Henry Rollins: The Column! Japanese Guitar Freaks From Outer Space
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
I am off the road for a few days, from the tour that never ends. One of the upsides is that I get a chance to listen to a few albums without the pressure of a show waiting for me. I have been making my choices carefully -- I don't have much time before I leave again.
To combat the confusion and depression that assault me when I come off the road in the middle of a tour, I seek the most oblivionated music possible. When it's the "way out there" that I seek, I go right to my stash of amazing music from Japan.
It's just my opinion, but some of the most mind-frying records I have ever heard have been made by Japanese artists. Sure, Jimi Hendrix will always be my favorite guitar player -- after all, I was raised with his music, and those sounds are burned deep into my mind. But picking up the baton and blasting fearlessly into the vast darkness of the unexplored regions of the cosmos are ultimate guitar freaks like Makoto Kawabata of the 10,000-light-years-from-home house band Acid Mothers Temple.
Thankfully, they release a record every few months, it seems. Their music escapes description, besides going from gentle cosmic shifts to the sound of complete volcanic guitar overload. Then there is Kawabata's immense catalog of solo releases, which run the gamut from gorgeous to completely mad. It all sounds good to me.
On a far more scorched plane, perhaps my favorite living guitar player is also from Japan, Keiji Haino. The recordings he made with Fushitsusha, his rock band (I use the term as a loose identifier because most rock music would be incinerated by wandering within 10 miles of this outfit), are some of the heaviest guitar records ever made. The massive sheets of hot steel that come from Haino's speakers on the Live 1 album are completely crushing.
Haino has released dozens of solo recordings that are so heavy, they are at times hard to get through. One of his earliest solo efforts, Watashi Dake, sounds like a man playing guitar while disemboweling himself. This is not easy listening and honestly, I cannot recommend these records, but damn, they work for me!
Perhaps one of the most interesting bands in Japanese music is Les Rallizes Dénudés, featuring the elusive guitarist Takashi Mizutani. To make things all the more confusing, challenging and frustrating, the band didn't really release any records, so what is available are live recordings put out by do-gooder labels that have come into possession of live source material. Some of the recordings come in at quite a cost.