Kawabata Makoto is a founding member of Japan’s prolific improvisatory noise collective Acid Mothers Temple, who have released over fifty albums since 1997. Currently on tour in the US, Makoto took a moment to discuss his creative process, AMT’s various incarnations, and the use of nude photos to market brain-melting music.
Acid Mothers Temple are incredibly prolific. How long does it take for the average AMT record to go from frequencies in your head to music for the listener?
I always said I’ve never composed any music; I always can hear sounds and music from my cosmos to my brain or mind like a radio tuner. Then I play this music for people. Sometime I spend just one week for one album, sometime more than one year for one album, case by case. If I can hear completely, then I can finish the recording soon.
You’ve said that the concept of an album can depend on the format it will be released on. Could you expand on this? What sort of sounds would you put out on an LP as opposed to a CD?
An LP has two sides, and one side means about 20 minutes. CD means I can put about 74 minutes without any side. You know people can concentrate on listening to music just for about 20 minutes. So the CD is such crazy format for me. LP means I can put two stories for both sides. CD means I have to make one long story. But, I can put one long track on CD, which is impossible on LP. So the concept of an album can depend on the format.
How do you decide when a new variation on the Acid Mothers Temple name is necessary?
Any member of AMT can form a new AMT. So a French guy Magic Aum Gigi formed AMT & The Pink Lady Blues (though they changed the name already). Also, Tsuyama [Atsushi, bass player in AMT] formed AMT & The Incredible Strange Band, and AMT & Melting Cosmic Blues Band too. We can share even the AMT name. But there is one condition: the band with the AMT name must keep our music quality as high as possible. If one AMT loses our confidence, it means all AMT lose it too. Also, why I formed AMT & The Cosmic Inferno, you can see the story on our website .
How often do you listen to your own music? Do you have any favorite AMT records or songs?
When I’m recording and mixing songs, I have to listen many many times. So I don’t listen to my music so much in my private time. I always recommend the latest album, it’s normal.
What goes into choosing an album title, like Does the Cosmic Shepherd Dream of Electric Tapirs?
Although English is not my own language, English is much better to understand and imagine something than any other language in the world. So I put song names and albums titles in English, but my English is really poor, so I make the titles a parody of something. Also, all titles have no meaning, because music is just music for us.
The visuals on your album covers are always very interesting. Do you do those yourself? Do these visuals reflect what you are conveying with the music?
Art work is really important to interest people to get our album at the stores, so I’ve used many naked women photos and parodies of famous records. But, if the labels have their own designers, I ask them to make the artwork. The artwork adds no meaning to our music. Music is just music!
One of my favorite AMT albums is the band’s interpretation of In C. How does your mind set change when playing someone else’s composition, even one as open ended as In C, from when you are playing your own music?
Before we released In C, we already released an Occitan traditional songs cover album, La Novia. When we started recording In C, I decided we should cover another song again, but I didn’t want to cover same atmosphere thing, so I got an idea to cover contemporary music. But there was one thing, contemporary music is not so well known to people. Then, I chose In C because that was more well known than other contemporary songs.
You’ve collaborated with members of Ruins and Afrirampo, yet state on your website that you have no interest in modern Japanese music. Are these bands the exception, or do you prefer to play with them rather than listen to them?
I like Ruins and Afrirampo’s music, and we really enjoy playing together too. It is not correct that I’m not interested in modern Japanese music, I’m interested in only “good music,” modern or classic, it doesn’t matter! I’m really interested in playing with “good musicians,” well known or unknown, that’s all!!
Are there any bands apart from AMT that you would describe as making trip music?
All of my music is “trip music.”
AMT has released many versions of the song “Pink Lady Lemonade,” and regularly perform it live. What is it about this song in particular that makes you revisit it so often?
We feel different things each time we play PLL. The riff of the song is really simple and easy to play, but it’s one of the most difficult song to play too! We’ve discovered many thing from this song, and people love it, too! So we’re going to play PLL forever!!!
Do the other members of AMT share your philosophy of working towards the creation of the most correct and pure music, based on the cosmic principle?
I don’t know, because we’ve never talked or discussed this kind of thing. Also, we don’t see each other in private, we don’t see each other really often. We see each other only on the tour!! I don’t care to share my philosophy or something else, I care only to play with “good musicians”!! If I can play with good musicians, I don’t need to speak with them about anything, because we can understand each other totally by just music, not words!!
Whatever happened to Makoto’s Listening Room?
Hahaha, I changed it to the blog “Speed Guru’s Time“, because it was much easier to upload new content. But recently I’m so busy, and writing in English is really hard work for me. So, I can’t upload so much now, maybe I’ll find a better way soon.
It’s unnecessary to ask what’s next for AMT, since you are constantly releasing new and intense sounds, but are there any interesting projects in the works you’d like to alert us of?
I have some new ideas about AMT, and my other projects too. But, I don’t have enough time to record and play this music yet… You’ll see soon!!!
To find out more about this artist, check their website.