The Mootekkis‘ rock-ethic has more bells and whistles than a video game and could well send fans into anaphylactic shock. Formed in 2008, this international rock-brotherhood consists of vocalist Mike Hannah, guitar player Jude Conlon, drummer Masafumi Sugiyama, guitarist Koji Iwata and bassist Tomoaki Sekiwa.
I recently talked to The Mootekkis‘ Mike Hannah about the band’s first EP and their bare-bones approach to rock.
Please introduce yourself. What instruments and brands of instruments do you play?
My name’s Mike, I’m from Melbourne, Australia and I’m the singer for The Mootekkis. I’ll be speaking on behalf of the band for this interview. Jude’s from Connecticut, USA and plays rhythm and lead guitar on an ESP Edwards (Les Paul). Koji hails from Hiroshima, Japan and also plays rhythm and lead on a Les Paul Junior. Yo’cchan is from Tokyo and plays a bass guitar that he picked up in a second-hand trash bin. Masafumi is also a local boy with a love for the drums.
Why did you name the band The Mootekkis?
It came up over some outdoor beers. We were throwing around our favorite Japanese words and Jude’s was muteki. The kanji literally means No Enemies and refers to a samurai in the olden days that had defeated all his enemies and therefore had none left. A little premature but hey, why not aim high?
What brought the members of The Mootekkis together as a band?
Jude was recording some solo stuff and I was in a cover band. My ex-girlfriend’s friend’s boyfriend was Koji, a blues guitarist in the middle of recording his solo project, The Kozies. He had played in a Rolling Stones cover band called Morning Stoned with Yo’cchan. We bought Masafumi on the cheap at the ¥99 store – only kidding, he was a little more expensive than that.
Remembering back to The Mootekkis’ first time in front of a live audience, what comes to mind?
It was a three song open-mic set at Ruby Room in Shibuya, not the most intimidating conditions for a debut. We’d all had a fair bit of experience performing live. The show went down well and the booking agent for the bar was quick to invite us back to play another event.
Tell me a little bit about the songwriting process – Who is the songwriter and what inspires you to write music?
I got the ball rolling with “Those Blue Things,” a song that came to me on the plane from Finland to Japan about a messy affair with a girl. A few songs later Jude and Yo’cchan, with his trusty beat machine, were bringing some great songwriting to the studio and we just jam it out from there. I write lyrics about everything from boozing, to panic attacks, to salary men who work so hard they’ve got nothing to offer their sexually frustrated wives when they get home. I’ve heard that is a leading cause of divorce these days in Japan.
What makes The Mootekkis stand out from other bands?
We set out with a loose-canon, boozed-up, bare-bones approach to rock and have stayed faithful to that ever since. A seasoned critic once wrote that we were somewhere in the middle of classic punk, hard rock, and UK retro garage rock. Add to that Jude’s surf rock licks and what you’re left with is a soundtrack to some serious debauchery. Adam3, a drum’n’bass DJ, recently told us after a show that The Mootekkis primal energy had turned him back onto rock’n’roll. He remixed our track “Could Be Wiser” a few weeks later.
Do you have any upcoming releases we should be looking for?
Our debut EP was recorded in October last year and is on iTunes, but we’ve yet to get our shit together and throw a launch party. We’ve got enough new songs to fill an album but right now we’re focusing on applying for overseas festivals, working on merchandise and drinking away our band money.
What has been your biggest triumph as a band? The band’s greatest challenge?
Winning Japanzine’s Battle of the Bands competition and getting the front cover was a triumph of some sort. But as is with most bands in Japan, the greatest challenge would probably be sticking together in spite of the noruma system – a.k.a. the pay-to-play policy of live houses. Which means; if you don’t bring a certain amount of people to the show then the band has to pay for all the unsold ¥2000+ tickets. It’s sad to see plump little live-house owners feeding on the dreams of young up-and-coming bands. Actually, we wrote a song about it called “Norma,” not to be confused with Norma Jean.
Let’s hear a little about your tastes not related to music?
Jude’s a big poker man, Koji collects Japanese action figures, Yo’cchan reads up on Roman history, Masa likes to ride his motorbike down the coast, and I like to dress up like Bjorn Borg and run around the park near my house.
What is your favorite The Mootekkis song to perform live? Why?
For me it’s got to be “Those Blue Things.” It starts off a little like an ACDC song and then it slams on the accelerator like a jumbo charging down the runway. I can launch into the crowd and single people out, yanking people out of their comfort zone. They either love it or pretend to hate it, but secretly love it (laughs). The climax in the middle gives me an opportunity to dance through the crowd like an Indian who’s smoked an opium pipe spiked with ecstasy.
This is your chance to promote your CDs, bands, tours, websites & gear? What should fans be looking forward to in 2011?
The Mootekkis EP can be purchased for cheap on iTunes. If you get the chance please seek us out on facebook, twitter, bandcamp, myspace, indie.music.com and spread the word! We’ll be putting a free download of our Battle of the Bands winning track up on our facebook fan page soon – so look out for that.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans all over the world?
Be patient, we’re on our way.
I would like to thank The Mootekkis and Mike Hannah for his participation in this interview.
~Denise Smith (interview 2011.07.01)