Having shot to global attention via their appearance in Tarantino’s Kill Bill film, Tokyo’s 126.96.36.199’s have carved out a unique niche for themselves by fusing garage, punk, surf music and rock n’ roll into one intoxicating potion. Famed for their highly energetic live show The Midlands Rocks spoke to the band (vocalist Yoshiko, drummer Sachiko and bassist Akiko) on the final night of their UK tour.
Tonight is the final date of your UK tour. How has the tour been?
It’s been a very short tour, just five dates, but it’s been a great time touring with [support band] The Masonics. They have such a great guitar sound, a very primitive sound, it’s great. We started in Birmingham, then up to Leeds, then London and Brighton and I hope tonight in Guildford is going to be a great show.
Why has the tour been so short?
Well, we were worried about Covid. Actually, we had a UK tour planned two years ago and then Covid happened. We rearranged the tour once, then twice, and then we made it on the third time.
It seems you always make an effort to tour the UK.
We love the English rock n’ roll music; from the 50’s to the ‘80’s.
When you are travelling between gigs what music do you listen too?
The Stranglers! Also, on my headphones I have a lot of modern Japanese music that was suggested by my daughter.
You attract a very diverse crowd to your shows.
Yes! It’s great! We are so happy and so lucky that lots of different people like our music. I think it’s a great thing. We are so grateful for that.
Do you notice any difference between Japanese and English audiences?
The Japanese people are a little bit shy; I think.
What is the rockabilly scene like in Tokyo?
Tokyo has many different small, underground scenes. The musicians who play 50’s style rock n’ roll play the traditional style but there are a lot of garage bands too.
I once read an interview where you said you like Chuck Berry and the Sex Pistols. That’s two different styles of music. How do you bring them together?
I first heard the Sex Pistols when I was a teenager. I was a big fan of Johnny Rotten [Yoshiko shows a picture of Johnny Rotten on her phone] so I started by listening to them. Steve Jones’ guitar style sounds exactly like Johnny Thunders, I love Johnny Thunders and he played cool American roots music, garage and everything and American roots is Chuck Berry, I feel. Then I started listening to 50’s and 60’s music and I feel they are the same.
In the 1970’s people who liked punk and people who liked rock n’ roll used to fight.
We play 50’s stuff, rockers music, but I also like soul, more 60’s mod sound but sometimes I like the mix. It’s like my cooking, I like mixing different foods, and it’s a good taste.
I read another interview where you said your intention was to deconstruct punk music into rock n’ roll. Do you think you achieved that?
It sounds very serious when you say it like that, but we just wanted to have fun with music.
Throughout your career you’ve covered a wide variety of songs. How do you choose which songs to cover?
I love records, especially 45’s, I collect them. I need music in my life and I’m looking for the cool stuff and when I can’t find good music, I am bored. So, when I hear cool stuff, I want to play that song. So, when I feel excitement from music, I hope other people will feel excitement when we play the song.
It’s been 8 years since your last album. Why so long?
Well…we are just lazy! [laughs] The last two years we didn’t play because of Covid, and we only met up a few times, and before that we toured the United States a lot, but now we are starting to play again hopefully we can make a new album.
This line-up has been together for a long time. What is the harmony between you?
Sometimes we fight because we are just regular people, we play a lot then have a break from each other.
Lots of people discovered your band through the film Kill Bill Vol 1. How did that movie change things for you?
It was a big thing for us. Everyone knows that song, [‘Woo Hoo’] it’s weird! After that movie we toured a lot, maybe too much, we were so tired, and we needed rest. It’s a special thing. It gave us a whole new audience, different people who got into our music. A big thank you for that Quentin Tarantino!
Finally, what are your future plans?
We want to play, and we want to make a new album. We hope we can come back to the UK soon. We love the UK, the music scene. We had cream tea this afternoon, and we love fish and chips and nice gardens.