Interview – Legendary Noise Artist Hiroshi Hasegawa (CCCC, Astro)

HIROSHI-HASEGAWA

Hiroshi Hasegawa – Japan

If you have been a fan of harsh noise/power electronics for any length of time, you know that Hiroshi Hasegawa needs NO introduction.  But those of you who might not have heard, he’s the founder of such acts as CCCC and Astro.

We’re extremely excited to present this email interview with him.  We’d like to thank Mr. Hasegawa for taking time out over the last couple of weeks to answer a few questions.

Enjoy!

Is the motivation for your current work different than other projects such as CCCC?  Or are the reasons behind the creation the same?  How has your interest as an artist evolved over the years between projects?

When I started C.C.C.C., I was eager to get out from the stifling situation surrounding me and free improvisation style that I’d been playing then. And I was particular about playing loudly by all members as maintaining free improvisation style because I was looking for a breakthrough in that situation. When I think of it now, the performances of C.C.C.C. in the beginning might be the act like esoteric rituals for changing my situation in those days.

Now I don’t have the same motivation then, but it may be the same that I like to change the sound I create constantly. For example, for several years, my style has been changed from using synthesizer’s oscillating and feedback sound much to music concrete which processes filed recordings and sampling as sound sources.

Many people look to Japan as a center of focus for the noise music culture.  Do you feel that the culture of Japan is part of this popularity?  Are there any other areas of the globe you have noticed with underground artists?

I know many foreign people regard Japan is as the center of unique noise music culture. But in fact, in Japan, it’s very rare that noise is recognized as a culture, a music genre or a study subject. It’s just regarded as bad taste music for maniac people. I assume, in European countries, there are more people who sense noise has similarity with contemporary music and it has been recognized as a culture in academic aspects.

Do you have a solo work or collaboration that you are most proud of or satisfied with? Or are you still searching for that type of feeling?

I’m still far away from being satisfied with or proud of my work. I’m always in a state of pursuing that.

How is your studio set-up different than your live equipment set-up?  Do you have any idea of direction before doing a live show?  Or is it all purely spontaneous?

My equipment set-up has been always changing whether for studio or for live. However, the set-up is same for both at the time.

I almost don’t decide rule for live performance. Complete improvisation is elemental. Because in my experience, there were some cases of disturbing a flow of free performance by considering the rule too much. I place the most importance on a spontaneous idea or a direction flowing out during the live.

I have often said that reasons for people listening to noise include the following dynamics; harsh vs. delicate, minimal vs. layered, chopped vs. wall of noise, simple vs. complex  etc…  Do you agree?  Also, what other dynamics/reasons do you think lead people to listen to noise music/art?

I always feel noise is very fertile music, so that I believe there are many opposite elements in it. And such opposite elements are one of the attraction of noise, so I agree with your idea.

And I think there is diversity as one of the important theme. Such diversity is the very thing which can attract people to noise and because of it, you can’t define “ noise should be this.”

In 2013 you released The Never-Ending Story of Noise Forest and in 2015, made a release called “Black Buddha in the Sun.”  I was wondering if you could tell us more detail about these recordings.  These releases seems especially diverse… possibly with different instruments, found objects, field recordings, frequencies…..  

When “The Never-Ending Story of Noise Forest” was issued in 2013, the work still mainly consisted of Analogue synth’s pulse wave and feedback sound by contact microphones. At the time, I often preferred to use howling sounds of feedback; the way of generating sound by attaching a contact microphone to a metal sheet and connecting a fuzz or distortion pedal. Why I preferred feedback is that I felt both extreme images of destruction and creation in its background. That’s also one of the charm of noise music, I think.

About “Black Buddha in the Sun” issued in 2015, the outstanding feature was using collage of field recordings than using synth’s sounds and feedback. Just from that time, I’ve begun to introduce the sounds of field recordings to my work positively. In that sense, it was a work which was made in the transitional period to my current style.

In 2008, you released a recording “Live at Borealis Festival.”  In some ways this is vastly different than other recordings.  There’s not so much sonic violence.  Constant mid-low end frequencies seem to merge creating their own notes, then the addition of very high frequencies.  Is it more important to you for the listener to hear layers of sound or merging frequencies together creating sounds of their own? 

As you say, the work is a piece featuring merging drone and oscillator’s sound, not a style of sonic violence at all. But in my younger days, I’ve got influenced from the early works of Klaus Schulze. Why I began ASTRO as a solo unit other than C.C.C.C. is because I liked to create the sound featuring analogue synth genuinely apart from the chaotic direction like C.C.C.C. The work “Live at Borealis Festival” is a strong tendency toward that taste.

Of course it’s very important that listeners listen to the composition or details of my work carefully, and I’m grateful to it.

I know you’ve done some shows in the US and other locations.  Have you noticed a difference in how audience members react in the different cultures?  Also, have you ever destroyed any equipment or venue speakers?  Merzbow was rumored to have done that.

Nowadays, Japanese playing noise have been accepted naturally, but in the early 90s, we were sometimes given odd look though received many praises. I suppose, to Western people, Eastern people playing noise might be eccentric-looking; like Japanese Ankoku Butoh dance in early days.

And in my case, I’ve never destroyed equipments or speakers so far.

What is next for you in 2017/2018… future releases or collaborations?

In this September, the new album of ASTRO “Tateyama Mandala” will be released from haang niap Records (http://www.neconeco-rec.com/haangniap/) in Japan on cassette.

Also, I started a new unit “Galactic Abyss”. The members are four of Rohco also in ASTRO, Shizuo Uchida, Chiyo Kamekawa and me. It’s a noise string quartet of a guitar, a violin and two bases. Now we’re planning to make a split cassette of ASTRO and Galactic Abyss and I think it’ll be released in next year.

It’s been some years since CCCC released new material yet I read no indication that it was no longer existing.  Is CCCC done or do you think there will be more activity in the future with this project?

I’m the one who formed C.C.C.C., but have no future prospect. I think it’s difficult to gather all of the original four members, because all of us are busy.

Speaking from a technical perspective, many noise artists use some similar types of equipment.  Do you think that there is still much room for innovation for this type of art and if so, in what direction?

It’s sure that many noise artists use similar equipments at a glance. But if you look carefully, you will be able to find various combination, connection and arrangement. Of course the output sounds from them are multifarious.

To assume extremely, if the system of same equipments and set-up is there, when the artists to operate are different, the sound created by it will have complete different taste. In short, created sound will reflect something of the creator’s personality or consciousness. From such a viewpoint, there’s no existence of same sound in a world and on the other hand, there are unborn sounds infinitely.

You are highly regarded in the noise scene.  What do you feel your contribution has been; that no other artist has done.?

To be honest, I don’t think myself is something special in noise scene at all and not have any feeling that I’ve contributed to it. Just it will be my supreme pleasure if there are some people who have listened to the sound I created and have felt, attempted or expressed something by getting inspiration from it.

Some noise artists create recordings they say with “themes” or “inspired by…”  Example; 4ib Records released an “Animal Rights” compilation with Raven, Dao de Noise and Merzbow.  In this recording, some of the noises actually sounded like animals.  Is it more important for the artist to translate the theme to the listener or are the purposes of noise more relevant?

I think it depends on the work. One has concrete theme and other has not concrete one. Of course there are many works which don’t have a theme too.  I’m not going to refer each case, but I think the important thing for artists is how much the work was able to evoke imagination of listeners or not than it has a theme or not.

Let’s say that in many years, a small child finds a box in an old house.  In the box is a Hiroshi Hasegawa CD and something to play it on.  What feeling do you hope this listener has after playing your CD?  Might it be similar to your interest in field recordings as a child?

That’s an interesting question. Actually, I answered in other interview that when I was a child, I’d been absorbed in field recordings by an old reel-to-reel tape recorder in my house and playing back and listening to it. Also I have another episode. In 1970, when I was around 6 or 7 years old, the Expo was given in Osaka and I’ve got a huge impact from a piece that performed in a pavilion. In there, the music/sound I’d never heard was resounding and it made me feel strange like I’d opened a forbidden door. I was fascinated at all and I still remember that after 47years later. Perhaps, that’s a work of Karlheinz Stockhausen in West Germany Pavilion from that unique outside in my memory.

I’ll be happy, if the child senses the wonder and strange feeling that stimulates his or her imagination which can remain until the child become an adult, like my experience.

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