Gin Satoh’s photography provides a vivid chronicle of a scene that was largely neglected in its lifetime, with leading figures such as Keiji Haino, Eye (in his pre-Boredoms project Hanatarashi), the singer Phew, Hikashu, Les Rallizes Dénudés, and more, finally receiving due recognition decades later.
To accompany the exhibition Gin Satoh will be appearing in conversation with The Wire’s Japanese music specialist Alan Cummings and The Wire Editor-in-Chief Chris Bohn at Doomed Gallery, London E8 on 30 June, 7pm.
“Gin Satoh’s photography goes beyond merely documenting these vibrant, explosive underground music and art scenes; his images tease out something of the burning inner core of 1980s Japan. Just as his photos bring us back to the historical moments that put Japanese rock, punk and Noise on the map, they show us just how reflected our view may become in such weird and wonderful territories” – David Novak, author of Japanoise, winner of the 2014 British Forum for Ethnomusicology Book Prize
“I believe Satoh-san's photographs not only helped tell the story of Japanese underground music
– but shaped that story as well” – Peter Kolovos, Black Editions record, 27 September 2015
Gin Satoh used to share his interest in rock music with his friend and classmate at a Tokyo photography college in the early 1970s. His friend later started a band called Hadaka No Rallizes (Les Rallizes Dénudés), which went on to become one of Japan’s most mysterious psychedelic cult bands. Through his interest in rock music, he started taking photos of friends and other people participating in Tokyo’s underground rock community, particularly at the legendary venue Minor* in Kichijoji from the late 1970s onwards.
Born in 1948, Gin Satoh made his name as a photographer of live music in Tokyo. From the early 1980s his work was published in the youth culture magazine ‘Takarajima’, focusing on cultural movements like punk rock, indie rock or avant garde music. Between 1978–1986 he spent thousands of hours photographing the artists, musicians, individuals and freaks gathered in dark, dank dives hidden in the city’s back alleys that seemingly existed in another dimension to Tokyo: the gleaming steel, glass and concrete Technopolis materialised out of Japan’s rampant economic success. In 1987 he published these photos in a book, GIG: Tokyo Rockers 1978–1986. Now long out of print, it remains a valuable document of a vibrant underground culture, completely unheralded in above ground Japan as it happened. But over the next few decades, the world has gradually come to recognise the significant impact the work of many of his photo subjects has subsequently had by doggedly staying true to their own musical visions. His photo series of Hanatarashi's first live concert in Tokyo 1985 stands as one of the iconic works from his rock era.
Apart from documenting the Tokyo underground, Gin Satoh also photographed many of the most interesting artists visiting Japan, including John Lydon’s PiL, John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, Iggy Pop, and West Berlin underground groups like Einstürzende Neubauten and Die Tödliche Doris. Since the mid-1990s, he developed an interest in photographing Butoh performance, as well as urban landscapes.