Q&A: Peelander-Z’s Kengo Hioki
“Not singer” talks new album
By Kevin Curtin,
3:55PM, Fri. May 11, 2018
Twenty years into their madcap career, Peelander-Z remains without equal. That is to say no one else has thought to create a color-coded punk band that chants non-sequitur hooks and engages in human bowling at their concerts.
New album Go PZ Go!, produced locally by Chico Jones and issued by Chicken Ranch Records, finds the Japan-born, Austin-based trio returning to their lovable action-punk roots. In advance of him crowd surfing atop Barracuda this Saturday, we dialed up guitarist/singer/painter Kengo Hioki, aka “Yellow,” to talk about his latest batch of semi-fluent anthems.
Austin Chronicle: There’s a song on this album called “I’m Not Singer,” which is an unusual declaration to come from the vocalist in a band.
Kengo Hioki: A long time ago, I was talking with Josh [Lambert] from Octopus Project and I said, “Hey, I’m not a singer. I’m crazy performer, I’m screamer, b-b-buh.” Then I sang: “I’m not a singahhh!”
I had forgotten that melody, but after two years, Josh remembered it. He sang, “I’m not a singahhh” and I said, “Wow, you remember that?” He said, “Of course, I like that melody.” So then I made that song, but kind of we made it together.
AC: Peelander-Z’s most recent albums have had obvious themes – heavy metal and outer space – but this LP focuses on the happy punk you’re known for. Do you look at this as back-to-basics Peelander-Z?
KH: Yeah, we made a kid’s album, spacey album, and heavy metal album – all of those concepts. Now we’re back to the basics with a super punk rock style. This album is the first with Peelander Purple [Akiteru Ito]. He moved from Japan. I play backing guitar and he plays everything, guitar, bass, keyboards, and does arrangements. It is back-to-basics: 14 songs, 25 minutes. I like it!
AC: The lineup’s changed with the departure of Peelander Red and Peelander Green. Who’s on stage these days?
KH: Now we are three members: Pink, Purple, Yellow. We are using a drum track and sometimes Pink is playing a little drums. So we started new Peelander style. We had to think about things differently live, how to do improvisation. Now we understand. For one song, “Free Three Bees,” we don’t play instruments at all and whole song is karaoke. We will be on the floor and we will be crazy.
AC: Like yourself, karaoke comes from Japan. Do you like to sing karaoke?
KH: Yeah I like to sing karaoke! I like to sing it here in USA too – even if I don’t know the English. It’s party time. Maybe one day I will make a karaoke party in Austin… with a bowling competition, too.
AC: This disc has some improbably short songs. One is just 16 seconds. What’s the shortest you can make a song and it still be good?
KH: I like a five-second song, like dah-dah-dahhh. A song for me is not a song for everybody. For me, a song is a sound I come up with while driving the car or riding my bicycle. I’m not usual. I’m not a melody maker. I’m a screamer making a sound.
AC: Before you moved to Austin, Peelander-Z was based in New York City. Where have you felt more at home?
KH: I wish we would have moved to Austin 10 years ago. New York was okay, but in Austin you can go fishing, eat a taco every day, everybody is a friend, and I can do painting here.
AC: You’re playing Barracuda tomorrow. What can we look forward to?
KH: It’s going to be a party! Bring all your friends, bring your grandfather, grandmother, ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, your parents, your evil spirits. Bring some chocolate for me, bring local beer for Pink, bring some fishing lure for the Purple, bring your own cowbell. Bring a costume – any color… maybe yellow.