Crossbeat, March 2013
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(Note: this is a rough translation of the original Japanese article)
Nigel: I felt like 'The Eraser' was, as it were, created in a vacuum, we two alone shut ourselves in the room. although that was a really wonderful experience, finally, once the album has been completed, that's done. when an album was released and if we were a band, we could tour and confirm how people react to our music. but two years had passed since the album was completed, Thom was to make solo live at Latitude Festival. you did it at Cambridge too?
Thom: Yeah, certainly.
Nigel: And... this is my interpretation, Thom was so excited about the idea that he was playing these songs at live shows. because he never had a chance of it.
Thom: And I had already finished some songs.
Nigel: All of them were absolutely stunning, but not kinds of music that we'd want to play simply by computers when we went on tour. naturally, because that couldn't be not very persuasive for audiences. so from my point of view, his idea of getting to the point and trying to reproduce the electronic beats by using percussions, I thought it was great. then we had only to solve a little puzzle that required to find appropriate people and unravel how we play. I and Joey have been collaborating for many years and then i've always told Thom how great he was. then Joey introduced Mauro, so we met him. that's just how we looked for the answer, we were very lucky.
Thom: Exactly. because Mauro was a wild card. when I went to see his performance with David Byrne, I was overwhelmed by it and convinced that I had to collaborate with him. but now I think, in retrospect, what I was amused was not only that I was surprised how everybody got synchronized immediately and the band very quickly shaped up when five of us got together and started the rehearsal, but I found it was the first time I played with the band other than Radiohead since I was 16 years old. I confess that was quite a heavy impact and confused me.
'Atoms for Peace' and Eisenhower
Thom: (...)my father was a nuclear physicist, studied at Imperial College London. in the late 1950's he was walking around with test tubes that held plutonium, without adequate protection. that was the ordinary, because he didn't know it was dangerous. it holds naiveness like that and i've been taken my fancy. the biggest reason that I wanted to name the band 'Atoms for Peace' was in the contrast with its naiveness and darkness lurking behind, how its naive thought's worked out and changed. (laughs)
Nigel: What does it mean?
Thom: It means what? (laughs) However, at the same time, the sound of 'Atoms for Peace' is not only suggesting kind of wonder kinetic energy but expressing even tranquillity. that has no relation to Eisenhower's proposal at all. on the other hand it also makes us consider the crisis that we face today. the problem, that is how we generate electricity. a supercollider, or can we discover the source of energy that saves humankind, or not? (...)
How to create Atoms for Peace's sound? Are there any bases for the songs, or are the songs the result of absolute improvisation?
Thom: Yep. jam sessions and supergroups are not dissociable.
Nigel: All the supergroups have jams.
Thom: Have jams.
Nigel: There's a side like that but not only that.
Thom: Exactly. As a prerequisite, we basically set the starting points but those things I had at hand were only sorts of beats, and I wanted to know whether they could actually play them physically. so that was like a challenge to them. I even proposed like “okay, try this” and “try to do that” or “let's play this and see how it goes.” for example, 'Stuck Together Pieces' was made like that. (...)
Thom: (...)What I was so interested in this band was how everything was physical, intuitive and sensuous when we started a jam session. it was filled with energy and I was really excited, then about to look for whatever would be the trigger of sessions. but it was not like feeling “are you ready? let's start playing”. because this is not like that. what is important is the strange conflict between the machine and not-machine. it brought out our specific play and lead us to specific direction and gave us impetus to develop our idea. before my very eyes, something is made from pieces twined in trivial beats. it can be only heard faintly at the end of the song. i'm surprised that we need only a little chance to develop the idea in a certain direction. so ultimately it would be improvisation but we're looking for where it'll get to, after spending much time on narrowing down objectives concretely.
Nigel: That process is considerably affected by self-control and also demands extraordinary levels of skill as musicians. it would be easy if you only had jams. (...)
Thom: (...)that most part of songwriting was formed by Nigel's notes taken while we were improvising like that, and proceeded by mixing parts of sessions together. I suppose that's because if you let me have my own way, i'd listen again to every sound source incredibly closely and that could drive me mad. in that respect, Nigel can decide promptly which parts we should use, like 'this large part and this one, that one....', without any dispute. (laughs)
Nigel: (laughs)I have a technique like that. I can pick out shining parts as listening to ongoing sessions, and find them out intuitively. however it happens naturally, so I can't explain the reason.
The difference between 'The King of Limbs' and 'Amok'
Nigel: on 'The King of Limbs', I aimed at making the pure electronic thing as if it would appear suddenly in the air. I sounded the elements in real time, each member contributed. so I barely looked back. but 'Amok', I think it's been processed by being taken apart later. on 'TKOL', after going on for an hour, the noise gathered and took form. more logical and finished instantly. it's a strange album. but on 'Amok', there's 'dance' at first, I mean, we begun with electronics, then it turned to physical drums, and partially return to electronics, or evolved in a different direction. so it took a long time. (laughs) that's why the process was more complicated, in a strange sense. after all, 'TKOL' is typical for the band. 'Amok' is... you will contradict me if I go wrong.
Thom: Not at all!
Nigel: The most fundamental difference is that different people are engaging. so i'm not saying that I did the same trick to both of them. their formations were completely different from each other.
Thom: The machine Jonny built formed a nucleus on 'TKOL'. it was a kind of looping machine, I mean, he took all the sounds we played into the machine and put it out later. that's an opposite way from 'Amok'. the band followed what I proposed and that was more physical, 'TKOL' was floating in the air. I felt like that anyway.
Why did you name the album 'Amok'?
Thom: Strange to say, I didn't notice some people had very dark impressions about the word “amok”. I even feel “amok” to be cheerful, and very mischievous. however, a Dutchman told me “the term amok is relating with Indonesia”.
Nigel: You know, Indonesia was once a colony of the Netherlands.
Thom: Yep. then I heard “amok” means that Indonesians go out the streets and kill people indiscriminately, getting beyond endurance of oppression of colonial rule.
Nigel: Yes. I heard the word “run amok” is a literal translation, it means that to be bloodthirsty and raging. so terrible. we were rather imagining a feeling that children are running around.
A message for the Japanese fans
Thom: I'd love to go to Japan in 2013 and hope to see you all then. And I very much enjoyed at Fuji Rock Festival, so give me some more things like that!
Nigel: Give me more!
Thom: Big up!