Hi there, how is Yakuza doing at the moment?
We are doing great thanks. Just recorded a version of Pink Floyds “Lucifer Sam” for an upcoming tribute record to Syd Barrett for dwell records. Real happy with the way it came out. Also just got back a remix for our song “the blinding” done by none other than Justin K. Broadrick. Fucking sinister, he says it is the sickest mix he's done in years. We have to agree. That will be coming out on the vinyl version of “transmutations” in the next few months.
I just can't stop listening to 'Transmutations'! Dudes, I mean 'Samsara' was pretty great and all, but this time around you really nailed it! I know people often referred to Yakuza as “that weird experimental jazz metal act” or something along those lines, but with 'Transmutations' you've created such a fundamentally different-yet serious sound that I don't think people can dismiss Yakuza as “weird” anymore, what do you think?
Well it was never weird to us but I do feel there is a consistency we were looking for that happened with this record. The songs are still varied and always will be, but it feels like an album…
To me the record sounds a lot less experimental, and more depressive than anything you did before. Certain songs like 'Egocide' made me think of the atmosphere in a book I've read this year. Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'; a desolate, burned America, with little hope left. Was there a particular reason for this darker approach?
Not consciously no. I mean the states are a funny place to live in right now. Very divided socially, culturally etc. Politics and such are really affecting people generally all over. Everyone is feeling the effect of what's been going on here for the past number of years as is the entire world.. kind of bleak but we are not ones to dwell on that kind of shit. Have to keep your head up. Never to give in.
Speaking about books, do you get inspiration for writing lyrics from any books? Do you have any writers you'd like to recommend?
Sometimes. Actually the song 'Meat Curtains' is a nod to the exchange between O'brian and Winston from 1984. I have read that book several times at several points in my life. It has had a profound effect on how I view the world and the concept of control.
You've always been inspired by Eastern themes, yet I feel that this is not so strongly the case on 'Transmutations' (I might still hear a little of those Tibetan monks on 'The Blinding'), am I wrong, or was it time to explore some different grounds?
Seriously we don't follow a set pattern when creating. Many things inspire us. Yes the band name is I supposedly “eastern “ in origin but we are not going to stop there. Actually saxophone wise I have really been getting into Ethiopian music. There is a whole series of recordings from artists who were coming up in 60's who really didn't have any exposure to modern jazz recordings yet the sounds they were creating!! Fucking incredible. Oh and on the other end of things I cant stop listening to Blut Aus Nord: amazing. I started messing around with guitar again because of that music. Well one of the reasons.
You recorded the album with Sanford Parker, whose name I hear a lot in connection with more Chicago bands. What is his role in the Chicago scene, and what made you choose him over Matt Bayles with whom you worked previously?
Sanford is an amazing engineer and good friend. He helped out with 'Samsara' and when it became time to record again it seemed like recording in our back yard with our dude was the way to go. I Could not be happier. I am telling you this guy is the shit. He has a great ear and understands how to record no matter what style it is, that's key for us. Not slighting Matt at all, that was one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had. He really opened our eyes in a lot of ways. Task master in a good way!
I heard Sanford Parker and Unearthly Trance used some shrooms when they were mixing their record, did you do anything of that order while producing Transmutations? Because I have to say even though the record sounds less freaky than before things like 'The Blinding' are still mighty trippy!
I am not at liberty to speak of what or how many different substances we may or may not have ingested when working on this record...ha!
Can you maybe explain the concept of 'Transmutations' a little bit? Why was this the perfect title for this record?
To “transmutate” is to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary. There is more to this music than an arrangement of sounds It has been woven to together by the collective unconscious of all four members experiences. Deep profound soul searching experiences within an array of emotional states. That's where the variety comes in. life is not so cut and dry, you can't wrap up everything in a neat little package including this music, that's why this title works.
There are a couple of references to meat in the song-titles. Songs like 'Meat Curtains', 'Black Market Liver', and perhaps 'Zombies' too'. Did you get inspired by Chicago's meat packing plant history, or am I seeing ghosts here?
Oh nice. We live very close to that area. Actually a few of the guys grew up around there. Yeah shit, maybe it has…we are Chicagoans through and through…
Last time our e-zine talked to you, there was still talk about your experimental project Kabuki Mono. I tried to find it on the web but I only found this weird band from Bristol, UK! Did you abandon that project?
No we most certainly have not. We plan to record a batch of new ideas soon.
Talking about band names, I recently discovered a band called Snuffed By The Yakuza! You don't have anything to with that do you?
No. I have heard of them though
Getting back to that same interview from 2003, Eric said: “Our writing-process is very easy, like Bruce said. We have so many ideas and stuff: we keep making music forever. We don't want to wait two years for a new album”. And yet it took you three years to come up with 'Samsara'. Fortunately, 'Transmutations' took a lot less time! Was 'Transmutations' really that much easier to write?
Well, 'Samsara' was actually recorded almost a year before it came out so during that time we began to write again right away as we are doing now (for the next release). Switching labels and stuff kind of gave the impression we were inactive when actually we were not.
In 2003 you told us you'd come to Europe, and then I kind of lost you for a while, did you ever make it? More importantly, I hear you were planning on coming to Europe early fall, which is, like, right now! So that means we can expect you guys here in The Netherlands anytime soon, right?
Man it's been back and forth now for years. Auch!! We just had some dates come our way AGAIN and not work out. As always we hope to get over soon
So you've released three great albums, you've toured a lot; you've met some great musicians…what drives Yakuza these days? Is there anything you all want to do that you haven't done? Like, tour Japan maybe?
Always the music. Sounds cliché but its true. Touring anywhere in the world we haven't been is key. We love to travel and play for people.
Any famous last words?
Have a good time all the time…yes bringing that one back thanks!
Thanks a lot for your time!
Always a pleasure. Thank you for the thought provoking questions!