135 group A


01. Rolf Julius - Altes Klavierkonzert (Für Die Weser) [Künstlerhaus Bethanien / 1985]
02. The Haxan Cloak - Miste [Tri Angle / 2013]
03. Po Schodach - Nutorr 15 [1986]
04. Mauthausen Orchestra - Mafarka [Oficina Fonografica Italiana / 2012]
05. WIDT - Sole Thithu [Zoharum / 2016]
06. group A - 鉄の呼吸 [Unreleased / 2017]
07. J.A.Seazer - 人力飛行機の為の演説草案 [Victor / 1973]
08. Igor Wakhevitch - Hunahpuguch [EMI / 1977]
09. YPY - Side Eye [birdFriend / 2015]
10. Henry Hektik - Magic Dance [IRRE Tapes / 1990]
11. Mr. Clavio - Keine Gnade Für Die Sechste [Bunker Records / 2005]
12. Violet - Violet Ray Gas (Wire Tapper Exclusive Edit) [Wire Magazine / 2009]
13. XX Committee - Unwashed Sundays [Thermidor / 1983]
14. Vainio Väisänen Vega - Motor Maniac [Mute / 1998]
15. Decadence [???]
16. NTH - Lost Station [Kartell / 1984]
17. Erika Irganon - Petite Otite [Ptôse Production Présente / 1984]
18. Esplendor Geométrico - Baraca [Daft Records / 1991]
19. Jim Fassett - Third Movement (Misterioso) [Ficker Records / 1960]
20. P·A·L - Bewegung [Ant-Zen/1995]
21. Maurizio Bianchi - Solitary Spirit [Red Light Sound / 2014]
22. Crys Cole & Oren Ambarchi - Pad Phet Gob [Black Truffle / 2017]
23. Gerechtigkeits Liga - The Games Must Go On [Zyklus Records / 1984]
24. Phew - 浜辺の歌 [Felicity / 2015]
25. Riri Shimada - Gnossiennes No. 1 - No. 5 [Vap / 1982]
26. Chen Yi - Rounder [90% Wasser / 2006]
27. Conrad Schnitzler - 12/1980 [Bureau B / 2016]
28. Masami Akita - Wattle [Elevator Bath / 2016]
29. Stereolab - Percolations [Douphonic Ultra High Frequency Disks / 1996]
30. Trevor Wishart - A [York Electronic Studios / 1973]
31. Frak - 555 [Kontra-musik / 2012]
32. Le Syndicat Electronique - Entrevue Misanthropique [Invasion Planete Recordings / 2003]
33. Brett Naucke - Plague In This Town [Nihilist / 2013]
34. Hugo Ball - Sound Poem [Kontrans / 2003 / Originally written in 1916]
35. CP/BW - Sterility Factor [Beau Wanzer Self Released / 2015]
36. MFH - To Give Painless Light [ICR / 1983]
37. De Melon - Birds And A Piano [Slowscan / 1994]

group A is Berlin-based Japanese duo specialising in experimental minimal electronics with violin and playing quite odd live shows laying somewhere in between modern punk action and performance art. The band is among a new breed of noise and industrial musicians with the strong DIY spirit that are taking the genre and making it their own. For this edition of Digital Tsunami podcast, Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic played their 'expect the unexpected' card again.

DT: How did you come up with the idea of this podcast?

TT: You know that moment when you are playing music from your laptop, and two tracks are being played together accidentally, like one from Youtube and another one from iTunes or something like that. And it matches perfectly. When that happens I memorise those tracks and next time I just start mixing from that. So I already had the beginning point. I've just put more kind of industrial sounding tracks.

SB: And I added more organic diggins, violin, strings, voice, samples from movies.

TT: Did you add the one from Terayama?

SB: Yes, I did.

TT: It's Japanese avant-garde film director from 60's who we both really love.

SB: Oh, and we also used samples from Japanese news.

DT: How long do you know each other and work together?

SB: We barely knew each other since we were in London. Then we both went back to Japan around 2011-2012. There was a band called S.C.U.M., they used to be really active during that time in London. They came to play in Tokyo and we both happened to be on that gig. At the afterparty, we finally had a chance to talk to each other properly. That night we formed group A.

TT: And there was another girl before, there was three of us when we were begun. Her name is Kaoru, she worked with Sayaka at that time. Unfortunately, she had plans to go back to London already. So, we have just started, we did only a couple of shows and had another couple ahead when we realised "Oh, shit, she's not gonna be here for the next show". But we knew we want to do it for a long time, so that's how we became a duo.

DT: You mentioned that you used to live in London. Why did you move from Japan for the first time?

TT: I never really liked living in Japan since I was very young. I always failed to go to school, I found myself quite distant from everybody in my school. I felt a bit uncomfortable to live in Japanese society. When I was 10 or something like that, I suddenly realised that Japan might not my country to live when I'll grow up. So I started thinking about moving to somewhere as soon as possible. After finishing high school I decided to move to London. I chose London because I was really into British music, fashion and all the subcultures from 60's psychedelia to 70's punk and 80's post-punk. And I also was a massive fan of The Beatles. But Sayaka had a different reason.

SB: For me, the biggest reason was that I really wanted to live somewhere I've never been before, where I had no idea what people next to me on a train are talking about. Once in a high school, I realised how tired I am being on a train, listening someone's story from last night, like what they did last night or stuff like that. Japanese is my first language, so I understand 100% of what people around me are talking about, even if I don't want to. So I just wanted to go someplace language-wise I don't understand. And London was the best option because I was really into a lot of fashion designers and artists from London.

DT: And why did you choose Berlin in the end?

TT: In Japan, we didn't make any money at all. Playing shows, releasing albums, we didn't have a label, we didn't work with an agency, we were just doing everything by ourselves. At the same time we were far too busy to continue group A. We had a day job, I was in a school and had to spend a lot of time on my homework, and then to go back to my studio, and then go back home and answer e-mails for group A. So at one point, I literally didn't have time to sleep. That's why we decided to move somewhere where we could just concentrate on group A.

Obviously, the situation is very different in Germany, where we are living from music. And I think I became more serious, more professional in a way. For example, for a few days before our show, I tend to not drink too much or to put more clothes when it's cold, to not become ill and stuff like that. But we are trying to do as much as possible by ourselves still. I mean having an agent is not bad, but we prefer to do it on our own so we could keep the freedom and just be a musician.

DT: You came from a country that gave the world many important and even essential machines. What are your relations with a gear?

SB: For me my violin is another member of group A. We work together, we are having fun together.

DT: Does it have a name?

SB: No, I never named my violin.

TT: I never name my gear too, but I tend to call them 'he' rather than 'she' or 'it'. I don't know why though. For some reason, I think that all machines are male, but I have no idea where that comes from.

SB: My violin is female and the pedal is male.

DT: Do you share a studio? I'm asking because I'm curious how your creative process looks like?

TT: At the moment we are just working in my bedroom actually. But I think we spend more time separately, each working on her own sounds. A couple of times a week we get together and play together and see how those sounds work together. I normally work on the basic line of track with drum machine and synthesizer. Then we kind of jam around it and see what comes out, if it can be a song or not. And we usually tend to make songs for the live shows, we haven't really done any tracks for albums.

DT: Is it difficult for you to work in a duo? Do you ever fight during creating a new piece of art?

TT: No, we never fight, I think we probably never fought before. Most of the time we just let ourselves do whatever fuck we want and we don't tell each other anything, we barely speak when we are playing together. We are just experimenting with the sound, recording everything and then we listen to it back and pick whichever parts we like. So it never really goes like 'I don't like that', 'Oh, but I do like'. I think that's the way how music stays experimental. And our music is more like collaborations between me and Sayaka, we are not trying become one thing.

SB: I've never been in another band, so I don't know how other bands are doing it. For me, our way is the most natural.

TT: And we are not really tight about the sound, that's the thing. I think we both understand that we are really different persons. That's the main key of group A. We listen to a really different music. Of course, we share some essentials, we have stuff in common, but there are too many things we think different about.

SB: I feel like we share things we hate or we disagree with in general, like society or stuff like that. At the same time, we don't need to share things we like, what we are listening to and so on.

TT: Yeah, that's true. And that's quite weird, isn't it? But it's kind of the whole point of doing group A. For us it's not necessary to send some message to society. It's more about expressing our anger. I think music is the best and the most natural way to release all anger from our bodies. So we do share what we hate, what we disagree with. What we like doesn't really matter.

DT: Live performance is a huge part of your art. What kind of reaction are you expecting from your audience after seeing you live?

TT: I don't expect anything honestly. I don't even want to hear what people thought about our performance. That's why I don't like to leave backstage right after the show, I'm trying to stay there for a couple of hours and let people finish talking about it. And I don't like people coming to me, no matter if they like our show or not. Maybe it's because it affects me too much.

DT: Speaking of performances, Tommi, you are doing crazy gymnastic tricks on a stage sometimes. Are you a former athlete?

TT: (Laughs). That's a good question because I'm really bad at sports, I never exercise. I don't like to use my body apart from that times when I'm on stage. It's just the way I play music, really. I never even think what should I do or how I should move. It just comes naturally.

DT: So it's not like you are preparing all this stuff?

TT: No, no preparation. I wish I could though. I tried to do it a long time ago. I was more into it in the beginning, because we started more like a performance art group. We used instruments, but we focused less on sound, we were just using it without being really concentrated on it. It was more important for us to act rather make music. We were fucking weird at the time when there was three of us.

DT: Ok, joking aside! I attended one of your shows in Moscow this summer and was a little surprised how different your sound was from what I've heard you play live before. It was more heavy, noisy and minimalistic. You didn't do your usual stuff with painting your bodies etc. So it felt more dedicated to music rather to performance. I guess maybe certain circumstances lead to this because it was in a tiny room, heavily packed, almost no place for the stage. Or was it because you are going in a new direction in general?

SB: It was a happening. The Russian airlines lost my baggage, we arrived really late without almost all my equipment, I only had my violin with me. Luckily we could borrow some pedals from guys from another band playing on the same night, it was KVB. I've got some pedals I've never used before, so I couldn't play my normal stuff with my usual setup. We prepared our set before flying to Moscow, but, obviously, we couldn't play it. So in the end, we just got on the stage and mostly improvised for one hour. And it was quite punk, more aggressive than our normal set.

DT: Your sound varies greatly from 2012 to nowadays. Should we expect unexpected on your next release for Mannequin?

TT: For me, we haven't really changed. At least the way I approach music hasn't changed at all. I still don't really know what I'm doing. And I still learn every day to use my own gears. It hasn't really changed since we started five years ago. From the other hand, I think our sound is getting happier and more distorted and more, maybe, industrial. What I listen to every day does affect my sound. This new single for Mannequin we recorded a year ago, few month after moving to Berlin. It definitely sounds really different from how we sound on stage now, because it was more than a year ago. For me, it sounds more minimal, not that heavy, quite light and quite dancy.

DT: Can you name one record label that was the biggest influence on you?

TT: When I was in Japan after coming back from London, I was digging a lot of releases from, obviously, Mannequin Records and also Minimal Wave and Vinyl On Demand. All these labels were at the same sections in almost every record shop, so every time if I'd find some new release from them I didn't have yet, I'd just bought it. So it's hard to name only one label.

SB: Yeah, it's really hard to pick just one. But I'd say it's P.S.F. Records from Japan. They are releasing a lot of Japanese free jazz, noise and music from 70's.

Interview: Julia Si, Published: 2 Nov 2017
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