Interview with ENDON vocalist Taichi Nagura | By Spyros Stasis
Even in music that is extreme and brutal, there always exist a few bright examples of blinding ferocity. Japan’s ENDON are arguably one such band, pushing the boundaries of what is sonically possible and audibly tolerable. Even among the most adventurous of the Tokyo scene, ENDON stand out.
Considering where ENDON come from, it is no coincidence that they are forward-thinking with their music and concepts. Being part of the great tradition of Tokyo experimental and noise music, they have been inspired and helped by prominent figures of the scene—like Atsuo of Boris and Souichirou Nakamura of White Heaven—but they have also given back, spearheading the Tokyodionysos compilation, which features many of Tokyo’s finest and came out on vocalist Taichi Nagura’s own label, G.G.R.R.
But with time comes the need for a change of scenery, and ENDON decided to record their new album, Through the Mirror—released via Hydra Head Records on June 2—far from the Tokyo community, with Kurt Ballou of GodCity behind the production helm. Nagura shares a bit about the band, the new album, and what ENDON have in store following its release.
Can you tell us about the origin of ENDON? How did the collective come together?
ENDON have been the current lineup since 2007, consist of singer, guitar player, drummer, as well as two noise/electronics players. That means we have noise players as permanent member additionally to traditional rock band formation. Our concept at that time was “improvement of functionality that noise music has.” Our first self-financed EP, Acme Apathy Amok, was released in 2011; Japanese label, Daymare Recordings, put out the first full-length, Mama, in 2014, being licensed to Hydra Head Records after that.
In 2016, you toured both coasts of the U.S. and became better known in the Western underground scene. What was your experience on that tour? Do you feel like you left a mark on the people who attended your shows?
Both tours were fantastic and went great. We played eight shows in West Coast in February 2016 and four shows in East Coast in November; that was right after our Through the Mirror recording session at GodCity. The best thing that we had was response from show attendees. I have an impression that our attendees saw fresh and new one—that is to say, ENDON. We felt we were accepted by them with unexpected surprise.
How would you compare your previous record, Mama, to the new album? In what ways do you see the band evolving through the years?
A major difference between Mama and Through the Mirror was songwriting process. Most of Mama we improvised together first, then tried to focus what we would like to do or where we go. During that process, guitar play gave us some guide and that made the songs grow. On the other hand, basic structure of songs on Through the Mirror is written by guitar, then we tried to figure out what is the best way to improve those songs.
Your music encompasses a great deal of influences, from grindcore and black metal to noise and power electronics. Do you feel that by embracing the extremities of these genres you are creatively liberated?
Our identity is based on noise music; essentially, we are noise band. Therefore, we can [find the] sublime [in] various kinds of extremities of all kind of music. That’s what only we can do; we are pretty confident about that.
A lot of bands make use of noise, but you take it to a further extreme. Do you treat these sonic textures as additional instruments that expand the sonic palette or something running in parallel to the foundation?
We have never tried to make use of noise. To us, noise is un-played music and infinite element. From the beginning of songwriting process, our noise players get noise devices and compose like guitar player does with guitar. Therefore, noise is crucial to us to write songs.
What is your process when it comes to songwriting?
To explain in simple way, if we would like to write songs in specific style of hardcore or metal, we try to follow that way as primary idea, because those music have its own style and atmosphere we love. If there is none for songs, like more experimental or avant-garde style, visual image would be a big inspiration to write more. Songwriting process always varies; it really depends on what we would like to do at that time. Probably, we get bored easily if we keep writing song in the same way for a long time.
Your debut album, Mama, was recorded and mastered by Souichirou Nakamura of White Heaven and produced by Atsuo of Boris. Through the Mirror was recorded and mixed by Kurt Ballou. What signaled the change? How difficult was it to take time off from your other activities to travel to GodCity Studio?
I guess most of the band who play aggressive music like us, they wish they could track guitar and drums at GodCity one day, so do we. Luckily, we could make it, because Tadashi [Hamada] at Daymare Recordings has known Kurt for a long time; probably he wouldn’t take an inquiry directly from ENDON. In fact, when we wrote songs of Through the Mirror, we thought over again, “What was the best song to be recorded at GodCity?” and how we try to grow them during the session. Obviously, it is not possible for any Japanese band to tour North America or to make record outside of Japan without certain amount of finance or prop over there. Maybe we would be able to make it happen just once, but can’t keep it [up]. I hope Through the Mirror can be a breakthrough and good opportunity for us worldwide.
There’s far more of a live feeling on the new album.
Honestly, our time schedule at GodCity was [more] limited than the process of Mama due to travel expense to U.S. Our focus was to record exactly what we did at that time more than to make the greatest album in perfect way. Indeed, it has real and live feeling in that sense. Prior to the recording session at GodCity, we did preproduction a lot, but the result turned out something different—of course, in a good way—just because an environment of recording session was totally different from what we did in home ground, Tokyo. It led very good inspiration totally; we could catch them and mix it with our own original idea that we brought to the session.
There is a fair level of notoriety that comes with your menacing live performances. Is that an element that stems from the extreme quality of your music?
There is no strategy for my performance onstage at all. It’s been absolutely spontaneous. I just reflect my feeling against ENDON’s song at that time.
What are some of the themes of your work? Do you draw inspiration from personal experiences or look elsewhere, like books or films?
If the world of imagination can be regarded as an experience, the whole things are based on my own experience. However, some part of my experience has been based on books, films, or conversation with my friends too. All those things can be resource. It doesn’t really matter what is fiction or nonfiction. As for my selection of words for title, [it] has a background of psychoanalysis.
In the past, you have discussed the concept of parricide, killing one’s family. Do you feel that the current generation is still enamored with the previous one(s), attempting to mimic them instead of moving on? And is this the same subject you touch on again in “Torch Your House”?
Of course, the subject of “Parricide Agent Service” and “Torch Your House” are linked. It is just an example from me, it could be the case for everyone. Some culture that your previous ones or father generation made, you trust it. My opinion is that the culture seems to be similar to your “house”; why not burn down the “house” after [buying] insurance on it, in order to create your own?
I mean, it’s not only for my struggle against my own family or my generation, but you should realize that everyone has their own “the house you have to torch” or “parents you have to kill.” You know, symbolism and reality won’t be the same at all. Additionally, my song titles have its own story on personal level and everything is linked tightly.
Given that some big names in the Japanese scene are involved with ENDON, can you tell us about the relationships between the different bands in the Tokyo scene? Is there a sense of camaraderie in the scene, acting like a community, where one band helps another to get their footing?
Boris are great, we hang out very frequently and learn lots of things. Close friend. A couple of years ago, I put out compilation album called Tokyodionysos through my own private label; every band on that is my favorite, like great dub band Preparation Set, crusties at our generation Zenocide and Isterismo, ongoing cool industrial band Carre. I will never forget to mention that Incapacitants—who is formed by two noise players of Hijo Kaidan—they are incredible. Among grindcore scene, ENDON respect Swarrrm and Black Ganion, they are pioneer and one of a kind. I am familiar with experimental hip hop crew and label Black Smoker. Apart from music scene, we love collage and graphic artist Kousuke Kamamura who did the cover of Mama and new Boris album, Dear.
Finally, what did you find through the mirror?
I can see my ugly self there! [Laughs]