keiji haino
[an interview by alan cummings, part 3]

AC : What do you want to do with your music?

KH : (collapses in pretend shock) Revolution and miracles. If you're going to ask clichéd questions like that then I'm going to give you clichéd answers. (laughs) Just the same thing as I have always said, I'd be happy if my music has a therapeutic effect on someone.

AC : When did you start to think that you could do that kind of thing with music?

KH : I do it because I don't think it's possible.

AC : So it's more of an attempt, a striving towards the ultimate power of music?

KH : Umm, that's... again, looking back now I can put this interpretation on it. When I was very young there was a Protestant church(8) behind our house. I'd go to church every Sunday and my childlike self absorbed the idea that my aim in life should be to help people, to love people and so on. Possibly I absorbed all those ideas in a simple way, but I believe that they're still inside me. On a very simple, surface level.

AC : Was there music at church too?

KH : I wasn't very aware of any music there. But as an element that sometimes appears within me, I definitely got something from when I would sing at church when I was in elementary school or junior high. Even if it's not specifically Christ, I think that there is something within me. I feel that sometimes.

AC : You mean that you unconsciously absorbed some connection between religion and music?

KH : Rather than using the word "religion," I often say "prayer." To me prayer is stronger. I have never been baptized, nor do I have any intention of doing so.

AC : What does prayer mean to you?

KH : The desire that things become even slightly better than they are now. An appeal to something outside myself.

AC : You often use the word "curse," as opposed to prayer...

KH : It's impossible to explain curses to someone who doesn't understand the meaning of prayer. I use the word "curse" in the same way that I use the word "Fushitsusha." When you have completely rejected everything, there comes a time when, in order to keep on living, affirmation is the only thing left open to you. When I say "a time" I don't mean the flow of time, I mean a place. Especially in English, "curse" is liable to be a very weighted word. What I mean when I use it is, a curse that it is impossible not to affirm, a curse that has been accepted. Prayer is not a word that I use to confuse people. For me prayer has only one meaning. By way of example, I was really surprised once when someone told me that the word "Fushitsusha" appears in a Buddhist sutra(9). On one level, if you are able to explain what "Fushitsusha" means then that means that you can also define what Buddhism means. I heard that from an actual priest, someone who has read a lot of obscure texts. That's the sense in which I use "Fushitsusha." We talked about this before–how in Buddhism nothing is the same as everything, so nothingness is not something that you should aim for. And that's what a curse is, something that seems to appear on the surface if you keep on praying properly and continuously. I don't curse people, or do anything negative like that.

AC : In your lyrics the idea of the relationship between the individual and the universe comes up a lot. Could you say something about that?

KH : Could you make the question more specific? It's too wide a subject just to ask me to talk about it.

AC : It's something that you've talked about a lot in interviews, but hasn't really been touched upon in anything published in English. I suppose what I'm most interested in is this idea about a separation between the self and the universe, and what rôle music can play in bringing the two together.

KH : As far as I am concerned, everything outside of me is the universe. To put it another way, there is just me, the first person, and then everything else which is other. I don't make any distinction between the second person "you" and third person "he/she." The other, which is not me, is the universe. When I use the word "omae"(10) (you) when I'm singing, most of the time I'm not referring to one person but to everything. On a personal level I think there are times when people I know in the audience think that I'm singing just to them, even though I wasn't using the word "you" in that sense. In general when I use the word "you," I'm not using it on a personal level, because for me everything outside of me is the universe. It's very simple. It's not one on one, it's one on everything, one on the universe if you like. It's not a confrontational relationship though. Sometimes I want to melt into the universe. Because I'm here now, there are also times when I want to call up as much as possible of the universe within me. To drag it into me, breathe it all in, and then reveal it to people. But this is all stuff that I've talked about again and again, regardless of whether it has appeared in English or not.

NM : You didn't say anything about what part music plays in your conception of the self and the universe.

KH : Briefly, it's possible to be conscious of very many things, but I believe that it's impossible to be aware of the whole of the universe. So what I was saying earlier about the desire to melt into the universe, that's a prayer–and for me, making sound is also a type of prayer. Sometimes that prayer is expressed through my voice, sometimes through percussion. It's a prayer, but not the kind of weak prayer that is just pleading for something. I don't think that those kinds of prayer are capable of accomplishing anything. It's very hard to sum this up, but I think that things will gradually become clearer as the interview continues. It's probably better to ask more precise questions. It's almost like asking someone why they are alive. You can only really reply that you were born and didn't have a lot of choice in the matter, or that you enjoy living–ask more detailed questions.

AC : To what extent do you believe that isolation and /or alienation is necessary to create meaningful music?

KH : That's a difficult question. In one sense, being by yourself is lonely. That is equally true for other things as well, but because of this feeling of loneliness you begin to look for friends. I mean friends in a different sense from the universe that we were talking about earlier. If you imagine that I am here and I feel the universe in a certain way, then by friends I mean other people who are in a different place but who experience the universe in a similar way. So I've begun looking for those kinds of people. When we were talking earlier about my childhood and how I was, for want of a better word, "different," we didn't get into the negative aspects. I didn't feel lonely at kindergarten, but when I got to elementary school there was no way I could avoid it. I hadn't been scolded at kindergarten, but I was at elementary school and that gave rise to awareness and prejudice–so there was no way I couldn't feel lonely. So I started to wonder why I had begun to feel lonely, but I couldn't really get out of it. Maybe I could have forced myself to be like other people. It's the same as the way people ask me why I choose to make the kind of music that I do–but this is the only kind of music that I can make. This is the only way that feels right to me, the only thing that I can possibly do. As to whether I ever wanted to be alone, of course there are times when I want to be by myself for a time, but I have never felt like I want to cut myself off from everyone else. Cutting yourself off is very lonely. This is interesting, something that links how I was then with how I am now–I'm lonely so I make music, and the more I make it, the lonelier I get. Within my consciousness I keep on moving towards a primitive state, because I keep testing myself to find out just how different I am from everyone else. And the closer you move towards that primitive state the lonelier you become, but because you are lonely, in one sense, you want to make more friends. This is a hypocritical way of putting it, but as you do that you become kinder to other people, you begin to value them more. By valuing people I mean a desire to be of some service to the world. To pray and to make something better for people. That something is impossible to define in words. I believe that you've first got to have experienced loneliness for that feeling to emerge. This is something I've talked about before, but to expand the analogy, if you take it that loneliness also means feelings of isolation and solitude, then I want to experience the same feelings as Jesus or Buddha must have had.

AC : In my experience, whenever I see a truly beautiful or powerful piece of art, music, or whatever, there is always a feeling of loneliness that goes along with the appreciation of it.

KH : I feel the same thing. This is something that I've come to realize over the last few years. I hardly ever go to art museums, but one day when I was in Europe I happened to go into one. I can't remember the name of the artist, but there was a picture of Christ on the cross and there were red drops of blood dripping from his wounds. But while they were falling, when they reached a certain point they changed from red to yellow. It's obviously very symbolic but I felt that I had totally understood it. Blood is very vivid, very real, but it can become something glorious.

AC : Like the way something initially negative can be transformed into something positive?

KH : I think it's a bit different from positive and negative.

AC : Something born out of pain can...

KH : More like that. This is a harsh way of putting it, but I believe that people who aren't doing things properly, who aren't serious about what they are doing as I always put it, it's very convenient for those kind of people to see the yellow drops of blood as gold. Because they don't want to taste the pain of real blood. That's the way religion is–they say that it was enough for Christ alone to die, because they don't want to spill their own blood. So they put Christ up on a pedestal and call him a god, because if they do that then they can get by without having to spill their own blood. I think that those medieval painters were probably told by the church to paint the blood yellow like that. Something that was originally red. It's hard to pin it down historically–no one really knows the exact change from medieval to Renaissance, but I feel that blood was just painted red up until the end of the fourteenth century. It's the fault of religion.

part 2 part 4

Photograph by Hiromi Wakui.

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