Thursday, September 25, 2014


G.I.S.M. AKA Guerrilla Incendiary Sabotage Mutineer AKA God In the Schizoid Mind AKA General Imperialism Social Murder AKA Genocide Infanticide Suicide Menticide AKA Gay Individual Social Mean AKA Gnostic Idiosyncrasy Sonic Militant

The band has gone by as many any aliases as a crazed fugitive, which is what you could characterize GISM's profile as. I'd argue no band has a more fortified mythology than GISM. Their notoriety in the realm of hardcore punk reaches the heights of a GG Allin. Here's the difference: GG Allin's actions are well-documented, both on video, at his shows, even in a court of law. GISM's mythology is a bit more shrouded and has reached the levels it has largely through word of mouth. The focal point of the myths and stories are the band's singer: Sakevi.

Sakevi is more an urban myth in the subculture than a personality. A lot of this can be attributed to the fact that he's in Japan and thus disconnected from the USA. The stories about Sakevi paint a sociopath, bereft of regard for anyone. The stories will tell you they hear Sakevi is Yakuza (this is not as intense as it sounds as much of the early Japanese hardcore punk scene bear connection to that organization). They will tell you they heard Sakevi once stabbed a fan in the crowd taking pictures of him. They will tell you they heard Sakevi once shot down a police helicopter. They will tell you the time Sakevi used a flamethrower on a crowd once. They will tell you he turned a chainsaw on a crowd once. There are stories of people who bootleg GISM shirts & records receiving mysterious emails telling them to take their wares down or face grave consequences. Sakevi has evolved into a spook story. He's the Keyser Soze of hardcore music.

My personal favorite Sakevi story tells how one day he was walking down the street in Japan when he passed by a record shop that had a bootleg GISM shirt on display in the window. Sakevi calmly walks into the store, doesn't say a word, grabs the cash register and throws it out the window. The shocked store clerk looks on terrified as Sakevi approaches him and tells him he will return tomorrow and if he sees that the GISM shirts have not been removed, he will kill the clerk.

Here's the reality about GISM. They are one of Japan's first hardcore bands. They played a very abrasive, noisy style of hardcore on their 1984 debut album Detestation. This album has held its own influence on a great deal of hardcore punk globally as time has gone on. GISM was not simply blessed with a mythical frontman, but an incredible guitar player in Randy Uchida (RIP). GISM's 1987 album M.A.N. (Military Affairs Neurotic) was the band trying their hand at crossover with Randy's guitar work taking the band to another level. Here's the secret to succeeding at crossover music: half of it is aesthetic, half of it is guitar work. GISM came into MAN with an unrivaled aesthetic, so Randy's ability to produce a great performance was merely a foregone conclusion. I personally think when crossover albums get discussed M.A.N. is overlooked almost universally. When you listen to it, you can't describe it as much else, but it isn't a "GISM crossover album", it is just a legitimately good crossover album. GISM's final album SoniCRIME Therapy is a return to the noisy brand of hardcore they'd made their bones with on Detestation. This is not to say the band hadn't grown by then. SoniCRIME Therapy was released in 2002. By then GISM's influence and notoriety was global. Sakevi was an accomplished artist in his own right and the album bears a great deal of experimenting on it. This link features all three albums.

The discussion of GISM is a discussion of two bands. The first is the myth. Most kids who will talk to you about what they've heard about Sakevi have likely never listened to GISM before. GISM is just plain cool to talk about. Few bands (not just in the subculture, I mean period) have the kind of mythology Sakevi does, so it is understandable. The second is the band. GISM is a great band. GISM is a transcendental band. Their records are worth listening to, their records are worth drawing influence from. They are special for more than some stories you read somewhere. If you don't know this fact, do yourself a favor and fix it.

1 comment:

  1. The flamethrower thing is real. It's probably on youtube but it's definitely on tape.