Representing NY punk scene where minorities shine. “Start a band and play music. Suppressed girls should have a lot to say.”
[ JAPANESE / ENGLISH ]
Structure and Words_Dai Yoshida
Interview and Photos_YAGI (Low Vision / Unarm)
“Let’s get involved with the Olympics and get rich.” The good old scenery of Tokyo is destroyed by intimidating designs of the newly constructed commercial buildings. When you look inside a rare traditional townhouse, you see fake American west coast atmosphere renovated by a consultant guy who runs an online salon and wearing weird glasses. Pretentious hipsters are enjoying expensive coffee that costs ¥1,000. The surrounding area becomes a hip spot and the rent goes up. The people rooted in the hood gets pushed out somewhere else. This is what you call gentrification.
When you look at the streets, you see “public art” that takes way homeless people’s spaces. Anyone who interferes with business of the riches gets excluded from society. Street skaters getting harassed is no exception. Shibuya Center Street and Koma Theater Square in Shinjuku are known as the famous street drink spots in Tokyo but they will eventually get banned as well in the near future.
But if you have money, Tokyo should be the best! You can get whatever you want in a neat little package. If you have enough money, you can stay at home and prevent COVID-19 as much as possible. Literally, it’s “cash rules everything around me” in Tokyo. Anyway, streets of Tokyo have become the place that connect money-collecting large corporations and politicians. There’s no room for outsiders without money. The situation has gotten worse in the last 30 years. It’s impossible to survive in Tokyo today without having a job or a residence, living like a beautiful rat. We have no freedom to drop out. You know that, right?
NY’s the same as Tokyo. Rather, they have harsher gentrification they need to deal with. Squatting is absolutely impossible and the rent is skyrocketing. Punks, who used to be free and reckless, I hear that they have no choice but to change their lifestyle. But the place where the “unorthodox” punks can stay true to themselves can only exist in major cities. That’s why they all have jobs and work hard to feed themselves and pay crazy rent. And still, you can’t really say they’re financially successful.
But things aren’t too bad. It’s ironic but by having multiple jobs, people are starting something creative and they’re becoming very active in street culture. In the current NY punk scene, all these people that are into different stuff like music, photography, design and cooking… they’re getting together and feeding off of each other. Why? It’s probably because everyone is respected and given a fair chance to succeed. Punk scene in NY is very vibrant.
Yagi is a member of Tokyo hardcore band Low Vision and Unarm, a part-time photographer and a self-confessed gay. He passionately talks about Krimewatch.
“I got blown away by the first song in their debut album (*). I mean, Rhylli was shouting ‘the world is hell and never give in’ over and over again in Japanese. She’s a Japanese girl who grew up in the US. She had been discriminated as minority. We started to notice more racists and sexists after Trump became the president. In that environment, Rhylli is proud of being an Asian and a woman. She’s proud of being the minority and she was sending out a strong message to the world. When I listened to it for the first time, I almost cried.”—Yagi from LOW VISION / UNARM
So here it is, we sat down with NY’s Krimewatch. Tokyo… or Japan is fucked with gentrification, COVID-19, absurd actions of the pathetic politicians (Two-mask pledge? Are you guys serious?). But if you read this interview we’re sure that you can get through the chaos. There’s some information about punk / hardcore bands that are worth checking out too, so just sit back, relax and enjoy. And yeah, let’s all be safe.
Five-track demo by Krimewatch released in 2016 gained attention from punks across the world and encouraged many girls and women. In fact, a lot of girls who don’t look like punks came to the show during their Japan tour in the summer of 2019. It was more than a live music show. It became a place where people could meet new people and start something creative.
VHSMAG (V)： You’ve toured outside the US like Europe and Japan. What are the differences you feel in each place?
Emma Hendry (E)： The hospitality in Japan is unparalleled. We felt really taken care of and appreciated.
V： What about the audience?
E： I think it kind of depends on the city, rather than the country, or the part of the world, just like the bands that are playing and how it's booked.
V： I guess some of the shows are easier and some are not.
E： We always get really psyched when we see people that aren't men. We see young people, a diverse crowd. It always makes us feel more comfortable and more excited. The bands playing sometimes represent that crowd so more diverse the better.
Shayne Benz (SB)： A little bit of hardcore, a little bit of punk and something in the middle, for everyone.
E： We feel really hyped when we have a good, a nice balance like tonight.
V： We had O.U.T, Systematic Death, Forward, Eiefits, Low Vision and Fixed tonight.
Rhylli Ogiura (R)： We had punk, hardcore bands... Younger bands, older bands, middle ground. It's nice when we see them working together.
E： Yeah, like bridging the gap between the hierarchy that exists in the scene. We don’t need hierarchy.
R： It's even cool just watching the band, like the older bands watching the younger bands. And I don't know what the Japan scene is like at all, but I just thought it was a cool mix tonight.
Sean Joyce (SJ)： Yeah. At Yokohama, it was so cool to see every singer be not a man. That was really cool.
After the 2000’s, many started putting out stuff on social media. Needless to say, punk band members were no exception. Recently there’s cases where people become fans through band member’s personal social media account. Online connection can turn into actual bands and units. YBN is one of the good examples that got formed through Xbox group chat. Krimewatch members also use social media but surprisingly they met each other in the punk community. On top of that, they live together in a residence / venue creative space, so as punks, they seem to be very traditional.
V： Let’s talk about how the band got started. You guys are based in NY and Emma’s from Boston, right?
SB： I'm from NY. I grew up on Long Island, and I moved to the city when I was 19. And I started hanging out with the punks, and starting going to shows. Then we all slowly moved to NY, and all just worked friendships through punk. So we all met through punk.
V： I heard Rhylli was into hip-hop at first.
R： No, I like all music. But punk was the first live music I saw.
E： We met at a basement show.
SJ： I met Rhylli in San Francisco.
R： I think it was 2014, when I was in Oakland.
V： How about you, Emma?
E： I'd just moved to NY from Boston and I didn't have a ton of friends as I'd just moved there. I had just gotten a bass, so I'd had a lot of time based on my lack of friends. I learnt how to play the bass a bit. And I just wrote some songs as a way of teaching myself the bass. So the songs that I wrote are a fair amount of the demo songs, and I was trying to start a band with them. I was inspired by my sister, who was in Firewalker (*). I'd been in bands before but I played keyboard, so this was my first time playing bass. And I knew that Shayne was starting drums. I knew that she had cool music taste so I just asked her to at least listen to them. And then we tried to play them together. It just worked out really well.
V： Krimewatch is the first band for Rhylli, right?
R： Well, I was friends with Shayne for a long time, but my friend Tye in L.O.T.I.O.N. (*), he's half Japanese. And I met him when I was maybe 13 or 14. He moved to my town in Scarsdale in NY, and I listened to alternative music before that. But when I met him, he was like, "You should listen to this... Like, fuck that shit." He was like, "Listen to punk." And then he took me to shows at ABC No Rio (*) at Manhattan, and then I made a lot of friends there. And they've been my friends ever since.
V： Then you guys formed a band?
R： At first I was taking pictures at every show and I think that's how I participated. I took photos and I met people, and I put it on my Tumblr, or my Flickr website, and then I was just always at the show to socialize and make friends. I never thought I would play music. Because I was like, "I'm just hanging out. I take pictures. This is enough for me."
E： We asked her to play in the band. Me and Rhylli, we're pretty new friends, but we're hanging out and I just thought she had a cool, effortless quality. We were trying to figure out who should sing in the band, you know, and I was like, "Well, what about Rhylli?" And it was like, "Oh, it'd be cool." I didn't really know what her music taste was like at all.
V： Rhylli didn't have any experience in singing in the band, right?
E： Yeah, but we didn't think that it was necessary.
SB： We had no experience. It wasn't like, "Oh, we need an expert singer."
V： What did you see in Rhylli?
E： She had a lot of good energy to put out. And if we were going to be putting ourselves out there, and being vulnerable with learning something that's not easy to learn, especially as a woman... You know, it's... I think it's something that people don't want to necessarily accept right away, or take seriously right away. I know that having somebody who was positive and confident, that would impart a lot of good energy into what we were creating.
V： How about you, Sean? You're the only guy in the band. Not that it makes any difference.
SJ： They just asked me if I would play guitar.
E： It was one practice. And we were all like, "Okay, this was fun."
SB： It was kind of hard to find a guitarist that was down at first. It didn't matter if it was a dude or a girl or whatever. We were just, "Oh cool, we want someone that's also psyched and down."
E： It was really great to hear a guitar to this bass line that I wrote, because it sounds really cool... Like, "Oh wow, there's a guitar happening."
V： Emma, you're from Boston. It’s famous for having straight edge hardcore bands. What was the reason for you to start a hardcore band rather than a straight edge?
E： I mean... I've never been straight edge, so it wouldn't seem natural for me to start a straight edge band. But you know, I love Boston hardcore and New York hardcore. I love them both so equally. My sister started a hardcore band, Leather Daddy (*) and Firewalker, and I was inspired by that. My parents were into hardcore too. But it's not the only type of music I like. I love the energy of playing in a hardcore band.
V： Krimewatch icon is inspired by the neighborhood watch logo. Is there a message behind it?
E： They don't have that guy in Boston, so when I saw the guy, I just thought it was really cute. I came up with the name and a logo but it was a group thing. It's really not too much thought gone into it other than I thought the name Krimewatch sounded cool. And Krimewatch is really just the name of the band. There's no deeper meaning.
R： We're not like policing anything.
V： Oh, I thought there was a deeper meaning.
E： Not at all. We’re not vigilantes, it’s just a word that sounds cool.
V： So you guys started a band. How was your first show?
SJ： It was a good show.
R： Yeah, it went good.
SB： It was with Firewalker, I.C.E (*) and Acrylic (*). Personally, I was terrified. I was walking around the block, trying to throw up, I was so scared. Because you know, you're putting yourself out there. And you feel vulnerable. As if there's not enough reasons to feel vulnerable in this crazy world, you're doing something for the first time.
E： I was definitely frozen, just barely hitting the notes.
SB： I dropped my sticks.
R： I was having nightmares. Nightmares. I had this one dream, that I was in a bathtub, with a shower curtain, and it was just me. And the band was behind me, and all of a sudden, someone takes the shower curtain off, and then... Nobody's there, and it's just me...
SB： I was literally asking people, “Do you think you want to book my band? Will you book my band?” So worried that we would play one show and then that’s it.
V： So you guys worked your way up.
E： We weren’t expecting much from the first show. But the flier I made for the first show is a secret hint to the LP artwork. I got the idea at the time and then drew it more in detail for the LP, but it's a little cityscape with the Krimewatch over it. We hadn't even fully worked out the exact angles of the OG Krimewatch guy yet.
With the internet, the platform for DIY hardcore scene has transitioned from MySpace to Bandcamp and Soundcloud. With YouTube, music and videos of various genre has been archived. If you have time and motivation you can dig and enjoy all the classics endlessly. Younger punk generations have found limited editions from the 80’s Japanese hardcore bands, footage from VHS tape someone bought through mail order. They probably got inspired by all the archives along with the newest hip-hop releases. Krimewatch members were one of them.
V： people say that your sound reminds them of the 80's Japanese hardcore.
R： Cool, thank you.
E： I'll take it.
V： Do you ever listen to Japanese bands from those days?
SB： Absolutely. I got inspired by The Comes (*).
R： The Execute (*), Gauze (*).
SB： The Nurse (*).
R： Aburadako (*).
V： Are there any other genre you guys are influenced besides hardcore?
E： We really like JFA (*).
SB： Yeah... Like skate punk. I like thrash. I used to like thrash a lot.
E： It's a little melodic but also tough.
R： I like Metallica.
SJ： Yeah, Metallica.
SB： Cryptic Slaughter (*). They're like a cross-over band. Really fast and cool breakdowns. We kind of adopt that structure. You know, a fast part, a cool little breakdown in the middle, in the same vein as New York hardcore.
V： Rhylli’s influenced by hip-hop too. How do you connect with hip-hop?
R： I think hip-hop is... I don't know, I always felt like an outsider. And I always felt I didn’t fit in, or whatever. Honestly I felt empowered through hip-hop, because it was very tough music, but there was still a lot of passion and emotion behind it. But it was also fun. Also it was like, "Fuck you, fuck the world." So I listened to a lot of Notorious B.I.G., Big L... A lot of NY hip-hop because I felt stronger because of it. I felt really weak when I was around the people I grew up around.
V： What do you mean?
R： It was just difficult growing up. But I felt like... music in general really helped me to escape daily things that made me feel terrible. Yeah, I'd put my music in, and... I don't know, be in my own world. And there was a lot of different music, but hip-hop made me feel strong and confident. The words really resonated with me, and made me feel like... Like I somehow understood.
E： I feel like we bonded over hip-hop. Like Dipset.
R： Yeah. Mob Deep, Big L, Nas, Lil' Kim, Lauryn Hill…
V： How about trap music?
E： Yeah, Gucci Mane!
R： It's empowering. Music is empowering. There's passion. There's passion and power in music. Look where music has brought us. We’re in Tokyo. It's amazing.
E： Yeah. We get inspired by different genres but at the end of the day it’s all the same…
V： I can see you don’t categorize music. You mentioned skate rock. You guys played at SXSW in Austin last year and there was a mini ramp contest. Your song was used in Thrasher’s recap video. Did you know that?
E： Of course.
V： How did that happen?
E： They hit us up.
R： My friend works at Thrasher. But I don't think it's because of that at all.
SB： Yeah. I think they just liked our vibe. We didn't know that they were going to use the song.
E： It’d be nice to do more stuff with Vans and Thrasher.
SB： Yeah, they’re nice people.
Many female fans came to Krimewatch shows in Japan. It seemed like they were making new connections at the venue. In fact, Rhylli met three Japanese girls at the show, hung out at the beach in Hayama the day after, then got together with Yagi and enjoyed the night at LGBTQ town Shinjuku-Nichome.
“Rhylli and I met three girls in the early 20s. They were fans of Rhylli rather than Krimewatch. So they didn’t look punk at all but they were conscious about social issues. My band Low Vision played at the show and I talked about homophobic and sexism on stage. One of the girls said she couldn’t help but to stand up when she heard that. She had just come out that she’s lesbian. So we got drinks. It made me feel happy. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in normal punk and hardcore shows in Japan. It’s because the people come to the show are friends, someone you know, and those who like punk music. We don’t really see female and sexual minorities like in NY. There’s a gap between the band and audience, and sometimes hierarchy. But Krimewatch show was different. We saw all these different kinds of people. It wasn’t a coincidence. It was their power that brought them. I felt the sisterhood and unity at their show.”
V： What’s the hardcore punk fan’s general age group in NY?
SB： Our age, late 20s, early 30s. There are young people, and there are people that are older than us, mixed in, but I would say like... up to 40. NY has been a crowd of people who grew up in the punk scene, and are aging, but still playing bands, still going to shows. The same people who are going to shows 10, 15 years ago are still playing music in NY. So, it's not that it's a scene where the people are disappearing, and there's a brand new scene... It's aging.
R： It's all connected.
E： I think people are also really welcoming younger people.
R： I think because NY is such a major city, and there's always bands touring, and always bands coming through, it gives everybody a chance. New bands and older bands are always playing shows. So it's constantly moving. People are constantly inspired. There are shows, like three or four days out of the week.
V： Are there many girls playing hardcore punk?
E： When I was in Boston, I was in a punk band called Saint Ripper (*), that's still active. And then, a bunch of people from that band started another band. And my sister was like, "Oh, Emma's in a band, I can start a band," and started Leather Daddy and then Firewalker... and it just snowballed. But I think also in NY, there have been a lot of women in bands, too.
SB： Every cool show is going to have women playing.
V： Were there many hardcore bands like that?
SB： No, it's been in the past six years. It's relatively recent. Perdition (*), Thriller, Crazy Spirit (*), Dawn of Humans (*), Hank Wood (*), they were all male, and were huge, and extremely popular. I remember there was a few bands, Cervix being one of them, who was a predominantly female band. There wasn't a lot of women in the scene who were making music. But it was only a matter of time before the women who were participating in that scene for a long time started bands of their own.
E： La Misma (*) is one of them.
R： What was that band with Emma and Tye?
SB： Sad Boys (*). That was a real big turning point for NY punk scene. They sounded different, they sounded new, they sounded fresh. People loved them. They brought a lot of cool energy to the scene. Angie and Emma were in that band, and they were talented musicians.
E： Different Emma.
SB： Different Emma. Emma from Portland. But I think they helped set the pace for female bands.
R： Yeah, I remember seeing Sad Boys because Tye was playing guitar and I went to the show. It was at Heaven Street Records. A long time ago. I was like, "Wow, this is so sick." There's a girl singing, and she's killing it.
SB： Yeah, it changed the dynamic of the NY scene for sure. Now it's very common.
R： La Misma, Subversive Rite (*), Sub Space (*), Terrorist (*), Exotica (*), Twisted Thing (*)… There’s a lot of women in bands. And we all support and cheer each other because it's hard being a woman.
V： Japan is not there yet.
R： That's why, when I was on stage, I said, "If you're young and especially if you're a woman, you should start a band and make music together." That's what we saw... There's a lack of young people. At least women came to some of the shows…
E： When we go on tour, wherever, I feel like people always book us with other women, and we love it. I think it's cool.
SB： I think we've made a lot of connections with other women all over the world through Krimewatch. We'll go through a city, like Indianapolis, middle of America, and a woman will book the show. I think that's special, because a lot of people don't get to experience that.
V： Some people label Krimewatch as feminist hardcore band. How do you feel about that?
E： I've never heard that as a music genre before. We’re just a punk band.
SJ： Yeah, hardcore punk.
SB： If it empowers girls to start a band, to participate more in their scene, to speak up in their scene, then that's sick.
E： I mean, we should all be feminists in a way and maybe it’s a good thing that people see us like that. But that’s just a happy result. We’re just a hardcore punk band.
V： The reason I asked is because we have more gender discrimination than America. Women are expected to act a certain way… How is it like in America?
R： At least, I don't feel like I grew up traditional Japanese. My parents are very free-spirited. They lived in New York in the 80s and they liked punk music. They didn't want to live in Japan so I think I grew up different. And when I come to Japan, I feel very different. I don't know the proper language to address an older person respectfully. I don't know how to greet certain people. Or, I don't know the rules. And there's a lot of rules. That's what I was saying to Emma, "There's a lot of rules in Japan." And I think the rules are stricter for women, I think. I mean, at least, when I talk to girls at shows, I say, "There's not that many of you here." And they say, "Yeah, it's pretty hard for us." That's why I made that speech, saying, "You got to keep trying... It's important." And if they're oppressed, they have so much to say. I know they have so much to say.
SJ： So much good punk to write.
R： Yeah, there's so much punk for them to write.
E： They should, they need to.
R： If you feel something, and you want to express it, you can get together with your friends and figure out a way to put it out there.
SB： That's what punk is all about. Just doing it yourself. Just do it. Put yourself out there, because it feels a lot better than being afraid and keeping it inside.
V： Rhylli, for the zine that you’re currently working on, you said that you wanted to interview Japanese female punks. Why is that?
R： My friend Milah is the editor of Dizzy Magazine and the next issue is about Japan! She asked me if I would be interested in interviewing punk women in Tokyo. The most exciting part of our tour in Japan back in August 2019 was talking to everyone who came to the shows, especially the women. I grew up in NY and I’ve been very interested in what life is like for a woman in Japan, so I asked three women who are active in punk bands around Japan about their experiences through their own music activities.
V： What can VHSMAG viewers do about gender discrimination?
R： Be more supportive and empathetic.
SB： Just listen more and talk less.
SJ： And let women skate at the parks a little. Get out of their way a little.
V： No mansplaining. Men tend to pressure women unconsciously…
R： Just try to see our perspective, which is hard.
SB： Yeah, walk a mile... in my shoes.
R： Yeah. And not just because you want to hook up with them, or because you think they're pretty. Or because you think they're cool. Just be their friend, with no expectation.
V： You have to have respect. Message to the female skaters that are reading this interview?
R： You're great. You're fucking killing it. Do what you like to do.
E： Encourage your friends.
SB： Speak together.
SJ： Listen to JFA.
All： Yeah, listen to JFA!
Krimewatch is NY hardcore band formed in 2015. The band consists of three female members and a male guitarist. Japanese American vocalist Rhylli Ogiura shouts Japanese / English lyrics. Their demo tape in 2016 gained worldwide recognition in hardcore punk scene. In 2018 they released their debut album from Lockin’ Out Records. They've played in and outside the US and toured Japan in 2019.