School’s Back In Session

School’s back in session, but this semester we’ll be getting a lesson in serious rock– courtesy of Jrock’s best-kept secret, full-throttle super-group abingdon boys school.

Although they could be called a ‘kid-band’, as they only started in 2005, there is nothing kiddie about this hardcore Jrock group. abingdon boys school, fondly contracted to a.b.s by fans and the band alike, was founded by programmer and keyboardist Kishi Toshiyuki and vocalist Nishikawa Takanori– perhaps better known for his pop-prince solo act, T.M. Revolution. They recruited guitarists SUNAO and Shibasaki Hiroshi, both of whom have worked closely with Nishikawa on his “Revolutionary” activities throughout the past decade.

However, let me say this: for anyone who came to a.b.s expecting more of T.M. Revolution’s futuristic sub-Gundam electro-pop, two words: Not. Happening. Seeing as three of the members have indeed (and do still) work together in the Mobile-Suit pop world, I think (yeah, I read the blogs too) a lot of people were surprised that this amazingly (absolutely no offense intended) fruity, and possibly the shortest pop-star in Japan, could front a project so dramatically opposite his solo work, as abingdon boys school.

Well you can put it in red marker and add a star-shaped sticker too, for the versatility of Nishikawa’s unbelievable vocal style. Whether he’s draped in supple snow-white  leather suits, or nerding out in thick-rimmed glasses and a private-school uniform, Nishikawa’s high, heady, terrifically strong wail is unlike any other. Honestly, I have to say that Nishikawa’s vocals are some of the most impressive, innovative, and mind-blowingly awesome in the pop/rock world.

Aside from the singular vocal talents of Nishikawa, the rest of the a.b.s lineup may be names you haven’t heard– but we can quite quickly decapitate that disturbance and move on, because the sooner you hear them, the sooner you’ll be thanking yourself.

Part of the problem may be that these are not blooming heartthrobs. Nor are they young, with the most-junior member scraping a mature 39. I mean– Nishikawa has this kind of aura of studliness, but let’s face it, it’s an aura. If you look at the aesthetic of today, and it’s being represented by Visual Kei hot-topics such as the GazettE and Alice Nine… and all those guys, they’re like puking good-looks. (BUCK-TICK’s early lineup was concerned about their vocalist being tall enough…they apparently never considered hiring Nishikawa, who maxes out at 5′3″.) Well, I’ll tell you, a.b.s may not look like much, but these guys know where and how to pack a helluva punch. These guys are deadly.

a.b.s is comprised of the aforementioned 4 members: Nishikawa (vo.), Kishi (keyboards, programming), SUNAO (guitar), Shibasaki (guitar). The other two necessary organs that make a band breathe and pump blood properly, drums and bass, are supplied by session musicians. And by session-musicians, I mean that these two musicians have a pact with holy deities so advanced and beyond us, that they can’t really officially join bands. Although these two backing members are mysterious strangers to most of a.b.s‘ non-Japanese fan-base, let me try and shed a little light.

Bassist IKUO, who can slap and pop so hardcore you practically want to die, is an extremely in-demand figure in Jrock. In summer ’09 he tore a hole of throbbing thick-stringed bass madness on GACKT’s Koakuma Heaven. And that’s just one name– wherever fame has been mixed with Jrock, IKUO has probably been at some point or another. Any guess as to where GACKT picked this guy up? Possibly on a certain [b]ass-kicking (forgive the inexcusable joke) album that rocked the custom-shredded socks of the Jrock kingdom in 2007…

However, the drummer, who incites the greatest rage of curiosity within, is carefully hidden, his face turned at every sneaky shot during TV performances and lives. You see a sharp cheek and some wild long hair, and that’s about it. His name is Hasegawa Kozy, and he has surpassed being “the drummer” and become “the drums”. Hasegawa Kozy has worked with pretty much every influential Japanese pop and rock band ever– and guess who has him now?

The mastermind behind the project, as it were, is really Kishi Toshiyuki, programmer and keyboardist, who splits most of the compositional duties with guitarist Shibasaki. ‘Programmer’ ‘keyboards’ yes– turn tables.

NO, just don’t even say it. Turn-tables in a rock band? Gundam-suited pop princes in a rock band? Yeah, I know. No, no, no, I’m not trying to rope you into some kind of weird sub-trance group…This is rock– no, this has transcended rock. Turn-tables. And rock. These oh-so-questionable turn-tables spin a.b.s into a whole new arena than the other rockers out there– turn-tables allow for incredible mixing both on stage and in the studio. Kishi adds layers of intense effects and remixing to the already heavy hard-rock style double guitars. You can hear the mixing, but Kishi’s taste is impeccable, and by the end of the first song, it’s all you’ll be talking about.

Not only that, but this is pioneer work as far as Jrock is concerned. Few to no bands up until this point have been interested in mixing turn-tables and rap elements with rock. However, since a.b.s has seen a spike in popularity in the past two or three years, many notable Visual Kei and rock bands have been inspired by them. This includes D’espairsRay who, in 2009 released FINAL CALL, which was produced by Kishi; and girugamesh, whose latest album, NOW is all rap and turn-tabled-out.

On top of the unique music, their image is incredible. However, it’s sort of like, what’s with the getup? What’s in a name? The name abingdon boys school comes from the name of the school in Abingdon-On-Thames, England. The story goes that Nishikawa, after some research, chose the initials a.b.s, partly because he likes sports cars and the initials corresponded to automatic-breaking-system, and partly because when spoken with a Japanese accent, the pronunciation (ee bii essu) is very similar to that of the word “Ebisu”, which is the name of the town where the band was founded.

Abingdon School

However, after some further research, they discovered the school, which is renowned for being the birthplace of famous British rock band Radiohead.  Since the four members [of a.b.s] would all be in the same year at school, they agreed that it would be a fun image to all be school boys together once again. Therefore the image is in keeping with this ideal– the members dress in private-school uniforms (with an a.b.s badge, of course), and one would be hard-pressed to find any one of them devoid of some good old tartan.

As mentioned earlier, the band is only 5 years old. Started in 2005, a.b.s runs alongside T.M.Revolution’s solo projects, to which Nishikawa, Shibasaki, SUNAO, and occassionally even IKUO devote time both in composition and touring aspects. So in all that time, what were the boys up to? Good question, really. It wasn’t until 2009 really that a.b.s took on a full-time project quality from the members. From ’05-’08 they had only released one full-length album and 4 singles, however, ’09 saw the release of 4 more singles, their participation in the major V-Rock Festival in Tokyo, and an intl. debut with their hit European tour. January ’10 saw the release of their new album, Abingdon Road, in March a DVD of music clips and documentary footage from the Europe tour, and a nationwide Japan tour.

As well as having done the OP song for the ultra-popular anime series D Gray Man, many of a.b.s’ singles have been used in shows and anime. This has been credited to a personal love of anime and video games by Nishikawa. Nishikawa claims that he’ll never make a song for a series he doesn’t like, but if he likes it, then the game is on. But it doesn’t stop at anime. a.b.s has been invited to work on several memorial albums– Nishikawa belted out stay away for fictional punk rockers THE BLACK STONES on the Love for Nana ~Only 1 Tribute~ album; their cover of Luna Sea’s Sweetest Coma Again was a hit on Luna Sea~ Memorial Album, and their cover of Buck-Tick’s DRESS absolutely stole the BT cover album: Parade~ Respective Tracks of Buck-Tick.

Check out the original:

a.b.s‘ discography may be relatively small, but it is growing as the band is expanding and growing themselves. Each song is a powerful tornado of musical experience that is, quite frankly, unlike anything else in the music scene today. Their utterly unique sound and image set them apart from the mainstream influx of 20-something cutie-boys, and their devotion to amazing music elevate them among the ranks of long-standing classic favorites. Do yourself a favor and pick up their hot-off-the-press album Abingdon Road, released January 27th ’10.

Class dismissed.

Official Website

Official Fan-club (A.B.S.F.C) [Japan only]

Further reading

For a full list of related links, click


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SUNAO~ the Demon of a.b.s.

Guitar with warmth

Rush of passionate desire

Knife with a keen edge

Give it the gun

About sums up SUNAO, killer guitarist and composer from Tokyo. Born Sakurai Sunao, on April 28th, 1969, his blood type is B.

You may not recognize his name, or his face, immediately. But let me explain where you may have seen, or rather, heard him before. SUNAO is a session guitarist and support artists for many major Jpop and Jrock groups, working both in tour-support and recordings.

SUNAO has been officially active since 1998, when he did live support for Bluem of Youth, as well as beginning his career as one of T.M‘s revolutionary members with the TMR LIVE REVOLUTION ’98-JOKER TYPE 2- as well as other full-throttle TM projects. In 1999 he worked with a band called S-RAVE, which disbanded in 2003.

For at least ten years SUNAO has worked alongside Shibasaki Hiroshi and Nishikawa Takanori in Nishikawa’s outrageously illustrious pop-prince solo act, T.M. Revolution. Along with some compositional participation, SUNAO has also toured extensively with T.M. Revolution, and played on recordings.

In 2000-’01 SUNAO did live-support and arrangements for DOGGY BAG (Y2K), TMR LIVE REVOLUTION ’00 -SUMMER CRUSH 2000-, and a host of other TMR events.

SUNAO has also worked with artists such as Kinki Kids (recording), Sora Izumikawa (live support), Jade Kwan, Yuki Uchida, IKUO, Ami Suzuki, TRFJAM Project, and others.

In 2005, together with comrades Shibasaki Hiroshi, Nishikawa Takanori, and keyboardist/programmer Kishi Toshiyuki,  SUNAO set out on perhaps his most well-recognized venture, that of assuming his role as one of two phenomenal guitarists for destructive super-group abingdon boys school. Alongside fellow guitarist Shibasaki, the two of them worked as two guitars creating one feeling and melody, and as a result, some of the greatest Jrock on earth has been constructed.

Aside from being a complete powerhouse machine on guitar, SUNAO has an unbelievable stage-presence. In the a.b.s striped blazer, eyes darkly shadowed with makeup, head-banging and shredding beneath glimmering, poisonous-green lights in a crowded venue, SUNAO is like some kind of wild demon. Both elegant and refined, and yet completely unhinged at the same time, his wild, fierce energy is a great complement to not just abingdon boys school’s lineup, but to every group and artist honored by his collaboration.

Through middle-school and high-school SUNAO was involved in sports (volleyball and baseball, respectively).  Although you probably can’t imagine it now, he was actually made baseball captain in high-school. His charisma and leadership qualities were recognized when teachers recommended him as student-body president (a big deal in Japanese schools).

Aside from music, SUNAO has also done several radio slots on ゴチャ・まぜっ! a program through MBS Radio. Apparently he was quite the humorist, and told a lot of jokes and funny stories. Among these, he related that he worked for a year as a pizza home-delivery boy, and during this time, he had many encounters with ecchi (dirty)-manga like situations, such as women in their underwear, and so on. And yet he is now the guitarist for some of the greatest rock acts in Japan. See, there is still hope for the rest of us.

Because he is tall and has long hair, with an aura similar to GLAY’s Takuro, many of Takuro’s fans have mistaken the two of them. Which leads me to demand to know how there could be that many opportunities to make that mistake?! Is SUNAO just wandering around down-town Tokyo?! I suppose the chances aren’t that bad. After all, AnCafe‘s Miku did state that the chances of meeting him in Harajuku are actually quite high– there’s a spaghetti place he really likes there. So never lose hope, never give up, and head-bang to SUNAO’s mind-blowing riffs until you get a nosebleed.

++Associated Acts++

abingdon boys school (Jp.-sound)

T.M. Revolution (Jp., Eng. – sound)

++Sources++

SUNAO Official Website (JP)

abingdon boys school official MySpace