Sunday 21 June 2015

NEW RELEASE! Lo-shi: 貘 / Baku

Another new release today, with the vinyl edition of instrumental kraut'n'bass duo Lo-shi's Baku finally available to buy. The band released the album online last year, and after a long and arduous process, a physical edition in black plastic is finally out. It will be available at the band's release party at Kichijoji GOK Sound today (June 21st) and will appear in shops gradually.

貘 / Baku (CAR-73)

Side A
1. Me wa Sai
2. Karada wa Kuma

Side B
Ashi wa Tora
Hana wa Zo
O wa Ushi

The album is a terrifying and beautiful exploration of cathartic darkness, ambient noise and Twin Peaks-esque reverb-soaked soundscapery, and in advance of its release, I met up with Eric "Gotal" Fournier and Julien "Ralouf" Bielka to talk about music, philosophy and dick jokes.

Interview between Ian Martin of Call And Response Records and Lo-shi:

We’re sitting in an Iranian restaurant in the Tokyo suburb of Asagaya. Ralouf and Gotal haven’t slept for two days and are already two or three beers ahead of me. We’re talking about the concept of YOLO, which has briefly taken over part of our circle of friends in a way that may be either ironic, philosophical or just plain stupid.

GOTAL: Julien often says “YOLO”.

IAN: You seem like the least YOLO band I know. Is your music YOLO?

GOTAL: Mine? Yes, sure. I mean, what is YOLO though? “You Only Live Once”, right? For me, that just means I don’t want waste time doing bollocks.

IAN: I think it’s really a word for stupid kids being dumb on holiday.

RALOUF: It’s a fake, postmodern carpe diem.

GOTAL: It’s what all the zombies say, [Adopts moaning zombie voice] “Yoloooooo!” That’s a travesty of the meaning.

IAN: It feels to me like something that comes from advertising and marketing. They constantly push the positive and that becomes a sort of propaganda in society. I think the difference is that we place genuine value on the negative.

RALOUF: We’re not trying to be negative though. There’s a sort of negativity that becomes a sort of obligatory sarcasm, a kind of narcissistic negativity. We think it’s important to be critical, like in the video projections we use at shows. They’re critical but they also show hot, naked women.

GOTAL: He means we try to show beauty.

RALOUF: In France it’s all about being cool,  ironic, sarcastic, but historically irony was a weapon against power. Everyone’s ironic now, but then they just go out and vote for fucking Sarkozy. They’re slaves.

IAN: They’re not using the irony for anything.

RALOUF: No, it’s just a pose. I’m a slave too, but I’m a king in my head... don’t print that!

IAN: But you also teach at a Christian university.

RALOUF: No problem. It’s well paid and I turn the cross upside down at the end of the day.

IAN: So how do you square this critical attitude with playing at the Red Bull Music Academy stage at the Taico Club music festival this year?

RALOUF: The point is that we were chosen to play at that event. The message we take is that the music we do is valid.

IAN: But what does the validation of a fizzy drinks company mean?

RALOUF: No... ah, sorry, fuck the English language! The  others aren’t valid, just us!

GOTAL: I think he means it wasn’t luck when we played at their event the first time. The first time, we were just drinking with Damo Suzuki at 4AM and I don’t think he listened to our music even. He just decided he liked our energy and said “Come on, do it!” So we played the Red Bull Music Academy gig and people really liked it.

RALOUF: The guy came up to us after and said, “That was fucking heavy, dude!” We’re a strange pair of guys, “Why are those guys there?” But there we are!

IAN: So getting invited to play the Red Bull event isn’t so much about the event itself as it is an opportunity to see yourselves from the outside. To see what you’re doing in a same context as all those other “real” musicians.

GOTAL: Right. We’re not musicians, we don’t fit into any scenes, and we’re not interested in just being a couple of guys cosplaying at being noise musicians. We liked doing the Tententen [A series of small monthly events in association with Call And Response Records that ran for a little over a year from 2013-2014] events because they were breaking those boundaries and at the same time being unpretentious and simple. Over time, we’ve come to see ourselves doing music.

RALOUF: So we are musicians! Actually, I’m not comfortable calling us musicians, saying “I’m a musician,” which is basically the same as calling yourself an asshole. But totally shit bands go around calling themselves musicians, and hey I’m doing music too, so maybe I’m a musician actually.

GOTAL: We’re doing it to have fun, which sounds like some horrible YOLO thing, but we’re trying to save our lives. It’s not a pose, we’re not wearing biker jackets, shades, doing that bullshit cosplay. We’re not putting ugliness on top of ugliness, dressed up in a stupid costume, screaming into the mic. We’re putting beauty on ugliness.

RALOUF: But beauty can be boring.

GOTAL: Yeah. Beauty should be fresh. These days we’re very into the French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux, and he says miracles are that which goes against the laws of nature.

RALOUF: Miracles happen because there is no God. It’s speculative realism.

GOTAL: We talked about YOLO earlier, and if you break it down, the words actually mean the opposite of what that phrase represents. It’s like when you see an “event” on Facebook and that’s pretty much the definition of a non-event.

RALOUF: Like when James Joyce said when he hears the word “love” he wants to puke.

IAN: So there’s a tension and dualism to what you do?

GOTAL: Really we’re just trying to make things happen. We’re trying to save our lives.

RALOUF: We don’t want to be on the cover of the NME, because our faces are so ugly.

[At around this point, Gotal is starting to cast “Shut up, you’re fucking up the interview!” type glances Ralouf’s way.]

GOTAL: Fighting boredom is a very difficult struggle.

RALOUF: With our small penises!

GOTAL: Our microdicks, yeah! But criticising fake things doesn’t make us happy. What we really want to do is find the moments that make sense.

IAN: As I get older, I find more and more that tolerating stuff I think is shit just isn’t worth it. I get given a lot of CDs as a music journalist, and there was this album by a band called Passepied. I was listening to it, doing what I usually do and trying to find what was good with it, and then my wife came home from work and just said, “What’s this? It’s shit.” – And I thought, “Oh yeah, it is. It’s just shit.” Later on, I started seeing articles written by people I knew appearing over the web saying what an amazing band they were, and it was like seeing a vision of the kind of bullshit I’d just narrowly avoided doing.

[Around this time, Gotal goes outside for a cigarette break and Ralouf goes over a list of things he’s said and begs me not to print them (they’re all in here).]

IAN: So let’s pretend for a moment that this is a proper interview, and you tell me about how the band formed.

RALOUF: We started out in a metal band. The other guys were like, “We’re two musicians and you’re two wankers!” They wanted to live off music and make money.

GOTAL: They didn’t ever say that, but it felt a bit patronising sometimes. One of them had done a “maybe debut” – he’d made music for anime – and the other guy was in the backline for a bunch of bands as a session musician. They were good guys, kind, but thanks to them, we wanted to do the opposite.

RALOUF: Playing music is a game. If you get too serious, the game stops, but if you’re not serious enough, the game can’t even start. It’s hard to find a balance.

GOTAL: “Lo-shi: The Game” – live action roleplaying.

RALOUF: I like that scene in Pinnochio, where they go to the island where everyone is playing all the time. It’s presented as a warning for children, but that’s paradise for me. I’m a situationist: everyone should enjoy the role they play. In real life, rules are boring, but in a game I’m happy to accept rules. The rules of a game are a cool parody of legislation.

IAN: So how about the album itself?

RALOUF: So the title, Baku, is named after a kind of mythological chimera that eats bad dreams – that makes you live again. It’s like the story of Orpheus, who makes music and poetry, goes into the Inferno, and with those two things is able to live again. The Baku isn’t so far away from that idea: it eats nightmares and lets your dreams live again. Our first dream as a band was to be in a bath with Haruna Kojima from AKB48, but we have bigger dreams now!

GOTAL: Our other dreams are actually fulfilled. That one was ridiculous.

RALOUF: I’m into dancing, but no one dances these days. Why? Because they’re full of bad dreams.

GOTAL: Before we hooked up with Call And Response, we never even knew there was something like that out there.

RALOUF: All we could find at live venues was these wannabe scenes. Finding Call And Response gave us a lot of confidence.

GOTAL: It’s rare to find a place like that where people leave their egos at the cloakroom. That’s what was good about Tententen, and the new event we’re doing at Studio 35 Minutes. That place is amazing: just two minutes from my home, but we just went in there and meet everyone. It was very unpretentious, friendly, not just people listening to themselves. The owner is this amazing photographer. He tries to capture the gazes of animals at zoos. It’s disturbing. You feel this sense of longing for something else. The magazine Studio Voice wanted to do an article about his place, so he made sure they came on a night we played, just to get us in the magazine.

IAN: It’s like with Taico Club. There’s such a thin line between recognition and obscurity.

GOTAL: It’s like Meillassoux again: impossible things happen! Being an artist isn’t just a business. If you’re going to do it, it shouldn’t just be to turn it into consumer goods. It should be because you want to create something.

RALOUF: If you think about it in terms of supply and demand, supply should come first.

GOTAL: I don’t want to make music to satisfy a demand.

IAN: That’s why you don’t get paid. The money in the music scene is all demand-side, not supply-side. Some say artists should refuse to play if they don’t get paid, but I’m not sure how that would work. Where’s the money going to come from?

GOTAL: What, that the artist has some kind of right to be paid? I don’t think so. Apart from anything else, 99% of artists are shit.

RALOUF: In ancient Greece, artists were superstars, but now we’re gathering in ghettos. That’s not normal, surely! But it’s best not to think about money. It’s best to be a bit naive.

GOTAL: Japan is a terrible place in terms of turning  music into money.

RALOUF: In France, you just earn it from the state. Is that good? Being subsidised by the state? I don’t know.

GOTAL: “Official art” – the shittiest of the shit! If you pay artists, often the quality comes down.

RALOUF: I blame the French Revolution. Before the Revolution, artists were protected by the king, but by the time of the Industrial Revolution, people like Baudelaire were living in poverty. They were miserable, but they were better. They called them the “artistes maudits – the miserable artists – but this was an idea that only came after the Revolution.

GOTAL: It’s terrible, but the most revered poets and painters came from that.

RALOUF: It’s a condition of total freedom, but... [Makes a sad face.] It might have been possible in the 1970s or something to be authentic and popular, but now? Ha!

GOTAL: In indie culture now, you might be able to make money if you had a miracle, but why mimic something to chase after that ghost? So much indie culture now tries to be subversive, but all it’s doing is mimicking capitalism on a smaller scale. We could be doing better things. Revolution!

IAN: So what do you think it is that you’re trying to do? What is that better thing you’re reaching for?

GOTAL: Sorry, I have a headache and a hangover after last night! On Wednesdays I work 9:30AM to 9:30PM, and then Julien and I go out, drink, talk philosophy and ideas. In the end, I don’t know who comes up with what. We just find our way forward gradually.

RALOUF: The cover of Baku features a join-the-dots image that you can draw on. You connect the numbers, but it’s impossible to know what the image is until you draw it. Music for us is like that.

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