森本 絵美 Emi Morimoto is from Kyoto, Japan. A city devastated then completely rebuilt following the second historic Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla battle. It is from this scene of wanton destruction that Emi’s signature monstrous sonic barrage drum style stems from.
Emi studied English Literature at University, and as a child was gifted at Ballet and Gymnastics, but her path was not to be in the high arts or noble sports, but the in world of ROCK!
The tallest of all the knives, Emi is ‘so height’ at 4.7′ and legally a giant in Japan or “背の高い女の子“.
Like Atsuko the original drummer in Shonen Knife, Emi sort of fell into drumming by chance. As she recently recalled in Tom Tom Magazine “I’ve played in four to five different kinds of bands. When I joined the band circle in college (aged 19), there were no drummers to form a band, so I said, “then I shall.” It’s not like I always wanted to play drums or anything, it just happened, but I love it now!”
She managed to join 4 or 5 bands and would have a gig every night with a different band and often playing a different genre of music (for those of you who don’t know-Japan is a Country not a musical genre), so she could learn more and craft her drum and singing skills. She played the drums and sang in Ultra Jr., mamastudio, Nasca Car and Ni Hao! who managed to tour Australia and become quite successful.
It was in Ni Hao! that Emi first came to the attention of Naoko and Tomatohead, when the band supported Shonen Knife. Thus, when the time came for a new drummer, she was automatic choice.
Emi joined Shonen Knife in 2010 after Etsuko became pregnant and she, despite being embarrassingly tall managed to fit right in and soon became many fans favourite knife. With the help of some ‘look smaller’ (靴を縮小) shoes that took a few inches off her, she was able to fit into photographs with Naoko and Ritsuko.
I first met Emi on route to Matt Groening’s ATP, and chatted to her about Japanese bands and it turned out that she was mates with Pika☆ from Afrirampo and often chatted to her over skype on tour.
Emi’s grasp of the English language was perfect already and we found out much later that she learnt it from watching UK Soap operas like Crossroads, Emmerdale and Brookside. She would often drop a colloquial phrase into her stage banter that would fit with the City the band were at and sometimes at the hotel bar, when tipsy she would deliver a startling impression of Peggy “Get Outta My Pub!”Michell from her favourite TV show ‘East Enders’.
ATP was her second gig in the UK, and the massive crowd went nuts for them. Naoko had played Reading, Lollapalooza and Roskilde so was use to huge crazed crowds but for Emi and Ritsuko it was exciting. It was an unexpected pleasure to see the band hanging out fellow legends The Raincoats who they befriended and played together with after in Japan but often musical celebrities would pop along to gigs or soundchecks to say hello to the band.
The band gelled on that tour and each time they came back Emi had improved until she was an incredible drummer. By the end of her stint in the band she was able to drum and sing 130 Shonen Knife songs, and manage up to 2 hour sets even with some tours lasting 6 weeks of non-stop shows and long exhausting drives with not so much sleep.
Emi in Helsinki’s Bar Loose singing ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’
1000th Show selfie
On European Tours, Emi would wake up super early and explore each City, usually after going to bed very late due to drinking after show beers with Ritsuko and smallgang. She’d sometimes enjoy 2 breakfasts (can remember that in Vienna) and the energy expounded at the gigs would just burn off the calories.
Shonen knife Beer in Germany (Frankfurt)
Emi would laugh so much on tours, one time she couldn’t stop laughing at Matt smallgangs butt crack, which was peeking out of his jeans as he set up the drum kit or when Janice slammed the van door shut on my hand and I yelled ‘arrrghhhhh’. Doge became a tour long source of amusement.
Emi with big drum at Zug, switzlerland and Birthday Emi at Ebensee Austria
On the last UK tour Janice and I stayed up late with Naoko, Atsuko, Emi and Ritsuko at the hotel bar chatting about the old days and all of the tours and labels and as we left the hotel to the sound of the morning chorus at 5am we could see Emi and Ritsuko were still partying on, joking and enjoying pints of Bitter and the bottomless bag of snacks gathered on the tour.
We all felt that last Shonen Knife show at Dingwalls with Atsuko drumming ‘I am A Cat’ was very special and now we know it was Emi’s last UK tour it’ll stand as a highlight amidst so many wonderful nights. It’s a cliche I know, but the roar of the crowd was electrifying and everyone had tears in their eyes when Atusko played ‘Like A Cat’. Emi, Ritsuko and Naoko were so happy to see her drum and sing again.
Atsuko and the band rehearsing for their Dingwalls special
I’d seen them play so many times but never tired of them and that’s great songwriting and an amazingly tight and vital band who always rocked to the max each night. All of us at Damnably loved hanging out with Emi, who is it must be said is caring, kind and genuinely lovely and we wish her the best for the future.
She has been a very important part of a legendary band now coming up to it’s 35th year. Bands hardly ever last that long and an all female band from Osaka, Japan that’s lasted that long and can still tour so much of the world with so so many fans of all ages is really special. That they keep managing to transcend limitations critics may foist upon them is exceptional and we look forward to many more years of the mighty Shonen Knife!
Double Drumming w/ Blood Thirsty Butchers
Emi’s Last Stand ‘Green Tea’
Emi’s Last Stand ‘Psychedelic life’
What Emi Did Next
then a she spent a few months managing Stewart Lee’s own Coventry Travlodge before….
Thank You EMI!
Now read The Wonder of Ritsuko