Wagdug Futuristic Unity: Masters of Mad Style

by JT Thomas

The MAD CAPSULE MARKETS was formed in 1990 by Hiroshi Kyono and Takeshi Ueda and over two decades their sound has evolved into a style unique to the band and its off shoots. Ueda and Kyono led MAD CAPSULE MARKETS, formerly called Berrie, as a punk rock front which resembled Japanese punk groups like GISM, Gauze, and The Stalin. The songs were short, violent and vitriolic, with thrash metal riffs, heavy metal bass lines with an anarcho-punk focus. Kyono's lyrics reflected the angst of a generation of Japanese disgusted by the economic shit-cake they'd been forced to eat through out the 1980's.

By 1994 they'd evolved beyond punk and started sampling. With the release of MIX-ISM and PARK, Takeshi's bass-lines took on a garage rock tone and Kyono's vocals became melodic with sing-songy tendencies, leaning toward grunge. The thrash was still there, but the bands punk influence was kept to aggressive guitar riffs. The songs were twice as long with refrains, chants, and hooks. With their 7th album MAD's focus shifted to Takeshi's bass more than ever and their guitarist ISHIGAKI left the band.

Hiroshi Kyono
In 1999 MAD incorporated Digital Hardcore elements, a style created by ultra radical and often atonal Atari Teenage Riot, and disseminated through Alec Empire's Digital Hardcore Recordings. The DHR style was composed of grinding samples mixed with hip hop and drum 'n bass drum loops. Takeshi and Kyono called this blend of their punk rock influences and Digital Hardcore 'Mad Style', and with the release of their album OSC-DIS, Mad Capsules Markets received their first wave of international interest. This interest came from their juxtaposition of post pop riffs and melodic arrangements over the aggressive grind of Digital Hardcore's glitchy sound. Kyono's vocals became insistent, malicious and brutal exhalations, giving the tracks a more guttural, industrial quality.

By their last two albums as the Mad Capsules Markets, 010 and CiSTm KonFLiqT, they'd returned to a hardcore sound while including drum machines, synthesizers, and samplers. The beats were much heavier and largely more mechanical, with programmed bass arrangements accompanying Takeshi's live playing. The bands roster was in constant flux at this time, as the guitarist ISHIGAKI left the band. In 2005 the three remaining original members of the Mad Capsules Markets split. Takeshi founded AA=(aaequal), while Kyono perfected 'mad style' with Wagdug Futuristic Unity.

Even though Takeshi's AA=(aaequal) unarguably has elements of 'Mad Style'; hectic tempos, glitch audio samples, and manipulated vocals, it lacks grit and comes off cheesey and uninspired.

In contrast Wagdug's sound incorporates all the grimy brutality of MAD's first three albums with Kyono's willingness to experiment with novelty. On Wagdug's first album Hakai, Kyono collaborates with the likes of Chino Moreno, Ceephax, Funkygong, Justice, Numanoid vs. Mazda, Maximum the Ryo, Ultra Brain, and DJ Starcream. This was their first full length album and a defining example of the potential of 'Mad Style'. But the best examples are found on Wagdug's EP Nu Riot, specifically the track Hakai (Deathtroy).

Hakai (Deathtroy) was featured on the soundtrack of live action adaptation of DeathNote, a Japanese film about a bored angel of death, a sociopathic high-school aged would be god, an agoraphobic detective and a masochistic pop-idol. Wagdug's video for film increased the bands popularity in Japan and affirmed them as masters of 'Mad Style'.

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