Stowmarket: Punk-pop legends Shonen Knife play John Peel Centre

Shonen Knife, playing The John Peel Centre

Shonen Knife, playing The John Peel Centre - Credit: Archant

Kurt Cobain said when he finally saw Japanese all-girl punk-pop legends Shonen Knife play live he was “transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert”.

“It was a great experience for us. I didn’t know Nirvana when we got an offer from them to be their opening act (on the Nevermind tour). I was scared but after I met them they were very kind, polite people. Kurt wanted to play our song Twist Barbie at their secret gig and I told him the guitar chords,” says guitarist and singer Naoko.

Together since 1981, the band have a cult following in the UK thanks to the patronage of uber fans like Cobain and John Peel. Fitting that one of their only five UK gigs should be at The John Peel Centre next week.

“I remember we had John Peel sessions twice. I had no chance to see him directly. I was very honored to do the sessions. He even played our song A Day At The Factory in the early 1980s on his BBC radio program. At that time, our albums were released just in Japan and I’d never been overseas. I was surprised about it. I’d like to have thanked him.”

Shonen Knife formed in Osaka in 1981 when Naoko first heard late 1970s’ pop-punk-pop, particularly The Ramones. Inspired, the trio crafted their own idiosyncratic songs, fashioned brightly coloured outfits and DIY albums.


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In 1985, K Records released Burning Farm in the US and deals with Sub Pop and various majors followed. Four years later, the crème of the alt rock scene - including Sonic Youth, L7 and Redd Kross - covered their favourite Shonen Knife songs on the tribute album Every Band Has A Shonen Knife Who Loves Them.

They’ve been credited with making the international pop underground more international by opening it up to bands from Japan.

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“We are very lucky to get a chance to play in many countries. I don’t know we opened it up, I just play our music,” says Naoko.

Something of an anomaly when they started, coming in at a time where all-female bands - particularly female pop-punk bands – were quite scarce, was good for them she adds.

“I think the number of all-female bands are not so many still now. Anyway, so that we could prominent it rather became an advantage. We had many offers from other bands to play with them.”

Last June saw them release their 18th studio album Pop Tune, recorded in Osaka. It’s clear that Naoko, Ritsuko and Emi have no intention of slowing down and are only looking forward to the next 30 years.

“It’s cheerful pop rock album and hope many people listen to our music and get happy,” says Naoko. “Since we’ve released Pop Tune we played in Japan, North America, Thailand. In August, we had two shows in the UK. So many people came to our shows and it seemed they enjoyed it very much. We are happy about that, too.”

Presented in association with Washing Machine, Shonen Knife play The John Peel Centre, Stowmarket, on Saturday, September 7.

“We will rock you,” says Naoko. “We’ll play early songs, new songs, pop songs and hard rock songs. Let’s have fun.”

Support on the night, running from 7pm-11pm, will be Ipswich cabaret-garage-punks The Waxing Captors, Bury St Edmunds-based dirty-blues girl-boy-girl trio Horse Party and London alt-rockers Former Utopia.

For tickets call the box office on 01449 774678 or visit www.johnpeelcentreforcreativearts.co.uk. The last train back to Ipswich/Norwich leaves Stowmarket at 11.48pm.

For more info on the bands visit www.facebook.com/shonenknifeofficial, www.facebook.com/thewaxingcaptors, www.facebook.com/horsepartyparty and www.facebook.com/formerutopia

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