The Gospel According To… Presents ‘The Gerogerigegege – Night’
Jonathan Brodsky wants you to know all about the worst music you’ll ever hear. Join him on a magical mystery tour through the world of Gerogerigegege.
Have you ever pooped?
By golly, I have!
To be absolutely honest, I really enjoy defecating; I don’t know if that means that I’d enjoy a man’s penis going in and out of there – in fact, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t (a woman’s penis, on the other hand…) -, but the act of passing stool through my colon and out my rectum has served as a very relaxing and pleasurable pastime for me, granted I’m within close proximity of a clean, available bathroom. And yes, I did call it a pastime: between my irritable bowel syndrome and my irregular body clock, number two is probably my number one favourite daily occurrence. I even downloaded a little iPhone app the other day that keeps track – via GPS, of course – of all the places that I lay cable. I can’t wait to start using it.
But it’s never only about the experience: the result stands for something, too. I’d go so far as to say that I’m incredibly proud of some of the movements I’ve composed (compost?) over the years: I’ve even taken pictures of several of the more notable ones, though most of them – like the abstract blasts of feces depicted therein – have been flushed away by time and circumstance, but the fond memories remain. Many a spicy dinner has left its stain on my porcelain kingdom, the capsaicin and habanero extracts dancing a fiery tango in the ballroom of my anus with such fervour that, in their wake, they leave behind a surprisingly potent waft of steam. This is more than poetry or artful expression: this is the aftermath of my eating a pound of Armageddon (very much a proper noun in these circumstances) wings at Duff’s. And that will stay with me and anyone unfortunate enough to be using an adjacent stall for many years to come.
So, yes, as we’ve ascertained, I’m not above the occasional Excregram® (wait for it: it will be a thing), but how far would I be willing to take the posterity of my posterior? Without divulging too much, pretty damn far, but the one avenue upon which I just wouldn’t be able to muster creating any work of sincere conviction involving my rectal waste would be in my music. Oh, I’m not at all fond of the songs I used to write, but I’m speaking more literally.
“But Jonathan,” nobody said, “wouldn’t incorporating crap into your music be a really original thing to do?”
“But, Jonathan’, nobody continued, “GG Allin only ever shat as part of his act: he never incorporated it into his songwriting.”
And while this is true, I am not here today to write about GG Allin (although I did see the Murder Junkies this week, and that Dino Sex can sure take a pair of drumsticks up the ass).
No; today, we’re going to take a trip to Japan, where weirdness is as commonplace as the nuclear fallout that in all likelihood precipitated it. Particularly, we’re going to take an imaginary trip to the seedy Shinjuku district of Tokyo in the 1980s, where one of the most egregious, challenging, and boundary-pushing artists of our or any time hails from. I am, of course, talking about Juntaro Yamanouchi, noise experimenter and cross-dresser extraordinaire, and his remarkably diverse anti-art project, The Gerogerigegege.
The Gerogerigegege (pronounced ‘gerro-gary-gay-gay-gay’) – literally ‘simultaneously vomiting and vacating one’s bowels’ – was conceived in 1985 by Mr. Yamanouchi as an outlet for the art influenced by his experiences working as an entertainer in the homosexual S&M clubs in the aforementioned Shinjuku region. The early work released under the name hinted at their future, with 1985’s self-titled cassette hosting two sides of abstract noise and 1987’s Showa LP (housed in a sleeve which depicted a portrait of the then-recently departed Hirohito) featuring the Japanese national anthem followed by nearly 40 minutes of audio sourced from a Japanese pornographic videotape. Even their most traditionally musical offering, a 1988 7″ record of surprisingly slick rock music entitled “Sexual Behavior In The Human Male’, interspersed its relative convention with audio verité recordings of ‘senzuri’ – the Japanese colloquialism for ‘male masturbation’ – being carried out by a middle-aged man that Juntaro met and befriended whilst working together in the underground sex trade.
While other collaborators came and went, most fans agree that the core members of the Gerogerigegege were Juntaro Yamanouchi and this older gentleman who, although born Tetsuya Endoh, preferred to go by the title of Gero 30 (the number coming from how many years older he was than Juntaro). Gero 30 was (at the height of the Gerogerigegege’s activity) a fellow in his mid 50s who was no stranger to the urolagnia and scat-play that enticed the audiences who flocked in droves to Tokyo’s red light district. While Juntaro was the conceptualist behind the Gero’s many varied works, it was Gero 30 who best encapsulated and brought to life the sexual motivations behind the outfit’s work: regardless of how Juntaro was expressing himself at any given moment or phase of the band’s career, fans could always rely on Gero 30 as a constantly masturbating anchor, holding down the band’s perverse and subversive ideologies with a flick (or a thousand flicks) of his imaginably tired wrist(s).
And so it was that among their myriad concerts, manifestos, and recordings that 1993’s rather innocuous-looking Night 7″ was released as a vinyl-only edition of 500 on the German Ant-Zen imprint. Aesthetically, it was in keeping with many of their other seven-inch releases: the same year’s Yellow Trash Bazooka boasted 80 ‘songs’ (read: blasts of unintelligible noise) across its 13-minute runtime, only distinguishable by the title announcements separating them. Mother Fellatio – also from 1993 – was similar in execution, albeit with an infinitely lesser sense of where the 84 tracks it claims to host across its 12-minute length begin and end.
Night, by comparison, appears very terse: the monochromatic sleeve with its near-congruent layout suggests that these 7″ records are part of a series, but this entry appears to be the odd man out of the trilogy: where 164 songs are alleged to exist between the other entries, Night provides only one track per side – Night T2 – T4 and Night T3 – T1, respectively. Are these two ‘pieces’ merely the same territories of grindcore being explored, albeit at a more epic length, or are these just more multi-track suites of the Gero’s binary ‘on-off’ noise that Juntaro merely couldn’t be bothered to individually name?
The needle drops and we wait. It catches the wax and we hear the familiar crackle of the pre-groove, followed by Juntaro’s requisite and now-familiar introductory bellow of ‘one, two, sree, foah!’, and then…
Even the band’s fans – flexible, open-minded, and challenge-craving by the very nature of their self-identification as Gero fans – are torn: not only between the validity of what they’re hearing as enjoyable or even ‘art’, but as to what is happening. The liner notes themselves give no hints, only stating that the contents were recorded on August 15th of no particular year in Tokyo and that the sounds we hear were produced live without additional overdubbing.
Although some fans surmise that the sounds we hear on this record (and although both sides contain unique aural content, they’re pitching a similar trajectory) are that of Juntaro noisily performing fellatio on Gero 30, the more common consensus is that our favourite senzuri champion is perhaps adhering to part of the band’s name a little too literally for most of our comfort by going so far as to actually record themselves taking an extended shit. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be an engineer at a recording studio in Japan and have to contend with the eccentricities of acts like these: perhaps it comes as no surprise that the liner notes don’t list the name of the engineer who helped commit this curiosity to tape.
And as for who is voiding themselves (if that is indeed what’s going on), the liner notes suggest that Mr. Yamanouchi is the performer, but I think the biggest clue – not only as to who is carrying out the ‘accident’, but what exactly is going on – can be taken from the sleeve itself, which appears to show Gero 30 on his knees whilst wearing an expression of visible strain on his face… as well as a diaper. While 1992’s More Shit EP saw Gero proudly granting themselves the title of ‘Japanese Ultra Shit Band’, Night‘s cover image is likely the most confirmation that we’ll ever get of their ostensibly taking the designation to extremes that seem uncomfortable by even their benchmark: the endless rustling of a soiled adult diaper is a bit much for even me to take at some points, so I can only imagine how squeamish most of the population would feel if faced with this.
Gero’s anti-music sound art is not a unique phenomenon – especially in Japan. They were not the first or even the biggest act to strip away whatever limited musicality the industrial and power-electronics movements were hiding in pursuit of abrasive textures or taboo imagery, but they were certainly an act that put a rare priority on diversity and unpredictability: each of their nearly three-dozen releases has distinguishable characteristics that make them easily identifiable: any noise neophyte can tell you how incredibly rare this is, and given that their care to demarcate their works is notable among the myriad acts of this ilk, even Gero’s detractors can agree that they are not your average noise punishers.
Whether setting a homeless man’s rambling to aleatoric piano odysseys (as on Endless Humiliation) or subjecting what is assumed to be an self-oscillating guitar tuner to heavy phasing (None Friendly), not every record was an endless series of electronic clashes, thrashes, and bashes. And given the space of 250 Merzbow albums that are little more than deviations of the above, Gero’s exponential sound traversals, given an eighth of Masami Akita’s discographic occupation, were a welcome and refreshing change of pace in the Japanoise scene. Where others claim to be experimental but fall into a deluge of the same discomforting routine, The Gerogerigegege are one of the few acts in any genre or period of music that truly own and herald the term.
Whether you enjoy this record – whether it can even truly be enjoyed! – it still provides more fun and intrigue in its 8 pungent minutes than Jimmy Buffett has across 43 years of boring island schlock.
And regardless of what you think of Night, we can all still agree that it’s shit.