> INCAPACITANTS (インキャパシタンツ) – Improvised Music from Japan

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Incapacitants began in 1981 as Toshiji Mikawa’s solo project. The original base of activity was Osaka, where Mikawa collaborated with Yamatsuka Eye and others. Later, after the move to Tokyo, Fumio Kosakai became a member, to form the current duo. From the beginning, while the attempt to achieve pure noise has been the most important aspect of their sound, they have also been famous for their stage performances, which are so wild they may remind people of pro wrestling matches. This aggressive, energetic style and the beauty of their noise are unrivaled. Along with Hijo Kaidan, Merzbow, C.C.C.C., and Solmania, Incapacitants is one of the most well known of the noise bands which started out in the early ’80s. Because of the members’ other work–Mikawa is a bank employee and Kosakai works in a government office–they have rarely toured inside or outside Japan. In November 1999, they performed at the festival Music Unlimited ’99 in Wels, Austria. This was their first performance overseas.

The performances of Incapacitants–the physically incongruous combination of Hijo Kaidan member T. Mikawa and former C.C.C.C. member Fumio Kosakai–are so wide-open that they explode the usual image of noise music. The noise sound is completely integrated with the convulsive, leaping, swinging movement of the musicians’ bodies–one big, the other small. This is conveyed to listeners in such a direct way that the question “What is noise?” becomes meaningless. –Yuichi Jibiki, Eater


It is our great pleasure to hear some thoughts from the noisiest banker on earth, an incapacitant, sake-loving mr. Mikawa-san. To get started, could you share a few words about Gyo-Kai Elegy?

T. MIKAWA: It’s my first solo release under my own name. As you may know, early days of Incapacitants were my solo recording project and before Incapacitants, there was Contradictory Bridge. I also released a solo cassette under the name of Peguilla Kinugawa. However, Gyo-Kai Elegy is very special to me, because it’s released under my own name.

For many years (or decades, to be more precise) you have been making ear shattering noises. Any changes or progress in your approach over the years?

T. MIKAWA: I started my recording in my high school days. At first, it was guitar improvisation influenced by Derek Bailey and some other improvisers. In those days, I thought I could play that kind of improvisation, of course soon I found I was totally wrong. Then I encountered various kind of “free music” including Jean Dubuffet and L.A.F.M.S. I learned anything was OK and so continued the recording experiments. I made several cassettes under the name of Contradictory Bridge. At that time, I met Jojo Hiroshige and he invited me to join his new unit, originally named Fushoku no Marie, which later became Hijokaidan, by succeeding the original Hijokaidan’s name. So, I joined most of Hijokaidan’s recording since then (some exceptions recorded by Jojo and Junko only). Contradictory Bridge became Incapacitants, originally my solo recording project. When I moved to Tokyo from Osaka, I was asked to do live performance as Incapacitants and I asked Fumio Kosakai to join as a member. It was in early 90’s. As Incapacitants, Pariah Tapes & Repo were my solo recordings. Still, at first, I thought Incapacitants was a recording project and not suitable for live performance. But with Fumio as a permanent member, Incapacitants has changed very dramatically. The reason why I started Incapacitants as my solo recording project apart from Hijokaidan was that I wanted to concentrate on noise itself, keeping myself away from Hijokaidan’s disgusting live performance in early 80’s. However, doing live performance with Fumio, I came to feel it’s fun to me.

More generally speaking, do you feel that noise has changed significantly over the years? How do you see noise of today?

T. MIKAWA: I don’t think “noise” itself has changed so dramatically. What has changed significantly within these 30 years is the relationship between “noise” and society. In other words, the way of looking at “noise” by society changed so much that many people misunderstand “noise” is a kind of music. I think Throbbing Gristle should be held responsible for that. Of course, I don’t blame them. I would like to point out that without their concept “industrial music for industrial people”, such a situation might have been realized much later. I noticed many young talented noise guys arising almost everywhere in the world. I believe whether noise has a glorious future or not depends on if they continue to make noises. I would like to say don’t stop making noise.


Do you feel there is an insurpassable difference between noise and music? Does noise offer something that music doesn’t?

T. MIKAWA: What I would like to say is that, for example, “techno pop” is the name of a genre of music, but I can’t admit that the same thing can be said about “noise”. I believe “noise” should stand as it is and should not be taken on by “music”. “Music” always tends to take on “noise” as its part, but “noise” should not yield to that attractive temptation. Keeping away from “music”, “noise” can maintain its original power and strength. It’s quite important to me.

From a stereotypical perspective, Japanese are known for their lust for new electronic gadgets and devices. How imporant is technology for making noise?

T. MIKAWA: I think technical progress in terms of equipment makes things easy. In my case, if all the effectors can be much smaller and lighter, I feel very good to bring them into the live space with me. But that’s all. Using new equipments may kill the taste I like in my noise. So, when employing new gears, I try to be cautious.

Incapacitants are legends of intense physical live action. What is the difference between performing live and preparing music in the studio, or composition vs. imporivisation?

T. MIKAWA: As I mentioned before, I now enjoy live performance very much. Basically, live materials are the source of my composition. Of course, composition doesn’t mean making pieces using scores. I improvise.

Art is often harnessed for the extra-aesthetic purposes. In your work, what agenda should we look for?

T. MIKAWA: I don’t have any special message in my noise, but being loud.

And finally, if nobody would be listening to your noise, would you still be doing it?

T. MIKAWA: I think so, because I like to listen to my noise.

Doumo arigato Mikawa-san!


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