What is music? To most, the parameters are well-defined. This is a pop song, that is rock. This is metal, and that is classical. But then there is the kind of music that rages and claws so vehemently against anything our collective conscious might call musical, it threatens the very definition of music. This is what noise artist Merzbow makes.
Born in Japan in the mid-1950s, the man also known as Masami Akita started out playing drums in high school bands. He and his band mates crafted an already well-worn style shaped by the likes of Cream and Jimi Hendrix. Before long, Akita’s tastes drifted toward improvisation and free jazz, before he lost all interest in what might be defined as music in a traditional sense.
It was then that his infatuation with noise began. “I quit playing and tried other things like tapping the floor of the studio or rattling the chairs,” Akita says of his early forays into the genre that would consume him for the next four decades to the present day.
From 1973 onward, Masami never glanced back at his early classic rock leanings. Leaving music and throwing himself into the virtually limitless void of noise was nothing but liberation, says Akita.
“Quitting something is so thrilling to me because it tells me what’s important. At the time, I was struck by Pierre Schaeffer’s Symphonie pour un homme seul and the poetry of Surrealism and Dadaism. All this led me to making music only by noises and sounds generated solely by non-instruments.”
Nowadays, Akita mainly takes his inspiration from the world of beasts, with themes of animal rights dominating his creative output in both the abstract and concrete sense. His latest album Takahe Collage, which was released in April, is devoted entirely to the birds of New Zealand.
Merzbow performs Saturday night at The Wall, B1, 200, Roosevelt Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路四段200號B1). Doors open at 7:30pm and the show begins at 8pm. Supporting acts are Fujui Wang (王福瑞), Betty Apple (鄭宜蘋), Dino (廖銘和) and Wolfenstein (謝仲其). Tickets are NT$800 in advance, NT$1,200 at the door.
■ Moving on to things slightly more accessible. Japan’s Galneryus will be at Legacy in Taipei on Sunday night, bringing their brand of European-flavored power metal to a city that has long favored the genre over metal’s more extreme sub-categories. You can expect lots of galloping beats and soaring leads along with those testicles-in-a-vice falsetto vocals that have been hallmarks of power metal since the early eighties. The band, the members of which prefer to go by single names only, was founded in 2001, and has become just as well known for its original studio output as it has for its penchant for releasing cover albums.
Galneryus’ latest album, the verbosely titled The Ironhearted Flag Vol. 1: Regeneration Side, is actually a cover of themselves: They’ve rework their earlier material. For guitarist and band founder Syu, it is a way of commemorating the band’s history, and also a means of marking an important milestone in Galneryus’ career.
“We wanted to do it to celebrate our 10th anniversary,” Syu explains, “and we wanted to honor the sound and the members of our previous era. That’s the main reason we decided to do it.”
Syu’s classically trained fingerprints are all over the album’s tracks, spanning the band’s entire history. Though now known for his fleet work on the fretboard, Syu began his musical training on the violin at the age of six, and then moved on to the piano. He even took up the drums in fourth grade. The multi-instrumentalist counts global superstars X-Japan among his biggest influences, and their sound is readily apparent in Galneryus’ style, minus the visual kei elements in the live setting. As for future plans, the band is slated to release yet another album of re-recorded material in the fall.