An interview with Japanese band Orange Kandy

Members interviewed were:

Linda: Vocals, rhythm guitar
Ban: Lead Guitar
Futo-C: Bass
Karl: Drums
Ginger: Translator and Manager Extraordinaire

Orange Kandy is a band from Tokyo who after three years are just finally making their way across the big pond to give American audiences a taste of their musical lollipop. Take two women and two self-described “slave boys,” a shot of Shonen Knife, a chigger of the Muffs, and an equal amount of the Runaways. Mix well, and that will give you an idea of what Orange Kandy is all about. The band just finished their second tour of the states in March, hitting L. A. and Texas, and recently came out with a new remix album, Where. This is by far one of the best live bands I saw all last year. We had a little chat in their West L. A. hotel room one night in October 1998, and this is what they had to say…

Jason: This is your first time to America. How’s it been for you so far? How has the tour been?

Linda: Well…actually it’s the first time for the band and also personally my first time in the United States, outside of Japan. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know what kind of people I was going to be meeting. But everywhere we’ve played, all the crowds are wild, so we feel that we are well received. We even got encores, which was an unexpected thing.

Jason: Yeah, I think you would have gotten another encore last night except that lady came up on stage, you know. (Referring to show at the Gig, Santa Monica, CA where a crazy homeless woman came up on stage and tried to sing with them.) Are you just playing in California or are you going on a total U.S Tour?

Ginger: Well this tour is just L.A. Within 10 days, we played five shows ‘cause we just wanted to try it out and become comfortable. We were supposed to play CMJ.

Jason: The music festival…

Ginger: In New York, and then we came to L.A. We just couldn’t do both at the same time because we had to borrow equipment from a friend, we had to pay for this and that, hotels, and there were just a billion things to do.

Jason: Do you have to pay for it yourselves or does your record company support you a little bit?

Ban, Linda, Ginger: NO!

Ginger: Outside of Japan, we have to support ourselves.

Jason: Right. So nobody in America knew about you really before you got here this time.

Ginger: Well since I used to live here, over ten years, I have spoken about this band. When I came here in April, I did a mini promotion. [I told people,] “Hey, check this out, a four-song demo, you know I’m gonna get this band signed in Japan and then after the album is done, we are gonna tour Japan and then maybe I want to bring this band to the United States, what do you think?” So I gave the demo to Rodney, Geeza X, producers and journalists and friends of mine, and then they gave me ideas on what I should be doing. So this was my idea to bring them to the United States ‘cause I knew they would do very well because they can play well. Not only that but they’re characters you know…like somebody said, like cartoon characters. (Everybody laughs.) So cute. So anyway…just California. I mean, just L.A.

Jason: This time. 

Ginger: Yes. And then people would read about us or talk about us. Then maybe we could move on to the next step.

Jason: Right. So what is your impression of America so far besides the crowd? I mean Los Angeles, what do you think of the city?

Linda: I find it really interesting because American people are very outgoing, you know, instead of keeping it to yourself. So it’s very easy to make friends. So far I’ve been very Japanese, but I’m dyed blonde.
Ginger: In Japan, we get controversial sort of things like, “What did you do with your hair?” Blah blah blah, and sometimes you don’t know who is living next door. Like you don’t become friends or anything. But in this country, she finds it really easy to make friends and people don’t give her a hard time for having blonde hair. Being Japanese it actually works better because people think it’s interesting.

Jason: What does the name ‘Orange Kandy’ mean? Any special significance or is it just something you came up with?

Ban & Linda: Well, actually both just like you mentioned, the name just came up but it has a meaning, but since they’re greedy…

Ginger: We agree it turns out to be a perfect name. But actually I would like to tell the story about Orange Kandy…we used too be called Orange County. When I did the promotion in April, everybody asked, “Orange County? Why? How come?” They just got the idea from Orange as a color and County just goes well with Orange County, didn’t really mean anything. When I came back from United States, I told them somebody just keeps asking me “Why Orange County?” And one guy who was at a gig in Japan, he misheard it, “Excuse me, Orange Kandy?” Then I said, “Orange County.” Than he said, “Wow. But l like Orange Kandy better with K!” So I told the band about the idea, everybody agreed except Asshole (gestures to Futo-C in the other room, makes pejorative imitation of Futo-C and says, “NYAH-NYAH-NYAH!,” Ban & Linda laugh). But Geeza X, who is a producer, said, “Yeah, I think this Orange Kandy was part of acid or some kind of LSD back in the ’60s.”

Jason: Yeah right…(everybody chortles)

Ginger: So we liked the double-meaning, and Orange Kandy since we got the name we changed the album concept, everything just came all together.

Jason: So how long have you been together as a band? Three years?

Ginger: No, three days. (everybody laughs)

Jason: Very funny. How did you meet each other? Did you know each other as friends?

Ban: Linda and I are old friends, for about 10 years before. We played in other bands. I had other bands, Linda had other bands. Both broke up four years ago…then Linda was looking for a partner for a band. We ran into each other at the Hole concert back in ’95, then we ran into each other and it was like, “Hey, what have you been doing?…Not much?….Wanna play together?…Sure!” So, we used a drum machine and that was the beginning.

Ginger: And they started writing songs and they needed a drummer, so she went to see our drummer, Karl, and as a package the Asshole (Futo-C) came along. (all laugh, Ginger gestures again, “WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT ABOUT ME?…ME ME ME!!”)

Jason: He’s a great bass player though…

Ginger: Somebody asked, “How can you play bass when you love Grateful Dead?” (laughter) Anyway, that whole story…she (Ban) went to check the drummer out, but he used to play with the Asshole together so he came as a package (Futo-C from the other room voluminously speaks in Japanese. He says, “CALL MY NAME!” but Ginger said the other way was easier).

Jason: Maybe he should just change his name to Asshole, that’s a good name. So um, did you play live at first with the drum machine or wait to play live until you got a real drummer?

Linda: If we weren’t gonna find a drummer and bass player, we would use the drum machine, but we found one. Even though we had to use the machine we wanted to play live.

Ginger: That’s how hungry they were.

Jason: So what kind of following do you have in Japan? Are you rock stars now in Japan, are you rich, do you drive around in limousines or what?

Linda: Actually, there is a calm before the storm at the moment…
Ginger: They’re one step away from rock stars! (laughter from Karl and Futo-C in the next room)

Jason: Not them! They’re slaves!…just kidding. What does your family think about the music that you’re doing, what does your family think about your band?

Linda: After my previous band broke up, I wasn’t doing much so my parents used to say, “It’s about time to be normal and do something about your life.”

Jason: Uh-oh!

Ginger: They said that before, but when we went to tour Japan, we stayed at her parents’ place. They’re very supportive. They bought CDs for their neighbors and all the people they know, even the guy who makes sushi. Her Mom says, “I love ‘Ice Cream Man,’ I like this song!”
Linda: Well, my mom says, “With this opportunity you’ve got to really make it and be successful so I can retire.” So she can be rich and do whatever…

Jason (to Ban): How ‘bout your Mom?

Ban: I’m the youngest one of three sisters, so they don’t care about me. When I was a child my parents told me, “You can do it. Whattever you want to do, you can do it. They didn’t care either way.”

Jason: I’ve wanted to ask you, how long have you been playing guitar, because you’re like a guitar god. You are amazing.

Ban: Since I was about 10 years old, I’ve been playing 17 years.

Jason: What kind of music do you listen to when you’re on tour? What kind of music do you like in general?

Ban (in a hoarse voice): Orange Kandy.

Linda: We have our own favorites we listen to at home. We don’t have any egos on tour, so we’re basically happy with what we hear on the radio.

Ginger: Because it’s refreshing.

Jason: Especially, I guess, over here in America.

Ginger: Yeah. Japan is different. Radios in Japan make them very uncomfortable [because they hate the music played on Japaneese radio].

Jason: Really? Why? You think it’s terrible?

Ginger: Yeah.
Linda: Yeah.
Ban: Yeah.

Jason: Yeah. I agree. They don’t play the good bands really that much on the radio. What Japanese bands, other than yourself, do you recommend to stupid Americans over here who don’t know anything about Japanese music at all? Bakata Gui-jzing? (a Japanese band)

Ginger: There is a band called Michelle Gun Elephant.
Ban: Four guys.

Jason: Four guys. And they’re good?

Ban: Um…

Jason: So you don’t like very many Japanese bands?

Linda: Mmmmm.
Ban: Mmmmm.

Jason: Every Japanese band I meet says the same thing. They have one band they might recommend and then everybody else they go, “uuuaaaaa…”

Ginger: Well, because the Japanese music, scene you’ve got to understand, when you come to Japan, everything you hear on the radio and everything you see on TV: guys with make-up, horrible music. Not even like a drag queen, it’s more sissy or wimpy.

Jason: You know I had to suffer through that. Last year I was in Hiroshima on New Year’s Eve and they had this long show of like music bands, I think “Girl Bands against Male Bands.” Do you know what I’m talking about? Oh, it was TERRIBLE. New Year’s Eve TV show. It’s supposed to be really famous.

Ginger: Oh! Kwoa hagani-o. Those weren’t even bands, it was all commercial business. Not even playing…mostly high pitched peeping noises), “memememe!” But that’s been going on for 30 or 40 years. And it’s full of very elderly retirement people.

Jason: Yeah. I know I wanted to go out and have fun on the town, but I had to sit with my wife’s family, with Obasan (Grandma) and Uncle, and I was going, “[But] it’s New Year’s Eve!”

Ginger: We agree. You know the next time you interview other good Japanese bands, mention about good bands that you have interviewed, we should make a reunion, not reunion, we should make a union…

Jason: That’s what I think too.

Ginger: And then somebody should organize a Japan Rock Fest.

Jason: What a great idea.

Ginger: “Along with good local bands…Japanese bands, American bands, Japanese bands, American bands, should be an all day thing.

Jason: I think that’s a good idea. If you had maybe five Japanese bands over at one time and do a tour, it would be incredible.

Ginger: I’ve been talking about it. You will be the promoter. Let’s sign it.

Jason: On your flyer it says you are riot grrrls with 2 slave boys? What’s that all about? Do you enjoy dominating men? Is it something you do for fun?

Linda: It’s a very attractive thing, it’s just one of my favorite things. I don’t concentrate on one thing about dominating men, it’s just one of my favorites as a hobby.
(Ban says something in Japanese.)

Jason: It’s her duty?
Ginger: Now she’s blinking off.

Jason: Women are good at it. I think so. It’s attractive to see women do it, but to see men do it, it’s kinda unattractive, you know.

Linda: On top of that we are like animation characters.

Jason: Yeah on stage you look like that a little bit. It’s like almost unreal. In Japan, do you have lots men following you around begging you to be your slaves as well?

Linda: Japanese men are NO GOOD! [Ban] says Japanese men don’t understand. They still believe in Samurai somehow. They don’t have any room in their hearts to even talk about it as a joke or just to have a conversation about it. They don’t have any room in their hearts. So it’s very boring. Japanese men are very boring.

Mick: Wow, we must be really exciting then.

Jason: NO! Mick. Shut up Mick.

Ginger: YES! speaks in Japanese, exciting! He (Jason) is married to a Japanese woman…Japanese men are too serious, they don’t have any confidence.

Jason: While we are on the subject, what kind of man do you like then?

Ginger: There is all kinds of nasty stuff in the article but we can still tell you. Is it looks or inside or anything?

Jason: Whatever. Which one is important to you?

Ban: Long blond hair.

Jason: What kind of things do you sing about in your band? For example, songs that you sing are you trying to get a message across, what subjects do you cover?

Ginger: It’s not so much sex we talk about, basically talks about cosmic, space.

Jason: What is it like to be a woman in your position in Japan? Is it more difficult than if you’re a man? On top of that is there a feminist message in the music along with trying to say, “Let me be what I want to be, I can do whatever I want”?

Linda: Actually in Japan, all the girls who like to express themselves, it’s okay to be young and pretty, like teen idols. But if a woman over a certain age – let’s say over 20 – who shouts even one word, or acts barbaric, I mean, like a rock-n-roll chick or whatever, is basically a barbarian. You do something wrong, they give [you] a hard time just for being female. Because age matters in Japan, looks matter. If you’re fat, you can’t do anything. All the pretty young girls are merchandise for Japanese market. They are basically Lolitas. All the Japanese men like Lolitas. They like young girls. Even the girls in school uniforms.

Jason: Kogal? (slang for Japanese schoolgirls).

Ginger: Even the old men at their age, they buy woman’s knickers, used knickers. They’re sick. All Japanese men are. Watch out.

Jason: You know, for example, I know when Shonen Knife first came out, they were very popular maybe 10 or 12 years ago or longer.

Ginger: Here.

Jason: In Japan as well as I understand, not really?

Ginger: They were not all that popular in Japan until they became popular in America.

Jason: But when I talk to Japanese people now all they ever say is, “Oh, they’re old. They should stop.” All the Japanese friends I have put them down because of their age. They’re too old to keep going on.

Ginger: Japanese people say that right? Just the wrong point, ya know? I really encourage [bands like Shonen Knife]. They should keep going. The longer they do the better.

Jason: There is a really big underground scene in Japan. When I went there, I noticed there were lots of different types of fashions going on but it seems that people get into a certain type of music for a little while, and then they just drop out of it and go into regular society. Is that true?

Ginger: It is true.
Linda: The whole concept of Japanese society is – you can dream whatever you want, you can go for your dreams while you’re young, but after 24 or 25, including rock, just drop everything and move on to your normal life. All adult people are rotten in that way. That’s why she feels sorry for the young people ’cause there’s no role.

Jason: But it’s changing now isn’t it?

Linda: Not much! I never had a role model such as a teacher or politician in my life. I never looked up to them. My teachers were the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and any other rock band other than Japanese musicians.

Jason: Out of all the things you own, what is you favorite possession?

Linda: Material, right?
Ginger: Her favorite is food. She’s very fascinated with her favorite food. So when she’s finished eating her favorite food, it’s gone right that’s when she feels real fat disgusting and lonely. And that’s why she loves refrigerators, opening and closing everywhere she goes, she checks everybody’s refrigerator. The most important thing is food.

Jason: Why are Japanese people obsessed with eating?

Ginger: She thinks it’s just the sixth sense, of especially Japanese food. Definitely, absolutely thinks that way.

Jason: Do you guys know the Iron Chef Show? I watch that every Sunday. Iron Chef Showdown! (Note: The Iron Chef Show is a very popular TV show in Japan. In Japanese, it is called Ryori Tetsujin. There are three Iron Chefs, each an expert in a specific style of cooking: Japanese, Chinese, and Italian. Famous chefs from all over Japan and the world come to the show and challenge the Chef of their choice. Usually there is a theme to each show; one day, the theme might be Shiitake mushrooms, the next may be squid. The Chefs never know what the main ingredient will be until just before they begin cooking. There is a time limit and when it is over, the food is judged by Japanese celebrities. The winner is determined by points given by the judges. The Food Channel has picked up the show and runs it weekly, but with all the dialogue dubbed into English.)

Ginger: After the war, we were poor. Everybody was so poor that they didn’t have enough food. Now the country after all is richer now. So everybody’s  obsessed with food. It’s the biggest luxury. Because in Japan, it’s hard to do [stuff like] marine sports or golf. It’s very expensive. But eating out is the easiest thing.

It sure is. Orange Kandy, boys and girls. Do yourself a favor and check them out if they ever roll through your town. Or, if you want to get their debut album Lick This or book them for a show, e-mail  them at [email protected] or check out their web site at and learn more about them.