The Birds of Noise [2009-12-20]Merzbow (Masami Akita) really needs no introduction, he’s one the most know & respected noise artists in the world, having created a huge body of varied work taking in 300 plus release since the project inception in 1979 starting as a full sonic entity in 1980. 2009 sees him creating one of the largest projects of his career (second after the huge 50 disk set the Merzbox) in the form of the 13 volume Japanese bird series on important records. To celebrate this Masami has been kind enough agreed to give me a rare interview- his second with myself & here at M(m).
m[m]Last years Arijigoku was recording in an outside studio away from your normal bedroom in Tokyo set up- why did you decided to record this here? And what advantage and disadvantage do you find working in an outside studio?
Masami I just recorded the drum tracks for `Arigigoku´ album in an outside studio; the rest was recorded in Bedroom Tokyo. As for the advantages of an outside studio I can record musically instruments, drums etc which I cannot record in my home studio. The disadvantages are that there`s a limit of time with-in outside studios.
m[m]Recent albums and in particularly the 13 Japanese Birds Volume series sees you using live Drums- what first triggered your interesting in using these again?
Masami I ´ve played drums a few times before in session with others such as: Kiyoshi Mizutani, K.K.Null or Keiji Haino, but I`ve never played drums on solo Merzbow works until now. So I thought it was a good idea for play drums for Merzbow in now.
m[m]On the subject of the live drums will you be playing these live at any point? And logistically how will you manage this? Could we see Merzbow return to a two piece project in its live form?
Masami Sometimes I play live with pre-recorded long drum samples, but I`m also interested in play live with actual drums too. But it will probably be in another project; because Merzbow is basically a solo project.
m[m]2009 is the 10 year anniversary of the mighty Merzbox- what`s your feeling about this massive collection 10 years on? & have you every thought of release a second volume Merzbox?
Masami The Merzbox was a Massive collection, but it was not all new works. In fact, I released more new works after Merzbox.
I still have many unreleased work`s- But I`m not sure that they are of interest to people now or not.
m[m]Talking about unreleased works, you mentioned you still have plenty; what period do these come from? And would you have enough to fill another 50 disk worth?
Masami There from no particular period and yes there`s enough for another 50 CDs.
m[m]The 13 Birds series is influenced by Olivier Messaien´s Catalogue Diseaux (Bird catalogue work)-what attracted you to this as an influence for the project? Are you a fan of Messaien´s other work?
Masami I really like Messiaen´s works, especially early Romantic works. I also appreciated his birds works. `Japanese Birds series are same the volumes as Messiaens `Bird catalogue works and have the same theme. But musically there`s not directly influenced by Messiaen´s Bird catalogue.
m[m]Over what period of time was the 13 bird series recorded? And what can we expect on later volumes sound wise etc Masami I`m recording each album each month. So every album is mostly all new material but I`m also adding in reworked short pieces which recorded in various periods over the years. I don`t know what all 13 volumes will finally sound like.
m[m]Each of the 13 Bird series is named after a native Japanese bird- what made you choose these certain birds? And what would be your favourite Japanese bird of all?
Masami I`ve tried to find native Japanese birds- but also I`m to selecting birds which familiar to everyone, I mean not special birds. I like birds that come to our garden such as Sparrow, pheasants, doves, crow etc. People hate these birds and abusing them because they are considered as harmful birds. But it`s very insignificant harm, As all they do is shit and scatter garbage. I think human beings cause more environmental disruption than them. A Tokyo Governor named Ishihara is promoting the extermination for savage doves and crows. I written a protest song for this shit policy on the one of 13 birds CDs.
m[m]Can you tell us a bit more about the paintings that are been offered as part of the collectors edition of 13 Japanese Birds? Are they going to be similar to the cover artwork for the cd´s?
Masami There not going to be similar to the cover artwork for the cds. I`m going to paint small bird images on the each wooden piece of the boxers
m[m]Last year saw you tap more into the ambient, textured & harmonic side of your sound with your collaboration with Richard Pinhas and the excellent Keio Line & your split project with Keiji Haino Kikuri. How did each of theses collaboration come about?
Masami I first met Richard Pinhas at his live show in Japan in the fall of 2006. I played opening for his gig in Tokyo. I used to be a fan of Heldon (influential and respected French electronic rock band formed by Pinhas in the early 1970`s); then I got the offer of collaboration with Richard and I said `yes`.
We made the recording in Tokyo while he stayed here in 2007. With Pinhas, I was working mostly with a vintage analog EMS synthesizer. The analog synth provides a very spacey and somewhat mellower sound. Pinhas was involved in the `60s student revolution movement, he also worked with post-structuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze. He said he was very understanding of the concept of Animal Rights and we used song titles which related with Animal Rights.
Masami As for Kikuri Some years a go, Me and Haino played a short lived collaboration at festival in Australia and then we decided to start Kikuri. I`ve know Haino since the late 1970s. And we`ve played sessions together a few times before; but Kikuri is a first band we`ve put together. Musically it`s very interesting, but also he does not eat meat or fish and does not smoking. so, I like playing with him.
m[m]Who would you like to collaborate with most(living or dead)?
Masami I`d really like to collaborate with drummer
m[m]Your album Eucalypse was all about the damage made to Indians` natural eco system by the introduction of a certain breed of Eucalyptus tree; hence the titles play on the words Eucalyptus and Apocalypse. How did you come across this ecological devastation? And have you got any more ecological or animal rights type based ideas for future albums?
Masami This ecological devastation was noticed by the producer of the label who ordered the albums wooden cases for India. I then read about it and found the name `Eucalypse´.
Ecological and animal rights are strongly related to each other; for example, eating meat is big cause for global warming and environmental ruination.
The meat which a human being eats needs much more mass useless energy in comparison to cereals and the vegetables. Keeping a domestic animal need a large quantity of land and water and cereals.
As a result, there is large-scale deforestation in the underdeveloped countries such as South America. Further more, the methane which is produced by cows belch is one of the causes of the global warming too.
However, most people talking about environmental problems and issues never touch on the problem of the stock raising and human meat eating, I think that this is hypocritical. A reforming of the consciousness of human beings is necessary. I think that we must abandon this way of thinking in an anthropocentrism manner, that´s why human being`s have becomes dictators of the earth.
m[m]What have you got in the pipeline? Any more collaborations, collections or albums
Masami I`m concentrate on 13 bird`s series at present. I really want to try various new ideas with the series.
I did a more Rock oriented thing with a recent recording. They are some new approaches to drum mixing too similar to some of the tracks off the "Day of Seals" box set. In addition, I`m working on the electro-acoustic material which I made using new Granular Synthesis software.
There is an accumulation of various musically genres in mind too, such as classic Rock, Free Jazz, Metal, No Wave, this will be reflected more on my future releases.
I have an new double 7´ out called `Tempi ´which is a parody of the catalogues of the Salvador Dali exhibition held in Japan in 1964- which many people wont know or relate to-So, this is just for my pleasure...
m[m]Have you ever coincided re-issuing some of your more collectable albums that are out of print & reaching large prices on ebay? Such as Ecobondage, Rainbow Electronics, Spiral Honey, Blues Maggots.
Masami Yes, I would like to re-issue some of my albums, but not in the same format. Some of the artwork and song titles I didn`t like now and want to change. `Ecobondage´ and `Rainbow Electronics´ are available to download from iTunes and emusic.com.
Thanks to Masami for answering my questions – all the pictures kindly supplied by Masami are © Jenny Akita. The 13 bird series are been released a volume a month for the rest of the year go to http://www.importantrecords.com/ for more info on the series. Merzbow´s site can be found here Roger Batty