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Love Songs Of The Month

LoveSong of the Month “Kamen Rider” (TV Theme, feat. UG-Men, Charm, and Conquest For Death)

レッツゴー!! ライダーキック 「仮面ライダー」

I’m considering re-naming this column “TV Theme Song of the Month” since I still have another four more in the chamber to accompany the six I’ve already discharged here. “Stay Tuned!”

But of all the theme songs I’ve retooled so far I think that this is my favorite.

Our original drummer for Conquest For Death was the royal Japanese punk rock magician, Kiku ScumNoise. His skill as a musician is only rivaled by his ability to sustain terminal chaos with zero body fat.  He is an otherworldly force, known to play any rock instrument (including saxophone) with absolute ferocity and precision. He’s also his best self when under the most adverse conditions, and somehow maintains his status as the most liked member of the band at all times. He is an enigma very tightly wrapped in a Japanese skin suit.


Photos of Kiku by Karoline Collins, duh


kiku again

kiku drums kawaiWhen recording our first EP, I was in the control room while he was in the live room. Devon (the vocalist, the best man at my wedding, and one-time rolly polly toy peddler) was sitting with me and serving as our Japanese-English translator. After recording the five songs that we’d set out to record I proposed recording another song on the spot from an idea that I’d had. Over the talkback microphone Devon asked Kiku if he wanted to learn another song. Kiku then started messing around on the drums, seemingly not hearing us (or at least not understanding us). After a few minutes, Kiku conveyed that he was ready. I was reaching for my guitar, ready to head up to the live room and show Kiku my idea, when he yelled into the drum mics, “OK, record now.” Devon and I looked at each other, confused. “I ready, record now,” he reiterated. Still unsure what was happening, I hit record and Kiku proceeded to play what would become “Double Standard Bearer” (listen below) on the drums, start to finish, in one take. He then quickly popped into the control room, grabbed my bass, and played along to his newly recorded drum track only one time before indicating that he was ready to record the bass track. Which he did, in one take.

The whole process, from when I suggested we learn a new song to him recording both bass and drums for his own song that he’d just made up, took fifteen minutes.

Fast forward a couple years and Kiku wants to bring one of his many bands, Charm, over to tour the States. If Kiku was flying over here, we thought, it would make sense to parlay his trip into a joint Charm/Conquest For Death tour. Plus, one of us was going to have to be their driver anyway, so booking a two-band bill made sense.

What didn’t make sense, but also made perfect sense because… why not?, was to bring along a third band, also from Japan. That third band was UG-Men, featuring another esteemed lifer from the Japanese punk rock scene, Jun. He and I first met when All You Can Eat were touring Japan in the early 90’s. After a show with his smashing band God’s Guts, he invited two of us to stay at his shoebox flat. This invitation was unbeknownst to his girlfriend, whom we met when we stumbled through their door at five in the morning. The four of us slept on their floor like assembled Legos.


Perhaps the sexiest picture ever taken of a guitar player. Jun, the Golden Bull, Oakland CA. Photo by my mom, interestingly.

This tour with all three bands was as fun and ridiculous as you would imagine it could be with fourteen people speaking two different languages, especially once we got to Mexico and they discovered they could get free prescription painkillers. Both Japanese bands stayed at my house for a few days and endlessly confounded me and my roommates with their unpredictable behaviors. Some of the guys were coming off some pretty hard partying and spent most of the time holed up in our windowless practice room which began to take on the smell of a tropical zoo morgue whose refrigeration went out. Otherwise we would find them marveling at our 70’s-era kitchen, leaning into the microwave glass as their Cup o’Noodles went around and around. Another time we looked out the window and saw Jun joyfully watering our backyard with a garden hose, despite us not having anything but dirt and weeds back there.

jun 1

Possibly the most profound exchange to happen during this time was my exposure to this:

…and Silent Library:

jun 1

Elsewhere on the tour we discovered that Jun “had a thing” about watering lawns. He took every opportunity to do it and, when possible, would also rake to perfection. In no instance did he ask the homeowner.

At the end of the tour the Japanese bands set up a recording session with “Grammy” Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios, and for reasons only known to those who spoke Japanese, they decided they were going to record the theme song to the 70’s Japanese TV show, Kamen Rider. Both bands (and Devon, lover of Japanese TV that he is) crowded around a microphone and sang the words while Kiku played the drums. There was no other instrumentation and it was all done in one take, from the collective memory of everyone in the room. At the end of the song, Jun stepped closer to the mic to deliver the teaser (this is a rough translation), “On the next episode, Kamen Rider will be facing an ever-improving Conquest for Death that can shoot ultraviolet rays from their finger tips!”


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A post shared by Craig Ums (@marrrteen)

I don’t have a picture of that session so instead here is my daughter watching Greg button-mash his way through a CFD recording some years later.

I then took those drum and vocal tracks and set about adding all the other instruments – bass, guitars, horns, timpanis, vibraslaps, tubular bells, bird calls… whatever I could wedge in there. The result is nothing short of something to water a stranger’s lawn to:

Separate from his main gig with The Love Songs, Craigums (and sometimes his friends) recreate songs that have no business being recreated.

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