It’s difficult to believe that Japan’s Boredoms have been in existence for over twenty odd years. And ‘odd’ is definitely the word as from the very beginning they were doing things very differently to everyone else. Initially their sound was a crazed frenetic wrong rock, a hyperactive mixture of punk, No Wave, and experimental noise that produced an intense somewhat manic totally ludicrous sound, filled with front-man Eye’s banshee wails and music that obeyed a demented internal logic. In fact it was this insanity that had Eye courted by no less than John Zorn to join his iconic downtown supergroup Naked City.
However somewhere in the mid 90’s things began to change. Gradually they left behind the noisy stupidity of their youth and began to embrace a more spiritual approach to their sounds, influenced by DJ culture and trance music. Around 2000 their Vision Creation Newsun album heralded a new direction for the band, featuring epic space jams, a less abrasive, more psychedelic and highly percussive approach. They also handed over their entire catalogue to techno producer Ken Ishi, DJ Krush and Unkle for remix albums, put out an album with Ween entitled Z-Rock Hawaii, lost half their members and splintered off into countless side projects such as Yoshimi’s 00I00, AOA and Eye’s numerous art projects and remixes. The band lay dormant for inordinate amounts of time, changed their name to Vooredoms, recorded an album in the water at St Kilda beach with Ollie Olsen, released a live album with a choir (Super Roots #9), and generally confused everyone.
Then they popped up again with one of the wackiest large scale sonic experiments you could imagine, an experience that changed everything for them. On the 7/7/2007 they assembled 77 guest drummers at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York with Eye in the centre conducting the ensemble like a manic wizard. “It was earth rumbling,” offers Yoshimi, one of the Boredoms percussionists, and the one constant (aside from Eye) in the Boredoms lineup. “Sound was like a Godzilla walking, so the impact was more than what we expected. But one thing, when we rehearse music, 13 drummers playing drums in really tiny room, at that time the sound impact was more than 77 drums set.”
Whilst you can see the results on You-tube and a newly released DVD, the performance which featured members of everyone from Gang Gang Dance to Holy Fuck, is one of the largest scale outdoor experiments in sound the city had seen. “I was so impressive for this intense phenomenon,” exclaims Yoshimi. “In the outside, 77 drummers playing on the ground near the water and with lots of air, it was 77 drums come together, more than a big sound.”
It’s a concept they have continued to embrace over successive years.
“After 88 boredrum it’s like playing with numbers,” Yoshimi explains. On the 7/7 2007 we played music in 77 drummers, 8/8 2008 we played music in 88 drummers. 9/9 2009 we played music in 9 drummers then 10/10 2010 we are going to play music in 10 drummers. At the moment Boredoms has got 7 drummers, so we are thinking we are going to Australia, we should feature 3 local Australia drummers and play music with us.”
In fact the band are increasingly drawn to introducing others into their sound and music making process. To do this in a way that isn’t complete chaos they place some restrictions and limitations around the performers, asking them to play together in pre determined ways. Within reason.
“They bring so many different atmospheres of drumming for us,” confirms Yoshimi. “We can’t control everything… we are making a song possibly to what we can all play. Limitation isn’t control for us,” she continues, “we needed limitation, but it is ok to not come together sometimes, so loose sound is good.”
As a result their live shows have become renowned for their relentless tribal percussive energy, a grand spectacle. Twenty years on it’s still like nothing else around, with Eye, surrounded by drummers alternatively working with cd DJ’s, strange glowing orbs or his incredible 7 neck guitar which he bashes savagely with a staff. It’s a show which conjures up spiritual and ritualistic notions, something Yoshimi is quick to counter. “I don’t really care about it but quite often people are asking us this question. I think the sun,universe and natures are really great but we are not trusting in something specific,we are not joined in rituals, also we not influenced by something from spirituality.”
If the motivation doesn’t come from the sky, then the band are finding what they need in their sounds. Yoshimi and the rest of the band believe in the power of percussion.
“Drum-set and percussion are totally opposite,” she explains. “I think percussion is a form of human expression to connect nature made by god. Hit percussion then it makes a sound so anyone can do it,but rhythms are effected by what kind of blood you have.”
These days their music feels more organic, like it has been borne from epic studio jams, perhaps pieced together later. This is somewhat of a shift from their earlier material which very much involved the layering of sounds and utilising the studio as a tool. Nowadays with the studio recordings slowing down to a trickle the focus appears to be very much on performance, and their song writing process reflects this.
“Sometimes it starts from rhythms, sometimes it starts with a phrase, we are making songs that are possible to play in live show. So all of us arranging songs, we are making songs as like what an average bands does. Most recent song we produced was Eye offered us to make a song and Eye is constantly spitting same single sound in fast tempo so we produced a song stable for his idea. It is like in a way making a song for live show, but studio recording songs are slightly different.”