A six-hour jam session once left the members of Kikagaku Moyo in a state of semi-consciousness, their sight played upon by vivid visions strewn with colours and patterns. It was then that the Tokyo band came up with the name they today go by, which translates to ‘Geometric Patterns’. For them, music is a pure and free form of psychedelia.
Between founding and running the Tokyo Psych Fest and their own label, GURUGURUBRAIN, it’s fair to say the quintet are a pounding underground force in the global psych scene. They are five members: Daoud Popal (guitar), Ryu Kurosawa (sitar), Kotsuguy (bass) and Go Kurosawa (drums) and Tomoyuki Katsurada (vocals), who uses his voice not to project a message but rather as an accompanying instrument. Never singing about anything in particular, he forms a language as he goes along leaving its meaning up to his listeners’ interpretation. Their influences are similarly free, from acid and traditional folk, classical Indian, hip-hop, blues and some black metal, each band member’s likes and dislikes coming together as an endless process of creative cross-pollination.
Soft melodic tunes are laden with sitar drones: the 27 minute track Pond from their latest album Mammatus Clouds (on tape and vinyl) has the ability to stop space and time. This is music that transports the audience away; the room or venue is no longer relevant it’s just you, the band and whatever wave they’re riding at the time. It was whilst busking on the streets of Tokyo they fell into this style of jamming and as such, improvisation forms a heavy part of their live act. It’s the mind-warping, fuzzed out voyages they weave that entrance their audiences so.
The group has recently toured the states, tripping from festivals the likes of Desert Days and Austin Psych Fest included. (An impromptu gig at a house party in Long Beach, California was a special experience for anyone lucky to witness it.) From there it was to Europe, where the five found time to answer a few of our burning questions. Turn on and tune out with one of the grooviest outfits to ever come out of Tokyo.
Jamie Wdziekonski: How has your experience in the UK been so far? How are the English responding to Kikagaku Moyo’s sounds?
Kikagaku Moyo: We just came back to Japan from the UK tour. All the shows were memorable for us and we hope that people in England enjoyed our set. Compared to the US tour, the crowd was older which was really cool. We want to say thank you for those who came to our shows and also to people who helped us out.
JW: You’ve travelled to Australia on your first international tour in 2013, you then played in America and you are now in the UK. Of all your time spent travelling what’s your most cherished moment or memory so far?
KM: Of course Austin Psych Fest, but also our first show overseas in Melbourne with Beaches was a cherished show. We remember people well who we meet on the road. Someone who we met after a show, or someone we met at a gas station. Random people but good memories.
JW: You’ve mentioned that one of your main themes when making music is to have an awareness and connection to nature. In such an overbuilt, overpopulated city such as Tokyo how often do you guys get to spend time in nature? Do the sounds of nature instinctively guide you and the way you handle your instruments when playing, for example how hard or fast the wind is blowing or whether the sun is out or the moon is shining?
KM: We go out into nature whenever we are overwhelmed by the bustle of city. Whenever we play music in nature, we try to listen to the sound of the wind or birds and try to jam with the sound. Sometimes we try to imitate the sounds by our instruments or enjoy the silence between the sounds so birds or bugs can fill the void.
JW: Psychologist and writer Timothy Leary was always for the intelligent use of psychedelic drugs for mind and consciousness expansion. Where do you think psychedelic drugs sit in the spectrum of the culture? Is it or should it play a big part in ones journey?
We believe that psychedelics definitely play an important role in culture. It’s important for us is to know the difference between tripping and journeying. Also, there are many shamanic tribes who practice without any the use of any psychedelic drugs or substances but they still cure people and guide along spiritual journeys. We often play music just to seek our spiritual path, Pond is one of them.
JW: What’s something you haven’t tried yet as a band but would like to?
KM: We would like to play music in a cave where water drips and echoes along with the sounds that we make.
JW: What is the most important book each of you have read to date that you think everyone should own a copy of?
KM: The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner and Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovitch.