The Eyes Have It: Exploring The Cosmic With Drum Eyes
Simon Jay Catling
, August 18th, 2010 07:57
DJ Scotch Egg - also known as Shige - has left his day job behind to focus on his wonderfully warped Drum Eyes project. He talks to Simon Jay Catling and Luke Turner about his new album Gira Gira
You might better know Tokyo-born Brighton resident Shige as purveyor of snide earworm electronic experimentation in the guise of DJ Scotch Egg; Drum Eyes, by contrast, is an ever-growing beast, Shige pulling in members of various other bands (a former Boredom here, a Sloath there) to help realise his vision. "The dynamics between musicians can make for more dynamics in the music, and I couldn't do that alone," says Shige of what his new troupe offers that the Scotch Egg doesn't. "We aren't trying to be like any one band, or any one thing," he adds. You can hear this in the six righteous tracks that make up Drum Eyes' debut album Gira Gira (not a tribute to the Swans mainman, but Japanese for Bling Bling). There are elements of prog, psychedelia, strung-out metal, squelching, ancient synths, a diversity of approach that's perhaps the result of Shige's own sprawling music taste.
Drum Eyes share with the likes of Teeth of the Sea and Chrome Hoof a refusal to accept boundaries, and a recognition that making vaultingly ambitious, almost luridly grandiose music is nothing to be ashamed of in an age where quiet craft, whether you're a bedroom electronic auteur or worthy indie troupe, reigns fustily supreme. So Gira Gira's rings of Saturn guitar, dragon vomitus synthesisers and Valhalla's collapsing staircase heroics are built into songs in tribute to Takeshi Kitano's Hana B, or Future Police and Future Yakuza, two songs that "imagine how in the future they will become the same". 13 Magician, meanwhile, was created by what Shige calls a Drum Eyes Orchestra that featured 13 musicians playing "three saxophones, three drums and two guitars" and other instruments that Shige can't seem to remember, so lost were Drum Eyes in all the hocus pocus of creating a track that sounds like a fleet of alien spacecraft coming to steal your garden shed and take it to the nth dimension.
The Quietus teamed up Luke Turner with Simon Jay Catling to try and make sense of Drum Eyes' ever shifting world.
Hi Shige, how's it going?
Shige: Yes, yes, how are you man?
Good thanks. So, a lot of people know you before Drum Eyes as DJ Scotch Egg, what made you decide to move on from your solo work into Drum Eyes?
S: Because it was more interesting, I like a lot of different music so it was more important for me to do more things rather than just one.
Did you think people were starting to label you as creating just one style?
S: Yes definitely, because I listen to a lot of music, yeah that's it.
**At the same time though you must've taken aspects of your solo work and put them into Drum Eyes, or would you say that they're a complete departure?
S: Yeah, it's a different approach to the music I think, it's quite important for me to twist the boundary of what I can do.
When did Drum Eyes start?
S: We started maybe three years ago, but properly it's been one year. Until then it was up in the air. We didn't practice much.
And did it work creatively in the beginning?
S: In the beginning I composed some songs, just with Gameboy sounds again, and I asked my friend to play drums along to it.
What does Drum Eyes do that Scotch Egg doesn't?
S: To make less intense music. The dynamics between musicians can make for more dynamics in the music, and I couldn't do that alone.
The press release I have says that its songs that have come from your ideas, but I've read other interviews which suggest it's a group project.
S: Well mainly we jam and I cut the good bits to use as songs, but no, it's not so much that I'm making songs, it's more everyone making contributions nowadays.
How do you find it being in a band as opposed to working by yourself?
S: It's just a different style of working. My solo project is much quicker because I can make it by myself, but when you're working with other people you talk about it with other band members and make decisions with other people. But it's become similar because nowadays if I make my own music as DJ Scotch Egg I just ask my friends what they think.
So you've found it easy to adapt then?
S: Yes, definitely. It's more interesting and if you have friends who can give you honest opinions that's really good to work with, they can say "this is shit" to me. I think it's also good to go from instinct though, it's much more powerful. Somehow there's more energy there. Nowadays even my Scotch Egg stuff is getting really minimal because I'm making quick decisions and going with it rather than overworking it. I think if you do that you lose the energy of it.
From listening to Gira Gira, there's such a range of influences in it. For you it must be the challenge to bring them all together to create the cohesive whole
S: Yes, I enjoy fusing it together. Not like some bands; without wanting to name anyone, you see some of them and it's really obvious that they're trying to sound like this band or this band.
Well sure, there's a big difference between taking someone's work and copying it and taking it and making it your own.
S: Yeah, totally. I just don't like how some bands use obvious techniques to try and sound like others.
**With Drum Eyes I pick up a lot of krautrock, is that an accurate guess?
S: Yeah I listen to a lot of krautrock.
And what are the rest of the band into, do you come from different musical backgrounds?
S: Well I think we all connect with krautrock certainly.
And I guess because your output all comes from jamming and improvisation it makes the switch to performing live an easy one?
S: Yes definitely, it comes naturally and that lets the energy flow which I think is the most important thing for Drum Eyes. I think this way it's honest, which is better than trying to be something else.
How did you start out in music yourself? Were you always interested in experimenting in electronics?
S: Well I started with guitar and rock music.
What happened to get from that to where you are now though? Did you get bored of the convention and limitations of rock?
S: No, no. I've always loved the limitations. Gameboy music has them too. Like all instruments, it's really challenging to push them forward and make new ideas. And with any limitation it means you have to use your imagination more to create new things rather than just copying technical styles. So I like the limitations, but I guess I just wanted to try out a different type of music really.
With the Gameboy and chiptune music it was obviously a really new development when you started out with it. How do you think it's managed to move on since then?
S: Well I kept going with it up until last year when I thought I couldn't do anything much else with it. Because it's so limited and you can't just keep coming up with new ideas for it. But I had a year break and I've started coming back to using Gameboys. It didn't feel right to go and use a laptop or software or any different direction for Scotch Egg.
How do you feel about Gira Gira then? Are you pleased with it?
S: Yeah it's ok, but we're recording more actually next month - we've three or four new songs.
If there's something ready to record you might as well just go for it right?
S: Totally, otherwise you lose the interest and the excitement. It's not exciting if you then have to wait for it to come out two years later.
You've been based in England nine years or so now, do you feel completely at home now? Do you have strong links back to Japan?
S: Yeah I still have a lot of close friends in Japan so I still feel connected to there, but I feel like I understand the music scene in England now, totally. But this or next year Drum Eyes will go to Japan.
What will they think?
S: Maybe they'll like it, but it is very UK-influenced music. Maybe some people will find it boring. The crowds we play to will be smaller, but why not!
Why did you move to England?
S: I wanted some different culture to see. I love English music. I used to like drum & bass, happy hardcore and King Crimson too.
So you've got more recordings coming up with Drum Eyes soon, where do you go from there?
S: We've got some gigs this month, though not really a tour as such, we've a lot of band members so it's difficult getting them all together.
Do you enjoy touring?
S: Yes definitely, it's part of music I think. You can meet people and communicate properly.
What's next for you personally?
S: I'm always writing new stuff, which is good, and I'm experimenting a bit more.
Thanks to our friends at The Stool Pigeon for extra information and extracts for this article. Check out their website here.