Published on March 23rd, 2017 | by The Beige Baron


Interview: 821 | Hibushibire

Hanging out with 821, Tenma, 2016. Photo: Phil Kaberry

After 20 years playing music without any one project gaining widespread attention, it must be gratifying for Hibushibire’s bass player 821 (a nickname pronounced “Hani”) to hold a copy of the band’s debut LP Freak Out Orgasm! in his hands, and released by none other than cult U.K. label Riot Season Records to boot.

Kawabata has championed the band since the beginning…

The sense of affirmation must be especially sweet considering his musical hero, Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple, not only produced and mastered the album, but has championed the band since the beginning, calling them “the vanguard of next-generation psychedelic underground rock from Osaka”.

“I believed that my musical sense could eventually be accepted around the world,” admits 821, a tall, soft-spoken Kobe native. “I guess it was good timing. Fortune has smiled on me at last. Of course, Makoto’s support is enormous. And I can’t forget the support we’ve had from a lot of older guys in the music scene. I just think this record was destined to be made.”

Every time I’ve seen Hibushibire—their name roughly translates as “private part paralysis”, porno slang for a “freak-out orgasm”—they’ve been supporting other bands, from black metal to hardcore to crushing noise. On each occasion they’ve won over some tough crowds. The kind of audiences they play for don’t seem to matter, according to 821, who claims they rarely turn down an offer to gig.

Hibushibire’s guitarist Changchang is a compelling presence on stage, clad in black, convulsing in the shrieks of noise he wrings from his Fender. Fluid sub-bass grooves from 821’s fretless and Ryo’s rhythmic tattoo form a basis for Changchang’s excursions into a personal sex-charged fantasy, boot toe on wah-wah, eyes closed, and head thrown back in cosmic ecstasy.

Hibushibire might have Acid Mothers Temple as a sonic lodestone, but a lot of other elements, most obviously in hints of mid-eastern scales, have long been a staple in their sound.

“Hibushibire has been gigging regularly two or three times a month since we formed in 2012,” Hani tells me as we dodge through the weeknight crowd to find a place to eat. “It’s not part of any plan; it’s just that we always seem to accept offers to gig with other bands. We haven’t actually toured Japan yet. So far it’s only been around Kobe and Osaka.”

“We tried to achieve a more psychedelic sound…”

BNU: You’ve been playing some of the songs on the new record live for a long time. What was your approach for making the album?

The album was recorded in just one day at Helluva Lounge. It’s our home turf in Kobe. Later on we overdubbed some folk instruments, such as Zurna, Santur, and some electronics from synthesizer to try to achieve a more psychedelic sound.

Photo: Phil Kaberry

Finally it was produced and mixed by Kawabata Makoto at his temple in the mountains. The sound was transformed and it became much more psychedelic and exciting with him producing it.

BNU: So this was a live recording—why did you choose to do it that way and how did you know what songs to include?

“The songs have already changed even more since the recording took place…”

Basically we couldn’t decide which versions of the songs to play in a recording studio. There are no set versions of our songs, they change and evolve totally every time we play them at each performance.

When we’re playing a show, there’s a lot of interplay between each member. Often tracks will grow. If Changchang is into it, we tend to follow him for however long feels right.

So the jams that are included in the album were the newest versions captured at that moment. They’ve already changed even more since the recording took place.

BNU: How did you make a connection with Kawabata Makoto?

I first encountered Kawabata Makoto well over 10 years ago. I remember going to an Acid Mothers Temple concert and I was just totally in shock. After that first experience I went to see them play as often as possible, and saw many of their side-projects when they were in town.

All of Hibushibire members, especially Changchang, are avid Acid Mothers Temple fans.

BNU: Did he give you any advice or direction about the recording? From a practical point of view, what did he do with the recording you captured?

“A particular musical idea that we are interested in is ethnic psychedelic…”

He decided to break some of the longer tracks that were performed in a single take into movements.

He created spaces and interludes that are filled with different instrumentation and different sound overdubs, which help the music to flow over the album.

I guess Makoto taught us a lot of things about recording, basic things, applications, techniques, and things for our first recording.

Photograph: Phil Kaberry

The most valuable things he taught us weren’t necessarily to do with recording, but about things related to music, every time we saw him.

“The three of us in the band didn’t disagree with each other about the recording, which was good…”

We are very blessed to have had opportunities to hang out and drink with him. I think he was able to hear our strengths as a band and turn those characteristics that are unique to us and make them work to our advantage, thanks to his production work. He seems able to hear us.

And because of that, the three of us in the band didn’t disagree with each other about the recording, which was good.

BNU: Do you find the older guys to be supportive of new bands coming through?

Yeah, a lot of people have been encouraging, but I think Kawabata Makoto in particular is a really great example of a legend from the generation of bands before us to be supportive of new bands coming through.

BNU: What music had the biggest influence on your sound as a band? You seem pretty into 1970s progressive rock?

Without any doubt the biggest influence on me and on all of us has been Acid Mothers Temple. But yeah, I also like ’60s and ’70s rock, the so-called “old rock”, and I think that is expressed in the band’s sound.

However, with Hibushibire, a particular musical idea that we are interested in is “ethnic psychedelic”, particularly contemporary psychedelic sounds from the Near East and Middle East. Bands like Group Bombino, Group Doueh, and Omar Souleyman, although I guess that’s more electro. We like “psychedelic groove”.

Over the album, a flavor of ethnic psychedelic sound has been added in everywhere.

BNU: Has that always been the case for you guys, even as your lineup has changed over the years?

The earliest incarnation of Hibushibire was a four-piece band with twin guitars, and we had heavily ethnic color. We changed members several times until [drummer] Ryu Matsumoto joined us two years ago, and we have evolved our sound into a more hard psychedelic rock style. The sounds of our roots in ethnic psychedelic are still there, though.

BNU: What attracted you to playing bass? Did you start out at school, and what was your evolution like in terms of style and the music that influenced it?

I started playing bass because of the influence of Taiji, the bassist of [Japanese band] X, who I really liked when I was in junior high school. I guess I change my bass playing style depending on the bands I play with.

I play bass loud only in Hibushibire, and I’m comparatively quiet in other bands and projects. I think that’s true. Anyway, I am picky about controlling the psychedelic regulation of songs when I’m playing bass. I am also influenced a lot by club music and club DJs.

“I like catching a big wave all at once, when the flows of the groove are working together…”

BNU: How does club music influence your bass playing?

It’s difficult to explain. Club DJs are able to liven up the floor by their record choices, and they’re also able to it cool down. It’s like they’re controlling the mood or atmosphere of the audience at will, I feel. I really want to control the feeling of the listener like a DJ does with a dance crowd. Bass guitar can do that.

I can’t even find the right words to explain even in Japanese, so I name this idea “psychedelic groove”. It’s like, when I listen to hardcore I feel like I’m only catching half of the tempo, the rhythm is fractured. I like catching a big wave all at once, when the flows of the groove are working together and not against each other; like a wave. Does that make any sense?

BNU: Yeah, it does. Is that part of the reason why do you play fretless in Hibushibire, to get that smoother, flowing sound?

I came to play fretless bass in Hibushibire only recently; I actually played fretted bass for the album recording. I found this fretless ’83 model Japanese Fender Jazz bass at a guitar shop by chance. It was in good condition, I fell in love and I bought it on the spot.

I wasn’t going to play fretless bass in the Hibushibire at first, but I ended up playing it because I just really like it.

It is not a matter of having a preference for fretted or fretless, but that particular fretless Fender Jazz bass is just the best.

I also play guitar in some bands as well.

BNU: So where did you grow up? Did your friends at school share similar musical interests?

I grew up in the west end of Kobe city. I had no friends that shared similar musical interests at school and got my information and knowledge of the music scene from magazines and record shops.

“I met a lot of nice bands and musicians at live venues after I moved to Osaka…”

I met a lot of nice bands and musicians at live venues after I moved to Osaka, and from that I came to listen to a wider variety of music.

BNU: Why did you choose to remain in Osaka rather than moving to Tokyo or abroad to pursue music?

The reason why I choose to remain in Osaka is to make a living, however I am interested in moving abroad. I am not interested in Tokyo. I don’t know if I could survive there.

Sarry. 821 (left) and Fuji Yuki. Photograph: Oi

BNU: Can you tell us a little about the project Sarry, which as been active even longer than Hibushibire?

Sarry is our female vocalist Fuji Yuki and I, we formed in 2004. The musical concept of the early stages of Sarry was electro music with female vocals, like Bjork or Portishead, but our musical style changed to our current style—drone, ambient, ethereal music—after we rehearsed many times.

After rehearsing for about a year, we made a debut on the live scene and we did some recording after that.

BNU: There’s a layer of underground experimental music playing in really tiny venues, cafes, art galleries, avoiding the pay-to-play system, and it looks healthy from the outside.

“There is a lot of crossover in experimental art in the underground in Japan, but I think most of the scenes are very closed…”

Yeah, we’ve never paid to play. Even in venues that have that system, it has always worked out that we’ve never paid.

BNU: Is there a lot of crossover into other forms of art, such as visual art, film, dance and so on as well as music in terms of live performance?

There is a lot of crossover in experimental art in the underground in Japan, but I think most of the scenes are very closed and insular, and there’s different manners and ways of approach in each individual scene. Since there are many people, it’s really a mixture of wheat and chaff.

I occasionally play together with light show art or contemporary dance, and that kind of thing.

BNU: Do you have any ambitions for your projects in the short term? Is there anything that you would consider taking to an overseas audience?

Touring overseas is my ambition in the near future. I’ve done three overseas tours as Sarry and we’re planning a Hibushibire tour right at the moment.

Also, I’m going to release some albums from some of the projects I’m involved with overseas over the coming year. I definitely want to make a stronger connection with music fans from all over the world.

BNU: So what’s coming up for you right now?

Well, Hibushibire’s first album Freak Out Orgasm! has just been released on Riot Season Records on vinyl and CD.

FUJI-YUKI, the Sarry vocalist’s solo project, has an album called Orient that I produced coming out in April. And I have a concert schedule playing four or five times a month with the projects I’m involved in.

Freak Out Orgasm! is available from Riot Season Records or Riot Season Records bandcamp. Follow Hibushibire on Facebook or visit the official site. FUJI-YUKI’s album Orient is available via Bam Balam Records.

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Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

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