The Art of Noise

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Boredoms - The Art of Noise
By Kevin HaineyTruly one of the world's most challenging, bizarre and uncompromising groups, Osaka, Japan's Boredoms made their distinct mark in the mid-'90s when their sporadic brand of improvised "acid punk" - the term used by Yamatsuka Eye, the band's chief and shrieking lead singer, to describe their chaotic blend of spontaneous sound combustion and playful style deconstruction - granted them the admiration and support of some of that period's most respected talents (Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth and John Zorn, to name a few), a devoted worldwide following and a major label recording deal that honours their creative freedom. After Boremania had reached its peak, around 1995, Boredoms went back underground, embraced a transitional period and recreated themselves as sun-worshipping mystics intent on following their tribal, drum-heavy sound into the very beating heart of being, an ascendance they further vibrate with their first new album in four years, Seadrum/House of Sun, and a North American tour that captures them headlining Victoriaville, Quebec's Festival Musique Actuelle.

1982 to 1985
Deep within Osaka's noise underground, an artistic breeding ground that had been bustling since it began in 1979, a violently extreme singer / noise musician / performance artist named Yamatsuka Eye begins performing with his open-ended performance-noise troupe, the Hanatarashi (translation: the Snotnose). An explosively violent reaction to seemingly all that surrounds them (as well as what's embodied within them), the Hanatarashi's extremely demanding physical performances and abrasive industrialized noise assaults (firecrackers and chainsaws were two commonly used instruments), led by Eye's inexplicable language of piercing spontaneous vocal combustion, quickly make them and Eye Japanese legends in their own right. One folkloric tale captures Eye bringing a dead cat on stage and tearing it in half with a chainsaw. Eye himself has verified two such incidents, one when he accidentally cuts open his leg with the power-saw that's strapped to his back, and another when he causes a whole lot of damage to a club while driving a mini-backhoe through it. The Hanatarashi's self-titled debut LP is released by Japan's Alchemy Records in 1985. The word "cock" appears in all eight of the track titles.

Almost as legendary as his days with the Hanatarashi is Eye's name. Many believe it to have some sort of mystic significance. The truth is he derived it from his younger sister's name, Aiko. "I took the Ai part, writing it out like the English word 'eye.' No story, I just did it," he told Oakland-based zine Browbeat. Over the years Yamatsuka Eye has changed to Yamantaka Eye, Yamataka Eye, eYe and EYE with the second "E" reversed. His real name is Tetsuo Yamatsuka.

1985 to 1986
Eye begins arranging rock-style jam sessions and live performances. The first players Eye works with are sometime Hanatarashi drummer Ikuo Taketani, bassist Hotoi, female singer Makki Sasara, and guitarist Tabata Mara (AKA Mitsuo Tabata), who is also a member of notable noise-rockers Noizunzuri. The band is characteristically aggressive, wild and chaotic, with a definite punk influence at play. They bare the extravagant name of Acid Makki & Combi and Zombie.

Eye and Taketani record a track for a compilation cassette by Japan's Beast 666 label called Kill S.P.K. (named in aggression toward S.P.K., an early Australian industrial group who had recently adopted synth-pop styling). They call this psychobilly-inspired slice of acid-punk chaos "U.S.A." and attribute it to Boredoms-possibly in reference to the Clash song "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A." though Eye has been quoted saying he was inspired by the Buzzcocks song, "Boredom." The name takes on a life of its own when "U.S.A." gets picked up for release some months later by the German label Dossier for their Dead Tech Sampler I: No Wave from Japan LP, a compilation that plays a significant role in uniting this latest wave of Japan's noise-rock underground. For Dead Tech, however, "U.S.A." is renamed "Super Punk King."

Sometime between the two releases of this first official Boredoms song, Taketani is kicked out of the band and replaced on drums by Eye's friend Yoshikawa. Legend has it that these two met at an Einsturzende Neubauten show when Yoshikawa let Eye sit up on his shoulders to see the show. Shortly after, the mysterious Makki Sasara also leaves the group, as does Hotoi, who is replaced by beginning bassist Hira (AKA Hilah), but Tabata sticks around on guitar. Possibly inspired by the attention Dead Tech had received, the band officially names itself Boredoms. The only "law" they agree to adhere to in their music is spontaneity.

Amidst this latticework of jumbled activity, Tabata introduces Eye to Yoshimi Yokota (AKA Yoshimi P-WE). Tabata had met Yoshimi (then a student at a Kyoto college) when he replied to some posters she put up around Kyoto, looking for potential noise musicians to collaborate with. It just so happens Tabata is a member of Yoshimi's favourite band, Noizunzuri, but the two don't click. However, she and Eye do, and the two form a noise project called Hasty Snail Baby (renamed UFO or Die a few years later), with Yoshikawa occasionally lending his hand to the energetic and inspired racket.
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Article Published In Jun 05 Issue