January 27, 2012

Q &A with Alaska B from Yamankata//Sonic Titan

Toronto-Montreal psychedelic opera collective, Yamantaka// Sonic Titan stock has been rising since the release of their new self-title album in October 2011. Prior to their first Toronto show in 2012, one of the founders of the band, Alaska B kindly answered questions for Music Psychos!

1.The recent self-title album, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, was recorded by yourselves. How was the recording process? 

Well I, myself, had to suffer through the long producing, engineering and mixing process for hours of every day. It was a very complicated record, with many overdubs and electronic programming. We did it between Montreal and Toronto, recording the majority of it in my Toronto home, and the rest in random art studios and jamspaces in Montreal.

2. YT//ST shows include a number of artistic characteristics ,including the facial paints, lightning and cardboard sets? What is the most challenging fact to bring such artistic visuals to the performance?

We don't get paid enough to do them to the best of our abilities. The makeup and our home-brewed "Lightning" system cost us a lot to keep working with, and the cardboard sets are constantly getting ruined by water. The fee that most bands make gigging barely covers anything, and we have all these additional costs. Nowadays we have had to scale down all but the biggest shows we do in order to make it financially viable. Before the recession we had a lot more freedom, there was more money moving around and a lot of cheap suppliers. Nowadays we have to stretch that money out more. Because of all the work that we put into the old sets, we only played about 4 or 5 times per year, putting up to a month of work into each show. Now to tour, we can't be running a show that large.
3.The genre of YT//ST is self-describe as 'Noh-Wave', which is derived from Noh-gaku, Japanese traditional drama style, where chanting is highly utilized. Do you think this new genre will be carried on by other bands?

I don't know if it is actually a genre that another band could take on, it's part of our whole philosophy of conflicting duality that I doubt any other group would be able to take on exactly the way we do. Our sound is so varied, that the only real constant sound of 'Noh-Wave', is whatever that connection between every song of YT//ST is. Though we seem to be riding that constant, even I would hesitate to even guess at exactly what constitutes that thread.
4. As indicated by the band name, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan- (Yamantaka- one of the kings who symbolizes Buddhism, and Sonic Titan is a song title by a metal band, Sleep. What has been the most challenging thing when bringing two completely different cultures as one?

There isn't much challenging to it, besides maybe figuring out what really makes something tick. Like, what is the sound of doom? pop? noise? The trappings of genre definition are very banal, and so is this concept of great difference between East and West, Buddhist and not, right and wrong, etc. Just as humans are 99% genetically identical, our cultures are about this same too. A house is a house, clothing is clothing, and family is family. The details may vary, but no more than the chords between two different songs do.
5.According to the recent Pitchfork's interview, you refer to Boris as one of your influences. Are there any other influences from Japanese bands?

I really enjoy a lot of heavier or experimental groups from Japan, I was very much into Masonna and Merzbow when I was in high school. GISM, Lip Cream, Blues Creation, Flower Travellin' Band, Boredoms, Sigh, Sabbat, they all make appearances in my record collection.
6.Any specific manga/ comic books that you are currently reading?

I just finished Osamu Tezuka's MW a little while back
7.What's on your current playlists on repeat?

Admiral Angry - Buster
Emerson Lake & Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery
Acid King - III
This Heat - Deceit
Pentagram - Relentless
Queen - Queen II
Robyn - Tell your Girlfriend
Emika - 3 hours
UGK - One Day

8.If you could be anyone for cosplay, would you dress as?

I dress up as a lady version of the Monkey King so often already, but I'd really like to be Sigourney Weaver in the cargo loader someday haha
9.What can we expect from the next Toronto show on Jan 28th?

Heavy drums, heavy chants, and light paper.

10.Any plans in 2012?
We have a musical entitled '33' being performed at Buddies in Bad Times' Rhubarb Festival, February 8-12. Tickets can be bought at the box office. It's an experimental opera, not a concert.
After that we're playing All Tomorrow's Parties in the UK, followed by an American Tour later this spring.
Thank you Alaska for taking your time between your busy schedule.
Yamankata// Sonic Titan is playing at the Garrison with the Pink Noise, US Girls and Sexy Merlin. The advance tickets are selling out very quickly, (Soundscapes sold out of the tickets, but there are some left at Rotate This and at the door.) Be sure to score your ticket before it's too late.

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