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Rocking Out with Japanese Punk Band Wienners

by Nicholas Dupree,

If you've watched Digimon Ghost Game, you've heard the high energy, horror-rock opening theme “Faction” by Wienners. But while they're relatively new to anisong, Wienners have been delivering their unique brand of punk rock and electronica fusion since 2009. Along with providing the ending theme for the new Ninjala anime, they've also recently released their latest full-length LP, TREASURE, so they're set to have a busy year. ANN was able to ask the band about their unique influences, their approach to making themes for anime, and their history of rocking out.

Wienners has a very distinct sound for a rock group. How did the band go about developing such a mix of punk, rock, and electronica elements? Did you have any other musicians or bands that inspired your approach?

TAMAYA2060% (Vo/Gt): Before forming Wienners, I mainly listened to Japanese punk hardcore bands. I was particularly enamored with short-tune bands that played hardcore but with pop elements, or that played a variety of music at high speed, incorporating funk, soul, and other approaches. At the same time, I was also listening to techno-pop and electro-pop, which started to gain popularity in Japan in the early 2000s, and I was listening to Yasutaka Nakata's CAPSULE and Plus-Tech Squeeze Box simultaneously with punk.

I was searching record stores for a band or unit that combined these two musical elements, but I couldn't find anything, so I decided to start my own band, and that's how Wienners began.

Wienners' music is “a combination of electro elements with synthesizers and other genres of music put into the band's sound like hip-hop sampling, and output with the methodology and intensity of punk.” This is the axis of Wienners' music. The core of Wienners' music has always been punk music, but recently EDM, Dubstep, and hybrid world music such as Gqom and Singeli, which have been gaining momentum in the club music scene, are also hot music in my mind, so I am now incorporating such miscellaneous things into our band's sound.

Recently Wienners songs have become the themes for TV anime (“Faction” in Digimon Ghost Game and “Shinobi Top Secret” for Ninjala), was there anything different that went into recording those tracks compared to other songs?

TAMAYA2060%: TV anime has a complete worldview, so it is very fun to think about how to expand it in Wienners' songs without destroying their worldview. The main difference between “Faction” and other songs is that the theme (the worldview of the anime) of the song, which is not the band's main focus, had been already decided when we started composing, and we had to think about how to approach that theme. One of the keywords in “Faction” was "horror," and it was very exciting to try and find the right balance between the vivid and catchy Wienners' style and the minor progression throughout the song.

“Shinobi Top Secret” is used in an anime about ninjas but with a futuristic nuance that is slightly different from actual traditional ninjas, so I exaggerated the Japanese taste to express a more exciting, outsider view of Japan. Also, since the theme of the song was ninja, I secretly included the name of an anime character in the B melody to express the chic ninja's technique called “ninjutsu.”

ASAMISAE] (Vo/Key/Sampler): Both songs are sung in very particular ways; “Faction” is sung with a sense of bewitchment, and “Shinobi Top Secret” is sung in many different ways throughout the song so that the audience can feel the variation in the singing style compared to the other songs.

∴560∵ (Ba/Cho): Wienners' songs are often based on our own ideas of fictional stories and settings, and each song has a different worldview. However, this was the first time we wrote a song based on a worldview that we had not created by ourselves. We tried to express what we could do because we are Wienners and what we can do as Wienners while staying close to the anime stories, and as a result, I think we have created a new song that we could not have created just by ourselves.

KOZO (Dr): In terms of the drumming, both songs were allowed to show Wienners' unique flavor as it is, so there were no major changes from the past. However, there were parts that we tailored to bring out the worldviews of these two songs, and there are certain tweaks made so that people are able to enjoy them more as theme songs for TV anime as opposed to live performances.

In "Faction," there are various rhythmic patterns from the beginning to the end to create an atmosphere like straying into somewhere. In the second verse, I used a reference to the eerie yet catchy atmosphere created by an American band called The Mars Volta. In “Shinobi Top Secret,” I used taiko, the Japanese drum, as a theme in several places: in the A-melody of the first verse, I used a kick pattern and tone, and in the second verse, "Ninpo da Ninpo da Ninpo da Nippon no Sappou," I used the full drum set to create a taiko-like sound and musical score. I would be happy if you can picture the scene together with the sound.

Are you interested in recording more music for TV anime or films?

∴560∵: Of course! I love anime and I am very honored to be involved in this way. I would love to do more in the future.

You recently released TREASURE, your latest full-length album. How would you describe it compared to previous albums?

TAMAYA2060%: To put it simply, it is our BEST ALBUM ever.

The reason why it is the best ever is that we had a lot of fun making the album, and we were able to pack in all of our ideas without diluting them, which made us feel that it was a masterpiece. Until now, we had been somewhat obsessed with the musical form of a "band" and both the good and bad that came with that, but this time we were able to remove that limitation and give proper form to the ideas and humor that came to us, which was a very important change for us. Looking back, I think that the "fusion of miscellaneous musicality and electronic elements with a punk approach" that I had envisioned when I formed Wienners has finally taken shape with this album, and I can see many more possibilities for Wienners from this point on.

This year you also released a remix album, Wiemixes. What inspired revisiting and re-imagining some of your past tracks like that? What was your favorite remix version?

TAMAYA2060%: I wanted to make a remix version of a Wienners song, but since there weren't anyone else to do it, I had no choice but to do it myself, haha. I like the band sounds, and at the same time, I like to create new things by collaging and mixing electro sounds and various kinds of music like hip-hop samples. I wanted to convey a wide range of musicality and freedom as Wienners. To be honest, Wiemixes deviates from the definition of "remix" and is more like a "rearrangement," but in that sense, I hope it embodies the idea that "music is free and you can do whatever you want" without being limited by genre or form.

I especially like "Koi no Bangla Beat Spice Curry ver." and "ASTRO BOY Black Hole ver.” As the title suggests, "Koi no Bangla Beat (Bangla Beat of Love)" was a song that combined Indian "Bangla Beat (Bhangada Beat)" with the band's sound, but the remixed version is purely a bhangada beat song. This is probably the world's first bhangada beat song in Japanese. “ASTRO BOY" was originally a mostly instrumental song, but I like it because it is the "remix that deviates the most" by using the chord progressions and sound materials of the original song and adding a newly recorded rap to the track.

ASAMISAE: I like "ASTRO BOY Black Hole ver.” It was my first time rapping like this, and I had a lot of fun coming up with the lyrics and rapping for this remix.

∴560∵: All the songs are great, but if I had to pick one, it would be “ANIMALS Future Nature ver.” The edited guitar phrasing and development of this version is superb, and the feeling is ecstasy!

KOZO: I would say “FAR EAST DISCO Divinest African Ver” is my favorite. Some years ago, I had Tamaya listen to one of my favorite songs, and when I heard "FAR EAST DISCO," I thought it was my favorite song and immediately confirmed if we could remix it. I was very happy to hear him say yes. This remix gives a more euphoric feeling compared to the original "FAR EAST DISCO." If the original version is our real world, the remix version is the world in the sky. I feel that we are reaching the "FAR EAST DISCO" that may be somewhere unknown to us. It is exciting to listen to.

Your single “God Save The Music” is all about the joy of music and pursuing it no matter what. With your music, what kind of emotions do you hope to inspire in your fans?

TAMAYA2060%: When I reconsider the meaning of "being alive" after the COVID-19 pandemic, I realize that biologically "being alive," such as having a heartbeat and breathing, is not enough to truly feel that I am alive. It is only when we are moved to tears or moved by emotion that we can strongly feel that we are alive. That is why, when I go beyond the joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness through Wienners' music and live performances, and when I see a view I have never seen before, I feel "Wow! I'm so alive!" I would be happy if I could give you that feeling and excitement in your daily life, even if just a little.

“God Save The Music” also had an animated music video by web animator Speedoru (@Speedoru). How did he end up working on the video?

ASAMISAE: Speedoru had known Wienners and had created an animation for the song “GO ANTI GO" before we officially asked him to make a video. When we were discussing how to make the music video for "GOD SAVE THE MUSIC," we came up with the idea of finding someone to create an animation, and we decided to ask Speedoru to draw it. His video has reached people all over the world, and we all love it very much, so a super thanks to him.

Is there anything you'd like to say to overseas fans, or people listening to your music for the first time?

TAMAYA2060%: In the extreme way, I consider ourselves an instrumental band. That being said, we did not originally start the band as a means of communicating a message, but rather for the music itself. We see melody and lyrics in parallel with guitar riffs and drum rhythms—nothing goes first. We create melodies and rhythms because tremendous emotional outbursts cannot be put into words. So even if words cannot be conveyed, I believe that we can go together "beyond the joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness," as the answer to your previous question. And when we meet you “there" let's shout together “We are so alive!”

ASAMISAE: Thank you for all your support! I am very happy and encouraged to see such a great response from people overseas when I see the comments on our music videos! It's not often that I get a chance to go overseas, but when the time comes for me to perform at your place, let's have fun together!

∴560∵: Hello! The Wienners are like a musical surprise box, and although we think we have a Japanese flavor, we believe our music can be enjoyed all over the world. If you like music with excitement and humor, you should definitely check out our music. I hope one day you will be able to see the songs played live.

KOZO: Thank you for encountering Wienners in any form; anime, YouTube, or music streaming services. Wienners' music picks up sounds scattered all over the world, TAMAYA2060% mixes them together, and Wienners scatters them all over the world again. When you listen to it, you will be thrilled by the nostalgic, yet somehow new sound. There are many different songs in Wienners' music, so please try to find your favorite. I hope you will be able to encounter one for you.

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