INTERVIEW: On the record with Moja (Japan)

On the Record with: Moja

Contributing their own brand of LOUD, energetic, semi-crazed hyper-music to last month’s Music Matters Live for one day only was Moja – a bass and drum duo from Japan, whose live performances “rip up your brain and hand it to you”, as I’m told. However, when we first met them at before their soundcheck at LKF Beer Bar, they looked more like tentative bystanders to a spectacle, rather than the spectacle itself. It was only during their soundcheck that it was made apparent why they are such a popular live act – crashing drums and loud bass played with a remarkable disregard for any sensitive ears in the house, banging heads, pacy rhythms, and warped levels settings (the distraught soundman had to be told to make the instruments louder many, many times before his brain stopped shorting out and he understood that the vocals were unimportant). The energy rapidly filled every nook and cranny of the place, and you could just not take your eyes off them…And this was just the soundcheck!

The following is the interview that the two, Haruhiko Higuchi (HH; vocals, bass) and Masumi Sakurai (MS; drums – who also translated for HH), were nice enough to patiently do with the Underground (U), despite the several intervening interruptions.

U. You guys used to be a 4-piece band, am I right?

MS. Yeah.

U. Okay, so what are the best and worst parts of being a 2-piece band?

Music Matters Live 047.jpgMS. The best thing is that with four people, there are four different ideas for making a song, which may clash – we don’t really have that. But the bad part is that sometimes we feel there is a shortage of ideas for the music.

U. But it must give you a lot of freedom, right, to do what you want musically?

MS. Yeah, definitely.Music Matters Live 058.jpg

U. And, you’ve played so many places over the world – which are your favourites, the ones that you liked best?

HH. Well it is difficult to say…

MS. Yes; I cannot tell, because each country has its own special customs and things, so I don’t know which one was the best. Everything is very interesting to us, and everything is new to us, so each country we’ve been in, we’ve had so much fun.

U. So, does touring become a blur, then, for you – I mean, do the memories of places start to meld together, so that later you can’t differentiate between places, or does each place stand out in your mind specifically?

Music Matters Live 024.JPGMS. Well, we tend to remember everything – the stage, our set, so it’s not gotten blurry for us yet.

U. And, who has been the favourite supporting act that you played with – any band or artiste that you liked a lot?

HH. Well, we don’t really care who we play with!

MS. Yes, we tend not to bother about who is playing with us, what their genre is, and things like that. But, we would someday like to play with other big 2-piece bands that have inspired us, like the White Stripes and Lightning Bolt.

Music Matters Live 050.jpgU. So, have you guys played in Hong Kong before, or heard any bands from here?

MS. No, I haven’t. This the first time for us in Hong Kong, so we’re just happy to hear what we can, you know?Music Matters Live 025.jpg

U. Speaking of which, have you heard of the bass and drums duo in Hong Kong, DP?

MS. I have heard of DP! We played yesterday (27th May) at Rockschool, and the owner Mr. Gregory, he said that one of his favourite bands is DP, and that they have a similar style to us, and he suggested that perhaps the next time we come here, we could play with them! Again, we don’t have much time here, but we would love to explore the scene, and jam with people like DP.

U. That would really be a great show, I must say!

Music Matters Live 026.jpgMS. Yeah! We think so too – Gregory said that the audiences get really crazy at their shows.

U. Moving on, who would you say are your main influences as a band, other than the obvious ones like White Stripes and Lightning Bolt?

HH. Police…

MS. He (HH) has such a musical background, he’s really listened to a lot of music.

HH. Nirvana…Japanese rock bands, like Blue Hearts.

MS. Yes, these are the main ones. Have you heard of Blue Hearts?

Music Matters Live 051.jpgU. Yes – I love punk music from everywhere! … So, do you two prefer the studio environment or playing live – where do you feel you get more accomplished?Music Matters Live 035.jpg

MS. [Without a second’s hesitancy] Live performance.

U. Both of you?

MS. Yes!

U. I’ve heard that you guys like to set up on the floor sometimes…?

Music Matters Live 038.jpgMS. Yes, We’ve done that many times actually – we’ll put the drum set and bass and amps somewhere, and we’ll be in the centre of the audience, and all around us, they just dance like crazy.

U. Is it very different from playing on stage?

MS. It’s totally different. I mean, you cannot imagine, it’s just a few steps down, but the experience is totally different. From all the people around us, we can get so much support and energy, so it’s like a closer form of invisible communication that you can feel, and I love it so much!

Music Matters Live 052.jpgU. How do you feel your particular sound is different from other bass and drum outfits – what makes you different? Just your personal opinions…Music Matters Live 039.jpg

MS. Well, I don’t know so many bass and drum bands, really, but I’ve seen a few, and they seem to use the vocals more. The focus on lyrics and the vocals. We don’t really have so much of a vocal approach, we don’t really have beautiful lyrics. It’s kind of hard to explain.

U. I have to say, from what I’ve heard and seen, you guys have a much wilder act than most other.

MS. That’s a difference, isn’t it?

Music Matters Live 042.jpgU. Yeah! So, what have been the biggest milestones in your career so far?

HH. Playing in New York…

MS. Yes, I think the very first time we played in a foreign country was in New York. That was a big event for us, and we’ve changed a lot since then.

U. That must’ve been huge for your, right?

MS. Definitely.

U. Okay, finally, what’re your plans for the future now – are you going to take a rest, or continue playing?Music Matters Live 044.jpg

MS. Well, of course we’ll continue to keep playing, playing, playing! We’re not really a recording band, we’re more of a performance band, so we’ll just keep playing. We want to go play many more places. We’ve been to a couple of countries, but not enough – we want to play all over the world, and communicate with people in every country we can!Music Matters Live 058.jpg

Interview conducted and transcribed by Shashwati Kala
Photos by Erik Piece taken at Music Matters Live performance at Lan Kwai Fong Beer Bar on 28 May 2010.

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