SOUL FLOWER UNION
Most dynamic, forceful Japanese alternative, mixture rock’n’ roll band existing.
1988: Eclectic punk band Newest Model (1985`1993) led by Nakagawa Takashi, and garage girl band Mescaline Drive (1984`1993) led by Itami Hideko, set up an independent label Soul Flower Records.
1989: Soul Flower Records signed a contract with the major record company King Records, and Newest Model and Mescaline Drive released in total ten singles, eight albums and mini-albums in the period up to 1993. Beginning with punk, mod music, soul, funk, traditional, and other styles, they explored music omnivorously and energetically with a strong focus on social criticism in order to liven up Japanese rock ‘n’ roll culture.
1992: Newest Model’s fifth album ‘Universal Invader’ (which reached 10th in Original Confidence, the Japanese music chart magazine) saw them at the top in terms of their popularity and musical quality. In September 1993, Newest Model and Mescaline Drive split up as individual bands and then reunited as Soul Flower Union. Mescaline Drive’s last album, which was being made at this time, was a concept album about the indigenous Ainu people of Japan. This album was eventually released as Soul Flower Union’s first album ‘Kamuy Ipirma’ in November 1993. (All lead vocals on this first album were by Utsumi Yoko).
1994: The second album ‘Watatumi Yamatumi’ was released. This was flavoured with the essence of Newest Model’s music. The created a new Soul Flower Union style which was a mix of Japanese native groove and Western rock ‘n’ roll.
1995: At the site of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, under the name Soul Flower Mononoke Summit, they started giving live performances in order to console the victims. Soul Flower Union’s rock ‘n’ roll outlook and Soul Flower Mononoke Summit’s chindon outlook began simultaneously
1996: The great masterpiece of Soul Flower’s early period was their third album ‘Electro Asyl-Bop’. This album included ‘Mangetsu no Yube’ (Full Moon Evening) which was created through their experience of the earthquake site. It also included ‘Umi Yukaba Odoru Kabane’ and ‘Eejyanaika’, and these later became their most exciting songs in live performance. In August, Mononoke Summit performed in Pyongyang, North Korea with the Peace Boat.
1997: After Soul Flower Union released the jazzy, Japanese pop style mini-album ‘Cosmic Futen Swing’, Mononoke Summit gave live performances in various places including Hong Kong, Da Nang in Vietnam, and Smoky Mountain in the Philippines. Nakagawa Takashi also formed a solo project known as Soul-cialist Escape and released ‘Lost Homeland’ and ‘Marginal Moon’ together with great radical Irish traditional musicians.
1999: Soul Flower’s album ‘Winds Fairground’ was like a condensed view of the 1990s which has a Japanese native groove tied together with Irish traditional music. This was their last release on a major record label. They then made promotional video clips in Ireland with the Japanese master of adult films, Wakamatsu Koji. (”Each Little Thing’; and ”Kaze no Ichi’ from ‘Winds Fairground’). In August they went to a music festival in Pusan, South Korea where they were the first Japanese rock band to officially visit the country after the government ban on the use of the Japanese language was lifted. At the end of the year they released their first live album ‘High Tide and Moonlight Bash’ on Soul Flower Record (after going back to an indie label for record producing).
2000: They topped the bill on the last day of the Green Stage at the Fuji Rock Festival and did a legendary live performance. At the end of the year they released their first motion picture soundtrack ‘Unchain’ (produced by Toyoda Toshiaki).
2001: The release of the album ‘Screwball Comedy’ was a return to a rock ‘n’ style, which included classic songs such as ‘Arechi Nite’ (At the Wasteland) and ‘Survivors’ Banquet’. Nakagawa Takashi produced the album ‘Spiritual Unity’ for Noborikawa Seijin, the godfather of the Okinawan minyo world. Together with Heatwave’s Yamaguchi Hiroshi he made the album ‘Azadi!?’ with the alternative band Japonesian Balls Foundation.
2002: Mononoke Summit went to Dili, East Timor for the independence celebration concert and also toured France (22 concerts in total). Nakagawa Takashi gave a live performance in front of Muneo House in Kunashiri Island in the Russian-held northern territories of Japan. In August, Soul Flower Union released ‘Love Plus Minus Zero’ which is the first of a sequence of albums concerned with pacifism.
2003: Bass guitarist Jigen joined to complete the current line-up – Nakagawa, Okuno, Kawamura, Koki, and Jigen. Itami concentrated on Mononoke Summit because of an ear problem, and the need to raise her child. A concept album ‘Shalom Salaam’ was released in which they call loudly for pacifism.
2004: The release of a single (!) ‘All Quiet on the Far Eastern Front!?’ containing 11 songs. Mononoke Summit played at the Migration Music Festival in Taiwan.
2005: They appeared at the Korea-Japan Road Club Festival 2005 in Seoul, South Korea. Mononoke Summit did a live performance at a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. In July, the album ‘Lorosae Mon Amour’ was released. At the end of this year the acoustic unit Soul Flower Acoustic Partisan began live activities.
2006: In June, ‘Deracine Ching Dong’ was released. This was the third Mononoke Summit album and their first for nine years. In September, Soul Flower Union released their third ‘Best of’ compilation ‘Ghost Hits 00`06’ which summaries their work in the 2000s.
2007: In January, a live DVD was released entitled ‘Live 9202’. This contained legendary performances by Newest Model. In February, they planned and then played at a music festival on Henoko beach in Okinawa which is where there are plans to build a new US military base. In June and November, they released two maxi-singles in succession – ‘La Vie Est Belle’ (Life is Beautiful) and ‘Negao Wo Misete’ (Let Me See Your Sleeping Face). Also, Nakagawa, Okuno, and Rikuo (solo singer/songwriter and pianist), began performing regularly as Soul Flower Acoustic Partisan.
2008: In March, the first live DVD ‘Live Henoko’ and singles collection album ‘Mangetsu no Yube`90s Singles’ were released. The 90s Singles album contains all their work from the period with Ki/oon Records. In June, they released a maxi-single ‘Umi E Yuku (Go To The Sea)’, and joined a music festival ‘Peace Music Festa! in Tokyo’. In September, their best album to date ‘Cante Diaspora’ was released.
Traditional music, soul, jazz, punk rock, reggae, Latin music, minyo, chindon music, rock ‘n’ roll and more are all explored energetically and omnivoriously. They are acclaimed as Japan’s strongest alternative mixture rock ‘n’ roll band. They are also highly regarded everywhere as the one and only band who embody their influences in their live performances which are like festivals.
Official Website: http://www.breast.co.jp/soulflower/
SOUL FLOWER UNION