By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
Bo Ningen, a punky-psychedelic quartet of Japanese musicians based in London, England, brought their distinctive sonic brew to Seattle’s Showbox Theater on October 4th, opening for Kasbian. They consist of bassist/vocalist Taigen Kawabe, guitarist Yuki Tsujii, guitarist Kohhei Matsuda, and drummer Monchan Monna. The quartet pecked out some email answers to interview questions in the van, somewhere on the great-wide road.
NWAW: What have been your favorite experiences playing in the United States, so far?
Taigen Kawabe: If I can choose two, Coachella and Austin Psych Fest would be my favorite experiences to play in the US. Really different audiences/vibes/concept, but I really love both festivals.
NWAW: How do American audiences differ from Japanese audiences?
Kawabe: American audiences definitely respond more directly to your performance, but it doesn’t mean Japanese audiences are worse. They are normally quieter than Americans, but they do really focus and concentrate on performance.
NWAW: How do audiences in Japan’s big cities differ from audiences in smaller towns?
Yuki Tsujii: Normally audiences in smaller cities have more passion when it comes to live music. Tokyo is bit like London.
NWAW: How did the band get together initially?
Tsujii: Through friends in common. Taigen and Kohhei met first, and I joined the jam in the studio, met Taigen through another mutual friend next, then Monchan finally joined. I think it all happened organically.
NWAW: How did the name “Bo Ningen” come about?
Tsujii: A friend once described our figure 2D as we are very thin. And Bo Ningen stands for “stick men.” So there is nothing cool… we are skinny.
NWAW: What are the band’s biggest influences? What acts and what records did the band members grow up listening to, and what did they learn from those records?
Matsuda: We all have very different points of influence, but share some, like the German band, Can, for their mature experimentalness and great sense of pop melody. Many people don’t like Can’s later records, but I prefer them.
NWAW: How does the band go about writing songs?
Matsuda: We jam, record, listen, edit and then jam, record, listen, edit and then play. It’s a long process.
NWAW: How does the new album [“III”] compare and contrast to the earlier albums?
Matsuda: It has got more accessibility in a sense…It has a much thicker undercurrent. Loads of experiments in melody/rhythm/harmony/sound are happening.
NWAW: You’ve collaborated with the former Can singer, Damo Suzuki, the German band Faust, and the English band Savages. How did you meet these folks? What were the most challenging parts of these collaborations?
Monna: We met Damo Suzuki and Faust through our friends. Jenny [Beth] and Gemma [Thompson] before they formed Savages five years ago, at the festival curated by British Sea Power in North Yorkshire, UK. When we collaborated with Damo and Faust, it was nine of us on stage at the same time so it was crazy to play music in a good way. What we tried to do is to be pure and concentrate on music.
NWAW: What are the band’s plans for the future?
Monna: After the Kasabian support tour, we have own tour in the US and we are going to support The Band of Skulls in UK. Then collaborate with Savages and go back to Japan and Australia after that. So pretty much many things will happen in 6 months. (end)
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at email@example.com.