One of the payoffs of sending away eight interviews and
waiting for two months to get a response...
is when you finally get that response.
Thus, meet Suzuki Junzo!
I generally can't get into blues,
but this Japanese musician brings a wonderfully dark, droning, minimal,
(dare I say) post-modern blues sound that was made
to be heard through a pair of headphones in a dark room.
Undeservedly, but inevitably, he's a fairly unknown, underground artist but nonetheless
plays shows all over Tokyo, and hopefully keeps it up for many years to come!
His music lies in the feedback and white noise of Sonic Youth,
an extension of the moments prior to where songs like theirs kick in.
(This interview is fairly edited because English isn’t his first language,
but I enjoy all the little quirks that make up peoples’ voices on the Internet)
I watched a movie called "Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachtani?" which follows Tadanobu Asano and another actor living in a rural area, in peace, recording pure noise music. I always picture you in Tadanobu Asano's position, without any worries. Is your everyday life like this at all, or is it a bit more chaotic?
SJ: I've only heard about this movie, I haven’t seen this yet so I could answer this only by my imagination.
It is so difficult to describe the way the people live in words.. For my situation, I love listening to music, playing the guitar, watching movies, seeing my friends sometimes and getting drunk..
Living is not easy, always struggling with chaos.
I can't find much background on you, what was growing up like for you? What were you like as a kid?
SJ: I’ve been so interested in music since I was a little boy. My mom says, in my childhood, I was singing all day long hahaha.. I’m especially into all kinds of blues music, like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hokker, Robert Johnson since my school days. Then gradually into pre-war bluesmen, for example Harlie Patton, Skip James,
Doc Boggs .... They put very strong energy in me.. and they are still working strongly. They are very similar to some kinds of drone/minimal music for me.
Why did you start playing guitar? And what made you want to play it in such a noisy, unique way?
SJ: I started my music career only as a vocalist!!!
Why I started playing the guitar... First, I wanted to play only by myself like many blues musician do, and I'm so tired of standing alone while the guitar player plays a long FXXkin' solo.. hahaha
You mentioned 'such a noisy/unique way', mmm difficult question for me.. One thing, I feel the sound is deeper into my body, very special thing for me. I would like to know what will I be..
I think everything disappears in the presence of sound.
All forms of music are inspiring in their own ways, from the abysmally bad to the universally wonderful. How does it feel to know your music inspires people around the world (including even myself as a musician)?
SJ: I appreciate it very much.
What is your average fan like? Are the people who attend your shows always the types you would expect?
SJ: Many types are. I think that the so-called 'heavy music listener' is compared a lot...
Your music has a very distinct Japanese sound, but there's something else there. What are some of your non-Japanese influences? And some Japanese ones for that matter?
SJ: Very difficult question. If I have to say one thing, I think it's blues/folk music's influence.
Has there ever been a song you've heard and thought "Damn, I wish I'd made that!"?
You've done quite a number of collaborations, yet your music has a very solitary sound. Do you enjoy playing with people or do you like having the stage to yourself, and why?
SJ: Of Course, I enjoy playing with TABATA as 20 GUILDERS, Koji Shimura,
Takuya Nishimura as MIMINOKOTO! They are very important for me.
Playing with Makoto Kawabata, ASTRO/TOMO too. I enjoy lots and lots. I would like to play more and play with other musician more.
At the same time, I love playing solo, too. If you listen my music has a very solitary feeling, I'm very interested in the reason why..
There's never been much money in underground music, do you have any sort of job on the side?
SJ: I don't want side job for earning money no more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What is a live Suzuki Junzo show like?
SJ: It depends on the situation. My feelings, weather, vibration, temper... they change every minute..
Your music seems worlds away from any mainstream pop music, but do you have any guilty pleasures on the radio, or perhaps a pop star you wouldn't normally tell someone you liked?
SJ: Sorry, I couldn't see what this question would like to say..
Anyway, I talk about the radio. I like to listen to the radio very much, it brings surprising finds sometimes. They taught me many many beautiful songs. But these days the situation is very terrible. They play ONLY major/mainstream music from the major label who sponsored their program. They were trying to kill music. But I think this tradition(laugh) has a long long long history…But on Internet, there are many interesting radio stations all over here and there. Most of them work in a totally independent way; they are very beautiful! I'm so glad to hear DJs of independent radio stations like my music!!
Where would you be without music?
SJ: I cannot imagine…
Is there anything you can't wait to achieve in the near future?
SJ: I would like to play all around the world, of course in Japan too. And sleep.
A huge thanks to Suzuki for the interesting interview!
Recent discovery I've made of the last words of historical, or just popular, figures:
H. G. Wells: “Go away: I’m alright.”
General John Sedgwick (during the heat of battle in 1864): “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist——!”
Bing Crosby: “That was a great game of golf.”
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.: “Never felt better.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt: “I have a terrific headache.”
Jesse James: “It’s awfully hot today.”
Anne Boleyn: “O God, have pity on my soul. O God, have pity on my soul.”
Sigmund Freud: “This is absurd! This is absurd!”
Tony Hancock (British comedian): “Nobody will ever know I existed. Nothing to leave behind me. Nothing to pass on. Nobody to mourn me. That’s the bitterest blow of all.”
Phillip III, King of France: “What an account I shall have to give to God! How I should like to live otherwise than I have lived.”
Luther Burbank: “I don’t feel good.”
Voltaire (after being asked by a priest to renounce Satan): "Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies."
Beethoven: “Applaud, my friends, the comedy is finished.”
Humphrey Bogart: "I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis."
Oscar Wilde: "This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has to go"
James Brown: “I'm going away tonight.”
And my favorite,
Socrates: “Crito, we ought to offer a cock to Asclepius. See to it, and don't forget.” (This was an offering done in hopes of a cure for an illness)