Q&A with Boris

Q&A with Boris
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Ahead of their upcoming Heavy Rock Breakfast” tour of Australia, which includes performances at Brisbane’s Ωhm festival and Golden Plains, plus the band’s first appearances in Adelaide and Perth since 2015, we caught up with Atsuo for a Q&A.


What music was in your house when you were growing up?

Anime theme songs and pop songs from TV. The first record I ever got was a compilation of anime and tokusatsu (special effects) theme songs. I still have that scratched-up record.

You met at university in Tokyo, did you all have proposed careers you were working towards at that time? How did your families react when you pursued your music?

I had been going to an art high school since my high school days, hoping to lead a creative life. University was an art university, but it was very important to make time for music. It was a crucial period because I met the members of Boris there. My family became more worried as the band continued, but they were worried and supportive at the same time.

What makes you say yes or no to potential collaboration? Is it easy to say “No” if someone asks you? Does Boris make the first move to approach someone or do you wait for people to ask you?

Saying “No” is easy. Everything starts from friendship, so anything else can be easily declined. We think of it more as something that happens organically than making or receiving offers.

If a collaboration isn’t working out, what do you do? Do you push on to make it work and get to the end?

We don’t really encounter situations where it doesn’t work out.

You’ve regularly collaborated with Merzbow. What do you think makes these collaborations so successful and what have you learnt from working with him?

From him, I’ve learned about the potential of music and how to vividly bring music to life. I often felt resonance with Masami’s perspective, and under his influence, I’ve been living a Vegan Life for 20 years. It’s this resonance and sympathy that I believe has allowed us to continue for so long.

You started as a 4 piece, originally with Nagata on drums, but have been a 3 piece for most of the time the band has been together. What do you do to try to avoid 2 on 1 creative arguments and artistic conflict within the band?

It never becomes 2 vs 1. It’s Boris vs 3. The music comes from the relationship between Boris and the three members. The band is not the property of the members; the three of us are involved in something elusive called Boris.

Being as prolific as you are, do you ever feel burnout? Is having breaks between the album and touring cycle conducive to your creativity or do you find these times difficult?

No slump or burnout. Music always leads us, so no problem. Touring is input, and production is output. The engine never stops because we receive so much stimulation on tours. During the pandemic, we couldn’t tour, but the warm support from fans worldwide meant our engine never stopped.

Do you decide an overall plan for an overall sound/theme for an album when you start working on it or is it more organic. What do you typically talk about when discussing starting a new album?

It’s organic. There’s no specific period; sometimes the image for the next album starts during a tour. Albums and songs connect, and as songs accumulate, the direction and title of the album often become clear.

You’ve been as busy as ever since COVID, did the world stopping for a while help your creativity or was it a hindrance?

It was both a hindrance and a help. We are always moving around the world, creating music. It was a very long time since we had made music by observing the world from a stationary point in Tokyo. Feeling the strong support of our fans was reassuring, and it created a strong desire to restart touring and meet everyone.

Geographically, is there anywhere in Tokyo (or elsewhere in Japan) that you go when you are seeking inspiration?

No, there isn’t.

When you’re away from Japan, what do you miss most about Japan?

During tours, we receive a lot of stimulation, so I often want to return to the studio to record quickly to keep the inspiration alive. As a Vegan, I find more delicious food while touring, so in this respect, Japan is still difficult to live in.

I read a quote that “We are not really recognised as a genuine Japanese band even among the Japanese, so most people don’t really understand Boris.” Is that validation as a genuine Japanese band something that is important to you? What do you think is important to understand Boris and the art you create?

It’s not important. It’s fine to be misunderstood. We just told the truth, and it’s not a complaint. Music and art become a mirror for the viewer. It’s important how the viewer lives their life better. Is the reflection in that mirror beautiful to you?

You have such a large and diverse discography, for anyone new to Boris, is there an album you recommend they start with to understand you? Or somewhere where you’d recommend that they definitely shouldn’t start? 

Any album is a good starting point. We hope people find their way to Boris through various paths and enjoy the journey. Each person naturally develops their own perspective on Boris.

You’re playing Golden Plains festival while you are in Japan, how do you go about writing a setlist for a festival where you play to people who may not be familiar with your music?

We rehearse a lot, but we cannot program so many songs into our bodies. The festival setlist is usually selected from the setlists of our tours. Unless specifically requested, we don’t prepare a special set for festivals because of the extensive time required for rehearsals and preparation.

Atsuo does a lot of the Boris artwork credited under the name Fangsanalsatan. The band has also paid homage to Nick Drake’s Bryter Lyter album cover on Akuma no Uta, and have used Stephen O’Malley designs. How important is the album artwork to you? 

Fangsanalsatan is another moniker of mine. I started using it because I didn’t want my name, Atsuo, printed repeatedly in the album credits. Artwork, stage production, costumes, makeup—all these are expressions of Boris and are equally important. In a way, the music Boris creates is a part of Boris itself. I think of it as a comprehensive art. “Art” can be rephrased as “a way of life.”


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

Tickets for all shows are available now via feelpresents.com

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