Text and Interview: Andy Fenwick
Photo: Yoshiyuki Shiraiwa
Japan enjoys an embarrassment of riches when it comes to psychedelic rock. There’s the garage crunch of the King Brothers; the free-rock excursions of Ghost, or Fushitsusha; the quasi-religious heights of the last few Boredoms albums. The noise of Merzbow, the space-metal of Boris, the unclassifiable Shintaro Sakamoto; all retain a tiny yet consistent pysch element.
Since 2004, Sundays and Cybele mastermind Kazuo Tsubouchi has seated himself in the guitar hero section of psychedelic rock. On 2015’s Gypsy, neither the Gun Club-like slide guitar riff on “Saint Song,” nor the melodic, Dick Dale-meets-Bardo Pond figure on “Waiting for You” functioned as window dressing; this was guitar riff-as-chorus, more alike to Sonny Sharrock than J. Mascis. On subsequent live album “Heaven,” the song “Black Rainbow” begins by evoking S&C’s countrymen the Boredoms, specifically their “SuperAre,” but quickly morphs into a thrilling stew of Neu!-like Krautrock, if devoured by lead guitar.
With cover art like a lava lamp garlanded by geometric chemtrails, new album Chaos and Systems, out February 24, promises more delicious guitar work. On the recent single “Butterfly’s Dream,” Tsubouchi’s guitar works again as chorus, with a waltz-like figure not unlike something Thin Lizzy would routinely achieve, or, more recently, like something favored by Heron Oblivion. But about four minutes later, Tsubouchi’s guitar steps back to reveal a soloing organ upheld by chiming piano chords. Maybe they were always there, beneath the din? In any case, it’s a momentary breather, his Strat firing up once more and leading to a clamoring, echoing conclusion.
Ravelin spoke with Tsubouchi about Sundays and Cybele’s new record.
New songs “Butterfly’s Dream” & especially “Brujo” feature more piano and organ than I’ve heard in any of your previous recordings. Do you incorporate keyboards more on the new album?
Yes I do. But I’m not that good of a keyboard player, so I play simply. I like the sound of keyboards as well as guitars, so I want to learn to play them well.
What’s ‘Butterfly’s Dream” about, lyrically
When I wrote the lyrics, I was inspired by the ancient Chinese thinker Zhang Zhou. The title is the same as his most famous story. The lyric is, roughly speaking: ‘real is dream and dream is real’ and the concept that ‘you can’t prove yourself, you are yourself.’
Where was the new live album recorded? One venue, or many different ones?
Six tracks out of seven were recorded at the venue called Globe in Newcastle. The last track was recorded in the small French village of Tarnac. It was a great experience – we served the dishes we made and played music. I really wanted to keep a record of it.
What current music fuels your work most?
Some Asian psychedelic music and electronic music fuel our work for example: Scattered Purgatory and Prairie WWWW. In fact, I need to check the current releases from Guruguru Brain soon! Also, a short time ago, I took part in the jam session with the guys from Kikagaku Moyo, Scattered Purgatory, Minami Deutsch, Dhidalah and more. I was excited and inspired by them.
What’s your favorite guitar make? Your favorite amp? Your favorite pedal?
I haven’t tried many kinds of guitars and amps. Actually, my main guitar, a Japanese Fender Stratocaster, is borrowed. However, if I buy a guitar, I’ll buy a Stratocaster. It has the useful tremolo arm and is easy to control. My favorite amp is Marshal JCM 900 and Fender twin reverb, but I don’t use the reverb of the fender amp. My favorite pedal is Digitech ‘bad monkey’ overdrive. The price is low but it’s very useful.
While touring, did you see any bands who deserve more attention than they’re getting?
Bo Ningen was a great psychedelic explosion. I saw them for the first time eight years ago when they did their first Japanese tour. Eight years ago, we went to Tokyo from our hometown Hakodate and had a gig with them by chance.
Are you a fan of French New Wave cinema, or just “Sundays and Cybele”?
I love new wave cinema and not only French – but Sundays & Cybele is special to me.