Legendary hardcore band ZENI GEVA tells us about their new tour, Tatsuya Yoshida's (Ruins) comeback on the drums, and the works of its members.
For the return of ZENI GEVA in Europe, Kazuyuki Kishino (KK. Null), Mitsuru Tabata and Tatsuya Yoshida welcomed us a few hours before their concert in Paris for a casual meeting.
ZENI GEVA is making its comeback after nearly seven years. What are your feelings about this tour?
Kazuyuki Kishino: That's a difficult question. We had planned to make a European tour in 2007, but sadly my mother passed away suddenly just as we were about to start. I canceled the tour and all the dates. I was very affected by her death, and it took me a while to get over it. And when I felt like going back to ZENI GEVA, we had this opportunity to make a tour. Our previous drummer was a bit reluctant about the concerts though, so I had to find a new one. And suddenly I had this idea: "It’s Yoshida we need!" (laughs) I had already played with him a few years ago, with the bands YBO² and Geva², so why not do it again? By chance, we were part of the same set during a show in Tokyo in 2008. While I was playing solo, Yoshida was with Keiji Haino, and I went to talk with him. I asked him if he wanted to come back with ZENI GEVA, and he said "Wait a second...Yes!" (laughs) That’s how it happened. Now, I’m very happy and positive about the future of ZENI GEVA. We haven’t recorded any new songs yet because we’ve only just re-formed the band. But even if we’re still playing our old songs, they sound different, thanks to the arrangements and improvisations by Yoshida. It’s like we’re doing something new.
The influences on ZENI GEVA are very diverse. Did all the drummers you worked with each time make your musical identity change?
Kazuyuki Kishino: No, I don’t think so. The heart of my musical identity is still the same. Of course, our various drummers brought us new influences, in relation to the structure of music pieces or the arrangements for example, but the roots stay untouched.
Does this mean that you, Kazuyuki, are composing most of the band’s songs?
Kazuyuki Kishino: Yes, that’s correct.
Several of your albums have been produced by Steve Albini, who also played with you on several compositions. When and how did you meet him?
Kazuyuki Kishino: It must have been in 1990, I think. At that time, there was an American living in Osaka who had created a small label by the name of Public Bath. He was a great fan of Big Black, Steve Albini and ZENI GEVA, and he had the idea of making us work together. In fact, I was not a big fan of Big Black. (laughs) But he came to see us with the proposition of having our albums recorded by Steve Albini, so I said to myself, "Why not!" So we went with him to his recording studio in Chicago.
We would like to talk a bit about your adolescence. At what age did you start to get interested in music, and what did you listen to at that time?
Kazuyuki Kishino: The Carpenters and The Beatles got me interested in occidental music, when I was 10 or 11 years old. Later on, one of my biggest influences was Pink Floyd - this band really changed my life. In 1980, when I was 19, I went to see the Wall Show in London. It was the first time I stayed abroad. Before that, I never had the idea to become a musician; I was more interested in becoming a poet or a novelist. But after seeing Pink Floyd... wow! (laughs) The music was so powerful. It was a really physical experience, beyond words or language. It was what I wanted to do! Then I started to learn the bass, but it didn’t really work out. (laughs) I was really bad at learning chords and I gave up. In 1981 or 1982, I went to see the first concert of Fred Frith in Tokyo. He put his guitar on a table and threw things on the strings. The sounds were very beautiful. It was something new for me, who thought we all had to learn chords and scales. But here, none of that! It was just to make noise and have fun. It was fantastic. And I said to myself that I could do this. (laughs) Then I started the guitar in the same way.
You said you wanted to become a poet. What did you read at that time?
Kazuyuki Kishino: When I was an adolescent, I really loved to read French authors, like Arthur Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé and others - the symbolism! I also loved Le Cléziot.
You have had a very prolific career, both solo and in various collaborations. Does coming back to a band structure bring you a kind of stability?
Kazuyuki Kishino: Yes, that's how I like to work, having some kind of balance. But I always want more, so I would like to do both. (laughs)
Numerous and significant rock or noise bands were born in Japan during the eighties and nineties. At the start of your career, did you feel any kind of musical effervescence?
Kazuyuki Kishino : I think that during that period, Japan received a lot of influence from Anglo-Saxon alternative music. Japan is a country where it is very easy to get all kinds of information from abroad. We can now listen to all these punk, progressive, techno, industrial music, whatever their period is. In Tokyo, we can easily find what we’re looking for at record dealers. We have access to a lot of things. You can find what you like, whatever your taste. The trend called indies in Japan started in the eighties. (points to Tatsuya Yoshida and Mitsuru Tabata.) And I think we’re at the heart of that trend. (laughs) With bands like YBO², Ruins, Boredoms...we were really innovative at that time. (laughs)
What was the audience's reaction to these bands?
Kazuyuki Kishino: It was a very spontaneous trend. We weren’t yearning for anything in particular. It was a generation of musicians who were working in an instinctive way. I think that is what people wanted, even if it was and still is underground. But we didn’t get any kind of objections. Everyone was very receptive to our music.
Do you think today’s audience is still interested in this trend?
Kazuyuki Kishino: I’m not sure that the young are still interested in this now. (turns back to the others and asks them in Japanese) And you, what do you think about the current musical situation in Japan?
Mitsuru Tabata: There are now too many young people who want to play music. And we’re in some kind of weird situation because those who want to play have to pay to be able to perform in concert halls.
Kazuyuki Kishino: Personally, I don’t think this is a problem inherent to Japan. It’s something more general. Thanks to the Internet, we now have access to all kinds of information, music, whatever the time. There is no distinction to be made between the present musical situation in Japan, or in France. It’s a more complex problem.
Nowadays, people are no longer able to appreciate a musical style in particular. They pick anything from anywhere without really knowing what they are listening to.
Kazuyuki Kishino: Yes, that’s it. They don’t care to know where the music they’re listening to is from. It's like they're in a conbini (convenience store). (laughs) "Oh, today I’m going to try this, I’m going to eat this." (laughs)
Does the music labeled as experimental represent anything special for you?
Kazuyuki Kishino: For me, there is no category or type. I just do what I want to do. I never say to myself: "Okay, I’m going to do noise or experimental music." It's just the way I am. (laughs)
Tatsuya Yoshida's comeback to ZENI GEVA, the rebirth of ANP and the republishing of Maximum Money Monster are all events that suddenly bring back the past. Is this a coincidence, or is there a real will to come back to the roots?
Kazuyuki Kishino: All of this happened just like that, by coincidence. I met Seijiro Murayama by accident in Paris in 2001, and we decided to recreate ANP. I gave a concert and he came to see me backstage. "Hello! You there!" (laughs) It had been twenty years since we lost contact, and he just reappeared suddenly. It was funny.
Let’s move on to your future projects. Can we hope for a new album by ZENI GEVA soon?
Kazuyuki Kishino: Yes, I hope so.
With Tatsuya Yoshida?
Kazuyuki Kishino: Yes, of course. But we’ll see. We didn’t have the time to get together in a studio before the tour. When we come back, I hope we’ll have the time to get closer, musically and personally.
We now have a question for Mitsuru Tabata. You announced not so long ago in the webzine "Jrawk" that you wanted to compose soundtracks for horror movies. Did you have the opportunity to do so since?
Mitsuru Tabata: Yes, I’m currently recording a horror music album.
For a movie?
Mitsuru Tabata: No. We’re just imagining the film.
Kazuyuki Kishino: I have also done one. My album, Akumu, which means "nightmare," is a soundtrack for an imaginary movie.
Kazuyuki, electronic experimentation is becoming an important part of your solo work, like in Akumu, for example. Do you sometimes have the desire to come back to this raw and organic sound that ZENI GEVA can give you?
Kazuyuki Kishino: I think that my electronic sounds are already organic. I never thought that my music was digital or mechanical.
Indeed, there are also these field recordings that you include in your albums. What kind of place do you like for these types of work?
Kazuyuki Kishino: I haven't had a great experience in field recording yet, but I love Australia very much for recording natural sounds. In 2006, I went to the national park of Kakadu, in the north of Australia, and listened to the countryside. I was just totally amazed. I could listen to the symphony of nature. No need for any drugs. (laughs) It’s like coming back to the roots, and at the same time, a really cosmic feeling.
Have you ever been interested in field recording in an urban environment? For example: in Tokyo, in the middle of the town, in the traffic...
Kazuyuki Kishino: No, I hate artificial sounds, like those from cars or factories. Yet I sometimes recorded sounds in the suburbs of Tokyo when I lived there. Twenty years ago, there weren’t so many houses and people living there as there are nowadays. You could be very aware of nature, the trees, the birds, the wild animals. But now, the same places are overcrowded. There are mostly factories or shops there. Of course, there are still some places with greenery where I try to record the singing of birds, but it’s very difficult. (imitates the sound of a car, then laughs) Sometimes I still manage to catch some interesting instants. A mix of natural and artificial sounds. When I’m lucky enough to record these kinds of things, I use them. Like the singing of birds mixed with the sounds of a factory. These events may sound unexpected, but sometimes they happen all of a sudden. The most important thing is to decide if what you’re hearing is interesting or not. This kind of thing happens everyday, of course, but if you don’t pay attention, it’s just ambient sound. But if you listen closely and find it interesting, it takes on a special meaning. That’s what I like in field recording, it can’t be perfect. There is always something unexpected that happens.
You can’t control that side of your work.
Kazuyuki Kishino: Yes, that’s it, I can’t control it. That’s what I find interesting, and also amusing.
We’d like to thank Jean-François from Instants Chavirés and of course Kazuyuki Kishino, Mitsuru Tabata, and Tatsuya Yoshida for their availability and their great patience with our difficult English diction.