Twenty years of Envy (Japanese hardcore/post rock)

Remember Envy, one of the bands that I interviewed for the final issue of Giant Robot? The group from Japan is celebrating its twentieth anniversary with Invariable Will, Recurring Ebbs and Flows, a killer box set with fourteen LPs, two DVDs and a 100-Page book that contain absolutely everything, starting with its vicious hardcore roots and culminating with its cosmic post rock present. For this mother lode of amazing vinyl, I hit up singer Tetsu Fukagawa with some questions and pulled out Doug Kim’s photos from their 2010 stop at Santo’s Party House.

MW: You recently toured Japan to celebrate your 20th anniversary. What was that like? How did you model your set for the occasion?
TF: It was great. We only did three shows but lots of people showed up and the reactions have all been good. We played a lot of old songs so rehearsal was a bit hard, but we had a great time.

MW: What inspired the making of the new box set? Has it ended up as you expected or is it something different altogether?
FT: We didn’t really plan on doing anything initially but Jeremy from TRL came up with the idea of remastering all our songs, pressing vinyl, and putting it all together in a box set. We’re all really happy with how it turned out.

MW: It must have been a trip to look back to the beginnings of the band. Do you remember those days vividly or was revisiting the old songs like a time warp?
FT: There were some things we forgot about, and it was a really good experience for us to look back on all those years. Our old songs were fast and a lot of them were in English, so we haven’t played them at all recently. We’d forgotten about some really good songs we had! I think we’ll start playing them at shows from now on. 

MW: Can you talk a little bit about the old songwriting, gear, and recording techniques? Do you miss any of that?
FT: Back then, we used to record riffs on tape, dubbing over on multi tape. Cutting tapes for editing, sometimes. We used to jam in the studio and record sometimes, too, but now we have a recording engineer that works with us every time. We leave it pretty much up to him now. We use Protools now and he knows what we want without us telling him anything.

MW: Have you kept an archive of photos, articles, and other information to include in the book or was there a hunt to collect everything? Can you talk about some pleasant surprises and memories?
FT: Yeah, we kept a lot. Found a lot of flyers and pictures we forgot about. We couldn’t find our first demo, and had to borrow that from a friend.

MW: Did you have all of the old lyrics memorized or written down? Did you have to figure out any of them? If so, what was that like?
FT: After I read the lyrics once, I’m pretty good at remembering. I have all the lyrics in a file. Memorizing and sorting through lyrics wasn’t too hard. It was harder to remember the actual tracks. We had a good time, though.

MW: Is there anything in the book that you think will surprise even the hardest core fans?
FT: Not really. There’s a photographer that’s been taking pictures of us for the past 7~8 years. We asked him to put together all the pics, so it’s kinda like his photo collection. Spell checking 95 songs worth of lyrics was a pain in the ass.

MW: I’m sure there are unreleased demos, mixes, and live cuts that are still out there… Will we ever see any of that?
FT: There are no unreleased demos. We do have tons of live recordings so we can hear how we sounded like. We record almost every time, but they’ll probably never be released.

MW: Are you leaving space in the box for future releases or are you starting on a second volume?
FT: We made this for our 20th… and it turned out so good, I don’t think we’ll make another one. Fist and last box set for us! We’re just working on our next album now.

The box set just came out on July 16 and you can still snag yourself a copy from TRL.

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