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Acid Mothers Temple

Acid Mothers Temple

When I stepped into Hailey’s there were about 10 people waiting for Sonic Suicide Squad to take the stage at 10:30PM. Kawabata-san was at his MacBook with a cigarette in his hand. I was fidgeting with my bag as I was walking up, trying to compose myself and not sound like an idiot before the words “excuse me, is English ok?” jumped out of my mouth in Japanese. I asked him if it would be alright to interview him after the show, but before I knew it, we were already talking about their tour and the band and music in general. Acid Mothers Temple played for hours despite only playing 5 songs, and about half of the audience had gone home before they had left the stage (a phenomenon, that I would later learn, that has been with them since the start). After Kawabata-san finished tearing down the stage, he came up to me and apologized for making me wait. What followed was a seemingly brief but incredibly honest view of the Japanese live music scene from the mouth of a musician who has been active since the 1970s.

First off, I’d just like to know how busy you are. I’ve looked up your schedule and you’ve been touring the US and Canada all of April, you’ve got a Japanese tour with Acid Mothers Temple and The Cosmic Inferno in May, Acid Mothers Temple vs Kinski Japan Tour in the summer, Zappanale in Germany in August, not to mention you put out three new releases for this tour alone!

I don’t think I’m very busy, but everyone says that I am [pauses] actually, I think I am busy.

Did you have time to check out the Denton Jazz and Arts Festival?

No. Everyone asked us that, but we didn’t go. We always go to the record store as soon as we arrive in town. We don’t need a sound check, so we’re always at the record store until the show starts.

What kind of records does Kawabata Makoto look for?

Ethnic music: not African, but European, Asian, and Middle Eastern. Basically anything besides Asian Pacific stuff. I like folk records. I like Stravinsky as well. Recently I’ve been listening to country music. Not rock, though. I already play in a rock band, so I feel as though I don’t need to listen to rock records.

Speaking of records, what’s it like to make one? Every album has its own distinct style, does that come from different approaches to recording?

No, we’ve been doing it the same way. We first just record an improvised track and then I call up the other members and they overdub their part one-by-one. I like working in the studio. The atmosphere is different. It’s quieter than live shows.

And what about your song titles?

For us, song titles are just like band names; they have no meaning. English isn’t our language but we use English to have our listeners be able to imagine the songs by the titles. We usually take fantasy novels or whatever and parody them for our song titles.

You call yourself just an experimental rock band, but I see websites and magazines often describing Acid Mothers Temple as a psychedelic band. Do you take any influence from any specific psychedelic bands?

No, we’re not really influenced by that. You know, we don’t have any melody or cool riffs in our songs or anything like that. We just play. People just call us that. I was just a kid when that kind of music was popular.

In all of your years of touring, what’s it been like to meet with people from around the world.

For us, we really just only know venues, not people. It’s just venue to venue.

Kawabata Makoto

Kawabata Makoto

So how has this tour been going so far?

It’s been good. Sonic Suicide Squad are friends of ours. They brought everything for us to use on the tour (editor’s note: he’s referring to the backline).

That must be hard, not being able to use your own equipment.

Yeah, that’s why when I’m looking to tour, I ask bands what kind of backline they use and if it’s not good then we look for another band.

Even in Japan, bands often have to pay the live house not only just to play there, but to also use their equipment.

We don’t have to pay, but other bands do. Not just underground bands, but bands that play mainstream music have to pay. It’s because running a live house in Japan is expensive. You know space in Japan is expensive. Not only that, but the owner has to pay for their equipment and pay for repairing and replacing it. On top of that they have to pay their staff, so it gets expensive. They are also competing with other venues. There are many shows that happen on the same night in the city because there are so many live houses. So you sometimes have to pay $20 just to see some underground band.

So you don’t pay in order to play in Japan?

No, when I’m booking shows, I always ask if we have to pay to use their backline and if we do, then I call some other place to book a show.

What’s your audience like in Japan?

We don’t often play in Japan and not many people come see us play. You know the very first show we played was over four hours long. By the time we finished, everyone had gone home [laughs]. I don’t do any promotion or anything like that. In Japan, bands have to pay the magazine or whatever for interviews. I hate the mass media in Japan and refuse to give interviews for their magazines. I had a friend that did an interview one time and about a month later, they got a bill in the mail demanding them that they pay this amount of money for their interview. I also hate when they ask you to send them a copy of your cd for their reviews. If they want to write about it, they can buy a copy themselves and then write a bad review about it.

Acid Mothers Temple and The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. used to be much bigger, what prompted the change down to just four members?

We originally used to be much bigger but it became too expensive to travel with so many members. Not only for transportation, but finding a place to sleep with so many people was too hard.

Has the bad economy affected the band in any way?

For us, it’s not about America or Japan. We’re dropouts so we have no idea.

And finally, is there any last thoughts you want to leave us with?

Enjoy your life. You know, we have a saying. “Do as you like, don’t do what you don’t like.”

Thank you very much for you time.

Thank you.

We talked about other things as well: The Japanese countryside, ryokans, a new live house in Kochi, running a record label etc.