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Urusei Yatsura

Urusei Yatsura by George Bean

Well, here I am enthusing again… But Urusei Yatsura I really love. They’re happy, they’re fun, they like sweets & spaceships & plastic toys & cheap guitars and they make music that sounds like all of the above. And they namecheck Steve Malkmus in ‘Kozee Heart’ and in a silly American voice too.

GRAHAM: Weird stuff’s best but it’s always better to look at than actually eat. I don’t really like sweets at all.
FERGUS: We get sent lots of Japanese sweets but they’re generally stale by the time we get them.
GRAHAM: There’s a brilliant…these Japanese sweets that are in the shape of Mount Fuji and half of them are chocolate and the other half is kind of raspberry flavoured. That’s the best sweets ever. I don’t know what they’re called but they’re brilliant.
IAN: I’ve had quite a lot of bad experiences with Japanese sweets. I reckon, Japanese…they can do most things really well but sweets, they’re a bit dodgy.
FERGUS: I really like watermelon flavour and seaweed flavour.
GRAHAM: Did I tell you about the milk corn crisps I got?
FERGUS: Milk? Eurrgh!
GRAHAM: It was like, kind of like Wotsits except they were kind of milk flavoured.
IAN: Did they look like Wotsits? They weren’t white or anything?
GRAHAM: Yeah, they were white.
IAN: Eurrgh!
ELAINE: And were they horrible?
GRAHAM: Yeah. It’s just, like, having crisps that taste like sweets didn’t really work. But remember when we were in Canada and we were in that candy store…
FERGUS: Oh yeah! Candy Mountain it was called – it was great! They had a Pez boutique that had every kind of Pez dispenser ever, including electric…electronic ones where you could locate the Pez of your choice.
IAN: And also Tunnock’s Teacakes.
FERGUS: Yeah, in Canada.
GRAHAM: I bought a load of old skool gum like Bazooka Joes and stuff like that…Double Double.
IAN: Stop drumming on the table!
GRAHAM: Sorry. And they all got stolen in New York by some wee guy – an actor apparently.

I first bought ‘Plastic Ashtray’ and I thought it was cool in a sort of Sonic Youth kinda way. I liked it enough to buy a copy of ‘Siamese’ when I found one (although it was also partly because of the coool silver & orange manga cover. I also got silver vinyl which is gorgeous and I’m way past being impressed by coloured vinyl). And ‘Siamese’ did it for me entirely – full of shouting, noisy guitars, and namechecking half of the bands in Glasgow, it’s one of my favourite perfect records ever. I played it all the time throughout the summer, even through my eight months of record player/hi-fi incompatibility when I was reduced to making compilation tapes of my records on my sister’s record player. But enough of my personal traumas…

GRAHAM: Mars was pretty cool until recently…
FERGUS: Venus.
GRAHAM: …but then everyone started liking it so I don’t like it any more.
IAN: I reckon Mercury.
ELAINE: I like Mercury ‘cos I like the metal. And it’s my starsign.
IAN: Mercury?
ELAINE: No! Well…Mercury the…guy is the thingmy of Gemini. The planet of Gemini.
GRAHAM: Yeah, I’d go for Mars.
IAN: No, no, Neptune.
GRAHAM: Neptune’s quite a good one. No, I’ll say Phobos. I know it’s not a planet, it’s a moon, but I like it better.
IAN: I’ll go for Titan. I would call a kid Titan.

I missed Urusei Yatsura when they played in Aberdeen ‘cos it was at the beginning of the month so by the time I got the Lemon Tree brochure it was over (I suppose the NMME has a couple of good points – gig guide and mail-order ads). I’ve been regretting it ever since and got increasingly desperate after the mega album ‘We Are Urusei Yatsura’. Thus I was elated to discover U.Y. were playing in Manchester the same week I was going to be there. It meant staying an extra day and planning a subterfuge with my sister to get out of signing on at the DSS but, hey!, it’s worth it.

GRAHAM: I’m Only Happy When It Rains.
IAN: Totally pissing down outside, sitting inside next to the fire watching bad TV.
ELAINE: Or giant hailstones when you’re outside and there’s somebody outside without a jacket on, with short sleeves and bare legs…it’s dead sore.
IAN: And for some reason, when it’s hailstones it’s always really windy.
GRAHAM: Yeah, that’s true…
IAN: It’s like someone came up with, “Yeah, let’s have hailstones -really hard stuff, right, like stones – and high winds. Yeah, they’ll go together perfectly. Make it so…”.
GRAHAM: Actually, between 8pm and 10pm on hot summers days is really nice. That’s the best.
IAN: What time? 9 and 10?
GRAHAM: Between 8 and 10.
ELAINE: Actually, the only time I really enjoy going to work…like about eight in the morning when it’s one of those days when it’s going to be really really boiling. You just get the best of it.
GRAHAM: What about when you’re walking home, you’ve been out all night and it’s seven in the morning and the sun’s hust coming up? That’s really nice as well. ‘Cos you feel really hungover and everything’s going crazy, but it’s nice weather which is great.
FERGUS: I like magnetic fields or Aurora Borealis and St. Elmo’s Fire – lightning causing everyone’s hair to stand on end.
GRAHAM: Thank you the Silver Surfer.
ELAINE: Oh, lightning’s good too. Thunder and lightning.
IAN: Ow! It’s almost frightening.

Coincidentally, Manchester is also where my co-editor and penpal-cum-best-friend (or something) lives and works so I organised an interview with U.Y. and arranged to meet up with Alex – the first time we’d actually met in person. We compared questions and discovered we’d both just written questions about spaceships – we didn’t think they’d mind though. It was bucketing down outside but the nice girl at the Roadhouse gave us some free coffee when we arrived, sodden. We were introduced to Fergus and Elaine who said hello, admired my Hello Kitty bag and re-immersed themselves in the computer games. They were playing Bust-A-Move – Elaine was brilliant at it, Fergus less so. Fergus had to swap money with us and even had to go to the cashpoint with Alex later, so obsessed was he. I understood the addiction myself much later when I discovered the Dad had purchased a copy. The little manga characters are so cute, especially the dinosaur – ahhhh.

GRAHAM: We play Jeopardy!
IAN: we play mental games with each other. Toy with each other.
FERGUS: Mind games. Sometimes you can cut the atmosphere with a knife.
GRAHAM: Elaine, all the time, is playing the Gameboy. I mean, all the time.
ELAINE: You’re just jealous!
GRAHAM: Fergus – I don’t know what you’re doing, you’re probably drinking whisky. Fergus is playing drinking games.
IAN: With himself.
GRAHAM: Yeah. And the last time we were in the States, you [Ian] and me were playing Jeopardy computer game.
IAN: With all these American questions like…
GRAHAM: “What is the State motto of the State Milwaukee is in?”. What the fuck? Who knows that?

We sat around for hours watching Urusei Yatsura play computer games, eat and soundcheck. This was both Alex’s first interview and first soundcheck. Ah, the disbelief on his face after five minutes of ‘drum check’. Oh yes. They eventually did a fab ‘Kewpies’ and a cool new song which appears to be about anoraks. It’s called ‘Superfi’, as Graham tells us later. Eska’s soundcheck made me make a mental note to be back in time for their actual set and then we watched with interest as three girls walk in holding guitars, followed by some blokes. Sadly, it transpires that they were just carrying their boyfriends guitars and they watched them soundcheck with gooey eyes. The boys were dreadful too – come on girls, you could easily do better!

ELAINE: M8 – it takes you home.
FERGUS: It takes you away from home as well – it’s a double-edged motorway.
ELAINE: Actually, the M74 is good ‘cos you’re just into Scotland.

GRAHAM: Charnock Richard’s good, for names.
ELAINE: That one with all the stone stuff and the pool.
GRAHAM: yeah, the ducks. Which one’s that?
FERGUS: That’s the one in Yorkshire.
IAN: Tebay.
ELAINE: What about that one with the pedalling machine? I don’t know where that is.
GRAHAM: Oh yeah! There’s one somewhere that’s got this game in it – like, you sit on this exercise bike and you start pedalling and the idea is that you’re on this kind of gyroscope and you’re meant to collect balloons and stuff. It’s like a flight simulator but for something really stupid.
ELAINE: You’ve got to pedal faster to go up.
IAN: It’s the only game I’ve seen where people come off it exhausted. It’s also quite good ‘cos it’s bright yellow.
ELAINE: Many pounds were spent on that.
GRAHAM: It was us and Eska that were doing it. And then Kenny almost got picked up by a strange man.
IAN: “Do you want to earn some money?”. I ask you! So, yes, that service station is good and bad. I wouldn’t go back to it. It’s somewhere between Bristol and Birmingham.

So, eventually we get all of Urusei Yatsura together for an interview. Graham gives us a cool ‘Siamese’ cat sticker each and two lads come over and ask for autographs. They laugh nervously and disbelievingly but agree. This Pretentious Music Journalist has also turned up and wants an interview too so we end up all heading off together. PMJ leads us to some dodgy, dingy pub where we are immediately accosted by a large white dog, which, I decide, is actually a particularly fluffy sheep. We then spend twenty minutes trying to do a joint interview whilst being interrupted often by strange men demanding we play pool with them (“It’s only a game!”) or discuss their medical ailments. PMJ alienates us with his lengthy and pretentious questions so we talk to Graham and Ian about spaceships and how rubbish official U.Y. t-shirts are. Graham says he’d like to have a t-shirt like my Hello Kitty one so I offer to make him one. Alex tells them of my love of Ant & Dec and we talk about that Ant & Dec-attended U.Y. gig. Apparently, Ian asked Ant if he could borrow 10p for some fags and Ant replied, “Of course I’ve got 10p – I’m PJ!” – brilliant. By this time, the barman has decided to play really loud 70’s disco music to completely scupper our interview. Alex has to go and work tonight so we say good bye to Urusei and each other and I set off back to the Roadhouse.

GRAHAM: Well, there probably is, but I’m still waiting for it to be proved.
IAN: I’ve just read this really bad book and apparently Life on Mars looks like seals.
ELAINE: But didn’t..? This guy who was doing the Christmas Lectures on telly, he reckons that life on other planets would just look like us because we are the way we are because it’s the best way to be no matter what. Like, everything else can survive but we got where we are ‘cos of how we are, so any intelligent life would have to be something like us.
GRAHAM: to make spaceships you’d probably need opposeable thumbs, wouldn’t you?
FERGUS: What about tentacles? I mean, if you had lots of tentacles..?
ELAINE: Have you ever tried opening a beercan with tentacles?
FERGUS: Maybe you’d make ringpulls that are easier to open with tenta cles than with opposeable thumbs.
GRAHAM: Who knows? But, I mean, on this planet, apart from human beings the only ones that got anywhere are monkeys because they had that thumb thing.
FERGUS: This is a stupid question anyway. We’ve all seen Star Trek and Star Wars – we know what it looks like…Jabba the Hutt!

I meet up with my…erm, host-while-in-Manchester, David, inside and we watch Eska’s set. I like them lots and am convinced to ask Chris for an interview when I spot him by the merchandise stall. I then see Fergus re-attached to ‘Bust-A-Move’ so I sidle over for a quick chat. He apologises for the short interview and says I can ask some more questions afterwards if I want. I really enjoyed Urusei’s set – knowing the songs so well but never having heard them live before. They’re much noisier and more powerful for a start. They play two new songs – the afore-mentioned ‘Superfi’ and supposedly-the-next-single ‘Fake Fur’ – and also “Skull In Action’ off that C96 thing. They play some album tracks too and end with ‘Siamese’ – yay! Fergus had a megaphone around his neck but I don’t actually remember him using it. As I tell Ian afterwards, they should have played the whole set again – only ten songs, it seemed really short. Ian said he was quite knackered enough just doing that.

IAN: So, somebody you can actually handle sitting next to for a hundred years…Ned Sherrin! ‘Cos I’m sure he could tell you some nice little theatrical anecdotes about him and John Cleese.
ELAINE: Christopher Biggins is supposed to be a good conversationalist.
IAN: Timothy Claypole.
GRAHAM: I’d like to be driving, so no-one would sit next to me. I’d like to sit next to Jimmy Corkhill.
ELAINE: If you’d eaten your meal he could go robbing for you and come back with crappy sponge cake with pink icing.
GRAHAM: No, I plan on being totally frozen throughout the journey so I don’t have to bother bringing ten thousand magazines with me.
IAN: Okay, Graham’s agreed in actual to be the food on the trip.
GRAHAM: No! I said ‘frozen’, not ‘cooked’.
IAN: Yeah, but you’d be in the deep freeze and if they crashed….you’ve seen ‘Alive’, haven’t you?
GRAHAM: Yeeeahh…Not much to crash on though in the middle of space. You’re not going to hit a mountain are you?

Boring David refuses to come backstage so I go myself to ay goodbye. Ian shoves a can of lager in my hand and Graham throws some water around. Fergus and Elaine, meanwhile, are cooing over some Hello Kitty plasters. Since I can’t stay and ask more questions, Graham suggests that we send the rest of the questions to them with a tape and they’ll record some answers for us. This agreed, I request one of their bowl-full of jammy doughnuts and say goodbye.

GRAHAM: Cheap guitars.
FERGUS: cheap crappy toys…Pick ‘N’ Mix!
IAN: It means to me, the only place where you can go and buy, like, the best ever sweets. Where you can buy bubblegum CD’s, bubblegum chequebooks, revolving novelty lollipop holders…
GRAHAM: It’s where I used to get all my Top of the Pops albums.
IAN: Woolworths really interests me just for that bad sweet thing, total novelty that you’ll buy but you don’t really want it.
ELAINE: Wee burgers.
IAN: Or there’s this Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger…lightsabers – a sort of torch with candy above it.
GRAHAM: I thought those wee burgers were actually erasers.
ELAINE: I think you get eraser ones as well. We had one but nobody ever ate it ‘cos it looked so nice.
IAN: That was the rock we brought back from Blackpool that was shaped like a fried breakfast.
ELAINE: That was good…I ate mine.
IAN: I never.

A few months later, after I sent off the tape, questions and Hello Kitty t-shirt, I receive a parcel back from U.Y. Inside is a nice letter and a tape full of them discussing the questions in the pub. Except it’s only half a tape as they were obviously doing more than discussing questions in the pub and thus forgot to record the first 45 minutes. They kindly tape us some Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner ‘tunes’ instead. They also send me a red U.Y. t-shirt in return for the Hello Kitty but, as they predict, it reaches my knees so I send it to Alex.

FERGUS: Ask us another question, Ian.
IAN: Sorry…WHAT WAS THE FIRST BAND YOU WENT TO SEE? I remember I asked you this last week.
FERGUS: Yeah…I said the Cure. I’m not sure if that’s right though. It might have been Ride or Slowdive or something horrendous like that.
GRAHAM: I get the feeling the first band I went to see might have been this really horrible Prog Rock band from Edinburgh called Pallas. They played big Prog Rock epics about Atlantis. I’ve got to explain – this was in Inverness, right? You don’t get bands up there. But two weeks after that probably, I went to see the Jesus and Mary Chain ‘cos I couldn’t take it any more.
IAN: Iwas a really young and impressionable guy and I went to see Blur, unfortunately.
GRAHAM: [to Fergus] You and me both went to see Blur on their first ever tour.
FERGUS: [defensively] I never saw Blur.
GRAHAM: I’m sure you came with me.
FERGUS: Nonononono. I never…I never…I never…I saw them on that Rollercoaster thing but I didn’t see them…
GRAHAM: Someone went with me and I can’t remember who it was.
FERGUS: Maybe it was me but I have a…it’s maybe a hidden memory that I’ve hidden because it’s too traumatic, y’know. Maybe under hypnosis I’ll remember.
IAN: What’s your first band, Elaine?
ELAINE: Black Lace in Blackpool.
IAN: I can just see you wearing those pink pedal pushers.
ELAINE: I wasn’t that bad..I had a ra-ra skirt and white knee-high socks!
FERGUS: The first band I actually did see was this christian rock band called City who came to our school.
IAN: singing about god, yeah?
FERGUS: Singing about god, yeah. Kind of like Runrig but singing about christ instead of Scotland.
IAN: Question 22…
FERGUS: Oh, we’re getting through these at a rate of knots, aren’t we?
IAN: I’d just like to say at the moment that there are rather a lot of questions here.
FERGUS: Do you think she’ll be bothered transcribing them all?
IAN: Who knows? Maybe not.

No, really, the tape does actually finish there. But, imagine my surprise when I opened a copy of the Melody Maker one week! In my defence, it did have Pavement on the cover. But inside I found a big picture of Urusei Yatsura with Graham wearing his Hello Kitty t-shirt! Nicely customised too. So, hurrah to Graham and indeed all of Urusei – what other band could be so indecisive over such trivial matters as their favourite planet or weather conditions? Finally a band that enjoys Smash Hits questions (which is obviously why they’ve never actually been in Smash Hits). Incidentally, a few months later, I was explaining to Martin Rossiter of Gene ‘fame’ why my alter-ego wasn’t at thee gig they played in Manchester since I was there. Martin managed to mishear “I was eating jammy doughnuts with Urusei Yatsura” as “YOU were eating jammy doughnuts with Tony Blair!” and got a bit offended. Pop stars, eh?

IAN: We’ve now reached question eighteen – your mate mentioned, and I quote, “ARE YOU EVER GOING TO PLAY BOLTON AGAIN?“. Erm…
GRAHAM: I’d rather saw my own head off.
IAN: I’d rather saw his own head off as well. I don’t think we will. I think Bolton’s not quite ready for us yet.
GRAHAM: That was the most pointless gig in the world.

Urusei Yatsura play the Bolton Crown and Cushion. It is not a success

After the excitement of last night’s interview in Manchester, meeting Marceline for the first time in person, she criticising my bomber jacket (not that its presence makes me similar to Martin Rossiter, Marceline!) and going to the cash machine with Fergus in the pissing rain the previous night, I was feeling rather jaded. Coupled with this, when we’re not being top pop fanzine writers we lead an amazing double life. For my sins I am a student nurse and three weeks on an acute psychiatric ward does not do much for your nerves and does not lead to a relaxing time.

Therefore, I decided to haul myself along to a venue at the hub of the universe to sample the delights of Urusei Yatsura. I was puzzled why they had chosen to play here as it is not more than fifteen miles from Manchester and not exactly a hotbed of lo-fi excitement.

When we arrived at the venue on a cold Tuesday November night it was obvious that no-one was going to turn up which was pretty disappointing. The support band, Eska, went down like the proverbial lead balloon due to a substantial lack of people in attendance and an ear-damaging volume. When Urusei took the stage, despite much grooviness and yelling and guitar histrionics, the people of this parish were not fair impressed leading to an extreme lack of atmosphere. Oh well, at least I enjoyed myself although I’m not sure my girlfriend did. Graham said to me afterwards that this was the worst gig they had played in two years. Ho Hum……

(by Alex Lincoln)


IAN: I’m going to go for the Barras. A nice place to go every so often but not all the time – you can see some daft stuff being sold at funny prices.
FERGUS: Byres Road and Great Western Road -they’re just nice to wander about in in a daze. Wander into a shop and then go out again and then you get hit by a car, then get chased a bit, then go into a pub and meet a friend.
IAN: We’re in this pub called the Western Tavern and behind us there’s dominoes being played. Like, Championship Tournament Dominoes.
FERGUS: They play every month.
ELAINE: What other pubs? 13th Note, Griffin…
FERGUS: Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s, King Tut’s…
ELAINE: The Exchequer used to be good.
IAN: and just as we’re thinking of best ones, let’s think of a bad one. Bad pub.
FERGUS: There’s so many.
IAN: Bonkers. ‘Glasgow’s Premier Fun Bar’!
FERGUS: Elaine’s been there!
ELAINE: Once! Five years ago and still it’s remembered!
IAN: Venues? We’ve done most of them.
FERGUS: The Barrowlands is good. We’ve got to mention Babelfish rehearsal studios ‘cos that’s where we rehearse and they’re really nice. And it’s in a scrapyard.
IAN: Shops?
FERGUS: Oh, Missing Records, Fopp.
IAN: I would say Byres Road for charity shops.
ELAINE: Oh no, you want to go out of town for charity shops ‘cos then students don’t go to them. Your Duke Street and your Parkhead.
FERGUS: Shawlands. All the shops I like are music shops and record shops.
IAN: What about bookshops?
FERGUS: Oh, bookshops! Yeah, John Smiths is really good and there’s a good Waterstones. Lots of good bookshops near the University.
IAN: Stephen Pastel works in Byres Road [upstairs in John Smiths if you want to go!].
FERGUS: I can’t go there ‘cos I like him too much. I’m such a fan I get nervous. He gets lots of Japanese fans coming in and wetting themselves while he’s trying to sell them a single or something.
IAN: And he’s not the most assertive of blokes, you’ve got To admit.
ELAINE: Salesman of the Year..!
FERGUS: Oh, I really like my newsagents as well ‘cos they take the piss out of me and I like them.
IAN: For being a quote pop star unquote?
FERGUS: Yeah. They don’t believe we’ve done anything apart from, we were in the Scottis h Sun ‘cos we’re being pursued by the Mafia in Japan. That was the first time they really believed I was in a band.
IAN: Yeah, we had a whole page in the Scottish Sun which was basically total lies.
FERGUS: They kept saying that some guy called Don Corleoni had been looking for me.
IAN: Ha. Ha. That was a funny joke by his newsagent.

Urusei Yatsura split up in August 2000
Additional questions by Alex Lincoln