Interviews

Published on March 10th, 2017 | by The Beige Baron

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Interview: Mitsuru Tabata

Mitsuru Tabata, Time Bomb Records, Osaka, late 2016. Photo: Phil Kaberry

Three subjects animate Mitsuru Tabata’s conversation above all others: record collecting, sci-fi novels, and food.

“It’s depressing,” he jokes. “I get more likes on social media when I post pictures of my dinner than I do for the band stuff.”

Over our own meal, he enjoys telling tangential stories about his time managing Shinjuku Disk Union’s secondhand LP department, or pulling out strands from the tangled web of the underground scene. But steer the conversation back to his own musical gift, and discomfort creeps in.

“I knew they were doing something experimental with the bomb before the concert …”

Tabata’s contribution to Japanese music — to world music — has been enormous. His name crops up in even the most cursory examination of local independent music, particularly those bands that followed in the wake of Les Rallizes Denudes, Kousokuya, Fushitsusha, and Gaseneta.

Look to the most respected and enduring figures in Japanese underground music and you’re likely to find Tabata listed somewhere in the footnotes. He might have had a side-project going with one their band members, or maybe a decades-old self-released collaboration that never travelled further than a run of a hundred copies.

Despite his larger-than-life personality, Tabata’s profile beyond Acid Mothers Temple is low, at least for those outside Japan. This is a shame, because you only need scratch the surface to uncover a deep and eclectic discography. Beyond the scores of bands he’s been part of, his solo output is also exceptionally good.

Perhaps most people are aware that Tabata co-founded Boredoms with Eye Yamatsuka, or of his time with KK Nulls’s influential avant-metal outfit Zeni Geva, but fewer would know he was among the first to mix traditional Japanese folk with punk in the mid-’80s outfit Noizunzuri, or that he was featured on a major-label release while still in high school.

The musicians and bands he’s played with are too numerous to cover in any one interview. A great many of them have sent ripples through the global underground, others existed for a tantalizingly short time before disappearing.

I was totally unambitious. I didn’t care. I was just interested in having a good time…

To choose from a couple of projects that are active now, Tabata plays in GREEN FLAMES with Munehiro Narita (High Rise) and Jun Inui (Gaseneta, The Stalin); 20 GUILDERS with Junzo Suzuki (Miminokoto, ex-Overhang Party); and in RQRQ with the similarly prolific Doronco (Les Rallizes Denudes).

Many others, like Tabata’s Leningrad Blues Machine, go into periods of hibernation before reactivating to do a tour or release a new record, and then go back into mothballs indefinitely.

As this story was being finalized, Tabata was in rehearsals for a Gaseneta reunion show in Tokyo featuring original drummer Jun Inui, singer and band-leader Harumi Yamazaki, and guests Mitsuru Tabata (bass) and Munehiro Narita (guitar). Whether Gaseneta will continue to gig, or if this event was a one-off, remains to be seen.

Over an evening spent in Osaka’s Ameri-mura district, Tabata tells me that his career was shaped by accidents, misjudgments, and circumstances out of his control. He seems to enjoy ruminating over his mistakes — not to indulge regret, but to savor the absurdity, the capriciousness with which fortune can give or take away.

Photograph via 到麥當道的麥當勞

“One time, in the middle of the ’90s rock boom, we were playing in Chicago with Zeni Geva,” he says. “And this guy comes up to us after the show, ‘Heyyy, I’m from Atlantic Records. You guys are amazing, let’s have lunch tomorrow.’ I thought he was full of shit, fuck off, we never turned up.

“Turns out he actually was their A&R guy. We could all have been rich by now.”

His lifetime of endearingly crazy antics is the stuff of legend, and Tabata frequently slips into cartoon voices to color his stories, punctuated by gales of wild laughter.

“So many rock stars have the right answers in these interviews, to make themselves seem cool,” he says. “I’m not so. I just played. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what I was doing at the time.”

Photograph: Stefano Masselli

BNU: Looking for a common thread throughout your career, though, I think it might be non-conformity or individualism. Do you think you are an individualistic personality?

I am not an individualistic person. Maybe my mother would have told you, “That boy is an easy target for a cult.” [Laughter]. My musical career came from a lot of coincidences. Accidents. My first band, the first band I ever played a gig with, was a reggae band. I was in high school.

At that time in Japan, reggae music was trendy, part of the New Wave scene. This was the late ‘70s, bands like Steel Pulse from Birmingham and Black Uhuru from Kingston, Jamaica.

Mitsuru Tabata, 1982.

A lot of English bands were getting influence from reggae music, like Alternative TV, The Specials, even The Police. It was a boom. I was a kid starting a band and getting into New Wave music. My band was called Sanagi.

Sanagi were really a high-school band, and reggae was really popular at the time. And I remember one day this major label, I think it was Polydor, they were going to release a compilation of Japanese reggae for the first time. So we sent them a demo tape.

There was a famous Japanese band called Mute Beat, and they cancelled. And the label must have seen us as like, “Oh a high-school band doing reggae!” And so we featured on that compilation, and that’s how everything started.

Sanagi, 1982. L-R: Hisato Hosoi (later Boredoms, Children Coup d’etat), Takemaru (vocals), Maki Takeuchi (drums), and Mitsuru Tabata.

When did you pick up the guitar?

My first instrument was bass. My friend and I had made a band in junior high school before we even had instruments, and I lost rock-paper-scissors. We played Police covers, and I found out later he actually wanted to play bass, because Sting was more popular with the ladies than Andy Summers.

“The leader kidnapped me and took me to his apartment and told me the concept…”

After Sanagi, which disbanded naturally when the drummer left for university… I don’t know; I just wanted to get a girlfriend and move in together.

I kept breaking up with my girlfriends. I was totally unambitious. I didn’t care. I was just interested in having a good time, as a kid.

And then I joined a band called Noizunzuri. They were doing traditional Japanese music mixed with New Wave, it sounded like PiL playing traditional music. I was 19 years old.

Noizunzuri, 1984. L-R: Indori Igami, Mitsuru Tabata.

That sounds advanced, that concept, for a teenager … how did you get interested in that kind of art?

Well, everyone was older than me, 23, 24 … The leader, who was bassist, kidnapped me and took me to his apartment and told me the concept. I thought he was going to try to do Fairport Convention, like the English thing, but he said he wanted be like Jethro Tull [laughs]. You know, I was 19 years old; I didn’t know what the fuck this guy was talking about! Jethro Tull was really different.

“But there was a problem: nobody could play.”

I guess he wanted to play Japanese traditional music with electric instruments, and make it popular.

But there was a problem: nobody could play.

A small problem…

It was a big problem! So that’s why it ended up sounding post-punk like Public Image Limited, we introduced a punk rock attitude to Japanese traditional music.

So how did you come to meet Yamatsuka Eye and form the Boredoms?

Noizunzuri had a good relationship with a band called Amaryllis, a band with female singers. They were based in Kyoto, and lead singer Alice Sailor introduced me to Yamatsuka Eye at a concert. I was doing a cheap part-time security job at a Einstürzende Neubauten concert. And at that concert, Alice Sailor and Eye Yamatsuka were in the audience and she introduced me.

And at first I didn’t know who he was, then I realized, oh, this guy is from Hanatarash.

“Around the time I met Eye, Hanatarash had done two or three shows… they were breaking down walls with power shovels…”

Then… we hung around, sometimes.

He didn’t have any money, and he wanted to move, so he moved into my apartment. This really cheap apartment in Kyoto, like seven thousand yen a month. It still exists, in Kitashirakawa.

Hanatarash were infamous for their violent shows. What attracted you to that scene?

Around the time I met Eye, Hanatarash had done two or three shows… they were breaking down walls with power shovels, uh, that particular venue existed near my old house in Tokyo.

And then, Hanatarash did a support for Psychic TV. They made a bomb on stage, with gasoline, and they had locked the staff, the concert staff, in the dressing room… They’d already gotten flight tickets to escape Japan after the show.

I knew they were doing something experimental with the bomb before the concert … but I had a job, and they were going to do the concert.

So later on, I was sleeping, and the guy who made the bomb came back, he was also living at our apartment, and I woke up, “What’s happening? How was the concert?” And he said, “It was cancelled. We’re going on vacation with my girlfriend.”

Eye, he sounds like a pretty crazy dude, right?

Well, Hanatarash couldn’t play much after that, they had a lot of problems getting shows; no venue would book them. There was this magazine in the mid ’80s, an independent music magazine called Fools Make, they were always saying which band is good, this band, that band, and always Hanatarash was on top.

But they couldn’t book any shows. It was then that Yamatsuka Eye realized he’d have to make a new band to play music.

It was the Boredoms.

The first Boredoms lineup. From left to right: Eye Yamatsuka, Hisato Hosoi (Children Coup D’Etat, ex-Sanagi), Mitsuru Tabata, Ikuo Taketani (ex-Hanatarashi, later Zeni Geva, Vermilion Suns).

And he asked me, what kind of music do you want to do? And I asked him the same thing, and he said, maybe, you know, everyone was scared of Hanatarash. Maybe I want to do something that girls would like, maybe punk rock, something a bit faster, like The Buzzcocks.

You know, and that’s where the band name came from, after the song by The Buzzcocks. He said, let’s play music like the Toy Dolls or something.

And then the drummer from Hanatarash, [Ikuo] Taketani, he was older than us, he joined, and the bassist was Hisato Hosoi, the original bassist—he’s still playing in Children coup d’etat in Kyoto—and we made the Boredoms.

So we went to practice and, I don’t know… the music was so different! [Bursts out laughing]. Eye was changing his mind all the time.

“I was always a collaborator. The leader was always running ahead of me.”

“What happened to the Toy Dolls?”

“Forget about it! I just picked up this new record and it’s really good.”

And it was The Butthole Surfers. “Let’s play this.”

But there was no time to compose anything; we’d play Butthole Surfers or a Black Sabbath riff or something. But that was how the Boredoms started, for our first concert.

You must be a pretty adaptable player to fit in with that. Where does that come from, were you listening to a lot of new music?

Uhh … not really. I was always late. My music history… I don’t know. I was always a collaborator, in bands. The leader was always running ahead of me. I was just following, in my life.

Sometimes I didn’t understand what they wanted to do. But I played. [Laughs]. It makes me ashamed! [Laughter].

“I thought there was no future in the Boredoms…”

At the same time, I was playing in Noizunzuri, they seemed to have more future; Noizunzuri had already released records. And I thought there was no future in the Boredoms, always trouble, a lot of problems…

I don’t know, I think there was a double booking, or Noizunzuri didn’t want me to continue with the Boredoms. It seemed like Noizunzuri had more future. I chose that.

Photograph: Hiro Ugaya

Do you regret that?

It was the biggest mistake of my life! [Bursts out laughing].

I read a lot of Philip K. Dick. It’s like parallel worlds: if, if, if, if something happens. I sometimes wonder if I didn’t quit the Boredoms, what would be happening now?

You could be dead.

The band could have broken up.

But then the new Boredoms happened. After that, Noizunzuri had a problem, the vocalist kinda fucked up on stage, he got fired; it got difficult to continue. But I didn’t think deeply. The vocalist who got fired made a new band, I joined that as well [Laughs]. It got too much. I couldn’t enjoy it. And the band broke up.

Leningrad Blues Machine, 1986.

So I made my own band—the first time since Sanagi, when we were kids and everyone was the leader—called Leningrad Blues Machine [with Chuji Hasegawa of CORRUPTED]. We started on the live circuit in Osaka and Kyoto.

Zeni Geva didn’t exist at that time; before that I met KK Null [Kazuyuki Kishino] when the Boredoms played a show in Tokyo, but when he started Zeni Geva with Taketani, the original Hanatarash and Boredoms drummer, and their guitarist quit, they asked for my bassist from Leningrad Blues Machine.

I became scared they were gonna steal my bassist. [Laughs].

I didn’t really want to do it, but I was like, alright, alright, I’ll play guitar, but I won’t play bass. And that’s how I joined Zeni Geva. I didn’t think deeply. A total accident.

There was so much going on in Zeni Geva, so many styles and ideas…

Actually I didn’t really know; I was not familiar with what Zeni Geva was doing. I just played. Even when the band were playing me their favorite music, I didn’t really understand it, at the time… I was into different music, like The Grateful Dead.

When KK Null showed me Magma or King Crimson, or stuff like that, at that time I wasn’t into that shit. I loved Marvin Gaye! Now I understand that kind of music, a lot of music. But when I played with them, I didn’t know anything about their favorites…

Zeni Geva, 1993. L-R: KK Null, Mitsuru Tabata, and Eito Noro.

I’m very lucky, you know, growing older, getting to learn and understand about music. But when I was young, I didn’t really understand what they wanted to do. Now, as a listener, I’m really into what KK Null is into.

Around that time, when you started with Zeni Geva, had you decided that you wanted to be a career musician?

I don’t know. Accidents … always accidents. But at the start with Zeni Geva, I wanted to quit my part-time bar job in Kyoto; I was like a kind of slave. I wanted to change my life. I wanted to move to Tokyo, and the only way I could do it was to play with Zeni Geva. But then, nobody liked that kind of music in the late ’80s.

So how did you keep going, you know, playing to small groups of people, not many getting the music?

If it were my band, I think I would have quit [laughs].

I moved to Tokyo when I was 25 years old. I had a day job with a courier company. There was a big problem: right next to the office was a Disk Union. They paid a daily salary. Right next door was the record shop. [Laughs].

I didn’t think at all about the future. I guess I just took opportunities when they came up.

Acid Mothers Temple. Photograph: Clinton Read

So when did Kawabata Makoto come into the picture, around this time? When did you start playing together?

It was later. But we met earlier at a concert.

“Hiroshi and Makoto are like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, for me…”

Because it seems like you and Kawabata are like yin and yang, you balanced each other…

I don’t know, it seems like Hiroshi and Makoto are like that… they are like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, for me they are an inspiration, they are kind of the original members of Acid Mothers Temple. I joined much later. I’ve been playing with them only for about 10 years … the connection with Kawabata was gradual, it depends on the situation.

Photograph: Dina Ruedel

Are there any other players you felt an instant chemistry with?

It happens on the stage. It happens that way in Acid Mothers Temple, because we play every night … sometimes good, sometimes bad … sometimes [something magic] happens. I quit alcohol three years ago. And now I can really tell, like, “Fuck! Everyone’s drunk today!”

Speaking of connections, when you were with Zeni Geva, you made friends with Steve Albini and invited him over to Japan, what, in 1994?

KK Null went to the US as a solo act, and made a connection with Steve, and then Zeni Geva went over to the US to tour in 1991. That was the first time.

Before that, there was a label in Madison, Wisconsin called Public Bath, the owner was David Hopkins; he asked KK Null to make a record with Steve Albini. So we went to Chicago and made a record with him, called Total Castration

Zeni Geva with Steve Albini, 1991.

Your album titles are so grotesque!

Yeah, and I only just realized that an album title we did called Desire for Agony was taken from a sci-fi short story by James Tiptree, Jr.

So Steve was still with Big Black at this time?

This was between Shellac and Rapeman. He was doing engineering. Shellac existed, but he didn’t consider it a real full-time band. He was tired of the music business, the ambitiousness.

How did you communicate?

David Hopkins interpreted, mostly, but it became easier, you know, “Guitar louder please! More treble please!” And he just understood the music.

The biggest difference for Japanese bands in the late ’80s and the early ’90s was that gated drum sound; you know that really loud snare, bahm! Steve Albini didn’t do that. His sense was so good.

Zeni Geva in Melbourne. Photo: Isaac Panaretos

What happened with Zeni Geva?

In the end, it was a double booking with Acid Mothers Temple.

Long before, I had changed jobs from deliveries to working at Disk Union in Shinjuku. It’s strange at Disk Union. The second-hand section is where new employees start working first, because it’s the busiest. A lot of vinyl being traded in, you have to make the price, to get knowledge.

“Japanese people like ‘original’; the name sound is like a drug.”

For the first three months, everyone has to be there, and then you can choose your favorite section to work in. And so the boss asked me, where do you want to move, and I said no, I’m staying here, I liked the used vinyl! And I stayed the whole time there.

And I went crazy. “Oh my god I found the turquoise lettering Led Zeppelin first album in Nishi-Shinjuku for twenty thousand yen, no way, it’s cheap!” And I’d rush over there, you know. [Laughs]. In my lunch-break I’d run to another record shop… but that record’s a hundred and fifty thousand yen now. That’s the rare record collectors’ world.

“Before & After”. Photograph: Makoto Kawabata

There’s something special about collecting the original…

Japanese people like “original”; the name sound is like a drug. [Puts on an excited voice] “Oh, original pressing, U.K. original, U.S. original…”

I started that. I started that when I was working at Disk Union, I’d put the U.K. original stickers on, and the value of the record’s about twenty thousand yen, but I’d be able to sell it quickly. It was good business.

It’s kinda like in a high-school baseball club, there’s senpai kohai

The youngest part-time guy there when I was there is now the boss at Shinjuku Disk Union…

He learned from the master…

[Bursts out laughing] Yeah! Now you go to Disk Union in Shinjuku and you can see like a one-dollar record raised up, you know Boston, Don’t Look Back, original U.S pressing, Matrix band, sometimes The Doobie Brothers, fifty thousand yen. I hate that, but I made that. Sorry! [Laughs maniacally]. It’s partly my fault.

TIME BOMB Osaka, late 2016. Photo: Phil Kaberry

In the Japanese music scene, is there a hierarchy?

[Pauses]. Yeah, I think so. It’s kinda like in a high-school baseball club, there’s senpai kohai… I suppose the culture of it came from Confucianism originally.

What was your experience with that, starting out as a musician, compared to your position now?

Well, for example, I can’t go up to Keiji Haino-san or someone like that and say, “Hey-hey, how’s it going buddy, hey bro, what’s up bro!” I couldn’t say that even if we were closer friends. [Laughs].

Photo: Kazuhiko Fujinami

Is the independent music scene divided in terms of genre, is their any intermixing in scenes?

It looks better than Sweden. I have a Swedish friend, he came to stay at my house, and he was really surprised at the variety of music at gigs, you know, there’s hardcore, there’s techno… there’s a lot of mixed events.

Turning to other bands that you’ve been in, like 20 Guilders or Mammal Machine or Acid Mothers Temple, have you ever had a creative block where you’ve not known what to play?

Well with Mammal Machine I never had any idea what to play… Actually, I don’t remember so clearly about Mammal Machine, because that band hasn’t had any activity for a long time.

But have you ever had a situation where you want to jam, you want to play, but there is just nothing there?

Playing fake Jerry Garcia is the easy way [Laughs]. It’s like a way to escape from concentration, a detour.

So always it’s just pick up the guitar, plug in, and an idea comes?

Sometimes, no ideas. I just keep playing. Or sometimes I create only three notes with, uh, [taps in a syncopated pattern], like playing Mixolydian scale all the time. But this is also an “escape way”, I have a lot of escape ways. I don’t like to do that. But if I’ve got no choice…

With Junzo Suzuki (right) in 20 GUILDERS

When you’re recording, do you do a lot of takes?

No. It depends on the recording. If it’s a composed song, it’s different. If it’s improvisation… I don’t know.

With Junzo [Suzuki, of 20 Guilders], it’s often composing and recording at the same time.

With 20 Guilders, it’s like The Rolling Stones without pre-production. We might have a rough sketch of the chord progression, grab an acoustic guitar, and play it in tempo. Then I’ll overdub the bass. Sometimes we’ll listen and say, “It needs a keyboard here,” or something.

We don’t have a budget, so the pre-production becomes the album.

“Kawabata will do a lot of overdubs, so he’ll often ask me to overdub something.”

It’s pretty easy relationship with Junzo, then, no fights?

No time!

How about with Mr. Kawabata?

Even less time! Just recording. But it depends on situation. Recording together at the practice studio, sometimes, or recording at home individually. In any case, Acid Mothers Temple’s recording process is completely D.I.Y.

Acid Mothers Temple has a spiritual image. Do you think there is an element of the spiritual in music?

I don’t know… but I always feel the magic on the stage. Sometimes I feel like it’s not working, but the audience is going crazy, everyone is so happy.

How can I explain it… the music is always really, really different on the stage. And sometimes I feel like, oh, it’s not good, but then I’ll listen to the live recording as say, “When was this recorded?” And it’s last night. And I thought yesterday sucked!

It’s totally different. But sometimes, the same feeling happens…

Do you feel like a student of guitar, or a master of guitar?

The guitar is a toy. An interesting toy. It was all an accident… guitar is one of the easiest instruments in the world to play. But I’m still no good. Not a master.

What keeps you interested in it?

Well, these days, I actually like bass more. Bass is fresher, maybe… I can feel that I’m not like anyone else, I don’t sound like anyone else, on bass, compared to guitar.

GREEN FLAMES. Photo: Samehiko Honda

Maybe I don’t know how to play the bass. I can’t play the same lick… you know on bass, you have to play the same lick, but I can’t do that. It makes me feel more free. With guitar, what I should do, I do; with bass, there’s more freedom for me.

When did you meet and make friends with [former HIGH RISE guitarist] Munehiro Narita?

“With bass, there’s more freedom for me.”

The first time was at Boredoms’ debut gig when we were supporting High Rise’s first show in the Kansai area. Maybe 1986? Leningrad Blues Machine organized a High Rise show in the Kansai area later.

How did that lead to forming GREEN FLAMES? Was this the outlet you were looking for to play the bass again?

First, Narita-san had a show with Tatsuhisa Yamamoto. He was the original drummer of Green Flames, and later drummer for Jim O’Rouke’s band, You Ishihara’s band, and others such as Kyoaku No Intention.

Then they asked me to play bass as a new trio. It became Green Flames.

Mr Narita said in an interview that with High Rise, he was interested in making new sounds on the guitar, but these days he’s drawing on funk for inspiration. Your basslines are funky in this band. Is that was the two of you decided, to try to bring together funk and rock?

We’ve got new drummer now, Jun Inui. He was the original drummer of Gaseneta and the famous, legendary punk band The Stalin.

You know, changing drummers makes a dramatic transformation to band, but I hope we are able to keep something funky even if it’s a more punkier texture that comes to band. We’ll see.

Who had the biggest impact on you musically?

Ken Fukuda from Noizunzuri, Eye Yamatsuka, KK Null, Makoto Kawabata, Munehiro Narita, You Ishihara… so many more, too many to mention. Many of them are almost unknown.

In my life, I have always been influenced by close friends and those who were playing music with me.

It’s like, of course, I can say, “Jimi Hendrix!” But I don’t know how great he truly was.

It’s like, of course, I can say, “Jimi Hendrix!” But I don’t know how great he truly was.

Maybe for Mitch Mitchell, being on stage with Jimi, he could feel more than me as a listener. Mitch Mitchell would have felt Jimi Hendrix like, wow! This guy is GREAT.

It’s the same thing. It’s different from the records.

You love cooking, which involves combining and creating a lot of different ingredients to make a dish taste good or different…

Cooking is like music. David Tudor says that, you know, the electronic music pioneer? I have his cooking recipes, actually. But, they’re not good. [Laughter]. Well, it tastes different. You know, western culture, western food… he doesn’t use soy sauce very much.

How are…

… His cake recipes are very interesting!

[Laughter]

How are they the same?

Well, I guess, I can’t cut perfectly or prepare perfectly the vegetables for presentation or decoration in a meal. It’s similar to my guitar. It’s rough, sometimes I’m too aggressive, but I can’t change it. It needs to be gentle, but it’s how I play. Good and bad can be the same…

Do you think rock music is too conservative now?

Oh yeah, it’s boring. It’s safe. I always buy the old records. I don’t listen to a lot of new music; I read books nowadays.

You like fantasy, right?

Sci-fi. It’s very different to fantasy. I never used to be able to read. I couldn’t concentrate. I don’t know, my brain’s fucked up. I used to watch a lot of movies, but could never read books. Books were more difficult. But now, I can read books, but can’t watch movies.

You’ve traveled the world playing music… how is it in reality?

“I’m re-reading Philip K. Dick’s The Man In the High Castle for the second time…”

I’m lucky. I’m enjoying it. Sometimes it’s really hard, like playing 40 shows without a day off, you feel a bit tired, no time for sightseeing, but I don’t really care because the record shops are better. [Laughs]

I’m re-reading Philip K. Dick’s The Man In the High Castle for the second time now, the first time was when it was published, but now I am getting a whole new insight into it; the settings in the book are much easier to understand now that I’ve been there, like Colorado or Utah or San Francisco.

You know, I’m over 50 now, and I just feel lucky to have had those experiences.

Has traveling changed how you play? Does local folk music give you ideas for tuning or sounds on the guitar?

Well, the tuning’s the same, because I’m lazy… but the scales … I was trapped in the Mixolydian scale for a long time. For a really long time. The Velvet Underground played in it a lot. Dark Star from The Grateful Dead.

“Myxolydian… it put me in a cage, for a long time.”

It still feels good, like you were saying, when I have no idea, suddenly Mixolydian comes back [Laughs]. How can I escape it? Maybe nobody else feels like that … even with Pink Lady Lemonade, that was D Mixolydian. But Makoto doesn’t play Mixolydian ever, so I’m more free … I still play it when I play bass, I have to remember, oh shit, yeah, Mixolydian.

What do you listen to these days?

I love soul. Gladys Knight & the Pips. I couldn’t understand how it was great, when I was a kid. But now I understand. When I had a bartender job, the boss of the bar, his favorite was Gladys Knight.

He always said how great it was, how it was the best soul group in the world, but I didn’t understand.

Funkadelic was much easier to understand for rock kids. But now I feel, yeah, he was right, he’s correct. I feel embarrassed that I couldn’t see it at the time.

Of all the albums you’ve released, in all of the bands you’ve been in, what one are you most proud of that you felt didn’t get the recognition or attention it might have deserved at the time?

“All I remember is concentrating a lot on playing on that album…”

Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno Anthem of the Space. That’s one of my favorites. I feel the magic in it that I don’t remember feeling as I was recording.

All I remember is concentrating a lot on playing on that album; I don’t really recall the atmosphere in the studio or anything. I couldn’t afford to, I was playing bass, and it was only a few months since I picked it up.

I told you my first instrument was bass, but I hadn’t played for a very long time, and the only reason I played it in the beginning was that I lost in rock, scissors, paper.

And you know, being told, play like this, like this, it felt boring. Then hearing Phil Lesh from The Grateful Dead, I realized there was a way; he didn’t play the same thing, it was like Johann Sebastian Bach counterpoint playing.

I like the record I did with Yuki Kaneko, the Indian violinist.

And also, I like the record I did with Yuki Kaneko, the Indian violinist.

I don’t know, “take it easy” is my way. I’m not so concerned about leaving a mark on the history books or whatever, after I’m dead, I don’t care…

What about money, though?

I want to get money! Every year I buy a Jumbo lottery ticket, you know the big end of year lottery? To get the million dollars. And when I win I’ll buy the million-dollar record. [Laughs].

Also, I’d want to donate money to all the independent labels that have released my albums.

Limited Mitsuru Tabata discography can be found at his official website. For Acid Mother Temple tour information and merch, refer to Facebook. For more on 20 GUILDERS, visit Facebook. For show and release info on GREEN FLAMES, visit facebook.


About the Author

Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.



One Response to Interview: Mitsuru Tabata

  1. There is a good source for info on the early indies scene, Dokkiri! Japanese Indies Music 1976-1989.

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