Saturday, February 28, 2004

Tori, your history, particularly the music I have heard of yours from the late 1970s and early 1980s (Guys'n'Dolls, Noise, Snickers), suggests an intrinsic relation with rock music. But I sense that this changed at some point. When did you jettison your interest in rock music, and why? What is it about rock music that you do not appreciate? Are you against rock, or simply not interested in it?

>When a guy shouts "rock'n roll !", the venue is suddenly "dyed up" by an inevitable worldly colour, no matter how carefully the player prepared his unique expression beforehand. In such case, to resist rock'n roll is beyond a human power. That is why some rockers died dyed by rock'n roll although they liked saying "I hate rock'n roll". Rock rolls with irony while jazz goes with freedom. Some bands have always avoided using mere 8 beats. It seems like rock'n roll about rock'n roll, and rock'n roll about rock'n roll can not be rock'n roll but it is rock'n roll, and I dare say I have been liking rock'n roll more than anyone else in the world no matter how apparently the world does not deserve me. My rock has been persecuted like Ethiopian blues but always been alive yet always been hidden like a rock mass under the water to where I once had to make a return visit in the dark.

I am interested to know about your involvement with the A-Musik organisation.

>A-musik was not an organization but a band that was often invited to play in events for left-wing extremists or anarchists. I remember how we were spending our time in early 80's. For instance, we loudly played a song called "anti-jap-rap " on a vehicle parked in front of Shinjuku station, Tokyo, then ran away before police arrived. I was 'rapping' at that time. I also remember one day we played in a slum in Yokohama, I shouted a Korean song and VARSHAVIANKA in punk style. The audience was so pleased to scatter colourful torn pieces of papar onto the band...I also remember one winter we organised iron-pipe-orchestra with homeless workers in Sanya, the biggest slum in Tokyo. We organised a big festival called "Anti-Jap-Independant" at Wako University, Tokyo. We invited Fred Frith and Tom Cora. I remember I sang a Korean hard rock song and one of Damo Suzuki's song..

What did this involve for you? What led you to turn your back on this organisation, and turn to religion?

>To be involved in 'Anti-Jap movement' involved stopping my being a Japanese for my self-denegation, which was completed after I stopped being a part of the world as the primitive church did.

Tell me about the process of recording the "Return Visit to Rock Mass" box set. Why did you decide to release such a large amount of music? Do you always have such a backlog of unrecorded songs?

>I hurt my left knee because I had to carry all my scores always, in case someone like Shinji Shibayama of org record offer me an oppotunity to record some songs in a recording studio.

You relocated to London for a period of time, where you were 'discovered' by David Keenan and The Pastels. Why did you shift to London? Reiko Kudo described your move to London as being like moving 'from an Egypt to another Egypt' -what does she mean by this? And now that you are working closely with The Pastels, what is your sense of them - as a band, as musicians, and as individuals - as your peers?

>They found Return Visit to Rock Mass in rough trade in Portberrow. Egypt means the world. The Pastels has been a deterrent to my leaving this world.

Please explain to me what motivated Maher Shalal Hash Baz's interest in error and imperfection.

>My laziness, poverty, and ideal.

I have sometimes seen your work as continuing a musical trajectory that includes songs like The Raincoats' "Fairytale in the Supermarket", Syd Barrett's "Last Night" or albums like the Red Crayola's "Coconut Hotel". Would these be fair approximations of your musical 'influences'? What is it about this music that inspires you? What other music inspires you?

>Yes, I think the rythm of "late night" is a very special thing to me. I like the way of Mayo who thinks out new things using not many sources under a limited condition of rock format, i.e, one of Coconut Hotel piece of graduately turning a knob af an amp volume clockwise. Raincoats gave us a joy of forming a band. I can not mention other musical influences here, which are too many.

Michael Karoli of the German group Can once said that "no Can piece is ever finished". Tori, do you feel that your songwriting process is open-ended, or are you fairly dogmatic about the structures of your songs? Are the songs bound by their score? Are Maher Shalal Hash Baz songs 'finished', or are they unfinished?

>Melodies are cut from the air and repeated for a few seconds, like fish in the air living for a while. We try to release the fish into the water before it dies, but it does not succeed always. As everything has its beginning and end, so each melody has to face its end. The length of a song is decided by its strength of the song itself. When a melody is worth playing long, we often play it for hours. But I also know the danger of such kind of meditating on one cord, which makes one like a defenceless city when attacked. Playing music is like giving a melody a funeral properly.

Can you explain to me your interest in errors and imperfections? Your music often reminds me of the miniature and almost imperceptible flaws found in hand-woven rugs. You have recently suggested that you want to shift from being considered 'king of error' - did you find, though, that you would get bored when a piece of music approached 'perfection'?

>I had to be a king of irony this time in the recording studio, where we had to be good boys trying to avoid any mistake. But we basically want music to be cheap, easy, yet unique, which is to be played with non-musicians.

Do you still perform solo piano concerts? What does this avenue offer you that making music with Maher doesn't?

>I still have my solo piano concert sometimes. Playing the piano is like drawing for me. I can not draw the same picture twice. It is more free and more improvisational than the band.

How important is a sense of community to your music making?

>I have not got my musical community. And my community does not seem to need my music here.

Your songs appear to be very interested in natural phenomena - "Open Field", "Sunrise", bird-song, etc. Why?

>Goete who is not falling in love at the moment has to find his reality in the nature for time being.

There is a song on your new album called "Tokyo Okinawa Scotland". What are the similarities between these places that led you to write this song?

>Naoto, a deppressed basist who lives in Tokyo, wanted to go to Okinawa first then go to Scotland with maher, The theme is repeated three times in three different manners reflecting each locations. Spaces between the melodies represents an eardrum hurt in the airplane.

How accurately do you feel your 'blues du jour' songs actually capture the 'blues of the day'? Or is it more abstract than this?

>Blues du jour is a name of a format for a collective improvisation for non-musicians, which has many rules including staggering rythm of 2nd beat etc.

Do we privilege music too much?

>Music has its peculiar freedom unique in all genre of art . Once we get used to this freedom without limits, we would even live only in music, without caring about what is happening in this planet.

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