In the Middle Ages, according to picturesque tales, dental operations were of public interest, held in the village square and made »bearable« for the patients* by the dentist after at most a light, short club treatment to the head. Imagine living in the aforementioned Middle Ages, but it is a kind of steam punk parallel dimension with tubes, welding goggles and random electronic stuff. So after the clubbing to your head, you wake up again 10 seconds later in the middle of a huge stadium filled with 100,000 crazy spectators, tied to a chair while a Hannibal Lector-like doctor suddenly pulls out your wisdom tooth, and as he stretches his sinewy arms towards the sky, the crowd bubbles and explodes like a volcano. In the background someone shoots his laser pistol into the air, fans rip their clothes off and orgiastically everything turns into a single mush of madness and sound. Now you can accurately imagine how it sounds when Keiji Haino, Bàlász Pándi and Merzbow tenderly attack each other with their sound.
Pándi’s trashing, which still has a certain straightness because of his drumming in noise rock and other bands, is a kind of signpost through the 1 h 18 min (or four long suites) wall of sound on their second album together on RareNoiseRecords after the 2016 »An Introublesome Defencelessness«. Haino picked up the bass guitar for the first time on a record, and when Masami Akita (Merzbow) plays the guitar, the formation sounds like a psychedelic rock trio, similar to Haino’s Fushitsusha, especially on the third track »I want to learn how to feel everything in each single breath Part 1«. The following second part pleases with an almost continuous, distorted, dense drone, which is downright pleasant and whose sound unites Haino’s and Akita’s sound as well as Pándi’s sludge-metal-influenced thunder play. Everything is improvised, only the length of the individual pieces was set to seven minutes. The four tracks of about 16 minutes on average are manifestations of the extremely rich musical oeuvre of three living musical greats, their interplay is beautiful and all in all it is very liberating and transcendant. Instead of a rotten tooth, a bad thought is missing at the end, which disappeared in the ecstasy of sound.
skug: What is it like to work with two of the most interesting and experienced artists of their genre (from your point of view as someone who is approaching the same level)?
Bàlász Pándi: With Masami we played together for almost 10 years. I can’t think of a person who I have a deeper relationship with. Even there is a language barrier, we absolutely feel each other’s personality, and whenever we play, that’s where the real communication is happening. To play with Haino-san is incredible. As Peter Brötzmann said when we took a shuttle at a festival, he is a one-of-a-kind musician, who can touch any instrument, and play it in an incredible way.
And did you know immediately that making music together with them would work out so well?
No, but Masami and Keiji played together in the past a couple times, and Masami and I had been playing for 6 years at that point, so we figured its worth to give it a try. First, we played a concert in Tokyo at the amazing Super Deluxe, then we went to Gok, to record on reels with Kondo-san, who used to do sound for Masayuki Takayanagi, and who is the man to go to record, when in Japan.
What is most interesting to you about recording an improvised album? How can one understand the process: do you just start to play and take whatever results from your jam?
I am not a fan of the word »jam«, as it predicts the type of setting, where people pretend the music they improvised is previously composed. There are stops, and things that predict a structure. What we do when we improvise, is to be available for anything, and let the energy flow through us, and the set. The concept of the album always comes second, as we want to present it as something powerful, and this is where strong titles and covers come in, but the music itself is completely free, and the only thing we care about is to listen.
That is interesting. Lots of artists go into the studio with a finished concept and thus try to work accordingly. If there is no concept in the beginning, what can go wrong? What is important to start a session?
Good monitoring, and balance in the monitor mix, so we play along with what is actually going on, and we can really play together.
So a good improviser is mainly someone who can play an instrument and who is able to listen to his partners well?
A good improviser is a curious person. One who fights all the shit that has been going on since humans inherit the planet, with seeking out the fresh, the new exciting, and transform it in their own art, creating something good for a balance. A great improviser goes to art galleries, cooks his own food whenever he can, or seeks like the local joints when on tour, after his hands smell like second-hand records, books. Then he is watching the support band, talks with them about life, music, and plays a great concert, transforming all these energies that had been gathered all day. Sad-ass clowns, who just sit backstage all day and all night, and don’t check anything out, are usually the worst people to play with / listen to.
Again, the long names of the tracks all come from Haino. Is it an aftermath of his early »career« in theatre? Do they work as working titles for your improvisations?
As I said, the titles come after we edited the recordings, and did the mastering, and the music is 100 % ready to be sent off. The titles seem to be coming from a gut feeling, I don’t think Keiji is consciously working on them to seem more than what they are. He comes up with the titles, as they are always totally in sync with the music.
This is already your fifth release on RareNoise. It seems to be a place where high class artists meet to form new constellations. What is it like for you to work with all those people?
If I would approach the session as like »oh my god, this and this person is playing«, the music would suffer. I am incredibly lucky, to be in this together with Giacomo. A highly sensitive man, a great visionary, who has a great understanding of the times we live in, and the music that is needed in these times. He is the kind of complex personality that perfectly matches with the music we create. If he wouldn’t be one of us, none of this could happen.
You play doom, free jazz, breakcore and noise. What is it that all of those genres have in common? Is it the sheer heaviness or the possibilities in expression?
I don’t know. Genres never meant shit to me. There is good music in each of them, and shit too. I gravitate for some reason to these sounds when I play, on the contrary, my favorite band is Guided by Voices, and my record collection has very few records that sound similar to the music I play.