Acid Mothers Temple (AMT) will be a puzzle for someone with an average understanding of rock music. Primarily because they don’t have a permanent lineup.
“Anyone can join us. Although we’ve formed something of a regular lineup because of many years of touring, we still stick to the original spirit captured by our slogan – Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want,” says Kawabata Makoto, the founding member of the Japanese project.
Collectively, AMT has been a prolific contemporary rock band with over 100 albums under its belt! In a way, their activity is interesting as it encapsulates rock ’n’ roll’s idea of freedom more than the stiff construct of a band.
A chat with them ahead of them headlining Arunachal Pradesh-based Ziro Festival of Music that was on September 29.
Originally named The Acid Mothers Soul Collective, the group was formed in the mid-’90s by Kawabata with the intention to showcase the talent of musicians who would otherwise not release their material.
Once an association comes into existence, the intention is to play what the guitarist calls ‘trip music,’ which he differentiates from psychedelic music. The former, in his words, contains ‘some of those sounds of absolute purity that are related to the cosmic principle.’
Even though the sound of the project itself is primarily influenced by styles like hard rock, krautrock and the electronic music of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, the band leader confesses that one of his life-changing moments was encountering the sound of the tambura.
Alongside the Indian classical influence, AMT soaks up drone and melodic sounds from various traditional music like Japanese, Turkish and Occitan. “Why I experiment with so many instruments is because I’m always on the lookout for the equipment that can recreate the sounds I hear from the cosmos,” says Makoto.
A big factor that will make AMT’s performance in India interesting is that their songs won’t necessarily sound the same as on record. “Improvisation means composing, arranging and playing, all at the same time.” This explains why he draws a blank when we ask him what the setlist in Arunachal Pradesh will be. “No idea. Music guides me,” he concludes.
On the dais
The Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh hosted a multitude of international names, including Lithuanian Antikvariniai Kaspirovskio Dantys, Korean rock outfit Lunch and Indonesian rock-blues duo Matajiwa. A lot of Indian acts Chennai-based Amrit Rao and The Madrascals, Punjab’s That Boy Roby and Sikkim’s Still Waters also performed.