originally published January 25, 2012

Once again I have the privilege of unveiling to the masses a musical artist who hails from a somewhat less conventional corner of the musical cupboard. My Magical Wikinator Machine has steered me to an EP that ranks among the rarest of musical finds. 200 were pressed. That’s even fewer than my country/free-jazz fusion debut, “Lonesome Sheetworker” (all copies of which are still in my closet, and available at a low, low price. Act now!). The EP is called Happenings 1000 Years Time Ago by Japanese ‘noise’ musician, Merzbow.

A few things attracted me to this article right away. First, it has ‘1000’ in the title, which is instant brand recognition for me. Well, for me and Eddie Murphy, whose movie 1000 Words, due out in March, will probably be the greatest film of all time, earning Eddie both an Oscar and possibly a Nobel. Second, it’s a delightful example of a failed attempt at crafting a heady concept in someone’s second language.

Third, this 2-track EP, which boasts only one tiny sentence in Wikipedia, was released in 1999, then re-released (another 200 copies) in 2001. In Sweden. No explanation is given.

We won’t discuss the grammar.

Lastly, and hopefully most interestingly, there’s the phrase ‘Japanese noise musician’. This sounds intriguing because it’s something that I could, with my limited musical training and ability, aspire to become. Not Japanese, I think I’ve missed my window for that, but a noise musician.

Merzbow, the stage name for Masami Akita, is not some greasy kid trying to stick it to the establishment by making music no one would ever voluntarily listen to. He’s actually 55 years old, making music no one would ever voluntarily listen to. As for the ‘greasy’ thing, there’s nothing to confirm or refute that in Wikipedia.

Akita’s influences appear to come from all over the place. Progressive rock, free jazz, modern classical and musique concrete, which is “a form of electroacoustic music that uses acousmatic sound as a compositional resource”. I don’t know what that means, but I’m just going to fuse all those together in my head until it sounds like someone covering Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” while a squawking saxophonist kicks an old cello through a wall of dead fish.

No kidding.

His influences also include BDSM and Japanese bondage. I’m not entirely sure how that works as a musical influence, but I suppose when your stylistic choice is ‘noise’, you can get away with it.

Fans of Merzbow (I haven’t even listened to a sample yet and I’m already a fan) should check out the 50-CD box set released by Extreme Records in 2000. 50 CDs of noise music. What a weekend that would make.

The EP’s tracks, “Happenings 1000 Years Time Ago Parts 1 & 2,” are not available in this monstrous box set, so I suppose noise completionists will have to dole out a bit more money to snag it all.

It’ll totally be worth it.

Akita hooked up with a few bands in high school, but left after a short stint, because the other musicians were “grass-smoking Zappa freaks.” This is an artist so eclectic that Frank Zappa’s music comes across as too mainstream. I am looking forward to checking this stuff out.

His earliest ‘music’ consisted of tape loops and percussion. Akita claims he threw all his earlier music in the garbage, that there was “no longer any need for concepts like ‘career’ and ‘skill’.” That is an actual quote. It’s always refreshing when an artist decides he’d be better off without ‘skill’.

Akira started out distorting sounds through a microphone. His 80’s releases actually brought him enough success to allow him to tour the US, the USSR and Korea. In 1990 he started working in the digital realm, and released his first CD which was titled (and I’m not making this up), Cloud Cock OO Grand.

I’ll wait for the K-Tel reissue.

One of Akira’s more idiotic (or, as it states in the Wikipedia article, ambitious) projects was something called Noisembryo. Great title, but the concept sounds like a bizarre set-up without a punchline. It’s a Merzbow album, even more limited edition than the EP that brought me to this article. One copy, that’s all he made. And that copy was sealed inside the CD player of a BMW sedan, which was rewired to force the driver to hear the CD every time the car is started. I can’t find any info as to whether or not someone actually paid to own this car, or whether they kept the CD player as-is. But this kills my plan to create a similar project using a lime-green Kia Metro and Lesley Gore’s “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.”

Those who purchased (and survived) Merzbow’s 50-CD box set in 2000 could then follow him into his ‘laptop era’, in which he started creating his non-music-music on computers, bringing them on stage for his live performances.

He has produced several works centered around recordings of his pet chickens. Seriously, I don’t even have to write jokes here, Merzbow is taking care of that for me.

Thanks, Merz!

In 2002 Merzbow upset a bunch of his fans by releasing an album that featured rhythm. Nothing pisses off fans of clucking chickens more than a beat.

We almost got Merzbow to tour Canada in 2009, but he cancelled due to the Swine Flu pandemic. Dammit!

I think it’s time to listen to some of this brilliance and judge it on its own merit, not on the silliness that seems evident by its very existence.

This super-limited-release EP is nowhere to be found in the free domain of the web, so I started out with “Worms Plastic Earthbound” from Merzbow’s 1996 smash album ‘Pulse Demon’. The track is over 6 minutes long and sounds like an industrial sander giving birth to a demon. Skipping ahead, I’m treated to the sound of squeaking intrusions into static. I wish I had a live version of this; I bet the ‘soul’ really comes through when you hear it live. That is, unless Merzbow tossed out ‘soul’ along with ‘career’ and ‘skill’.

I jumped ahead a few more times, and if there is any deviation from the theme of ‘taking a digital crap overtop TV static’, it is slight. I can’t even imagine the context in which someone would listen to this entire piece. What drugs would enhance it? Who would you sit next to? A friend? If that friend had any sense they’d never return your calls after that. Would people put on this album to have sex? Maybe if one of those people was a sadistic robot, programmed to hate humanity and to express that hate through angry humping.

I’ve had my fill, and fortunately, I’ve surpassed my 1000 words. I encourage everyone to listen to some Merzbow, preferably some of his chicken-inspired recordings if you can find them. And be sure to watch for my bulldog-inspired noise-music debut: “Farts & Grunts In H-Minor.”

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