Makoto Kawabata, the frontman for Nagoya’s Acid Mothers Temple, would be happy to take your interview request… but first, please read his band’s 80-question FAQ, and if you don’t mind, don’t ask any of the same questions.
Well, OK then. How about this: “What question would you like to be asked that you haven’t been? Please kindly ask yourself and answer.”
“Hahaha… good question!” Kawabata says with a laugh (silently—this is email after all). “Q: Have you killed anyone?”
Now, that’s a question this journalist never would have thought to ask a musician! Answer?
“Yes, I did… I made my girlfriends terminate their pregnancy several times… because I’m sure my children will be unhappy to be born as my children. I’m sure I can’t be a good father… I’m sure there is reincarnation in this world!!! I can’t believe there is a heaven and hell… too many people, animals and many creatures passed away until today from the beginning already! If there is a heaven and hell, I’m sure it’s full there now!! Hahaha… That’s why I can believe in reincarnation. So I’ve prayed they can be reincarnated as new creatures with much more happiness than as my children… This is the only thing that I can give them as their father.”
OK. We’ve learned more about Kawabata than we wanted to know—and perhaps ascertained that he’s a certified loon. But what about Acid Mothers Temple’s music, which they describe as “ass kickin’ butt whippin’ far out drop dead cool music from another solar system when the ancient gods still ruled the earth!”?
For the initiated, this “freak-out group for the 21st century” provides an ecstatic experience that is the result of a spirit of subversive improvisation being applied to ’70s hard rock and psychedelia. Founded in Nagoya in 1995 by Kawabata and other “social dropouts,” Acid Mothers Temple began as a kind of hippie commune—its house was even mistaken the next year as a hideout for members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, forcing the band to transform itself from a residential commune into a “true collective of souls.”
Kawabata writes that music gives him a sensation of nonbeing. “I try to be empty during playing,” he says, “because I try to be a better radio tuner to catch music from my cosmos to play to people. So if I have personal feelings, then I can’t be a good tuner.”
Putting aside the transformational, religious imagery that Kawabata uses to describe his music, the man is undeniably a technically proficient—indeed, “ass kickin”—guitarist. If it weren’t for his chops, he wouldn’t be able to generate noises that he accurately describes as “like pathos, like screaming, like laughing, like crying—not music.”
Acid Mothers Temple’s achievements since 1995 speak to the awe with which the shifting collective—currently a quartet—is held in the psychedelic and improv communities. They’ve played London’s prestigious Royal Festival Hall (alongside fellow tripsters Gong and The Orb) and America’s marquee South by Southwest festival, and they regularly sell out dates across Europe and North America.
Like noise rockers the Boredoms, Acid Mothers Temple is one of a number of counterculture Japanese acts that find larger audiences abroad than at home. What does Kawabata think about this phenomenon? “No idea,” he admits, before launching into a description of the creation of so-called “noise rock” and “psych-rock.”
“We have been able to get lots of information and many kinds of music easily since when I was a teenager,” he explains. “There were great magazines about psychedelic, prog-rock, free jazz and avant-garde music then. There were also great radio programs that played a lot of unknown music… We got lots of information, so we mixed it in our heads, and compressed all music… We prefer a kind of ‘hard-core.’ But it’s not the same meaning as ‘hard-core punk’… It means ‘hard-core music’ [in the sense of] concentrated music, so people called it ‘noise,’ ‘Japanese psychedelic’ or something else. But for us, it’s just music, just rock!”
Kawabata says that even though the band won’t be playing in Japan until its annual year-end AMT Festival in Nagoya, fans have a number of releases to look forward to. Among them are the unlikely prospect of an acoustic album and, under the name "Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno," a collaboration with Pika from Osaka noise duo Afrirampo and Tabata from influential act Zeni Geva.
Anyone not tempted by these offerings may wish to follow Kawabata’s prescription, when asked how he wants his band to be remembered: “I’d prefer that people will forget everything about me when I die… I don’t want to be in someone’s memory… it’s a nightmare for me! So I want everyone—including my family, my lovers, my friends, members of the bands—to forget me. If possible, I’d prefer that all of my records are deleted, and all of my music too! Hahaha. But I’m still alive, so I play music and make records for people. This may be my heaven’s command.”
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today