Interview with vocalist Sunao—via an interpreter | By Hutch
Vivisick is a Japanese hardcore band. This simple sentence does not capture the gamut of the band’s repertoire. Vivisick may be better described as a socio-political art collective that play a blend of hardcore, punk, and other styles. Their ethos is reflected in the title of their singles collection, Set the Apathetic Era on Fire, from 1997-2004. The frenzied pulsations on Vivisick’s records utilize spastic fury and erratic time changes to vent political disillusionment. These songs show fervent, fertile minds constantly thinking and constantly challenging. At the end of 2015, Vivisick released their third full-length on Tankcrimes, Nuked Identity.
They’ve been a band since 1996, and the older Vivisick play less gigs these days. That predicament only hones the intensity of their live shows. Vocalist, Sunao, reports, “That’s the reason why every gig is really important and precious. We’re playing Vivisick over 20 years. We realized that life and the band are not immortal. We’re feeling that every gig is totally our treasure time.”
When discussing the energy and ferocity of Vivisick’s music, Sunao brings up legendary hardcore bands in their prime. When he replies about their live show, Sunao explains, “We’re glad that you said ‘collection of spasms.’ We don’t know from where our energy comes when we play a gig. I’ve seen the video of Misfits in 1982 and Los Crudos. We’ve seen Mukeka di Rato in Brazil. We try hard to make people become crazy just from the beginning to the end, which is insane show we love.” These influences are great examples of Vivisick’s fiery, provocative politics mixed with the recognition of what it means to be a band: having a stage and a platform to express ideas with an audience’s intense attention.
Listening to Nuked Identity equates to substitute teaching an un-medicated preschool of ADD kids while gagged. This is noisy and raucous and extremely fun. The thick danger of ‘80s hardcore echoes throughout the album’s tracks. Sunao names their apparent influences, “Los Crudos, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, Misfits. But that’s a long time ago.” As eagerly as he provides a response, Sunao shifts focus to more palpable and contemporary influences, his peers and community. “We’re influenced by too many things,” he continues, “and it is a complex mix. Each member’s preferences are different, and ultimately, have no meaning for us. We’ve been playing in Japanese hardcore scene. We’ve definitely been influenced by that. Not only the legendary bands; we’ve been influenced by watching and listening and playing with all bands. I think we’ve progressed with the times.”
Another compelling phrase lauded by the band is: “There were punks before music.” This perspective triangulates Vivisick’s attitude succinctly. Punk music, which they play exceptionally well, is one avenue of rebellion. Sunao continues, “If we’re alive, we’re involved in politics and society. Exaggerated speaking, each person’s breath, words, feelings, behavior; [those elements are] going to be building the world.” Sunao relays the importance of his liner notes and the explanations for their choices. “You may not find understanding politics easy, but I think this is certainly one of the attitudes to live in Japanese society,” he says. A relatable, universal phrase follows: “Our country is freaking terrible now. It’s, like, really horrible.”
Sunao has no issue getting specific in his thoughts regarding the administration of Shinzō Abe, current Prime Minister of Japan: “It’s freaking insane. Abe’s political party may break our life and dignity. A long time ago, people thought that the Japanese are rich people. But, the common people’s life is really hard now, because of the tax increase recently. Having a child is difficult. This decreases in the number of children. Many people have to work harder in high-pressure jobs. They have gotten mental disease or sick. Senior people have been increasing, but social benefits are not enough.”
That rebellious attitude leaks out in Vivisick’s bold and audacious visual art. “We just challenge our idea of what is interesting,” Sunao says. “Our imagination is going to be [expressed through] artwork, liner notes, t-shirts, flyers. Not doing all ourselves, but [with] awesome friends who help us. They’re going to be high quality. That’s really lucky. When we organize the event, we still contribute flyer by us, at first. If we perform an awesome show, the audience may buy our records. It’s going to spread friendship in the place. That’s style is not changing.”
The chaotic tension in Vivisick’s riffs bombards eardrums. This is intentional and treasured. “We’re extraordinarily particular about music composition,” Sunao says. “The chorus parts are one [part] of our individuality. I like a band which has hardcore punk intensity and punk rock’s catchiness. The chorus is going to be catchy. That’s really important.”
Vivisick’s song titles—“Peter Pan Syndrome Melancholy,” “Rebel Is Creation,” and, of course, “Why Must I Grab My Penis?”—confront listeners. Sunao elaborates on that perplexing title: “There is a rule, don’t have sex in the Buddhist and Himalayan ascetic. This is done to keep libido and use this energy for other doings. People have huge energy. But might use too much for libido, appetite, or something desirable. If we got some question or some life meaning, we’re cheated by temporary pleasure or self-satisfaction. That song means we have lost evolutionary energy by those temporary feelings.”
Vivisick push forward after two decades with energetic, frantic hardcore punk. Never shying from a catchy chorus, the music is infectious. Most lyrics are sung with three or four voices layered. This adds to a chaotic, inclusive vibe in their songs. Their live set encourages—no, demands crowd participation. This approach elevates the performance to the level of a movement, fevered and fueled by pure beliefs, disavowing gender, sexuality, age, class, and race. Nuked Identity is a punk manifesto that motivates its audience to shed their complacency.