An Interview with Atsuo from the continually great Boris for psychopedia.com
-Creating opportunities for experience-
As Boris enter their 16th year as an operating musical unit it seems that they have always been there. Like one of their songs Boris have slowly shifted from primordial, sludge, to blissed out drone to raging high-octane rock and roll and then back again.
Forthcoming album ‘Smile’ may finally represent the record with which Boris sew these elements together and gain the wider recognition they have for so long deserved.
Named after a Melvins song from “Bullhead” Boris released early work on their own Fangs Anal Satan label in their native Tokyo. These recordings became highly sought after before recently being re-issued on Stephen O'Malley's Southern Lord, the label that they now call home.
The band's early work focused on sustained drone soundscapes with albums such as “Feedbacker” often constituting a single track. From their 2002 release, “Heavy Rocks', onwards, and most notably with 2005’s “Pink” and it’s Motorhead at the gates of infinity impression, the band have moved towards more succinct rock forms.
The bands more avant-garde tendencies have been catered for with the ongoing “The Things Which Solomon Overlooked” series as well as a string of collaborations with such avant luminaries as Keji Haino, Michio Kurihara, Merzbow, Stephen O Malley and Sunn O))).
That collaborative list alone should make anyone with a passing interest in good music excited. However, the only way to fully experience the bands transcendent, raw power is to be bludgeoned by them live.
We were granted a rare face to face interview with drummer and vocalist Atsuo in a central London hotel. Via a translator he attempted to explain Boris’s music.
Psychopedia: You played at Cargo last night and everyone was going nuts. It was almost like being at a punk show. How do you find your music translates in different countries?
Atsuo: Last night it felt like there were a lot of new people there. This creates a new energy. That is the only thing that differs from place to place. The energy created in that room at that time by that group of people.
Having played together as a band for over a decade and a half how do you maintain creativity?
If you approach things by utilizing the same processes you have used before you will soon become bored. We do not make a conscious effort to approach things differently we just know instinctively when we come to create that we must change the process.
Was this need to constantly challenge yourselves within the creative process what caused the shift from your longer, experimental work to the more conventional forms of your later work?
We felt that it was actually harder on the listener to sit through those longer pieces than it ever was for us to play them. Those albums were that length because there was so much in them and so many parts that if you actually broke them down you would find the logical song points. The latter albums are really just us taking out those parts and elements and ideas and presenting them independently of each other. Each album represents a unity of sound though if you listen to it from start to finish so really there has no been that great a shift. It is more a case of presentation or execution and how the listener perceives or listens to the finished album.
What inspired the recording of “Smile”? It is certainly as triumphant a record as you have released in the past. There also seems to be a relatively extensive use of vocals.
In terms of the vocals, “Smile” features probably as much voice as “Pink” except that it is higher in the mix. On previous records we have had melodies higher in the mix. The voice is just another instrument. Another melody line. The record itself was born as an idea two years ago around the time we were touring “Pink” and we were becoming disenchanted with the whole process and found ourselves obsessed with the idea of the fake. Particularly fake pop music and how that can in itself be hyper real. “Smile” is our attempt to reflect the idea of the fake. It might sound nothing like those pop records but it is our reflection of them.
In the past you have made the distinction between BORIS records and boris records. Do you see “Smile” as an upper case or lower case Boris record?
Those tags were a guide to the listener. The line is blurred now. You decide. We don’t really consider ourselves a band or what we create music. It is more just an opportunity for an experience. Both for us and the audience. Each album is essentially it’s own world with it’s own physical, sonic and moral rules. The albums usually come out fully formed. It is only in moments like this when I am forced to think and reflect on them that I even consider such things and realize that is what is happening at all.
You are serial collaborators. What does collaboration offer that you find so appealing?
Again the collaborations are not something that were, at the time, big deliberate decisions. Everything tends to flow naturally, like an alignment of the stars or an organic collision. They also remedy that impending boredom and broaden possibilities. When someone new contributes an idea we can follow that idea and see what becomes of it.
The live element of the band is obviously very important. How does the live element influence the creative process?
Strangely no one has ever asked me this. When we perform a live show the after image of that positive energy created stays with us and echo’s through our everyday lives. We then come to record in this altered everyday state. So yet again it is not a conscious process, more the transfer of energy and it’s affects and again an opportunity for new experience.