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Toshimaru Nakamura & Tetuzi Akiyama: Searching for Zen and Beer

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Would you say that the album is more of a reaction to a particular naive idea of Zen or a real effort of capturing the true essence of Zen as you understand it?
Toshimaru Nakamura: It is definitely not the latter. Only for giving the title to the album, it is somewhere closer to the former. But again, it is just about the title. We didn't show any reaction to any idea of Zen by playing the music and releasing this album.

Mostly, "Zen" in Western music-journalism is used to describe music focused around harmony, minimalism and silence. Aside from the question of whether these have anything to do with Zen: Are they aspects which you consider important in your work at all?
Tetuzi Akiyama: They are important aspects but not everything. There are many other important matters. Things like how you hold the instrument, breathe and go through memories - these are also important not just during the performance but in everyday life. But above all, what's most important is the attitude of not seeking for results or a conclusion. In another word, not wanting to have some kind of completeness in the results, neither when you're playing nor in daily life.

What do you remember about the recording sessions to the album?

Toshimaru Nakamura: These pieces are excerpts of the recordings of our concert tour which we did in Sweden with Erik Carlsson and Henrik Olsson as a quartet in 2008. Akiyama and I did kind of opening acts for the tour before we play the quartet sets, so they are some of those duo sets. So... they are live recordings on tour. There was one night I remember. Tetuzi, Henrik and I wanted to drink after the concert when we got to the hotel. Erik went straight to his room because he doesn't drink. Anyway, there was no bar in the hotel. There was one in the next door hotel but it was not open. So we departed for an endeavour in search of our delight. No, not that grand. We were just asking for a proper treat back after work. Just a simple bar or a pub would have been good enough for us. So we took off merrily to look for a place to drink. We walked and walked. But we didn't see one. We got kind of lost. Tetuzi got a sore foot because he had a pair of bad shoes... I think we were out there for about two hours and found ourselves near the hotel again. Yes, we were back with nothing in our hands, nothing in our body system. Then we finally found that late night bar just around the corner from the hotel. We just made a wrong turn, our first turn when we left the hotel. Anyway, we celebrated our success in the end there.

Did you significantly change your modes of interaction for "Semi-Impressionism"?
Tetuzi Akiyama: Over the long course of our collaboration, I think we built some kind of mutual languages between us. Perhaps it means we no longer have to put "extra energy" into it. And minimalism to me is about not using "extra energy". As I overlook the duo, though, I don't think nothing much has changed. If there was a change, that would be due to the individual approach towards music and the instruments not about how we perceive each other.

There's this sentence in the press release: "This CD existed before the quality of the sound". What exactly does that mean?
Toshimaru Nakamura: OK, I have to explain about it. We came up with an idea of the release of this CD under this title after we heard a comment from a music journalist in Novi Sad, and when we saw an article in a newspaper in Sweden, both the word "Zen" was used to explain our music. It was beginning of the tour so it was before we played the music when the decision of the release was made. This is what the sentence meant.

I thought your introduction to "Semi-Impressionism" was both serious and humurous. Very Zen-like, in fact. ;-) Has recording this album possibly provided you with some important insights?
Toshimaru Nakamura: I would rather think these attempt to answer questions like yours have been giving me chances to think about things. So, thank you very much!!

Homepage: Toshimaru Nakamura
Homepage: Tetuzi Akiyama
Homepage: Spekk Records

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