When Misuzu first walked in the room on the night of our interview, the first thing I noticed was his cool, unpretentious demeanor. I first met him a few months back during one of Trash A Go-Go’s garage rock events. He was wearing his signature look of a black fitted blazer, skinny jeans, and black square framed glasses. His easygoing vibe is starkly opposed to the personality that takes over the stage as he rocks the crowd into a frenzied state with his gargantuan guitar sound. Misuzu, is a well-known Shanghainese guitarist of the bands The Beat Bandits and The Instigation. He is also co-godfather of the MT Hooligans, the people behind Trash A Go-Go, the multi-night garage rock event. I’d recently heard some rumors about his past band experiences and wanted to get the scoop on who The Beat Bandits really are.
Layabozi: I recently heard some rumors about you. Two words: Banana Monkey.
Misuzu: Three years ago I decided to do some garage rock ‘n’ roll and I met Bono, the Banana Monkey lead singer. I felt it was a mistake, because I wanted it to be all real garage rockabilly. We became really famous after two years, and did a commercial gig for Dior in Vogue magazine. But all these people knew nothing about rock ‘n’ roll, they didn’t understand the music. Our manager wanted us to be very commercial and big, all about the money, but it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in.
LYBZ: So how did The Beat Bandits come together?
Misuzu: Beat Bandits came together last winter when I met Toshi, the Japanese guitarist. It was my first time [working] with a foreigner. It was a very different experience working with him: he’s very serious about rock, even more serious than me. Before The Beat Bandits I loved Hotter Than Teppanyaki (even though they weren’t really rock) but I really loved the drummer, Dave, because he really loved sixties rock ‘n’ roll. It was also hard to find a keyboardist and it’s a typical sound for [a] garage band. For [The] Beat Bandits I wanted to do a very pure garage band. Rina (the keyboardist), also Shanghainese, she loves surf and rock ‘n’ roll and the special thing is that she only likes to play with one hand. It’s a key thing. So I picked some songs that I didn’t do before The Beat Bandits, like the song “Beat Bandits,” or Link Wray style, and I was looking for a band to do these songs. Beat Bandits gave me the opportunity.
LYBZ: How do you guys write your music?
Misuzu: One of us will play a melody and just try to play together. Very simple.
LYBZ: What do you guys think about when you play music?
Misuzu: Actually we don’t think much about it. We just do it. Sometimes I dream that I’m a foreigner from the fifties and that we’re on world tour and tonight we play here, especially for you.
LYBZ: How is your guitar style different in each band?
Misuzu: I think the same; it’s my style. It’s my problem. I’ve been playing this kind of old style rock ‘n’ roll for three years and its very hard to change styles.
LYBZ: Where did you get your ideas for your guitar style?
Misuzu: It’s a long story, I started band life in 2002 when I was very young and I decided to play when I saw some Beijing bands, especially metal, performing in Shanghai. But at the time there was fewer bands in Shanghai and I decided to do something different. I [didn’t] know how to play electric guitar, I just play[ed] acoustic and classical guitar. I also found Sonic Youth in 2002. I love the noisy things. This is my sound dream. I just learned to play some noisy things.
LYBZ: What are some of your influences?
Misuzu: My influences are Justin Moor and Pussy Galore with Jon Spencer. [Jon Spencer is] a very important guy for me. He’s half avante-garde and half blues. So before 2006 I wanted to be avante-garde [like] Jon Spencer and after 2006 I want to be the blues Jon Spencer. He led me to the Rolling Stones. Before 2006 I use to hate them.
LYBZ: What makes Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones) and Link Wray (50s rockabilly guitarist) so special?
Misuzu: I love Link Wray more than [The] Rolling Stones. British rock ‘n’ roll… learned about rock ‘n’ roll music from America, but they played their style and made roots rock ‘n’ roll into a very fashionable thing. Jon Spencer is so great because of his root inspiration, because it’s ugly, poor, and stinks. I identify with that.
LYBZ: You talk about Link Wray, Jon Spencer, Rolling Stones, these guys are not young guys anymore, and those old guys aren’t relevant anymore. Why don’t you like new music?
Misuzu: Corruption. The world is corruption and the world is going down. I love American culture from 1900-1960; I think there are a lot of great things there. But it didn’t happen in China and we didn’t know about it and a lot of American are going to lose a lot of that old rock ‘n’ roll. Nothing good has happened with new things.
LYBZ: Is it important for people to know who Link Wray is to really understand your music?
Misuzu: Link Wray for [even] foreign guy[s] is from a very long time ago. He started to show the people what electric guitar is, but [he has] just become a book reference. No, I don’t think they need to know. I just want them to love this kind of music and know what true music is.
LYBZ: What do you think about the audience of The Beat Bandits?
Misuzu: I don’t know if they know what we do. I think they just follow the beat and just jump! No one dances for us. I wish they would dance.
LYBZ: Is there an album in the making?
Misuzu: Yes, of course but we have no time. We really want to do CP and LP but its sad because right now we have no time.
LYBZ: If someone wants to know about The Beat Bandits what should they do?
LYBZ: What is Trash A Go-Go?
Misuzu: The MT Hooligans, Toshi and I started it. One day when we were playing with The Beat Bandits, I thought I want[ed] to do our own band party and play the old stuff that we love. I met a lot of the bands that also play there like Hotter Than Teppanyaki, Dudettes… they were all friends of Toshi. It’s the one place for people to come to hear pure garage rock ‘n’ roll in Shanghai. Our next party is happening in Halloween at Logo and YYT. Its going to be crazy.
LYBZ: Well good luck with your band and I look forward to rocking out with you guys at the next Trash A Go-Go event.