Interview: Damo Suzuki
Published on December 5th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Last month saw the release of the fortieth anniversary edition of Tago Mago, probably the most celebrated work by seminal German experimentalists Can. A significant ingredient of this album’s enduring allure was the inscrutable, esoteric, downright otherworldly vocals of Damo Suzuki, whom the band had just discovered busking outside a café in Munich, so you could forgive the man himself for basking in the renewed glory brought on by such a celebratory reissue.
However, this is resoundingly not the case. Damo has no interest in discussing Tago Mago, or indeed any of his past glories, preferring to focus on the here and now, an outlook which could scarcely be more apt given that he has since 1983 concerned himself almost exclusively with Instant Composing alongside his ever-revolving Network of “sound carriers” (click here to read more about this on Damo’s website).
On February 3rd, Damo will return to Café Oto in Dalston, London to once again perform completely unplanned music with an as-yet-unknown selection of Network sound carriers: truly, this is the very antithesis of a ‘greatest hits’ set. Rocksucker fired him over some questions and received back the following, characteristically enigmatic/philosophical set of replies…
Damo Suzuki’s Network live in Kuala Lumpur (part 1)
Can you ever see yourself making a studio album again, or are you only interested in Instant Composing?
If you know my releases you can find the answer.
Has a Network live performance ever ‘gone wrong’ in any way? Or, given its nature, is it not possible for this type of performance to ‘go wrong’?
We create time and space of the moment, composing pieces on the spot without any information. If there is no concept or plan then how would it be possible for it to go the wrong way or right way?
Do you have any particular favourite gigs that you’ve played, or favourite moments from gigs?
I don’t like to compare A and B, C or D. There are always amazing moments. But, it’s different with situation, atmosphere, dairy process, etc. I don’t like these kind of questions, pick your favourite, or what do you think the best, etc, etc…
Your schedule looks so busy – you’re almost always on tour! Does it ever get difficult to keep up the energy levels?
If you go to my website, you may find I’m not that busy travelling around (Rocksucker says: really??). If you do things which you like you have energy already and it will produce motivation.
Damo Suzuki’s Network live in Kuala Lumpur (part 2)
Do you know yet which musicians will play with you at your London show at Cafe Oto in February?
No I don’t, as usual.
Will you meet up with Lemmy?
I haven’t seen him for a quarter of a century.
On December 6th, you will play a show at a venue in Italy called Tagomago. Have you played there before?
I have performed there two times. Even the owner has performed with the Network. He played drums.
Do you still work an office job as well?
I haven’t worked in an office since 2002.
What made you decide to settle and live in Germany for all these years? You said you love hot and dry places – have you ever been tempted to move somewhere like this? Or would that make it too difficult to keep the Network going?
Time is changing. I don’t know where you read that article (Rocksucker says: here). If you know the answer, you don’t have to ask. I’m not trying to control my way. If something comes without thought, and I find it good, then I go that way. I’m living in Germany because my kids are here and, as a travelling sound carrier, it’s practical to live in the middle of Europe because travel is easy, shorter, cheaper, etc…
Damo Suzuki’s Network live in Kuala Lumpur (part 3)
In this interview you talk about Emanuel Swedenborg, and you say that you think you have some contact with the other side. Does this contact exist only when you make music, or have you also had non-musical experiences involving the spirit world?
You’d never had such experience, when you have contact with someone behind? When there are voices only you can hear?
What do you think of The Fall song “I Am Damo Suzuki”?
This question I have answered thousands of times.
Do your three sons play music? What do they think of your music?
They’re not much interested in my music, they have their own world. My youngest son studies music at the moment.
Do you have any more plans to go travelling in the near future?
You’ll see it on damosuzuki.com.
Where have you not been to that you would like to go to?
17th century Japan.
Are there any places that you return to or do you always like to go somewhere new?
I like to return to places to meet friends again, and I like to go to new places where I make new friends.
Damo Suzuki’s Network live in Kuala Lumpur (part 4)
Are you more well-known in Japan or Germany? Do people come and say hello to you in the street?
I’m not that famous. If you know someone then you think he must be as famous as he is in your world.
You once said that you’ll never be an “idol”, but you have so many fans. Are you happy with your legacy?
I can’t complain about anything.
Why are you not a Jehovah’s Witness anymore? What does “God” mean to you?
I believe in God. If I don’t believe in God, life is just poor.
How much did recovering from cancer change your attitude to life and music? Why did you not want to accept a blood transfer?
Things that many people believe are just average sorts of thinking. If you believe in God, practically you don’t accept a blood transfer. Every single person on this world is special. Blood is the thing which makes people different. You can’t tank different gas for your car.
Finally, if you could meet the young Damo Suzuki, what would you say to him?
I’d ask if he could do this interview.
Damo, thank you.
For more information and a list of live dates, please visit www.damosuzuki.com
Damo Suzuki’s Network live in Kuala Lumpur (part 5)
An important message from Damo’s website
May I introduce to you a website called Sayonara Nukes. They are organising a “Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” rally and they have made a petition for the Realization of Denuclearization and a Society focused on Natural Energy.
Please go to this website.
Last summer I toured Japan and experienced 4 earthquakes. Sadly, Japan is the 3rd biggest country for nuclear power plants (54). During the tour, I spoke with some people about this problem when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster happened and said that we need to totally stop nuclear power plants. Some people showed interest, but some (many) won’t talk about it and don’t seem interested.
Japan has twice been a victim of nuclear bombs and now with Fukushima, so it’s not understandable not to show interest on this. Since Fukushima, the world situation has been changed. Germans will stop nuclear power plants until 2022, then Switzerland will stop too. And, a few months before, Belgium joined this and will stop until 2025.
Nukes are terribly dangerous and they don’t know what do with the rest of the dust from the nuke – some just threw it into the ocean.
I hope that many people will sign this petition.
Let’s stop nuke power together!!!!!