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Artist Interview No.5 – END- Part. 2

This is the second part of our interview with END!
In the first part, we mainly talked about the world of hardcore, but this time we’ll talk about painting, and how he sees the scene as an important figure in the industry. So here you go!

-The texture of the pictures, the characters that appear, the writing of dots and lines, etc. I feel that you are particular about these things, but do they have an origin?
I found it fascinating that the homages to familiar characters were given a completely different touch by END’s taste.

It’s a very feeling thing. I guess I like this kind of touch myself… While I like the pop taste of cartoons and such, I also like the shadowy characters of American comics and such, and as a result, I think I ended up with this taste. In a good sense, I like the messy atmosphere and the hand-drawn lines. When I draw homages to characters, I try to draw them in various ways until I find my own lines, and I try to create my own atmosphere no matter what I draw.
If you’ve done a lot of drawing, you’ll naturally develop your own atmosphere, texture, worldview, and line touch without even thinking about it, so I think it’s best to just enjoy drawing until you do.

-You posted a drawing on a wooden board on Instagram. Is it unusual to draw on a wooden board?

I’m not sure… It’s normal for me, but I see it around me sometimes… Isn’t it kind of cute? That’s all…lol
I love the texture of the board, and drawing on paper is completely different from drawing on a board. It also depends on the type of board. This board goes well with the art materials I use, and the colors are really good.

For me, it is very important that the work looks cute and has a good atmosphere. I do some research on the history and roots of the work, but I don’t know much about it. I think it is important that the appearance of the work fits with my own sense of art.
Of course, there are many advantages to painting with knowledge, but if you do it too much, you’ll end up sounding like a theoretician or a cryptic uncle lol
I think it’s more important to have an impression or a feeling that makes you want to display the work, because ordinary people usually just like pictures.
I think the most important thing is to enjoy art freely, because trivial things like “you can’t display it because you don’t know anything about it” or “the person who knows more about it is better than the person who doesn’t know anything about it” will only lower the quality.

Works drawn on wooden boards. The warmth of the wood and the vividness of the colors give it a different appeal from the flyers.

-How much time does it take to create such a dotted picture? I’m a beginner, so I’m wondering if it takes a lot of time to make them.

Can I do it in a week?
I’ve been drawing 4 or 5 pictures in a month, and I feel like I’m dividing it into 5 or 6 hours a day.
If it was just one piece, I could probably draw it in about three days.

-You are working on this in parallel with your other paintings.

Partly because I get bored with it, but I also notice things while I’m working on it, and I can look at it objectively. When I’m focused, I get absorbed in the work, so I can see things that I couldn’t see while I was working on other works, and I can see things completely differently if I let it sit for a while… I guess that’s proof that I’ve grown up lol

When I was younger, I used to say things like, “Roughness is good !”, but I was letting my mysterious initial impulse take over. When I think about it now, it’s like, “That’s dangerous” lol
That feeling of initial impulse is a good vibe, but it’s something that changes over the years, so I decided to make it something I could be satisfied with.

-Did you ever study painting?

I studied drawing by myself.
I went to a graphic design school, but it was in the days of Illustrator 1.0, and I was only learning how to draw circles and such, but I am completely self-taught in drawing. I was influenced by my favorite artists and the drawings of my close friends.

-It’s amazing that you can learn to draw so well on your own…! How long did it take you to realize that you could draw?

It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I felt I could draw.
I couldn’t even tell people about it until about 10 years had passed, and then I would start mysteriously in my 30s…lol

Shinya, the curator of Tokyo Urban Art, who was in the room with us.
-By the time you were in your thirties, you had completely established your style. I did an ANTIKNOCK live event for two days in a row, organized by END, and it was really packed. I think there were six or seven bands a day, right?

In 2013, I gathered all the bands that I had been working on.
I think it was a great event for the audience to see a lineup of bands that didn’t usually come together back in 2013. BRAHMAN, who have been recognized by the public since that time, came to Shinjuku ANTIKNOCK, which has been a long time coming. Everyone seemed to be interested in coming out.

A flyer for ANTINOCK’s 10th anniversary event. I couldn’t tell at the time, but BRAHMAN was actually a direct hit for me, so I wish I could have seen them…

I was told later that ANTIKNOCK is a live music venue known only to those in the know, and from what I’ve heard from others, it used to be an extreme place where people would riot and die about 30 years ago. It seems that the band members and the audience are all extreme lol
By the way, END himself used to be rough and tumble in his teens and twenties, but now he seems to be calm and sits on the sleeve or in the back of the room drinking cola and watching the show like he’s visiting his children lol

-Please tell us about your original character, Rice-kun, the rice character.

This character was born when I was in charge of the flyer for the Gorilla Biscuits (see Part 1 for details) when they visited Japan.

I’m a big fan of American comics and old school anime culture, and there are always a few mysterious round characters in such anime. To put it simply, it’s like Mike from Monsters, Inc. I wanted to create my own round character that was more like a sub-sub character.

Since we had artists coming from America, I thought they would be happy if I made a Japanese rice character.

On the left of the left picture and on the right of the right picture, there is a little creepy but cute guy named Rice-kun. The one on the Gorilla Biscuit flyer in the first part is an early version of Rice-kun, with a slightly different atmosphere, so be sure to compare the two!

-How did the members of Gorilla Biscuits react?

The only word I heard from the members was “GOOD” lol But my friends around me reacted really well. What? What’s with this creepy thing? Lol
Since then, he has been making frequent appearances.

-As with Gorilla Biscuits, what kind of connections do you see between the hardcore scenes overseas?

In the local scene, there is a strong horizontal connection, so people from the bands I usually draw tell people about me and the connection grows, or I get direct messages from overseas bands on social media.

-It’s amazing. People involved in the hardcore scene, both overseas and in Japan, are thinking, “I have to have END draw this at least once!” I guess that’s how it works.

I’m working hard every day to be able to do so. I’m very grateful to receive such words from young overseas bands, and I hope to leave more names behind before I die.

-This time you will be exhibiting with people from completely different genres, what do you think about that?

We are all working in different worlds, but we are all friends and artists who are connected in some way, so I feel relieved. I think that since we are involved in this kind of gallery exhibition, we need to make it a success.
Anyone can just gather artists and put on an exhibition, so I want to make sure that the people who come to the exhibition will appreciate it for what it is.

-By the way, do you have any kind of rivalry with other artists?

I don’t really feel like I can’t lose.
But I do have a sense of “I want to do it!”
I want to go beyond what people imagine.

-After 2019 was the Covid-19 pandemic, did it affect your creation?

That didn’t affect me. I was trying to be more active.
My mail order business was my main focus, but my store was still the same, and I was still basically drawing pictures, so my lifestyle didn’t change.
However, I didn’t draw flyers anymore because I didn’t have live concerts, so I held a solo exhibition with mainly Japanese touches in the meantime.

※Pictures with a Japanese taste. When he works with this style, he will change his name to “円度 (Endo in Kanji)”.

-How did that Japanese taste come about?

I don’t know much about history, but I’ve always liked the world of ” Japanese-ness”, and I often go to museums to see ukiyoe paintings by various artists, such as Kuniyoshi Utagawa. I guess it’s because I also draw detailed pictures, but I think there is an aesthetic in the politeness and delicacy that is unique to Japanese people, and I like that.
I’d like to try that myself.

I draw all kinds of lucky charms on Japanese paper. If you receive a three-dimensional gift such as a Maneki Neko or a Daruma, it would be too much, wouldn’t it?
Sending them as pictures is stylish and also brings good luck and good fortune, and they will be appreciated. They are made using the silk-screening technique on Japanese paper using what is commonly known as American ink, so they are suitable for both Western and Japanese rooms.
People at old ryokan (Japanese inns), bead shops, pastry shops, and temples bought paintings of Daruma and Maneki Neko.
I try to imagine that the atmosphere is somewhat old-fashioned, but also somewhat current.

※Kuniyoshi Utagawa: Ukiyo-e artist active at the end of the Edo period. He has a unique and rocky atmosphere compared to other ukiyo-e artists, and is famous for his paintings featuring giant skulls.

-It’s a picture that will become the new normal in gift giving!
By the way, do you put any messages in your drawings?

I don’t put too many deep messages in my works. I’m afraid it would be like my grudge lol
But there are also works that are meaningful or have a message.
Basically, I only draw positive things… I don’t draw negative things.
As long as people buy my work and hang it up, I want them to be able to say, “Ittekimasu(I’m off)” or “Tadaima (I’m home)” every day, and I want them to think, “That’s a cool picture,” or “I’m glad I bought that”.
The lines of negative people have a particular atmosphere, and I kind of know what they mean, but I try not to be like that.
I don’t mean to discourage negativity, but I like positivity, and if I’m going to look at the pictures I buy every day, I definitely want to see pictures that have power and appeal that I can feel.

-So, for you, art is a positive thing, isn’t it?
I mentioned the keyword “Covid-19” earlier, but from a broader perspective, you have been active in Shibuya and Harajuku for a long time, but have you noticed any changes in the cultural scene in this situation?
Also, Shibuya was originally a place where major developers couldn’t develop because of the intricate rights involved, but the young people of the time took notice and came to the area, creating a variety of stores and making it a center of culture, but now that development has progressed, those stores are disappearing.
In fact, rent in Harajuku used to be cheap, so there was room for new things to come in.

It is difficult, but Harajuku and Shibuya have changed in the last two years.
Recently, sales and other activities have started to revive, but it seems to be difficult for places that mainly targeted overseas customers. However, private businesses are still facing tough times, aren’t they? There are problems with vacancy and rent. I also have a hard time renewing my lease lol

But I think that Shibuya should be a town of culture, and the power of youth has always been a movement that can move the economy.
In the 90s and early 2000s, there was a lot of gyaru culture and club culture, and the fads that came out of that contributed greatly to the economy, involving everyone from elementary school students to their grandparents. There was a youth culture that had the power to move the economy, wasn’t there? That’s why I want Shibuya to continue to have cultural stores of various fields.

-Is there a place like the station area or something that is getting more expensive and is going to slide?

Probably not, it varies from person to person. I’ve heard that some people are trying to reopen cafes in their hometowns….
With the arrival of Covid-19, it seems that the good things that used to be good are no longer good, and the places that people think are bad are now good.
It’s the same with places. I think it can be positive or negative depending on how you do it.

As I said before, for example, there is a tattoo store of a friend of mine behind my store, and a record store of a friend of mine a short walk away, and I can go visit them in my free time. I think that’s how it works. That’s why core stores are absolutely important.
People with highly sensitive antennas will go to places with high sensitivity. I would like to see such places continue to exist, where people can find them with their own senses and antennas, where communities are born, and where people can do things together.
It is fun to look for and find such places, isn’t it?

-Thank you very much. I’m sure there are many artists who are followers of your work, but if there is anything you would like to tell these younger artists…!

I guess I just wish they’d take a little more care of themselves as artists. It’s not a criticism lol
Recently, this has become normal, but I think it’s common to see people go viral in ways they didn’t expect, or become famous in stages they didn’t expect, but when that happens, they can’t do what they really want to do, and as a result, their good qualities are diminished… I think this happens to many artists in various genres.
I want them to look at their own life size and work with self-control.
I think there’s a difference between “being famous” and “being happy and satisfied with yourself”. The more famous you become, the more commercial you become, so I hope that artists who belong to the culture like myself will be able to find the right balance.

Of course it’s great to be famous, and that’s what we’re all aiming for.
I think it’s great that we’re getting more and more recognition. There are only a limited number of people who can do something with various famous places and people.
But when it comes to me, it’s a different story. I think that companies and famous places take notice of you because you are attractive and your power is noticeable, but if you lose the place where you were attractive, you will look like a different artist or even an art salaryman. It’s up to each person to decide, but for me, I want to protect the band scene that I’ve always loved and the world view that I share with the artists around me.
I even call myself a flyer artist to begin with lol

I believe that an “artist” is a person who polishes his or her skills to enhance and express their artistry. It’s also completely different from being a designer, and I want to direct myself in a way that I can properly show the appeal of my art and where I can show it.
Of course, I’m still struggling to figure out how to do that.
This is the reason why I hold my own art exhibitions.
The people who have supported me up until now are the ones who buy into my charms, and they are the ones who are really close to me, and I feel comfortable with that kind of closeness.
I would like to continue to hold my own solo exhibitions on a life-size scale.

-And as for your last question, if you have any kind of ambition for the future!

I want to be on the edge of getting pissed off at art exhibitions and solo shows lol But if everyone thinks it’s cool, then we’ve succeeded. Eventually, the art we do will be recognized and people will say, “You were pissed off at the time, but that work was really cool!” I want to do something like that.
I just don’t want to get arrested by the police, so I’d like to decide who’s in charge first by playing rock-paper-scissors lol
It’ s not my ambition, but I would like to create more works and have more solo exhibitions and projects that I am involved in.
When that happens, I’d love for everyone to come and see my work! Let’s play together!

So, this was an interview with END.
In an age where art is also required to be monetized these days, living in the underground hardcore scene and continuing to create good things without worrying about money is a bit of a stinky word, but I think it comes down to “love” for the scene.

It’s hard to change the fact that hardcore culture is far from big money due to its origins, but I felt that in Japan, a relatively wealthy country, the stance of being kind to the musicians without letting the aesthetics become a skeleton is more hardcore than anything else.

Finally, as a preview of the next article, I would like to introduce Yusuke Hamamoto, a bonsai artist. What? Bonsai is next? I know some of you may be surprised, but please look forward to the next installment!

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

at @noma__official

Johnny Akihito Noda




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.