Experience Movie

Experience Movie Cover
Released 03/01/1993, cover design by Tycoon Graphics (Yuichi Miyashi and Naoyuki Suzuki), photo by Hiroyuki Ishiee

With the first album after they signed to Columbia, The Night Snails And Plastic Boogie not having sold or reviewed well, and Yoshii not being very happy about how it turned out, their second album was going to be a chance for them to do things right. This sentiment was shared throughout the whole band.

To tell you the truth, when we released the first album we had misgivings that it only showed one aspect of The Yellow Monkey, and that we couldn’t make it big off of just that.

Annie (Eiji Kikuchi), Rockin’ On Japan Vol. 71 (04/1993)

This is the order that they had to be in though. If this album had come first and Night Snails had been our 2nd, people might be asking “Is this what The Yellow Monkey has turned into?”. But because things progressed in the way they did, I think people will say “Oh, this is what The Yellow Monkey is!”.

Emma (Hideaki Kikuchi), Rockin’ On Japan Vol. 71 (04/1993)

The first album was completed, and it was time to promote it and get ready for the next album. I felt very excited because “Suck Of Life”, a popular song that we’d been playing since our indie days was finally going to be recorded for the next album! I was also really excited for “Avant-garde de ikou yo” (“Let’s Go Avant-garde”).

Kazuya Yoshii, In Search of Lost Love (Ushinawareta Ai wo Motomete)
Experience Movie - Front Group Photo
Photo found in the front of the album booklet. Design by Tycoon Graphics (Yuichi Miyashi and Naoyuki Suzuki), photography by Hiroyuki Ishiee

With such relief and positive feelings going into the second album, you’d think that there’d be no where to go but up for The Yellow Monkey. However, you’d be wrong. Experience Movie (also known as “Mikoukai Experience Movie” (“Unaired Experience Movie”) on the back of the album only) didn’t sell any better than the first album at all, though it did start opening up the critics that were so down on the last album: They started getting more magazine interviews, a reasonably big live show at Nippon Seinen-Kan Hall, and Yoshii even got to do a stint as a late night radio DJ (“Kazuya Yoshii’s Midnight Rock City” on FM NACK 5, which ran from October 1992 to March 1995).

But even after we’d released our second album, nothing changed for us. We were able to have our first concert in a live hall (Nippon Seinen-Kan Hall) though, so we were gradually moving up. I also got my own show as a late night radio DJ, so I was becoming more visible to more fans since getting signed to a major record label. But the album only sold about 8000 copies.

Kazuya Yoshii, In Search of Lost Love (Ushinawareta Ai wo Motomete)

Though it was proving to be an extremely slow climb to the top, the Nippon Seinen-Kan Hall concert was released (on VHS at the time, on DVD much later) as “”Life Time Screen ~The Silver Screen of Reminiscence~” (“Life Time Screen ~kioku no ginmaku~”), and advertised in the same magazines that they were getting interviewed in. It also made a bit of a splash with its risque intro, which (in a more toned down version) would become the standard when performing Morality Slave at later concerns (see the article on that specific song for photos).

During that concert at Nippon Seinen-Kan Hall…we had topless women with bags over their heads on stage with us during the opening song. We played some footage from the movie “Santa Sangre” (a 1989 Mexican-Italian avant-garde horror film) as the opening too. That movie is the story of a boy with a mother complex, for a mother who’s had both of her arms cut off by the father. I don’t know why, but that’s just the image that I had in my mind for that concert.

Kazuya Yoshii, In Search of Lost Love (Ushinawareta Ai wo Motomete)
Rockin' On Japan 04/1993 - Members without Yoshii
Taken by Takeo Ogiso

The reason that the album was reviewing better despite sells and that Yemon was getting more attention was obvious: Experience Movie is a better album than The Night Snails And Plastic Boogie was. It still has problems, and is absolutely not perfect, but it’s Yoshii and the band really beginning to find their artistry in a more consistent way. For every example of Yoshii trying to be a bit too edgy (like in Morality Slave), there are many more examples of him clearly figuring out how to write amazing ballads (Freesia no Shounen, Silk Scarf ni Boushi no Madam). For every example of a fun but pretty lightweight and standard rock number (Love Is Zoophilia), there are many more non-standardly arranged and artful up-tempo songs (Avant-garde de Ikou yo, Shinbigan Boogie).

Rockin On Japan 09-93 - Yoshii as Mary 2
Yoshii performing as Mary during Nippon Seinen-Kan Hall. Taken by Mariko Miura

The artistry found on Experience Movie didn’t end with the songs either, it extended to the costumes worn by the band during the photo shoots for the album, and the overall image that the band wanted to present this time around. Instead of going for the extreme and in-your-face glam rock presentation that they did for Night Snails, this time they presented a much more refined and focused version of that.  This was the introduction of Yoshii’s character Mary (the lover of dead soldier Jaguar, but we’ll get more into who Jaguar is on the next album), which he portrayed during the album photo shoot and part of the filming of the music video for Avant-garde de Ikou yo. This started out as a drag queen persona that he adopted for himself in order to get a higher level of confidence on stage when talking to the crowd, but eventually morphed into an actual character: Mary. It also went from him helping himself to feeling that, as he changed as a person, he was doing this to try to make up for his own bad treatment of women in the past.

I’ve always enjoyed when things that I say go over well with people. So I was able to bring that part of myself out through putting on makeup and adopting this effeminate personality. When I put on that makeup, I was really able to be myself. That’s why my makeup was so thick back then. It was really, really thick.

Kazuya Yoshii, In Search of Lost Love (Ushinawareta Ai wo Motomete)

But then I started thinking about why I felt I had to sing songs like that. Half of it was that I really didn’t like that I had been so cold toward women. So with feelings of repentance, I put on that dress and sing a song about a woman’s unrequited love.

Kazuya Yoshii, Rockin’ On Japan Vol. 76 (09/1993)
Experience Movie - Back Group Photo
The group photo found in the back of the album booklet. Taken by Hiroyuki Ishiee.

The rest of the band also wore distinct costumes as well, and they were all depicted in portrait frames in the album booklet. The rest of the band typically wore these costumes whenever Yoshii dressed as Mary during performances at this time as well (though much of that wouldn’t last very long after this album). The styling and costume design was credited to Green Carnation.

Mikako Tsuchiya and Shinobu Fujita were back for the female backup vocals, as well as Takashi Furukawa for the piano, synthesizers, miscellaneous programming, and helping Yoshii with the strings arrangements. Maeda Group were also once again responsible for the strings. But since Yemon were evolving in their song writing, the list of musicians that collaborated with them on this album also grew. These credits include Masahiro Fujii on saxophone, Masanori Suzuki on trumpet, Mitsuaki Uchida on trombone, and Sakana Hosomi on accordion. Someone by the name of “H.Munekiyo” (most likely Hiroyuki Munekiyo, the producer of this album and the last, alongside Yoshii) was also credited for piano alongside Takashi Furukawa, but it’s unclear who played piano on what tracks. Also as with Night Snails previously, much of the recording and mixing was done by Shuji Yamaguchi.

The highs found in Experience Movie are not as high as on Night Snails, but the lows are also not as low. Yoshii’s voice sounds much more like fans of later works will recognize than it did before, and it’s hard to argue that this album isn’t an evolution. It was more than just a step in the right direction, it was the discovery of the identity of the band that would be refined more and more as time went on.