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“Do No Ko Vol.2″ will be held at PARCO no-ma from December 15 to December 22.
Each time I interview an artist before the exhibition, and this time there will be four artists in the collection.

A group exhibition
D o N o K o ? Vol.2

at @noma__official

Johnny Akihito Noda

Every month or so, I’ve been interviewing various artists about their thoughts and episodes, and this time, since it’s an exhibition of four artists, I’m going to interview one of each!
I’ll be updating at a furious pace.( OMG. ※Voice of the mind)
All of them have completely different areas of expression, methodologies, and ideologies, and each one is a rich story, so be sure to check them all out!

The first article is about END.
First of all, have you ever heard of the music genre called hardcore?
Since the madness of the punk scene brought about by the Sex Pistols in the 1970s, it has evolved independently in the U.S. and U.K., becoming more radical and speedy, and strengthening the spirit of anarchism in each ideology, and is now a musical genre with its own local scene in each country.

To be honest, due to its extreme aspect, we don’t have many opportunities to encounter it in our daily lives, but the scene is firmly rooted in Japan, and END is a major figure in the scene who has been involved in the hardcore music scene in the form of “painting”.
(Just from what I said in the introduction, he may seem like an aggressive and dangerous person, but he was the embodiment of a calm and cool gentleman!)

So in the first part of this article, I’d like to introduce him and the underground hardcore scene that is closely related to the roots of his activities. Go ahead!

-I heard that in addition to painting activities, you also run a boutique.

I mainly focus on my painting activities and run my own store as a studio and clothing boutique. It’s also a space where I can exhibit my own paintings and those of my friends.

-Do you have any crossover with your own work?

Totally normal clothes, differentiated from the works. It is a so-called street brand.
OLDX is my brand, and I work on clothes that have a collegiate vibe, pop and comfortable to wear.
I have been working in apparel since I was in my early twenties for a brand owned by one of my seniors, and when that brand opened a directly managed store in Shibuya, I was allowed to work on my own brand, although it was completely different from the current brand.
I knew a certain amount of know-how from that experience, so when I started my own brand, I wanted to be able to do what I wanted…

GReeD TOKYO is a select and gallery store where you can find END’s OLDX clothing and exhibitions. It’s a space filled with culture.

-Which did you start with first, apparel or painting?

Picture first. Ever since I was little, I used to draw characters for NES cassettes and such. I also like the touch and world of vintage American comics, such as Spider-Man, Gremlins, and Ghostbusters. I also like old Japanese manga like Arare-chan, but I’m not that influenced by Japanese manga.
But I like a lot of things, so when I want to draw something, I draw it without worrying about it.

-When did you start working as an artist in earnest?

I started drawing in the 2000’s as a hobby, and in 2007, when NUMB, one of Tokyo’s leading hardcore bands, was doing a one-man show, the first flyer I drew by hand was officially released to the world. I felt that my style of drawing fit the time period of 2007, and it was well received by the people around me… I was very happy.

From there, you started getting requests from your friends’ bands and from people you visited who also liked hardcore, and I became established in the hardcore world…

My first NUMB flyer. It’s precious!

※NUMB : Tokyo’s leading hardcore band, active since 1995. They are also well known overseas.

-Your career always started with hardcore, didn’t it? When did your love for hardcore begin?

I became involved in the hardcore music culture in my late teens.
I listened to a lot of different kinds of music before that, but hardcore music just felt right to me. I especially like the genre known as New York hardcore.

-What is it that makes you feel so good?

I like the counterculture to begin with. When everyone else is looking to the right, I tend to look to the left. I’m a self-paced person to put it nicely, but at the same time, I want to be able to say with pride that what’s good for me is good for me lol I guess I felt comfortable in a place where many such people were gathered.
I’ve seen a lot of people who are out of step with society, but I guess that’s just the way it is, since there are a lot of people like that in school lol
Anyway, being free, the music I liked and the fashion style I liked seemed cool to me.
It’s also reflected in my paintings. There are trends in painting, but I’m going against the grain, you know?
If digital is the mainstream, I’ll go analog; if red is popular, I’ll go blue.
But in fact, there aren’t many artists in Japan who are in tune with the local scene like this.

-How can that be?

Punk and hardcore are not commercial, so you have to do it with passion, and money doesn’t come along. If that’s the case, the people who receive the music won’t do it consistently. So you have to really like it to continue. It takes a lot of time and effort, so you end up getting greedy somewhere, because we’re all human lol
I like this scene, so I think we can work together and help each other.
Like myself, there are a lot of artists who work at other jobs and paint all the time, and I think that’s because they have a certain income to live on, so they are free to do what they want and have room in their hearts.
It’s hard to make a living only in this scene, even for a band, so it’s even harder for an artist who is in charge of the artwork.
That’s why I think artists who are passionate and want to continue to see the world will be sought after by this kind of music scene.
This kind of culture exists all over the world, and I feel that the relationship between the artist who draws the pictures and the band, the way they cooperate with each other to create a relationship, is less common in Japan.

-I’m not an expert on hardcore, but I get the impression that even with all the diversity in music on the internet today, it’s not as crossover or constant as other music genres.

That’s right. So, to put it in an extreme way, it’s like you’re playing to the same kind of audience every time with the same kind of friends you like, and it’s always been like the same people are playing in the same place all the time. It’s a place where a certain number of people can always stay for years. It’s a good thing, and I feel like it’s a world that won’t get any bigger, but also won’t disappear. But I think that’s the beauty of it, and that’s what makes it both good and bad. It’s like a place where people who really like this culture can gather every time.

It’s the same for both artists and bands, but even if you say you want to sell your work, when you do, people will say you’re selling out (lol), the core fans won’t accept you, and when you actually start to spread your work, you become somewhat out of sync.

-I think there is a certain kind of fan psychology that gets lonely when an artist you liked sells out, but hardcore seems to have a big backlash because of its strong unity…

I think it’s the same in the music scene of various genres and other cultures. The hardcore scene is not a single family, but it’s our ideal to run a small community of artists and friends around us.

-It’s like you’re running your own community, even the capital part of it.

I’m in my 40s now, and I think I’ll be happy if I can keep a small economy going with my friends who are doing food, clothing, and living.
I have friends who run hotels and other accommodations, and friends who run restaurants… If I want to buy clothes, I go here, if I want to buy musical instruments or records, I go to my friend… It’s a way of spending money and turning it around. Wouldn’t it be great if you could make a living with the people you love? It’s difficult to do in reality, but ideally, yes. So it would be great to see more and more of my friends’ stores around me.

-What is the situation of the hardcore scene in Japan, including the position of END?

I don’t know, I’m not on the player side, so I can’t say. I’m sure there’s something different about Japan compared to other countries, but I don’t know what that something is lol
Of course, there are many bands that sell well in Japan. The hardcore scene is very unique, so it’s hard to put it into one word.
That’s why what I’m doing is rather unique, I guess. I don’t think there are many artists who make art based on hardcore culture.
I’m not sure where I stand, but I’ve been doing this for over ten years and the number of people who see my show flyers in this culture is increasing, so I think it’s becoming a part of my style. Nowadays, when I look at other show flyers, I see many different hand-drawn styles, which inspires me a lot. It’s fun to see so many different kinds of drawings in the world, isn’t it?
Oh yeah, basically, I don’t get paid when I draw the show flyers.

-Wow! You’re not taking any money?

That’s right. I’ve never received one before.
I’d like to have a win-win relationship with both sides, with the band getting something positive by asking me to do it, and me getting something positive by drawing the flyer and increasing my own value.
Flyers are basically for handing out, and since they don’t cost money, well, I don’t get paid for them.
For me, that’s the aesthetic.

-Aesthetics! It’s a stoic world!

I’ve been asked, “How much? but I say, “No, no, it’s fine”.
Instead, I only do projects for bands I like and projects that I want to do. That’s why I can draw with my own touch, including the world view.

In the first place, bands don’t have a lot of money lo
That’s why we print our flyers at convenience stores and output centers. It’s the same reason why these flyers are printed in black and white. It’s the cheapest way to print them, but I like the atmosphere, so I draw them too. Nowadays, color flyers are also available at reasonable prices, so people are making all sorts of flyers, and it’s fun to see.

-When I think of music, I also think of band T-shirts that are sold at live shows, do you have anything like that?

When a band uses my drawings for a T-shirt, they are doing business with me, and I get paid for that, but I don’t say much.
If they sell the t-shirts based on the flyer design, there is a guarantee as well.

Basically, it’s a no-money industry and I don’t want it either. It depends on the artist and if there is mutual respect. Of course, depending on the scale of the band, there are times when I paint it as a job. I really want to respond with enthusiasm to those who are active in the local scene.

-What is the point of “increasing your value” that you were talking about earlier?

It’s about whether or not you’re contributing to the scene and becoming an indispensable part of it.
For example, when foreign hardcore bands visit Japan or when there is a big event, I am naturally invited and asked to draw them, or I am regularly asked by the bands around me, etc. Even if I don’t send out any messages myself, the people around me are asking me to do so, and that is the part that makes me feel “good” about what I do.

By the way, while showing us the flyers and asking about the episodes, there were some very unexpected episodes.

The flyer for GORILLA BISCUITS, NUMB, Switch Style and FC FIVE’s counterparts

(Pointing to the photo) This is a flyer I drew when Gorilla Biscuits, a legendary band from New York that has been active since the 80’s and has influenced everyone in some way, came to Japan.
This is NUMB, the band of the member’s classmate, the legend, Switch Style. The drummer is Yusaku Maezawa, the former president of ZOZOTOWN.
YURI, the vocalist of Switch Style, is now playing guitar in NUMB.
By the way, the title of Gorilla Biscuits’ famous album is “Start Today”.

※Gorilla Biscuits : A hardcore band from New York City, one of the standard bearers of the “straight edge movement,” a philosophy that rejected the basic rock lifestyle of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”.
※Switch Style : A hardcore band representing Tokyo as well as NUMB. (The band is no longer performing) According to Wikipedia, Yusaku Maezawa’s name at the time was YOU X SUCK. It’s incredible.

-So Maezawa was a band member! And from a hardcore background!

LOL People who only know him now would be surprised. People who only know him now would be surprised. When we were hardcore kids, he was one of the bands that made a big impact on us, and when the Gorilla Biscuits came to Japan in 2008 with the original members, Switch Style came back for one day. It’s a flyer that I’m very attached to.

…That was the first part of the interview with END.
As a media outlet dedicated to the dissemination of JAPAN CULTURE, we’d be very happy if you’d take an interest in the Japanese hardcore scene with END-san!
Next time, we’ll talk about his work in depth!

TEXT : THAT IS GOOD editorial department, Koga




Flyer Artist from Tokyo
Currently working as an artist for flyers of HARDCORE and PUNK scenes in Japan and abroad.
He has a characteristic attitude and belief that the US HARDCORE and PUNK flyers of the 80’s and 90’s, which he was influenced by, should be passed on to modern flyers.
While providing pictures for the places and bands where he works, he also expresses his own personality through solo exhibitions and live painting.
He believes in the phrase, “What is meaningless to someone else is meaningful to someone else,” and continues to draw without stopping.
He also works under the name of “円度 (Endo in Kanji)”, using Japanese paper and precise line drawings to create works with an overall sense of ” Japanese”.
He holds a solo exhibition once every few years, and is expanding the range of his worldview as an artist, both Japanese and Western.