“No band does what GISM does or shocks like GISM can. That kind of brilliance people call insane." - Pushead in Puszone, MRR August 1987
Formed in 1981 in Tokyo by vocalist Shigehisa "Sakevi" Yokoyama, guitarist Randy Uchida, bass player Kannon "Cloudy" Masuo, and drummer Tohru "Monamour" Hiroshima, this newly minted project would ultimately go by many names but always under one acronym:
G.I.S.M.AKA God In the Schizoid Mind
The band’s distinctive acronym, despite having so many meanings over the years, has always represented a certain mythological immortality that increasingly eludes punk bands in the digital age. GISM have been analyzed, studied, glorified, discussed, and imitated by punks, metalheads, and curious normos alike the world over for decades.
While many gravitate toward Sakevi’s legendary extreme presence, both on and off the stage, his artistry and performing interests make for a far more interesting case study. Despite being firmly rooted in Japan’s burgeoning hardcore punk scene, Sakevi’s aestheticism and conduct seemed more reflective of the country’s up and coming noise scene. While GISM’s contemporaries possessed the genre’s trademark pageantry, Sakevi was imagining ways to conjure fear and dread into the band’s audiences. After all, what good was playing a dangerous genre if no one felt like they were in danger? GISM performances would be akin to the hyperchaotic experimental and noise shows of Hanatarash and Hijokaidan (whom Sakevi would later collaborate with members of) which were wreaking havoc across Japan as opposed to the safer-by-comparison punk shows of the day. To this end, we can truly understand the meaning of “Punks Is Hippies” because they literally were in GISM’s unpredictable and violent world.
Detestation, GISM’s debut LP, was released on Dogma Records in 1983. It was recorded at Our House, a space that doubled as both venue and recording studio, in 1983. It was produced by the band themselves with engineering support from Konishi Koji who also recorded The Comes, Aburadako, and a variety of other punk and wave projects. To say Destestation was ahead of its time would be the greatest understatement. It incorporated elements from so many genres: hardcore, punk, heavy metal, glam, thrash, industrial, and experimental. It was almost as if listeners didn’t know what to do with the record’s music but gravitated to it nonetheless as they recognized it was something unique and special. Maximum Rocknroll’s Jay Bentley’s 1984 review of Detestation made that sentiment clear, describing the record as: "Churning Metal-punk, or perhaps even speed-metal, depending on where you draw the distinction. GISM are undoubtebly an HM band who've been heavily influenced by hardcore, but the music is so intense and the vocals so ominous that even I'm in a state of shock. These guys make VENOM sound like the KNACK, especially on side 1". Even back then, the attitude around GISM was “these guys are really good at what they do, we’re not quite sure what to do with them, but you need to know them.”
More curious than GISM’s rise to power in the Japanese punk ecosystem was the band’s infiltration of the American punk zeitgeist. Legend has it the first person to distribute Detestation in America was none other than Brian Schroeder AKA Pushead of Septic Death / Pusmort fame. The record did not take hold with American audiences the way Pushead had anticipated, this despite him even heaping high praise upon the band and album in his highly influential Thrasher Magazine column which served as a springboard for countless bands. While GISM did not immediately become an influential force in American circles, the people who did take a liking to the music became influential in their own right. Among which included Poison Idea (Pig Champion was said to have been one of the earliest American GISM fans along with Pushead) and Integrity (Dwid Hellion credits GISM’s influence on the band’s shift from straight edge band into the entity they would later become).
The band’s influence would continue to snowball in the punk world until today where they are often hailed as the kings of Japanese punk while holding the franchise on dangerous conduct in punk music. Even into the 21st century, the band’s debut album is still being analyzed and discussed. Magic Circle’s Chris Corry in 2008 described Detestation as “one of those records that is nearly impossible to judge in a vacuum. Its been subject to 25 solid years of mythologizing and collector worship. Its one of the few records that can still get an extreme reaction from people listening to it for the first time so long after it was first conceived. It’s one of the harshest most brutalizing rock records ever made. It’s also one of the strangest. It’s a landmark intersection point for punk, hardcore, and metal, doing its something to muddy up the gene pool of each. “Greater than the sum of its parts” is not even the half of things here. People who know GISM’s music already know all about this, and those who don’t can’t really understand what it’s all about until hearing them."