Japanese psychedelic band Bo Ningen hit Perth for the first time as part of Big Day Out this Sunday, February 2, at Arena Joondalup. JESSICA WILLOUGHBY chats with guitarist, Kohhei Matsuda.
So there were these four musicians from Japan that were a seemingly inconspicuous bunch. But when their powers combined, their jams evoked the spirit of ‘wizard rock’ in all its glory.
Or so the story goes for Bo Ningen. A band that originally hails from the island nation in East Asia, its members never actually started playing together until their paths crossed at the current home base in London seven years ago. Their slow-burning success has seen them go from bills with purely Japanese artists – due to their vocalist Taigen Kawabe’s desire to sing in the language of his homeland – to the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2011.
But now they are conquering their biggest tour yet – Australia. Heading down under for the first time this month as part of the annual Big Day Out run, guitarist, Kohhei Matsuda can hardly contain his excitement.
“There is so much we want to do while we are out here,” he tells X-Press. “I’m from a mountainside in Japan, so I’ve never been familiar with the sea. It’s so great just to see it. I can’t express how it makes me feel. Plus, living in England for a few years now, it’s always so cold and rainy. It’s a proper summer here. We’re totally kind of disgusted about English weather now. We’ve also been stuck in the studio recently recording for our next album, so it’s nice to have a few days off in-between the shows to relax.”
The album Matsuda refers to is the yet-to-be-named follow-up to 2012’s Line The Wall. Although it is still under construction, the guitarist believes this full-length LP achieves a level of clarity unheard on the band’s previous offerings.
“We are working on a direct recording technique,” he explains. “It took us a long time to do Line The Walls. But we rented a studio for two weeks this time around and just jammed. The record is one big jam. Then we picked the best parts and started to compose it. We found it was more sophisticated this way. We ended up having more clarity and the album became more song-based.
“We’ve also written the lyrics, but it’s still all in Japanese. We tried to convince our singer to write them in English, but he didn’t want to do that. We just thought it’d be much easier for English people to get the songs.
“His lyrics are so abstract, in a way – so it’s hard to get the meaning sometimes. He writes them in the studio, just before we record and changes them all the time. We also live in London and everyone around us speaks English, so we just thought it’d be more natural. But I respect how our singer decided to keep it in Japanese.”
But it is Bo Ningen’s live shows that have really propelled them to a whole new level in 2014. “I believe that our live show is the ultimate experience for both the audience and ourselves,” Matsuda says. “You use your five, even six senses… whatever they feel becomes an ‘experience’. The live shows totally depend on the audiences.
“Performing live is kind of a purification for me sometimes. For recorded music, you only use your ears to focus on listening. It’s totally different. But I don’t mean that our live music is better than our recorded material; we believe that we can give something you can’t get from our live shows in the recorded material.”