Four years after an unforgettable performance in 2002, KK. Null, one of Japan's most important and well-known noise / experimental musician finally returned to Budapest during his joint tour with American industrial legend Z'ev. Soundofjapan.hu guru Case used this opportunity to sit down with him before the concert and ask him about his history, current projects and future plans.
THE DOSE: Now you are touring together with Z'Ev, one of the most important figures of industrial music and recently you also made two albums together with him. How did you get to know him and start to work together?
KK NULL: I have been a big fan of Z'Ev ever since the early 80s; he was one of my big heroes, one of the pioneers of industrial music and industrial culture. And I think he also knew my music for a while and knew what I've been doing, but we have never met each other earlier, until 2003, when I had a concert in Paris. At that time he was staying in Paris for a few months, doing music for a theater and he came to see my show. Before the concert, when we finished the sound-check, I went to have dinner, in a restaurant near the venue he showed up there. Actually in the beginning he was just sitting there a few tables away from us. I saw him and thought "Isn't it Z'Ev?" because, you know, he is very easy to recognise, since he looks very typical. I wondered, "Oh! What is he doing here!?" and then he eventually came to me and introduced himself and we started to talk. And then of course he also saw my performance and he liked it very much and after the concert he offered to do collaboration together andand I was like "Of course! I would love to!". To me it is like a dream come true.
So, the basic idea came from Z'Ev and he had a strange concept. Honestly I'm not sure if I understand all his ideas, but they are based on traditional Japanese Noh theater. After the concert he told me about his concept like "blahblablablabla" and maybe I could understand about half of it. But anyway, I wanted to work with him, so I said "Yeah, okey. Let's do it!", so, then we started to work together. He knew Chris Watson (founding member of industrial / experimental legends Cabaret Voltaire and The Hafler Trio, who later turned his attention to recording nature sounds - Case) for a long time and asked him to contribute some from his recordings archive to our music and then Z'Ev sent me his sound files and also Chris Watson sent me several of his recordings, which were recorded in Africa.
At first I mixed everything in my home studio and then sent it back to Z'Ev who edited and mixed it again. So, that's how we made the album "Number One", which came out on Touch last year. It was a great experience.
THE DOSE: Since then, you made another album with him, called "Artifical Life". Is that similar in sound to "Number One"?
KK NULL: No, it is quite different, because "Artifical Life" is based on a live performance of Z'ev, which was recorded last year, somewhere in Germany... I think in Berlin. So, it is basically a live recording and I put my electronic noise on top of that.
THE DOSE: Is that album out already?
KK NULL: Yes, it just came out about two weeks ago, so we have it here tonight. You usually perform with a self-made instrument, called Nullsonic.
THE DOSE: Exactly what it Nullsonic and how did you came up with the idea to create it?
KK NULL: First, I will tell you about the name. I'm a big fan of King Crimson, the prog-rock band, and once, their guitarist, Robert Fripp made an effect-pedal and named it Frippertronic. So, when I made my equipment, I also named it after myself and called it Nullsonic.
And I made it, because, especially when I was touring, I realized that it is very difficult to carry all the equipment and gear. They were just too heavy to carry around, so, I had to think about a more handy solution and I decided to do it this way.
So, first I make some sound material in my home studio with synthesizers and effect pedals and so on and I put all those on mini-disc, so I have a kind of a sound-card with several, different kind of sounds and I use those at the live performances. Plus, beside a few other things I have two chaospads, which is a small equipment with a sampler and a touchpad, that controls the effects and I use those with the sound material, to sample it and create something different. So basically that is what I'm doing live.
THE DOSE: So it is half improvisation?
KK NULL: Yes, it is half composed music and half improvisation.
THE DOSE: And where did the name Null came from?
KK NULL: Oh, it was a long time ago, at the very beginning of my career. One of my favorire Japanese authors had a small magazine called Null and because I liked his work I took the name. And at that time I did not know the meaning, I just liked the way the letters looked and thought it sounded cool. And at first Null wasn't just me, it was a group, but then everyone left and I kept the name. And KK comes from my real name, Kazuyuki Kishino, so I started to use it as KK. Null. And of course later I found out the meaning, that Null means zero and I thought it is cool... kind of nihilistic, but not in a negative way.
THE DOSE: Recently, a few years ago you restarted your old, experimental rock band called ANP, Absolute Null Punkt and played several live shows. Can we expect some new material as well?
KK NULL: Yes, actually two albums are waiting to be released from ANP. One is a live recoring, recorded in France and Switzerland and the other one is kind of a mix of studio recordings and live performances. Actually it is mostly studio material, with some live recorings from Moscow, but you can't tell which is live and which is studio, because it is all mixed together.
THE DOSE: In recent years, you were perforing a lot in Russia and you also worked together with Alexei Borisov. How did your collaboration start?
KK NULL: It began in 2002, the same year when I played here in Budapest for the first time. After Budapest I went to Russia, also for the first time, to play in some festivals in I do not speak Russian, so I needed someone's help and he speaks very good English and he was a kind of a guide for me there. I was staying in Moscow for three days and he came to the hotel every day, to take me somewhere, to do some sightseeing and such and he was very nice and also very intelligent. Also he is about the same age as me. You know, same generation, same influences, so we got along very well.
THE DOSE: And how do you work together with him?
KK NULL: Mailing. He sends me his stuff and I mix it with my music, that's how. And in 2004 we played our first concert in Moscow, which was recorded and it will come out in a new Russian label called Electroclub in the near future.
THE DOSE: And do you have any special memories from your previous performance in Budapest, at X-peripheria Festival in 2002?
KK NULL: What I remember most is that it was extremely hot. It was mid-summer and before Budapest I was in.. Vienna, I think, and there we had fine wether and then we came to Budapest and it was so, so hot here. And I did not have short-pants, so I had to borrow one from Andras (Nun Andras, organizer, working for Ultrahang - Case) and that's what I was wearing on-stage. *laughs*
THE DOSE: Your better known band, Zeni Geva, stayed silent during the last few years. Can we expect some activity in the future or is it just a part of the past now?
KK NULL: Oh no, indeed, we have been inactive for a while, but it does not mean that we broke up, it is just that we needed a break, to get more motivation. So, now I'm concentraing more on electronic music. But I want to come back with Zeni Geva, hopefully next year. Actually I just talked to the other guitarist, Mitsuru Tabata and he also wants to start again, so maybe later this year we will start practicing and rehearsing in the studio to see what goes on.
THE DOSE: And what about your other side-project, Monster DVD, the band you formed together with Tabata and Government Alpha's Yasutoshi Yoshida? Is that still an active project?
KK NULL: No, that one is finished.
THE DOSE: In the beginning of your career you was also learning butoh dancing. Did you ever think about making music for a dance performance?
KK NULL: Yeah, I would like to do something like that sometimes. But by the way, there seems to be some misunderstanding about my connection with butoh dancing. Some people think that I am a professional dancer, but actually I was just studying it for a while.
THE DOSE: Your label, Nux Organization, released the first recordings of Melt-Banana, who later became one of the better known Japanese bands worldwide. Do you still follow what they are doing nowadays?
KK NULL: Ah, not really we just meet once in a while. I just know they are very active and busy and they tour a lot in Europe and America. I'm impressed by their energy.
THE DOSE: What other artists did you release on Nux, beside your own works and Melt-Banana?
KK NULL: Only one other band. Their name was Space Steakings, but they already broke up.
THE DOSE: Beside Nux, you also have a lot of releases on other labels. How do you chose the labels you work with?
KK NULL: Sometimes they contact me, but if I find a label which looks interesting, then I contact them, so both ways.
THE DOSE: Even though nowadays you are better known for your electronic music, originally you started as a guitarist. Could you tell us about the very beginning of your career as a musican? What made you decide to start making music and what were your most important early influences?
KK NULL: It was Fred Frith. He came to play in Japan for the first time in... 1980 I think... or maybe it was 1981. Before I had seen his performance I was very conservative about about guitar playing, but suddenly he changed my way of thinking. He didn't play the guitar the traditional way, instead, he put his guitar on the table and was smashing, scratching it, making noise. And I was like "Oh, so you can do it like this as well!" And then I started to experiemnt as well, so, he inspired me a lot.
THE DOSE: And later you also had a chance to work with him.
KK NULL: Yeah, actually just once, I played with him live, but it was an amazing experience.
THE DOSE: Is that the same recording that was later released as a part of your Guitar Organism album?
KK NULL: Yes, it was that one.
THE DOSE: And nowadays, what kind of music do you listen to the most?
KK NULL: Well, actually recently I'm listening to Miles Davis every day. But only a particular period, from around the seventies.. albums like Bitches Brew or Fillmore and I also have some bootleg live recorings from the time.
THE DOSE: Do you think about doing something similar?
KK NULL: Not really, I mean, I don't want to be a follower. But... I will tell you, actually I just started to play trumpet. *laughs* Of course it came as an influence from Miles Davis and also, recently I am concentrating on electronic and abstract music, but sometimes I feel that I want something more physical. So, it seemed like a good idea to play some more ‘primitive' instrument. Because basicly the trumpet is a very primitive instrument, very simple, but still very difficult to play.
THE DOSE: During your career you collaborated with a lot of people, both from Japan and from around the world. Is there anyone who you haven't worked with yet, but you would like to?
KK NULL: Hmmm... difficult question. *thinks for a while* Maybe Bernard Parmegiani. He is a French composer. A very old guy, I think he is 78 or 79. His work is kind of similar to Pierre Henry's, but while everyone knows Pierre Henry, Parmegiani is still quite unknown. I think his work is more important and he is a very important figure in contemporary avant-garde music, but still nobody knows him, so I think he should get more attention. He came to Tokyo last year for the first time to give a concert there and I saw him and also talked to him for a while. Yeah, it would be fantastic to collaborate with him.
THE DOSE: Your current joint tour with Z'ev is basically a UK only tour, with only two additional dates: Budapest and a festival in France. How come you did not go on a longer Europe tour?
KK NULL: It was only because of our schedules. We couldn't fit in more dates, but maybe next time we will play at more places. We still want to continue the collaboration, since Z'ev really likes to do it, so actually he already started to make plans for next year.
THE DOSE: Amongst your upcoming projects there are two compilation albums related to movies that you will contribute a song to. On is a remix album of music from Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising and the other is a tribute album to Japanese director Miike Takashi. How did you get involved in these projects?
KK NULL: Actually they just asked me to do a track. I never watched any film from Miike Takashi before, actually I didn't even know who is him. However it seems that he is very popular in Europe for some reason... very strange.
THE DOSE: You also have an upcoming album together with Keiji Haino. Could you tell me about that one? Will that be more electronic or more of a guitar based album?
KK NULL: It is a kind of a compilation. Haino also plays many instruments and I also play some and this album is put together from sevaral different live recordings. So in one track I play drums and he plays guitar, on an other one we both play electronics or he sings and I play electronics, so it is quite diverse, kind of like a showcase.
THE DOSE: Which one do you consider your best work to date? The one that you feel is just perfect as it is?
KK NULL: Oh, I'm not perfect yet. Not completely satisfied yet, so I can't answer this. *laughs*
THE DOSE: Very often noise and experimental musicians from the West has some political or occult concept that is represented in their music, like Z'ev's involvement with Kabbala. Do you have any similar concept behind your music?
KK NULL: No, not at all. Except maybe that I am very inspired by cosmology, astro-dynamics and that kind of science and also mathematics, but it doesn't really affect my music.
THE DOSE: I've read in an earlier interview that you are interested in European traditional music and that you also like the Hungarian band Muzsikás.
KK NULL: Oh yes! Especially Márta Sebestyén, she has an amazing voice, I like her a lot.
THE DOSE: And have you ever thought about doing something based on traditional music?
KK NULL: Actually I already did, with a different band and in a different way. Do you know one of my old bands, called YBO2? It was more a prog-rock kind of band and sometimes we did... not really covers, we just took some traditional songs and transformed them into a different kind of music, for example we reworked ‘Boys Be Bedlam'.. do you know that one? *starts to sing the first few lines* So, we basicly made ‘alternative version' from some songs like that one.
THE DOSE: You also contributed one track to the Koji Tano (legendary Japanese noise / electronic musician, who died last summer - Case) tribute album that was compiled by the Austrian label Steinklang. Did you ever work with Mr. Tano?
KK NULL: We knew each other well, but we only played a couple of shows together. He was one of the most important figures in not only the Japanese, but also in the international underground noise music scene. And he was also a very nice person and I visited him in hospital just about two weeks before he died. It's all very sad.
THE DOSE: Your current tour poster was designed by Seldon Hunt (known for his work with Neurosis, Isis, Kid 606 and so on - Case) who also made several CD covers for you in the past. How did you start to work with him?
KK NULL: It began more than ten years ago, in ‘94 or ‘95 when Zeni Geva played in Melbourne, Austrilia. He is Australian, but for some reason he couldn't come to the concert, but he gave his artwork to a friend and asked him to give it to me. So, his friend came to the show and told me about Seldon Hunt and that he is a fan of my music and gave me his artwork. First I was just like "Oh, okey" but then I checked his works and.. Wow! It was really great and was impressed. So, that was the start and after that we contacted each other and I asked him to do artwork to some of my CDs.
THE DOSE: And who designs your CD covers when you are not working with him?
KK NULL: Most of the artwork is done by me actually.
THE DOSE: And finally my last question. It is not really related to your music, but it is something that I was always very curious about... Where did you get the idea to make a website dedicated to your chihuahua puppy, called Maru-chan?
KK NULL: Hah, actually it was my wife's idea. We love our puppy so much and I don't really know if it is cool or not, but she wanted to have a website about Maru-chan, so she made it. *laughs and looks towards the merchendisestand where his wife is arranging the CDs*. Well, thanks a lot for the interview, and I hope that we will see you in Hungary again sometime.