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Interview with Yoshio Machida

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Fine, thank you. I'm in Tokyo.

What's on your schedule at the moment?
I'm working for my dub-electronica band "miimo".In April, the CDs are distributed to Japanese CD shops.

There were two years between "Hypernatural #1" and #2, but seven  years between the second part and the final installment. Why did it  take so long to bring this cycle to a close?
Most of all tracks for Hypernatural #3 were made in 2000 to 2004. For the release, there were some offers in that period.But unfortunately it has been not released..Now, thanks to Eric of Baskaru, it is finally realized. I'm really happy.

On the outside, the techniques used to realise this last part look  very similar to those of its predecessors. Were there nonetheless some kind of particularities either in approach or tools – possibly  required by the theme and concept of the album?
The approaches to the individual volumes of the Hypernatural series are the same. In 1995 or 1996, I started to make the tracks for Hypernatural Series. I was thinking to make sound collage work with meanings. Because I was influenced by the art works of Russell Mills and Ian Walton. These painters use all materials, paints and meanings that materials include. If the comb is used on the canvas, it means "forever" and "society", like that. I thought that it could be done in audio art work in the same way. Bird song, gong, ethnic instruments, electronics...


With regards to the field recordings used on the album: Were they  recorded with a particular musical context already firmly on your mind or did you instead compile a large pool from whence to draw your  material at a later stage - i.e. did you allow the recordings to influence your compositions as well?
I was working for international cooperation. There were some opportunities to visit developing countries. So most of field-recording sounds were recorded during those periods. I visited into non-tourist points for the work. The good part of field-recordings is to be able to experience the real environment with sound. That's the big different from studio work in a room. So of course my compositions are influenced by the experience. Compositions include not only the sound but my thought through the experience. Especially in Asian countries, I could learn the root concept of Japan. It's really important to me.

Your recordings are very site-specific. How does that go along with  the universal questions behind the "Hypernatural" series?

It's "meaning." All is with meaning if human beings recognize it. So far, I have described the place where I recorded with basic credit. Because it's important. For example, the bird songs in the last track,"Hypernatural", was recorded in Tanzania. The place is called near "African Great Rift Valley", the place of human evolution. I thought that it is suitable for the last track in this series.

In physics, there is the question of the influence of the observer on the experiment. How important is your Asian (or Japanese) background to the way you regard the questions posed by the Hypernatural series?
I thought that I should start from what I am. After World War II, there was a big change in Japan. Concepts of values were changed. The link with traditions was broken after that. For example, there was a custom of worship to the Sun every mornings. It's really animism. Now most of people no longer perform it. But once you visit some places in Asia, you can see the same custom. Graduating from art university, I had not looked at the root. We learn the history of European art, but do not learn about art and culture in Asia so much, even though we are Asian. When I visited to the minority villages in China (they are really similar to Japanese), I learned a lot. I thought to myself how stupid I was at the time. Because I didn't know about us at all. There are wonderful cultures in Asia, just ase in the West. So in this series, it started from Asian issues as memory (#1), through the betweenness (#2), and concluded as more universal things (#3).

You are researching very concrete questions in this cycle. This naturally poses the difficulty of exploring an issue with the essentially wordless means of music. How did you take this into account while working on these three albums?
The way of making Hypernatural series is like kind of movie. In the movie, the metaphor is often used. If there is an injection on the ground in one shot, viewer can imagine in various ways. Then after 20min, you will know why the injection was on the ground. So the balance between sound itself, meaning and title is important I think.

A question in the same vein: You mention that you used "sound parts as meanings and symbols". I suppose that it is less of importance to you that the listener is able to rationally explain these metaphors, but rather to intuitively feel what they are about?

Ultimately, the listener feels it intuitively. I tried to make works include both sides: intuitive and rational. Listening to the surface is OK. And if the listener find some kind of relation between title and sound material meaning, and he or she is interested in the theme, it is also fine.

In the liner notes to "Hypernatural #3" you claim that "nature is fundamentally a hyper-existence". What exactly do you mean by that?
In the 20th, in this 21st century, technology based on science has developed so much. Some people think that now everything is possible by human. But it's an illusion. Humans do not know about nature at all. Humans know a part of nature. The knowledge about nature is really poor. So nature is really complicated and deep including human.

From your point of view, oblivion has a positive aspect in laying the basis to a new world. On a personal level, however, it can be  frightening to observe that nothing ever really stays the same. Do you distinguish between these "subjective" and "objective" views of this process?
You are right. It's really difficult. It's swayed by situation and emotion. Most of oblivion have negative image, maybe. Now my father sometimes can not recognize me as a son. He is really old and an Alzheimer's patient. It's really really sad for me. But I have to live with it...As an aesthetic concept for traditional art in Japan, there is "Wabi". It is similar to this concept.

The Hypernatural-albums seem to suggest that we can only fully understand what surrounds us in relative terms and as a correlation between at least two quantities (memory & oblivion, consciousness &  unconsciousness, etc). What drove your interest in this phenomenon?
Maybe we think with terms, we feel without terms (intuitively). We always come and go between them. So that the would is complicateed I suppose. And strain, misinterpretation and indefinable thing between them are interesting.

After spending so much time with the issue, have you come to some conclusions as to the reasons and necessities behind this relativitiy?
No I haven't. Maybe I will think about it until the day I die.

The "Hypernatural" releases form a sort of ideal environment to discern particular properties of the world around us. How can listeners take a further step and detect them in their most immediate  surroundings and without your "assistance"?
Looking, touching and listening to it by yourself. The information derived from books, TV and the internet is useful. But it is different from real experience. You watch a small creek in sunny spring on TV, it seems to be nice and lovely. But once you put your hand into the water for 30 sec., your hand will be paled out by the coldness. Because the water came from the snow mountain. Like this.

The "Hypernatural" series now spans almost a decade of your work – a stretch of time which is long enough for substantial changes. If you apply the notion of oblivion and memory to your own work: How much of the original Yoshio Machida is still part of you in 2008?
Oh, it's a difficult question! Actually I suppose I changed... I might have became more relaxed : )

Hypernatural (Self-released) 1999
Hypernatural #2 (softl Music) 2001
Infinite Flowers (Amorfon) 2004
Naada (Amorfon) 2006
Read a Book with Steel Pan (Eclipsis) 2007
Hypernatural #3 (Baskaru) 2008-04-27

Yoshio Machida

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