Tokyo Embracing Meat Grinder
November 1, 2022|
That flawless world is dead, and has left no bones. Nothing but burnt stumps, drifting surfaces, formless fight, and the blue water of a tiny well, guarded by my silent Friend.
Understanding grew up between us very soon.
—— René Char, “Lord”
Gezan in 2019
Photo: Shiori Ikeno
Ⅰ. Friendship Between the Meat and Meat Grinder
Mishima Lipstick. This is the title of the second track from the Japanese band, Gezan’s debut album. It also happens to be what stirred people’s interest in Gezan as well as its lead vocal, MahiToThePeople, who stands in the cone of the band’s flame. The lyrics of “Mishima Lipstick” contain three autobiographical lines:
I am the reincarnation of Yukio Mishima I am reincarnated
We are Gezaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!
Who helps at the funeral, like an embalmer, I am MahiToThePeople
This assumption of the reincarnation originates from a secret kinship. MahiToThePeople once wrote openly in his blog that his mother has been the illegitimate child of Yukio Mishima and a lover of his. In one of his tweets from 2015, he simply declared again, that he is “the reincarnation of Yukio Mishima”; Moreover, the fact that he is favored by important literary figures in Japan, such as Banana Yoshimoto, seems to make the declaration more plausible. While it appears that MahiToThePeople has tried so hard to prove the kinship that some would even say he was suffering from delusional disorder, when asked subtly by the media in regard with his birth, MahiToThePeople answers in ambiguous lyrics: I come from nowhere, perhaps the womb, but I no longer remember, so perhaps the underworld.
The love-me-love-my-dog fans and the harsh doubtful detectives embarked on an endless debate over whether the vocalist of Gezan is the grandson of Mishima. Some say he definitely is, some suggest obviously not, some say it doesn’t matter, and some respond how is it so, for if he is not, then he would be putting on all these hypes. The debate is simply off-point. However, the point I would like to make here, is neither the potential danger of how the music itself could be left in air when too much attention is drawn to the context of how the music entered the public eye. Rather, the moment when Yukio Mishima, this real sodden red spirit, embodied itself in Gezan and MahiToThePeople among our generation, the thus increased power of Mishima’s aesthetics has already come into force in an inseparable way. How shall we understand this music, a puddle of dirty blood, blessed by a dead man yet thriving with great power by itself, and the way the city and its people get stirred by it? How shall I write about them? When I finished listening to all five albums of Gezan, I was convinced that it’s impossible to “explore” them as a journalist does, or “present” them through the eye of a “nonfiction” writer. No archive fever is needed, since they have smeared on every detail of themselves blood stains, and whom the blood stains invoke is not a police officer or a journalist who comes to collect the evidence, but a forensic practitioner who observes and blends his very self into these bloods and bones and tissues, an observer whose life befriends equally with these stains which will come back to you in every beautiful nightmare. The risk of such, is to collapse. However, neither the subject of history nor the silent analysis has discussed “collapse”. Gezan sings at the end of “Red Day”, “Kill god / Kill authority / Kill system / Kill GEZAN!” I believe the death wish of Gezan as a music group is fairly honest, and if the listeners dedicate as hard to what they are listening to, they will experience a heart collapse, and then the rebirth. This is the friendship between the meat and meat grinder. What such friendship is in response to, is fear, which looms above us right now. Humans fear, not because they have no heart, but rather they have too perfect a heart: the law of the heart is already dark, the world in heyday eats humans alive; and as for the injured, the only possible way out is to bear a heart of stern love, and to partake willingly in the practice of collapse.
The drummer of the Gezan Ishihara Roscal celebrates the opening of the Jusangatsu farm with a 30-hour marathon drumming session, taken from Last Language ~30 hours drumming~
Ⅱ. The History of Collapse
May 13, Late Spring. I float on water, my skull being held by air, I think that love and understanding have just kept my company for a while longer. Far on the shore, Ishihara plays to the sea. He will be drumming for 30 hours to celebrate the opening of the farm named after Gezan’s label, Jusangatsu Records, which means the thirteenth month. His audience will be Nature, and the indifference of Nature will let him understand in what huge chain of life the music he strikes resides: the ocean has memories, birds are ruthless, clouds are the most prudent, the asters never love you back, and the advanced cameras, even though present, they just work, work, work like a maniac. It understands nothing but work. I wonder at what hour will his palm be filled with plasma, if the grayish waves will bring the blood-worshipping shark who will devour us while devouring the blood they crave, and we will be dead among the random crowd on the shore, be chewed into bones and grind meats by the neutral creatures unaffected by the viruses. I am at once released from my melancholy. I will not run away. Just thinking about it brings me burning peace.
Peace is shredded in a wave of shame by a memory from 8 years ago. In 2012, Gezan recorded their first studio album in America. We went to the beach often. Once I walked to a high platform near a shore and studied the American sky. I wonder how it could contain at once God and the American’s big dream to sweep up the universe. I studied their tall and ugly architectures, whereas the buildings in Tokyo had similar shapes: is this a sort of chronic concussion that the West has bestowed the East? Is America baptizing his Japanese son-in-law in the astral basin? With what? Beams of a nuclear explosion, or injections of black golds? Good, let’s talk about the beautiful nuclear reactors, let’s talk about Asia, the failures in the history, the rain acid in the cracks of dubious human hearts. Ever since the nuclear explosion in the 20th century, death has sneaked into Asia and made itself one of its characteristics, the idea of “returning to life” is but an impossible struggle. Since there is no remedy to death, we may try Asia. Try cancel Asia? The word “Asia” brings me heavy guilt: my country reconstructs Asia the enormous cultural structure with the primary goal to rub more confidently against the skin of the Goddess Liberty of the statue. It keeps its humiliated sense of nationalism in the ambiguous attitudes towards the States (,and this is why a certain American journalist dared to comment on our music with the arrogant saying that “The history of Japanese rock music is essentially a history of ambivalence toward American cultural imperialism, of restive acceptance of its entrance into the Japanese collective consciousness.”) While at the same time, our country has secretly attained from our enemy the imperialistic scheme. The center of the Asia continent will no longer be China, the Showa sakura will bloom all over the dragon’s mouth like a splendid abscess—Jubilee! Military! Honor! The Great Brightness! The buoyancy of the water body around me increases, almost clamping my hollow stomach, and as I close my eyes, I am among the chain of people in the demonstration crowd after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the chain has blocked the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the noise is an attack, which unites in fears, chaotic kindness, shame, and anger, into a gale. It wants the heart of this building before it to recall in the state of out-of-controlness certain feelings. Does it work? The gale has power, but also a collective emptiness. I feel anxious, sarcasm grows from my pores, the crowd makes me think of the drills, D-R-I-L-L (D-O-D-D-O-R-I-L). Collapsing in the crowd of people on the open ground, I detect the figure of my mother, her back, a humanoid moon, black, with a hook on the surface, my eyes ache, before she walks away, I watch the iron water cutting her back open.
The history of collapse—drips into my eyeballs at dusk. The fierce dusk. Collapse is a word we devised to be used to add or subtract from happiness, both nihilistic, while unfortunately, the highest life is mathematics, as Novalis says, and the statement follows: In music, mathematics appears formally, as revelation, as creative idealism. All enjoyment is musical, consequently mathematical. I don’t believe it. Sounds like a hijack. What about history? History is the word that devised us. I think of what I wrote upon Gezan’s the first open speech (our debut album It Was Once Said to be a Song) : the nuclear reactor of the new age, empty grass, sterilized infants, Europe express, the last instruction from Yukio Mishima (only fight with the determination to kill your opponent), the game of exchanging penis, the lower half of the body crushed at the frontal lobe, melancholi-melancholi-melancholi-melancholia—”The lady concerned with her country need to get a erection, now!” and to vomit—on the weeping toilet, vomit! vomit! and after you have vomited over and over, the sun from the west will burst in glare, blessed is the vomiter—the tone of the Bible is beautiful, even though it’s not likely that I am a God believer, I say God is bisexual, the way Kurt Cobain says God is homosexual, but I am not caught as Cobain was; Like a baby, I bluntly say to the listeners: Make your own god. Such a sermon makes me their god, I feel sorry about my being out of my mind and my stance as a savior. I have too much sentimental burden. I hope you guys kill me—but it wouldn’t be easy. I implore you to instigate like a ruthless spy the total of Gezan and my doings into your own gun fire. The drumming goes on. But the language of Nature’s law suddenly dropped. Now, Japan at the end of May, I endeavor to burn myself in water, if I fail, it will snow.
Gezan with Million Wish Collective at Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall, March 2022
Photo: Taro Mizutani
Ⅲ. Tokyo Blood
(Rewriting Gezan’s Music Video for “Tokyo”)
City. Streets. 2022 in grimace. A capital city in East Asia is practicing the way of confinement. A round of biological self-cleansing of the planet, devoured by your metropolitan solemness, waits for the order to excrete clean light. We bleed a little, collectively. But must imagine you have ignored the confinement order. This morning, defenselessly you lie on the pale white painted line which marks the border between the pavement and the car lane, you focus on the bleeding, your bruises or internal diseases, menstruation, above there is a sky who never instructs—gravitation is not upward. The force of Earth’s gravity points to the earth, but at the moment earth is not a lucky strike, you ask yourself if you feel sad? How were your wounds opened? You see the crowd in confinement hurry to the balcony, they watch you under the manifold of formulas of acute angles, these people, whose eyes are ruled by the cold math, these people, news announcers, human traffickers, lawyers, fitness coaches, rehabilitees in the love-hate relationships, or artists who crack their hearts on the back of the heads on daily basis, too many humans, too many faces, which almost become an astrology trap, fate, no matter big, small, important, unimportant, has worked, mysticism and the “unhuman” will become the universal morphine in the next decades where you indulge yourself in numbness. Nevertheless, the acute angles make you hurt, the watching from the angles, are surely not complete watching. You’d love to do away with them, just like how you longed to fight with them, the passion is the same. The street is no longer the weapon, it is the corpse.
But later when the image appears, your logical mind becomes eroded by the acid of remembrance—you see the panorama of Tokyo since you are the cruelest and the most useful military drone, pillars of skyscrapers, pigeon-gray—the color of technology is the same as the one of ashes. In the standing atmosphere, the wavering of the buildings’ profiles caused by the vapors seems to obey a sentiment steamed from some wet rhythms. The howling man in red in the open field (that is me, MahiToThePeople) vomits grass, cows, water waves, mosses, birds, trees, is it an apocalypse? Am I the God who bleeds patiently from skull to the sole of the feet? The young God? — The goddamn God. God indeed exists, but we all hold a yellow card. God listens only when the penalty begins:
The tribal rhythm from the Third World, the incessant beastly moist breathes, glottal sounds like the vapors, percussions in accelerated cuts, the flood-like steady beat at a hundred per minute, tongue polishing syllables without meanings, the pause of the heart of the sacrifice’s offering, the abysmal hum of the bass—a restless night forever arriving. Fight! Armies! Manifesto! Ordinance to evict the refugees (“even their blood are dirty!”), the glutton confined in the closed cubic stirs the cries of the food, while a muscular guitar sends out an enormous round distortion, which drifts and drifts and it drifts into an air of disaster in the grand automatized hospital wards—that morning, someone was forced to death.
In fact, I have no idea if the man being forced to die was you. I have no bird view, and nor am I the prophet sitting day and night next to the living flame, but when I am rich enough to afford a serious operation and upgrade myself into a drone, I overlook the shadow of the people on the Tokyo streets, the madly pure blackness reminds me of an infinite abyss; no camera, however delicate, can capture the detail of this dark, and it’s deeper than anybody’s throat singing, nobody dares to follow the gravity and give the try; when in the end I find myself unable to vomit birds, white snakes, horses, irons in the construction site, or manholes anymore, everything in and of the city, everything the street curses or remembers, they one by one abstract into the red grains forever trembling to the music on the drum head—crystalized and crafted into blood beads, then in the momentary vertical screen of the phone, you will see me scream in child voice, I’m reading news on the Civil War, I recite the history of invasion, I curse your doctoral thesis on futurology, I cry, I laugh, I do not follow the artificial glasslike Japanese courtesy, I fuck the flying fascism, I might jump, I can’t reach the height of the aviation, but the action must have belonged to the tearing of the city. You will see or hear me leaving while convening. You will know I’m bleeding, just like I’m sweating.
Gezan in 2021
Photo: Yusuke Yamatani
Ⅳ. Spring Knee
Spring fattens, because winter is a huge iced candy. Spring lies on the operation table. You wouldn’t guess the part that it’s getting operated—the knee. As if spring is not supposed to have knees, not even any bones, spring should be the piece of meat gently, freshly sliced from the larvae, oily presenting to all the knowledge and the illusion of the newborn—this cruel tenderness must be the forced performance of spring in the field of common sense. We should try to bear the reality, for example, spring will not be tied to hope, if you just wait by leaning on the chair of despair, for example, spring has knees and will lift its leg and attack, most likely you will lose the game and be issued a yellow card. There is a scale inside everything. When one side crushes the other, revelation shows itself. Therefore, if spring is not forever, it will only feign death in time after its fast dealing with the society. The messenger.
News is like a layer of rocks, and here we are. Tokyo. Nobody will forget about this spring. In 2012, as soon as the band landed in Tokyo, it raced. Gezan played across 16 venues 16 lives straight, the repetition of madness spins personal experiences up to an absolute zone of religious, in the zone, I use not my senses yet am capable of decomposing in my brain the mind of whoever in front of me and scan it at once, I sense that I am the men in front of me, and they could be me, I can bite the mic and sing while staring into the front teeth of the closest audience and tell whether he is happy, if he is then I am, if he is not then I am not; I am a perfect judge, for I abstain the despicable dialectics, and I do not punish. The 2019 “Zenkankakusai” tour was supposed to take place outdoors in Chiba, but due to the typhoon, we urgently switched to live houses in Shibuya for the night, and when the lives were over, we squeezed ourselves into a taxi, watched our swollen faces from a rearview mirror. In 2020, we released “Tokyo”. The track was included in the album KLUE, I’ve been presenting and using it a lot in the past two years. I sing on tiny messy stages, and clean wide stages; I pour the voices into numerous electronic components in the studio and implore them to record for me; I sing it at Space Shower TV’s award ceremony, the song was forced to be exposed in the purple shade of the host’s disciplined baritone; I sang it too at the “No War 0305” anti-war citizen campaign, Tokyo was falling out of the sunset glow in “Tokyo”, night comes. From 12:30 at noon to the hour of dusk, the filming crew captured many reassuring and exciting heroic shots during the event—stars on the stage, Ukrainians in Japan, passionate intellectuals, people offstage holding the anti-war banners. Everyone had a warm heart, everyone did a good job, but as the organizer I thought everything seemed too tender, especially when I saw somebody kept commenting on the livestream channel “the Ukrainian girl has white and beautiful legs come marry in Japan! Benefit the Japanese men!”, I felt that hatred was not terminated in the moving tenderness. Is hatred human nature, while tenderness only a courtesy? This temporary stage at the south exit of Shinjuku Station, since it’s close to the market, is crowded with people, and when it was torn down efficiently, the crowd left too, it was a small moment of destruction, it reminds me of Otomo Yoshihide, who performed before sunset, the only noise musician at the event. He was arranged to perform between two folk music groups. He pressed and scraped the U-shape metal against his warm brown guitar, as if cutting in line of tenderness after tenderness and then slapped the face of the tenderness. He played (or rather conducted) sounds that were destroyed and over-consumed, the performance became a rehearsal of, now, the end of the music.
Gezan’s final performance at the anti-war event “No War 0305” they organized, March 2022.
Photo: Rody Shimazaki
I once said during an interview that the reason why KLUE sounded like a collage of fragments glued together is because Tokyo is a mad metropolis just like this, it could be torn and rebuilt at any instant. We have to be as mad as Tokyo. Tokyo embraces the meat grinder—the self-renewed madness is placed in the range of the criticism of capitalism, yet at the same time we manage to distill from the madness a Gothic nature—a deliberate unfinished-ness. John Ruskin says the Gothic architecture from the Middle Age is “ever on the side of brusquerie,” and “Gothic” has been a word of derogatory, for even the most common craftsmen were involved in the building of a Gothic building, which rendered the structure far from noble. The world was terrified when the roof of Notre-Dame caught fire in 2019. But had this happened in the Middle Age, the artisans would have been more than pleased to be offered the chance to re-create a space which the fire just cleared out for them. Gothic architecture renews itself as a collective work in unending time and spaces. Cities and streets are waiting to become such works. Perhaps Gezan is becoming a work like this. We shall re-build these work like the passionate artisans, and our passion shall be like love and suicides, or we won’t be able to endure the misfortune in the interior of the work.
Once again, I walk into your Tokyo in nightmares. I find it does not differ much from Beijing; “I” not much from “MahiToThePeople”, in respect of almost every part of the brain, when dispersed it feigns errors or madness, when converged chafes into a chaotic kindness. The only being I need to anchor and hear is “you”. You know since the millennium, China has used cymbal and suona oriented folk music such as “Prince of Qin Smashing the Battle-line” to interfere the enemies’ radios, and such folk music are called “Firedrake” by the radio enthusiasts. Tokyo is full of firedrakes, they are—nuclear stations, the new world, advertisements, love guides, the emperor, slaves, courtesy, violence, you and me, hot muzzles, “the intelligence of asteroid,” “the red womb of the blue planet.” They are waiting for a sacred day, for to be transformed from one weapon to another. And now talking to you, I feel an open love. Seneca quotes Democritus in Moral Letters to Lucilius, “to me, a single man is a crowd, and a crowd is a single man.” Seneca quotes another line Epicurus once wrote to one of his colleagues, “I am writing this, not for the eyes of the many, but for yours alone, for we are a great enough theater, one for another.” I am entering the theater. I can no longer write words that are not directed to you, because the blood is changed, and as long as the huge fire pillar rises from the human crowd, I will take your hand, with no mistakable meanings, the heart is the morning star, enlightens upwards, we will see the red snake MahiToThePeople makes to compare with himself, no limb, brief bones, we will see a sporadic bloom, see how the beautiful flower and nasty snake as so written by Mishima bleed and fall in love at night, they cry in the night of transformation of grace and damnation, but you have to go, the city will be gone to the end, by you, and I will follow, and on the knee of the spring, we will embrace, game, and rendezvous.
About the Band
GEZAN, an experimental / noise rock band from Japan.
Formed in Osaka in 2009, the band is highly received by Kawabata Makoto from Acid Mothers Temple.
In 2012, Gezan moved to Tokyo. As soon as they landed, the band played across 16 venues 16 lives straight. (Vocal MahiToThePeople comments, “Gezan is the Tokyo Express.”) The same year, they released their debut album It Was Once Said to be a Song in America.
In 2014, Gezan released their second album -Deco- and EP Strawberry Edge. They started to work on the annual free-entry outdoor music festival “Zenkankakusai”.
In 2018, Gezan reformed and recorded the album Silence Will Speak in America. The producer of the album was Steve Albini, who also recorded for Nirvana In Utero. The track “Ambient Red” features a collaboration with Merzbow, the legend in the world of noise music. The same year, Gezan returned to Osaka and performed on stage with Jun Togawa and Vampillia.
In January 2020, the band released KLUE. The year of collective confinement begins. The “Zenkankakusai”, instead of a festival, turned itself into a farm. Gezan built on the roof of “LIQUIDROOM”, a live venue, a farm, and with a reward system sold vegetables and seed packages which contained flower and rice seeds. As the quarantine deprives people of speed, they call upon people to rebuild their daily lives within their 1-meter radius. In addition, to celebrate the opening of the farm, Gezan’s drummer Ishihara live-streamed a 30-hour drumming session along the sea.
On March 5, 2022, Gezan with Jusangatsu Records, the label they founded, organized in Shinjuku “No War 0305”, an anti-war citizen campaign. Those who participated in the campaign included Ukrainians who lived in Japan, Russians, Japanese citizens, and also Yuta Orisaka, Tavito Nanao, Otomo Yoshihide, Odottebakarinokuni, Sakamoto Ryuichi (Gezan’s vocal MahiToThePeople read on Ryuichi’s behalf his declaration) and Gezan, among others.
1. My appreciation for yff, ppianp, Yaya, aoao, and Hole in the Sky who have helped me with the lyric translations. And ài, you got a letter. We were listening to Gezan’s “Knee in the Spring” when I completed the last word of the article.
2. This piece of writing is in parallel with Gezan and MahiToThePeople, but not in any sense a biography or commentary of the band and its music. For the same reason, this writing does not care to be categorized as fiction or nonfiction.
3. In the writing, I have referred to Gezan and MahiToThePeople’s online interviews and social media platforms as the major sources, as well as Chinese music media “ZHOUKAN-ROCK” and “Hole in the Sky”.
Zhang Duohan (b. 1999) is a poet and artist. He is also a rookie American football wide receiver for the Hangzhou Smilodons (CNFL)
Translated by Yun Qin Wang