Ben Zai Ten – Seven Gods of Good Fortune

For those of you who do not know who Audrey Kimura is or even worse knows nothing about her Japanese all girl record label…well, you either suck, have bad taste in music or just got an unlucky break in life.

Here’s your chance to remediate coz we are giving you the opportunity to meet the fine Lady Kimura behind one of the most astonishing record labels in the world: the BENTEN label !

The BENTEN label and Sister Records were highly active in the 90’s and released all girl rock’n’roll, punk and garage acts such as Lolita No. 18, Mummy The Peepshow, Flamenco A Go Go, Hang on the Box (from China!) and the delirious Petty Booka who really wanted to be Hawaiians all their life.

Audrey Kimura (Photo by Richard Dolphus)

Audrey Kimura (Photo by Richard Dolphus)

When you founded the Benten label in 1994 was the original idea to release and promote female artists only?

Yes.

BENTEN label cover from the Benten Punk Bentoh compilation

BENTEN label cover from the Benten Punk Bentoh compilation

Was there a special reason behind the decision of working with female artists only?

Because I was a fan of all girl bands, mostly out side Japan though.

A lot of your bands and Japanese bands in general sets their appearance standards high, is there a particular pride in that?

Oh yes? Do you think so? I think Japanese like wearing the same outfit. If the world standard band uniform is blue jeans and t-shirts, the Japanese bands tries to think of wearing something else that would be good for their music. Actually I love bands wearing the same outfit, like The Ramones and The Aquabats!

CC_Hub_AB Retouches_Group_Standing

You write yourself that the idea behind the label was to release silly and serious music, please elaborate?

Accurately I like girls singing silly songs in a serious way, doing silly things in a serious manner and enjoying themselves.

I actually have a lot of fun listening to your bands also because of the language barrier which generates some quite unique song titles and lyrics in general but you never reach a point where you start thinking that this is ridiculous coz first of all the music is really good and you end up smiling and rocking out to these incredibly talented girls who somehow seems cute and innocent in a sincere kind of way. I think imperfection is more attractive than perfection what do you think?

Right. “Imperfection is more attractive than perfection” what a nice expression!  I really like this. So happy to hear you have fun and our music made you smile. That is the whole concept of the BENTEN Label.

Lyrics from the "I bub you bub" song by Mummy the Peepshow

Lyrics from the “I bub you bub” song by Mummy the Peepshow

Lyrics from the "Dirty snowy red coat" song by Mummy the Peepshow

Lyrics from the “Dirty snowy red coat” song by Mummy the Peepshow

When did you start listening to music and was it punk at first sight?

Rolling Stones, Tony Bennett, The Carpenters etc.

Did you ever play yourself?

I am afraid not. I never ever thought about it. That keeps me in neutral position when I listen to the music.

It didn’t take long from the time you started the label till the first artists managed to go on tours abroad, was the interest imminent for having your bands playing abroad?

Yes, I took most of the bands from my label to USA and Lolita 18 as well as Mummy the Peepshow did European tours. Some of them went to Korea and China as well. I was trying to distribute our music to the world. Introducing Japanese music to the world is my leading mission. All the bands really wanted do tours abroad even if they had to pay the travel costs. It was not imminent but an essential factor for the bands to do. I think they knew that their music would be more appreciated by people abroad. None of the BENTEN Label bands are big in Japan and they are not doing Japanese mainstream music.

I organized a concert with Mummy and the Peepshow in Aalborg, Denmark when they toured Europe. That was a unique experience with a lot of fun and love. What made this band so special and loveable in general and what made them such a good live band?

Simply because Maki Mummy makes good universal songs and also their attitude of enjoying playing and entertaining the audience.

How active is the label today?

Now I only organize the SXSW Japan Nite tour for Japanese bands basically.

You are celebrating 20 years of the so-called ‘Japan Nite’ at the legendary SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Congratulations! How did you end up doing ‘Japan Nite’ the first time?

I had been working for NY New Music Seminar (1980~1995) Rep in Tokyo and we had Japanese band showcase there from 1992~94, the line up included Pizzicato Five, Boredoms and Shonen Knife. Then I went to Austin in 1995 for the recording of one of my labels all girl bands Lolita No.18 at the studio called Sweat Box and hang around there. Then Hiroshi Asada of Tom’s Cabin who I have been working for in Tokyo, became SXSW Asia Rep. Tom’s Cabin is one of the oldest and legendary music promoters in Japan and has been bringing overseas artist from 1975, including Tom Waits band, the first Elvis Costello tour in 1978 as well as The B-52’s, The Ramones, Johnny Thunders, Toy Dolls and lots of American Roots singer/song writers, Dan Penn, Jimmy Webb, Jackson Browne etc. Anyway Hiroshi produced the first Japan Nite at SXSW in 1996 with Lolita No.18 from my BENTEN Label and Hoppy Kamiyama’s Pugs as the only two bands (Hoppy also released 2 CD’s from BENTEN as ONTJ).

Audrey with the Jungles: Ikumi, 325, Jasmine and Fusa (Photo by Yosshin)

Audrey with the hat and the Jungles band: Ikumi, 325, Jasmine and Fusa (Photo by Yosshin)

How much time do you spend abroad nowadays?

About 1 month in March

Best Japanese bands in the past 20/25 years according to you?

The Flamenco A Go Go

What can European bands learn from Japanese bands and what can Japanese bands learn from European bands?

Heritage.

Lets talk about Audrey the private person!

Fave breakfast meal?

Kale vegetable juice, yogurt, a muffin and a cup of strong coffee.

kale

Do you watch tv series in the morning?

Oh, yes. The NHK morning drama from 8 am.

Have you ever gotten really drunk?

No I don’t drink. I wish I could drink wine and sake.

Do you practice any sports?

No sports at all but I do stretch and yoga.

Collecting something else than records?

Hats!

What are you passionate about?

Hats!

Do you like to cook?

I do. I am good at cooking noodles, ramen, udon, soba, yakisoba etc.

Do you own a bicycle?

No.

Are you a calm or tempered woman?

Both

What is your best and worst feature?

Best and worst: I am tiny

Fave flower?

Gerbera

the-gerbera-collection

Fave animal?

Dogs!

Are you from a big family?

I have two brothers

Do you like solitude?

Oh, yes.  Staying at home all day!

Most beautiful place you have ever visited?

Lake Mashu in Akan Park Hokkaido.

Photo by Hiroshi Termy Hosokawa

Photo by Hiroshi Termy Hosokawa

 

Go check out the label: http://www.sister.co.jp/english/index.html

..and for those strong in the Japanese language:

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