I saw Emi Morimoto drum with Shonen Knife for the first time when my band Hard Nips got an offer to play with them at the Knitting Factory in NYC. I was immediately attracted to her energetic drumming style. Every time I saw them play after that, I would watch as she power blasted her positive energy throughout the entire set. “She’s constantly full of energy,” said lead member Naoko, as we sit in the backroom of Bell House before their July 21st show. Band mate Ritsuko shakes her head and laughs, adding, “even today, she made breakfast in the morning, was talking and watching YouTube videos on the phone while she pedaled away on the exercise bike, and managed to go have Taiwanese dinner before the show.” Through their constant positivity and pop-punk energy, it’s clear the members of Shonen Knife are doing exactly what they want. And this goes for Emi herself, who talked about her happy two years with Shonen Knife in a simple, straight-to-the-point manner with a smile.
Tom Tom Magazine: How long have you been playing drums and what sort of music activity were you involved in before you joined Shonen Knife?
Emi Morimoto: For over 10 years, since I was 19. I’ve played in four to five different kinds of bands. When I joined the band circle in college, there were no drummers to form a band so I said, “then I shall.” It’s not like I always wanted to play drums or anything, it just happened, but I love it now!
Were your other bands in a similar style to Shonen Knife? Did you always like Ramones and punk style music?
No, my other bands were all in a different style. Not punk rock at all, and more experimental style.
Could you tell me how you got involved with Shonen Knife?
In 2010, when I had left my previous band, Ni-Hao! which was based in Kyoto, where I am from, I got a call from Shonen Knife’s manager himself. Ni-Hao! had played a show with Shonen Knife and I supposed they had watched me drum.
Shonen Knife always plays an amazingly tight set. What’s the secret? Is Naoko very strict about the members playing?
Not at all! Her and the band always let me do what I want to. Even when we make songs, she’ll tell me to come up with my own beat so I’m now involved in the song making with them and on our new album. It’s really comfortable and fun for me to play with them. They’re both very chill and nice.
What was the show that was most impressive to you?
When we played Fuji Rock this year. Fuji Rock show had been my aspiration to play. I keep a diary and after the show, I happened to read back my diary from last year of around that time and I had written about how I wanted to play Fuji Rock. So I thought, “wow! My dream became a reality!”
Going around on tour across the world, do you find that drummers can communicate better even when you cannot speak the same language?
Yes I totally do! Drummers can communicate! I think we feel the vibe as drummers.
What do you do when you’re not drumming or involved in band activity?
I don’t like people who say they’re bored because there is so much you can do around and there’s no way you can be bored. So I’m always running around doing things. I can’t stand sitting and doing nothing.
I always ask this because Japanese are into food: What is your favorite food?
What would you do if suddenly there were no drums in the world?
If you could have any kind of kit in the world, what would be your dream kit?
I’d love it if each drum made a different instrument sound—like guitar sounds and bass sounds. Then I can have a band on my own with just that kit.
You’d still have to sing though right?
I already have been singing while I play drums. Even with Shonen Knife, I’m singing lead vocals in one song as I drum this tour.
What have you gained from Shonen Knife?
It’s funny I didn’t realize before, but Shonen Knife made me re-acknowledged my love for punk rock.
What would you like to do in the future as a drummer?
I want to play my dream kit!
As a female drummer, do you hope to get married and have kids? And how would you go about it?
I do want to get married and I want kids too, but I’ve never gotten pregnant before so I really don’t know what it would be like. I need to feel how it’s like so I’ll think about it when it happens. I will continue drumming for sure though!
How about the scope for 2013?
Before we can think 2013, there is so much more happening this year. Our new album just came out in June so after this US tour, we’ll be touring UK and Europe in October. Then we’ll have more shows back in Japan too so we’ve got plenty to do this second half of this year!
In your words, what is an awesome drummer?
A drummer who’d not only keep a beat but would transform their emotions into their beats and communicate by expanding them within each style of song.
By Emi Kariya
Photos by Bex Wade