You might not expect a punk group to have song titles like “Twist Barbie,” “Banana Chips,” and “Ramen Rock,” but Shonen Knife is far from your traditional punk group. Since 1981, these Japanese rockers have taken pride in writing about whatever catches their collective fancy, whether it’s a popular doll or a favorite food. Their particular brand of lighthearted, no-holds-barred DIY style has garnered them plenty of famous fans—most notably, the members of Nirvana and Sonic Youth. They just released a live DVD/CD called ALIVE! in Osaka; right now, they’re embarking on their ALIVE! in the USA Tour, which will take them across the country.
Recently, we had the chance to send Naoko, Shonen Knife’s frontwoman, a few questions about the band. In her responses, she talked about the songs on ALIVE! in Osaka, her memories of Kurt Cobain, and more.
TYF: Since your inception in 1981, you’ve played countless shows all over the world. Which concert was your most memorable?
Naoko: I usually forget things quickly. I don’t remember and it’s hard to choose one. I hope there will be the most good memorable show will be happening in the future.
TYF: What were the first rock shows you saw that inspired you to become a musician?
Naoko: I wasn’t inspired by any rock show to become a musician. I just enjoy shows. My first rock show was Aerosmith and the second was KISS. I really love KISS.
TYF: You’re about to go on your ALIVE! in the USA tour. I read that “each city will have its own personalized and limited edition artwork available at the show”; could you elaborate on this?
Naoko: I don’t know about that. I will research.
TYF: You just released the DVD/CD ALIVE! in Osaka. One of the most fun songs on the tracklist is “Bear Up Bison.” What was the inspiration behind this song?
Naoko: When I went to Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, [the] panda was so popular and there were so many people in front of the cage but no one in front of bison’s cage and it smelled bad. I felt sorry for it and wrote a song.
TYF: Another song is “Rock’n’Roll T-shirt.” Out of all the “Rock’n’Roll T-shirts” you’ve owned, which is your favorite?
Naoko: My favorite is [a] Judas Priest British Steel shirt.
TYF: Your song “Buttercup (I’m a Supergirl)” was written for the Powerpuff Girls. How did this collaboration happen?
Naoko: I’ve heard that the creator of The Powerpuff Girls, Craig McCracken, likes Shonen Knife and we got an offer to write a theme song for Buttercup from Cartoon Network.
TYF: Who is “Antonio Baka Guy”?
Naoko: It’s a big seashell which is for decoration as a furniture at my parents house.
TYF: You toured with Nirvana; what are your favorite memories of the band?
Naoko: At the UK tour [in] 1991, they had a secret gig. Kurt wanted to play our song “Twist Barbie” there. I taught the guitar chords to him and practiced together a while. He was so smart and learned it quickly.
TYF: Thank you so much for the interview! Any final words?
Naoko: Please come to our show and let’s share fantastic time together.