A Snapshot of Hitomi Nakamura
Today I am not writing about a band, nor a show. Not even an old abandoned building. Today I would like to introduce a person I have gotten to know over the years. I have seen her perform many a time. I have run into her at various shows in the audience. And then there is Facebook, where I have gotten glimpses of various sides of her. These range from her drumming, to modeling for a small select group of photographers, to her enjoyment of costumery, to her wedding last year. All courtesy of her numerous photos that she has shared over the past few years. I am hoping that my words here can compliment in some fashion some of those pics. With that intention I have caught up with her a few weeks ago and been going back and forth on various points. Likewise, I have been reaching out to various people to qualify various details. What follows is my snapshot of Hitomi Nakamura.
My first exposure to Hitomi was in 2007 when I was putting together a show at Barney McNabbs in Yonkers that ended up being perhaps the first Statues of Liberty show. I try to recall now, but I do not think I had any idea what John Law’s new band was about. I knew the X’s who I was hoping to book, were done. The Statues were in fact a return to Banana Fish Zero, but with a new drummer. So you had John Law singing and playing guitar. He had his little Mesaboogie amp with that huge sound. Prince Hal on bass who just provided such a diverse mix of sounds and tone. And behind these two on the drums was Hitomi. Here is this very cute Japanese chick in her short shorts, fishnet stockings, jack boots, with her jet black long hair, eye lashes and shadow just laying down some of the most solid beats for her mates.
And this was my experience of Hitomi for several years. I went to so many Statues shows in the city and in Yonkers – at the Haunt, and over in the Trash Bar and of course Arlene’s. Even Cousin Larry’s up in Danbury CT. I watched them grow from just the Banana Fish Zero catalog to that and the new tunes that they were constantly writing. They were just a pleasure to watch on stage and also to just watch develop as a band. John was always entertaining as he sang and played, often times practically nude. Prince Hal who was focused on his bass but still cool to watch and take in. And then there was Hitomi who was and is an amazing drummer, who did have that look. It was and is just a pleasure to watch her play and just take in the precision and crispness of her playing.
That was back in 2007 to 2009. Even 2010, but then John started exploring TV and film. Ultimately Prince Hal moved to Texas for a time. The Haunt was gone in early 2010, and likewise the Statues of Liberty moved on. I still would get drips and drabs of things via Facebook. They would pop up for a holiday show back at Arlene’s. Again it was Facebook that would remind one of the Statues of Liberty. And it was there on Facebook that I got further introduced to Hitomi.
So it was four or five years after the Statues of Liberty that I decided to write this article, and it was largely due to Facebook. For me Facebook largely confirms what we have. It just reinforces what you have. You are tied largely to various groups and connect to people, friends, if you will, who are connected to those groups and activities you are involved with. For me that is mostly musical stuff. I don’t mix up work with Facebook, I might share a blog, but generally I do not advocate for any political positions, do not share my personal stuff all too much. for me it is mainly music, NYC and the people involved in all of that.
Hitomi countered that. She did not intentionally, but her pictures did provoke and capture my attention. I knew she was an amazing drummer but over the past two or three years she has shared a steady diet of just amazing photographs, which I would just take in and say to myself,”Wow!” Provocative, sexy, sensuous. . . Thoughtful. No doubt a beautiful woman, her pictures captivate. There is the costumery, the body painting, the creation of whole scenes. It is simply lovely to have these pop up in the midst of Facebook.
I found myself asking how she arrived at these? Who was the photographer? Such pictures are not arrived at in an afternoon. They are meticulously planned and constructed.
It is photos such as these that you understand the full craft of photography, the work, the thought, the preparation. I think of the photographers I routinely run into at shows, who I routinely borrow pictures from. They on occasion can not be differentiated from the guy using his phone and who gets that lucky shot. It is almost two different crafts really. The art photographer relying on extensive preparation, and the concert photographer largely relying on their wits, their acquired skills on how and when to capture a certain image, knowing that picture is gone in micro-seconds. In the end both photographers know there camera, they both grasp the challenges of time and light. It is just that those challenges of time and light are very different.
No doubt this points to two different subjects. The concert photographer is trying to capture a live show. He or she is trying to capture something that they have no control over. On top of that, their subjects are subjects – the performers become conscious of the camera. For the art photographer, she or he controls all, including the models – eliminating to some degree that play with the camera, or at least controlling it.
I was first introduced to Tobias Batz in late 2015 when Hitomi shared on Facebook that he had recently passed. He had apparently suffered a heart attack. She went on to share there several times that he was a dear friend, bandmate, and the photographer responsible for much of the art she shares on Facebook. In early 2016 she was involved with a gallery show remembering him and his work.
So how does one go from a solid rock n’roll drummer to model? No doubt it helps that you are probably one of the hottest looking drummers out there, and drummer or not are very photogenic. That is only part of the story. The other piece to this story is Batz. Batz is the band started in 2005 and featured Tobias Batz, who was the lead Vocalist, Guitarist and Song Writer, and Hitomi Nakamura on Drums. They played around the city in 2006 and 2007 hitting the Continental, Arlene’s, and Otto’s among others. Their songs involved the usual – “drinkin’, cussin’, fightin’, jail, goin’ broke, sex with aliens and being a pyro freak, and the sound was somewhere between garage punk and metal. They were primal and high energy with a dash of vaudeville.”*
Batz was one of Hitomi’s first ventures into NYC rock n’roll and made a go of it for roughly two plus years. It was how she ended up Otto’s Shrunken Head and was introduced to Mr. Frank Wood. It was he who pleaded with John Law and Prince Hal to audition Hitomi when they were starting the Statues of Liberty. That pleading, that harassment, and suggestions apparently went on for several weeks, and it was not until gigs started to be lined up and a decision had to be made that John and Hal finally agreed.
The thing is both transitions converge on the Statues. The first is that in 2010 or so the band was like all good things coming to an end. But allow me to back up – before the Statues wound down, Batz largely broke up. At least Hitomi had moved onto the Statues for the most part. And at about the same time it seems Tobias was completing a degree in Photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology. As he did, he turned to his bandmate, Hitomi, to help him with some of his early projects. It was through her drumming that we have this introduction and this work. She told me that at first she was not keen on being a model. It began as a favor to a friend. There is a challenge to opening up to the camera. As things progressed, however, she became more comfortable with the proposition. As Tobias’ skills sharpened she became accustomed to the lens.
From what I understand Tobias had some success in this realm. He was seeing some commissions and Hitomi it seems was the model in several of these works. The range of the shoots expanded. They did several embracing S&M motifs. One very provocative piece involved her bound revealingly over a pentagram. There was one of her as the elegant 1920’s flapper complete in white with cigarette holder held high. There is Hitomi the Boxer, Hitomi the Replicant (a la Blade Runner), and one that I would describe as Hitomi-the Gypsy Queen. Some involved simple costumery, others involved extensive body paint, and yet others actual set design. Throughout this time their friendship deepened. He was the photographer at her wedding or at least one of them. One seems able to pick out his pictures there.
Since I started writing this, I dropped a note to John Law on Facebook. That was back in early June. We finally caught up on July 3rd. He gave me a call from Mexico. In that quick chat, he kept going back to two points – her drumming, and that she was up for anything, “she said yes to everything!” It was her beats that provided the structure for John and Hal to build on and work with. Her playing challenged them both. More important to him was her willingness to go and do it, whether it was regarding a rehearsal schedule, a gig up in Boston, or him and Hal stripping down to their Speedos. She not only thrived in the chaos of live shows, recording studios, and the road but provided some structure to continue through such. Her beats, her drum playing and her being there allowed for the Statues to go on and write and create all that they did. This solidness, this strength, and this openness is likewise seen in the the range of photographs and art that she did with Tobias Batz.
And she does continue. You can find her on Facebook. And she no doubt continues to play drums. In fact she is in four. . . maybe five bands?
Lets see. . . there is Hard Nips-an all Japanese Girl Band. HUFF THIS-another all Girl Band, which also involves a group of collaborators? High Teen Boogie-which is again an all Girl Band that seems to mix up rock n roll and the martial arts. And Rockaway Bitch-which is again an All Girl Ramones Tribute band. Lastly she recently joined the Glorious Revolution, which I have been a fan of for a long time, but that is no doubt another post. . .