09:48 - 20th February 2013, by Tom Smith

A Band Named Boris

"Eva!! Kaaah, I love this anime sooo much! To tell you a secret, I'm a massive otaku," Atsuo winks as he takes the magazine from us and starts flicking through the pages. We're interviewing Boris, the genre-bending cult act, and they're currently preoccupied with flicking through NEO issue 71, which - of course - featured Evangelion on the cover.

"I loooove robots. You know, this isn't something I say often, but, I like to think of Boris' music as Gundam. Gundam's got so many different worlds within it, all with their own depths and conflicts and so on - Boris is just like that, each of our records is like a different world within our own universe. And it's a big sound, you know. Gundam's a big animation, and we're a big sound."

All this talk of universes and big sounds is no understatement. Our first experience of Boris live was akin to witnessing an alien invasion. The venue was swamped in thick smoke, the lights from the stage shone on the crowd like headlights from the mothership observing the local terrain, and amid the haze and distorted wails of instrumental feedback stood three figures, barely visible.

The band officially consists of Atsuo, supplying the drum-thrashing and backing vocals, and femme fatale Wata, delivering Boris' warped guitar shreds, while Takeshi wouldn't be seen dead without his trademark doubled-necked guitar-cum-bass combo which allows him to drone away on the six-string while keeping the driving basslines alive without so much as breaking a sweat. Even with two guitarists, this still isn't enough for the band when performing live, so they're frequently joined on tour by guest guitarist Michio Kurihara, because, as any true rocker will tell you, three guitars are better than two.

Boris formed in the early '90s with a shared passion for experimentation, musical evolution and fun. This passion has led to the band becoming almost impossible to categorise, and later led to the band splitting into two personas; 'BORIS', in uppercase for their more structured heavy rock recordings, and 'boris' for the more adventurous aural outings. Thanks to Southern Record Distributors, a number of the band's albums have found their way to our shores, including their two most successful albums; Pink from 2005, and their most recent Smile, which saw two versions, one for Japan produced by the band, the other with a producer for the release outside of Japan.

"I think the reason strange Japanese bands get all the press is that those kinds of bands have no real place in Japan, and they send their music out to people who can understand it and appreciate it," Atsuo says, of the band's popularity overseas. "There's basically no underground scene in Japan. There are a million bands that operate in the system, rotting away forever where nobody sees them... All Japanese venues have house drum sets and amps, it's kind of like karaoke... There's nothing there that inspires us. And we don't fit into any scene. I get the feeling that Japanese bands that have become popular overseas are often thought of as 'strange' by people outside of Japan. I wonder if people think of us that way? I really hope not. That would bum me out... but I must say, some of our fans outside of Japan are odd compared to the ones at home. We played some gigs in Europe recently, and one girl in the front row was wearing cat ears!! Haha, we never see fans wearing that kind of thing in Japan! And that reminds me... England's pretty odd too. Before I go, let me ask your readers a question that's been getting at me for some time:

"Dear citizens of the UK. There is one thing about this country that confuses me profoundly... you have one tap for cold water... and one for hot... I totally don't get it! What if I want water that's in between hot and cold? It's impossible! If you find a solution, please let me know."
Many thanks to Claudia Anderson for interpreting the interview.

This is an extract of a larger feature which originally appeared in NEO issue 75.

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