This FAQ is made up of extracts from the many, many English interviews that Kawabata Makoto has replied to over recent years. We hope that it deepens your understanding and interest in AMT. The existence of this FAQ is of course due to the questions that many writers have put to us, and to them we offer our thanks. Thanks also to Alan Cummings who translated many of these interviews into English.
Q002: Do you really live together communally as The Acid Mothers Soul Collective? Where? What do the neighbors think of you? Do you still feel that Japan is a very conservative culture? Tell us about some of the other members, the dancers, painters etc.
Q005: You say that sometimes you get members to send you their parts on tape, and then you put them together by "chance". Do you mean like a tape collage, or just by trying combinations and finding, by chance, an arrangement that works?
Q008: Tell me some details about some of the groups on the "Early Works 1978-81" 10 CD set ? What inspired you to start making your own music? What was the Japanese scene like then? Were you aware of it or did you tend to look abroad? Were bands like Rallizes, Taj Mahal Travellers, Fushitsusha, Abe, Takayanagi and Tori Kudo important in Japan? How do you feel about these musicians?
Q009: You mentioned that you think that trip music is totally different to psychedelic rock -- can you elaborate on the difference, for others? Many people, of course, will think that they are the same thing.
Q018: You say that you taught yourself to play guitar and other instruments, and that you're transforming sounds in your head into music for people. Do you ever feel limited in trying to work with these sounds? Are you getting closer to reproducing them exactly? How do you communicate them to other musicians if you're collaborating?
Q019: With regard to side projects and collaborations, my impression was that AMT tracks are composed collaboratively as well, but within the group structure. You mention in one interview that you regard yourself as the producer but not the leader, as the group members must be allowed to contribute their own strengths and weaknesses. How are AMT tracks composed then? Each is credited to different band members and guests. I imagined that when members were together in the studio you would record 'spontaneously' with whoever was there and then assemble tracks together from this base, maybe blending in other sounds and intros afterwards.
Q020: Acid Mothers Temple have been playing for 5 years now. Do you regard this as your most central project? I ask this because you continue to make music with a range of collaborators in different 'side-projects'. You also have had a very rich musical history to draw experience from. Has AMT therefore come to be the closest to your vision of 'absolute music' or is it that the philosophy of the band best captures your own personal philosophy?
Q022: On collaborations again, Haco has appeared on two AMT albums now, and the floating line up also has consisted of members of other Japanese bands, Tatsuya Yoshida was from Ruins. How do the collaborations come about?
Q023: Buddhist ideas and imagery seem to guide the philosophy of AMT. For instance, the track 'Psycho Buddha' off New Geocentric Worlds, and the use of terms like Aum, Mu and zen in the other albums and track titles. Are you particular strong Buddhist believer or is it a natural product of your Japanese heritage? Masaki Batoh was also heavily into religious energy in his music, for instance Ghost's Temple Stone album recorded at different temples. Have AMT ever attempted to use such energy or tap into the 'sound' of temples and holy places directly? You once wrote music for 100 Shingon Buddhists. Do you plan anymore religious compositions? Do you use many Buddhist musical motifs in the AMT sound that the western audience might not be aware of? I know you use many traditional instruments. Is this purely for sound and texture or is there any religious significance in their use?
There seems to me to be a very crucial dynamic to the music that revolves around the Buddhist principles of Yin and Yang. Your music seems at first chaotic, dense and super-sensory. But I remember when I saw you play live that after awhile I was overcome by a sense of calm and greater tranquility, as if the noise had gone to the extreme which was the same as silence but opposite. At the peak of chaos and freakout is tranquility. Do you think a Yin/Yang idea of opposite exists in the music you play? Do you ever play the music deliberately to achieve this kind of harmony?
Q024: Leading on from Buddhism is the bands philosophy of space and UFOs. You mentioned hearing sounds as a youth and believing they came from UFOs. Do you still hear those sounds? Your music at times has been an attempt to recreate these sounds. Do the sounds you hear change/evolve as you come closer to reproducing them? Are the sounds you hear the same as 'absolute music'? You once held a UFO summoning ceremony in Japan. Have you ever seen a UFO? Have you ever tried to perform live at mystical sites like Stonehenge or similar places in Japan to conduct the energy of these places?
Q031: What is so amazing about the Japanese scene and your work is the vast output of recordings under a variety of group names? What drives you to create so much? Do you worry that you will swamp the world with too many releases?
Q042: Why did you decide to rename The Melting Paraiso UFO as the Cosmic Inferno? Do you think Dante's Divine Comedy is at all relevant to your music? Can you describe your interest in the ideas of Heaven and Hell? Do you plan to continue as the Cosmic Inferno for as long as you did with the Melting Paraiso UFO?
Q043: You have described your music as totally "retro" and "rock n' roll". Do you see any opposition between the power of old-fashioned rock and roll and your transcendent ideas of trip music? How does this tie into your interest in electronic music and musique concrète? Is the idea of being "progressive" in music important to you at all? You say that "All we want to do is play music that rocks and is cool", but think that a lot of very "normal" modern bands would say the same thing. What is the difference between them and AMT, in your opinion?
Q044: I am interested in the "pure tones from the universe" that you hear in your head -- do you believe now, as you did when you were a child, that alien intelligence is trying to contact you, or that you have a connection to the cosmic principle, or do you feel that you have an imagination that is especially suited to spiritual music?
Q045: can you explain your idea of the cosmic principle and further than you have already? what does this principle mean to you, in your goals as a musician and your day-to-day life? Is this cosmic principe always tied to music?
Q051: You've had several hundred thousand million guests. That's pretty interesting, what happens when you have albums, such as IAO CHANT FROM THE COSMIC INFERNO that deal with the past, or past bands (such as GONG), what prompts this, makes it happen, etc?
Q053: There is a definitive psych-freak-out-etc. feeling behind everything that you do, but most notably the music and art. What prompted this "21st Century Freakout?" How serious do you take the ideas of the psych movement (communal living, drugs, flying dolphins, whatever)?
Q054: What are your feelings on the technological revolution that has happened in music, especially since the sixties? Are things like digital modulators, recording software, keyboards, an interest to you? Do you feel that if it has changed the face of music it has been for the better or worse?
Q060: What sort of philosophies do you entertain or live your life by? I am thinking of one philosophy you talked about, mainly that Rock is a way of life...could you elaborate on that more? What are your ideas of fate and chance and how they play into music and life?
Q061: What are some of your favorite books? In a past interview you mentioned having read historical novels and biographies on famous people...do you admire anyone now? What is your favorite historical period and why?
Q063: In the past, you've said that you didn't envision Acid Mothers Temple as an ongoing project. Yet, almost five years after the debut on PSF the band is still going strong with multiple releases last year alone. What made you decide to change your mind?
Q065: You recently recorded a full collaboration album with Afrirampo, whom you helped to get known when you invited them on "Minstrel In the Galaxy" and released their first record. How did you discover them? What do you like especially in them?
Q070: First off, a friend of mine really wants to know about the band and the Moomin. What was the genesis of "The Hattifatteners Song?" Are there other cartoon characters or whimsical creatures that you are particularly fond of? Do you ever read children's books?
Q071: I absolutely love the quote, "I think that it was maybe because I had music that I never became a terrorist." Were you an angry young man? What kind of schools did you go to, and how did you feel in them?
Q072: I am very curious about life in Japan. It seems to me that the vast majority of people are conformists; that most of the more educated and comfortable people in Japan are the least interesting! The most creative, intelligent, and interesting people seem to be outsiders, drop-outs, misfits, rebels. Is this accurate? Is life in Japan stifling or uncomfortable for you? Do you feel that AMT are under-appreciated in Japan?
Q075: Are you aware of your influence on young Japanese? How would you like to influence people through your music? (Is there a "political meaning" to AMT's music? Have you ever intended any of your music in the spirit of protest? How do you feel about the jeitai's involvement in Iraq?).
Q076: When people of one culture adopt the forms of another culture, they almost always do it partially - selecting things that fit their needs and the absences in their own culture. (When westerners try to learn about Buddhism or martial arts, they usually only select things that fit their needs and leave a lot out). Would you feel comfortable with saying you've adopted aspects of the 1960's rock culture, to suit your needs, or do you think of rock as universal and international? Was there ever a time when it felt foreign or exotic? Is there anything you feel you've left out of this "adoption?" Is there anything you actively WANT to leave out? Do you study about the socio-political context of rock in the 1960s in America or England...?
Q078: How do you feel touring? What are your impressions of Canada? What are you impressions of the United States? What do you like most? What do you like least? When you get back to Japan, what do you feel you've missed most? What do you feel most annoyed to be reminded of?
Q079: Japanese audiences seem to know how to listen to music a whole lot BETTER than western audiences. I mean - I saw a Haino Keiji show in Koenji, and was stunned at how silent and attentive everyone was. They waited til the end of the whole 40 minute set to applaud, didn't order drinks while he was performing (or managed to do so while remaining completely silent), and they really LISTENED. How do Japanese and North American audiences differ, in your opinion? Is there a good side/ bad side to western audiences?
last updated: 10/Jun/2007