司とさやが参加。

Singer song writer, Yuko Ikema released her 2nd album in 2015. This album was recorded with using a 4-track cassette MTR at majikick house. Just like Yuko’s personality, which is simple and warm, her singing voice is nostalgic and mysterious for the first time. The songs that begin with “Dear Morning”, guided by spinning threads, are fresh, familiar, and beautiful. Takashi Ueno and Saya joined in.

My Pal Foot Foot

竹下慶(ギター、コーラス)と河野ゆうこ(ボーカル、ギター)によるバンド。

彼らの初めてのレコーディングは、春の畑の中に位置するグロプチンのスタジオにmajikickの機材を持ち込み行われた。

飾らず真っ直ぐなゆうこのボーカルと竹下の楽曲は素のままで十分に魅力的。明るくてポップで、いつまでも瑞々しい。

ゲスト:植野(ギター)、さや(ドラム)、グロプチン、つびーが参加。

Kei Takeshita (Gtr, Chorus) and Yuko Konno (Vocal, Grr) are the main members.

The band’s first recording took place amongst the fields in springtime at the Gloptin Studio, on Majikick equipment. Yuko’s straight ahead singing style and Kei’s unadorned songs & guitar have all the charm you would need, just as they are. This record features eternal vivacious, sunny pop.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Nigo & James Lavelle 1997 Japan Interview Translated

You may know the Japanese clothing designer and DJ Nigo from his work with his clothing brand BAPE or his associations with artists such as Kanye West or Pharrell Williams. You may also know James Lavelle from his work as a musician and label owner working with the likes of DJ shadow, Mike D and Thom Yorke.

We’ve written about the general history of Bape, Major Force label, Tiny Punks/Panx here. Today we’ve translated an interview that Nigo and James did in a Japanese magazine in 1997.

SCENE 1:ウェンディーズ前。
NIGOとジェームス・ラヴェル。 かたや東京でいちばん刺激的なウェア・ブランド、 ベイジング・エイプの。かたやロンドンでいちばん 完激的なレーベル、モ・ワックスの。2人は若きジ ニネラルである。そんな2人が同じテーブルについ て話し始める―いったい何を? 経営をめぐる社対談? そうではない。これから始まるのは、2 人のルーツをめぐる対話。この8月から本格的に日 本国内でのディストリビューションを開始したモ・ ワックスからユニークな企画盤がリリースされるの知っているだろうか。『APE V.S. MO’WAX』。 NGOとジェームス・ラヴェルが各自モ・ワックスの 音源からチョイスした計20曲が、“NIGO’S DISC” “JAMES’S DISC” という形にまとめられた2枚のコンピレーションCDだ。まったく違うジャンル のプロフェッショナル同士の、思わぬ形での共演。
こうした作業を可能にしたのは、やはり2人の間に 共通する何かがあるからに違いない。それはいった い何なのか?
エイプの立ち上げとモ・ワックスの立ち上げっ ていうのは、ほぼ同時期ですか? . NIGO「いや、多分ね、ジェームスのほうが1年以上 早い。僕は原宿にノーウェアを開いたのが93年の4 月。で、ベイジング・エイプっていうブランドを始 めたのが93年の9月」
ジェームス「いや、僕は92年のクリスマスにモ・ワ ックスを作った。今年の12月で丸5年」
その頃から、お互い知ってました?
NIGO「うん、知ってましたよ。初めて会ったのは4 年くらい前? なんかちょっと意見が食い違うんで すけど(笑)」
ジェームス「最初に会ったのはロンドンなんだよ」
NIGO「覚えてない(笑)」 ジェームス「それはね、ほんとにパッと一瞬だけし か顔を合わせなかったせいだよ」
NIGO「僕が覚えてるのは東京で。いきなり彼が僕 の携帯を鳴らして、で、会おうと。すぐ近くのウェ ンディーズの前で待ち合わせして(笑)」
ジェームス「うん、そう(笑)。日本に行ったら絶対 にNIGOの服が買いたかったから」
NIGO「あげましたけど(笑)」。

ジェームスさんは、どうしてNIGOさんのこと を知ってたんですか?
ジェームス「ロンドンで服のディストリビューショ ンをやってる友達がエイプのTシャツを見せてくれ たんだよ。そしたらそこに“LAST ORGY”って書 いてある。『おい!! “LAST ORGY” って言ったらタイニーパンクスのレコードの名前じゃないか! 何だこれは!?』って。もう絶対に欲しいと思った。 とにかく僕はメジャーフォースのレコード全部持っ ていたから」
僕らは興味の対象が似ている。だから とにかくNIGOと何か作りたかったんだ。

SCENE 2: メジャーフォース!
キーワードはメジャーフォース。88年、東京で高 木完と藤原ヒロシのタイニーパンクス、中西俊夫、 工藤昌之、屋敷豪太の5人によって設立され、12イ ンチを中心としたリリース、さらに海外のヒップホ ッパーとの交流など独自の活動を展開したレーベル。 ちなみに「LAST ORGY」とはレーベル第1弾作品 としてリリースされたタイニーパンクスのシングル。 雑誌『宝島』で同じく「LAST ORGY」という連載 を持っていたタイニーパンクスであるが、前述のジ ェームスの発言は、このシングルのことを指してい ると、以上が概略。メジャーフォース”。その存 在が2人をつなげる直接のきっかけになったのだ。
ーNIGOさんはもちろんメジャーフォースのレコ ードは当たり前に買ってたんですよね。
NIGO「もちろん。高2、高3とかそのくらいかな。 隔週ペースで東京に来たりして買ってましたね」
でも、ロンドンにいるジェームスさんはどうや ってメジャーフォースのことを知ったんですか?
ジェームス「僕は学校をやめて15歳ぐらいからレコ ード・ショップで働いてたんだけど、当時ロンドン で人気のあったローニン・レーベルに友達がいたん だよ。で、ある時ローニンのスタッフがDJツアー で日本に行って、たくさんレコードを買って帰って きたんだ。それが友達経由で僕のところに回ってき た中に、何枚か入ってたんだよね、メジャーフォー スのレコードが。それがファースト・コンタクト。 もう、すぐに魅了されたよ!! どれも驚くほど素晴 らしかった。もともと僕はカラテとかカンフーをや ってたせいもあって……」
―え!?(笑)
ジェームス「小さい頃からやってたんだけど(笑)、 とてもアジアの文化に興味があったからね。そうい ったこともあって、なんとかしてメジャーフォース のレコードを手に入れようとしたんだ」
ジェームス「僕は16歳から“オネスト・ジョンズ” っていうレコード・ショップで働いてたんだけど、 そこは当時ロンドンでいちばんいい店で、よく日本 人のバイヤーがレアなファンクとかソウルを買い付 けにきてたんだ。そういう連中をつかまえては“メ ジャーフォースのレコードとトレードしよう!”っ て言ってた。とにかく片っ端から言ってた」
それが意外な出会いへとつながっていくのだから 面白い。
ジェームス「ある日、店に入ってきた2人の日本人 にタイクーントッシュ(中西俊夫)の12インチ を探してるんだ”って言ったんだ。そしたら片方の 男がさ、“オレがタイクーン・トッシュだ”って言っ たんだよ(笑)。トッシュとクドー(工藤昌之)だっ たんだ。もう信じられなかったね! 慌ててレコー ドをくれって頼んだら“あいにく持ってないんだ” って言われちゃったんだけど。でもそれが縁で、 日本に行った時にファイル・レコードの人を紹介し てもらったりした。いつもレコードくれ!”って 言ってたから嫌がられてたみたいだけど(笑)」
現在はメジャーフォース・ウェストとしてロンド ンを拠点に活動する中西俊夫と工藤昌之とのいささかできすぎた出会いが、ジェームスと東京とを結び 付け、やがてはNIGOとの出会いにまでつながって いく。まさにルーツとしてのメジャーフォース”。 直接的な出会いのきっかけとしても、感覚的な部分 でも、2人にとってその存在は大きい。では2人が 選ぶメジャーフォースのベスト・トラックは?
NIGO「うーん、なんだろ。『LAST ORGY』かな」 ジェームス「RETURN OF THE ORIGINAL ART FORM』。すべてのレコードの中でベストの1 枚だよ。それに当時イギリスのアンダーグラウン ド・シーンでこの曲は爆発的にヒットしたんだ」
ジェームス「僕らは興味の対象が似ているし、 NIGOにはこのCDを作ることで“キミもモ・ワック スの一員だ”って言いたかった。NIGOが僕をエイプ の一員とみなしてくれるように」 NIGO「僕ら、けっこう似てるかなって気はしますね」
どちらも今では再発CDで容易に聴くことができ る。ぜひトライしてみてほしい。

どちらも今では再発CDで容易に聴くことができ る。ぜひトライしてみてほしい。
SCENE 3: アンド・ナウ。

そして現在。東京とロンドン、ウェアと音楽。立 っている場所は違えども同じルーツを持つNIGOと ジェームス・ラヴェルの初めての共同プロジェクト が、冒頭で触れた『APE V.S. MO’WAXだ。ここ から見える2人の関係性とは……。
――そもそもこのCDを作ろうっていう話は、どっ ちが言いだしたんですか? NIGO「ジェームスのほうからですね。基本的に、僕 はこれはやらなくてもいいことなんですよ(笑)」 ジェームス「僕はとにかくNIGOと何かがやりたか った。今までにないやつを。このCDはお互いが得 意分野をいかして、その要素をすべて盛り込んだ、 ある意味マッドなプロジェクトだね」
マッドな(笑)。
ジェームス「今回NIGOと1曲共作してるんだけど、 そういうことも含めて今までにないコンピレーショ ンになっていると思う」
NIGOさん、ドラム叩いてるんですよね。
NIGO「まぁ一応(笑)。ロンドンに行って2日間で 録って。本当はもうちょっといたかったんだけど」
やっぱり服作りとは違うところが面白い?
NIGO「いや、なんかね、服を作るのと似てますよ。 昔、チャックDが“サンプリング・スポーツ”って 言葉使ってたじゃないですか。完ちゃんもよく言っ てたし。うん、そういうノリで。服も似てる」
小難しい“引用”ではなく、フィジカルなサン プリング・スポーツ”。ジャンルを越えてNIGOとジ ェームスが共鳴しあうクリエイティビティのスタイ ルを、これほど端的に言い当てる言葉もない。
ジェームス「僕らは興味の対象が似ているし、 NIGOにはこのCDを作ることで“キミもモ・ワック スの一員だ”って言いたかった。NIGOが僕をエイプ の一員とみなしてくれるように」 NIGO「僕ら、けっこう似てるかなって気はしますね」
ルーツをめぐる2人の関係は続く。

Scene 1 At the front of Wendy’s
Nigo and James Lavelle.
One is the most cutting edge clothing brand in Tokyo, Bathing Ape. The other is the most impactful label in London, Mo wax. Each is a Young General. Two people of such stature sit at one table and start to talk. What on earth do they talk about? Do they talk matters of company management? No. What ensues is a discussion of their mutual roots. Let me start by asking, are you aware of the unique record, organised by Mo wax, that is scheduled for major distribution domestically in Japan from August, “Ape V.S. Mo’Wax”? It is a two disc compilation CD, in the form of “Nigo’s Disk” and “James’ Disk”, of their own selections from the Mo’Wax catalogue. It represents an unexpected collaboration between two professionals from completely different fields.
Surely, it can only be a collaboration made possible by some kind of shared common ground between the two. So what is it that they have in common?
Were Ape and Mo Mo’Wax launched around the same time?
Nigo: Well, I think so. James was about a year earlier. I had Nowhere in Shinjuku in April of 1993. Then I launched the Bathing Ape brand in September ‘93.
James: I made Mo’Wax Christmas 92. In December this year it will have been just on five years.
Have you known each other from around that time?
Nigo: Yes, we have. I think we met around four years ago? I think we might have a difference of opinion on that though (LOL).
James: We first met in London.
Nigo: I don’t remember.
James: That’s because we only really crossed paths for a moment.
Nigo: I remember Tokyo. Out of the blue, I get a call from him saying “let’s meet up”. We met up at a Wendys nearby.
James: True. I’d been thinking when I went to Japan I definitely wanted to buy some of Nigo’s clothes.
Nigo: Well, actually I gave you the clothes.
How did you hear about Nigo James?
James: A friend who does clothing distribution in London showed me an Ape T-Shirt. It had “Last Orgy” written on it and I was like “Hey, that’s a Tiny Punks record! What is this?”
I thought, “I have to have this”. After all, I owned all the Major Force records.
The keyword here is Major Force. Major Force is a label begun by five people; Kan Takagi and Hiroshi Fujiwara from Tiny Punks, Toshio Nakaishi, Masayuki Kudo, Gouta Yashiki. Focusing on 12 inch releases, the label was in contact with hip hoppers from overseas whilst carrying on their own original practice. We should add that “Last Orgy” was the name of the first release from the label by the group Tiny Punks. Tiny Punks also had a column of the same name in the Magazine Takarajima but James is referring to the single release in the above. Major Force. That is the force that binds the two together.

Of course you were buying Major Force records also Nigo?

Of course. It would have been around 2nd and 3rd year of high school I think. I was coming to Tokyo every couple of weeks to buy them.

But how did you hear about Major Force in London James?

James: I quit High School around 15 and started working in a record shop. I had a friend who was part of Ronin Label, which was popular at the time. Then one of the Ronin people went to Japan on a DJ tour and came back with a whole lot of records they had bought. They came around to me via a friend. That was my first contact. It had an instant impact. All of them were shockingly good. I also had a background in Karate and Kung Fu.
-What.
James: I had been doing that since I was a kid, because I was really interested in Asian culture. So I really wanted to get my hands on the Major Force records.

James: From the age of 16 I worked in a record shop called Honest Jon’s, which was the best shop in London at the time. Japanese people often came to buy rare funk and soul records. I would pounce on those people and say “do me a trade for some Major Force records”.

That was fun because it would lead to getting to know some unexpected people.

James: One day, a couple of Japanese people came to the shop saying they were looking for a 12 inch of Tycoon Tosh. Then one of them says, “I’m Tycoon Tosh”. That was Tosh and Kudo. I couldn’t believe it. I hurriedly asked if he had any records and he said “Unfortunately, i don’t have any with me”. But through that connection, When I went to japan I was able to get an introduction to File Records. Because I was always asking them for records, I think I got on their nerves though.

Having almost too easily hooked up with Nakanishi Toshio and Kudo who were now based in London, James connected with Tokyo, eventually leading to his meeting Nigo. He had found himself at the very origins of Major Force. Major Force presented the direct opportunity for the two to meet, and an important middle ground of a shared sensibility. So what Major Force track does each choose as their favourite?

Nigo: Hmmm, I wonder. Maybe Last Orgy.
James: Return of the Original Art Form. That is my favorite record of them all. That track was already a smash hit in the London Underground Scene at the time.
Both are easy to find on CD reissue now. We urge you to give them a try.

Scene 3: And Now
And Now. Tokyo and London, clothing and music. Standing in different locations, but having shared roots, Nigo and James Lavelle embark on their first project together – the “Ape V.S. Mo’Wax. What can we see about the two people’s relationship from here?” that we touched on at the start of this article

So who was the one to say “let’s make a CD” in the first place?
Nigo: That was James. Fundamentally, for me this is something we don’t need to do (LOL).
James: I just wanted to do something with Nigo. Something that hadn’t been done before. This CD is a combination of our strengths, a blend of all of those elements. In a way, it’s quite a mad project.

“Mad” (LOL)
James: I’m working on a track with Nigo at the moment, so including things like that, this is a compilation like that nothing that has gone before.
Nigo, you’re playing the drums right?
Nigo: Well, I guess so. I went to London and we recorded in two days. Really, I wanted to go for longer.
I’m guessing making is interesting in that it is different from making clothes?
Nigo: Actually I would say that it’s quite similar to making clothes. In the past Chuck D has talked about “Sampling Sport” right? Kan often said the same thing. So, I guess it’s like that. Clothes are similar.
Not a difficult quotation, but a physical “Sampling sport”. Transcending genre, there is no better phrase to unequivocally use about Nigo and James’ symbiotic creative style.
James: Our interests are similar and with this CD I wanted to say to Nigo “you’re one of the Mo’ Wax family too. And I want Nigo to see me as one of the Ape family too.
Nigo: I feel like we are really pretty similar.
From shared roots, the pair’s relationship continues.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

In 1995 there were still new Last Orgy 2 t-shirts produced, as well as a new Last Orgy song.

 

Record on Amazon

In the 1990’s James Lavelle had started the Mo’ Wax record label in England and collaborated with the Japanese label Major Force, eventually re-releasing most of their catalogue to a wider audience. Through his friendship with Major Force, Lavelle soon met Nigo and the pair became friends, with Lavelle soon inviting Nigo to record in the Mo’ Wax studios in London. This collaboration would eventuate in Nigo’s debut album Ape Sounds, a mix of hip hop and rock similar to Lavelle’s own UNKLE project. Nigo also collaborated with Lavelle on the Planet of The Apes inspired song Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, which featured members of Major Force, UNKLE, Nigo, and UK turntablists The Scratch Perverts all on one song.

During this period Lavelle also released a song called Last Orgy 3, which featured Takagi Kan rapping much like on the original Tiny Panx song which had released almost ten years previously in 1988. Last Orgy 3 first appeared in 1997 on a mix CD by Nigo and James Lavelle titled A Bathing Ape Vs Mo’Wax, and was later released on CD and Vinyl with several remixes in 1998.

Last Orgy 4…and beyond.

The final Last Orgy so far, Last Orgy Four was a t-shirt collection released around 2000, and is the only Last Orgy to have been released without an associated magazine column, tv series, or song sharing its title. Around this time Nigo and Jonio were contributing a column titled 4lom to Smart magazine, which was similar to Last Orgy and had begun in 1996 and continued in to the 2000’s, while Nigo also contributed his General’s Seminar columns to Relax magazine for several years in the early 2000’s.

Image: Last Orgy shoe

Alongside the 2009 re-release of the Last Orgy jacket was a Last Orgy shoe which released in 2010. The shoes were a collaboration with Nigo’s BAPE company and featured their Bapesta shoe design. Since then there has been little news of further Last Orgy lines, but the brands close ties to BAPE may be one of the reasons for the draught, as in 2013 Nigo left BAPE and is now working with the Japanese brand Uniqlo. 

But what of the original Last Orgy creators, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Takagi Kan? Both of the original Tiny Panx have continued to work in their respective fields, with Fujiwara regarded as an important part of the Japanese fashion world, with his career recounted in two large English language books from publisher Rizzoli.

Meanwhile Kan continues to release music with Major Force, and in 2020 he has been putting on live performances via his Instagram page while the world has been locked down during the Corona Virus pandemic.

Further Reading:

Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style by Marx, W. David 
Hiroshi Fujiwara: Fragment by Sarah Lerfel and Ino Hidefum

Behind Bape

Examing the early roots of Nigo, A Bathing Ape, Last Orgy and beyond

A Bathing Ape, or BAPE, is one of the world’s most popular brands, specializing in streetwear and lifestyle clothing. BAPE’s founder Nigo is almost as famous as his brand, having collaborated with everyone from musicians  such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, to brands like Pepsi, Stüssy, and Adidas. Japanoscope has translated a 1997 interview with Nigo here

BAPE has inspired collectors around the world to purchase anything associated with the brand, with some of the collectors becoming popular on Instagram, and even getting interviewed about the extent of their collections.

What Does Bape stand for?

Bape is short for “A Bathing Ape In Lukewarm Water”. The initial concept came from Japanese illustrator and designer Skate Thing who got the idea after seeing an illustration of a monkey in a hot spring (itself an image famously associated with Japan). 

The other inspiration behind the name comes from the Planet of the Apes film, which features a society that has fallen down due to excess and hedonism. Nigo was a big fan of pop culture, including Planet of the Apes. In BAPE immagery, the ape can be seen as a symbol of human kind in its most “primitive form”. So the image of the monkey-man, sitting in Luke warm water, as if he had been lazing around in a luxurious bath so long that the water was starting to go cold, was an ironic dig at the consumer culture of the Bubble-era Japanese youth generation that Nigo was born into. 

 

Before starting the BAPE clothing line in 1993, Nigo was known as Tomoaki Nagao and he looked up to the Japanese musician and fashion icon Hiroshi Fujiwara, especially Fujiwara’s Last Orgy series. So what was Last Orgy?

Last Orgy 1

In 1986 Japanese musicians Hiroshi Fujiwara and Takagi Kan released their first music as Tiny Panx on the album 建設的(Construction), which was released as a joint album with Seiko Ito. The Tiny Panx name, which changed from Tiny Panx Organization, T.P.O., Tinnie Punx, Tiny Panx, Tiny Punx, and TPO depending on the release, was inspired by Fujiwara’s nickname given to him while he had spent time in London during the 1980’s. 

Inspired by his time in London and New York during the 80’s, Fujiwara had returned to Japan influenced by the exploding hip hop scene, and Tiny Panx became one of the earliest Japanese hip hop groups, who would support the Beastie Boys on their Japan tour in 1987.

In 1988 Tiny Panx released the song Last Orgy on the influential Japanese record label Major Force. This was Major Force’s debut release, and the label would go on to release music by Toshio Nakanishi aka Tycoon Tosh from Plastics and Melon, DJ Red Alert of The Wild Bunch, and the Japanese hip hop group Scha Dara Parr.

Last Orgy contains a mixture of English and Japanese lyrics, with the Japanese delivered in an English accent at times, making the lyrics almost hard to decipher.

 

 

Last Orgy English Translation

Peter and Fumiko from Japanoscope listened through to the track and did their best to transcribe the words, and the below is their best approximation. XXXs represent bits they couldn’t take a good guess at. If anyone has a better idea of what this says, please let us know!

How to make / Loving is student
Now I’m telling you / Geisha Boys
You moving / まずはそこから
Feel the beat yo / ラップに決ら
Little punx / Listen while I say
All the bullshit / Try to walk this way
Got to keep xxxx / You don’t stop
その気になるまでやらなきゃど
Rhymingしなけりゃ始まらない
575resumeはget no fight / DJの作り出すリズムをget XXX / すかさずマイクでXXX
Deepになりたきゃ今Rock hard
Major Corporation Boyそうしたら
Xxx / 俺はMCカン
酔い出しゃ止まらぬBoogie Wonderland
Last Orgy / Just tonight
マイクのチエック123 / Check it on the needle
それどうり / Ready now
ひろしはいつでもTry to get busy
Tiny Punks / The place to be
黙っていれずに

Gonna Rock Baby Ready for rock yeah
用意は出来てる

Motherfucking Sucker / Kick it Strip it rest / ビートで dig it Xxx in the house / In the Tokyo posse Xxx / Xxx / Kicking the line? Tycoon Toshi gonna make you fine / まつだせいこ and Double Master X They’re in the Xxx one more sex

Last orgy / Last orgy just tonight

Last orgy / Last orgy just tonight

Kan’s rhymeは やくざ Machine gun おまけに中身はAin’t no冗談 目の前そのまま現実Hard core Watch out / いつでも体をCheck you? Xxx よりの近未来 チェルノブイリに Green Mile Straight to hell / ごめんだ wake up Punkもserious / Never see the future? Xxx / Keep the party / Never negative xxx on the mic / Like this Beep  Jump up / Movin’ and groovin’ and chillin’ and illin’ and xxx Xxx / Kan China Say yeah

In 1987 Fujiwara and Kan were invited to start a column in the Japanese magazine Takarajima, and they called the column Last Orgy, with the column making its debut in Takarajima’s July 1987 issue. Through the column they wrote about, promoted and recommended music, clothing, and film, focusing on what would become known as Street Culture. The monthly column became influential and spun off into a TV series airing on FM-TV in Japan, which featured the same content but this time in video. 

The July 1987 issue looked like this: 

Here’s Kan and Hiroshi scratching it up on the Last Orgy TV show.

One of their fans was a young Tomoaki Nagao who would record each episode of Last Orgy and re-watch them with his friends on repeat. Last Orgy influenced Nagao’s decision to move to Tokyo and enroll at the fashion institute 文化服装学院 (Bunka Fashion College) where he met the aspiring designer Jun “Jonio” Takahashi.

Tomoaki Nagao soon earned himself the nickname Fujiwara Hiroshi Nigo, Fujiwara Hiroshi Number Two, due to Nagao’s likeness to Fujiwara. Nagao embraced the nickname and he soon after met Fujiwara who hired Nigo as his personal assistant, with the two becoming friends. In 1993 when Nigo and Jonio decided to open their own store it was with the support of Fujiwara, and their Nowhere store became an important part of Japanese street culture history.

Last Orgy 2

While working as an assistant to Fujiwara, Nigo also began a part-time job at the Japanese culture magazine Popeye where he contributed a new column titled Last Orgy 2. This new column was written by Nigo and Jonio and served as a continuation of the Last Orgy by Fujiwara and Kan which had ended around 1990.

 

In 1991 Nigo and Jonio collaborated on the Last Orgy 2 t-shirts, which continued to be released into 1994. These featured assorted designs, from photography, to text, and were released through their Nowhere store, with the back of one t-shirt detailing the Last Orgy history and announcing that as of June 1994 the Last Orgy 2 column was finished but would be relaunching soon as Last Orgy 3.

 

For Christmas 1994 a Last Orgy 2 Stadium Jacket was released, and this design was later re-released in 2009 alongside several t-shirts, as part of a promotion for a new Nowhere store opening in Hong Kong. 

 

Last Orgy 3

In September 1994, Nigo and Jonio collaborated with Fujiwara on a new column titled Last Orgy III, which was now in the culture magazine Asayan. By now Nigo had his BAPE line, Jonio was running his Undercover brand, Fujiwara had his Good Enough clothing line, and the Last Orgy III column tended to focus on these brands, serving as a promotional advertisement for Nigo, Jonio, and Fujiwara’s brands, as well as promoting their Nowhere store.

You can see some Last Orgy articles in English translation here.

 

In 1995 there were still new Last Orgy 2 t-shirts produced, as well as a new Last Orgy song.

 

Record on Amazon

In the 1990’s James Lavelle had started the Mo’ Wax record label in England and collaborated with the Japanese label Major Force, eventually re-releasing most of their catalogue to a wider audience. Through his friendship with Major Force, Lavelle soon met Nigo and the pair became friends, with Lavelle soon inviting Nigo to record in the Mo’ Wax studios in London. This collaboration would eventuate in Nigo’s debut album Ape Sounds, a mix of hip hop and rock similar to Lavelle’s own UNKLE project. Nigo also collaborated with Lavelle on the Planet of The Apes inspired song Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, which featured members of Major Force, UNKLE, Nigo, and UK turntablists The Scratch Perverts all on one song.

During this period Lavelle also released a song called Last Orgy 3, which featured Takagi Kan rapping much like on the original Tiny Panx song which had released almost ten years previously in 1988. Last Orgy 3 first appeared in 1997 on a mix CD by Nigo and James Lavelle titled A Bathing Ape Vs Mo’Wax, and was later released on CD and Vinyl with several remixes in 1998.

Last Orgy 4…and beyond.

The final Last Orgy so far, Last Orgy Four was a t-shirt collection released around 2000, and is the only Last Orgy to have been released without an associated magazine column, tv series, or song sharing its title. Around this time Nigo and Jonio were contributing a column titled 4lom to Smart magazine, which was similar to Last Orgy and had begun in 1996 and continued in to the 2000’s, while Nigo also contributed his General’s Seminar columns to Relax magazine for several years in the early 2000’s.

 

IAlongside the 2009 re-release of the Last Orgy jacket was a Last Orgy shoe which released in 2010. The shoes were a collaboration with Nigo’s BAPE company and featured their Bapesta shoe design. Since then there has been little news of further Last Orgy lines, but the brands close ties to BAPE may be one of the reasons for the draught, as in 2013 Nigo left BAPE and is now working with the Japanese brand Uniqlo.

There are even Bape masks made for those that want to maintain style during pandemics. 

But what of the original Last Orgy creators, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Takagi Kan? Both of the original Tiny Panx have continued to work in their respective fields, with Fujiwara regarded as an important part of the Japanese fashion world, with his career recounted in two large English language books from publisher Rizzoli.

Meanwhile Kan continues to release music with Major Force, and in 2020 he has been putting on live performances via his Instagram page while the world has been locked down during the Corona Virus pandemic.

Further Reading:

Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style by Marx, W. David 
Hiroshi Fujiwara: Fragment by Sarah Lerfel and Ino Hidefum

Why is Bape so expensive?

Even though Bape makes street ware, the idea of “luxury” is part of its core. From the start, its branding was based around an ironic take on “A Bathing Ape in a Luke Warm Hot Spring”, meaning a primitive person soaking up the luxury. So its no suprise that Bape pricing reflects this focus on the hedonistic urge. 

This fits in with the larger trend within hip hop and street cultures to fetichize wealth in the form of gold chains, diamonds and brands. 

In a way, it is odd that this question is asked about Bape more than any other brand at the high end of the market such as, say, Apple. The cost of anything is rarely based on just the cost of what an item cost to produce.

Contributor

James Gaunt is an artist, writer and musician based in Tokyo.