Atsuo, vocalist/drummer of the Japanese doom-rock trio Boris (the name robbed from a Melvins song), discusses the band’s umpteenth album, Smile, the recent stateside tour, and why songs are like children.
Smile features vocals prominently. Did the band feel there was something that needed to be said, or was it merely a creative device?
Vocals are extremely important. Not everyone can play drums or guitar, but everyone has voice. Singing and the voice are the most important elements of music.
On Smile, what do guest musicians Michio and Stephen bring to the band?
Michio is a little older, well-versed, and traditional. Boris rock has hard-rock edges to it, and Michio gives a new dynamic to the music that makes it every interesting. Stephen doesn’t only make music but he also makes art. A lot of the band members also make art. We have a lot in common with Stephen and see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. It’s strange that he hasn’t been on all [the albums]. That’s how much we relate to each other. We always thought of Stephen as another member of Boris.
Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
I actually don’t have a favorite. They’re all equally important. I feel like it’s saying, “Which of your five children do you like the best?”
What feeling do you hope to convey with your music.
We have no feeling in our music. The emotion and what’s behind the music is an experience — it [comes] just before feelings and emotions. It’s a more raw, instinctual experience that [we] put into music, and that’s what we’re sharing with our music. It’s what comes before the traditional emotion.
With so many different albums, record labels, fans, collaborators, and countries in which your music is heard, do you feel the diversity reflects your music?
That we tour so much and release so many albums, I think it is representative of what we’re about. Direct communication is something we’ve lost in this day and age. It’s a shame — [even] interviews are over [the] phone. I think it’s important to see people face to face — that’s why it’s so important to go on tour. It’s something very basic to humans that we’ve lost lately.
What do you guys listen to when you’re on tour?
We don’t listen to any music on tour. Usually we just sleep.
What’s the difference between Japanese and U.S. audiences? American audiences are physically much bigger. In America, the dynamics in the room when you play a show [offer] much greater variety. There are more feelings and moods. Different shows also have different audiences.
Outside of the band, what are some of the band members’ hobbies?
I’m really into robot animation. Do you know otaku [a Japanese term that refers to people with obsessive interests, specially comics and animation]? I’m really into otaku underground. Last year I saw the Transformers movie and I was really blown away. I felt like America one-upped Japan in the robot department. I went to Toys ’R’ Us on the trip and bought a keychain.
I really like the way Japan used to imitate American art and culture, and recently it’s the opposite: America takes Japanese influences. It’s a loop for feedback; both of our countries are influencing each other. Wata is really into makeup and cosmetics. Takeshi likes to have time to relax, time to space out. That’s something that’s important to him.
What’s the best way for people to listen to your music?
I think one of the best things about our music is that it’s beyond me. I don’t know in what place we best communicate with audience, and that’s a good thing. We don’t necessarily need to know.
What’s in store for Boris?
During mid-April we have a five-week tour of Europe, and in June we have a five-week tour of America. We’ve also already started recoding our next release.
Any impressions of America?
Too many bathrooms are out of order. There’s always a problem [with them]. You should take better care of your bathrooms and toilets in America.