Yuko and Chia are undoubtedly immersed in the Japanese stoner doom scene, and it’s no surprise that with this first offering, they’ve pulled out a calling card that is as ‘in yer face’ and arresting as anything out there. A full frontal assault of distorted riffs, howls and ghostly vocals, as well as bags of riot girrl attitude and lo-fi bravado.
In fact, listening to them brings back that frisson of excitement you got (those who may be old enough to remember) when you heard Mudhoney’s ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’ for the first time.
But grunge they are not, and neither are they ‘occult rock’ as such. Listen/watch the new track ‘Black Moon’ below and you’ll see what we’re talking about;
Being nominally a ‘Doom’ band, expect a bucket load of Sabbath worship for sure, but BlackLab have a vibe and experimental undertow akin more to their countrymen ‘Boris’ and the souped-up lo-fi fuzz of Ty Segall or Comets On Fire.
Tracks like ‘Black Moon’ ‘Hidden Garden’ ‘Spoon’ ‘Symptom Of The Blacklab’ (which starts like Sabbath … then thrashes somewhere else), twist, burn and boil into the red. ‘His Name Is …’ is a churning chunky throb. ‘Spoon’ and ‘Warm Death’ offer moments of relief and crushing noise.
And ‘Big Muff’ is … well … 9 minutes of drum-less fuzz, that will probably do serious damage to your speakers. What’s not to love.
This first BlackLab release on NHS is a version of their ‘Under The Strawberry Moon’ album which was released in tiny numbers on CD only in Japan, a pull together of previous tracks and new songs recorded over 2017.
But the NHS variant is different. Wayne Adams (Death Pedals, Shitwife, Vodun, Casual Nun) noise guru at Bear Bites Horse Studio, has remixed the tracks to maximum effect, upping the fuzz and weight of the originals, to create Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0. exclusively for NHS. You will not be disappointed.
It’s an album full of promise, and we at New Heavy Sounds are super stoked to be working with ‘the Dark Witch, Doom Duo from Osaka Japan’.
As part of our Overdrive Discover features, we spoke to guitarist/vocalist Yuko Morino about the bands’ formation, influences and much more.
OD – Give us a brief background on the band and the particular sub-genre that best describes who you are?
YUKO – I’m Yuko Morino the guitarist/vocalist of BlackLab. BlackLab is comprised of me and drummer Chia Shiraishi. I wanted to form a band that sounded like Black Sabbath. Firstly I invited a female bass player to join the band, who also had a friend that was a drummer. She was brought in and BlackLab was formed. So, first back in 2012 we were a three-piece band. After a while, the drummer left, and Chia joined the band.
Next, the bass player left and while I did look for a bass player, I thought that it would be better for me to play just one guitar in the hope of trying to get a bass sound also. I put the guitar through 2 guitar amps and a bass amp by using an octave pedal. Does it sounds like there’s a bass player? Yes! With regards to the sub-genre that best describes us, I think that’s ‘witch doom‘ ‘female doom‘, but our sound has not only doom metal in it but also elements of psychedelic rock.
OD – Tell us about the original version of the album and also how this new version is different. What can we expect?
YUKO – Surprisingly, the original version was mixed using cassette MTR by Jun Morino. The analogue-like sound that it had got good feedback from our fans. But this time, Wayne Adams remixed it and Jeff Mortimer’s remastering has created a whole new sound for the record. It’s almost like it’s a totally new album. The range of sound widened, and the presence really increased. It sounds comparable to something produced by much bigger bands.
OD – Was there any one particular band/musician that inspired you to get involved with music and if so, who?
YUKO – When I formed my first ever band, we played stuff like The Stooges, Velvet Underground and Japanese psychedelic band Mescaline Drive. I think that the psychedelic element of what we do has remained to this day and almost formed part of the BlackLab sound.
A few years later, I formed a female three-piece hardcore band ‘Depth‘ in 1996. That band is still working (Chia is also the drummer of this band). Around the time when I formed the band, it was around the grunge boom in Japan, so I thought about incorporating elements of grunge into hardcore.
I was influenced by Helmet, Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine from a songwriting perspective. I continued this band for a long time, but I wanted to form a new band which had a different approach which basically turned into BlackLab.
OD – Where does the name come from?
YUKO – The name of the band comes from merging Black Sabbath and Stereolab’s names combined. I like both of these musically contrasting bands. But while they are both different I feel that both have “psychedelic” elements to their music. This psychedelic feel is very much a part of the Blacklab sound that we try and create.
OD – How supportive has the local underground scene been for you and has it helped the band in any way?
YUKO – We have friends in various bands across genres. For example, crust, crossover thrash, pop-punk, hardcore punk, grunge and more. We are often organizing events by inviting each other to play. This increases the exchange between different genres, it leads to the expansion of the underground scene here, and there are many record shops in Osaka that are closely tied to the local underground scene. Also in Tokyo, they help in spreading our music too.
OD – With the dramatic change in the way the music industry has evolved, how are you experiencing the current climate with being a band starting out and what would you like to see change in the future?
YUKO – Currently, any underground band in the world can distribute their music around the world via the internet. In our case, we first posted our demo on Bandcamp, and then posted ‘Under the Strawberry Moon‘ album there. The album was picked up by some YouTube channels that specialized in Doom Metal and eventually it reached New Heavy Sounds, and as a result, we now have the release of this album ‘Under the Strawberry Moon 2.0‘. I think listeners are always searching for unknown music via the Internet and discovering something new. So the ability to reach people has been made easier.
It’s no secret that streaming has become the most popular way to listen to music these days but we come across plenty of fans who love physical product also which is awesome. Hopefully, this physical demand will increase … I hope so. But at the moment, such listeners in Japan don’t always go to the local live shows. Though I am happy if they casually come to one of our shows and I hope this will grow.
OD – With regards to the process of writing material, is there a particular method that works, and if so, please let us know?
YUKO – First, I consider whether to make it a fast song or slow song. Next, I write some riffs. They sometimes float through my mind at moments throughout my daily life. I develop these ideas to create the foundation of the song. Then Chia creates her drum parts. I create the vocal melody and finally write the lyrics.
OD – How do you approach the language barrier for some of the tracks?
YUKO – I think about lyrics in either English or Japanese depending on what fits the song. However I don’t speak English, so I use a translator to translate from Japanese when I have to.
OD – If there was one band that you could tour with, who would it be and why?
YUKO – The first band would be Sleep, and also The Dead Weather. Their music has the atmosphere of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and the feel of 60~70s rock music in general. We also have a similar approach. To be able to do some shows with either of those bands, now that would be incredible. Who knows what’s gonna happen down the line.
OD – Tell us about your favourite album and why it’s so important to you?
YUKO – My favourite album is ‘Siamese Dream‘ by Smashing Pumpkins. I’ve seen them live three times. The first one was Siamese Dream’s Tour back in the mid-90’s. Billy Corgan is a big reason I use a Big Muff pedal.
OD – What are the plans for the remainder of this year?
YUKO – There is no plan at the moment. But touring abroad is one of our dreams and I pray for it to come true. A lot of Japanese bands tour around Europe, so we also want to follow in their footsteps.
For more information on BlackLab, please check out the links provided below;