Bo Ningen Interview
Whether it’s hanging upside down from steel piping, adorning luscious silk dresses or flipping over tatty snare drums, Bo Ningen have carved out a name for themselves as being one of the most formidable and bewitching live acts in the UK. Aside from the theatrics, the foursome’s music is pretty shit-hot too, combining heavy psyche with Japanese experimentation and just about whatever else is readily available to their tinnitus suffering ears.
Such readiness to adopt to their musical surroundings has given BN the opportunity to take part in some truly amazing collaboration work across various cultural forms, culminating in shows with experimental demi-God Damo Suzuki and a live album released last week, Foreign Affair Confidential.
Performing in Copenhagen for the very first time as part of a collaboration project with post-YBA darlings Tim Noble & Sue Webster, I stopped by to chat to the London based noiseniks about hair, Japanese Pop Idol mash-ups and some deafeningly loud musical bliss.
How did you come to get involved with the post-YBA artist duo Tim Noble and Sue Webster? And what’s this whole collaborative HAIR project about?
TAIGAN (Bass, vox): In the beginning we met Tim and Sue when they held an artist-on-artist interview with us for Beat Magazine.
YUKI (Lead guitar): They were really into our look and hair I think.
T: Yeah. On the day of this interview, as a gift, we all gave them one hair each from our heads, which they then decided to create this little stop motion animation with. They invited us to perform at an exhibition they were holding at Venice Benialle, and we performed live with their work being projected behind us. And now (at CPH:PIX) the installation has reached its second stage.
So there was no influence from the swinging sixties musical HAIR then? You guys didn’t all get naked and sing about the age of Aquarius?
T: Unfortunately not. I haven’t seen it, but I like the whole hippy thing.
How important is external input for you as a banded unit? Is there anyone you would like to work with in the future?
Y: There’s a sculptor called Martin Sexton who we worked with on a project back in 2010 called Seen at the Maurice Einhardt Neu Gallery. His part was a huge Marshall amps stacks tower…[http://www.concreteandglass.co.uk/category/Music]
T: Yeah, like Stonehenge.
Y: A shamanic Stonehenge with feedback buzzing through it. We played alongside that, which was nice.
T: For any show, it’s important for us to adapt to the setting and surrounding, and also the atmosphere. The space today has some great echo, so we want the show to be loud and a bit tighter than usual. You might see more shape in the songs today, you might not, we’ll see how it goes.
Together for eight years, you’ve been able to meet some amazing people across all artforms. Does that reflect the BN sound?
T: I Think so. We like to crossover and mix with musicians and fashion designers, art, and whatever else we see. Music wise, we aren’t fixed on a certain sound. We just like experimenting. Working with Damo, he is really into improvisation.
KOHHEI (rhythm guitar): Yeah, he’s from that generation, one of the originals. We’ll be putting out a record with him soon, it feels like a dream.
T: The weirdest collaboration so far was Japanese Idol. It’s something different to what you see in the States, a lot more subcultural than mainstream. We worked with this pumped girl group called Momoiro Clover Z. We did a half-acoustic set in an arts space. The drums totally muted, covered in carpet, acoustic guitar, low, low bass. No pedals. Totally stripped down. Quite like sixties/seventies loose psyche, with the idols singing over the top.
Bo Ningen – unplugged?
T: Yeah, it surprises people sometimes, but it happens. My mum is a Japanese folk artist so I’ve always had that sense of stripped down melody around me. There’s actually a lot of similarities between Japanese Idol music and noise subcultures in Japan. They are both crazy, but in totally different ways. I’ve put out a mashup online of a BN recording with Momoiro Clover Z. It’s sketchy, but it works surprisingly well.
I have a bootleg recording of the performance, I just need to master that too.
You’ve been in London for eight years now, do you feel at home now, or are your Japanese roots hard to shake?
T: Well, we’re all slightly different, but we’re all not local Londoners yet. What is really good living in the city is that I get a really different perspective of Japanese culture and music. I can actually see more artistic expression of Japan in London than I perhaps might at home. It’s good sitting on the fence as I can see the good and bad things of both worlds and how they mix. So, I feel inbetween. That’s perhaps why our sound is not exactly Japanese, not particularly London either, it’s a different beast.
You put out a Record Store Day 10” in April, what else can we expect soon?
Y: There’s a Damo project to be released, a few fashion things, side projects and a tour with our friends The Horrors. We like to keep busy.
T: The second album is already recorded, and I’m in the process of mixing it right now. It’s really different from the last album, the recording situation was looser. We have so many different ideas working at the same time, song wise it’s a lot more diverse than the last album. A lot more Japanese heavy psyche, but it’s also a lot more tuneful and melodic. That’ll be out on Stolen in October.
We’re still trying to make a name for ourselves live before that big release. We always have something to do and love improvising live. It’s like we become possessed whenever we get on stage and we want the audience to be involved in the trance too.
Bo Ningen are probably playing near you very soon. For tour dates and recordings head to the Stolen Recordings website.