Maher Shalal Hash Baz is the oddly-named band for Japanese cult figure Tori Kudo and his wife Reiko (the name is apparently a Hebrew biblical phrase that Tori translates as “be quick if you mean to steal something”). Since the late 1970s, Tori has been a pioneering figure in Japanese punk, post-punk and avant-garde circles, beginning with bands such as Guys’n’Dolls, Cock C’Nell, Noise and Tokyo Suicide (a cover band dedicated to New York synth-punk pioneers Suicide).
Tori formed Maher Shalal Hash Baz in the mid 80s with neighbours who could not play any instruments, and for the better part of 20 years has been pursuing a single-minded vision of music as simple, spontaneous and unpredictable. The band’s always changing lineup of anywhere from three to thirty people features mostly untrained musicians playing music often shown to them on the day of its performance, expressing the innate beauty of failure as much as of success.
The band began releasing records in 1989, but did not come to worldwide attention until almost a decade later, when their marvelously ambitious triple album Return Visit To Rock Mass was released. MSHB were invited to tour outside of Japan for the first time in 1999, when UK label Geographic released From A Summer To Another Summer, a compilation of Maher recordings. Soon the band were touring the US and Europe regularly, and Geographic released their most recent album Blues Du Jour in 2003.