The two new releases by Boris, Heavy Rocks and Attention Please, are amazing pieces of work that reinforce how much the Tokyo trio can totally rip as well as well as how they refuse to be chained down to one genre or style of music. Psychedelic shredders, droning sludge, and even some ambient noise are present–and how–but what about straight-up pop? Hell, yes. (Longer reviews are here.) I hit up the drummer/vocalist Atsuo with some questions about the band’s latest earth-shakers as well as Japan’s recent activity, receiving big help from Nao with translation.
MW: Were you envisioning two albums from the start, or were you simply out of your minds recording? Can you talk about your intentions going into the studio and what you emerged with?
A: While supporting Smile on tour in many countries starting in 2008, we took time to keep recording and finished what we called New Album [totally different from the current Japanese release] in May 2009. It began with the idea of making music to be put on hold so we wouldn’t have so much pressure performing as Boris, and could work with free minds.
Meanwhile, from 2008 to 2010, the circumstances surrounding music changed. It became something that is viewed as merely data, our music was illegally shared, and new songs got leaked before their official release. So we didn’t know what to do with New Album and literally gave up on releasing it, in the end. Then we made more songs, split up the original New Album, and, heading into the next ones, could see two directions. One was typically heavy; the other featured our guitarist Wata’s voice on all the songs. Then we had two albums: Heavy Rocks and Attention Please.
MW: There is a number of friends who appear on Heavy Rocks. In addition to Michio Kurihara, there’s Ian Astbury (The Cult), Aaron Turner (ISIS), Faith Coloccia (MAMIFFER)… How do you work them into your sound? For example, are they in the studio working out their contribution or do you envision their part beforehand?
A: When we collaborate, we basically give guest players as few directions as possible so that each person’s world can flow naturally. Words can be an obstacle. We like to see and hear what happens and how the songs grow. We listen to the songs, which tell us their directions.
MW: There are parts of Attention Please that seem like they’ll be hard to pull of live–or at least will require some new gear on the road. Do you think about stuff like that when you write songs or do songs just happen and you figure them out?
A: Playing live is totally different from recording, where we are lead by the music. Our live set is meant not to recreate the sounds we recorded, although we do think about how to translate it.
MW: The terrible earthquake struck not too long after the albums were finished. Do you think you could have made the same albums afterward? Has the experience changed your creative process or outlook in any way?
A: It hasn’t specially affected Boris’s activity or the way we consciously create music. We’ll always work with sincerity. But we are aware that the disaster and nuclear accident have created a big change in our peaceful, ordinary life. I think it is part of the normal world. People live on the edge of the death all the time. I think if we remember that, we can move ahead and be happy in this world.
Both albums hit store shelves TODAY, and you can check out Attention Please and Heavy Rocks streaming in their entirety on NPR. Better yet, catch Boris live when they return to the U.S. for the full effect… I got to see the band in concert for a week straight while selling shirts for them with Damon & Naomi on tour in 2007, and there’s no way I’ll ever miss another Boris show when they’re in town.