Volume 17.01 01.97
MERZBOW'S Discipline, Decibels, and Diety
Japan's Minister of Sonic Terror Turns On The Feedback
with Dixon Christie
There is precious little that would please me as much as getting head to head with anyone from the elite group of industrialists that I regard as the best. Among the top shelf of post apocalyptic rock deviants would be Masami Akita from Japan's premier noise group, MERZBOW.
There is nothing in your comprehension that could prepare the virgin mind for this aural slaughter. Nothing kills like MERZBOW.
The music is perverse and shocking.... something about the droning noise loops and distorted feedback that never ends. That what any cult would call noise creates the superfan; your soul begs for reason but gets none. There are trace elements of trance, in that the unrelenting doom prevails and causes pains to the depth of your being, nothing is sacred anymore.
The new sound is called "Music For Bondage Performance", and may well be the hailing of the new messiah of rivethead culture. MERZBOW creates a bad feeling in your head. This feeling, you grow to love.
Noise in music is generally just that. Bands like SCORN (Cool enough to score on Mortal Kombat CD), Taint, Namanax, and Merzbow do it in such rare effect, you are hooked.
Akita is both music creator and artist, his study of bondage has raised the curtain of awareness across Japan.
I had the wonderful opportunity of chatting with Masami about the culture of noise music, and the benefits of a strong knot, all for your enjoyment.
Dixon: For the uninitiated, tell us about who and what Merzbow is?
MERZBOW: MERZBOW is my project of Noise musical art.
Dixon: What is the greater goal of you as an artist working in this relatively small market?
MERZBOW: One of my goals is making lots of albums as Sun-Ra who made 180 records. But maybe I'll make more in the near future. So, my next goal is making 1000 albums.
Dixon: Whatever started you working you in this field/ What were some of your earlier influences that helped motivate and inspire you? (Throbbing Gristle, SPK)
MERZBOW: My background is early 70's progressive rock and Surrealism. I was looking for a way of realising theory of "Surrealism" as Andre Breton and George Bataille. For me, Surrealism was an alternative sense of a way of expression by mixing Anarchism, Alchemy, Schizo-Paranoia and fetishism.
Musique Concrete as Pierre Sheaffer and Pierre Henry realized surrealism in sound. But it's a little bit academic for me. Then Punk and Industrial music came and I found I can do anything in sound. It's noise. For me, information theory as Burroughs and Structuralism as Foucault, Baudrillard is development of Surrealism. So, I'm agrees with TG and SPK too.
Dixon: What is the general process for the manufacture of Merzbow music?
MERZBOW: My first motivation for creating sound was anti-use of electric equipment-Broken tape recorder, broken guitar, amp etc. I thought I could get a secret voice from equipment itself when I lost control. That sound is unconsciousness, libido of equipment. Then I tried to control them with more powerful process.
Dixon: ...And you introduced the world to a new form of feedback.
MERZBOW: I found Processed Audio Mixer and it's able to control feedback. Feedback sound of equipment is basic idea of MERZBOW. I was extreme Materialist. Feedback makes automatically storm of noise and it's very erotic as Orgon energy. Magnetic exploitation of electronics. So, I found Pleasure of Noise. Then I tried to develop different variation of pleasure Noise.
Dixon: What kinds of equipment would Merzbow like to own?
MERZBOW: Audio Mixer, Filter, EMS Synthi 'A', Moog, various Pedals, Contact Mic, Metal Junk, Theremin, Tapes, etc.
Dixon: How has the Merzbow sound evolved over time?
MERZBOW: In early evolution is my response to question 5. Then I used my tapes and loops but still not decided on sound generator. My early interest in early times was making alternative sound from something - surrounding noise.., TV, my record collection, sound which made by someone-by electric manipulation, cut up tapes etc. I also used lots of tape loop but it's not decided style. But when I started live in late 1980's I didn't like to use Tape on stage. I like only live electronics. So, my studio works changed to more live composition style. I'm still using many tapes in studio works, but difference is I treat tapes and instruments. Before, I used tapes as overdubbing concept. But now tapes are crashing together, no static overdub. I found that style on "Cloud Cock OO Grand". It's one of my goals of my 1980's experiments. My interest became more physical sound as "Velocity", "Sonic Pressure" "extasis of loudness" "metallic electric orgasm" etc. so my works more high-speed and loud. "Metalvelodrome" (93) is mixing concept of "Heavy Metal" (as term of Burroughs) and "Velocity". In 1994 I bought EMS synthesizer (no keyboard) which can make very sick 70's analogue sound. I tried to mix my basic noise approach with that kind of HOT sound. Beside, I became often to use Filter, as mk2 Filter Bank, Maestro Parametric Filter, Lovetone Meatball etc. Filter can make similar sound of my usual processed feedback audio mixer sound. Then I bought Moog keyboard and trying to make hypnotic harsh raga music.
Dixon: I understand that you use no samplers in the creation, or live performance of the music?
MERZBOW: I still have no motivation to use Midi Sampler. Still enough by using Delay Sampler and tapes.
Dixon: Wouldn't it just be easier to sample some of the parts?
MERZBOW: No policy for not using Midi Sampler. But almost all music with Midi sampler I didn't like.
Dixon: Do you ever forsee an amalgamation of the Merzbow vibe with something resembling a beat, or the use of repeated patterns in a commercially (right!) accepted medium?
MERZBOW: I can use any Rhythm or any part of commercial music if I like. But it mean that every music can be my noise material, no reason for it to be commercial.
Dixon: Sometimes the emotion surrounding the music is so intense and dark..... what is the message that you are trying to get across to the listenner?
MERZBOW: My message is abstract concept and vision as "Metallic Velocity" "Hypnotic Void" "White Big Nothingness" "Spiral Electric Trance". There are no dark or light. If sound have policy, it seems heavy and serious. It's my taste.
Dixon: What would an average (if there is such a thing as an average Merzbow performance), Merzbow show entail?
MERZBOW: No average. Recently my performance became longer than before. I'm trying to play as long as possible. I'm interested in more slow velocity in sound and it can make more Groove.
Dixon: How do you repeat the musical performances that get releasedto record during live shows?
MERZBOW: In MERZBOW live, I'm playing with Reiko A and Bara. So, not same as studio - which my solo.
Dixon: What do you all do for a living besides make noise?
MERZBOW: Beside music, I'm working on books and magazines.
Dixon: Back in '84 you started a movement to distribute pornography and noise, tell us about this.
MERZBOW: I thought Noise is primitive libido of Sound. Similarly Porno is primitive libido of Eroticism. Both are very physical lowest material of human expression. It's first motivation. Besides, they link with my mail art activity. I thought Mail Art is basically very Fetishistic art form as French constructionist Derida wrote on his book. His term "Envoice" (Sending word) is inspired for my mail art concept.
Dixon: You have an immense collection of Bondage Art, first of all, for those who don't know, how would you describe Bondage Art?
MERZBOW: My Bondage Art research was started from researching Fetishism. Fetishism is related with spiritual thought as spirit is revealed on void object. Shaman using fetish dolls for their rituals, sometimes he puts the nails on Dolls body. It's very primitive symbolic act as Christianity use nails on cross. Symbolic meaning of nails is Binding (Death) and Metamorphosis(Resurrection). So, there are common symbolic operation in every spiritual world - Human being change to other existence by using their own body modification. In general, Fetish Fashion is realising desire of changing personality by sexual way. My first level of interest in Bondage is same reassign I'm interested in Fetishism - sur- humanity. Secondary, in my study of "Japanese Bondage Art" mean more narrow interest in especially hemp rope style. This style is fit with Japanese woman reason that their shape of body and colour of skin.
Dixon: Where does the art aspect of the bondage material stop, and pornography begin?
MERZBOW: Bondage have own beauty. Porn too. If there are good bondage porn, it's no problem. But always porn does not understand bondage beauty, so no good bondage porn. One simple reason of no good bondage porn is focus of photographer is different. Good bondage photographer is focussing on rope and her face, bad bondage photographer focus on genitals - But in Japan, genital is censored so if picture focus on genital, it's nothing to see!
Dixon: What are some of the greatest misconceptions regarding Bondage?
MERZBOW: Christianity have great bondage art form past before. I think Christ is king of masochist. So, European bondage tendency is Female domination. But almost woman dominant is bad bondage skill. Few exception is John Willie. He is good bondage artist. Anyway, most people female Bondage is realization of sexist rape violence obsession. But Violence and Sexist Rape is normal human activity as police, military school, all establishment power. But Bondage is not normal human activity - it must be abnormal. If Bondage is abnormal art form, there are no important in usual Violence and Rape. Bondage is parody and anti-form of authority. People don't understand this point.
Dixon: In conventional forms of art, there is an established common means of deciding what is accepted as being great and what isn't..... what sorts of similar guidelines would you say people use to gauge Bondage Art?
MERZBOW: There are different maniacs - some people like foot, some people like navel, so on. Same in bondage art. But in "Japanese Rope Bondage", I can say exactly what is good and bad. Point of recognition is: type of rope-Hemp is best; rope discipline must be tight-must be high tension; bondage girl must be serious sad face-never laughing as western style; back must be dark-minimum light is better; camera focus on rope-no dildo, no enema.
Dixon: How does the submissive standard of the Japanese woman fall into your own personal tastes?
MERZBOW: Good submissive girl understand sensitive shame. Important is how to get girls shame to change beauty.
Dixon: Out of all of the bondage stuff I have seen including your own cover art, there is seldom any penetration.... why is this?
MERZBOW: Good question - our official bondage art is not pre-intercourse action. It's independent art form. We tie up between legs reason we like to see good tight bondage - total bondage. So, naturally no space of penetration and very difficult pose for penetration. It means bondage is abnormal. I think fuck oriented bondage is not real abnormal.
Dixon: Tell us about the Merzbow collage art?
MERZBOW: My collage works as seen on "Ecobondage" CD (Distemper) is my inspired from Tadanori Yokoo and Swanberg. Almost all of them I made in 1980-82. I called them "Tibet-Barrocollage" from their artistic concept.
Dixon: What music or anti-music does Merzbow listen to?
MERZBOW: Mostly early 70's Progressive rock and Electric music and contemporary Noise works.
Dixon: What other similar bands do you think are creating new sonic waves in your genre?
MERZBOW: Asmus Tietchens, Hafler Trio, Incapacitants, Borbetomagus, Scorn.
Dixon: Any last words for the readers, any noteworthy projects coming up for MERZBOW?
MERZBOW: EXTREME will be releasing a 50 CD of MERZBOW music in a Boxed Set, including a book, poster, medallion and t-shirt (firstname.lastname@example.org). This will include my first recordings from 1979 and span my entire music releases to date, with many unreleased and long since deleted music. This is a very important project for MERZBOW.