Damo Suzuki Interview
It hasn't been my style to post interviews, but I think this one is an exception. Damo Suzuki was kind enough to give me an interview. If you don't know who he is, please look him up and visit his website. He is probably most famous for his work with the German krautrock group Can. If you don't know Can, please listen to Future Days, Ege Bamyasi and Tago Mago IMMEDIATELY.
It's ok, you'll be alright. Although I wanted to talk about Can, I decided that I should treat him as any other musician I've interviewed and stick to my topic. Judging by the few things he said about Can, I think he appreciated that.
Damo has been performing solo, or with his "network" for many years and has been playing with up-and-coming musicians around the world. Forgive the poor English at times. I kept his words almost exactly as he said them because I find some of the awkward grammar and word choice to be interesting. Give him a break, he's Japanese! Here are some selections:
What are some differences in playing music in Tokyo versus abroad? Can you describe the difference between a performance in Tokyo versus another city (maybe America)?
Audience is quite reserved and takes a while to get them emotional generally as I (have) heard from many foreign artist/band. My case is a bit different... at the beginning everyone is quite reserved. I go on stage with local sound carriers (Musicians) who most people have never seen/performed before. The audience are concentrated...I perform one set that is only 1 piece for more than 45 minutes long. My experience versus other musicians experience are totally different I guess.....
Is there anything that makes the music scene in Tokyo unique or special from anywhere else? What and why? I am a Japanese who live in out-side-of-Japan, I don't think it's special something unique. There are few innovated band like Varunk, Mandog, Mondrien, Dip and etc..all those bands are sound carriers around me..so, this is my kind of music world in Tokyo. But, for foreigners eyes (I'm sure you will experience..) different and maybe unique...maybe I'm not right person for this kinda question. I go to Japan not come back to Japan, you know what I mean? and I'm living outside Japan nearly 40 years....but, I'm still Japanese. There are thousands of bands who just copy Anglo-Saxon music...yeah, yeah still Japan is loser for cultural things, they have to still copy and totally accept western culture...
What differences are there between the music scene in Tokyo and the music scene in Osaka?
Music scene in Osaka is much more unique and they have much original sound. People there are more original than in Tokyo. You can see it is like that with every second big cities in the land everywhere...they are much more creative and motivated. Maybe for political reasons...they have less budget for anything. Look Manchester, Chicago or Los Angeles, Melbourne or Montreal. Second biggest cities in land has much more creativity..biggest cities are good for banking and miserable politics. People in Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara) gently, has much feeling…Tokyo is killing people. Steal blood and sweat, to become robot.
Do you think it is harder do get an audience and audience response in Tokyo?
Everywhere if you have a big name it is not difficult….I mean even if you are making bad music people like it . Main people’s tastes are the same everywhere…like fast food. No philosophy inside. Fortunately there are few good musicians and supporters.
Tokyo has a reputation for being a conservative city, do you agree with this and think that it is reflected in the music scene? Why or why not?
Yes, I accept this even I can say loud!!! You can look around big cities in everywhere around the world…It’s all money made cities has no character. People from land come there for work just from every parts of Japan. Osaka is big city but, has character ..a local character. Where money is, we are losing culture…totally controlled and no really place for individuals, you know, But, it might be a real picture of Japan…… superficial. Some times you can find some young people with fancy dress…but, they don’t have any attitude and no philosophy …They are in superficial world and they think they are something…they don’t realize…anyway they do this only for a couple of years and one day establish their family and that’s it.
Which bands from Tokyo, current and past, do you think are most important and essential when talking about the Tokyo music scene? Why are they important?
There is no important band in world size. Some say this and that is important band…but, all are copies of west bands. I know only few bands will be important but, Japanese music scene is miserable. For instance, a band like Acid Mothers Temple (Sorry they come from Nagoya)...they don’t play that much in Japan. They tour more in America and Europe. There is no place in Japan for their music…sadly. You can ask Ghost, how many concerts they’ve played in Japan...probably you can count with one hand.
How has Tokyo affected your career as a musician?
Like somewhere else…..In fact every year I perform in Tokyo around 7 times in small/middle venues. But, for me it is important to motivate young sound carrier like Mandog, Marble Sheep and other friends band. There are many good sound carriers, they have to get out of Japan and try in west. They will have much success as Boredems, AMT and others….There are some Australia based, London based Japanese band like Miso Soup in London
Do you think it is difficult for musicians from Tokyo to find foreign success?
As I said before...get out of Tokyo!!! They will have much success abroad Do you think there is an interest in Japanese music in America and abroad? Yes, if you play original sound and Japanese energy…If you play fake Western music you have no chance. There are many chances. If I compare with 70’s there are whole lotta Japanese band on tour. There are many things have been changed. Japanese industry is strong and they produce good quality ones. Now Toyota is biggest car company in the world. Everybody knows Sushi and how Japanese food is healthy. Zen Buddhism..etc…Once you step on Japanese ground you will get culture shock…Japan is special..and clean…Because they are original….We have very deep tradition and super modern thing together in one pot. We don’t have to be afraid. Just keep good philosophy which our grandfather kept…..
Can you talk a little about the differences between playing in Can and playing solo?
I played with Can is around 35 years ago. I was a hippy and had no idea about the world. For 10 years I’ve performed under NETWORK and for 4 years I’ve performed with ever-changing-local sound carriers and create time and space of the moment. I run with my partner own label. I am winning many young supporters…even last time in Glasgow I performed with 16 years old guitarist. I now know that I’m really living a quality. During the Can period I was just ignorant and didn’t see many things….So, I feel much much more free.
Is there a certain place that you prefer to perform in Tokyo? Do you prefer to perform in Tokyo or elsewhere? Do you have a favorite place (city/venue) to perform and why?
I just prefer to perform everywhere to share my energy to people.
What do you think Americans and foreigners should know about Japanese music, specifically from Tokyo? What do you think is unique about modern Japanese music and why?
It’s kind of trend to eat Japanese food…it’s healthy. Hope all those many young talented sound carriers of Tokyo (Japan) will find good philosophy like our old generation kept ….if one company has good philosophy, product has quality .Good quality keep people feel warm. Just be yourself. Find yourself. There is no much different music. There are only two…bad or good.