The wild and wonderful world of Bo Ningen

Sjimon Gompers

Bo Ningen

Psych spinners, Bo Ningen. (photographed by Gui Martinez)

Our attentions and minds became fascinated and fixated when we first learned of the upcoming Bo Ningen single “DaDaDa” No Recordings along with a new album from Stolen Recordings all happening this May. Combine this with the Japan by UK groups well documented work with Can's Damo Suzuki, Faust, Savages, and their own dadaist movement approved sound; we had to get closer to where the collaborative and creative action was coming from. Through overseas telegrams and e-mails, we were able to explore the world of Bo Ningen with Taigen Kawabe and Yuki Tsujii about dadaism, iconic collaborations, and their sonic foundry of sounds.

How has the shift from Japan to the UK impacted your creative visions?

We formed the band in UK, so our creative visions as Bo Ningen are the still same I guess. But we all personally noticed so much in things we didn't notice when we were in Japan. For example, we discovered so much good Japanese music and culture after we moved to UK because we can compare with UK music and culture. We tried to take the good sides of both countries and avoid what we don't like about Japan and the UK. It definitely affected to our creative visions.

What are some of the similarities and differences between the various cultures and cross sections of scenes that you all have observed that informed the poly-faceted sound of Bo Ningen?

One of the biggest difference between Japan and UK is music culture.

'Live music.' Going to the venue to see live bands is still a special thing in Japan, so the ticket prices is quite expensive even for small bands and small bands need to do the, 'pay to play.' But we didn't need to worry about that in UK, we could play as many shows as we wanted when we started Bo Ningen. And It much easier to collaborate with other artists from different industries in London. Those are the good things in London and how we made poly-faceted sound of Bo Ningen.

It feels like to me that the creative liberal arts undergrounds of Japan, Germany, and the UK have enjoyed a kind of big, behind the scenes role in calling the sounds of tomorrow while shaping the modern and post modern musical canon. Why do you feel that this triumvirate has been so influential to the rest of the world?

I think Germany and Japan have always been ahead in terms of so-called genre, for instance, Krautrock in 70s can't be really categorised into any form of genre and Japanese underground so-called psychedelic something too. I'm not sure about UK, but all I can say is Germany and Japanese have always misunderstood American mainstream pop / rock music, so even if they try to imitate the sound they ended up creating something completely unique, and new back then I would say. That's why these two has been fascinating people for ages for over 40 years.

Speaking of which, tell us stories about working with Damo Suzuki.

Where to begin with this… Ok with Damo, obviously we had known him before we actually met. We've played with him so many times now, and although we're good friends and know each other, every time we perform together we experience something different and unexpected. He never stops amusing us.

Work with Faust?

And with Faust, they got in touch with us to offer the collaboration gig with them in Germany. It was the festival Faust organised and it was so surreal as they are one of our favourite bands all time. Damo joined our session too for 20mins, it was something else, so good.

Work with Savages?

The project we did with Savages came up with a dadaist idea which Gemma brought, and after we had Jenny as a guest vocal for our song Nichijyou, Jenny and we have been good friend and she kindly asked us to compose the piece together. We and Savages share mutual understanding and attitudes towards live music and sonically respect each other. We performed together [our two bands at the same time] in London. It was semi improv and another great experience for us creating music with someone together, in a different context with the one with Faust which was more free form session.

What is that type of collaborative dynamic like?

Collaboration with Damo and Faust were the really amazing experience, it's like surreal become a real but you still feel surreal feeling on the stage…but we had so much fun so we didn't get nervous or anything. Everything was really natural.

What have you all learned for each other?

Every collaboration is different like the relationship. So we've learnt so much each time manipulating each sound.

What does a Bo Ningen song rehearsal, or writing session look and sound like? You all really forge your own sonic trails.

We make music by jamming, maybe someone brings the small idea to start with but no one brings the complete song. We have to play together and record all jams and listen them to find the great moment we can build up song from. It sometimes takes time but that's how we normally write songs.

Your new single for No Recordings is great, as that imprint specializes in artists from the world over who truly have no peer. What is the key to having a sound that embodies almost every brilliant indie pop aspect while still remaining a stand alone, and sovereign body of sound that is all your very own?

We got inspiration from many [types of] music but we never copy, or maybe we're not good at copying? We don't want to sounds like other bands and don't want to be someone else on stage either. We always tried to use our own filter to make all our influences into our own music. Also, I personally avoid what I don't like rather than try something I like. You can learn a lot from what you don't like.

“DaDaDa” is such a fun single, how did this recording come about?

Thank you!

The song was originally more abstract but we tried to make it more aggressive and catchy at the same time. It was an exciting challenge to us.

Was it inspired by Dada, or the dadaist movement?

Not really for this song, we all like dadaist movement though.

Or in any way referencing that classic, “Da Da Da” single?

No, you might know why it's called “DaDaDa” if you carefully listened to it 1,000 times.

Give us the goods on the upcoming album for Stolen Recordings. What does it sound like?

You can expect something unexpected.

It sounds loud and heavy, but also catchy at the same time.

I really believe this album will open the door for new listener, especially people who haven't listen to us or even our kind of music. And people who've listened to Bo Nignen already can find something they haven't listened before. Each song has a different color, but all merge together well like the different colors in one painting?

What was the LP recording process like?

We spend a lot of time to compose all songs in LP before recording, but recording process was also part of composing. We tried to capture our strength of “Live performance”but we also did so many things you only can do by production.

What kept you all motivated during the recording of the full-length?

Each song has different color and vibes to us, none of those songs sounds similar to us, so it even refreshed us when we move to next song.

What are you all listening to right now?

Each of us listening to different music I guess.

I [Taigen] listen to Bass/Grime Music(UK) and Idol Musc(Japan) and some of the new music movement like Gorge and Juke inspire me sometimes.

What are some of your favorite vintage, 'desert island records' that you have to have on you all times?

Yuki: Sibylle Baier Colour Green, Robert Wyatt Shleep, Robbie Basho Twilight Peaks.

Are there any other future collaborations in the works we should know about?

Not officially yet, but hopefully we can announce exciting collaborations in near future.

Bo Ningen are scheduled to perform at Austin Psych Fest and Coachella.

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