Why Bo Ningen – and what is Bo Ningen?
In Japanese, Bo means stick, while Ningen means human, thus ‘Stickman(men)’ it is, like the most minimal version of a drawing of a man. Are we merely a projection on the wall? Maybe. But we strive to become an actual being.
Your music defies all categorisation. Despite this, how would you describe it?
We’re not into putting our music in a category or genre either; it’s totally up to listeners and audiences. Whatever genre they think we are, I don’t mind.
When a band’s music breaks boundaries, it is very difficult to maintain the initial momentum? How do you keep it fresh?
I’ve never felt it’s hard to keep the momentum. Obviously playing live is very important for us and, when we play gigs, it’s just there. Every gig is different and every single note, tone and attack of the sound is also different. If you’re aware of that, you’ll never be bored of what you do.
Clearly, the fact that most of your songs aren’t in English hasn’t hindered your music and the way it’s been received. Would you say music transcends language?
Definitely, yes! I totally accept if anyone misunderstands what I’m singing about, as I want listeners to use their imagination rather than catch everything from the language they already know.
You’re known for pretty off the wall performances, bringing back that rock’n’roll element with a touch of danger. How important is image for your music?
It’s very important as it portrays a visualisation of the music, in a way. Through the image, you see the music.
You also play in your home country, Japan. What differences do you see between the scene in Japan and Europe, from a band and performance point of view?
I want listeners to use their imagination rather than catch everything from the language they already know
We get more nervous before the shows in Japan because of the vibes in most music venues and festivals. They are way more organised and anyone working in the venue, even the audiences themselves, are pretty serious and focus a real lot on the performance when compared to Europe. Also, they do understand what I’m singing in Japanese, so I’m very aware of the words I’m using, especially when I’m going to improvise. I love playing in Japan and Europe or the US because it’s such a different experience for us as well.
And do audiences react differently?
Very much so. Japanese crowds are much tamer, in a good sense. They show more respect to the bands and they seem to ‘listen’ more instead of getting wasted. It’s not a case of whether it’s right or wrong, it’s simply a different approach, I guess.
What is your creative process like?
We mostly do jamming first and then add on the individual elements. We gather the extracts, making one whole piece, then carve it, add some other elements and recompose it. It’s a bit like making invisible sculpture.
What do you guys listen to?
Fred Frith’s Massacre, Miles Davis (all eras), Kip Hanrahan, Lawrence English, Burnt Friedman, Arthur Russell, Can, Yolz In The Sky, goat (JP), Foodman, Downy, 54-41, Royal Trux, Portishead, Radian, Ben Frost, Rashad Becker… the list goes forever.
Why Malta? What should we expect?
James Vella from Phantom limb suggested that we should rock the south. One of our mutual friends, Capitol K, also hails from Malta and he asked us to play, so finally we are playing together at the same festival in Malta. I’m really excited to play and we might even include some new songs.
Bo Ningen will be playing on the Saturday during the Rock the South Festival. The festival brings together a number of Maltese and foreign bands and takes place on April 12, 13 and 14 at Zion, Marsascala. A full programme is available online.
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