Published on February 21st, 2016 | by The Beige Baron0
日本語版はこちら / Read Q&A in Japanese — With translation by Yasutomo and Nao
Leaping backwards into the crowd, Mongoloid rides a river of hands to the back of the club, where a metal ladder leans in a corner. People reach out to steady it as he ascends to the topmost rung, doubling over, bellowing into the mic, bashing it against his head, and pumping his fist. As drops of sweat spatter on my face, I’m not sure if he’s really there, or trapped in a nightmare. The music is a solid wall of electric sound.
Behind a stand loaded with electronics and effector pedals stands a beautiful, enigmatic figure with long purple hair. Guitarists in grotesque masks stalk the stage and into the crowd. In another corner, a woman dressed in black sweeps a bow across her violin, and in the gloom, beside the pianist, spotlights glance off cymbals encircling two large drum kits.
Behind one sits Tatsuya Yoshida, whose contribution to improvisational jazz and rock music—and drumming in general—is difficult to overstate, and behind the other, Talow the Tornado [also of legendary extremists NICE VIEW.]
The band is Vampillia. Not much about it is conventional – not surprising considering its roots in Osaka experimentalists BOREDOMS (vocalist Yoshikawa Toyohito is a sometime member). Another example is the band’s leader, s.f.s., who does not compose nor perform the music, but is nonetheless its engine. He conceives and conducts in the same way a director does a film.
Which is Vampillia’s other artistic realm: its contribution to the recent movie Iinioi No Sure Eiga [Be A Light To The World] helped it to box-office success, while Vampillia’s own music videos are creations of unsettling imagination and beauty.
Vampillia is highly ambitious yet uninterested in shallow notions of success: it seems to work on a whole other level. “We want to be a rival candidate to Kanye West in USA presidential election,” deadpans s.f.s. when I ask of the band’s goals. “You know what I mean.”
Despite the theatrics, the group’s self-deprecating humor deflates pretension. Whether people “get it” or not doesn’t seem to matter. Some serious heavyweights dig it, though. The band has involvement with Jarboe [ex-SWANS], Merzbow, Lustmord, Ben Frost, Mick Barr from Krallice, Clark, The Body, μ-Ziq, Fennesz, Tujiko Noriko, The Third Eye Foundation, Dakota Suite, and Nadja, and count Attila from Mayhem and the members of Sunn O))) among their fans.
Seeing them live is to feel memory consciously emulsifying in the darkroom of your mind even as the show unfolds in front of you. It’s outrageous, thrilling, challenging, and as you stagger onto the darkened streets with CDs and handbills stuffed under your arm, you realize you’ve been a part of something special.
BNU spoke with s.f.s. ahead of an Australian tour this March featuring Tatsuya Yoshida’s own project RUINS ALONE (including a slot at the Adelaide Festival supporting God Speed You Black Emperor), a special reformation show with LAURA, and other great local supports including Hotel Wrecking City Traders and El Colosso. Check at the bottom for dates.
BNU: Your music seems like you’ve traveled through the galaxy picking up musicians from different planets. How did the core of Vampillia meet and start making music? How do you get so many styles to work together?
At first our lineup was always changing, but since, the core of Vampillia has stayed the same. Our two drummers, Tatsuya Yoshida from RUINS, and Talow the Tornado from NICE VIEW, have been our regular members for about five years now. Every core member of Vampillia met at the shop [a CD exchange formerly run by s.f.s.]. So each of our members listens to different music.
We just love music. Everyone’s style is different, but we believe that we are consistently making beautiful music. It’s always incomplete, though.
I’ve heard musicians say, “Modern music is boring. We’ve lost our imagination.” Do you agree? What does music mean to you? Do you want to express yourself? Entertain people?
We write the songs that I want to listen to. I can’t really speak for the other members, but in my opinion, Vampillia is just for me. And our mission is to “repaint” shit music with even more shit music like Vampillia’s [laughs].
Most Japanese audiences receive music pretty passively. You seem to want to break that barrier and force people to react. Why is this important to you?
Honestly, the only important point is that if I, the leader of Vampillia, think it’s a great show rather than what the audience might think of it. I am a member of Vampillia, but I can’t play any musical instruments. I can’t do anything. I always see our show through the audience’s eyes. It’s “band vs. me”, right? But strangely, whenever I think it was a great show, we sell lots of merch.
What music or event changed the way you think about performance when you were growing up? What about the other members of Vampillia?
Everyone has a different story, but do all have black music in common. I heard that Tatsuya Yoshida cried when he saw Magma, though.
So how difficult was it to get people to accept your approach to music? Was the reaction always positive?
It has always been a battle for us. I don’t think audience understands our music yet. We always try to at least make them laugh.
Like an opera or a musical, Vampillia’s music seems to have a narrative. What kinds of stories do you tell, real life or fantasy?
I think the lyrics are based in real life and fantasy. Both are important. We enjoy both. Vampillia, as a band, wants to be almost like a representation of the chaos of a natural disaster, rather than just telling a straight-up story to the audience. We also aim to make people feel deep emotion they can’t understand.
In what ways have you seen Japan’s musical scene change since you first started? Do you believe that the underground is becoming more visible and therefore individuality is more accepted by mainstream culture?
It hasn’t changed at all. We think [acceptance] is possible when we achieve something we believe is perfect.
Vampillia has a growing catalog of records. Each one is different. Is recording a frustrating or difficult process? Which record are you most proud of?
At the moment, everything is still an experiment. But we do think the album we are making now will be the most beautiful one… like the burp of God!
How did you guys meet Tatsuya Yoshida? What is it about his playing that you love the most? Which of his works do you like the most?
He basically said to me, “Do you want me to play the drums for Vampillia?” So I said, “Yeah.” The best aspects of his performance is that it’s always “the only one” … it exists only in the moment, unrepeatable. Of course, my favourite performance of Yoshida’s is when he is playing in Vampillia [Laughs].
The band is a large collective of individuals. Is working harmonious or is there conflict? Do you think conflict is necessary to produce better art?
Of course conflict is necessary and good “spice” for the band. But the biggest conflict we always have is about the assignment of rooms on tour [laughs].
Melbourne and Osaka has close ties in underground music. What do you like about playing in Melbourne, and in Australia?
We’ve been to Melbourne many times. I remember the streets of Melbourne well. It’s like Osaka for us. We feel the same, at home, in these two cities.
So what’s coming up after this Australian tour?
We’re planning a US tour and a European tour. And we formed another project band with Pete Swanson and Mondkopf called VMO. VMO is preparing to release an album.
We are also putting the biggest effort into making Vampillia’s upcoming album!
AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Tuesday March 1 Reverence Hotel (Footscray) with Stockades, Weedy Gonzalez
Wednesday March 2 PBS Live to Air on Pojama People (10pm~) plus chat with Chris Pearson and LAURA
Thursday March 3 Yah Yahs (Collingwood) with Hybrid Nightmares, Aquilus, Aeonian
Friday March 4 The Old Bar (Fitzroy) with Bat Piss, Spermaids, Watchtower
Saturday March 5 Crow Bar with Osaka Punch (Fortitude Valley, Brisbane)
Sunday March 6 Adelaide Festival supporting God Speed You Black Emperor
Thursday March 10 The Factory Floor with Ruins Alone (Marrickville, Sydney)
Saturday March 5 Brisbane Hotel (Hobart, TAS) The, Damn! Dirty Ape Revolutions Show
Thursday March 10 The Factory Floor (Marrickville, Sydney) with Vampillia