I did it without giving it much thought. When I would like to start my solo activity with a new name, someone gave me an idea ‘ You call your accordion “Gabriel”, so you could call “Aki (the real name)with Gabriel”, right? ’ Then it became ‘à qui avec Gabriel’ by making a play on French words, and because in France there are so many special existence I love. Gabriel is named after an archangel though I didn't mean to personify it. In the beginning the impression of my accordion was so horrify, so I would have like to feel more closer to my instrument by giving the name.
ーIt’s so unique and the wonderful name that I’ve wondered the reason why you named à qui avec Gabriel.
Thank you. I heard this name irritates a few people.(lol)
ーWhy did you feel to fear against the accordion？
At first, its size. Anyway it is so large. When I took it out from the instrument shop, I felt ‘I failed?’ because it is incredibly heavy ! It is 10kg. I remember... I toddled with my heavy instrument and reached to the Ochanomizu station from the shop, and waited a train with thinking how I could carrying it ever after with dark feeling.
I was relived because I understood tips for carrying it after all. It’s really ridiculous. And regarding playing a sound, at the beginning I couldn’t move bellows well due to the large size. As if I was forced to play by my instrument. It seemed to be extending and shrinking by its own will. It was like a strange creature, so perhaps I felt fear. If I selected a smaller accordion, I might not have such feeling.
ーAlthough playing the accordion is elegant impression for the audience, you struggled for such things.
It's different from struggling, anyway far from elegant.(lol)
ーYou have been played even now. So, it is exactly fate that you selected the accordion there.
Yes, I feel like a kind of destiny with my instrument.
ーYou belonged to a club of ethnic music when you were a university student. What did you do in the club?
I went to a place to learn the sitar and tabla. In that place the members played with ethnic instrument not only Indian music but also music of various countries. So I joined in them naturally. I wore ethnic clothes and cooked ethnic foods there. I think back on it now, I was in a strange world. And I encountered an accordion there. I think the first song I played by accordion was the Egyptian popular song.
ーYou were particular about the clothes and the foods. So, you got into ethnic music deeply.
I think I was so odd at that time (bitter smile).
ーYou called ‘Accordion Punk’ by yourself. Had you listened to punk before you started to play the accordion.
‘Accordion punk’ isn’t about music genre but just a catchphrase for me, because no one knows who I am and where I came from. It’s like ‘My style is different from a standard accordion playing you have imagined’. My friend musician ‘midoriyama’ who often organized the events together introduced me to the audience as ‘Accordion punker, Aki-san’. So it was a kind of rip-off! But I haven’t used this catchphrase because recently I play not only the accordion but also the other instruments.
ーI see the origin. Exactly, we know well you aren’t an ordinal accordion player by the catchphrase.
People have a stereotyped image of accordion, therefore I appreciate this catchphrase.
ーThen, how did you get into music originally? What music did you listen to before ethnic music?
When I was a child, my father played records frequently like Harry Belafonte, Trio los Panchos or such things. The first record he purchased for me was ‘Kojin Jugyo (Private Lesson)’ by Japanese 70’s idle ‘Finger 5’. The guitar sounds of the introduction fascinated me. Having said that at that time I didn’t know that was the sound of guitar, haha. I think ‘Kayoukyoku(Japanese pops)’on TV might have the most impact on me in those days.
In junior high school I came to like the local rock band. They played cover songs of ‘The Who’, so I had became to listen to foreign music. Additionally in high school I borrowed many records of Japanese music from my friends. I listened to the music from ordinary pops to popular in those days like Jun Togawa or Zelda. I didnit care about the genre. After moving to Tokyo, I came to search for various music by myself.
To your question ‘What music did you listened to before Ethnic music?’, my answer is mentioned before roughly. And to your second question ‘How did you get into music originally?’, my answer is straight like ‘The encounter with my favorite local rock band is the entrance.’ When I listen to it now, it makes me feel little embarrassed because it’s nothing special, but at that time their performance seemed supernatural for me. Perhaps one of the reason why I feel so is because it was my first experience of live music with the loud electric sound. But the main reason is because I felt their sound had entered into their bodies and moved around in each body and then burst out from each body by their body movement again. Thus I felt ‘I wanna do like that !’ And when I was the third grade at high school, I formed the ‘Gal-ban’, so-called today ‘ Girls band’ and performed at gigs. But it was so terrible, haha.
ーYou listened to mainly stuffs of rock related music before. You mentioned the sound were visualized by watching the gig. Did that experience make you select the accordion as your instrumental later?
I just felt I could watch the linkage between the sound and the body movement rather than sound visualization. But I think that wasn't the reason, because I was not concious of it clearly. Luckily I could play keyboards and I like ethnic music, so I choose the accordion without thinking deeply. But if I make a story as Hori-san mentioned, it will ring true.
ーHow was the music of the gal band Aki-san joined? Absolutely, I’ d like to listen to the sound source if it was remained.
I tried to find the recorded material, but I couldn’t... I think it is lucky, because there was nothing special about our music. We just gathered by all momentum that ‘We wanna do something!’. And our drummer could only play metal drumming, then no matter what we played, all our tunes became heavy metal. Moreover, our vocalist didn’t sing normally and played a weird performance. So we were in the state of chaotic comic band. Without any preparation as it is, we made it to the semifinal of music contest YAMAHA. So we were treated as strange outsider.
ーThe band is cool, isn’t it? By the way, what is the band name ?The band name is ‘Uketsukejou band(The reception woman band)’. We had full of fun because we thought ‘We are free to do anything we want !’ In other words we didn’t have any feeling to attune sound to the other member. And to tell the trues, Our technique was too poor to attune sound to the others. So it was funny and fun.
ーThen, what activities had you done until your debut album ‘Utsuho’ was released since you encountered with the accordion at the ethnic music club?
After a while I quit the ethnic circle, and started to play music on a street corner with my friends. We played Showa songs in the pre-war era by Shamisen, Ko-kyu and accordion, or old jazz and musette by duo with guitar. And then I participated in the unit of Satsuma Biwa, in addition the latin band formed with more than 10 members. In that situation I have to play songs according to the score. So I wanted to play in band again that the spirit of ‘We are free to do anything we want !’ . And I tried to play like that with some musicians in the studio, but it was not going well. So I started to play solo work and sent the demo tape to the label Tzadik.
ーYou played with various instrumental players since your early activities. I feel your music is free music in a real meaning without a fixed idea. I’m surprised you have the flexibility of instrumental combination and you have played versatile genre of music.
I’m glad you say so because I thought it looks the unprincipled.
ーWhy did you send your demo tape to Tzadik?
In most cases people might ignore obscure musicians small demo tapes, but I thought John Zorn would listen once to them. So I sent my demo tape to him.
ーExactly, John Zorn has dealt with the wide range of music without a genre and he has been familiar with the Japanese underground music.
His background you mentioned doesn't matter. I don't know why I thought, but I felt there is no doubt John-san would try to listen once to the demo tape, even if it made by unknown musician. And my intuition was right, he said he listen to all demo tapes he received.
ーIn first, I’d like to ask the title before the contents of your debut album. You select words which seem to appear in classical literature like ”Utsuho”, thelatest song “Harari” or “Awai”. Did you read such literature often?
I hesitate to say that I read them often, but I absolutely love the world of Japanese classical literature. When I read Japanese medieval stories, I feel it takes me from here to the another real world. I like it very much. People in the story feel what is unseen and living with them as reality. They see myriads of Gods in nature for example mountain, river, grass and trees, and they seem to go back and forth between the nature and the supernatural by using such sense. I'm attracted to them.
My album“Utsuho” was given the image from “Utsuho Monogatari(The Tale of the Hollow Tree)” filled with such strange atmosphere. It’s a magnificent story which the marvelous origin Koto and transcending the secret technique of it hands down from parents to children for generations.
Utsuho is a cavity in the tree which occurs by breaking a branch or thunder striking. In the story, people live in the cavity of big cedar trees, and they hand down the technique of the Koto and secret songs. An instrument Koto has a cavity inside, also there is a cavity inside of the accordion. Moreover each character in the story seems to have hollow in their heart from their grief. This story gave me an idea that like when something come to the hollow, something new is born.
I feel each Japanese classical story itself was born in such way. It was often said there was the Shamanic origin in ethnology. I try to use the word Shamanic as little as possible. Because if people listening this word they treat it just like occult thing. What I mean is “UTSUHO monogatari-The Tale of the Hollow Tree” seems to be a collaboration between human and what is unseen.
In the same way,“Harari”and “Awai” are words which could spread our imagination. If I say “ Hanabira ga Harari to Chiru ( Flower petals are falling)”, the sound“Harari” would include a sound in itself as falling. I think it's interesting that the Japanese-specific feeling of "ma" and the feeling of 'going within between' are integrated in one word "awai". I get such various images from Japanese classical literature.
ーI understand the meaning of the word “Utsuho” has that deep meaning. I think music is originally shamanic, so ritualistic and risky. However, many music in the capitalistic world which is based on the mass production is removed such elements. Then, most people don’t realize those essence.
I feel it's not just a music thing, but the senses of ancient people and modern people are quite different. On the contrary there is a case modern people can feel something but ancient people can’t so, so it's not necessarily a negative story. In any case, if people can’t feel something naturally by themselves, it makes me scared because people might be tamed gradually without knowing it.
ーWhen I hear people incline to Japanese classical literature, I imaged they wear kimonos and express just like Japanese traditional music, but Aki-san doesn’t do so. Utsuho includes the eastern elements like using Shakuhachi, but you compose mixing western elements like jazz, classical music, avant-garde etc.. I think this great complexity is one of attraction of Utsuho. How do you feel about that?
At that time I thought if I were the person who would belong to the genealogy of Japanese classical literature how would I inherit. I think the album 'Utsuho' is a simple stuff. I didn’t intend to mix different genres together, also I wasn’t conscious of the specific genres.
ーI see. It was an idea that you connect to a linage of Japanese classical literature.
It may sound kind of arrogant but it’s an idea like "if I could belong to its genealogy what can I do?" There is a dialogue book between Kenji Nakagami and Toji Kamata called "Kotodama no ametsuchi (Heaven and earth by the energy of soul language)", in this book they talked about as mentioned above origin of Japanese classical literature, sense of Japanese people ,and so on,. They are worried as writers and deplored that "There is only a little person who can belong to the genealogy of Japanese classical literature." I read this book about 20 years ago, and it is classical literature that the process of creating something by Japanese people remains in an easy-to-understand form, and there are same process in Japanese music and Mai(Japanese traditional dance)I thought. When I create something, I also have same feeling, "Where does it come from?" That's why I was really charmed by Japanese classical literature.
ーIs the process of the creation the ”Shermanic”process as you mentioned before?
Simply speaking, so it is. I wouldn’t like to use the word “Sharmanic” because if I say that word, we would feel it has an ability something special. I think anyone has such a sense.
ーI’d like to pick up ‘Harari”later. You have been tremendously inspired from the classical literature. From when did you get used to it?
Since I was a junior high school student. I spent a classroom hour to reading a textbook of Japanese classical literature, not listening to a teacher. There were its series of Nichieisha. When I read them, the darkness of jet black was spreading , in spite of reading a textbook. And it might be a big thing for me that I encountered lyrics or stories of Kenji Miyazawa also, when I was an elementary school student. They weren’t Classical literature, but it is said that the process of Kenji’s creation is similar to the process of the Japanese classical literature creation.
ーIt’s difficult for Western people to under stand the concept of “Ma”. I guess it may be created because Japan is the so-called high-context culture which people are good at “Guessing from the situation ”reading between the lines”.
Both in the East and in the West, anyone has the sense for looking invisible things, but I feel there is something peculiar about Japanese people.
ーExactly, the view of the world is different from monotheism of West and Islam. Being high-context may be disadvantage in the business scene which dislike ambiguity, but it may make the uniqueness in the art and music scene.
I feel that's why it may be a one of the big factor that so many foreign listeners are interested in the Japanese underground scene.
ーThe Japanese underground/noise music scene is so peculiar that they are said"How can they such crazy sounds?" foreign listeners
It is previously mentioned explanation “Simply speaking” is the answer of “How can they create such sounds?”
ーIt’s like the sounds one can’t discharge when one are thinking in one’s head, the sounds beyond logic. I have rarely played instrumentals, so it’s just my image.
That's right. It’s difficult to explain, but I feel it’s the sound that the performer himself also is surprised and say “What ?!”
ーThe Kenji Miyazawa’s poetry collection,“Sprin
It was my experiment to transform ’Sprin
ーIt seems that it’s difficult to transform words to sounds. How was it actually?
Even if you say 'the words', so they are ‘poem’, I tried to make it into the sounds by helping the energy of imagination
ーIn the name of à qui avec Gabriel, titles of songs in “Utsuho” are written in Japanese including the album title and various kinds of music were packed. I think such complex composition of “Utsuho” is the elements of uniqueness.
It's Interesting that you grab my music in such that way. I made it myself and feel it more simple, but I think it almost depends on sense of each listeners.
ー“Utsuho” is the solo work, but 7 musicians are participated in Utsuho as guests. How was the process of creation?
I don't know I could say 'there is a process', because it was simple that I just recorded and mixed and as guests I got musicians who I knew.
ーMr. Keiji Haino also participates as a guest. I heard Haino-san performed in the gig of Zenigeva, you knew him at the venue in your another interview, is it right? Can you tell me the impression you watched the performance of Haino-san first？
Yes. I met Haino-san for the first time, at the live gig organized by Zeni Geva. He played with K.K. Null-san, Mitsuru Tabata-san did with Hayakawa-san of Kirihito, and I did with Masataka Fujikake-san and Ko Morota-san of Doom. I remember having thought that performance of Haino-san was something explosive and it seemed like Mai (Japanese traditional dance).
ーDid you and Haino-san have musical friendship from that gig to the performance in Utsuho as a guest?
I had never played music together before recording 'Utsuho’.
ーCan you tell me the impression and the episode when you collaborated with Haino-san in “Utsuho”?
‘I couldn't do anything about that.’ it’s my honest impression (bitter smile), but that experience gave me curious feeling like ‘Oh, it’s OK to play more freely.’
ーAnyway, the combination of the trio by Aki-san, Fujikake-san and Morota-san is so great. How was the performance?
We played an Afghanistan song by my request. I think we played improvisation other than it.
ーWas the Afghanistan song ethnic music?
Yes. I think it was like a middle of folk song and pops.
ーBy the way, where did you take photos of the sleeve of“Utsuho”? It’s kind of mystic and very atmospheric.
It is a forest at the shrine in Harajuku. It is an artificial forest, but it is natural and dense forest that I can’t believe it’s artificial. It makes me feel particular atmosphere. I was welcomed in by a large and marvelous 'Utsuho’.
ーI see. I have imagined you had took photos in a mountain, because trees on the photos were so tall.
Exactly, we can see as if it is in the mountain despite it located in the metropolis of Tokyo. It is very interesting that a forest seen like that was created by human and it becomes a kind of sanctuary. (to be continued)