Japanese Noise And The Art Of The Absence Of “Playing”: An Interview With Yasuyuki Uesugi.

Yasuyuki Uesugi is a noise/power electronics artist native to Japan.  With Japan being what most consider to be the epicenter of the noise “scene,” one must wonder what this artist does to separate himself from the masses.

He does so by separating himself from his instruments.  Whereas master noise craftsmen like Merzbow and KK Null multi-task with manual manipulation, Yasuyuki Uesugi is truly unique in his methods; put simply, he does not “play.”  He simply selects his sounds, instruments, parameters and lets nature take its course.  The result is a natural flow through which Yasuyuki Uesugi channels his spirituality.  We are very grateful to him for the interview.

Hello and thanks for your time for the interview. Could you tell us a little bit of your background and how your interest in noise/music began?

I’ve been a listener for underground music (death metal, post rock, techno, ambient, etc.) for a long time.  When I was listening to music, I wanted to try it myself, and when I was young I played drums. However, I couldn’t meet the members who matched the musicity, and couldn’t make music.  I also wanted to create music using DAW software, but it was difficult to learn and I couldn’t do it.  Just last year, I have known about music production by sampling and thought that I could do it.  I bought an analog synth called DNVO-1a from JMT SYNTH (a handmade synth maker in Japan) to collect materials for sampling.

This is the beginning of my interest in noise music.  I was completely fascinated by the noise sound of DNVO-1a. I also wanted an even more noisy sound and bought an analog synth called LD-2.  While enjoying improvised performances with these two gears, the interest in music production by sampling diminished, and I came to want to make music using analog gear such as JMT SYNTH.  So I sold out all the equipment except JMT SYNTH and got analog equipment.  At this time, I ask for JMT SYNTH to produce a custom analog synth called NDSQ, which is the core of my current noise sound.  After purchasing the equipment, I first started producing experimental music using noise, but after trial and error, I felt that the current noise music was best able to demonstrate the power of the equipment, and this style It has been established.

Who are/were some of the experimental or noise acts inside and outside of Japan that inspired you to create your work?

Tetsuji Masuda from JMT SYNTH. Without his analog synths, I wasn’t interested in noise music.  And much of my noise music today is thanks to him.

Your bandcamp page states the following: “A characteristic of my noise music is that I don’t play. I wanted to convey a pleasant sound as it was, so this style was adopted.” Could you explain this? What is your process?

Until I arrived at the current style of music, I touched the parameters while recording and changed the pitch and so on.  When you create a song in that way, the next development is interesting to read, but I don’t think it’s all a good noise sound.  I decided not to play while recording because I wanted to deliver a pleasant noise sound.  Here’s how to make my noise music.
1. Set the parameters of the equipment and search for a pleasant noise sound.
2. Press the recording start button on the MTR.
3. Listen to the sound until you are satisfied without doing anything (often about 4 minutes).
4. Press the recording stop button on the MTR.
5. Adjust the volume.

At first glance, this would seem to be a completely unchanged music, but I realized that it wasn’t.  There is a slight change in the sound due to the instability inherent in analog equipment and the effect of spring reverb.  This was unintended, but I think this natural change has led to a more pleasing noise sound.

Can you talk about some of the analog and digital equipment you use in your studio?

I make music with all my equipment at home. As a result, it was not affected by COVID 19.
The current equipment is as follows.
Analogue synthesizer: NDSQ (JMT SYNTH)
Spring reverb: LRV-1 (JMT SYNTH)
Mixer: LM-8ST (TASCAM)
Compressor: DL241 (DRAWMER)
Preamplifier / Compressor: 1960 (DRAWMER)
Parametric equalizer: 1961 (DRAWMER)
Multi track recorder: DP-24SD (TASCAM)
Headphone amplifier: MH-8 (TASCAM)
Monitor earphone: UM PRO 50 (WESTONE)
Cable: 8412 (BELDEN)
Power distributor: AV-P250 (TASCAM)
The connection of each equipment is as follows.
NDSQ→LRV-1→LM-8ST→DL241→1961→1960→DP-24SD→MH-8→UM PRO 50
NDSQ and LRV-1 were cutom made produced by JMT SYNTH, and I think that these only one models in the world have created my personality in noise music.

\NDSQ is a 2VCO analog synth. The features are too varied to explain. I created a lot of songs, but I still feel like I can create new sounds.  Some of the features are not available now, so I think I can add more variations to the song.  LRV-1 is a spring reverb. The sound is very rich because it uses a fairly large spring.  I use two compressors, but the DL241 plays the role, and the 1960 is used to add flavor.  1961 also uses a high-pass filter and a low-pass filter, but does not do anything in other ranges. This is also used for flavoring the sound.  The only digital equipment I use is the DP-24SD. However, it is only used for WAV file production and volume control. In fact, I don’t know how to use other functions.  At the time of recording, we record at 48kHz, 24bit to make the sound quality as high as possible.

You have quite a number of digital releases with curious track titles. Where did some of these titles come from?

My noise music is based on my distorted spiritual world.  Keywords are mental world, psychiatry, brain, psychology, disability, society, etc.  I think it’s hard to convey the theme if it’s just noise, so I often use long text as the title.

The artwork on your releases is also quite intriguing. What is the reason or inspiration for the lack of colors?

When I was writing this interview, my latest album, “The Story I Envision Os Constantly Being Destroyed By Others”, picked an image from the word damage.  Color is my preference.

Do you have a particular release which you think is your best work? If so, why is that?

I release all of them the best, but I think the latest works are the best.  Since NDSQ does not have a manual, new ways to use it will be understood every day. And the expression method will also increase.

What reasons do you find that people have for listening to noise/power elecrtronics?

I think it’s because I feel comfortable with the intense sound.  Pleasant sounds are differ from individual. Those who fit the noise will hear the noise.

Surely people look to Japan as the center of the noise movement in some ways. This is why we hear terms like “Japanoise.” Do you think there is a certain cultural aspect of Japan that inspires so many noise artists?

I don’t know much about the noise music scene, including Japan, so I don’t know for sure.  However, I think Japanese are good at making good use of existing things in a creative way. So, I think that a scene like Japanoise was born.

Some performers like Merzbow have been known to destroy club speakers or cause disturbances with the police. Have you ever had any live performances where such things happen?

I have never played live in the first place. What’s more, we don’t have any live gear yet.
I just want to express the spiritual world with sound, so I don’t think I’m going to do harsh action other than music. I only make harsh noise sounds.

What are the rest of your plans for 2020?

I release new sound sources. It is undecided how many works will be released.  At least in my Bandcamp, we release new noise music every weekend.  There are some plans to be released from the label.  If you find a good label in the future, you may ask if you can release it.  Of course, if you have a release offer from the label, you will also receive it.  I would also like to live activity in Japan if there is an offer.  In that case, I also buy equipment. There is equipment composition in the head.

How do you think this current coronona virus situation has affected you as an artist?

My music activity can be done at home, so COVID 19 was not affected.  However, I think that the release of my label’s work has been delayed, because it is not far from the release.  Of course, that is inevitable, so I hope COVID 19 will end soon.


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