Muneomi Senju [千住 宗臣]
When I first heard Muneomi Senju’s drumming, I realized that the diversity of sound that comes from the drums is not necessarily related to the number of parts in a given drum set.
Senju played in the Boredoms and Urichipangoon in his 20s, and currently plays in several bands in Japan. He has also performed with Arto Lindsay, Bill Laswell, Fernando Kabusacki, and Egyptology, demonstrating the possibilities of the drums in these diverse contexts.
He seems to have drawn out possibilities from the drums – the most primitive of musical instruments – that one does not find in digital instruments.
He is able to produce myriad sounds from the one surface, and the shades and dynamics of these sounds makes one feel as if Senju were playing a melodic instrument.
BNU was able to catch a few moments with Senju in the middle of his hectic schedule of studio recording and tours to ask some questions about his background and his ideas and approach to music.
BNU: Firstly, where did you grow up, and how did you become interested or involved in music?
I grew up in Osaka. I don’t remember it so clearly, but apparently I often danced or moved to music.
You seem to have a deep appreciation for and understanding of the different genres you play–jazz, Afrobeat, reggae, minimalist music, hardcore – but at the same time you are creating your own unique sounds in each genre.
How did you nurture this particular style of playing? For example, were you influenced by a particular drummer, or did you study under someone?
I just think that, apart from just loving these kinds of music, when I am listening to them closely, over and over again, I am able to hear some vital, core aspect of each genre, and I express these in my performances.
There are so many drummers who have influenced me and I cannot list them all here, sorry! Musicians around me have been kind enough to teach me various things, but I have never studied under somebody per se.
Your performances have color as well as a melodic quality that gives an impression that you are actually playing a melodic instrument. Did you have some kind of musical or artistic background before you started to play the drums?
When you play, you allow the groove to change form and to reveal itself in gradations. There is this certain physicality to your performances that sets you apart from other drummers. Do you pay particular attention to controlling the physicality of the sound? Or do you take a completely different approach?
I am not really sure about the physicality of my performances, but I do always try and pay attention to whether my body is adequately responding to the actual sound. I train myself to overcome assumptions and preconceptions to allow my body to respond fully to the music.
To “train” myself may not be the best way to describe the process, as it sounds so formal—in fact, I believe that simply dancing to music is the best way to do this.
Regarding your solo performances: please tell us a bit about your inclusion of a trigger in your drum set, and how that affected your overall expression?
I value that playful attitude that allows me to not be afraid of mistakes
I haven’t played that style of solo performance in a while, and I am thinking of other styles, and hope to perform these some time soon.
Apart from your solo performances, you also play in various bands. Do people’s expectations of you change depending on who you play with? Or do you feel that they share something in common?
Because the music is different, what is required from me varies accordingly. They do share something in common though; that I contribute to making the music interesting and exciting.
It is common for you to improvise during live shows and recordings. In order to negotiate the complex times and rhythms, I assume that you memorize the overall “story” of the track, and while drawing that out in the music, at the same time you provide arrangements from bursts of inspiration.
Parts of my body are transformed into completely disembodied “entities”
It must be a complex process doing all this while producing a consistent beat. Are there certain memorization techniques you use, or certain attitudes you employ, in order to bring this about successfully?
Not really. I do meditate, however. Rather than technique, I probably value that playful attitude that allows me to not be afraid of mistakes, and to find out how much I can break apart of a particular track without it losing its essence.
On top of this, I have a particular “zone” I enter into, in which parts of my body are transformed into completely disembodied “entities”. When I enter into this particular zone, something interesting usually happens.
What gives you inspiration apart from music?
Light, vibration, and the ocean. I find inspiration in things that affect my physicality.
And a word to your fans out there?
I am excited to continue producing interesting sounds, and I hope you can enjoy them, too!
Senju’s profile and tour information (in English) can be found here.