Ikue Mori Jim Black Duo
Ikue Mori Jim Black Duo
TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival
Ikue Mori is “one of the most singular musicians in modern music history” (Chicago Reader). Moving from Tokyo to New York in 1977, she co-founded the seminal no-wave band DNA, and through her pioneering and masterful work in laptop and electronics improvisation, Mori has consistently pushed the envelope. Her collaborators have included John Zorn, Susie Ibarra, and Fred Frith. Jim Black (AlasNoAxis, Tim Berne) is one of the rare musicians who influence so many others that a term like “post-Jim Black” can be a useful descriptor for emerging drummers. A singular expressionist, Black strikes “an elusive truce between bombast and finesse” in his far-ranging, kinetic, and conceptual playing.
I spoke with Ikue Mori by email.
The Bulletin Interview | Ikue Mori
You left Tokyo in 1977 to move to New York City. What was it that drove you to leave Japan – or maybe another way to put it is, what drew you to North America, and New York in particular?
When I was growing up I was mostly influenced by western culture, American TV shows and European cinema and literature, imagining myself in a foreign country eventually. Around the late 70s, New York looked like a very exciting place to be regarding the arts and music scene.
Many Japanese-born people I’ve talked to here in North America say that they had to leave Japanese in order to be themselves, or the selves that they wanted to be. Would you say that was true for you?
Yes, it is true to me too. Soon after I arrived in NY, I happened to be working and hanging with people of the same generation from different background and countries. The liberated women I met were especially inspiring.
Tell me about your life in Tokyo, what was it like growing up there?
I was living in a very mixed culture and preferred western images. There was also a creative movement in Japan around the 60s and 70s, but I was totally ignorant of those and always watching far west. I only re-discovered all that I missed after living in America.
You began playing drums with Arto Lindsay in the band DNA, but had no experience playing drums. I read somewhere that you played the drums the way you play taiko. Have you ever played taiko yourself, either in Japan or in the US?
I had never learned to play taiko, but how I played drums was toms-heavy with no-cymbals and I used drum sticks upside-down, nothing like jazz nor rock, but my own “no wave” style.
DNA has been called legendary, that it altered the face of rock music – what was it about the music that grabbed people’s attentions do you think?
We got together from totally different backgrounds and tried to make something we had never heard before. Maybe it was because we played original music with different elements but no reference to existing genres of music?
Is there anything of your Japanese DNA in your music, do you think? Maybe in the way you hear things, or the way you approach creating music?
I lived my first 22 years in Japan, so it’s not only in my genes, but daily life in Japan was the foundation of who I am now. Although my music career started after I moved to NY and I was only listening to western music in Japan, the way of counting, breathing, maybe something in that is a Japanese way?
Eventually you abandoned the drum set and picked up a drum machine instead. Why did you make the switch? What were you looking for that real drums couldn’t give you?
It’s not that real drums couldn’t give, but I couldn’t give much time to the drums, practicing was physically difficult. When I found my first drum machine I just immediately got into programming and found myself excited by putting pieces together and making little songs.
Who have been your biggest influences in terms of your music?
If I have to name one person, then it is John Zorn who has been the biggest influence – not only musically, but he has opened so many doors to the new world to me and the music community here. He is always supportive and encouraging. I have been very lucky to meet and work with many great musicians and artists throughout my life.
Where do you get your inspiration, your ideas?
My music is often described as imaginary sound track music. I get much inspiration from visual images or stories.
You’re playing at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival with Jim Black, a jazz drummer also from NYC. What kind of music can we expect to hear – is it improvised? Laptop and drums?
This set will be totally improvisation. He is in a few projects of mine, HIGHSMITH with Crag Taborn, OBELISK ensemble with Sylvie Courvoisier and Okkyung Lee. I don’t call him a jazz drummer, he is also a great rock drummer and improviser as well. I have been playing with many different drummers and that is one of my favorite configurations – duo with percussions.
Describe a day at home on New York. Is there such a thing as a “typical” day?
Sitting in the park, eating with friends, working at home.
What do you have planned for the future, in terms of your music?
I’m also working on visuals, making fairy tale puppetry video with my music. I would like to collaborate with British illustrator Pete Williamson for his audio/picture book for the younger generation. I’m currently collaborating with Joan Jonas on her recent piece “moving off the land”, a beautiful multimedia piece with incredible stories. She also performs live. She is 83-years-old, and yet so active and powerful … she is my new hero now.
Ikue Mori Jim Black Duo
Monday, June 24 • The Ironworks • 9:30pm