The Powerfully Psychedelic Sonic Flower “Rides Again” (Early Album Stream + Q&A)
If the cottage industry of 1970s worship in hard rock and metal ever needs an official ambassador, Tatsu Mikami should be in serious contention. As the founder and sole constant member of Japanese boogie-doom gods Church Of Misery, his track record stretches over two decades and includes certified bangers like The Second Coming and Houses Of The Unholy, among others. Mikami’s other projects are no slouches either; there’s the Motorhead-tinged metal of Skull Pit, the thrashing punk of G.A.T.E.S., and the most Church of Misery-adjacent of them all, Sonic Flower.
Composed almost entirely of current or former Church Of Misery members, Sonic Flower was essentially a looser, instrumental version of their main gig. The first EP quickly established the template: punchy, swaggering riffs coupled to Keisuke Fukawa’s monster slabs of Bonham-inspired drumming. After recording Church of Misery’s The Second Coming, Mikami reassembled Sonic Flower and laid down the tracks for Rides Again, streaming here in full.
After running into some personnel issues leading to Sonic Flower’s breakup in 2005, Rides Again was shelved until now. It’s a natural progression from the debut, retaining the singular, crackling live energy and expanding each member’s role. Mikami shows off his solo abilities during an extended bass break in “Captain Frost” while guitarists Arisa and Takenori Hoshi duel and synchronize with equal aplomb throughout “Black Sheep” and “Quicksand Planet”. The laid back nature of the music doesn’t apply to the musicianship; for a genre known to excuse sloppy playing with ‘it’s just a vibe, man’ platitudes, there’s nary a sour note or careless moment to be found.
One of Rides Again's most interesting aspects is the choice of covers: “Stay Away”, originally by the Meters, and Graham Central Station’s “Earthquake”, two of the funkiest songs you might ever encounter outside of a Parliament record. They end up working perfectly within Sonic Flower’s wheelhouse, complementing the band’s innate swinging grooves and improvisational nature. “Earthquake” is an especially entertaining jam to end the album on, as it allows all four musicians to stretch their legs and have some fun. Not that there was ever a chance of no fun being had on Rides Again: this is the kind of record you’ll want to blast at the first post-COVID party you attend. Listen to the exclusive pre-release stream of Rides Again (linked above) and read an interview with Tatsu Mikami below.
After such a long hiatus, was there a specific reason you decided to resurrect Sonic Flower?
Everything was a coincidence. It was 2014. I was depressed in the dark. Because three members have left Church of Misery. At that time, I was contacted by a drummer for the first time in about 10 years. After recording for “Rides Again”, He and I were in a quarrel and were cut off. He apologized to me and said he wanted to band with me again. At that time, Church of Misery’s new guitarist ( in 2015,,, previous one ) was interested in Sonic Flower too and he decided to play on both. And the first Church of Misery vocalist Kazuhiro Asaeda who resumed for the first time in 20 years will participate and it has revived. I was always making new songs for Sonic Flower, so when I restarted I had one album in stock.
Did you re-record or make any other changes to Rides Again before its release?
No. First, I want to tell you that Rides Again is old material. This is not a new album. It’s just unreleased studio recording material in 2005.
Were both the self-titled and Rides Again recorded live? The production on the first album sounds a bit more streamlined, but they both have a raw, live energy.
It's almost live. Except guitar solos, we recorded live. I mean that four members are playing together at the recording studio. And.. yeah, it’s raw with a live concert feeling.
The Meters and Graham Central Station are probably not as well known to doom and psych fans as the bands you've covered with Church Of Misery. Was that a conscious decision, or did you just want to play some really funky jams?
To tell the truth I also didn’t know these bands [laughs]. Our drummer Keisuke’s choice. His musical orientation is very wide. He recommended us these funky music. I think it’s fancy but it’s heavy with good riffs. At this recording rehearsal, I chose two songs - Groundhogs and Savoy Brown. We practice both songs. But we choose two funky songs for recording. We thought it was surprising and interesting.
Kazuhiro Asaeda, Church Of Misery's original singer, has now joined Sonic Flower. What compelled you to add vocals to the band moving forward?
I like his voice and melody which he made. I’m very satisfied with his vocals when we made Church of Misery’s Vol. 1 album in 1996. After some gigs, I and he had a fight and didn't talk for almost 18 years and we cut off each contact. In 2014, Coincidentally our mutual friends attracted us. We reconciled and returned to drinking together. At that time, I thought that if this band had his vocals, the range of expression would expand even more strongly. I'm playing together now, but my guess is correct. Undoubtedly his vocals made the band even more powerful.
Rides Again releases January 29th on Heavy Psych Records.
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