Oren Ambarchi

Images: Ujin Matsuo (color), V.G. (b/w)
Issue: #1, Fall-Winter 2014-2015.

An ongoing effort with Jim O’Rourke and Keiji Haino, together one of the most vibrant trios active, was the subject of a recent correspondence.

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From first exposures to Japanese music to making trips and an eventual string of collaborations, how did your relationship with Japan start?

When I was in my early 20s, I was living in New York in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and going to as many gigs and buying as many records as I could. One random purchase I made was a cassette released on RRR called “Eat Shit Noise Music.” This cassette is simply one of the greatest ‘Japanoise’ compilations ever put together. When I discovered this in 1991 I simply had to find all of the original LPs. Eventually, I did. Tracks were swiped from rare and early insane masterpieces such as Hanatarash’s “2” (Alchemy), and the Gerogerigegege’s first LP “Senzuri Champion” (Vis A Vis Audio Arts). Early Boredoms and lesser-known bands such as White Hospital and Grim also make an appearance. This led to a huge noise obsession for me and a discovery of other amazing Japanese artists such as The Incapacitants and Pain Jerk, and before too long I travelled to Japan to experience this stuff in person. I love the way Japanese noise doesn’t really have a particular philosophy or any real political stance or posturing (unlike many of the American and European noise artists), it’s just pure sonics with loads of enthusiasm and off the wall humour. Noise for the love of noise!

 

Around the same time in New York I was fortunate to experience live shows from Keiji Haino, Otomo Yoshihide, Yasunao Tone among other Japanese artists. When I returned home to Australia I obsessively made weekly mail order purchases from an Osaka-based mail order outlet called “Japan Overseas.” It was impossible to find PSF & other independent Japanese releases in Australia at the time and I discovered loads of amazing music as a result of their monthly catalogues and from reading magazines such as Forced Exposure that championed these sounds.

 

My first tour in Japan was in 1993 and it was an incredible experience. I was fortunate to be there at the peak of the Kansai noise explosion and collaborated with artists such as Masonna, Solmania, as well as members of Boredoms. I had seen Haino play in the States and in Japan many many times but didn’t actually meet him in person until February 2003. I was in a convenience store in Koenji and Haino walked in to do some shopping! So we got into a conversation and he came to see me play a solo show in Tokyo a few days later. A year later I organized Fushitsusha’s first ever Australian performances.

 

Then in 1997 I was introduced to Jim in New York in the same record store where I had bought the “Eat Shit” cassette. We had a brief, pleasant conversation but I only really started hanging out with him much later, in Japan circa 2006.

How did ideas to session emerge from initial conversations amongst the three of you?

Akiko Miyake, who runs a program at the Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Kita Kyushu, was the catalyst, she instigated the three of us working together when she invited us to her sound program at the CCA in January 2009. We spent a few days together and then played a concert which became the “Tima Formosa” (Black Truffle) release. We all seemed to get along so it’s always been quite informal working with Haino and Jim. Jim speaks fluent Japanese and I speak a little, so communication has been fine. I’ve been making a yearly trip to Japan and Jim and Haino live there so that’s the only opportunity for this trio to work together; although I’ve worked with Haino in Europe a few times with Stephen O’Malley on bass. We never really discuss what we are going to do, maybe just the instrumentation. Haino knew my work as a guitar player and when we first worked together I was playing guitar. However, I suggested playing drums the next time we got together and at the sound check Haino smiled and asked me to ‘audition’ as he’d never heard me play drums before— I think he was kidding but then again who knows! It seemed to work out. It’s always a pleasure working with Haino and Jim.

There’s an interesting triangle here, different segments from different backgrounds. In your experience, was finding a common ground on the agenda?

Well, I am very familiar with Haino’s music as he has been an inspiration for many years and because of this, I know                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

                                                                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

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