Long Live Punk.

Osaka Popstar Keeps The Dream Alive

by John B. Moore

Every wonder what it might sound like if the Misfits were jamming with the Ramones and the Voidoids, fronted by John Cafiero? Exactly like Osaka Popstar.

The brilliant pop-punk supergroup is the brainchild of longtime punk veteran and film/video director Cafiero, who teamed up with Ramones drummer Marky Ramone, Misfits bassist Jerry Only, Voidoids guitarist Ivan Julian and Black Flag/Misfits guitarist Dez Cadena in 2006 to start the band.

As a follow-up to their much-loved debut, Osaka Popstar & the American Legends of Punk, the band has just turned in a 9-song live record, Rock ‘Em O-Sock ‘Em Live! Cafiero spent some time recently talking to us about the band’s origins, the visual element of Osaka Popstar, and the current state of punk-rock.

When you were putting Osaka Popstar together, did you have every intention of putting out records or were you just planning on jamming together?

My main intention was records from the start. The big question was would we tour? And the answer was yes.

What are your thoughts on the current state of punk?

Well, it will never be what it was in the ‘70s, when I first started to observe it happening as a kid, but nothing ever is. Sometimes memories can be a more romanticized version of reality anyway. Overall I think it’s great to see how “punk” has bubbled over into mainstream pop culture. I think it’s a sign of the world finally catching up with something ahead of its time. Sadly, many of those pioneers who were the best in the field were never really fully appreciated in their careers and, for some, in their lifetime. The Ramones are a primary example. As a kid I’d actually get into fights defending the Ramones. I always thought they were the greatest band in the world. With the deaths of three founding members (Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny), the world finally recognized their brilliance. At times in the early days, the Ramones were laughed at, while others followed them with total admiration. Now they truly are the new Beatles in a sense, and deservedly so.

Are you hearing any new, younger bands that impress you?

Yes, Jay Reatard. He has a retro sound, yet its contemporary at the same time. Great live performer, great recordings, great songs, just great stuff in general. I have yet to hear a bad song. His material is consistently good and he’s got a total DIY mentality. I’m really digging his stuff.

Any plans for another CD from Osaka Popstar?

Absolutely. I have a lot of it in my head already and just need time to hash it out on tape. I’m aiming to have it recorded and out in 2009, but at the very least I'll be recording in ‘09. I did the first one sporadically over the course of three years. I juggle lots of projects, all of which I am proud of and passionate about, so giving things your all can sometimes take longer than expected. Long story short, yes, you can count on it.

Judging from the album art, I'm assuming you're a big anime fan?

Yes, absolutely. I love the look of it, the vibe of it and the fact that in Japan animation was always looked at as an art form that could be used to interpret any genre whereas in the US, animation was stereotypically looked at as something just for kids. Don't get me wrong, I love the Saturday morning cartoon genre too and have had many a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and Frankenberry while taking them in, but Japanese animation opened new doors, broke new ground and in my opinion illustrates how we ping pong or influence each other culturally. Japanese animation was bred through Osamu Tezuka who created Astro Boy and was inspired by Fleischer animation (like Betty Boop - that's where the influence of big eyes in Japanese animation first began). In the early 90’s Japanese animation targeting teen or more adult oriented themes would star breaking ground in the US. Now hybrids of the two, like Cartoon Network's Teen Titans for example, are the cross-polenized results of artists influencing each other across two continents and that’s just one of many examples.

What next for you and the guys in the band?

The Misfits continue to tour and are writing a new Misfits album. Marky continues to tour overseas as Marky Ramone & Friends, and hosts a weekly radio show on Sirius. Ivan does a lot of studio work, and I'm always wearing a multitude of hats. Some of the projects I’m currently encompassed in range from producing the studio debut for Juicehead to having the huge honor of managing Johnny Ramone's estate. I've been developing projects to keep Johnny's memory alive, as well as some cool projects for the Ramones that it’s too early to talk about here, but will start surfacing in the not-too-distant future. I'm also in talks about an Osaka Popstar video game, and I'm writing and recording the theme song for the forthcoming Garbage Pail Kids animated series! As you can see, there's lots of great stuff happening constantly. I hope you and you're readers are digging it.