In 2015, my brother Paco Mus reissued the Disclose "Yesterday's Fairytale, Tomorrow's Nightmare" LP that I had originally released eight years earlier on my label Game of the Arseholes Rec. With the death in the intervening years of the main person behind the band, my friend Kawakami, to put out the LP again thrust me into a reflective mood. I wrote up some thoughts about the LP and about what the time Kawakami and I shared together around its release was like. These notes complement the obituary I wrote that Maximum Rocknroll published. Now, a year after the LP came out, on the anniversary of Kawakami's death, I thought I should make the liner notes available for everyone to read online. You can still purchase the LP from the label here.
For most punks in the 1990s, Disclose at first seemed like a joke. Many bands wrote joke songs or made satirical records about the so-called Dis- style of raw punk. After all these years, though, who’s laughing? Most of the jokesters have come and gone. In the name of seriousness, their output was forgettable. Kawakami, on the other hand, a warm and funny person, knew not to take himself too seriously, even as he took his craft more seriously than nearly anyone else we punks might encounter. For that reason, it is Disclose that we will never forget.
With each passing year, as I and my friends get older, our lives change, our horizons broaden, and the punk scene shifts and swirls, Disclose becomes even more remarkable. Kawakami’s devoted, strict, and yet creative adherence to a vision is a tonic. For some of us, his vision is the stable ground to which we can continually return, amid the flux of time and the changes within punk.
It is not always easy, though, to return to Disclose. A good number of great musicians, in bands I’ve loved, have died over the years. Because punk is punk, these people were our friends and penpals, or at least the recognizable faces in the crowd and also on the stage. With Kawakami, for me, it was different. To return to “Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare” is to return to a moment of great excitement and also to a time of change and sadness.
I put out “Yesterday’s Fairytale” in time for the Disclose/Framtid US tour. In Seattle and then Portland, Matt Smith, Yannick, and I stuffed 200 copies the band sold on tour, which included a numbered photocopied insert. The rest of the copies sold through normal channels, with La Vida Es Un Mus distributing it in Europe. This 2003 recording originally appeared on a compilation CD put out by Dan-Doh, the great record label from the city nearest to where Kawakami grew up and lived. The songs and recording represent the band at its peak, or at least its second peak, in its second period, the Dis-Bones era. The tracks appear in a different order on the LP from how they appeared on the “Terro-Rhythm” CD compilation. Johnny Underage and Kawakami put together the artwork, with some layout tweaks and the center labels by me and my partner Christy.
The record’s title, which Kawakami and I collaboratively authored (originally as a song title on the “Neverending War” single), of course was meant as homage to Discharge, but also it was meant to capture with seriousness the inescapable liberal dream of progress that underwrites war in our own time, as in the past. Today, over a decade after the record’s release, it’s hard not to think that the title captures a bit of the transformation that occurred in the lives of some of us around the time of Disclose’s short US tour. I can’t speak for everyone involved, but I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that there was distance between vision and reality. Especially with the so-called foreign, in languages ill-understood, it is easy to write fairytales in our minds, only to see them descend into nightmare.
The tour was largely successful—except that Framtid could not come into the United States, radically shifting everything. Punks had traveled from around the globe to see Disclose and Framtid, including my brothers Paco Mus and Clint Chapman. Seeing only Disclose was still a treat, but Framtid’s stupid refusal at the border was an inauspicious beginning to say the least.
I had proposed the idea of a Disclose tour when I met Kawakami in person in 2002 in Japan. He was not interested. After a few years, though, with Disclose’s overseas popularity increasing, and with the urging of other punks, he changed his mind. Originally, we—Kawakami, me, Jack Control, John, and Frank—toyed with the idea of a full US tour. Kawakami was worried that his voice would not survive weeks of playing every night. But the economics of touring would have made it impossible to not to play every night or almost every night. I was prepared to quit my job for the tour if necessary, but Kawakami thought it was better to have an older, tougher punk as the tour leader. I still crack up over that particular message. Jack Control tougher than me?
Jack, John, Frank, and I were all in conversation at the time, and I think there was a bit of territoriality and jealousy over the question of who would be the decision maker. Fair enough. Without Jack having put Disclose on the compilation “Iron Columns,” a track that for whatever reason grabbed me even though I’d already owned other Disclose records, I would not be writing this today. Similarly, Frank was close with Kawakami before I was. Ultimately, I felt that many cooks in the kitchen would lead only to chaos. So I stuck to releasing this record. But it fell to John, somehow, to lead the tour. John and I were pals, in constant contact then—and I mean constant. The dude would write ten e-mails before most people were out of bed. He never had anything but good intentions, but he was intense and difficult. So, in the end, it was No Fucker and Disclose, without Framtid, who toured just the west coast, accompanied by Kawakami’s partner, Shiho, with whom he had an occasionally stormy relationship. When Framtid finally did play the United States, at the final Chaos in Tejas, and I was able to have a long, and long-awaited, conversation with Jacky about Kawakami and his death, he told me that she killed herself not long after Kawakami’s death. Like I said, returning to this record and this moment is nothing if not bittersweet.
Between John and JJ, the visionary behind No Fucker and one of a handful of people on earth whose opinions on music I trust without question, and Fangboner, the eternal name for an eternally rotating cast of kids who played bass in No Fucker at the time, Kawakami, I think, was unprepared for the reality of the tour. Is this reality or just a nightmare? he might have asked. His written English was remarkably good; spoken, however, was another story. To communicate in the van, Kawakami and John would send text messages to each other. It was easier than trying to speak. I think it was also a way for Kawakami to filter out what he wanted to discuss and what he didn’t want to discuss. He learned, and eagerly used—always with his trademark smile—the phrase “shut up!” Let’s just say that the stickers No Fucker circulated at the time, that said something along the lines of “make giant boner for d-beat,” give a sense of what Kawakami was up against.
The band was a group of inveterate weirdos, completely dysfunctional in most social circles, as if from another planet—but it was Planet D-Beat. Disclose’s drummer, Uo-Chan, told JJ that JJ had taught him a great deal about d-beat. But even within punk, No Fucker was out there. The age difference among the members alone weirded many people out. But they were one of the greatest bands of the era, especially in their final incarnation, after John cut off two of his fingers with a table saw, with JJ on guitar and him now on bass. (The drummer had also lost a finger or two to a fireworks accident.) No Fucker was uncompromising, stubborn, and uninterested in what was cool. For JJ, and especially John, their personalities and their music were one. I think Kawakami, for obvious reasons, came to understand that unity too late. About him I don’t think the same could be said: he was a pretty easygoing guy, as far as I could tell, a trait belied by Disclose’s urgency. But language barriers being what they were, it was difficult to figure out exactly what was going on all the time. With No Fucker, however, it was more clear.
On the second night of the tour, as I recall, John sidled up next to me at a bar and pounded a beer in a second or two flat. I knew he had been an addict for an extremely long time, though he was clean then. But he drank it with the insatiable intensity of an addict. The stress and strain of the tour was already getting to him. I can’t help but think that his sobriety, and with it so much else down the road, were lost beginning on that night, owing to the distance between vision and reality.
I cannot speculate about Kawakami’s psychology. He had demons, certainly. We all do. I know he had had trouble sleeping, well before the US tour. John and JJ, in fact, were supplying him with non-narcotic sleeping pills for a while. But he and they had fallen out by the time of his death. I don’t attribute any affective descent on his part to the tour—I can’t because I just don’t know, whereas I feel like I am on stronger ground with the attribution in John’s case. But I also know that JJ and John do feel a bit of the blame for what happened. It is certainly true that Kawakami returned home from the US tour with a different vision of the United States, and of us who were close with him. It’s to be expected, of course. I believe he made new friends and was grateful for the love and support Disclose found among the punks here (check out the DVD of the tour for proof of how stoked people were). But of the few of us whom he considered good friends, I can’t be certain he and we continued to feel the same about each other after the tour. If Kawakami hadn’t died a few years later, that fact would be unremarkable, completely expected. But he did die. As a result, all of us who knew him can’t help but scrutinize our memories of the past moments we shared together.
Jacky told me that Kawakami didn’t kill himself. It wasn’t intentional. I believe him. What he told me about Kawakami’s personality and temperament resonated with my experience of him. Punks romanticize nihilism. It’s great—until it hits home. In this case, let me be clear: there is nothing to romanticize about Kawakami’s death, nor any reason to attribute intentionality to it. I say this because it makes me feel better, of course, but also because no one whom I trust and who knew him has told me any different. If anything, like many people in the public eye, even in the small public eye of punk, meeting expectations placed upon you can be difficult. Even as Kawakami’s artistic vision and his fealty to the craft of d-beat raw punk never compromised, he did continually experiment and change and evolve. Again, that is what makes Disclose so remarkable: his ability to deepen and innovate within what otherwise seem like narrow parameters. And yet fulfilling the expectation of being the same even as you are no longer the same, particularly after the jarring experience of the tour, might have been tough. I don’t know for sure what he thought. After the tour, our conversations grew more infrequent. We never had a falling out or any bad blood. I had gone to Japan a couple years prior, even traveling all the way to tiny Kochi-City just to hang out with him. John had visited Japan briefly too. But something was different by the time we sent Kawakami back to Japan.
After the tour dates on the west coast, Kawakami, Shiho, and No Fucker came east. Uo-Chan and Abe went home. Even without Framtid, I believe their companionship made the tour easier for Kawakami. On the east coast, spending a few days in rural upstate New York with No Fucker, there was not much of a barrier or escape. All Kawakami had was cacophonous, rampaging noise, and they made a lot of it. There are some recordings of Kawakami fooling around in the rehearsal studio with No Fucker, but JJ insists they will never see the light of day. No Fucker plus him played a gig at ABC No Rio under the name Apocalyptic Disfuckerz. It was perhaps the most earpiercing set ever played at that venue. Only a handful of people saw it. Afterward, Kawakami was eager to get a bit of time away from No Fucker, and I think they were ready to leave him alone for a little while too. Christy and I had Kawakami and Shiho over to our apartment. I played him Black Flag, which he claimed never to have heard before. I remember that I played two different sides of “Everything Went Black,” and we all laughed at how much better and faster side 2 was. We conversed a bit about the tour, while he ate a mess of buffalo wings we had bought him from a local joint. He explained some of what I have recounted a bit elliptically here. Mostly, he seemed a bit exhausted and ready to go home.
All of these memories flood into my head when I listen to Disclose, particularly when I listen to this record. They are my own. They should not affect anyone else’s experience of listening to this record, but I’ve tried to recount the context in which it was released and initially circulated. Kawakami had many friends, all over the world, and their memories of him will certainly differ. It’s likely that many people who buy it today were not even around in the punk scene in the United States or were Disclose fans a decade ago when the tour happened. The record stands on its own. It is an incredible achievement of purposeful chaos. Kawakami’s art, both in sound and on the record sleeves, was a chiaroscuro. That is one of the key aspects of d-beat raw punk. It is so stark. It contains little room or desire for nuance. But Kawakami was an incredibly smart and nuanced person. To pretend that the sound of this amazing record is all there is to the story would be foolish. Without a bit of Kawakami the person, it can become too easy to imagine that Disclose was just a sound, leading to the impulse some have already had to bootleg recordings. To those who have done so, all I can say is that to some of us, your actions are nothing more than theft from our dead friend. Paco (and I) decided to reissue this record to ward off the possibility of any such future theft of it. Jacky helped secure permission to do so. Royalties will go to Kawakami’s mother.
The result of Disclose’s short visit to the United States, the release of many other records on US labels, and the release of this LP was to demystify the band. This transformation was a good thing. Certainly many of us in the United States became interested in Japanese hardcore because of the mythos and mystery surrounding it—much of which turned out simply to be misinformation. Those of us overseas who were early adopters of Disclose—and I was by no means the earliest—wanted nothing more than for a greater number of punks to appreciate Disclose, and Japanese hardcore more generally. Still, I think even Kawakami would be surprised at how seemingly popular Disclose has become, with Disclose logos on patches, jackets, and shirts almost as frequently as Discharge logos. At the same time, particularly as demonstrated by this LP, Disclose managed to realize and perhaps even supersede exactly what it was that made Discharge so earth-shattering and unloved by the music press, who wished punk would just simply curl up and die: to make noise, not music.
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Because what I have written here is focused perhaps too strongly on personal history and not so much on this brilliant record, here is an addendum, with a few thoughts and a bit of background information on the songs. Paco had the record re-cut (with one glitch repaired), so it sounds slightly different from the original I released, which also sounds faintly different from the “Terro-Rhythm” CD compilation version.
“Mass Death and Destruction”: This is the third and fastest version of this song, which is surely one of the best Kawakami wrote. When the guitar drops out and bass chugs along, it sounds like an impending air attack, with the drums, cymbals, and guitar returning with explosive force, like a bomb going off. As on the rest of the record, K’s voice is blistering.
“Nowhere to Run”: Darkness descends with this new track. Not only was K listening to Broken Bones and other stuff in the “DISBONES” vein, as he termed it, like Bastards “Järjetön Maailma,” he was also increasingly interested in metal, whether 80s thrash metal that took explicit influence from Discharge or doomier bands. “Nowhere to Run” strikes me as somewhere between these newfound influences and his more familiar dark and heavy Swedish influences like Bombanfall and Crude SS or Japanese ones like The Sexual and The Clay. His brilliance was the ability to contain these multitudes and synthesize them into something new. Another version of this song appears on the “Apocalypse Continues” EP.
“Visions of Chaos”: Another track from “A Mass of Raw Sound Assault” reworked (another version had appeared on a compilation). Man, could Kawakami write a riff! All of the sweeping waves of guitar we associate with “HNSNSN,” various mid-80s UK stalwarts, and, of course, Anti-Cimex are distilled into one crushing hook here. The Disclose/Framtid tour was supposed to be called the Chainsaw tour, in reference to three things: the bands’ shared love of cult US horror films, the Anti-Cimex/Agoni UK tour that used the same imagery, and the “chainsaw” guitar sound, with which K had become obsessed. It’s even more apparent on the “Chainsawsplit” EP Frank released for the tour. The lyrics on this track were written by Fofäo, another d-beat maniac, with whom K and I were in close contact at the time. Interesting tidbit: K had discovered the relatively obscure 80s US hardcore band Malefice. He told me that they represented a great example of the “chainsaw” guitar sound, even if they didn’t drum the d-beat.
“But Still Work (Victims of the Mine)”: I find this exquisitely simple song to be remarkably poignant. K once said that he played d-beat raw punk because he loved it, not because he thought it was viable in political struggles. Yet he also took the words he wrote seriously. I think that the message about the work still left to be done after wars end fits well with the overall theme of “Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare.” In so many places, the cessation of active combat has actually meant the start of new rounds of pain and suffering, whether due to contaminated ecosystems and disease or unexploded ordnance and mines.
“Apocalypse of Death”: The driving title of track of the 12" that introduced the new Dis-Bones style, “Apocalypse of Death,” is rampaging. Another version of the track appeared on “The Time of Hell,” the LP compilation I released. The version here, however, is the best one.
“Neverending War” ~ “Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare”: These two tracks originally appeared on the “Neverending War” single. That record came out at the time when K and I were in closest contact. I helped him with some of the English on it and other records, though mostly he didn’t need help. Even though I didn’t release it, “Neverending War” is, I think, my favorite of the Dis-Bones records (with the LP in your hands a close second). There is something ineffable about its urgency. The versions on this LP are violent and intense. I love how they run together, too. These songs capture the tribute K paid to Discharge by taking their words, images, sound, and formula and both purifying and expanding them.
“The Sound of Disaster”: I first heard this song when K sent me a cassette of a rehearsal version. It had no vocals (and only a single guitar track, not the profusion of them heard here), and he asked me to write lyrics for it. Needless to say, I was beyond honored. What I produced was perhaps almost Dada-esque in its collation of found words—the names of Discharge-influenced bands K (and I) appreciated. It was tribute, not parody, though, and K recognized that. I once overheard a couple of punks making fun of it, based on the notion that I had tricked K into singing nonsense lyrics. As Anti-Cimex would have put it, that was straight-up idioty.
“Crawling Chaos”: A true meeting of the geniuses here. Brilliantly disturbing lyrics as only the enigmatic Mr. Executioner could write. In retrospect, they seem even more disturbing, given his trajectory, and, of course, Kawakami’s. The song is, for this era, short and to the point, with perfect contrapuntal solo tracks. Chainsaw guitar at its best, too. All three versions of this track appeared on Game of the Arseholes releases.
“Wardead”: This track, in all of its ten-minute resplendent glory, represents the apex of Kawakami’s originality. Whereas other Japanese crust bands around this time, like Abraham Cross and Deconstruction, were experimenting with the inclusion of influences from krautrock and psychedelia into their noisecore, the innovative “Wardead” is still fully and firmly planted in the clay of Stoke-on-Trent.
—Stuart Schrader, May 2, 2015
Thanks to: Christy, Paco, JJ, John, Jack, Frank, and, of course, Kawakami.