Aesthetic: Bo Ningen
Originally from Japan, Taigen (vocals, bass), Kohhei (guitar), Yuki (guitar) and Mon-Chen (drums) have been generating quite the noise from their East London base in recent years. The four-piece grapple with their influences in German music, underground hardcore and the lineage of psychedelia to warp the framework of each, blending chaotic rhythms and shrieking vocals with dizzying walls of fuzz.
The ritual insanity of their live shows incarnates the vision of their bewildering sound. Frankly, they fit the part. As a writhing bundle of skinny frames, with an androgynous dress sense and waist-length hair, they have a striking look that – along with their sound – forms a thrillingly unique aesthetic.
Between their hectic touring schedule and preparing for their collaborative 37 minute track with Savages (a “simultaneous sonic poem” sang in Japanese, French and English and inspired by the sound poetry movement of the early 1900s), Bo Ningen took some time out for this shoot, and Yuki joined us to discuss style, sound and identity.
What does Bo Ningen stand for?
It means ‘Stick Men’ in Japanese.
How does Bo Ningen defy trends in music?
We don’t follow any trends or scenes. Especially what we define as psychedelic, it’s different from what other people call psychedelic. The term now has too many branches and clichés, and I don’t like the term ‘post’ or ‘neo’ either. What we do is to try and make psychedelic sound in absence of genre.
There are plenty of associations with the surreal and hallucinogenic within psychedelic culture. Would you say that these qualities influence you?
No. The surrealism we embrace divides our normal life with something completely different. The conventional way of ‘being’ psychedelic such as drug-taking or hallucination should not bring on this experience; it’s old fashioned and boring. We experience it and make the audience experience the psychedelic on the stage, through our own show. So in that sense, the answer is no. But I just like wearing red, pink or anything showy on stage in order to distinguish what I am on stage from myself in real life.
You are known for your rowdy stage presence. Which gigs have got the most out of hand?
There are a few that went mental. It all happened in 2009 or 2010 when we used to be really out of control on stage, fighting each other and stuff. After crowd surfing, I fell into the floor and banged my head and I didn’t know I was bleeding. I had four or five stitches in my head without anaesthetic. That was mad. And also when we played Offset festival in 2010, at the end of the set on the main stage, Mon Chan got insane, started climbing up the scaffold of the stage, and he went to the top of the arch. We thought he was going to fall.
Japanese fashion is famous for its vivid, culture jamming approach. Why do you think Japanese fashion is so extreme?
In my personal opinion, we Japanese always distort or abuse what we get from Western culture. We try to imitate Western culture but then we misunderstand it in some way, and the final result is completely different, something crazy. I think music is the same; we’ve got an extreme noise scene. I always see the similarity between Japan’s harsh music and its harsh fashion.
There is a growing trend of British producers appropriating the hyper-intensity and sugary-sweet melodies of J-pop. Are you influenced by J-pop in any way?
Me personally, no, but our singer Taigen is obsessed with some of those J-pop things, again he especially likes the extremeness, with super fast BPM etc.
Can you name some of your style heroes, and describe why they influence you?
I don’t have any style heroes who have influenced my look and appearance. Although, I like some French writers from early 20th centuries like Jean Cocteau, Marcel Proust and Andre Breton and how they dressed. They look really smart and noble in pictures but I love the fact that despite their dandy looks, crazy ideas and thoughts dominated their mind. I like the contrast between your body and dress sense and what you actually do.
What labels and brands are you feeling right now?
Photography : Adam Goodison
Assistant photographer : Luke Atkinson
Styling : Charlotte James
Assistant stylists : Kimiko Christian & Lara Perea-Poole
Hair & Make up : John Maclean