Graham Reid | | 3 min read
The name Merzbow is synonymous with noise. In fact Merzbow – aka 56-year old Masami Akita – might be Japan's pre-eminent noise artist. Since the late Seventies he has – under a few other pseudonyms as well – been crafting out huge slabs and walls of sonic density which hit head, chest and internal organs simultaneously.
He is not for the faint-hearted but he is certainly to be admired, not the least for the enormous recorded output which today numbers well over 200 releases (including a 50 CD box set) and collaborations with numerous other noise and metal artists, including Japan's Boris. And the likes of Sonic Youth.
After studying fine arts at university and taking his lead from the Dadaists – Merzbow is an abstraction of Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau construction piece made of discarded objects and materials – he abandoned conventional music and art practices to explore pure noise, Japanese pornography and fetishes, and playing his sonic work at high volume.
He has written extensively on Japanese fetishes (although quit in the late Nineties and no longer wishes to discuss that) but noise has been his main focus and – through distortion, industrial sounds, feedback and free form use of synthesisers, voices and guitars -- he delivers the aural equivalent of a scorched earth policy.
And he is bringing his work to New Zealand for some performances (see dates below)
Elsewhere prepared a series of questions for him in English (and translated into Japanese by our friend Nana Kikuchi) for Merzbow.
He replied in English. We have corrected small grammatical errors for the sake of clarity.
People outside of Japan would observe it is a very conservative society. So, as an artist, if you step outside of mainstream society is it actually easier to just keep be extreme, because so few are listening anyway? You are actually more free because Japan is so conservative?
I'm agreed that some part of Japan is conservative, but I don't think it is a 'very conservative society'.
I'm not doing music for the attention or deception for the society, I'm doing for self realization.
You are often described as a noise musician. Do you accept that, or do you have a more preferred description of who you are?
I don't mind that described as noise musician or some other words. But I still don't know who I am.
I note that people are advised to bring earplugs to your performance. Is it essential that your music be loud to have the desired effect?
Loud volume is an essential part of my music.
What is the desired effect on your audience? What do you want them to take away from a performance?
Feel or act free for each everyone.
Can anyone make “noise” or do performers have to bring a particular sensibility to what they do?
Noise is one of the way of doing “music”, so anyone can make music or noise or whatever.
Your work has changed over the years. Has that been driven by the new technology available?
Yes, technology could change music style. I started to use computer on late Nineties and now I quit using computers, and am back to analogue again. My music has changed over the years and I have many different music styles. But also I'm releasing many albums. So, in a comprehensive look, my music is consistently multifaceted Merzbow style.
You have used different names for various projects. Is this because you see them as distinct and different from what “Merzbow” is? If so, how do you make the distinction?
Not so important reason.
I have read that what you wanted to do in the late Seventies was create something which was “anti-” the other boring music at the time. With so many noise artists, post-Zappa musicians and others who have emerged in the past three decades, can you be anti anything now in a world full of alternative and anti artists?
I said anti- in the beginning is for the principle, official stance, for instance same as Dadaism or Punk states anti- art or music. If someone want to make something new, they must destroy old format, old rule. that's not strange.
In the beginning, my music is only one and very unique. But 'noise music' is accepted in music world and lots of followers.
Right now, I think my music is not special. my music is just music which I could make. just all.
I have read a quote by you: "When I started Merzbow, I was very opposite to conventional music and I used lots of noise. But now I think the reason I use a lot of noise is because I like this. Then I just want to use noise for my own pleasure." Can you can continue to find new textures and dimensions in pure noise which still excite you? If so do they come from industrial noise, new or old technology . . . Where do you source your inspiration today?
I'm still looking new pleasures.
MERZBOW NEW ZEALAND TOUR
Auckland - Saturday 16 November, Kings Arms Tavern
Wellington - Sunday 17 November, Bodega Bar
Dunedin - Wednesday 20 November, Chicks Hotel, Port Chalmers
Christchurch - Thursday 21 November, Dux Live