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nterviewing Eye was a dream item for this week’s Hall of Fame. After a near-endless batch of overeager emails, we finally got everyone together. Much thanks and respect to Hisham Bharoocha for performing translation, not to mention giving it a second shot after spending one fruitless morning dialing Japan and drinking coffee in my living room.
Describe your ideal planet.
After asking, Hisham goes into a back and forth for a full minute or two, and emerges with:
He says it would be pretty much like Earth.
Immediately, I realize this isn’t going to be easy. Then again, it seems completely appropriate. For a band that has been genially victimized in America by weird categorizations—misunderstandings, probably—of Japanese culture, I can accept something clear and concise even if I’m losing nuance.
Well, what’s your favorite natural sound?
He says it’s hard to pick one favorite, but he really likes the sound of frogs and the ocean. He doesn’t really see any one better than another.
Well, wasn’t there some sound at some point that made him hear life differently—something he hadn’t heard before?
He says there was an earthquake. A super low-end vibration; it happened when he was sleeping.
So he felt it too.
Yeah… he said you feel it in a really deep place and you hear it too. It’s a scary, threatening sound. He says he likes sounds with power, like thunder. One time, before playing a show, he witnessed tremendous lightning and remembered hearing the thunder as drums. In old Japanese illustrations, the god of lightning is playing a drum—he thinks that thunder is the ultimate drum.
The Boredoms are an essentially physical band. (They’re also a dance band, more or less.) On the past couple of tours, Eye has taken to using spherical motion sensors to trigger samples of static and noise that resemble ocean and thunder sounds. I know, hyperbole is really passé, but I will testify that it’s one of the most jaw-dropping things I’ve seen in my marginally exciting life. It makes total sense, of course, that he seems incapable of separating sounds from the physical aspect of what makes them. In his pre-Boredoms band, Hantarash, he legendarily bulldozed a club wall. Sight-sound-physicality—with the Boredoms, these things are pleasantly tough to separate.
Well, you’ve said that your current live setup was somewhat inspired by Bon Odori festivals and dancing. What other elements of traditional Japanese culture have been influential on who the Boredoms are as musicians?
In Bon Odori, the drummers are in the middle and the people rotate and dance around the drummers. It’s all based around the drummers. He always thought it was a beautiful thing—
The centrality of the musicians?
Yeah. He says that the Boredoms have always wanted to play in the center of the audience but they haven’t been able to do it in America…
He grew up in Kyushu. Now it’s more industrial, but it’s still got countryside. There are traditional drumming, singing, and dancing festivals all over Japan in the summer; he has memories of watching the drummers play. They have these really big drums, and the skin of the drum is held down with little nails. The drummers would start with making rhythms by rubbing the nails; he remembers it like DJ scratching—how the texture of the edge of the turntables have little bumps.
Futuro-primitive! Out come the ideals.
I know you've talked about how there isn't really a break between what you do in visual art and what you do in music, but hearing and seeing are totally separate. What connections do you draw between your visual art and your music?
When he sees an impressionist painting, for example, he hears a sound with it. He can’t say exactly what the sound is, but he hears it. Like when you look at a comic book—how they depict a sound.
Yeah, you hear something and then you visualize it.
It’s synasthetic, like the lightning god with the drum.
Hisham asks if there’s anything else I want to cover. I have plenty of heady, ambitious questions, but they’re losing their point. Do you consider yourself a religious person? What is at the end of the rainbow?
What did you do today?
He asks. Finally freed from the tyranny of my goofy ambitions, he starts to chuckle. Pause. Chuckle. I wait for a full two minutes.
He mostly relaxed. He says he has a really hard time getting anything done when he has to. He usually just waits until the last minute.
Come on, he has to have done something today.
Hisham sounds chummy. Chuckle.
He took an Epsom salt bath. It’s good for you. He wanted to go to the ocean, but the weather is bad.
Will he go tomorrow?
He will go tomorrow.