Keiji Haino: Dancing in Dark with Tambourine and Cymbals

Convent / Ball Room of the Prague castle
Plasy Monastery 1993

灰野 敬二, ハイノ ケイジ, はいの けいじ
Keiji Haino (born 1952 in Japan) is a guitarist with a noisy, intense, squalling, feedback-drenched sound that has made him a cult artist in Japan and an underground favorite around the world. He describes his guitar as a "weapon to express myself." Haino's music includes elements of free jazz and psychedelic rock, is largely improvised, and is usually played at stun volume. Despite the chaotic sound of his music, he approaches his work with an intellectual, almost religious seriousness. Haino grew up in the Tokyo area, and was drawn to music and theatre at an early age. He enjoyed singing and learned to play the harmonica while in elementary school. He however did not enjoy school, and dropped out before graduating from high school. Among his earliest musical inspirations were the Doors, whom he admired for their originality. He made his first recordings in 1971 with the somewhat rock oriented band Lost Aaraaf. Inspired in part by free-jazz, he later formed the group Fushitsusha in 1978 - originally a quartet with Yasushi Ozawa on bass, Maki Miura on guitar and Jun Kosugi on drums. Their sound was dominated by the Wagnerian intensity of Haino Keiji's guitar, and perhaps as a result Miura later dropped out. The group recorded prolifically for the PSF label. Their 1978 debut contained only two tracks, and was recorded live. It was followed by Live 1 (1989), Fushitsusha (1991), Hisou-Pathetique (1994), The Wisdom Prepared (1998) and the  Double album I Saw It (2000). Haino also recorded four solo albums for PSF, which largely feature his torrential guitar playing, but also including hurdy-gurdy, treated vocals, bells, percussion, Wave Drum, oboe, samplers, and collages of metallic noise. Although he plays over 80 instruments, Haino primarily sees himself as a singer, in spite of the fact that most audiences would consider his vocal work closer to screaming. His most critically-acclaimed solo album is the 1980 Watashi Dake. He has also recorded in the groups Aihiyo, Nijiumu, Vajra, Knead and Purple Trap (with Bill Laswell and Rashied Ali). Haino is also a frequent collaborator with other musicians. Although generally considered a "noise" musician, playing with the top names of the underground music world like fellow guitarist Peter Brotzman, Derek Bailey, bassist Bill Laswell, Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris, and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, he has also worked with more traditional artists including Koto player Michiyo Yagi and tsugaru-jamisen player Michihiro Sato. While the instruments and his accomplices may vary, his look remains consistent - he has near waist-length long hair with bangs, always dresses entirely in black, and is never seen without sunglasses. Given the darkness and abandon of Haino's music, some people assume that he must be a drug user, but in fact he does not drink or take drugs at all, and evidently never has. One interviewer asked him if he took stimulants to create his music, and his reply was that his music was a stimulant.

A prolific artist, Haino has recorded many albums, some of which have been released outside Japan, and/or re-issued. While his PSF recordings might be considered his core recordings, one can find others on Alien 8, Victo (Canada), Disques Du Soleil, Turtle's Dream (France), Fractal, Inoxia, Mom 'n' Dad, Noise Asia, Paratactile, Streamline, Swordfish, Blast First (UK), Table of Elements, Forced Exposure, Tzadik, Ultra Hard Gel, Atavistic, Avant, Charnel (USA), Tokuma (Japan), and probably others. No official discography has been located at the time of this writing, but well over 50 Haino albums are said to have been released.