While passing through Euston last Friday I chanced upon one Kazumi Taguchi, a ninja and a former Frank Chicken, who I have not seen for at least a decade. Disguised as a music grad student from SOAS and dressed in regular attire, Kazumi courteously explained she would love to chat but was already late for a Frank Chicken rehearsal in preparation for an appearance at the Barbican’s Extraordinary Voices. A little confused and a sense of déjà vu ensued before she informed me that the session is scheduled for 4pm on Saturday, on the free stage and with that vanished in a puff of smoke.
Now, Frank Chickens and I go way back to the early Eighties when I penned the first major interview/feature on them for the NME. Both Neil Spencer (NME editor) and I were partial to a couple of beers and a touch of alternative comedy on a Sunday night and had been blown away by these largely unknown but super feisty and quirky women from Japan. Musically, the Chickens had hooked up with Stoke Newington based improv duo Steve Beresford and David Toop, both of whom were obsessed with NYC electro, and the most excellent results of that encounter can be found on those early records.
At 4pm on Saturday the Barbican was alight with energy and following a riotous performance by a promenading choir we elbowed out a space for oncoming appearance of Frank Chickens. It was busy and there was clearly a host of Frank Chickens fans in the house. Maybe their winning the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy God Award in 2010 – a fortuitous event, appropriately based on a viral rebellion – has provided a little added momentum to their rep. However, as the electronic beats – which still sound remarkably fresh – kicked in and they hit the stage, the thrill that I experienced first time round still exists. The humour is priceless, the choreography fittingly anarchic and the innovative costume changes endless. There were classics like ‘We Are Ninja’ and ‘Blue Canary’ along with a bunch of new numbers and as their set gathered momentum so more and more younger members appeared. As Kazuko explained, “We even have Irish man in the group… Ray… we follow old English tradition of cheap labour!”
Not happy with being labeled a “national disgrace” Kazuko maintains their expanded membership now allows them to be an “international disgrace” and it’s clear from this show that the youthful energy, irreverence and humour which underpinned their original performances is firmly intact and guaranteed to carry them into the future. Basically, it’s as they say, “We are not what you expect… doron doron!”
Pics – Top: Kazuko Hohki / Bottom: Kazumi Taguchi
Someone disabled the vid I posted so here’s some links: