Boris: “The mystery of Boris only deepens.”


Boris require undivided attention. They are a relentless, prolific and diverse music making machine. Formed in Tokyo in 1992 by Atsuo (Drums), Wata (Guitars/Keyboards), Takeshi (Bass/Guitars) and Nagata who departed in 1996, they have released about 30 albums, and maybe 17 collaborative albums with the likes of Merzbow, Sun 0))) and Keiji Haino . Their musical output veers between noise, sludge metal, beautiful pop, shoegaze, psychedelia and minimalism. With their incredible thirst for loud, unadulterated noise, they could strip paint off a venue wall from the sustained fuzz drones they emit from their wall of amplifiers. What’s impressive about Boris, is that every album release keeps the listener guessing. And it’s this intrigue that keeps Boris fans, and the uninitiated coming back for more. Ahead of their Heavy Rocks Tour of Australia we spoke to drummer Atsuo.

Cyclic Defrost: How do you think Boris has changed over the years? Do you think the intention you had when you started has changed over the last 20 albums or so?

Atsuo: We’ve unravelled a bit of the mystery of rock. The mystery of Boris, however, only deepens.

Cyclic Defrost: How does the creative process work in a band like Boris with so many diverse ideas and styles? Your albums can be so different from each other. Do you make a conscious decision about what you are trying to achieve in the writing process?

Atsuo: We don’t decide in advance. Just as there are various emotions, various songs are born. There’s an undifferentiated expanse of chaos in this world and within us, to which we give a little outline and turn into something listenable as songs or albums.

Cyclic Defrost: How important is jamming to Boris? What does it mean to jam with the same people over such a long period of time?

Atsuo: It’s our lifestyle. We each have our own families and lives, but we share a tour life and output the various inspirations inputted into us through jamming. It’s like a dialogue between us and the world.

Cyclic Defrost: You are renowned for collaborating with such different artists like Merzbow, Uniform, Michio Kurihara, Sunn O))) and last month you released a split album with Coaltar of the Deepers. Why is the band so interested in these collaborations?

Atsuo: It’s a natural flow. We don’t consciously try to do a lot. Making friends and wanting to make music together is a very natural thing, isn’t it? Since we, Boris members, are not solo artists, we mostly collaborate as a band.

Cyclic Defrost: What was the process of collaborating with Merzbow? I’m really intrigued at the way you approached it as your sounds felt quite beautiful, even melodic at times and really contrasted with his digital noise.

Atsuo: His music is very chaotic compared to other music. When music like ours, which is more symbolic and understandable, collides with it, chaos and symbols meld together, and the image of sound flickers. There’s a pleasure in experiencing this state where one’s consciousness dissolves and becomes free. We might be creating collaborative works seeking this pleasure.

Cyclic Defrost: The Heavy Rocks albums seem to happen over 10-year periods. The first being 2002, the next 2011 and the latest being 2022. What’s the intention/concept behind these albums and their releases?

Atsuo: It seems every roughly ten years, the timing comes to summarize our version of Heavy Rock. Throughout various journeys, we confirm the current location of our Heavy Rock with the album “Heavy Rocks.”

Cyclic Defrost: What is the music scene like in Japan at the moment? Does it continue to provide inspiration for you? Do you continue to feel connected to it?

Atsuo: While I feel a fundamental connection, I virtually have no opportunity to experience or feel the Japanese music that’s prevalent in the streets. I feel there’s a lack of music being made for such experiences. However, there are people among my underground friends who are engaging in interesting activities. In our own production, the influence from music is actually quite minimal, and we are more strongly influenced by various cultures and our travels.

Cyclic Defrost: I’m curious about Wata’s creation of the Hizumitas pedal with Earthquaker Devices. I can’t imagine that was something she ever thought she would do. How did that collaboration happen? Was it surprising to the band that your sound was considered so distinctive that you now have your own pedal? And do you use it?

Atsuo: The pedal was created based on the vintage fuzz Wata originally used, and EQD produced and sold it as a clone pedal. Vintage pedals vary in sound, and if the owned unit breaks, it’s impossible to replicate the same sound again. This insecurity led her to create such signature pedals. So, creating a signature fuzz didn’t fundamentally change her sound. However, now her pedalboard is equipped with two Hizumitas. Being able to change settings and use two units has increased sound variation, which is a new aspect.

Cyclic Defrost: You are known as an incredible live band. It feels like you view your shows as something more than just recreating the album. What do you think about when translating your music to the live arena?

Atsuo: Ideally, we prefer to perform in venues with fewer than 1000 people. It’s easier to control the sound that reaches the audience and to see the members’ movements with the naked eye. Experiencing live sound is very important. We don’t find it appealing to play in very large venues or in front of many people.

Cyclic Defrost: I can see that you’ve just released a live version of The Fade album this month. What interests you about documenting these performances? Are you surprised the way your music changes over time?

Atsuo: The performance at the release party for the analog version of Fade was very good, and well-recorded. To perform music created in the studio on an actual stage requires various translations and arrangements. It’s different from playing recorded stereo tracks loudly. The fade performed on a real stage significantly changes its essence from the album. We wanted to share that, and though it’s impossible to replicate the actual experience through recordings, we wanted to share one of our memorable lives with everyone.

Cyclic Defrost: When I think of Boris I think of thundering riffs and Orange amps, but then you have also embraced pop elements on songs like ‘Hope’ from New Album, and Attention Please as well. It seems like a world away from your reputation, or what we would expect. How did it happen?

Atsuo: After the release of Rainbow, the image of Wata singing on stage became stronger, leading to the creation of those songs. At that time, Michio Kurihara was also participating as a guitarist, which allowed Wata to take on various challenges. Her voice is very attractive, and her ad-lib piano playing gives Boris wonderful possibilities. She herself had never thought about singing.

BORIS “Heavy Rock Breakfast” AUS Tour March 2024
Special Act from Japan – KIYOHARU

Wed March 6: Sydney, Manning Bar
Thu March 7: Brisbane Powerhouse Ωhm
Fri March 8: Melbourne, Corner Hotel
Sat March 9: Melbourne, Golden Plains Festival
Sun March 10: Adelaide, Lion Arts Factory
Tue March 12: Fremantle, Freo Social


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