Acid Mothers Temple: Casts Weird Spell
In high school I was told that one could make a fortune by smuggling a sheet of acid into Japan where the psychedelically deprived kids would buy tabs for $25 a piece. As the grim reality of rotting in a Japanese prison or the high cost of plane fare, were not taken into account, this seems in retrospect very solid proof that some of my teenage compadres were scheming miscreants and not so bright as well. This apparent acid drought seems not to have held back the participants in the Japanese psyche scene who seem to manufacture the substance en masse in their pineal glands. Japanese Psychedelic music is the perfect meeting of the ninja with the shaman on the mountain.
The Acid Mothers Temple is one of the most epic bands in this "Japanese Psyche" history and are incredibly prolific in creating recordings as well as in creating permutations of themselves. Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O, Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno, Acid Mothers Temple & The Pink Ladies Blues, Acid Mothers Gong (featuring members of psyche supergroup Gong), and Acid Guru's Temple (with Mani Neumeier from Guru Guru) are some of the many incarnations of the Acid Mothers Temple soul-collective. When asked if the band lived as a commune in Japan, which I had heard previously, AMT guitarist Kawabata Makoto replied thusly (which can be found in the FAQ section of their website)...
"Over a decade ago I became involved with a commune of Japanese beatniks and
hippies, but the whole left-wing ethos didn't really sit right with me. The members of
Acid Mothers Temple have several houses all over Japan, and each of us is free to come
and go between these houses. So we're not a commune in the sense that all of us live
together in the same place. There are some members who like to travel, others who stay at home. Everyone is free to live in whatever way they like. Our slogan is "Do Whatever You Want, Don't Do Whatever You Don't Want!!". As a result of this philosophy, we have lost money and the trust of society as a whole, but we've gained time and freedom..."
Anticipation was high for the bands first ever visit to Charlottesville at the Satellite Ballroom on April 22, 2007. A friend had told me she saw the AMT play for six hours in Japan until the sun rose, in 2006. For this tour Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. were Kitagawa Hao (voice, thermin, hot spice & alcohol) Tsuyama Atsushi (bass, voice, cosmic joker) Higashi Hiroshi (synthesizer, guitar, dancin'king) Shimura Koji (drums, latino cool) and Kawabata Makoto (guitar, speed guru). Upon my arrival to record the show I was told by the house sound engineer that the band would be incredibly loud. Nice one!
The opening act (and suppliers of a gorgeous backline as well) were Mammatus from Santa Cruz, California.
Mammatus is a heavy-stoner-psychedelic band that bring West Coast vibes and killer riffs. The band exhibited Spinal Tap-esque stage moves and sported goofy mumus, communicating with the audience only through their music and echo laden talk-back mic. This is evidence that they don't take themselves too seriously, which is refreshing. They do however take their music seriously a
nd it is seriously heavy music. Check out their newest release, "The Coast Explodes" on the esteemed Holy Mountain label.
The Acid Mothers Temple took the stage with total command over the moment, the crowd, and their own weirdness, which is completely natural to them. There was no trying in anything they did. It was all simply doing. The set ranged from full-on grooves with guitar leads soaring above to spacey noise to a cappella Japanese folk chants to vocalizations hinting upon throat singing. The band was simultaneously tight and laid back. As was forecast earlier, the stage volume was loud-as-hell, but not to the detriment of the overall sound. The full sonic delivery was enveloping and brilliant.
Each band member conveyed their own individual brilliance without straying from the communal vibe of the music. Bass player, Tsuyama Atsushi who celebrating his birthday during the show, supplied much lightheartedness and pleased the crowd with his sporadic vocalizations of gibberish and rock solid bass foundations. Kitagawa Hao's theremin often came in sounding, at first like vocal feedback, then morphed into a cosmic sonic shimmer. Her vocals and feminine presence balanced all the raging cosmic dude energy on stage. Band leader Kawabata Makoto gave the most outlandish performance, sometimes swinging his guitar wildly in circular orbits by the strap and sometimes holding it by the neck and bending it with the resistance of the ceiling or hanging PA speaker. His solos and wails were expertly accompanied with flying hair and awesome rock moves.
The most curious aspect of the show was the audience's reactions to the music. The scene was bizarre. One guy was tweaking and pinching his nipples, eyes closed in ecstasy. Another guy was constantly hugging himself tightly, as if in a straight jacket, shoulders dancing wildly like waves, once again eyes closed in ecstasy. Someone else was in a kilt. Two dudes in the back of the room stomped about wildly and ran circles throughout the whole room. One of these guys was wearing a little sailors cap and seemed ready to fight a bull. There was plenty of typical head-bobbing and swaying, fists in the air, and even head-banging but the weird reactions of the few fused with the music to make for a wholly entertaining spectacle.
Finally, a visit to the AMT merch table capped the night off with more fun and laughter. Kawabata was selling one of his broken guitars signed and decorated with cosmic symbols (missing a neck...perhaps from some on stage guitar spinning) along with a t-shirt for $400 dollars. A signed pair of drum sticks were on sale for $10 dollars. About 50 different CD's were available for purchase, including dozens of AMT member's solo albums and side projects, a few different LP's, and a trippy t-shirt. In all ways the band comes across as cosmic jokers and masters of paradox. They are as heavy as they are light, as serious as they are funny, and as cosmic as they are human.
Please enjoy this exclusive Monkeyclaus recording of Acid Mothers Temple and Mammatus direct off the board (and with an ambient room mic) at the Satellite Ballroom.
"I have seen UFOs on many occasions, but I don't like to draw any links between UFOs and aliens or spacemen or any of that shit. I only see them as mysterious and impossible to understand phenomena." Kawabata Makoto
words and recording by Matthew Clark
live photos by Chris Makarsky
photo of Kawabata Makoto and child in a field from AMT website