A Quickie with Chief's Michael Fujikawa

There’s no real way for me to hide my immense love for the gentlemen who make up the Los Angeles four-piece known simply as Chief. When discussing them with friends I take on a number of roles; I’m a proud parent, a gushing fan-boy, an outspoken cheerleader and a discoverer of the future of rock and roll. Now this may sound a tad embellished or overblown to some of you, but my love runs deep for this bunch. Chief embodies so many of the characteristics needed for me to fall for a band, but what puts them in a class of their own is their attention to song craft and it was on display throughout the course of their stunning debut LP Modern Rituals (Domino).

Heck, I’m rambling again so let me shut up and get down to business. We tracked down Chief’s drummer Michael Fujikawa who is no stranger to New York after spending his collegiate years at NYU. The band returns to their adopted East Coast home on December 7 for a show at Bowery Ballroom with fantastic locals The Dig. You’d be a fool to miss it.

As a Los Angeles band that got its start in NYC you're no strangers to the city. What's the one thing you'd hate to miss on a trip back East?  First and foremost, I’d hate to miss seeing my younger brother who lives out there, whom i see only around the holidays.  Secondly, I hate to miss all the fine young ladies walking the streets with their heads held high as only true New York women can.  Honestly, I miss the New York woman the most. 

You've played a number of NYC venues over the last few years. What has been your most memorable experience?  We've played hundreds of shows in NY.  Our first show is up there for sure.  The last time we sold out the Mercury Lounge as well.  Sheesh, I don’t know.  One of the more memorable times was after we played this private party at some hip hop club on 14th and 7th Ave and I was using my roommate’s Volvo to move gear.  My friend was out of town and he had, no joke, at least 40 parking tickets, and as fate would have it, when I got out of the show the car had been towed.  Long story short, I had to get a sober person with $240 to come with me to the impound before they ran the car and saw how many tickets it had incurred.  By 3:30am, my friend Franco and I were driving Nate’s Volvo back to the bar to get drunk.

It’s 4:00am and last call has come and gone, what’s next? Are there any speakeasies, late night eats or after party spots you frequent?  There are several bars in New York that never close for me.  My brother and I have slept in basements before and stumbled away from poker games well into the afternoon from the night before.  Usually we go on to one of our homes if the night needs continuing.  I can tell you this much, we spend a lot of time at LitBlack and White and Mona's, those are law abiding bars.

What is your preferred New York City watering hole? Why?  To piggy back from the last question, my favorite place to drink is a bar called Mona's on 13th and B.  I spent my entire college life there from the time I was 17 till now.  Two of the bartenders have moved away, one to Ireland the other to get married in Los Angeles oddly enough.  Mona’s is the best place to get drunk because people there are professional drinkers.  We all know each other and although everyone is almost always quarreling it never goes beyond that.  It has the best juke box in the city, and it is home.  There is not a lot of babocity going through there though these days.  I also drink a lot at Black and White, a lot. 

The courting process is on and a major player is taking you to dinner on the AMEX Black card; where are you eating? What menu item is not to be missed?  This is tough.  I haven’t eaten at very many fancy places in the past few years, and those that I have visited were always let downs.  I don’t really like Babbo.  I like Nobu, but it’s kind of like everywhere is Nobu these days. Roberta's in Bushwick is one of the better restaurants around these days. Our band is actually tied to that place. My brother Danny used to work there and several of the owners put our first show together at a warehouse in which we all lived known as the men's colony.  Roberta is my friend Chris and Bronco's mom.  They named it for her.  It’s not a place to use a black card, but its f*cking great.   

It's the holiday season and you've got some money to spend. Where would you go to cross some folks off your gift list? I just walk around the East Village until I see something that looks good.  That’s pretty much what I do in New York.  I walk.  Midtown is good, it’s kind of the last place in the city that still feels like a city.  Chinatown too.  I’m partial to the myriad of antique stores in the East Village.  You know those places that sell human skulls and stone mason books. It’s such a fad, but I love that sh*t.  Follow the Japanese tourists, they will take you to the best places.

Good or bad, have you ever had what you would describe as a quintessential New York moment? This is great. This actually ties back in to the first or second question.  I was leaving Black and White one night in spring after having djed there.  I got out of a cab on Elizabeth and Broome to go to my friends bar to drink after 4am. I had three Ipods, $250 in cash, a brand new Macbook Pro, and some other shit, and I asked this homeless dude if he had a cigarette I could buy from him, my head was down and away from him; I wasn’t really looking at him.  Anyway, the next thing you know, I’m on my hands and knees blood streaming from my nose, having no idea what happened.  I looked for him and he was up the street trotting off.  I had all of my gear, he didn’t take a thing.  I yelled after him fighting these freaky emotions that were welling up - "why did you do that?" and he just looked back and then started off again.  He just didn’t like me I guess.

The Big Apple has all sorts of tourist attractions like Central Park, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty to name a few. What's the most touristy thing you've done in the city?  I like museums.  I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty, but when I was younger.  I’ve been on a carriage ride through Central Park, but also when I was little.  This is the most depressing question of the lot, cause I don’t think I’ve really done anything very touristy during the 8 years I lived in NY.  I like that kind of stuff though.  

Finish this sentence: New York City is the sweetest place on earth because… the more grimy and depraved a place is the sweeter the sweet stuff will be when it happens, which it rarely does.

Check out the video for for Chief's "Night and Day" show in New York's Jane Hotel.

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