I only know seven Bloodthirsty Butchers songs: one from the split 7″ with fellow Japanese band named after a horror movie Copass Grinderz, three from the double 7″ from with Rocket From The Crypt, and three more from the split EP with +/- (all pictured below). But damn, those songs are great and so is the quality of pairings. And what about the top-notch labels (K Records, Bacteria Sour, Teen Beat) and even artists (Tae Won Yu, Pushead, Yoshitomo Nara) they’ve worked with? With so much quality and so little quantity of information about the band from Sapporo, I was stoked to see the documentary about them directed by Jun Kawaguchi.
It turns out the Butchers’ story resembles that of many bands. They came from a small town and moved to the big city to grow their local success. After 20 years of playing medium paced and ultra melodic but gritty punk rock with everyman vocals, they are grouped with Husking Bee, Eastern Youth, and other heavyweights of Japanese punk yet struggle to survive. The members have to deal with singer Hideki Yoshimura’s controlling attitude and rude demeanor and will most likely never break through, but keep plowing on because the music is all that they have going for them at this point in their lives.
In the past, ultra cool actor and super fan Asano Tadanobu has played with the Butchers and the band has shared bills with Fugazi and Rage Against The Machine (Zach says he saw them play at Yo-Yo-a-Go-Go in Olympia and at Jabberjaw), but these days the tension is quite palpable as they sign for small groups of hardcore fans at Tower Records or meet to discuss their status with their label. Guitarist Tabuchi Hisako and the other band members are quite frank about how they have to baby Yoshimura, who treats them all like shit. It is more than a little awkward when the humble Komatsu Masahiro says that he’s “just a band drummer,” but when they get on stage, everything is way better than okay. And when they get off, it’s instant awkwardness all over again. The editing style is simple and powerful like the music, forgoing production tricks in favor of huge, natural tides of energy and emotion. It’s unforced and effective.
Members of other bands (Husking Bee, Beat Crusaders, Eastern Youth) share their takes on the band and marvel at its membership’s stability, and it’s clear from the start the Bloodthirsty Butchers’ story is neither comic nor tragic–although there are elements of both. Rather, it faces the ongoing, impossible, and very honest challenge to sustain youthful energy and optimism in the face of big bills, aging fans, and lousy record sales. The struggle is not unique or particularly dramatic but it is real, and it will engage everyone who ever vowed to never sell out.