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A Brief History of Major Force Records

NEIGHBORHOOD's LATEST COLLABORATOR


 

As part of its spring/summer 2018 collection, NEIGHBORHOOD releases a special collection in collaboration with groundbreaking Japanese record label Major Force, through its sub-line, LUKER.

The Ura-Harajuku movement that swept through Tokyo in the early 1990’s is often thought of, at least to Western followers, predominantly as a fashion movement. With a shift from avant-garde and high-fashion, towards streetwear and DIY, the aesthetics of Ura-Harajuku were championed by the likes of Jun Takahashi and NIGO. Music also played a key role during this creative upheaval, with many of those involved in the burgeoning streetwear scene also having a hand in a new and exciting style of music. This new style blended a wide range of influences from New York, London and Japan and at the forefront of this movement was Major Force.

Though little is known of Major Force outside its native Japan, the roots and influence of the label and those involved with it are significant and enduring. The brainchild of the late Toshio Nakanishi, a leading figure in Japanese popular music beginning in the 70’s, when he formed The Plastics alongside Hajime Tachibana, Masahide Sakuma,Takemi Shima, Gota Yashiki, and female vocalist and style icon Chica Sato. Inspired by Roxy Music, Kraftwerk and Velvet Underground, the band blended punk, glam, new-wave, rock and electronic influences, culminating in a unique “technopop” sound with hits such as “I Love You Oh No” (later covered by Stereo Total) and “Top Secret Man”, which the band performed to North American audiences on the SCTV comedy show. Though the band was only active for five years, The Plastics gained mainstream success both in and outside Japan, garnering praise and assistance from Talking Head’s front man, David Byrne, Devo, and the B-52’s. They also influenced later acts like Pizzicato Five and Stereo Total.

After The Plastics disbanded, Nakanishi and Sato moved to New York City in 1981 to form a new band, Melon (also known as Water Melon). It was during this time that Nakanishi first experienced New York’s burgeoning hip-hop scene; attending an Afrika Bambaataa concert in 1982 and casting the Rock Steady Crew in one of Melon’s 1983 music videos. At the same time an acquaintance of Nakanishi’s, Hiroshi Fujiwara, first experienced hip hop and house music in New York and was one of the first DJ’s to introduce and popularize these genres in Japan.

In 1988, Nakanishi moved again, this time to London where he, alongside Gota Yashiki, Masayuki Kudo, Kan Takagi, and Hiroshi Fujiwara formed Major Force. The studio was set up inside Jamese Lavelle’s ‘Mo Wax Records’ offices, along with an office in Tokyo. Fujiwara also hired a young Shinsuke Takizawa, at the time still a student, to assist with creating merchandise for the new label while Sk8thing would occasionally be asked to create album artwork. Considered Japan’s first ever dance music-focused label, Major Force held no strict adherence to any genre, freely experimenting and blending hip-hop, house, jazz, post-punk, dub and reggae sounds to create a unique cut and paste style. Tiny Panx Organization, aka Tinnie Punx, consisted of Fujiwara, Kudo, and Takagi and produced everything from house to hip hop. Under the alias ‘Tycoon Tosh’, and with the group Skylab, Nakanishi experimented with breakbeat and trip-hop, while acts such as Dassen 3 crafted a Japanese style party rap sound in the same vein as The Beastie Boys. While the labels output predominately used the talent of its founders and close friends through a plethora of aliases and band names (Group of Gods, Love T.K.O, Tycoon Tosh to name a few), they also pressed records by international artists including house legend Larry Heard and underground reggae musician Leslie Thunder.

Major Force and the community that fostered its growth continues to influence Tokyo street culture. Though the label has not been active since a 2005 retrospective, in collaboration with Mo Wax, this recent NEIGHBORHOOD collaboration and new teaser website hints that something is in the works for 2018. Shop the LUKER by NEIGHBORHOOD x Major Force collection available at HAVEN.

 

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