The Stalin began in 1980 and blew away all previous attempts at Japanese punk rock with their radical, evolving style. The band was founded by Michiro Endo, a 32 year-old socialist activist, Vietnam veteran, and street singer who had spent time in the West. He chose the name because "the name Stalin is very hated by most people in Japan, so it is very good for our image." Because he was a socialist, he also explained the name as meaning "the downside of every good idea." Michiro was also the editor of INGO fanzine, which helped release the second press of Stalin's first flexi Dendou Kokeshi in 1980. The cover of this EP was a brutal drawing of a penis being injected by a hypodermic needle. The two songs on the flexi were great raw, jangly punk rock tunes. This sound continued on their second EP, 1981's 5-song Stalinism 7", on which at least one Ramones riff can be heard within the unique Stalin sound. Not impressed with crowd reactions at Stalin shows, Michiro behaved like a madman, leaving a wake of destruction everywhere he went. He would spit, pull hair, or just beat up members of the audience. If that didn't work, he would leave the stage after one song. A MRR scene report from the time describes fish heads and human shit on stage. The Stalin were quickly banned from most venues.
For the first LP, 1981's Trash, they sped up the pace and began to sound like a hardcore band. Released on Political Records, this highly influential record is so rare that it has been bootlegged even in Japan. The new sound of the Stalin was due partly to the addition of guitarist Tam, formerly of Typhus, the band that spawned Gauze. Tam was a producer as well and ran the ADK label, although the Stalin decided at this point to sign to the major label Climax. Michiro later explained that he always hoped the band could break into the mainstream and wreak even more havoc (this never happened). He adopted a poetic lyrical style he called "tanku" - a combination of haiku and tanks. He was obsessed with the breakdown of romantic communication in Japanese society, and the "fascist" ideal of love (perhaps not too different from Elvis Costello's fascist love theme on Armed Forces?). All of Michiro's lyrics were written in Japanese.
The band's major label debut was 1982's Stop Jap LP, which many regard as their best work. The two singles from the record found them reinventing songs by the Doors and Stooges as B-sides. The lyrics from this album supposedly reflect a more anti-nationalist, anarchistic slant on political issues. The band reached their peak in popularity with the next two hardcore records in 1983: the 4-song Go Go Stalin 12" and the Mushi LP. The Stalin was one of the first Japanese bands to reach an international audience when their song "Chicken Farm" appeared on MRR's seminal Welcome to 1984 compilation alongside other international hardcore pioneers like Raw Power and BGK. Shortly after, unfortunately, Tam left the band. 1984's Fish Inn LP found the Stalin moving in more jazzy direction, with American musicians playing parts. The record wasn't popular with punks, and Michiro was disillusioned with the Japanese punk scene anyway. After releasing a 1985 double live album, the Stalin called it quits.
Inspired by the monumental events of 1988, especially the collapse of Soviet Communism, Michiro reformed the Stalin. He had been fascinated with the Polish Solidarity movement, which began the same year as the band, and after a visit to Warsaw he organized a Japanese tour for the Polish punk band Dezerter. The Stalin completed the cultural exchange in 1990 when they toured Eastern Europe. At some point the band converted to Video Stalin, a video production ensemble. One video they made, "The History of the Stalin," has live footage and promo clips from the band's early days. Some of the Stalin's music is in print today in the form of CD reissues, including their track on Welcome to 1984. Also, various bootlegs and Killed by Death type compilations have kept them in small circulation. For those who want an introduction to the band I recommend the excellent Sakhalin Smile bootleg LP which compiles material from all of their EPs with lots of info (including everything used in this bio). A German bootleg of Trash with so-so sound quality is also relatively easy to find. The Stalin stand apart from other Japanese hardcore bands for their crazy, diverse sound and totally unique approach to punk rock.
DENDOU KOKESHI 7" flexi (Political, 1980)
TRASH LP (Political, 1981)
STALINISM 7" (Political, 1981)
STOP JAP LP (Climax, 1982)
ROMANICHISUTO 7" (Climax, 1982)
ARERUGII 7" (Climax, 1982)
MUSHI LP (Climax, 1983)
GO GO STALIN 12"(Climax, 1983)
NOTHING 7"(Climax, 1983)
BAKYUMU 7" flexi(B.Q., 1983)
FISH INN LP (B.Q., 1984)
LAST LIVE FOR NEVER 2xLP (Japan, 1985)
STALINISM 12" (Independent, compiles first flexi, Fish Inn bonus flexi, "Chicken Farm," and Stalinism EP)
THE STALIN CD
SAKHALIN SMILE LP (has material from their EPs)
WELCOME TO 1984 LP (MRR, 1984), "Chicken Farm"
NAGASAKI NIGHTRIDER LP (bootleg), "Niku"
He has a more complete Stalin discography that continues into the 90's, but it's all in Japanese characters. Also there's what looks like a fan club.
Sogo Ishii Webpage
Bio of this Japanese video director includes info on his filming of The Stalin.
It was brought to my attention that two Stalin CDs (their best as a matter of fact) are still available here - but I'm definitely not endorsing Amazon.com as a place to get your Japanese hardcore. If they have it, probably somebody else does as well. (But, unless you live in Japan, you're gonna end up paying a lot for an "import" CD either way.)