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In this interview, we catch up with Boris’ insightful frontman and drummer, Atsuo, exploring the exciting journey ahead and unraveling what makes Japanese rock so special. Get comfortable, and read on belowwe hope you take away something to chew on from this thought-provoking interview.

“There is a dangerous history of rock that can change people’s consciousness and way of life, and our music is part of that lineage.”
—Atsuo, Boris

Though Boris and Kiyoharu are both well-established figures in Japanese rock, each with your own history and legacy, your signature sounds are arguably quite different. Why did you decide to collaborate on this tour?

I met [Kiyoharu] at a live performance in 2017, which was an acoustic set featuring MORRIE from Dead End and Baki from Gastunk. Actually, the place where we met symbolizes everything.

Gastunk and Dead End are very important bands in the history of Japanese rock, and following that history, there’s Kiyoharu as a solo artist and with Kuroyume, and Boris is also at the forefront of that context. Since we met, we’ve been looking for opportunities to perform together, and this Australian tour finally made it happen. I think our music styles might sound different on the surface, but the aesthetic and values that we’re rooted in are connected at the core. I believe this tour was inevitable.

In this segment of “Heavy Rock Breakfast” in Australia, the focus seems to be on introducing Japan’s rock history to the world. How does Boris promote this history and culture in a way no other band can?

There is a dangerous history of rock that can change people’s consciousness and way of life, and our music is part of that lineage. Whether it’s music or anything else, knowing the context of a work can make it more deeply enjoyable. Our continuing activities themselves prove the existence of this history, and it would be great if they serve as an opportunity for people to learn about it. Crossing the sea and resonating sounds with Kiyoharu on the same stage, great music can itself become criticism and education and carry various meanings.

In your opinion, what makes Japanese rock so unique?

Japanese culture has been nurtured as if surrounded by a magic mirror since the post-war period. From the inside of Japan, the outside world can be seen, but from the outside, it’s hard to see (or there might not have been a need to look into) what’s inside Japan. It can be said that Japan has evolved its culture in its own unique way, without concern for external criticism, shame, or public opinion. Japanese culture, which has slowly permeated the world, and various connoisseurs who have dug into Japan, the land at the far reaches, have discovered its heretical and bizarre aspects.

Japan is a country where the business term “Galapagosization” frequently appears. Just as the Japanese are aware, this island, isolated from other countries, is full of cultures, social systems, and values that have evolved in their unique systems, much like the strange animals of the Galapagos Islands.

With such a diverse music catalog spanning multiple subgenres of rock music, how do you decide what your setlist will be for any given show?

The setlist naturally comes together because there’s a necessity for the show to happen. There’s already a meaning and significance to this tour. The flow from our meeting tells us immediately which songs should be played with Kiyoharu.

You have been touring outside of Japan for over a decade now. What were some challenges you had when starting to tour and perform internationally?

Can you imagine a society without the Internet today? Back then, we used to communicate via fax and navigate using maps while driving. Looking back, everything seems difficult. But at that time, everything was a new experience and it was all fun. I’ve come this far with a lot of help from friends. Even now, friendship is the most important thing, and some things should take priority over business or money.

What differences do you find in your experiences while touring abroad as opposed to in Japan?

Overseas venues often rely heavily on bar sales. Japanese people don’t drink much alcohol, so venues in Japan earn their profit from ticket sales, and they may even bundle drinks with tickets mandatorily, indicating a fundamental difference in national
characteristics that leads to significant differences in the system. If Japan was more of a drinking nation, the way venues are operated in the West might have been possible here too.

Japan has strict laws regarding drugs, and the music industry focuses more on listening and watching, with experiencing and feeling coming secondary. There seems to be an understanding that sharing art is about “seeing and hearing” to understand. This might not be suitable for experiential rock like Boris.

Boris has been together for over 30 years now. What are some of the lessons you have learned after all this time?

Do what we want to do. There’s no need to conform to anyone else. Act on our own to avoid regrets.

Given your success in North America and Europe, you’re in a position where you can continue promoting Japanese rock to the world. Are there other bands you’d like to collaborate with, or possibly tour with to introduce them to the global scene? For example, you recently collaborated with Japanese rock veterans Coaltar of the Deepers.

I have brought Japanese bands like ENDON and Asunojokei abroad. I believe this is an endeavor that only we can undertake. It’s not just about offering a Japanese perspective but as someone who has crossed borders and physically experienced music cultures, I hope to introduce artists to the world that I feel should be shared. The artists we have released SPLIT albums with are exactly those kinds of artists, so I definitely want people to check them out.

Moving forward, how will Boris continue to share Japan’s rock legacy with global audiences?

We don’t have much consciousness of being a Japanese rock band per se. However, the Japanese culture we experienced in our childhood is deeply ingrained in our bodies and has a significant impact. By touring various countries, we intend to produce the sounds that should be heard on this planet. Everything mixes together to form a new culture on Earth, like seeds that bloom into flowers, which then continue to evolve. That’s what we hope for.

In closing, please leave a message for the fans waiting for you in Australia.

I’m happy to be coming back to Australia so soon. I believe this place can be the site of a rock revolution. I want to show the newest Boris and, together with the audience, further update what new rock is. Let’s enjoy it.

The “Heavy Rock Breakfast” Australia tour kicks off on March 6, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. For ticket and festival information, please check out the chart below. Please note that Kiyoharu will not appear on March 9 at the Golden Plains Festival.

For Kiyoharu’s take on the upcoming tour, you can check out our previous interview with him here.

  1. Prologue: Sansaro

    序章 三叉路

  2. Chapter One: Gekkou no irie -howling moon, melting sun-

    第一章 月光の入り江 -howling moon, melting sun-

  3. Chapter Two: Michikusa

    第二章 満ち草

  4. Chapter Three: (Nanji, sashidasareta te wo tsukamu bekarazu)

    第三章 (汝、差し出された手を掴むべからず)

  5. Chapter Four: Marine snow

    第四章 マリンスノー

  6. Epilogue: A bao a qu -infinite corridor-

    終章 a bao a qu -無限回廊-

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