“1, 2, 3, 4”
They call him Mister Two-Minutes as Yamazaki Maso Takushi, better know under his main artist imprint Masonna, has the tendency to perform quite rapidly these days. Born in 1966 in Kyoto, Japan, after some teenage bands he formed a real noise project called Yamazaki Maso in 1987, then becomingpart of an analog synthesizer band called Space Machine and participating in bands like Triple Yama’s, Kinkakuji, Gokurakuji and South Saturn Delta & Andromelos. Together with Merzbow he was a member of the noise group Flying Testicle, and with Merzbow drummer Akita Masami he played in the Japanese supergroup Bustmonster. The name ‘Masonna’ is a mix of the Japanese words maso (masochist) and onna (woman), but is also interpretated as Mademoiselle Anne Sanglante Ou Notre Nymphomanie Auréolé (French for “Miss Bloody Anne, Or Our Aureoled Nymphomaniac”) and Mystic Another Selection Of Nurses Naked Anthology. Just so you know.
Yamazaki Maso Takushi, let´s start off with „Wails to Whispers“, tonight’s event at SuperDeluxe. What should we all expect?
We all did play together in the past, so I could definitely say: it’s gonna be a loud night.
What is your relationship to the other artists playing? Nakahara Masaya, Melt Banana and of course Keiji Haino.
I had a duo project with Haino Keiji in the past, so we know each other well. Members of Melt Banana I’ve known since the 1990s, so we also speak on a personal level.
So you are not talking about topics like that, the theoretical aspects of your music?
Rather than talking about music we talk more about instruments. If someone is using equipment I have not seen before, we share our thoughts about that.
With that in mind have you chosen your collaborators in the past based on their specific abilities with certain instruments?
In terms of collaborations, not really. The instruments are important in the process of the collaboration, but it is mostly important that I respect the person and have the feeling that we could achieve something interesting together. But often I find out that it is more easy for me to express myself and make music by myself. I find collaborating difficult. I haven’t done many lately.
What would you say is your general point of interest when making music?
It’s a hard question.
Maybe it is a stupid question!
It may not exactly be the answer to your question, but let me explain to you how I started doing music: initiallly I became interested in noise music. There were other artists back then already doing ‘noise’, they had their specific forms and I wanted to come up with a noise music that was different, a sound that no one else was doing. I was a big fan of hardcore and punk too, so my approach was it to make a noise music with a similar excitement and espressiove quality – but without using conventional instruments like guitar and bass. What I came up with was to combine physical action with sounds. Thats how Masonna came to light. When I’m onstage, there is no table with equipment on, it’s just the microphone stand in the center and my effect pedals on the floor and the ossicilator which produces sound when I shake it – the harder I shake it the more noise it generates. But the movement is very important. When I jump up and land, I might change the effects very impulsively… but– what was the question again?
It was a beautiful answer. As we are talking about the performance already: how important is the audience within it?
It is the first time, you gonna see me perform tonight, right?
Did you see older performances on youtube?
When I start performing, I am entirely focused on what I will do. But depending on the reaction I am getting from the audience, like happy accidents or whatever accidents, it makes it more exciting because I can’t predict them. Why I ask you about my older performances; well, they used to be longer, but now I put my emphasis more on the speed of the performance, try to reduce it to just the necessary elements. I start with 1,2,3,4 and from there I go staright to the energy peak – which I try to keep for as long as possible. But the moment it comes down I have to come to an end. Everything has to be done at full power. The short term is also a result of the capacity of concentration. Thats how long I am able not to think about other things, which would lead to a loss of the energy level.
So tonight will be one of the short concerts of just a few seconds.
I gonna aim for that. Maybe 2 minutes. But it is hard to measure the time, the duration, as everything is done at full power. It is all about the question of how long I am able to go full steam. Does that make sense?
It is not like I wanna play 2 minutes per se. It is more like I try to play with full impact – and usually this results in that length of time.
Is it also a reflection on the concept of time?
Yes. Normally organisers ask the artist to perform between this and that length of set. I don’t wanna fit a box like that. I wanna step out of this conventional way of organising concerts.
The question was also more about the intensity of the performance. Is his motivation to show people that 2 minutes could equal 1 hour?
The way I perform as Masonna I can’t produce a better show by adding length. It is all about full energy. So when people ask me how long I play, it is so difficult to answer meaningfully.
Do you relate with your work to the artists of the body art movement like Chris Burden, Vito Acconci or somebody like Marina Abramovic? Or the Fluxus movement. In their most extreme moments they challenged the audience, tried to change their aesthetic feelings.
I am not very much into art. It is all rock´n´roll.
That said: you play within the Red Bull Music Academy context, which is a lot about electronic music. You follow that field too?
What sort of electromic music are we talking about?
You started out in cover bands of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. How did this work out for somebody who is interested in noise. Was it just a matter of no other possibilities back then?
Probably there is not much musical connection, but it was the start point to form a band with friends… From there I quickly got into hardcore and punk, bands like Yamazaki Maso, Space Machine, Triple Yama’s, Kinkakuji, Gokurakuji, South Saturn Delta & Andromelos, Flying Testicle and Bustmonster
When you toured USA in 1996 – how was the audience different from Japan? Other ouder country experiences?
I have not been touring outside of Japan for ten years, so… But I try to remember. Probably the situation, the scene is a bit different now, but back in the 1990s there were not many people coming in Japan to see noise music shows as in America there was a real fan base and quite a few people came to the shows. So it is hard to compare.
Are you getting more requests to play outside Japan?
I do get requests, but haven’t really be able to put it together.
When you started out, in 1993, Japan was still so far away from the rest of the world. Would you have preferred to have the ease of the internet when you were young? Or looking back was it better to start off in a more isolated position?
These days anybody is able to make music and get it out into the world. When I started people had to work harder for the talent to bring them out. In that sense, there is definitely a big difference. For me, even if I would start now with the internet and everthing, maybe I would not have made the best out of it.
Do you have some new releases to sell tonight? It can be quite difficult to get your stuff.
No. Nothing. Too much other work. I can’t bother. I haven’t been putting out much music recently. In the past, when I did an album, I always felt right afterwards new ideas coming up and so I started with the next one. Recently I haven’t got inspired, so I am not making much music. I concentrate on the performances. Playing live and recording music are two very different things for me.
How often do you perform?
There is no fixed number. Every year I do this one event in may in Osaka called Mayday. Apart from that, when ever some one offers me a gig and my schedule makes it possible, I do it.