From Another World: Acid Mothers Temple Interviewed

In the wake of Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO's first full UK tour in over five years, Kevin Mccaighy caught up with the band's lynchpin, Makoto Kawabata, to speak about their current projects

Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso UFO are the quintessential post-modern psychedelic rock experience. Formed in Nagoya in 1995, they are the brainchild of Makoto Kawabata, a fearsomely talented musician who’d previously earned his spurs as the “Motor Psycho” guitarist gunslinger for legendary acid rockers Mainliner and Musica Transonic. The central concept of AMT remains Kawabata’s notion of ‘trip music’, an all-embracing gonzo ethos that draws on everything from experimental classical music, hard rock, electronics and medieval folk, as well as an overwhelming obsession with professional wrestling.

The band’s liberating slogan “Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want” is key to understanding the ultra prolific and highly diverse nature of their work. In a back catalogue now totaling over seventy releases, highlights include their stunning self-titled debut [P.S.F.], the French folk odyssey La Novia [Eclipse], and perhaps their definitive statement, the epic double set Absolutely Freak Out (Zap Your Mind!!) [Static Caravan/Resonant].

Though the AMT ‘Soul Collective’ has numbered as many as thirty members, their live line-up has remained stable for close to a decade, featuring long time cohorts Atsushi Tsuyama (vocals, bass), Hiroshi Higashi (guitar, vocals) and Koji Shimura (drums). Having recently completed their first full tour of the UK in more than five years, Makoto Kawabata spoke to the Quietus about what it means to be a troubadour from another heavenly world.

It’s been a decade since AMT began touring the UK. What do you most enjoy about coming to play in this country, and has anything changed for you over the past ten years?

Makoto Kawabata: We’ve loved British rock and folk since when we were teenagers, so playing in the UK was one of our dreams since that time. We’re still happy to play where such great music was born. Some things that have changed? More people have discovered us in these past ten years. Our audiences are not only ‘psychedelic maniacs’ or ‘Japanoise maniacs’ now! Especially after we joined up with Gong, many old Gong fans discovered us. After Julian Cope wrote about us, so many people discovered us. And one thing – we are getting older, haha.

Your association with Andy Smith and his label Riot Season has been a long and very productive one. What contribution has this friendship made to you and AMT as a whole?

MK: Andy was the first man in the UK who offered us to release our album. He released our first release in the UK, the Absolutely Freak Out (Zap Your Mind!") double LP, and also he suggested to us to tour in UK & Ireland. At that time, we had already played in London, Glasgow and Manchester, but only these dates, not a tour. So we toured the UK & Ireland in 2001. Some people said to us that we were the first Japanese band who toured in the UK & Ireland after Sadistic Mika Band (as a support to Roxy Music) in 1975! From that time, we’ve worked together. I can trust him very much, because he asked us to work together even we were a very unknown band at that time. We hope to make him like Led Zeppelin’s Peter Grant.

Your latest album Ripper at the Heavens Gates of Dark is a gentle, even melancholy sounding record than might be expected. Was it the band’s intention to make a deliberately more relaxed and restrained album this time out?

MK: We recorded basic tracks by improvising, from the beginning of our history until now. So we didn’t have any idea. Music has always taught us what we should play. This time, we channeled and caught this music. That’s all, there aren’t any more meanings.

You’ve had Shimura Koji in the line-up for over five years now, and I wondered what special qualities and talents you feel he has brought to the band in that time?

MK: Almost all drummers can’t understand that they should play drums as a musician. Many drummers play only as a drummer – not as musician. Because they can’t play music by improvising, they only just play rhythms. But Koji plays music with his drumming. He also plays bass (he was the bassist of Japanese psychedelic band White Heaven), and composes songs for his band Miminokoto, so he understands what he should play with us. It’s the most important thing about the drummer. Even if the drummer has a good technique, or a beautiful drum set, it’s not important as being a musician.

Do you ever spend time listening to any of your previous AMT releases, or are you always looking forward to the next album?

MK: I listen to our music so many times when mixing. I’m interested in making new stuff; I don’t have much time to listen to my past works. When music is released from my hands, then it’s not mine. It becomes for the people. So I said my music is copyleft, not copyright. People can share my music. I hope people enjoy my music (my past works), but I don’t need to enjoy my music. I think I need to make much better music each time!

Are there any album sleeves that AMT will definitively consider referencing or parodying?

MK: I don’t care about artwork. The important thing is that it makes people pick up our album at the store! Even naked women, parody, etc, I don’t care. Good artwork interests people to pick up the album.

What bands/artists have you been listening to throughout 2011?


Maybe you want to know some unknown great young musicians, is that it? Biroudoneko. She is a Japanese female folk singer. I play guitar on three tracks of her first album. Bubbly Mommy Gun – they are a really great young band from Athens, Georgia, in the US. Recently I listen to a lot of Japanese traditional music, like old folk music from the 17th century. Also some old American country music, too.

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