OOIOO – Interview

OOIOO: “The music oozes into the nature of the listener”

OOIOO (Photo: nijimushi)


From fake to eternity: OOIOO may have started in 1996 as a joke band by Boredoms member Yoshimi P-We (aka YOSHIMIO),  but ever since they got more real than one could have imagined. Together with her current band members KayaN, AyA and MISHINA, YOSHIMIO explores the endless sound universe of noise, rock, ambient and psychedelic  influenced by all kind of weird music from all over the world. One could say OOIOO produces truly transcendental music.

Recently the band released their new album “Nijimusi” – and would now be on tour through the world, but cause of Coronavirus the Cologne show at Stadtgarten as much as every other show was postponed. Still YOSHIMIO was so kind to answer some questions. 

This feature would not have been possible without the translation help by Masami Shimomura and additional help by Aco. Domo Arrigato Gozaimasu.

YOSHIMIO, how important is it to you to be artistically unpredictable? And what does unpredictable mean for the music of OOIOO?

I don’t predict anything when I layer the sounds for our music, they simply have to be “interesting!” Conversely, if I would predict something, it becomes the thing I predicted. Anyway, by working  by impulse, some chemical reaction happened. At the end, it’s a great joy that I touched the sensation that I have never had.
私は自分が、面白い!って感覚で音を重ね合う時に、何も予測しないです。逆に予測することでそれに向かい、そうなってしまう。。。 とにかく衝動でやってしまった後に、化学反応を起こして、自分の 聴いたことのない感覚に触れたときの喜びは大きいです。

How important is the staging for OOIOO? Do you think a lot about the specific room you perform?  To which degree would you say has the room an impact on the sound?

I don’t know if it is staging, but I often have a meeting with the other members of the band about which color we feel for the show and strangely we mostly have the same color idea in mind. We are dressed down more than usual and we put on that color for the show. I don’t know what kind of space we can create with our vibrations, because people who are in the show affect the whole atmosphere as well.
ライブ演出かどうかわからないけど、ライブの時は何色な気分か?な打ち合わせはします。で、不思議なことにだいたい一致するのですが、ライブでは気分的に普段よりドレスダウンして、その色の衣を身につけライブします。そういう私たちのバイブレーションがどういう 空間を作ることになるかはそこに居合わせる人たちも影響してくるので、わからないです。

I ask as for example the live clip from Red Bull Studio Tokyo shows you in a very gentle mood. Almost surreal gentle. While the current album „nijimusi“ is much more agitated. How come?
お聞きしたかったのは、例えば、Red Bull Studio Tokyoのライブでは、信じられないくらい優しく、とても穏やかなムードで演奏していますね。それに比べると、今回のアルバム”Nijimusi”は、もっと過激で扇情的です。それはどうしてですか?

At the Red Bull Studio we were playing just for ourselves – there was no audience. This was just a press performance to help gathering interest in our band.  In that sense we were not influenced by anyone like at our regular shows. We recorded “nijimusi” with all band members and a sound engineer in the studio. I don’t know the reason why you feel it was more gentle or agitated, but maybe something has oozed out…
Red Bull studioでのライブは自分達だけで向き合って演奏してるので、自分達のサーキュレーションライブ、お客さんもいないし、そういう意味ではあまりいろんな人の影響は受けず、演奏してると思いますが、いつも通りに演奏をしています。 nijimusiのレコーディングもメンバーとエンジニアだけでスタジオで演奏してます。 どちらがあなたにとって、信じられなく優しく感じ、過激に感じるか、その理由はわからないです。 その時々、滲んできたことなのかもしれませんねえ。

What role does time play for OOIOO? Both regards the composition process of your music as well as regards the performance of your music? I ask as one finds the motif of the hour glass several times in your work, like in the video for „Eyemix“ for example and also the one to „Umo“.

This  is the music, these are the sounds which are always playing in my head. They are flowing like a river of thoughts. For sure I could leave it like this and just go with the flow, but within my composing process I pick up this flow and give it a form. When I listen to the music afterwards which I gave a form, I don’t remember where it came from or if it was my memory of something at the end – I feel like it’s just something that presents a new wave beyond time.
With live performances it is a different story,  they are already fixed by date, time and a setlist and the fact we are playing in front of the audience. It captures time as a point. But the moment the music is transmitted to people, it becomes a part of their time line. In that sense, the music oozes into the nature of the listener.


Regards the longitudinal section of your band. Between your new album „Nijimusi“ and the one before, „Gamel“, seven years have passed. What did that mean for the recording process of „Nijimusi“? Did you think of continuity to the works before or does such a long time period of inactivity means you start from point zero for the new material?

Actually it took a long time to record the previous album “gamel” as the follow up to “armonico hewa”. During the recording process for “nijimusi” we changed our  drummer was changed – and write new songs with the new drummer Mishina. We enjoyed the new vibrations stimulated by this very much.
gamelを録音したのもその前のarmonico hewa から随分経ってるような気がしますが、、、 nijimusiを録音する合間にドラマーがチェンジしたり、新しいドラマーのmishinaとOOIOOのリハを重ねたり、新曲を作ったり、新しいバイブレーションを堪能し、楽しんでました。

 Saying inactivity – of course this is just me claiming you have not been active within that time. But maybe you did still meet regulary to play music together. Did you?

We haven’t had a real phase of inactivity. Each member has different everyday lives and if someone has to do other work, we simply play less shows. In that sense, there are several months that each of us works for something separately and we don’t work on OOIOO. We are living apart from each other – that means we always have to  travel to meet up for rehearsals and shows; but we constantly talk together – not only about OOIOO matters –  on the member’s group email.
We are invaluable friends with musicianship. We don’t see each other regularly but we stay for a couple of days in the accommodation at the studio once a year or so and spend time together for making new songs.

What leads me to questioning the importance of recorded artifacts in relation to … some paradigma like pure sound production? You know what I mean? Is one hierarchic higher than the other to you? 

New music by OOIOO is in the beginning always created for the live performances. So no mater how I imagined and produced a song, as soon as each band member starts to play it, it gradually changes and becomes the music of OOIOO for real. When we get used to play it more and more in the show and have more songs, I ask members to play the same way as our live performance for the recording. And then I thoroughly retrace what kind of song I imagined originally and mix it down. So in that sense you can’t say one is more important than the other, it is all about the diversity of music.

How doesone has to imagine the songwriting process of OOIOO anyway? Are you improvising a lot in the studio together? Are you creating everything together or are singular members of the band bringing in prepared ideas?

There is no fixed rule. If some member brings in a song idea of the song – it will for sure sound different once we play it the OOIOO way, and that’s the best part of making music. That’s why we play as the band. One day someone brings in a sound that triggers us to form a song, the other day  we build up the things we like from improvisations.
決まった法則はないです。 誰かがこんな曲をしたいと持ってきても、その通りにならないOOIOO WAYでやることが 醍醐味ですよね。だからバンドなんだと思います。 誰かが曲になるきっかけ前の音を持ってくることもあるし、その場で即興で音を出して、ピンとくるとこを構築させていくこともあります。

On your website one finds a section called „profile“ in which you self decribe the band very beautiful like this: “OOIOO was founded by YoshimiO in 1995. The members came together as musicians who move freely between the audible and inaudible, rhythm and non-rhythm, noise and silence. The music they create is a collection of the moments and essence of their favorite sounds that they captured, as they come into being until they disappear into the ether. When MISHINA joined the band in 2016 as the new drummer, OOIOO gained more freedom in their rhythmic approach and overall sound. Just as each cell in the body consists of a microcosm of its own, the vibrations of each of the members resonate together to create a new life form.“
The question that arised in me from that: Does it happen a lot that not all members of the band actually play while making music, are there moments of chosing no music as the input in a higher sense of composition?
あたなのウェブサイトの“プロフィール”というセクションで、下記のようにとても美しくバンドのことを説明されています。 ”YoshimiOを中心に、1995年より活動。 聴こえたり聴こえなかったり、律動したりしなかったり、そして、なんにも音がしなかったり。 好きな音が鳴って消えてゆくまでの瞬間と空気を拾い集めて繋いだ、OOIOOという音楽の演奏集団。 2016年より加入した新ドラマーMISHINAを迎え、 より自由なドラム・アプローチとサウンドを獲得したOOIOOは、
細胞が抱える内宇宙のように、各々が振動し自己を鳴らしながら、 1つの生命を成してゆく共鳴する集合体の姿。”

Hmmm… Whether it’s a single phrase or a single rhythm, when we’re playing together, we sometimes respond to the sound that came out of practice and pick it up as an idea to make a song. But if I ask them to play again what they played, they don’t remember because they played unconsciously. So we recall what we played for one thing, and then we trace it back and play it, and then we find a completely different phrase from what we had initially rung a bell, and then we pick them up again. Initially we improvise and try to recreate the sound from the improvisation, but it becomes something completely different. In the meantime, we find interesting combinations. It is like blending one color and an another color and making completely different color.
うーんと、、、一つのフレーズにしても、一つのリズムにしても、みんなで集まって、演奏してるとき、ふと適当に 練習がてら出てきた音にも反応して、その音を曲を作るアイデアとして拾うことはあります。そこから、もう一度今の弾いてみて?と聞いても 本人は自覚なく演奏してたので、なにやってたっけ?ってことになります。で、こんな感じやった、あんな感じやったと、 一つのことに対してとっさにやったことを思い出して何か辿って演奏していくうちに全く最初ピンときたものとは別のフレーズが出てきたりして、それをまた拾います。。。最初は即興で出してしまった音に対して、再現しようと全く別のものになる、そうこうしてるうちに面白い組み合わせができたり、色と色を合わすと全く違う色になるみたいな感じかな、、

In preparation for the interview I watched this already mentioned old clip of yours for the song „Umo“, for which you worked with animated characters. It made me think about the tribal character of your music in a sense of collective experience. Which leads me to the question of the importance of the audience for you as a band?

About the importance of audience… Honestly, even if we don’t have the audience, we can be so excited and are able to play a great show for ourselves! That´s fun in its own way. But yes, I think the sound in a space is transformed by not only our vibrations but also the ones of other people including the audience. Also, I think the sounds we emit resonates with each person in the space differently and oozes into them. I feel like we’re creating the space for each other.
オーディエンスの重要性、、、 正直、お客さんがいなかったら、めちゃめちゃ盛り上がって、湧きに湧きまくって、自分たちだけで自分たちのこととして演奏もできます!それはそれで楽しいです。 自分たちのバイブレーションだけでなく、一つの空間にお客さんも含めてもっとたくさんの人のバイブレーションに音はどんどん変容していくものだと思います。あと自分たちで発した音はそこに居合わせる人それぞれのことに響いて滲んでゆくものだと思います。それはお互い空間づくりをしているような気がします。

How important is it to you that you are an all female band?

It doesn’t seem to be an important point.

We saw over thre last years the pleasant devellopment that more and more festival and venue bookers try to achieve an equal booking rate of female and male artists. Is this something you follow and that has importance to you?

Well, did music festivals and venues book the artist based on the gender, not music? I was not aware that such things have happened. If only the bookers had chosen the artist based on the sound quality regardless of the gender, I think the content will be more interesting. Regardless of whether the gender is equal or not, it’s better to feel the vibration of the music itself whoever plays.
えっと、音楽フェスやライブ会場は音楽ではなく、性によってブッキングされてたんですか? そういうとこがあるんですね?知りませんでした。ブッキングされる方達がアーティストの性に関係なく、音性で選んでくれてたら、 もっと内容が面白くなると思いますねえ。今、そういうことが平等になったんですか、、平等であるとかないとかでなく誰が奏でていようが、その音楽自体のバイブレーションに触れていくのが良いですね。

For quite some time you are associated with Chicago based label Thrill Jockey. Do you think this brings in a certain let’s call it coloring of the reception of your music in the world outside Japans?

On the first US tour of OOIOO Doug from Tortoise picked us up at the airport in Chicago with his car and took us to the venue. Tortoise lend us equipments and Jim O’Rourke who was living in Chicago at the time let us stay at his friend’s house. And Rob Lowe who was living in Chicago at the time was so kind to make coffee for us at the venue and played as our opening act.  Chicago is a city full with musicians, it is all about music there, so it felt natural to us that Thrill Jockey – a label which we had a lot of friends on –  licensed our records and started releasing them as American editions. I’ve been playing in Chicago with my other band Boredoms since the early 90’s and been connected with a lot of friends from those days, though many of them are no longer in Chicago. I’ve been connected with Thrill Jockey’s boss Bettina for a long time with not just music but also something other. In that sense, I don’t mind anything that would change our reputation by being associated with Thrill Jockey. A certain coloring? I am wondering what color it is?
OOIOOの一番最初のUS tourからシカゴに行くとトータスのダグは空港まで車で迎えにきてくれ、 ライブハウスに連れて行ってくれ、トータスは機材を貸してくれて、その頃ジムオルークがシカゴに住んでて、 ジムのお友達の家に私たちを泊めてくれ、ライブハウスに行くとその頃シカゴに住んでいたRob Loweが親切にコーヒーを入れてくれ、オープニングアクトで演奏してくれてと、 とてもミュージシャンシップ溢れる街で、自然と友達の多いスリルジョッキーから日本盤で出ているもののライセンスをしてくれ、アメリカ盤をリリースするようになり、 90年代初頭から私はboredomsのドラマーとしてシカゴにはなんども演奏しに行ってたけど、その頃からの繋がりの友人たち、みんなもうシカゴにいない人の方が多いけど、その頃からずっと繋がってる。 TJのボス、Bettinaとも音楽だけでなく何かずっと繋がってる。そういう意味でずっとやってるスリルジョッキーと関わりを持つことで何か評判が変わるようなことは何も気にしないし、

I was talking about a cool coloring, a indie, diy one.
Do you in general reflect a lot about the reception of your music?



Are you interested in what the people think of you, both as individuals as as band members?

I’m not that interested in it. I don’t mind how you think about us. No matter what you think, I’m trying to be who I am, seriously, not too hard! LOL.

YOSHIMIO, the albumtitle „Nijimusi” means bleeding. Of course one reads this as a socio-political statement in 2020 coming from both, the state of our environment as well as the chastening and upshaking rise of right extremist right movements all over the world.
Are you willing to share some of your thoughts for chosing the title as well as how you brought them into the musical and lyrical texture of the album?

I like “虹” (pronounced “Niji” in Kanji, which means “rainbow”). It makes me happy when I see it. But I was wondering why the Kanji ”虹” (rainbow) is consisted of “虫辺”(pronounced “mushi-hen”, which is a kanji “insect” radical at left)+ ”工”?Then “虹” is an insect? Then is it “虹虫” (pronounced “niji-mushi”, means rainbow insect)?
It seems that “虫”(insect) in “虹”(rainbow) represents “a monster serpent” and “工” represent “sky”. The rainbow looks like “a monster serpent in the sky” but that “monster serpent” could actually be “a dragon”? Dragons often fly in the sky. But dragons would not be insects. Dragons have a connection with water. After raining, water droplets in the air are reflected by the sun’s ray and act as prisms and shine various colors. I think the rainbow shines with not only 7 colors but all colors. But the first color of the rainbow should be red. The rainbow starts with red.
私は「虹」が好きです。 虹を見ると幸せな気持ちになります。でもなんで虹って、「虫辺」に工と書いて虹なんだろう、虹は虫なのか?じゃ、虹虫なのか?

I had a feeling like this when I was making the album. I was thinking like this all the time. My feeling that my brand new step starts with red overlapped my first step as if I was completely detoxified from the past. It was the time when I felt like I was dressed in red and heading into the new era.
私はアルバムを作る時、そんな気持ちでした。そんなことばかり考えてました。全く新しい第1歩は赤から始まるという気持ちと 私がまるで今までからズルムケにまるっとデトックスされた 自分の第1歩と重なり合いました。 朱をまとって、新しい時代に向かう気持ちになった時でした。

“虹虫”(nijimushi) was oozing out. So that’s why named the album title “nijimusi”. This is Japanese but there is no insect called Nijimusi. This is my imaginary insect. I want to ride on this insect and surf in the new era. This insect makes our phenomenon ooze into the earth.
虹虫が滲んできました。だからアルバム名はn i j i m u s i にしました。 これは日本語です。でも虹虫という虫はいないです。私が考える架空の虫です。

“虹虫” is “nijimusi” but “to ooze” is also “nijimusi”. Everything oozes out. It is not itself but oozing from something different and the real thing comes into the surface. The phenomenon “oozing out” of that thing can mean something other that thing. How you perceive what is oozing out from you as a current phenomenon is up to you. But your things are oozing out.
Listening to our new album, the thing oozing out of you is “it”. What I was aiming with the album “nijimusi” was that things that ooze out, are feelings that can only be felt by each individual. So  this is the only way I can describe what kind of the album “nijimusi” is.
虹虫もn i j i m u s iですが、滲むし、、、もn i j i m u s iです。滲むのは、何もかも、それ、そのものではなく、何か全く別のものから、本当のそのものが浮かび上がってくる、そのものから滲み出してくる現象はそのもの以外のことを意味することがある。自分から滲んでくるものをいまの現象としてどう捉えるかは 自分次第です。。。でも滲み出してるのも自分のことです。今回のOOIOOを聞いて、自分に滲んできたものが、『それ』です。nijimusiというアルバムは各々でしか感じられない



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