photos by NA2
interview by Damage
translation by a04 of project elektra
BAAL comes storming with polished, yet raw industrial-metal sound on a par with Tetsuo and an opinion incredibly sober and realistic. Wanna know what Tokyo is really like?
THE DOSE: BAAL was formed in June 2005 from your project Chronotrigger. What was Chronotrigger like and what made you come up with a new name and concept?
MIKITO: Chronotrigger was the prototype for BAAL. During the years that we were doing Chronotrigger, it became clearer to me what I wanted to do. Thinking about music and my work, in terms of expression and direction, I believed that it was important to become even more hardcore. In the past I was in a band called CHAPTER, but I felt that we needed a name that was more suited to the hardcore sound we were making as well as a means to start anew.
BAAL is the name of a god, but I had heard that it also means 'having three heads'. As our band has three members, I felt that this name was aptly appropriate, and so we changed our band's name.
THE DOSE: How did you get involved with the scene and how did you end up starting your own band?
MIKITO: Before Chronotrigger, I was doing this hybrid goth/industrial band called CHAPTER. My participation in CHAPTER has had a big influence on both BAAL and myself as an artist. That band was a project of KOIL, president of the New Zealand-based 'Death Elektro' label who was residing in Tokyo at that time. Working with him taught me a lot about programming and recording. He was using Digidesign's Pro-Tools as his base and that was probably what later influenced me to use it as well. We did a lot of shows and during that time I started thinking that I wanted to get my own project started.
In CHAPTER I wasn't doing any of the songwriting, and the entire concept was basically all KOIL, so I wanted to form a band where I could express my own artistic ideas. What I was thinking about then, well, it hasn't changed much. I wanted to create the ultimate original industrial rock band blending technology and a raw groove.
I really like NIN, TOOL and Ministry. I have always admired them as musicians. But if I was going to be in a band, I didn't want to sound like any other band, but to be as original as I could.
And so, the search for members began. I must have auditioned more than 50 people. I put ads for band members in all the places that I could think of. But for all this effort, it was a fruitless effort.
Going through this person and that person, most doing music as a "hobby", many more concerned about their own looks over the music, and a bunch of visual-kei wannabes. That's what I got. I became disparaged by the overall apathy toward Japanese music and the creation of art.
Whatever. Those type of people are still overloading the scene... I wanted someone who was willing to dedicate more of theirself into the music.
Around that time, the band that U-tarou was in disbanded. She was in a kind of punk/alternative band that was actually pretty popular. They sounded similar to bands like the pop-punk of No Doubt mixied with Stone Temple Pilots, but with stronger screaming vocals. I felt that the sound that I was after and her screaming would make a perfect match.
Ideally I was looking for a vocalist that transcended the conceptions of male and female. I felt that typical male and female vocalists had their limitations. Though U-Tarou was still herself struggling with her own style, I realized her potential and invited her to be in my band. In the world today, I don't think that there is another female vocalist who is as controlled and consistent in their screaming as she is. For some time after that, I left ads in rehearsal studios throughout Tokyo in search of a drummer, and CHIHIRO saw the ad and contacted me. In a single session, it became clearly understood that he would be the drummer for the band.
There was actually a bassist, but I'd rather not talk about that... Let's just say that he wasn't a bassist, but a serious motherfucker! All things aside, we cut him from the band. This was the beginning of Chronotrigger.
We gigged around, improved our performance and our technique, and ultimately called it quits.
We did a lot of shows with shitty visual-kei bands. We didn't want to perform with these crappy visual-kei bands, basically because they sit around and complaining, hacking up phlegm like pathetic little punks. I mean, if you're going to complain about others, you should be able to prove that you can do something yourself. And yet, it continues..
THE DOSE: As a major name in the Tokyo scene (as beside having a band you also organize and have a label connected to you), what's your opinion about it? How changing, constructive and fruitful is your scene? How often do new bands and DJs appear? What's your club life like?
MIKITO: I think I need to explain the Tokyo scene here. To be blunt, I don't see that there is that much to see. In Europe, it seems that Japanese visual-kei bands are becoming popular. Neither gothic nor industrial, they are being made a big deal of and referred to as "Japan Goth" in Europe. In Japan, all this attention goes to their heads and all these bands and their fashion clones and copies are putting on events every night of the week.
From my point of view, no matter how much I would want to be referred to as "Japan Goth" in Europe, I wouldn't think of becoming visual-kei to achieve this, nor will I cease to look upon them with contempt. In Japan, these visual-kei bands do NOT perform at Goth events, and they cannot perform at BSL sponsored events.
The visual-kei boom being experienced in Europe at the moment will be gone and forgotten with the next year. Most of the bands will probably no longer be actively performing. Seriously. On the other hand, we are looking to cultivate the scene little by little, but still in Tokyo you get these DJs that only have 10-20 CDs prepared, standing larger than life behind the decks shamelessly pumping out a badly mixed set. It was because of this situation, that we decided to create BSL.
THE DOSE: Under the name Brain Scan Laboratory you also do party organizing. On your MySpace profile you mention that your party Junk Children: Slaves Midnight Riot was a night symbolizing the illness and suffering of modern Japanese society. Please tell us about the woes and wraths of Japan!
MIKITO: There were several factors surrounding the formation of BSL, summed up quite inclusively by the key word Tokyo. "TOKYO" is just a crazy metropolis, a jumble of Japanese and global culture. It's a place where it is said that anything can be made popular if it makes money. If it'll make money, whether it's in some niche market or appeals to the masses, music, fashion, and whatever else gets deformed and copied and floods the market. There is nothing "REAL". That is the truth of Tokyo.
However, there are many people in Tokyo that are after real things, myself included. We have taken upon ourselves to deliver a real sound to our listeners in the scene that we are in.
We felt that it was time to make our presence known in this plastic, superficial world with real rock music, infused with a real industrial sound. And the first JUNK CHILDREN was a great success. It was probably the first real industrial event in Japan. Every band that was involved raised the crowd inspired madness in the audience and the response was like nothing I had ever seen at an event. We understood that people were really looking to hear genuine hardcore industrial music.
I was really moved. I felt that the audience really understood what we were trying to express on stage.
THE DOSE: You also mention that Junk Children's power marks the dawn of a new ear of Goth and underground music. What was the power that caused such a strong statement? How will Junk Children be continued?
MIKITO: I believe that we have created a new facet on the underground music scene here. I think that a major factor that brought this about is that we only use artists and DJs that are really dedicated to their craft. At each event, we prepare three "Deathly Drinks", orginal cocktails based on the themes of the bands performing, and we have also created a visual environment that captures the essence of DSL. With DSL, we will never throw together a bunch of bands with the intention of throwing a typical Saturday night party. We will only ever promote bands and DJs that could hold their own in the more global scene, and if we can't get something that we're completely satisfied with, we'll hold off having it at all.
If we were to decide on something that came short of our standards, we'd be no better than those whose ways we can't stand.
THE DOSE: Amongst your influences you only mention American and European artists, such as Nine Inch Nails, Ministry or Atari Teenage Riot. Are there Japanese or Asian influences worth mentioning?
MIKITO: Of course there are. Going way back, there are bands like Y.M.O. and X Japan, as well as the band ZILCH that Hide fronted. There's also The Mad Capsule Markets, and I listened to a lot of indies Japanese bands from the 80's. I also listen to a lot of Japanese hardcore bands like LIPCREAM, ROSE ROSE, and S.O.B., who I'm pretty sure have done tours around Europe.
THE DOSE: What do you listen to nowadays?
MIKITO: A Perfect Circle, Punish Yourself, Combichrist, Ministry.
THE DOSE: You operate a small record label called digiblade kustom arts TOKYO. Please tell us more about it!
MIKITO: There is no industrial label in Tokyo, or even in Japan as a whole. Digiblade kustom arts is a private label that was created as a means to release Chronotrigger products. The BAAL CD will probably be released through BSL. BSL is more than just a team that organizes events. We're also planning for it to be used as a platform for releasing CDs as well. Actually, up to now we've been distributing free CDs at BSL sponsored events, and we have been able to produce a fairly high quality product.
In any case, we hope people will look forward to subsequent releases from BSL.
THE DOSE: We only know three BAAL tracks and two remixes from CDs and MySpace tracks. When will you release a full-length album or do you have any new releases planned? Are the new tracks in vein of the previous releases?
MIKITO: We're planning to release an album in the fall which should have 7 tracks on it. The album will basically chronicle what BAAL have done so far, as well as some new more powerful hints of what's to come.
It's difficult to go through the process of designing the jacket, recording, and producing an album.
However, I refuse to release anything that I'm not completely happy with, and won't compromise anything because I want people to hear our music the best that it can be. Also, we're also working on releasing a DVD. I hope you would look forward to this as well..
THE DOSE: Your self-proclaimed style is "native cybernetic heavy industrial rock". What does this style give you that others, such as EBM, breakbeat, metal or jazz cannot?
MIKITO:BAAL is all of the music that I have ever been influenced by taken apart by my mind and reassembled into none other that a "native cybernetic heavy industrial" sound. Within this sound are elements of EBM, heavy metal, and breakbeats, but I can't express myself limited by the restrictions of any particular genre. So many people don't really understand what self-expression is. So many people spew out boring, carbon-copy blogs about their daily life claiming it to be "self-expression". They are sadly mistaken.
When I speak of self-expression, it means creating something that passes through my filters, polishing it and fine-tuning it as it goes, and finally releasing it. Because I am who I am, I could never express myself by copying or borrowing. My music is the same way. Down to a single synth sound, if it doesn't contain something of myself in it, there's no way I'll use it.
THE DOSE: Please tell us, what is a typical BAAL gig like, how long, harsh, hard, loud, shocking and powerful is it?
MIKITO: A BAAL gig is really, really powerful. In extreme terms, metal is warped by the sonic pressure and the ground quakes beneath your feet. Something like that... We have an industrial sound compounded with a rock impulsiveness that I think our audiences enjoy. We approach our live performances with complete confidence. It's something that needs to be experienced.
THE DOSE: The Japanese industrial scene previously was only known to us through obscure movies such as Tetsuo, Akira, Burst City, etc. and Japanese noise acts like Merzbow. When you have to mention books, movies or other things that connect the industrial/underground scene - what would those be?
MIKITO: In terms of performance art, Ameya Norimizu's M.M.M. group's "SKIN" series cannot be omitted from any discussion of cyberpunk. Simply excellent work. You'd also have to add Shozin Fukui's film "Rubber's Lover" and "Pinocchio-route 964." These works earned him a good deal of praise and recognition from other film directors. He possesses an amazing talent.
THE DOSE: What is the Japanese copyright system, how do you protect your copyrights? What do you think about MP3, how good it is to use filesharing programs and for what?
MIKITO: Independent artists like ourselves aren't exactly well-off, and getting all of our work covered by copyrights is very difficult. In fact, we found one of our tracks that was on a German compilation being sold on the net. We'd like to keep control of how and where our music is being used, so we make no claim to be advocates of the whole mp3 file-sharing thing. The work of BAAL is not just about the music, but also the jacket design and other artwork.
When someone claims to have a BAAL release, whether single or full-length, we feel it should mean the all-inclusive package. Regarding mp3 files, I think the basic problem lies not so much in the copyright, but in the quality of the sound.
THE DOSE: What will Japan and the Japanese scene be like in 15 years? Please share your thoughts with us.
MIKITO: It's a rather pessimistic outlook, but I feel that Japanese society will become colder and crueler. Technology is advancing with new products making our lives more convenient, but that is not making our world any more peaceful. There's too much peace in Japan right now...wait, let me rephrase that. It's not peace, but rather the mentality that the wars and strife around the world are distant and irrelevant. But that kind of thinking isn't going to be able to continue, is it?
This is a society that will need to someday come to grips with the fact that there is death and sadness all around.
THE DOSE: Thank you so much for honoring us with this interview. Do you have any final message to the DOSE readers?
MIKITO: Thank you for expressing interest in Japanese culture. I think it's great that The DOSE seeks to expose its readers to different cultures and scenes around the world. In these times, there is a lot of information out there, but I would home that The Dose readers would search through it all to find something that they like and believe in their own feelings. I feel that people should believe in themselves and do what they want to do.
This is how we have come to where we are and we have made many friends in other countries. There's actually a chance that we will be touring over in Europe in the fall of this year. If that happens, we really look forward to meeting everyone who read about us in The Dose.
We promise you the best album and the best performance we can deliver! THANK YOU all for reading.