keiji haino
[an interview by alan cummings, part 2]

AC : What was the first time you performed as a musician?

KH : At my high-school festival(5) maybe. I was in a cover band. We played stuff by The Stones, The Beatles, umm what else? By the time I was in high-school I was already listening to psychedelic music–in Japan, it was known as "art rock" though. I was aware of Cream, Jimi Hendrix and all of that scene, but the other people in the band weren't maniac record collectors and all they knew were The Stones and The Beatles. So I just went along with what they knew... Then I dropped out of high-school half way through my sophomore year.(6)

AC : What was it about music specifically, as opposed to theatre or art, say, that attracted you so much?

KH : I think it must have been the idea of singing songs. I'd loved singing from when I was very young, so it was like I could do that, and I could do something theatrical, and on top of that there was some sort of a message in it too. The difference between me and everyone else back then in the sixties–it wasn't like this when I was in junior high, but by the time I was around seventeen and was in high school I hated communication with a vengeance. Especially because at that time everyone was flashing peace signs and all of that. There wasn't so much of it in Japan, but in the rest of the world everyone was singing songs about peace–I loathed it all. So I wanted to make music that was different from that. This all came together around the time I left high school, and The Doors just fit my ideas exactly. What I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it was totally different from The Beatles and their ilk. All this stuff links up if you think about it. Like what people always say about Jim Morrison and the stuff that happened in Miami: how he'd seen a theatre group who'd been directly influenced by Artaud and it had blown his mind. Of course, I wasn't reading Artaud back in junior high. I got into him later and then I found out that Jim Morrison liked his ideas, too. We were both inspired by the same sort of people. I don't like to use the word "influenced," but if I think back now, Jim Morrison possibly had an effect on me far beyond any ideas of influence. Maybe it's like that scene in the movie where Jim Morrison sees the Indian and absorbs him–maybe Jim Morrison entered into me.

AC : Like a spirit-guide, or whatever.

KH : Yeah, possibly. But still there are certain pitiful aspects of what he did that I want to stay away from, drugs, etc.

AC : Were you aware of Albert Ayler when you were playing with Lost Aaraaff?

KH : He exists in my memory, but I'm never conscious of him. I mean, I don't compare what I do with what he did. All I'm aware of is that he took the music to a certain point, but no further. I was thinking about this earlier–and I'm old enough now to start making sweeping statements. There are all these people–The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Ayler–people that I like. They've all possessed parts of the essence of expression. If you imagine the essence of expression as a huge object, then Jim Morrison and so on are all just a minuscule part of that. They didn't have enough–all they had was maybe one thousandth of the whole. Albeit that's a lot better than most musicians who don't even have that. I think that I can possibly become the sum of all those bits. Ten or twenty years ago, the power and effectiveness of my performances were very slight, but I have managed to really increase that through training. If the essence of expression actually exists, then I am an amalgamation of all those separate essences. Though I think that probably this essence of expression doesn't actually exist. For example, Artaud dismembered words to take them back to the basic sounds. In that sense, the bits I liked of them all still exist within me. I never feel like I no longer need Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison. I still listen to Blue Cheer once every few years. I still like all the things I once liked. That said, there are many parts of them I hate.

AC : Have you completely absorbed them?

KH : There is no such thing as completely. If the whole is one thousand, then I only want to get as far as nine hundred and ninety-nine. If there is anyone who comes after me, then they can begin from where I left off. I would like there to be more musicians like me–I'd like to meet them. The person I'd most like to play with at the moment is a certain Iranian musician, a guy who plays the tár(7). I'm not interested in the politics or system, not in any discriminatory sense–I'm interested in individuals.

What I want to know is why are there no proper musicians now? Or is it because I've worked so hard that everyone else appears so weak? Whatever–it's very boring for me. The reason why I still listen to so much music is because I want to discover someone who is better than me. I want to find someone who can tell me that what I'm doing isn't that great. Human beings need that kind of competitive stimulus to keep on going further. When I pick up a new instrument I get a real rush of power as I try to work out how to play it.

AC : Is what you are trying to communicate through music also communicable through different arts–for example, painting, or theatre, or dance?

KH : At the start I had no interest in other genres, but as I have thoroughly explored music I've found that other genres have possibly begun to be relevant to what I'm doing. As an example, Artaud thoroughly investigated words and in the end it lead him to a relationship with sound. It's close to that, I think. Through doing music, I've come to painting.

AC : Is that a recent thing?

KH : In terms of painting for other people to see, yes. Just since last year.

AC : What about dance?

KH : For me, everything comes back to sound. Everything comes from sound. Sound can be expressed in terms of colour, in terms of the relationship between people, or the relationship between your limbs.

AC : Why are you so interested in singing? You talked about being impressed originally with the power of rock, but to me songs seem to have much less of an immediate impact–less power, more of a sense of beauty in the construction or delivery.

KH : I sing because I want a sense of becoming one with someone outside of myself. I don't like using the word "message," but what I want is that feeling of union. Back when I was doing Lost Aaraaff I had absolutely no interest in that. I didn't want any points of contact with people, to become one with them. It was like I would just explode by myself, and if people wanted to get close to that then that was their problem. That element still exists inside me somewhere. But over the years I have studied different methods of presentation–whether I should explode suddenly, or gently draw people in. I don't like words like "balance" or "control" as they imply that something is contrived–I would prefer to say that I constantly choose the most effective method of presentation while I'm performing. I don't think about what I'm going to do the day before. I respond to the internal vibrations of each sound as it appears, and decide which type of sound will follow it most effectively. I construct the sounds one by one.

AC : Back when you were doing Lost Aaraaff, did you ever use external stimulants like alcohol or drugs?

KH : Never. I had and have absolutely no interest in that. And that's why I am the way I am now. I don't resemble anyone, nor do I have any intention of doing so. I want to avoid the gaze of god. God is always watching, always following and that's why people are able to do things. When I do something, I don't want it to be under the gaze of god. If I do it properly then I can avoid that gaze. That's the true meaning of being an outsider. That's where everyone goes wrong. The reason why people say that they want to be free is because they aren't. They want to be something that they aren't–but once you are conscious of that, the same state will persist forever. That's why I am an outsider in the true sense of the word–I am something else. I don't mean blaspheming and saying fuck you to god. Everyone is born a descendant of god–the true outsider wishes to go somewhere else. That's what I want to do. I believe that I need to do that in order to make my own music. There's no one who can legitimately use the word "myself"–everyone is a "too." That's why I think that I am justified in saying "I myself" so much in my lyrics. And that is far more difficult than taking drugs. What I am doing is the real stimulant. To truly perceive yourself, to realize that you are alone and then see how far you can go on your own.

AC : Have you always been interested in religion, or did you gradually begin to think and connect what you were doing with god later?

KH : It's not thought, it's consciousness. Thinking is something that you do after the event, you analyze it. Consciousness is something that exists before, during and after. I don't like this idea of just thinking... For me, consciousness is the most important thing. When I listen to someone's music, first I try to feel what they are conscious of–melody, rhythm and so on comes later.

part 1 part 3

Photograph by Hiromi Wakui.

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