Published on May 9th, 2016 | by The Beige Baron0
Formed in 1998 in Osaka, “aggressive psycho-rhythm” four-piece Cyberne (pronounced cyba-neh) has much in common with another leviathan of the metal underworld, The Melvins — if not musically (though both band feature twin drum-kits, bass, and guitar), then certainly in their approach to music.
Both bands have carved a niche no other can occupy. Both enjoy confounding the listener’s expectations with experimentation. At a Cyberne show, the only thing you can be assured of is that their performance will blow your brain clean out of your skull, rooting you to the spot, jaw hanging open, and trickles of blood coming out of both ears.
“If I knew what our ‘epic vision’ was, I’d quit music.”
Both The Melvins and Cyberne’s non-conformism and determination to do whatever the hell they want musically has influenced a generation of bands in their respective countries as well as overseas. Both navigated a number of lineup changes, yet managed to retain the essential core of their sound even has they move forward to the next new idea.
And the leading personalities in these bands share a similar sardonic wit that subverts pretension. Asked whether there was anything unique about Osaka that could be responsible for producing radical acts like Boredoms or Acid Mothers Temple, bassist/vocalist Kenji Nakamura says, quite seriously: “Osaka has way more idiots than Tokyo.”
Other staple interview fare is happily short-circuited: “Our ambition with the band is to get rich.”
Stepping off the stage after a show recently and draping a sweat-soaked arm around my shoulder to oblige a request for a photo together, still totally wired from performing, he grins.
“Just have fun.”
The analogy breaks down when considering discographies: one has a massive catalog of studio recordings, and the other has yet to find the right time, the right place, and the right set of circumstances to be able to reach a bigger overseas audience on a major label. Maybe it’s not even something they’re interested in pursuing.
So far, Cyberne has only one full-length (sold out, but thankfully still digitally available) album Law, originally issued by French label Basement Apes; four EPs denoted as “Demo material” (also sold out and not available to download), and a handful of tracks on split records and compilation albums for various local and overseas labels.
Asked what the band would hypothetically do if given a Sleep-sized budget – replete with cash for amps and a mountain of weed – what epic vision they might lay down on tape, Kenji suggests that for Cyberne, music is about journey and not destination.
“I’m not really interested in Sleep,” he says. “We wouldn’t make music if we had new amps and weed. And I think that we wouldn’t make songs if we had enough money and time. If I knew what our ‘epic vision’ was, I’d quit music.”
Recently, family commitments forced long-serving guitarist Akira to call it quits (he continues on with international touring act and fellow Osaka-based hardcore metal band PALM). But with as-yet-unrecorded material now filling Cyberne’s setlist, and with drummers Takuya Myojo and Ryo Kondo moving in to fill the space with crushing polyrhythmic intensity, I wonder if the band is entering a new phase musically.
“Our musical direction hasn’t changed by Akira leaving the band,” Kenji asserts. “But we lost a shredding lead guitarist, which was tough for us.”
What about the songwriting process? Is there a source for the anger and sense of frustration that comes through in the music?
“We lost a shredding lead guitarist, which was tough for us.”
“I don’t consider anything specifically when we are making songs and playing. But if you feel something, it might be true. There are countless things that piss me off every day, but I forget them immediately, so I don’t think there is much influence from ‘real life’ that is related to our music.”
So it’s a mirror on the listener rather than some kind of cathartic self-expression?
“I’ve never thought about whether our music is self-expression or a mirror,” says Kenji. “So I leave everything to the listener. I have my own way of thinking, like an insistence in my mind. I think that I shouldn’t impose that on others.
“And as for writing material, we just wing it,” he laughs.
Known for leaping from thrash to math to doom to ’90s-style hardcore in the space of a single song, the band frequently builds and then smashes apart intricately wrought prog-metal structures with naked animal aggression. I wonder what kind of music, if any, informs Cyberne’s own sound? What about influences outside of music?
“The influences on our music that aren’t musical are too numerous to list, so I can’t really answer. Probably I am influenced in some way by everything I like. There are no bands that I want to follow. But the music that inspires me includes ’90s thrash metal, grunge, alternative rock, ’60s and ’70s progressive rock, that kind of stuff. If I listed every band, there would be too many to count.”
Cyberne has a deep and long-established friendship with a number of underground bands in Australia, which grew out of mutual admiration and the Internet. This in turn led to supporting each other on tours in both countries. Groups of people from the two scenes now hang out at every opportunity. I ask Kenji if there is any difference in how audiences overseas receive Cyberne’s music, and if there were any similarities between the indie scenes Melbourne and Osaka.
“Foreign audiences are more forthright than Japanese audiences,” he decides. “When we have good shows or bad shows, they react and show what they feel. I also feel that foreign audiences don’t need to know all about a band beforehand in order to enjoy their music live, in contrast to Japanese audiences.
“I never heard car horn while we were staying there. I think that means that Australians are tolerant, and I think Australia is very comfortable country.
“When we have a show in Japan, the venue is paid quite a lot of money, it’s that kind of a structure, so it costs bands a lot of money to do a show. That excepted, I think there is little difference between the underground scenes in Australia and Japan.”
With Cyberne currently playing a lot of shows in Japan with other rising stars of the Japanese heavy music scene — such as W.D.L.K, Earth Federation, DISGUNDER, The Donor, Endon, and Tainted Dickmen, and no shortage of new songs, is the band getting ready to record a new album?
“We don’t have any information to release regarding a new album at present. We are going to contribute a song to a Japanese compilation album for Tokyo’s TILL YOUR DEATH Records this year,” says Kenji. “And we are planning to release a split 7-inch vinyl album with DAIGHILA from Malaysia.
“When we’re ready to release a new album on a Japanese label, we also want to release it on foreign label, too. And we want to tour overseas again as soon as possible.”
This new compilation — the concept title being “Till Your Death Volume III: Japanese Chaotic Hardcore” — promises to be an absolute must-have, and will feature new material from bands including ANCHOR, Dead Pudding, Cyberne, NoLA, Redsheer, Kallaqri, URBAN PREDATOR, weepray, Wombscape, and Ashita No Jokei to name a few. An essential snapshot of some of the most innovative players in the Japanese underground hardcore scene, the release date is scheduled for late autumn/summer with mail order available through Till Your Death records.
Until then, content yourself with Cyberne’s Law — a couple of years old now, but still a stunning document of a band in the throes of inspired madness, easily the equal of any heavy band currently acting on the world stage. It’s available to download at bandcamp, where hopefully, soon, it will be joined by a full-length recording of Cyberne as they are now: bursting with energy, swimming in ideas, and loving every moment.
— Story by BB. Translation by Yasutomo