'Through the Mirror' is the name of a stage play, and the song titles are names of each act. I identify as the main character – a fantasy of a human who does not talk/cannot talk. He is the noise.
Somewhere between noise and extreme metal lives Japan’s Endon. I can’t think of too many acts that are as abrasive or aggressive out there. Full of Hell and Converge come to mind, but both those bands are firmly rooted in metal and that is not the case with Endon. They are literally rooted in some strange combination of noise, music from spaghetti western movies and the echoes of ritual murder. That may sound like a terrible combination, but somehow it works – and really well. As much as they are a suitcase of insanity, their album, Through the Mirror, is surprisingly likeable and kind of fun. It’s probably the most interesting metal album to be released in 2017 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up on a lot of top 10 lists at the end of the year.
Tim Porter managed to catch up with Taichi Nagura, lead singer of the band, and get his take all things Endon.
(((o))): Could you tell us a bit about the band’s history, where and when you all met, and what the major influences were in the band’s style?
Taichi: This is tough to answer; not one person can explain in birds-eye view when talking about a group. A spokesman really doesn’t exist for Endon. Taro Aiko and I are middle school classmates, and Etsuo Nagura is my brother. I think the story begins when those two began playing noise-oriented music. The band was established when Aiko, an estranged friend, had called out to me saying he wanted to start a band. Previously, Etsuo and I were in a psychedelic power electronics trio, but we had just broken up. We thought of the concept for Endon that was made up of the two’s noise corps, live instruments, and my vocalization. Guitarist Koki Miyabe and drummer Shin Yokota were in a band with people a few years younger than me. I talked to them and convinced them to join, and we officially started in 2007.
Back then, compared to now, we were more about free-style music. We were aspired by Masayuki Takayanagi’s Mass Projection and Peter Brotzmann’s Machine Gun, and often imitated them. I think it was natural for us to be influenced by such sounds when we tried to establish a noise band in Japan back then. We were also influenced by pioneers like Kaoru Abe and Hijo Kaidan.
We took quite some time to work on what kind of formed, much of which was loud group improvisation. From about 2010, we decided to have Koki Miyabe as the main composer and bring in musical scores. I think that the road leading from MAMA to Through the Mirror is one of the results of taking this route.
(((o))): Are there any underlying themes to this album? It seems to have a musical progression and a connected narrative, and I’m curious if that was intentional.
Taichi: I interpret Through the Mirror as “going beyond self-love and infantile omnipotence.” I gave this kind of title, but it doesn’t mean that we will withdraw from those kinds of things either. Through the Mirror is the name of a stage play, and the song titles are names of each act. I identify as the main character – a fantasy of a human who does not talk/cannot talk. He is the noise. Thus, there’s no lyrics. I’ve spun fiction and entrusted the story to a chain of song titles. Since the work originates from my personality, it has an essence of metafictional intentionality.
(((o))): As I listen to Through the Mirror vs MAMA, this album feels more streamlined and a bit more focused and intense (if that’s even possible!). Maybe that’s just an illusion. But I’m curious in how the band sees Through the Mirror vs MAMA and what goals the band had for the album.
Taichi: In MAMA, noise is arranged as an exorbitant pleasure principle and unconscious emission of energy. At first glance, this new work’s structure seems to make the music suppress those elements. When we were writing the record, instead of treating noise as something exorbitant, we wanted the noise to function as part of the song. Perhaps you are describing that effect with wording like ‘more streamlined’ or ‘a bit more focused.’ It’s like denying and killing the idea of ‘noise’ which can be referred to as a ‘symbol of freedom.’
This also means that we’re cutting off our outrageous desires in a paternal sense. In this case, the ‘father’ who enforces the paternal disconnect is ‘rock.’ We merely say that the core of this identity is a ‘noise band,’ but we’re a ‘noise band’ with ‘rock’ as the father. In that sense, this work pairs up with MAMA. But such disconnect by the father, which is strengthening tune structure as rock, and applying emasculation to noise, we want to highlight what we are deviating from. However, rather than being ‘cut off by my father’, that is, strengthening song structure in the mold of rock, applying castration to the noise, we deviate from what we did before. By borrowing the structure of universal rock, one of the goals of this work was to question what it means to deviate from that structure, which equals drive (driving ambition, urge, sexual drive).
(((o))): I’m also interested in the instrumentation, especially the home-made and noise generating instruments. What are they? How do they work?
Taichi: Fender Stratocaster for the guitar, Marshall JCM800 for the amp head, and Hiwatt and Booster Hotcake for the speaker. The Hotcake is always on. That’s the basics. Koki Miyabe says that he keeps in mind to minimize distortion as much as possible in order to communicate the nuance at hand. He’s also said that from listening to Buddy Guy’s Stone Crazy and Stooges’ Raw Power, he realized that it is the playing style more than the tone that deviates. Even at Godcity, where we recorded Through the Mirror, he was taught about the amps that were not high-gain among the collection, and he chose something close to a combination of Marshall and Hiwatt.
That noise equipment, if you place yourself in a harsh noise industry, it isn’t something that’s new but rather traditional. You could say it imitates Painjerk or Merzbow. We attach a spring to the metal piece and attach a contact microphone to pick up the sound of the two materials.
Our specialty is that we position the equipment in our band formation just like we would do with guitars acoustically as well as a performance. It’s like a string instrument that only has the resonation of sitar. Endon is a band with two string instruments.
(((o))): As I understand it, the album was recorded in the US. Why was that?
Taichi: This was because I just really wanted to record at Godcity; I felt that they could best capture our sound. Also, by recording at Godcity, I wanted to delve into the international scene, and stand on the battle field.