Bo Ningen are probably the hippest band that you’ve never heard of. They’re a pretty big deal for the in-the-know in places like Japan (from where they hail) and England (where they currently reside.) They’ve been making records since 2009 and have collaborated with the likes of CAN’s Damo Suzuki and Savages’ Jehnny Beth and last year they were invited to play Yoko Ono’s Meltdown Festival at the Royal Albert Hall. The band’s most frequently referred to as “acid punk.” They often boast avant-garde, metallic noisiness, or post-punk audacity, but they also have a firm grasp on classic psychedelic rock. They’re a bit like a Lars von Trier film; they’re easily competent enough to compete on the turf of their historic forefathers, but they’re generally at their best when they’re fucking that shit up. Bo Ningen’s third album, III, comes out on Stolen Recording on May 20th, but they’re already currently in the states. They’ve been shaking things up at some of this year’s biggest musical celebrations, including SXSW and Coachella, while their run of US dates is set to conclude with Austin Psych Fest. However, they’re playing a very small handful of intimate club dates, and likely the most intimate of these dates is going to take place right here in Philly, April 29th, at Milkboy. I suspect the next time the band is on US soil they will be playing packed 1,200-capacity rooms to rabid music snobs and that their upcoming show at Milkboy will be bragged about for years to come by those who actually attended. In the midst of Bo Ningen’s US travels guitarist Kohhei Matsuda took some time to tell me just what the band is all about.
Izzy Cihak: This band has been at it for a while now and you’ve had some pretty cool and noteworthy accomplishments. What have been the highlights of Bo Ningen, for you?
Kohhei Matsude: It’s been such a pleasure to have this real feeling of being in a new creation of sound. And we get to meet our musical heroes, like Jaki Liebezeit, Damo Suzuki, Faust, etc…
IC: Your website characterizes Bo Ningen as enlightenment activists. What exactly does that entail? I quite like it.
KM: We write a new history of psychedelic music, and we realize it with the sound. This doesn’t just mean we are making “new things.” A history doesn’t just go one way. It’s about past/present/future. Our attempt is to rewrite/write these. And people would listen to it in a form of songs and get something out of it, that is enlightenment.
IC: You’re about to release your third album. How do you think it compares to your first two?
KM: The new songs contain more experimentation in harmony, such as layering different tonality, or mixing slightly tilted rhythms on top of each other. And the engineer/co-producer, Max Heyes, did a great job. We shared a deeper understanding of how a song should sound, and we didn’t have to talk too much about it. It was an almost telepathic process. Lots of studio work involved, but the sound remains real. Even though sound doesn’t have visible body, this new record is almost visible and physical.
IC: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences?
KM: In terms of sound and structure, we are always fascinated by these of club music. Taigen has a strong connection to heavy bass music and Mon-chan has gotten so much better in producing rigid yet powerful grooves. We have brought the cold electronic beat to a new realm of man-powered madness.
CAN is always the most common interest between the four of us. Not just the sound, but the attitude. The way they juxtapose different cultural elements but still keep the sound fairly accessible. Having several layers of context.
IC: You have a handful of upcoming US dates, including a stop in Philly’s own Milkboy. What can be expected of the live experience?
KM: Only people who come to the actual show share the feeling. It’s like ritual. We share vibrations of the air and something big.
IC: And after your US tour, you have a bunch of UK dates in May. What are your post-UK-tour plans? Anything you’re especially excited for in the second half of 2014?
KM: We have bunch of UK/EU summer festivals coming up and probably somewhere else too. It’s exciting to travel and see new places, people and emotion. We have some new ideas to try out too.