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Kawabata Makoto - Interview

  by David McNamee

published: 10 / 5 / 2002

Kawabata Makoto - Interview


Frontman and guitarist with the extraordinaary psychedelic Japanese group, the Acid Mother's Temple, Kawabata Makoto has just released a solo album 'Infinite Love'. He speaks to David McNamee about it and his focus on music

Kawabata Makoto is the frontman and one of the guitarists with the extraordinary psychedelic and experimental Japanese group, the Acid Mother's Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O , which currently consists of approximately 30 musicians, and who since 1995 have released approximately a dozen albums. As well as fronting the Acid Mother's Temple (to give the group its shorter title), the controversial Makoto, who is seen by some music fans to be visionary,while others find him unfathomable, has also appeared in various offshoots of the group, and is also a solo artist. His latest solo album, the ethereal and surreal 'Infinite Love', is made up of three extended tracks, and was recorded entirely in his home studio. In this interview, he talks to Pennyblackmusic about the new album, and his focus on music PB : Do you listen to other music much? What kind of place does music hold in your life? KM : I love troubadours, Occitan trad music, modern music, ethnic music, some parts of jazz and other things as well. Please check "Makoto's listening room" site at http://www.acidmothers.com/magazine/listening_room/index.html for more details. I love only beautiful good music, I hate boring bad music! PB : What do you think about when you’re playing guitar? KM : All I do is give form to what I hear. PB : Why do you play the guitar? What attracted you to it over other instruments? When I saw you play with Acid Mothers Temple at times you looked like you were using it as a weapon. At other points you looked like you were trying to kill it. KM : There are basically two types of sounds that I hear in my head. The first is like absolutely pure tones from the universe. The aural hallucinations and ringing sounds that I've heard since I was a kid, and the heavenly orchestras I've heard in my dreams fall into this category. I try to realise these sounds in my solo work, or in other projects that are close to solo in their intent. The second type is something that I hear constantly, even when I am in the midst of performing. My improvisations are just moment by moment recreations of this sound. I find that especially when I'm playing with a other people and there are all sorts of sounds flying around, I hear something in my head that's like the universe guiding me towards the most correct music (ultimately, I believe that this process will lead me to pure sound, or else to the power that will enable me to discover pure sound). I honestly believe in the power of these sounds, and I try as hard as I can to reproduce them moment by moment. Of course there are times when the sounds my collaborators are making take off in some direction totally different to the sounds I'm hearing, and then I'm always dazzled by the way my cosmic sounds kaleidoscopically change to keep pace with the changing situation around me. Perhaps an easy example for you to understand would be the way a satellite car navigation system immediately keeps suggesting multiple new routes every time you ignore the one currently being displayed. The only way I can communicate this to my collaborators is through sound, so the best thing for me to do is to become like a good radio receiver and clearly and faithfully transmit the sounds I hear. But, to tell you the truth, with my current levels of skill and perception, it's hard. Or maybe everyone is a good receiver and the point we're all heading for is the same. At times like that we can create very high grade music. PB : Your new album is entirely improvised with no overdubs. What is the process for making something like that? Do you work out your ideas in advance and plan what you’re going to do? Do you listen back to what you’ve recorded and pick the best bits, or edit pieces out? Are you conscious of the listener when you’re improvising and whether they’ll find what you’re doing interesting or boring and self-indulgent? KM : In June 1999 I experienced a one-ness with my own cosmos. I believe that anyone is capable of discovering their own personal cosmos at some stage during their life. At that instant, I understood why I had life on this planet, and what I needed to do with that life. People are given life in this world for reasons which are far more modest than you would ever believe. Until that I moment I believed that the reason for my existence was something far bigger and more abstract. But at the moment I realised just how wrong I had been, all my spiritual armour became useless, and I finally encountered my own naked and unbelievably tiny consciousness. And simultaneously, the heavy abstractions with which I had always covered my music became totally meaningless. My music then changed into something far more individual and personal. Maybe the best way of describing it were if a philosophical, inorganic, abstract artist suddenly became a wandering minstrel singing highly personal love ballads. Up until that experience, I had sometimes had doubts about my reasons for making music. (What I talked about earlier, about making music that I wanted to listen to, only applies to my earliest motives. What I’m talking about here is of a different dimension entirely). I now believe that what I do is to pick up various sounds from the cosmos (or God, or whatever else you want to call it) like a radio receiver, and then simply try to reproduce these sounds so that everyone can hear them. But the question still remains? Why? Possibly so that I can become one with the cosmos by picking up its sounds and playing them back, like a feedback loop? I still don’t understand the reasons for it, but that is what I believe now and why I play music. But I am still inexperienced as a receiver and as a player, so the biggest question for me now is whether I can put aside my regrets and concentrate properly on picking up and reproducing those sounds. PB : Where do you get the ideas for your music? When you’re listening to it, it feels completely instinctive but I was wondering if you approach certain pieces with specific aims and outcomes. KM : I still continue to hear those sounds. If I stopped hearing them, then I would probably stop making music. Music is not something that is created by someone. People probably convince themselves that the sounds they pick up are rather the result of a flash of inspiration. I do see myself as no more than a translator. By turning the sounds into something that other people can hear, I am giving something back to the music, or to the music's source, the cosmos. I try every day to try and become a better, more accomplished translator. Perhaps if I can pick up ever clearer sounds and recreate them more perfectly, then one day I will be able to know a fragment of the universal principle. And if I am able to become one with the cosmos, then that will be all I need. PB : Thank you 'Infinite Love' by Kawabata Makoto is out now on Ochre Records.

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Kawabata Makoto - Interview

Kawabata Makoto - Interview

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