Crazy Ken Band Yokohama as seen by Ken Yokoyama, Part 1

クレイジーケンバンド 横山剣が見る横浜・前編

Crazy Ken Band (hereinafter referred to as CKB) transmits a wide range of sounds as "Toyo's best sound machine". Even now, celebrating their 25th anniversary, they are still evolving and are currently in the middle of a nationwide tour called ``CRAZY KEN BAND TOUR Kage 2022-2023'' in support of their 22nd album ``Kikage.'' When talking about Ken Yokoyama, the man who leads CKB and produces a wide variety of songs, the city of Yokohama is inseparable. How does this city appear to Yokoyama, who has lived in Yokohama during three eras: Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa? How did the wind of Yokohama blend into the music he created? In the first half of the interview, he talked about his impressions of the ever-changing city of Yokohama, the influence Yokohama had on CKB's songs, and the secret story behind the birth of the famous song.

◆Honmoku and Yokohama have changed on a gradation from Showa to Reiwa

── First of all, congratulations on your 25th anniversary. Please tell us how you feel now that you have reached the milestone of 25 years.

Yokoyama : Thank you. About every three or four years, something happens to the band. Well, it's not something that will continue like that, like breaking up. This is the first time that something has lasted 25 years, so I was surprised (lol).

── Mr. Yokoyama has lived in Yokohama during three eras: Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa. Please tell us about your impressions of Yokohama during each era. First of all, what was your impression of Yokohama when you were a child?

Yokoyama : Until I was about 5 years old, I lived in Hongo-cho and Honmoku, along Honmoku Street, where there was a US military base. It was around the Yamate Police Department that the base was established, with Area 1 on the left and Area 2 on the right, and a vast area of land was confiscated. That view remains vague. When I was 5 years old, I moved to Hiyoshi in Kohoku Ward, and I thought that even though it was Yokohama, it had a completely different scenery. Generally, when you think of Yokohama, you have an image of a port, but in the world. But in reality, there are mountains, forests, and the ocean, and there's quite a lot of nature like that, so it's interesting.

---Now let's move forward a little. In 1997, CKB "nurrutly broke out" (quoted from CKB's official website) in Honmoku. What was your impression of Yokohama at that time? How do you look compared to when you were a child?

Yokoyama : Yes, we formed it. At that time, the base was no longer there, but there were still a few shops related to the U.S. military base still remaining. There is a store called ``Golden Cup'' that still exists, but there are stores that have been around for much longer... ``Italian Garden'' and ``VENICE'' that have been around since the 1950s. In 1997, all of these stores were turned into apartments, so they were demolished to raise the ground. There was a VFW, a liquor store for U.S. military veterans, and the ``Italian Garden'' in the basement became our base. We held live performances and parties at the Italian Garden and the VFW above it. It was a place to hang out even when there was nothing else going on, so I got used to the environment, which still had the atmosphere of the 1950s and 1960s. There were a few bands that were playing there, but there were a lot of people there, including members from the other bands and members who had been playing together for a long time, so I thought, ``Oh, let's form a band with these members.'' CKB is what I thought.

──It's amazing that it's been going on for 25 years since then.

Yokoyama : That's right. At first, I wasn't planning on doing it permanently, but there were some talks about work. There were about two projects in the works, and I thought it would be over after just those two, but it ended up continuing for 25 years.

──That's right! Next, please tell us about Yokohama now. I'm originally from Honmoku, so when I come back from Tokyo, I'm often surprised at how much has changed. I get the impression that the Honmoku and Minato Mirai areas have changed recently, but what impression do you have of Yokohama now?

Yokoyama : For me, it changed over a gradation...I don't really get the impression that it changed suddenly, so I don't feel strange at all (lol). There are a lot of people who suddenly come back after leaving for a while, or who go abroad and come back, but everyone is still surprised and says, ``It's nothing like this.'' When I was a child, there was a streetcar running along Honmoku Street. There are no streetcars, and there are no US military bases. And it's not even Mycal Honmoku. I don't take the subway. Well, there are some people who feel that there are various gaps, but if you've been around for a long time, you won't notice much.

──So, when you noticed something was disappearing little by little, did you get the impression that something new was being added to it?

Yokoyama : That's right. I also lived in Tokyo for only two years...well, only two years from 1978 to 1980. I lived in Jingumae for a year, and then I lived in Yoga in Setagaya for a year. I was only in Tokyo for two years. When I was in Tokyo, I heard George Yanagi's song ``America Beyond FENCE,'' which was about Area 1 and Area 2. And that made me want to go back to Yokohama. I started getting homesick after two years (lol).

──That's why you returned to Yokohama from Tokyo. So, if you had to choose one favorite spot in Yokohama, which has changed over a gradation, what would it be?

Yokoyama : What I like most right now is the symbol tower, a lighthouse at the tip of Honmoku Pier. Climbing that hill is the closest to the ocean. Negishi Bay can also be seen clearly, which is wonderful. There is also a sea fishing facility next door. I love that area. It's also good for walking the dog. It's also great for basking in the sun.

──That's wonderful. The sea breeze in Yokohama is really nice.

Yokoyama : Sea breeze, yes. Hamakaze. Many people bring their lunch boxes. It's a great place to relax. We even held a concert there in 2009.

── While being blown away by a hookworm?

Yokoyama : Exactly, while being blown away by a hookworm. It even rained (lol).

◆The secret story of the birth of a famous phrase that was “pushed out by a magnetic field” in Kanagawa Prefecture

──In CKB's lyrics, there are many spots that are connected to Kanagawa Prefecture. There are tricks like the ``Union shopping bag'' (from ``37℃'') that will make locals laugh.

Yokoyama : Well, there's also the name of the pharmacy.

──There's even a pharmacy inside! How do you come up with such ideas? Is it something that comes to mind when you're actually there, or is it something you come up with afterwards?

Yokoyama : I don't have any intention of writing lyrics when I cross there, but I can think of something like, ``If it's Motomachi, this is Motomachi...'' and the melody just pops into my mind. So, at that time, what was the point that it symbolized to me? Motomachi pool, pharmacy, etc. It's a bit of an imported pharmacy, or to use the old term, it's a pharmacy that handles foreign products. Girls from Ferris and kids from international schools come there to shop. Buy something from Estée Lauder. When I was a teenager, I thought to myself, ``Ah, those kids are doing a lot of work'' (lol). And the same goes for that union. I like cloth bags more than Union paper bags. It became somewhat popular to carry one with you all the time. There used to be a PR corner between the first and second floors of that union, and we used to do things like recruit bands there. Also, there was a keyboard that I really wanted, so I wrote something like, ``Please give me something.'' Or an English conversation class. There was a benefit of being able to go inside the housing on the US military base, so I went there because I wanted to go there. I didn't improve my English conversation at all (lol).

──When you were talking about Motomachi, you said that the melody comes to you first, but are you influenced by Kanagawa prefecture not only in the lyrics but also in the sound?

Yokoyama : That's right. When I'm driving or walking, a melody comes to mind, and it already has a certain meaning or atmosphere attached to it. It's like saying, ``Oh, this is about Motomachi,'' and translating the melody into words. It feels like translating a melody.

--So first of all, the image comes down to the melody, and then you translate it into words.

Yokoyama : There's the melody first, but on the other hand, ``Tiger & Dragon'' says, ``Listen to me.'' That's when I'm actually driving. On National Route 16, there are several tunnels that continue from around Oppama. Then, a few more tunnels... When you pass through the last tunnel, you can see the sea and the port of Yokosuka. As I continued driving, the lyrics and melody came out at the same time. The interlude was played at the same time, and then they headed straight for Mikasa Park. It's just like that, it's just like the lyrics.

──Is it rare for those lyrics and melody to come to you at the same time?

Yokoyama : That's rare. It wasn't all written in one line. However, the catchy place often comes to mind when I think of ``Seno.'' So, Kanagawa Prefecture is like that...are they being pushed out by a magnetic field? It was like a mysterious hot spring, and I was like, ``Jowajowajowa~'' (lol). It feels like it's coming out.

──So you started thinking, “Listen to me!” (laughs)

Yokoyama : I don't know why it says "listen to me" (lol). On my own, the song was completed before I even decided on the concept of the song.

---That phrase was very popular around me at the time.

Yokoyama : Without that song, CKB wouldn't be where it is today, so it's a very symbolic and important song for us. So, that's Yokosuka. After all, Yokosuka is a city with the most tunnels in terms of topography, so it's said that it has the most tunnels in Japan, so when I heard a song about Yokosuka, I thought that there were no tunnels mentioned...(Momoe Yamaguchi) In your book ``Yokosuka Story,'' there is a ``steep slope.'' One of the characteristics of Yokosuka and Yokohama is that there are many slopes. The sea and the slopes.

Ken Yokoyama talks about Yokohama in each era, with occasional laughter. As I listened to the story, images of trams running through Honmoku, the Italian Garden crowded with bands, and female students stopping by a pharmacy began to unfold vividly before my eyes. This is a feat that the leader of CKB, who has produced many hit songs with his rich expressiveness, can do. In the first half of this interview, we looked back on the charm and memories of Yokohama from Yokoyama's eyes, along with CKB's 25-year history. In the second half of the interview, we focus on CKB's current and future, including their community-based activities, their thoughts on the new album ``Kikage,'' and their enthusiasm for the tour.

Ken Yokoyama
Born in July 1960 in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Representative director of the music agency ``Double Joy Records.'' In 1997, he formed the Crazy Ken Band at Honmoku's "Italian Garden" and has been the band's lead vocalist ever since. In addition to releasing a wide variety of hit songs, he also provides music to many artists. This year marks the 25th anniversary since their debut, and they are carrying out the ``CRAZY KEN BAND TOUR Kikage 2022-2023'' across the country with their 22nd album ``Kikage'' released on August 3rd.
Please see the official website for details.

Related articles