Kyoto’s 3-piece band Taifu* Club, the self-proclaimed ‘Western Sun of Japanese Rock,’ is now all the rage: they appeared in Fuji Rock Festival this summer, and received the highest of praises from their musical mentors such as Keiichi Sokabe and Masahiro Naoe of Carnation. For this interview we feature Jun Ishizuka, the frontman of the band, who can get away with wearing fishermen’s flip flops along with his Gibson SG. We asked him about what makes vinyl so appealing.
―― To start off, tell me what was the very first record you ever bought?
It was Golden Hits by Carol**. When I was in eighth grade, my mother and I went to Nihonbashi in Osaka for New Years to buy a Columbia brand portable turntable. While we were there we continued onto Record Shop NAKA.
―― Why Carol?
Just the week before I bought it, I heard Seiji of Guitar Wolf introduce the song Funky Monkey Baby on the radio, saying that the intro of the song was cool. So, I wanted it.
―― You were born in 1986, which places you in the CD generation. Were you familiar with records until that purchase?
Sort of. The Neatbeats, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, and ↑THE HIGH-LOWS↓ had some records out.
―― So that also made you want Carol’s record.
Since the band was pretty old school, I kinda sensed that Tower Records wasn’t going to have Carol’s CD. So, I learned early on that buying used records was an option for getting the music I wanted.
―― You bought CDs until then?
The only CDs I had were OASIS’ first and second albums. Even those, I bought with some coupons. [Laughs.] After I figured that out, I was suddenly faced with an ocean of records.
―― An ocean?
Anything that I had not heard before, I considered a new release. So, getting to know used records really expanded my world. I used to find new record shops on “Record Map.” I also didn’t have that much money, since I was only in junior high.
―― What’s your take on the difference between records and CDs?
I feel like CD has that feel of a lot of plastic in use, whereas my favorite music definitely fits the record sound better. Also, listening to records lifts me up.
―― Any comments on the difference in sound quality?
I was using that same portable turntable up until I went to college. It didn’t matter if it was recorded in stereo, it would output it in mono anyway, and it wasn’t like I could control the weight of the needle. So I am actually indifferent to the sound quality difference or to the fact that there is a notion that records have a warmer sound. I was sufficiently blown away by them even with that sound quality: as if the heavy needle was scouring the surface of records.
―― I see.
I feel like that also had something to do with how my personality formed.
―― You mean to say that it wasn’t just the musicality of your band that it influenced?
Come to think of it, since I started buying garage and old rock, used records have been like my life companion. [Laughter.]
―― So then what was it like to listen to a record in stereo in college.
It was wicked good. I also felt like I had finally arrived at an environment where I could listen to it correctly. I also got to enjoy the big sound of records blasted through tube amps. I yearn for that still, but now both my living situation and financial situation don’t make it realistic (to own one).
―― What do you think makes records special?
I think it’s all in the “meeting.” You covet a used record and a CD differently. For example, a store that only sells new CDs and records has this obligation to push the latest releases, and the shopper’s mind is set to go get the latest from a certain artist, whereas a used record store has none of that, and I think that is huge. You just accidentally run into that special record that had sunken to the bottom of your wishlist. It’s a place where these “meetings” happen often.
―― As a “listening experience,” how would you describe records?
Unlike CDs, I feel like you listen to records utilizing time and space. So at home I listen, for example, while I read a book, and meanwhile a record could distract me from my reading, if it’s sounding really good.
―― Do you ever order records online?
I hardly ever do. I try to stick to under 2,000yen (about $20) on my purchases, so when I think of the shipping cost… no.
―― How often do you go to record shops?
I have been so busy with our shows so I haven’t been able to go lately. I wish I could go to record shops at all the places I visit for shows, but the schedule is so tight.
―― Do you always have a record wishlist?
It’s not like I have it written down somewhere; it’s more like a constant accumulation inside my head: the reviews I’ve read, blog posts, someone mumbling something, or hearing something from a friend.
―― Which is your favorite record shop?
Mushroom Records in Takamatsu and Record Jungle in Kanazawa. Mushroom Records is full of soul and ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll, the owner is a nice person, and the store display is sharp. When I was in my teens, I would frequent Time Bomb Records, King Kong, and Hanky Panky Record in Osaka. OLD HAT GEAR, too. I also used to go to Nihonbashi a lot.
―― In Kyoto, where you live now, where do you find records?
In Kyoto, I go to Hot Line, 100000t, WORKSHOP records, JET SET, and Bootsy's.
―― Have you ever worked at a record shop?
Well, I did apply to JET SET once, but they didn’t hire me. [Laughter.]
―― Which section do you go to in a record shop?
When I have time, I go from A to Z and look at all of it. If it is categorized by genre, I go to the “rock” section first.
―― Taifu Club has released both records and CDs.
I emphasize to them (the record company) over and over to release the vinyl on the same day as the CD; it shouldn’t be released as if it was an added release. I want them to understand that it needs to be conveyed as ‘an analog release that is also coming out on CD.’
―― So mainly it’s an analog release. As a band, what would be the ideal way to release music from here on?
I would like to put out a 7-inch every time we are done with a song, and when there are enough songs—put out an album. I also want to put out a 7-inch box one day. I used to own the 7-inch box of Thee Michelle Gun Elephant that I ended up having to sell for money, but I remember it being so nice.
―― Do you sell record from your personal collection?
Yes, I do. From the beginning; whenever I needed money. “Which one would go?” I would cast my judgement at record court. [Laughter.]
Jun Ishizuka is the singer and guitar player for Taifu Club. He is originally from Kawachinagano, Osaka and currently lives in Kyoto. In the summer of 2017, Taifu Club released their first album Shoki No Taifu Kurabu. (meaning “earlier years of Taifu Club.”)
Interview and article by Yusuke Nakamura (IN/SECT)
Photographs by Yuta Seki
Translation by Mika Anami