Translated by Kasumi Billington | Words by Kristofer Poland
Japanese heavy band Boris have been hammering out bangers and making bizarre noise since the early 1990s. They keep a relentless touring schedule, have released over two dozen studio albums alone, and have maintained the same core lineup of Atsuo, Takeshi, and Wata since the start. Off Shelf spoke with guitarist/bassist/vocalist, Takeshi about the band’s history, present, and future.
Off Shelf: Congratulations on your partnership with Third Man Records! Why did you choose them for the reissues of Feedbacker and Akuma No Uta as well as the release of your new album LφVE & EVφL?
Takeshi: During the PINK 10th anniversary tour in 2016, we performed live in the Blue Room at Third Man Records, and they released the live recording. During the US tour the following year, we toured their office and Detroit pressing plant, and we related with how they emphasize importance on how to show the whole image of the label, and their analog and physical releases. We were also interested in how they have the immediacy of having their own pressing plant. They had already released MELVINS reissue and SLEEP’s new work, and while they have an understanding of heavy music, their foundation is rock, yet we were able to feel the wide range. In fact, they happily take in our proposals, and we’ve had a great time working with them.
OS: How do you feel when you go back and listen to albums from 16 years ago versus how you feel creating new material today?
T: When you’ve been doing this for 25 years and you listen to the albums, there are some parts where we think that the playing and sound feel rough, but in general not much has changed. Rather, listening to that music now, there are moments where it feels fresh. We now are able to see our archives with an objective “bird’s eye” view.
OS: Do each of you have a favorite era of Boris, or do you think of your entire musical careers as a connected body of work?
T: At points over time, we thoroughly created sounds we enjoyed, but we didn’t finish each piece as completed works. So the search for music is still continuing even now, and all pieces of work are inevitably connected. In terms of architecture, it’s like Sagrada Familia.
OS: How and when did you come to realize that Dear would not be your final album?
T: At the time of production for Dear, severe situations surrounded the band and members, and there were times when we were tackling the work with feeling that “this may be the last work.” But, as the production progressed, the situation around us gradually improved, and the direction of the work and possibilities of our future became more clear. We can still keep going further.
OS: As a band you three seem to gladly let a song stretch out into as long as it takes to reach its completion. For example, LφVE & EVφL spans across two LPs in just seven songs. How do you determine song and album lengths?
T: I can only say that it naturally turned into this. We turned our ears towards sounds and melodies that were born from jam sessions, felt what the sound or song wanted to turn into, and were guided throughout the production.
OS: Do you feel a greater sense of urgency to create today versus back when the band began?
T: It’s the opposite. Now more than ever, we no longer actively promote change or try to improve anything. Creativity is a chaotic and fluid action that is far from fixed form and mass production. It simply accepts all sounds and images that emerge, and outputs them as a piece of work with an existing amount of purity. We work on production in a simple way and with neutral feelings.
OS: There is a lot of contrast in the album. You seamlessly transition from light to heavy, melodic to harsh, and more. Was there an intentional effort to provide that sort of breadth on this album?
T: As I was saying previously, the sounds that are born from jam sessions already have their own minds. Like, “I want to be this way.” For example, let’s try thinking of replacing the song with your own child. It’s not possible to think about intentionally twisting the child’s way of thinking and his way of life by screwing in unreasonable ego and values, right?
OS: How have the three of your relationships grown personally as you’ve worked professionally with each other for so long?
T: We’ve spent longer time with each other than we have with our own families. I believe there are sounds that only the three of us can make, and those sounds will keep us connected.
OS: What does Boris have to say to the world that is encapsulated in LφVE & EVφL?
T: Every year on overseas tours, we come in contact with many countries and cultures, and our values change. It’s like a pilgrimage of the world through music. It’s as though music has become a daily prayer. But that is not like an atonement, it’s not about seeking love and hope either. Within us, the music is becoming more purified. The title also includes that sort of meaning.
This has become a mysterious piece of work, even for us. We still don’t know why it took this shape. It’s an album where we can enjoy decoding the mystery with our listeners.