Tuesday, March 29, 2022

à qui avec Gabriel interview (2)

First question. Please tell me your activities when you released "Utsuho". Where did you have gigs?

At that time I didn't have any live show. I wanted to move on to a new way, so I put a new name on myself and recorded a new album. It was since 2003 that I started shows. And I often played at Penguin house Koenji and Loop-line Sendagaya. Unfortunately they closed down.

You named yourself à qui avec Gabriel. What made you start activities different from before?

Over time I have realized that I want to express in my own way. I've been using this name since summer 2001.

You weren't so interested in solo activities when you began to play the accordion.

No, I wasn’t very interested in solo at that time. Because I wanted to play in a band.

ーWhat types of bands would you like to do? Also did you play in any band since the receptionist band in your high school days?

Maybe I wanted to do something magical that the local band showed me in a school days. After Uketsukejo Band(receptionist band), I participated in 'Tumba Creole', a band of more than a dozen people who play African, Brazilian and Caribbean music. Except me they were admirable studio musicians. We often played at pit inn Roppongi in the mid 90's. After that I formed a trio band  'pneuma hectopascal'  with drummer Natsuaki Fumihisa and contrabassist Kawasaki Jun.

ーOh, Caribbean Music. I can't imagine from currentAki-san. What process did you participate in TumbaCreole ?  What kind of music did pneuma hectopascal play?

The leader of Tumba Creole was a member of the ethnic music circle I joined in college days, the start was reunion with him.We Pneuma improvised music by using some sound motifs.

ーAh, It is related to the ethnic music circle. I heard  Pneuma Hectopascal was the rock band. Did you improvise rock music?

Yes, but it was not free improvisation and different from so-called Rock. At that time I was a little edgy, so I used to think " Just because playing guitar with long hair, it doesn't mean Rock!"

ーI see. Although I thought the formation of the accordion, the contrabass and the drum was peculiar as rock bands, the expression form of rock for Aki-san was Pneuma Hectopascal. By the way, was there music you were inspired when you played at Pneuma Hectopascal?

Well, I was getting inspiration from other than music. For example, the song "Children's Slave Rebellion" comes from Henry Darger's painting, and "Uzbek Keeper" comes from Nikita Mikhalkov's movie "Urga". Even though "Urga" is set in Mongolia,but while I was imagining it, I jumped into Uzbekistan(lol.) On a side note, the word 'O’zbek', which was the origin of the word ‘Uzbekistan', means "I am Master". I don't know what it really means, but I'd like to treat it meaning that "I am that I am.", in other words "Rock!". (lol.)

ー I know Aki-san's definition of Rock. By the way, when you watched the gig of the rock band in your teenage, you said you felt as if sounds were moving, moreover you're inspired from pictures and movies for music. Do you think you have so-called synesthesia?

I'm not sure whether it's synesthesia or not, but I think it's not uncommon to get inspiration from something else.

I see. You feel as if sounds were moving at a gig, It's the first time for me that I heard such a topic. so I'm interested in your experience. I haven't listened to sound sources, it strongly drives me to image the sound of Pneuma. If you were to say it, what sounds of groups do you think Pneuma is similar to?

If people were educated  "sound does not move or can not be seen",  such sense would be forgotten. Nothing’s coming to mind about what is similar to Pneuma.

From which year did you start to perform as Pneuma?

It had been active from 2005 to 2007, but we hadn't plan to release our sound source. I didn't have feeling to record because of my own inmaturity. I wanted to play more like musical composition by improvisation but it was not going well. If I could sing at that time, I might have been able to make a difference. Unfortunately we haven't been active recently but Pneuma hectopascal was good experiences for me, because of brilliant musicians Natsuaki-san and Kawasaki-san.

I feel the concept that you create things like a musical piece by improvisation is so unique. I regret again I couldn't watch your gig. By the way, when did you start to sing? What triggered that?

After Pneuma, I've always thought my solo playing is "Pneuma for alone", so if you listen to,  may be able to get feeling something what I wanted to do in the band. My singing was gradually, and having no special trigger. Since some time ago I wanted to sing, but I was feeling something strange with singing with accordion. I was feeling limited that breathing to sing while breathing to move the bellows. Meanwhile, I started playing with various musicians, and the number of scenes where I could let go of my instrument and singing oppotunity was increasing. Among them, a friend of mine Michel Henritzi who loves Japanese Enka said, "Let's play Fuji Keiko songs together." (Fuji Keiko is a famous Enka star. ) That's why I started to cover Enka.

I see. Aki-san started to sing Enka by asking from Mr. Michel. What made you by meeting and collaboration with Mr, Michel?

I met Michel about 10 years ago at Penguin House in Koenji and started playing with him naturally. He just told me, "Let's play Enka." so he didn't mean he recommended that I sing. But I decided to sing. (lol.) And we made an album "Koyonaku" together that covers Enka and Mood kayō.  Also he organized my first Europe tour in a duo with Mico from No Neck Blues Band, and he gave me many opportunities to perform in Europe after that. He is a brilliant musician and also introducer of many Japanese musicians to Europe such as Junko from Hijokaidan, Masayoshi Uranabe, Tetuzi Akiyama, Kan Mikami, Kazuki Tomokawa and so on. A book about the Japanese underground scene he wrote was recently published in France.

Mr. Michel was the existence which expanded the range of Aki-san's musical activities. How was the European tour with Mico-san? Actually, I don't know Mico-san much
, so can you tell me about her in first?

That's right, Michel expanded range of my musical activities. Mico is a member of well-known No Neck Blues Band, and in a good way, she's more than just a musician. The tour with Mico was such an interesting experience that I might have wrote a book. No one knows what comes out next from her such as pianica, piano, voice, and physical expression. When I played with her, in a few times I was just there without doing anything, because Mico was too wonderful! One of them seemed to be a miracle. When we performed in a large abandoned mine like a gymnasium in Saint-Etienne, a lost bird began to sing, and Mico responded with her whistle like a conversation for a while. It was so beautiful. It is precisely this kind of person is a real improviser, I thought. And she is a charming woman, so it was really fun to be with her.

By the way, please tell me your album "Koyonaku" with Mr. Michel. Songs like "Kasuba No Onna" "Ginza No Koi No Monogatari" of Kayokyoku in the Showa era are listed on it. What made you select such songs? Also, did Aki-san listen to songs in the Showa era for some time?

I chose it because I wanted to sing a song that I used to listen to as a nostalgic older era song when I was a kid. Only "Kosame no Oka" is a song I listened after growing up. It was at a mysterious restaurant "Intermediate Eurasian Restaurant Ganso Hinomaruken", where I used to work part-time, only prewar Showa Kayo was played there. I was addicted to it. So it was those Showa songs when I got Gabriel (accordion) and played on the street first.

Released in 2016, was ”Koyonaku“ the work which made Aki-san return to basics in a sense? Also, it was recorded in France. The extremely raw recording was as if I watched your performance in front of me. Can you tell me how was the situation of the recording at this time?

I felt it was not 'returning to basics', I was trying something new. Because I was just starting to sing. The recording was done by Kevin Le Quellec, a drummer from a hardcore band 'Le Singe Blanc' at his basement studio in Metz. The studio had a profound atmosphere and that was a place where the performers souls was imprinted. If it sounds raw, it's probably because Kevin has a sense of recording and there is the energy of that studio. It was difficult to balance of voice, accordion, and explosive guitar, so three of us worked together while giving ideas.

I remember my favorite group, Electric wizard's masterpiece "Come my fanatics" was also recorded in the ruin of a bank. Such circumstances also affect recordings. Is "I'm not similar to Anyone else" the original song? Was there a reason you recorded not only cover songs, but also an original song?

Yes, I think Electric Wizard also feel the sound and energy of the place, and then choose the recording location. Exactly it is original song. At first we were planning to record only cover song, but proceeded with the recording, we realized it would become the duration might not be enough for album.(lol.)  So I took out my poem for it. It would have been good if I could cover other Enka song,  but at that time there were still few songs that I could sing.

I see your circumstances. Then, you published the split ep "情趣演歌" with Tori Kudo in 2015, which is the same season as release of "Koyonaku". Can you tell me the background for making this work?

Michel asked me whether I would be interested in that his friend Cedric makes a series of Enka covers split vinyl "情趣演歌 enka mood collection" on his label An'archive.  Yes, I wanted to do. Thus I covered "Onna no Blues," "Suki ni natta hito, "and" Minatomachi Blues" with piano. Kudo-san is singing “YANAGASE Blues,” “TOKYO Blues” and “Hone made aishite” at karaoke on his side.

Were you acquainted with Mr.Tori Kudo whose songs were recorded in this split vinyl before?

The combination of splits was decided by Cedric. I had once played together with Kudo-san before that. While on going process of this vinyl,  I went to America with his band Maher Shalal Hash Baz and Ché-SHIZU for the tour called 'Minor Musics Japan Tour.'  ....! My friend musician Che Chen had the courage to organized this strange tour.

What types of music does Che Chen play? Also, Can you tell me stories about "Minor music Japan tour'?

Che Chen is a guitarist of a solid experimental band 75 Dollar Bill in New York. He is quite familiar with ethnic music, so I think he also has an aspect like a ethnomusicologist. In addition, he is really good guy! During the tour he took care of us while playing as a member of Ché-Shizu and Mahel.Starting with the California Institute of the Arts open-air concert hall, we toured aroud Gallery Chin’s Push in L.A, Crowley Theater in desert town Marfa Texas, Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, and ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn. Every place was impressive, and it was like a mysterious story, including the people living there.  Before departure the people around me asked "it's a tour with people with strong personalities, is it okay for you? "(lol.) But in this adventure story,  all the characters including the Maher members who appeared turn one after another each venue were quite the actors, and casting was perfect. Thanks to Che Chen, I could sneak into this marvelous tour and have such an interesting experience.

Returning to the topic of ”Enka Mood Collection", I think a collection of covers of Enka was new at that time. How was the reaction from listeners?

Well, there were pros and cons to the fact that I started singing, not about the Enka cover. I started singing with piano instead of accordion, so one said, "Your name is ' avec Gabriel, isn’t it?"  The other said "You're accordionist, not singer”. Maybe they felt something wrong with my doing. On the other hand some people said," I like it !"  My strict Senpai praised this small work. Some people requested to cover their favorite songs. And another person continued to send me so many sound sources and videos of song recommendations. So I was very happy. In any case, if they felt something from my music, even if it includes criticism, I am content.

ーI know there were such criticisms now. How did you feel by yourself when you started to sing songs without the accordion?

There was a feeling that the possibilities were expanding so that I could express my music more freely. I tried to find out how to play the piano in my own way, or I realized the fun of the accordion again by not playing it, also I enjoyed covering in itself, so I was pumped up.(lol.)

What was the standard when you selected the songs?  Also, did you have other songs you planned to record?

At a bar Uramado Shinjuku Golden Gai, the owner Fukuoka-san played Fuji Keiko's record on for Michel who likes Fuji Keiko. That was "Onna no Blues(Woman's Blues)."  At that time, there was feeling "This is it."  After that I chose famous songs, Miyako Harumi's "Sukini natta hito(The man I love)" and  Mori Shinichi's "Minatomachi Blues(port town Blues)". Because it would be more fun that listners know what it is covered. Other than that, I like the lyrics of Kawauchi Kohan, so I thought about his lyric "Kimi koso waga inochi(You are my life)", "Awazuni aishite(Love me even if we couldn't meet)",  and "Dare yorimo kimi wo aisu(I love you more than anyone else)". However, I felt they were more like Mood kayō than Enka, so in the end I decided on three songs feeling more Enka. Do you know these songs, Hori-san?

I know " Onna no blues” only somehow, but I didn't know the oher songs. By the way, although it goes back to the past age, you  released the cds you collaborated with Majutsu no niwa and Makoto Kawabata in 2012. Can you tell me the course of events as to how you played with them?

I see. Younger generation less chace to listen to Enka. I met Fukuoka Rinji-san of Majutsu no niwa through sachiko-san a bassist of Kousokuya, and started playing. And I met Kawabata-san through Suzuki Junzo-san. I played with Kawabata-san in his live series at the Smith Memorial Hall in Hikone. Since then we have sometimes performed together.

I listened to your joint work "Number five works Ⅱ" with Majutsu no niwa. Although I wondered how you match the intense sounds of psychedelic rock with the accordion before listening to the cd, the slow and soft performance by Majutsu no niwa exactly fits Aki-san's accordion. How did you talk about the direction of this work before playing together?

Thank you. In advance, Fukuoka-san said it was an acoustic version of the two-part work, and he lent me a manga set in Fukuoka's hometown Hokkaido as a hint for the songs. Maybe that's all. We had never talked about the direction of the work. Because each beautiful song itself suggested the direction.  But at the mixing stage, we talked a lot. It made me aware of something new.

I see. This work was released as the duology, "Ⅱ" was the acoustic version. What did you find when you discussed mixing?

I had to put my sense by words more than usual, so it made me aware about my sense more than before.

That's right. How did Mr. Fukuoka think about mixing?

Well, he seemed to want to fill the entire space with sound. It was feeling like sound coveres the room same as a loud live venue. But I wanted something like a blank space where the sound didn't reach. Because that way, the walls disappear and we can feel the spatial spread. And it feels like going to the larger space. Do you know what I mean?

Yes. Aki-san put an emphasis on so called "Ma". When I listened to the cd, I felt the mix of this work was finished close to Aki-san's way of thinking. How was the discussion about mix settled?

You have good ears, Hori-san. I guess you’re right. Mixing was done by Fukuoka-san himself, so we tried them while talking like "let's try this way” "more humid?", and decided by experiencing.

I feel the whole sound is fluffy softness and the scenery like snow scenes flash into my mind. Every song is great and the track 1 "Shiosai" which Aki-san also takes backing vocal is especially impressive for me. Can you tell me the episode of this track when you recorded?

I’m glad you have a beautiful image about it. Toshimitsu Akiko-san guided me so that we could sing together well at studio in Ogikubo. I think this song was the first recording of this album. Actually I don't remember exactly, because it's long ago.

I see. When this album was released, did you perform a concert or tour? If you did, can you tell me the reaction at that time?

We didn't have any live concerts or tours. I don't remember why we didn't them (lol).  Actually, it's difficult to balance between massively loud rock band and accordion at live show together. There are ways to attach contact microphone to accordion or use with a preamplifier. But I don't want to use a contact microphone as much as possible because I make the dynamics by moving accordion closer to or further from the stand microphone. And also preamplifier changes the sound what I want to ring.  So maybe I said it was difficult to do. Or maybe it was because Kageyama-san on bass quit the band after this.

ーGot it. There are no records of the live performance on Aki-san's website, I'd like to confirm it. Then,  I have a question about " Golden tree" that collaborated with Makoto Kawabata. Can you tell me the background you created for this work?

I think after doing a live show together, we decided to record.

”Golden tree " is finished the large-scale work which contains three long songs and the element of drone. Were there concepts or images among the two of you before creating this work ?

In advance, there was no concept or image. When I heard the recorded sound, something like 'World Tree'  came to my mind, so I named it "Golden Tree". If you feel large-scale, it would be because of Kawabata-san. Whenever I play together, I feel like I'm taken to universe.

It was the work you completely created by improvisation. Concretely, what sounds made you call to mind World tree?

It's about sensory thing, so it may be difficult to explain concretely. It may be possible to say something like plausible afterwards, but this is not logical thing, it is about image or sense.

That's right. Then, what does the world tree mean to Aki-san? Did you attach to it?

No, I didn't. It is an image that came to my mind when I heard our recorded sound. One image that this world is made of a single tree is tremendous.  That stirs up my imagination, and reminds me the free feeling that we can see this world through our own perspective each and everyone of us.

Actually, I'm not familiar with world tree. So, I wonder how you knew it. It appears unfamiliar words "Himorogi", "Rinkan" "Boro" in the track titles. Can you tell me the story you decided to such titles?

Ok, the world tree appears in the myths of various countries. I'm telling about "imagination". It's not serious story. I don't have a particular message I want to convey, or I don't have limitation that I want you understand it like this. Beyond those things, there is a kind of playfulness. It's up to the person who captures what and how to imagine it. The title is "Golden tree", not the world tree. I'd like to say as Bruce Lee said, "Don't think! Feel!" (lol)

I understand your intention. I guessed there were some kind of especial meanings or episodes, because you used the words I haven't seen. You released "Ama no Tsurugi" collaborated with Mr. Kawabata again in the following year of "Golden Tree". It seems that the recording date is same as "Golden Tree", would you release it as the duology from first?

Well, it maybe easy to understand if you would think each titles are small poem. It would be nice if Japanese and English title give you some inspiration while listening to the album. From the beginning we didn't think it became 2 albums. There is no way to plan about improvisation stuff.

I see. You also collaborated with Mr. Kawabata at gigs several times other than these 2 albums. What existence is Mr. Kawabata as a musician for Aki-San?

When I play with Kawabata-san, I always feel like I'm taken to space. Before I knew it, I'm in space.(lol.)  I think it's a tremendous-scale, whether it's solo, duo, or Acid Mothers Temple. So I feel sound flows out from him like a dignified river.

You visited to various venues like Kansai and Shikoku for the tour with Mr. Kawabata. Can you tell me the most impressive episode among them?

It's difficult to choose one episode, I enjoyed the tour while feeling each place and people there. Anyway during the tour we drunk a lot and talked a lot. Kawabata-san and people around him are very interesting, so I feel something abundance. I think those things also be music and become sound. I can't explain it well,  but if you go to Kawabata-san's live concert or read his blog, you may understand about my feelings.

You uploaded a new song "Harari" on youtube in 2019. I felt it's different from the past Aki-san's tracks. How do you feel it by yourself? Can you tell me your plan about the future activity?

Actually “ha-ra-ri" is the past track recorded in 2013. For me, just doing naturally, but I understand your feeling.  I think it may be because of voice-layering. And about the future activity, I’m not sure yet. I’m going to give à qui avec Gabriel's activities a rest. I'll be doing something new.


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