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Stopover spotlight: Peelander-Z
'We are an action comic Japanese band'
"We explain we are not human. We came from Planet P to get the U.S. smiles because we are not human beings. We eat smiles, and we send smiles to our planet because they need more smiles there."

Peelander-Z performs the Jinx at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, March 9 (technically late Saturday night, but you get the idea).

It came from Planet P!

Well, technically it came from New York City, but in the world created by the four members of the punk band Peelander-Z, the extended universe holds many secrets.

It's punk performance art. Dressed in primary-colored superhero costumes, with wings and furs and freaky shades and port-holed space masks, the four Japanese musicians clown and cavort amongst giant squids and lizards, and involve the audience in high-energy participation games. No one is ever still.

The music is all primary punk, with singalong titles like "Taco Taco Taco," "S.T.E.A.K.," "Mad Tiger" and "Star Bowling." It's like a hardcore acid trip inside a Japanese television set.

We spoke with founder and guitarist Kengo Hioki (aka Peelander Yellow) from his home in Queens—about as far away Planet P as one can get.

But still, as you'll see, not all that far.

CS: Can you give me a little history of the band?

Peelander Yellow: My band Peelander-Z, that's easy, we explain we are not human. We came from Planet P to get the U.S. smiles because we are not human beings. We eat smiles, and we send smiles to our planet because they need more smiles there. That is our project.

CS: Is it possible for me to speak to Mr. Hioki?

Kengo Hioki: We have two stories—one story is fake, and the other is a sort of underground, secret story. You can tell everybody both of them! We came from Japan. We are an action comic Japanese band. We live in New York and are touring everywhere, almost. We play 1,200 shows in the United States.

CS: That's what I was getting at. Did all of you meet in New York?

KH: I started Peelander-Z here in New York, with Peelander Blue, Red and Yellow, in 1998. But they are gone now, we have Yellow and Purple and Green and Pink. Sometimes Black, from Tokyo.

I'm not a big follower of music, I can say. I love music for listening. I love comics, I love weird movies, old-style wrestling, like '80s wrestling. Old Japanese animation, Japanese superheroes, like Power Rangers. So I grew up liking colored superheroes. Old Japanese Power Rangers, that's what I like. I want to mix everything on our stage.

We can say music is just 10 percent. Wrestling, crazy action, cosplay, something David Copperfield (laughter), something Takeshi's Castle —you know that one? Old crazy Japanese TV show. I want to mix that on the stage. Our style is more like punk rock, but we can say Power Rangers meets Ramones, RIP, Devo ... but we want to mix everything on the stage into a show.

It's not only that we play onstage, we gonna pick up everybody and we gonna jam to the floor with them. We do the human bowling, we do the limbo dance, we do the jumping rope.

CS: What influenced you? The first time I heard Peelander-Z, I thought Cheap Trick. You reminded me of Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick.

KH: Really? I grew up with Japanese pop. I write TV type of song, like crazy one. I never heard punk or pop music from here or from U.K. I hear only like Japanese weird music. I started to hear punk rock when I was 20. It's kind of too late to hear.

I started playing because it's easy for me, just three chords, two chords, one chord. I thought music was more difficult! But Ramones, Johnny Thunders, Sex Pistols very easy to play. I like Iggy Pop, I like Ramones, I like the Jam. I love Riverboat Gamblers.

CS: Have you ever gone out and just played a rock 'n' roll show, without the costumes and the theatrics?

KH: No, I play three chords. Because I am not a good guitarist! I cannot play anything. If I need some more music, I am gonna get another guitarist. I can say, I don't know how to play music, but I know how to play music with you!