Tuesday, January 5, 1999

Kazuya Ishigami interviewed by Robert Duckworth 

Robert Duckworth: Please give brief profiles of the members of Billy?

Kazuya Ishigami: In Billy?, Yukinori Kikuchi plays both the sampler and raw noise. I believe he started his solo activities around 1986 or so. Originally, Billy? was his solo unit. His other activities besides Billy? are: GuyUnit, which is a very large free-improvisation unit, consisting of 10-20 people, and Sandmachine, which is a duo with Mr. Okazaki from the digital harsh-noise unit Disclosion. Tadashi Usami plays guitar and various stringed instruments in his role as a member of Billy?. He joined Disclosion around 1990, and he joined Billy? in 1995. Billy? feels that Usami's sharp and jagged guitar style is necessary to balance the sound, since Billy? focuses mostly on digital sound. His other activities besides Billy? include attending Hitotsubashi Daigaku as a Musicology major, and this other project called Kaiten Mind, a Tokyo-based group comprised of 3 saxophones, guitar, sampler, and ambient noise. Usami also does a lot of solo work these days. Our audio/visual person is Hirao, whose solo activities started around 1980. Hirao's other projects include a solo unit called EAO that uses homemade instruments exclusively. Hirokazu Takagi is currently on inactive status. As for myself, I use my Macintosh Powerbook G3 to handle sampling, noise, and other digitalsounds for Billy? I started my solo activities in 1990 under the name Daruin, and then I joined the group Iguana Bop. From there, I formed a techno hard-core band called Dai Myo Gyou Retsu, and as of this year (1999), I've been doing a lot of collaborative work with Takeshi Kojima, mostly as a sampling duo.

R.D.: How did Billy? form?

K.I.: At the time when Billy? formed, each future member was deeply immersed in their own respective solo activities. By chance, we all met one night at an event held in Nagoya, at the free-jazz cafe called KuKu At that time, someone suggested that it might be fun to makesounds together, and so we just started! It was as simple as that.

R.D.: How has the band evolved?

K.I.: Well, since each member basically plays with complete freedom, it has not always been the case that the sound of Billy? has undergone a smooth evolution. As with any group, some nights performances go well, and other times, well, not so well! However, playing together for such a long time has made us all extremely aware of each other's various musical directions. You might say that this has been crucial to our self-evolution.

R.D.: How does your solo music differ from your involvement with Billy?

K.I.: Since Billy? is a free improvisation unit, my work with the group differs markedly from my solo work, which contains elements of composition. Of course, I do not compose everything completely, but I more or less create the general movements that I desire. Oh, another difference would be that while Billy? uses many "cut-up" techniques in it's music, I frequently employ drones.

R.D.: Could you give some information about who does the CD jacket design and layout?

K.I.: An acquaintance of Mr. Tanaka has done all of Billy?'s jackets. I do almost all of Daruin's jackets myself.

R.D.: What program do you use the most these days?

K.I.: These days, I'm using Max & MSP all the time.

R.D.: Please recount how you met you former composition teacher, Mr. Uehara.

K.I.: I met Professor Uehara during my senior year at Osaka University. During my time as an underclassman, I was not interested in computer music at all. In those days, I was making only musique concrete with tape and splicing block, and so on. After graduation, I became Professor Uehara's pupil.

R.D.: Why?

K.I.: Well, frankly, I was at that time quite surprised to find out that he was a good friend of Mr. Akita (a.k.a. Merzbow), and Keiji Haino. I thought that this was very interesting, and so I wanted to become his pupil.

R.D.: What did he teach you?

K.I.: Under his tutelage, noise and modern music became one inseparable thing in my mind for the first time. From Professor Uehara, I honestly learned about various aspects of life itself rather music. He did not teach me how to compose per se, but he did teach me how to live and thrive as a musician. I think that this was a very important lesson!

R.D.: How does he feel about Billy?'s music?

K.I.: That's a tough one. Honestly, I often find myself wondering the exact same thing, and I frankly have no idea. Sorry! If I had to guess, he probably likes the music of Billy?, but maybe I shouldn't worry about such a question too much.

R.D.: Does your live sound differ from your studio sound? If so, how? Describe your recording process, if you would.

K.I.: So, like I said earlier, these days, I'm performing only with Max & MSP, doing what is more or less a kind of free improvisation. For recording purposes, I use 8-track, hard-disk recording. I make the lot of my materials by computer, and the mix and edit the results afterwards.

R.D.: Give some history and current information about your label, NEUS.

K.I.: NEUS was established not too long ago. It really got off the ground in 1997. Simply put, it's a JapaNoise compilation label, with such artists as GasolineMan (from Sendai), Guilty Connector (from Kyoto), Robochanman (from parts unknown), and many others. The full catalogue will be available as of January 2000. Oh, I'll be adding Moz/Daruin, and Amessanglants/Daruin splits too. Of course, I'd like to do more with the label, but honestly now I'm up to my neck in Y2K issues at work, so I can't really devote as much time as I'd like to to the label.

R.D.: What is in your CD player right now?

K.I.: Nothing really all that exciting, because I'm at the office right now! So, in my computer at the moment is the MS-Office 97 Y2K pack.

R.D.: Have you or Billy? played outside of Japan? When and where? If not, where would you most like to play?

K.I.: Billy? has not played outside of Japan. As part of a duo with Takeshi Kojima, I performed in Marseilles, France in January 1999. Next march, we are planning to perform again in Marseilles, and perhaps in Bern, Switzerland.

R.D.: What are your favorite noise clubs in Japan?

K.I.: In Tokyo, Studio 80 takes the cake. In Osaka, it would have to be Bears.

R.D.: Do you feel that there is a generation gap between the younger noisicians and the older ones?

K.I.: So, I don't think there is any sort of generation gap in terms of sound and sensibility, but it is really difficult here for younger musicians to talk to their seniors without being completely nervous. In Japan, I think that the younger musicians are super-reserved toward the older ones. Perhaps this is more a characteristic of Japanese society itself, rather than anything having to do with the noise "scene".

R.D.: Who most influenced your music?

K.I.: Wow, now that is a hard question! Ready? The Beatles, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, The Velvet Underground, Doors, and too many others to list here. As you can see, I especially liked 60’s and 70's rock in my younger days. Oh, and then there's John Cage. How could I leave him out?

R.D.: How has your training in computers affected your ideas about music in general?

K.I.: The computer is simply a tool with which I can express ideas about sound with great ease.

R.D.: What are your thoughts about the harsh noise style?

K.I.: In my opinion, the harsh noise style is not about likes and dislikes. What is important for me it is whether or not I can relax when I'm listening to something. As you might expect, I simply can't relax with loud harsh noise. Low or moderately loudsounds are OK.

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