The psych-rock jam band Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. was formed by leader Kawabata Makoto in Japan in the mid-90s, and has been blowing minds ever since. Acid Mothers Temple (AMT) has many other offshoot bands, including Makoto’s solo projects. In addition to steady touring over the years, there have been an astounding number of releases as well. Kawabata took some time out to answer questions from PAUL DOUGHTY, as the band is currently on tour now before they touch down next week for a show on Monday, March 11 at Mojos Bar. With a bit of translational de-lost-ing, Mr Makoto touched upon the nature of improvisation, fatalism and living in a 400 year old Buddhist temple back home.

Acid Mothers Temple seems more than just a band – but more of a way of life. What makes for a successful concert or album in your mind, based on the way you lead AMT?

We have just one slogan: “Do whatever you want, don’t do whatever you don’t want!” We have tried to follow our slogan for how we should live. Not just music, it applies to everything in our lives. It’s a little difficult to follow this slogan all the time, but this is the most important thing for us. We gave up our lives as normal members of society, because we are already out of society; we are societally weak people, so we have only this slogan.

Your recorded output as AMT and other projects, plus your solo-based works, are voluminous. What drives this recorded output ethos compared to other bands that only release an album a year?

We haven’t released any albums from a kind of big label that has worldwide distribution. We have worked with only small underground labels and of course they don’t have good distribution networks. But we want to release at least one album for each country where people need our music on this planet.

Are you a perfectionist in the studio, or are you happy for the band to let it out, get the recording done and then move on to the next project?

I’m not any perfectionist, because if I try to make it perfect, I can’t finish the album for, like, forever! Also, I have listened to music from my cosmos since my teens. I’m like a radio receiver, I catch this sound from my cosmos, then I play it for people. That’s why I’ve played music since 1978. That’s why I make music and share it with anybody who needs it.

The type of music you play is very open to free expression. How do you balance this expression with making the songs a cohesive, satisfying whole that will make the audience happy but also take them to new places?

First, I have never composed any music. As I said before, I am a radio receiver for my cosmos. This cosmic music always teaches me what I should play, even each moment by moment! Of course if my music makes people happy, then it’s the best way for me. I would prefer that audience have their opinion such as “I enjoyed” rather than “good music” per se.

For people who have not seen you live before, what can they expect from the concert compared to your extensive recorded discography?

The sound will be closest to the latest album, since we have constantly changed and developed since our beginning.

Can you tell us about some of the new members of the band, and what they’ll bring to the show next week?

You’ll see for yourself what they will bring to our shows. But anyway, I can say to you just one thing: AMT chapter 1 was done in first 20 years, and we open the door of chapter 2 with this new line-up! We are re-born!

The nature of your sound and vision is an exploratory, experimental one. When playing live together, how much is part of the set songs you begin with, and how much is improvisational?

Always the music teaches us what we should play. We should just concentrate to open our ears and listen to it carefully. We don’t have a setlist before the show, because the music always tells us what we should play in each moment.

And I want to ask you one question: what is the meaning of “improvisation” for you? For me, “improvisation” for music means “compose”, “arrange” and “play” at the same time. It’s not such a stupid, boring type of so-called “Free Music”. Of course, music can teach me what I should play, so I have always played ” improvisation” very naturally.

Even if we play the “same song” each night, it means we play ” improvisation” because we play it differently according to the time, the place, the people, etc… Nothing is the same each time. So even if the surface of song is the same, it is not the same music.

Another way to ask this is: how does the band know when to change up and finally to end the song?!

(Laughs) If my band members can’t understand such an easy thing, I have to fire them!  If people listen with open ears they can understand everything because the music teaches them everything. But if people want to add too much of their own personality to the music, then this always leads to the music going wrong. Because the music from the cosmos is already totally completed. Why does this music need any extra personality from players? The players’ personality will sully this pure music!!! So when I play music, I try to dissolve my personality always.

Owing to the “family” nature of AMT with excellent musicians coming and going – what do you look for when recruiting new members to play with you? What qualities?

I’m a kind of fatalist. So I always wait for something in my life, including new members too. Something – I don’t know what it is, god? fate? or anything else? – decides for me. I don’t need to go to look for new members because I’m sure I can meet them in one day.

Looking back to the 1990s, are you surprised the project has been so successful, or did you know that what you had to present was something many people were seeking? (and are still seeking!)

My philosophy of my life is “no hope”. If people have any hope, hope always disappoints people, even it looks like the fulfilment of their ambition. Because if people can achieve their hope, then at the same time they already have got the next level of hope, so they can never feel their hopes come true completely.

But if people don’t have any hope, they can feel glad by any happenings that it seems just 3% from other people. “No hope” makes people glad with any happenings. So I have never imagined my future. It’s too stupid because nobody knows any future. Also if people imagine some future though, the reality (result) is always different! So I have tried to enjoy my life just moment by moment. And it doesn’t matter about any past as well as the future. Because I can’t change my past, I can’t know my future.

Are you and the band getting some extra days off in Fremantle? If so – what do you plan to do while you are here?

No idea. Because when we had a day off in Australia the last time, Hiroshi (the oldest member in the band) and I stayed in our own hotel rooms for the whole day. I worked on some new recordings with my computer and equipment.

We’re not so interested in so-called sightseeing, so I’m totally not interested any “nature” (or) “park”, even if many people recommend them to me. Especially since I live at a Buddhist temple that’s 400 years old at the top of the mountain. I have only four neighbours in my area, and they are old farmers around 70–80 years old.