interview by dave himelfield

visit the TSUJI GIRI website






















































































































poison light ep

split single with the sonar yen -

rel: oct02

Tsuji Giri EP - File under: “Where should  they be now?

Guitar, rock n roll, alternative or whatever you want to call it is arguably at an all-time low. Fresh new bands that one could once believe in seem all but gone. Music that is supposed to represent individuality appears to be so pseudo-emotional and safe with rare exception. This sounds a) rather harsh, b) nostalgic and c) defeatist. It’s not. Has long has it been since real musical radicals were kicking up something worthwhile? We have been totally jaded by the B-team. The term “punk” has largely been leached of its original meaning. We have twee acoustic no marks earnestly whinging about nothing in particular. We have nu-metal baboons grunting about just as little. We have a conservative, out-of-touch music press desperate to safely scrape the next big thing from a rusty old barrel. It is wholeheartedly deflating to see Tsuji Giri, a band that offers more than a breather and a real alternative, soldier on into obscurity.

Tsuji Giri are a real 21st century rock n roll band. They’re not the new Beatles, Who or Led Zeppelin. Thank God. When the present to many, seems dark, daunting and uncharted and only the rich past seems to offer comfort and complacency, the Giri are not afraid.

To those that require a bit of encouragement to go and discover, here’s your soundbite. Some say they’re like a particularly spiky and angsty Sonic Youth blended with a sizeable chunk of My Bloody Valentine/Mogwai ethereality. A syncopated rhythm section that nods as towards much to jazz and drum n bass as it does to rock, glides unself-consciously alongside the dual intensities of delicately shimmering or discordantly searing guitar. More than the icing on this double-choc cheesecake is an emotive vocal that weaves its own distinctively tender path through each track, avoiding plunges into the ravine of whingy melodrama. To summarise, this is schizophrenic, refreshing personal music and it rocketh the cobwebs away on its own terms.

Interviews are a piece of piss. I’ve got my questions written down. All I have to do is read them out”, sayeth one novice interviewer to himself.


I have fatally forgotten that bands can have a sense of humour. One fodder question in and everything’s ok. I prematurely nosedive into the serious stuff asking how Tsuji Giri formed. Giri bassist, Ivan Hall rebuts without intention of seriously answering a single question.

“We were in a police cell. It turned out that we were all musicians. So we formed this pretence of a gig, but secretly it was an escape plan…A tunnel which we dug under the stage…”

Martin joins in with the games, “…failed spectacularly because the place that we emerged…was a police dog training centre.”

“Ah Jeez! I sigh to myself, resembling one of those yokels in Fargo. Panic swells up. I forget where I am and what I’m meant to be doing. I desperately try to get myself back on track.

“Er…Do you like crisps, then?”

Thankfully one deep breath and a large slug of Grolsch and the interview is fixed.

Himelfield – What has made this band work?

Martin – Just the personel, purely. It’s just finally got the right people w/ the right kind of attitude and the right desire to go the extra mile of filth.

H – What sort of attitude and desire?

M – There’s just a kind of lowness. We’re willing to pick certain scabs that other people’d leave alone b/c it’d make too much mess and it’d be too painful…musically speaking and physically sometimes.


H – What do you think makes great music?

M – Willingness to pick the scabs (laughter) that other music leaves alone.


H – I’m going to delve deeper. What do you mean by these “scabs”. Do you mean doing things that are difficult to do and therefore scare people away? Like exploring uncharted waters?

D – It’s about not being lax; basically committing yourself to do something that you’re not gonna dick about with.


H – What music has been the biggest influence on you?

M – We were both kind of wanking each other off with Sonic Youth and the Afghan Whigs and people like that. Just people that were doing something different with guitars, in a loud and beautiful way.


H – What do you mean by different? Do you mean novel?

D – Not novel. Original and authentic to our own ears without any novel value whatsoever.

M – They were coming up with sounds that you didn’t find anywhere else.


H – So is that uniqueness and originality then?

M – Yes…I can’t really remember what was going on at the time. It was post-grunge fallout and there was a lot of interesting (stuff) being churned up. But whatever we wanted to be, it was never, “let’s be Sonic Youth” or, “let’s be…”. We were always looking at the horizon and saying, “Yeah, that’s been done, but what can be done now? Where can we take this ball that we have found while randomly being sat on a wall? Can we bounce it off this very high building and catch it?” (sniggers) Sometimes it’s dark and it’s very hard to catch. (laughter)


What?! Wait a minute. Stop!!!


I’m just going interrupt the interview here to clarify something. Martin speaks in quirky metaphors. This isn’t because he’s arrogant or pretentious. It is perhaps like how he explains his lyrics. As you will discover below, he expresses agitation and dissatisfaction through more indirect and colourful, sometimes humorous means. Probably. This is just one of Tsuji Giri’s many refreshing twists. It’s also possible that Martin is extracting the urine from an inexperienced interviewer.


D – I think that the primary thing that Tsuji Giri does is rocks and works to / attacks a lot of things that don’t rock. Albeit that they play (for) laughs or (it’s) packaged to entice people towards stuff that not in any way rocking.


H – So what rocks you?

D – Anything that’s done with real conviction, but it’s such a personal thing.


H – How important is presentation for a band?

M –Well, I think we’d be very disappointed with ourselves if we saw a video of our gig and we weren’t writhing about much. But it’s not like we start a performance and go, “let’s writhe about.” We want to get into what we’re doing as much as possible.


H – I say this because there seems to be a contrast between what Martin does and what Danny, Ivan and Phil do.

D – Well, it’s certainly not a preconceived idea. It’s how you feel on the night.

M – It is very depressing watching a band who are just static. But then again, that depends on the music that’s coming out of it. Our stuff rocks and therefore, we rock.


H – The rhythm section of Tsuji Giri is quite atypical for such a punky sort of band. For example it says on the website that Ivan has a “contempt for the obvious note”. Why did you decide to incorporate that?

Phil – It’s not really a case of incorporating …

I – It comes from not being in bands and playing on me own. I’ve not had guitarist people telling (me) what not to play.

D – That’s a very, very important point. Add to the fact that in his bedroom, his dad’s a music teacher, so constantly in the background you can hear this superfluous noise. Scales all the time…He’s (Ivan) untouched, really.

I – I see him (Phil) as a drummer that can get his arms around the kit and (he) experiments and stuff which gives me ample room.


H – Does this odd type of rhythm section reflect the music that you’re into?

P – It’s not a conscious decision…Well, it is a bit, but it’s not first and foremost.

I – Before I was in the Giri, I wasn’t listening to any guitar music at all. I listened to jazz and drum n bass.


H – How important do you think lyrics are?

M – Lyrics are essential in a way because you don’t want to be singing something that makes people think, “ugh!” and puts you off the music that’s happening which you do want to be into…I don’t go for any particular narrative…I try to get things that are congruent with the sensations that are coming out in the music. In a way they’re vital, in the way the particular note that you’re playing at a certain point is vital because it has to harmonise with what’s going on.


H – Are there any particular themes in your lyrics?


M – They’re not all about wanking!

H – Was there one about that, then?

I – There’s one not about wanking!

M – There was a stage where bad sex and masturbation were themes floating around but only in a way that was a means of expressing various disquiet and unease.


H – So does your subject matter veer toward disquiet and unease?

M –Absolutely. Any kind of darkness and torment and mad rushes of euphoria followed by sharp plunges into the dark underside of the soul.

H – A representation of the uncertain modern world, would you say?

M – Yeah. A certain fucked up-ness which speaks of a certain aliveness which is exactly what the Giri’s music is about, I think.


H – Do you think that a meaningless lyric is a wasted lyric?

D – It depends what you put it to.

M – Yes. Nothing is meaningless because it’s supposed to involve a certain empathy with the kind of emotion or feeling or whatever that’s being conveyed. And whether you’re saying, “Salty Banana”, if it’s said in such a way or put to such a track that it chimes off you and gives you a certain feeling, then it’s done its job…It doesn’t matter whether you take it out of its context and it means anything then. As soon as it affects you, it isn’t meaningless.


H – What are your views on popular contemporary guitar music?

D – The majority of stuff in the music press of a contemporary nature is 15 minutes of fame nonsense. It isn’t of great interest or value to me personally. But I think there’s absolutely tons and tons of wonderfully rocking music.

H – Give an example of some of these “15 minutes of fame” bands.

M – Well, I mean the whole Hives, Vines, Strokes thing.

D – There was this “This is Emo” article a couple of months ago in the N.M.E. and I’m thinking, “That was about 1996. What year is this?” 

H – Why do you think that the music press like the N.M.E. choose to champion bands like that and say things like, “these are the bands that you are going to like”?

I – Their sales are falling.

M –And there’s pleasure in discovering something first. They’re desperate to find the next big thing. They’re just sitting in their offices in London thinking, “What can we safely create next?”


H – You say that you get more pleasure from local music than from bands that are popular at the moment. Why’s that?

M – There’s just something so vital and exciting about some of the bands. There’s a thrill from it that you just can’t get anywhere else. There’s so much inventiveness out there.

D – Do you think that this mancunian “scene” is exceptional or do you think that there are many such scenes elsewhere?

M – I’ve not idea how unique what’s going on in M/cr is. I know that there’s supposedly things happening in places like Leeds and Dulwich!


H – Do you think that there’s a lack of inventiveness in popular music at the moment?

M – Absolutely. There’s crazy-ass fun things going on, but in a very limited way, like the Hives-Strokes thing. It reminds me of what happened when Oasis came along because their stuff was so retrospective and in a way, admitting defeat because (it was) like (saying), “We can’t go further than we’ve already been, so what we’re going to do is just play it a bit louder, hope it sticks and just celebrate that.” But in a way, the Strokey-Hivey thing is doing a similar thing to that, but I like the kind of music they’re into more than I do the kind of music Oasis are into.


H – Does the M/cr scene have a good idea of where it stands within the bigger musical picture? Do you think there’s an incestuousness and/or a complacency?

M – There is an incestuousness. As for complacency, there’s a very large “what the fuck do we do now” thing…Bands have known about each other for a long time and when we all found each other, we were so happy about it and so shocked, surprised and full of glee that we thought some kind of explosion was around the corner…that we were suddenly going to Seattle out into the world, which obviously never happened. But since then, we’ve as bands just got stronger and stronger. Although they’re not quite in the same area that we are, the fact that Oceansize have got on the diamond-laden path is encouraging in a way. Maybe there’ll be some focus thrown back.


H – In respect of the reticence of the press and the record industry, what’s the climate like for band like yours to ascend to bigger pastures?

M – It’s all a matter of luck. Obviously the amount of effort we put into it is a part of it.


H – Has anyone of anything been particularly helpful? Is there enough help there?

M – People like the Sov(iet) Twins have been great b/c they’re doing a wonderful thing for us putting this single out with The (Sonar) Yen, and it’s costing less than our last 2 demos to get national release. The Manchester music ( thing does a lot for the scene. It gives bands the first reviews they’ve ever had.


H – Has anything else been helpful/unhelpful e.g. the media?

M – Well, they’re scared little bunnies who don’t want to touch anything unless it’s a dead cert.

H – Is that the same with record labels?

M – I suppose it is for the majority of them. We had Nude (records) sniffing around us for a while.

H – What happened there?

M – Oh God! Somebody put him (an agent of Nude) onto us and he heard our demo and liked it and came to see us rehearse. The whole set up was odd and strange. We met him for a pint and exchanged nervous small talk and then dragged him up to a rehearsal room, which was about 6 foot square and he’s just stood leaning against the wall while our amps are lined up against him like cannons! And we’re just there, having to do a gig for this one bloke, playing our decidedly noisy stuff while he’s looking for the next Suede or something. It was a depressing experience.


H – A typical experience that reflects the current climate with record labels at the moment, would you say?

M – I think so. Yes. You can’t be utterly dejected and cynical about it all because there are labels out there releasing stuff by people that is a fantastic quality. So you can’t give up and dismiss it as a no hoper.

D – The people who own those labels are also doing things to support their labels. I think in terms financially to take a risk… is a thing that they can’t afford to make a living on.


H – In an ideal world where should the future of guitar music lie?

I – Up my arse!

M – Where it shocks me. What I’ve always wanted it to do is to shock me and make me thrilled that someone is doing something I’ve never heard before. I can’t predict that. I don’t want to know what it is because I don’t want it to be an anticlimax for me. That is what it has constantly shown it still has the power to do…Despite the rise of electronic music, which is doing some fabulous things itself, guitar music still managed to find a way to be relevant and give you a live kick and a recorded kick that is utterly unique in what it does and there’s still so much mileage left in it.


H – Is that why you’ve chosen Tsuji Giri to be a guitar, bass and drums set up?

M – You could from some perspective and say, “ how utterly conventional”, but I know what we’re doing isn’t utterly conventional and that we’re not sat there with a tray full of circuitry. So much of that stuff that is self-consciously trying to be the future of music is so utterly lame as well and really fails in pushing any kind of medium of the guitar or electronic or strange, exciting hybrid because it’s self-consciously and doesn’t let the music do what it wants to do which is to get on and get you off your arse.


H – Where do you want to take Tsuji Giri?

I – Up the arse!

D – To a point where it releases things that haven’t been tampered with by horrible people who don’t know or don’t really care what it’s about to us, and that’ll do.


H – What sort of message, outlook etc. do you want to bring to people?

M – There’s loads of things. Just don’t settle for lameness in any form.

D – Don’t believe the hype…

M – Yeah, man! (Laughter)…Just don’t settle for anything less than filth.


H – Are there any funny names that you’ve been given accidentally instead of Tsuji Giri?

D – Titsu Jerry.

M – Tissue Girl

D – Teh-suji Guery is the common one.

I – The Stoogy Guru.


It is obvious that Tsuji Giri are a band that value some of the most crucial yet often neglected aspects that make music sincere, relevant and soul satisfying. The music more than substantiates that. Their music may be intricate, but it is far from arcane. It is just as primal as it is profound. Tsuji Giri’s struggle for recognition speaks intense volumes about the reticence of the music media and industry, almost comprehensively. This is particularly disheartening when the underground has so much to offer. With a little ambition, bands like Tsuji Giri and co. are more than capable of breaking this crippling cycle. It may take years of frustration but we’ll hold our breath until then, even if that means suffocation.


 Tsuji Giri Are : 





interview by dave himelfield - photos by tina mcclelland - Tsuji Giri national single release (distribution by cargo)  with The Sonar Yen on Soviet Union Oct 2002

(c) (p) tm 2002 musicdash ltd  - all rights reserved