Just yesterday we heard the news that Ritsuko is to be a mother and will take a break from Shonen Knife. Atsuko will play the bands forthcoming US tour and Naru will play the Japanese dates after. Here is George Damnably’s small tribute to Ritsuko.
Measuring just over 1 metre tall, made mostly of hair – Ritsuko Taneda of Osaka, Japan, proved to be a born giant of ROCK!.
I first met Ritsuko in 2009 when Shonen Knife flew over to play their first UK Gig in 16 years after Ian (Magic Teapot) and I noticed they were on a German Agents roster along with Dick Dale, but hadn’t had any shows in all those years. Together we booked them some (including 3 sold-out London gigs) and it really kick-started Damnably as a label as we released their album SUPER GROUP.
Janice and I met the band at Heathrow Airport. Ritsuko was dressed her patented massive sunglasses, crocs and carrying duty free Hamburgers. This was the Ritsuko in travel mode. Ritsuko also had her punk-rock mode of snow-wash jeans and Ramones t.shirt and her Japanese Uniform of Uniqlo puffer jacket.
She wasn’t so confident with speaking English on the first tour but each time after she got better and we all got to know her Osakan sense of humour.
The band always do a members introduction break, maybe so they can tune. During this, Ritsuko would always say ‘I’m so excited to meet you’, ‘how are you feeling tonight’ and ‘Today I Had a Cheese-Burger’ or sometimes this became ‘…Fish and Chips’ and sort of a running joke for fans. On the last Dingwalls gig a bunch of fans at the back were betting on Ritsuko’s meal and actually really excited to hear it. Ramen wherever feasible was also a staple of Ritsuko’s road diet, sometimes before and after the show, so Naoko made this into a song for Ritsuko.
At the hotel after a gig she could often be found updating a blog or generally online by the bar drinking a Guinness or Lager and laughing with Emi or smallgang/Former Utopia.
On days off we would all party and try local beers and we discovered Ritsuko could drink SOOO MUCH!, like a Japanese Viking!
As a Bassist Ritsuko is pretty amazing and she learned to play it after having a very successful career in J-pop bands Keihan Girl and Denki Candy. She was even endorsed by Fender guitars back then and sold a million copies of some of her records.
Bass was very different and much heavier than she was use to, but she mastered it and can now play something like 130 Shonen Knife songs as well as singing lead or backing vocals and head-banging almost non-stop throughout gigs.
One time, she did this so much she failed to noticed a giant drunk chap had boarded the stage and was sat half inside the kick drum behind her at a crazy gig in Belgium. She kept playing regardless!.
Lesbians liked to make-out in front of Ritsuko for some reason that confused her and a lot of handsome dudes and a lot more old-not-so-handsome men fancied her. Often slightly odd pretend-photographers would spend too long capturing her headbanging live, but she ignored all and enjoyed playing with her band.
It was a dream of Ritsuko’s to join the band as she’d been a fan of Shonen Knife since childhood and knew all the songs and everything about the band so she was ecstatic to play and hang out with Naoko and Atsuko and listen their stories about being on tour with Nirvana, The BMX bandits and Teenage Fanclub who are one of her favourite groups.
Ritsuko was always very funny and kind on tours and would spend most of the van travel time playing Nintendo Games. She was also the master calculator when the band was doing Merch maths and carried a variety of green supplement drinks and medicines not yet available in the UK.
All of us at Damnably will miss Ritsuko the punk-rocker, her giant smile, her humour and wish her the best as a Rock-Mum and hope she has time to play again in the Future.