April 20 2011 10:06 AM

Acid Mothers Temple channel ‘pure tones’ in cosmic zone-outs

Acid Mothers Temple’s Kawabata Makoto (left) calls himself a “cosmic receiver.”
Photo by Justin Waters
If experimental rock musicians were Star Wars characters, no one would make a better Yoda than Kawabata Makoto. He doesn’t have green skin or miniature stature, but the wizened, well-bearded Japanese musician certainly shares with the Jedi master a lack of fashion sense—he once said that he had worn the same clothes for 15 years. Makoto’s guitars have the potency of a light saber, spewing psychedelic sounds with the help of effects pedals. (Sometimes, he’ll even destroy his equipment in fits of passion.) He’s also fond of offering faux-philosophical maxims that teeter between profound and hyperbolic:

“We don’t believe in any religions! We believe only in the possibility of our own minds.”

“Do whatever you want. Don’t do whatever you don’t want!”

“We just want to live amenably, like cats.” But Yoda and Makoto are most similar in how they philosophize about otherworldly concepts. Yoda taught Luke the importance of harnessing The Force, while Makoto’s dedicated to channeling “pure tones” to make “trip music.”

As the frontman of Acid Mothers Temple, his 16-year-old project that’s become increasingly tangled through the years, Makoto regards himself as a “cosmic receiver” who hears sound produced telepathically and tries to reproduce it in his sprawling music. As a child, he believed these sounds came from UFOs.

“I always get all my music from my cosmos, so I just play this music with my hands,” he says in an email interview. For Makoto, playing music is about channeling something divine and unseen.

Along the way, he has spawned a small empire of intertwined ideas. For years, he and his collaborators— Acid Mothers’ membership has included more than two dozen members—lived in a commune (or “soul collective”), devoting their energy to occasionally bat-shit insane creative visions. An imposing 20-record-plus discography sits in their wake, with albums carrying titles like Crystal Rainbow Pyramid Under the Stars, Absolutely Freak Out (Zap Your Mind!!), The Load is a Virgin Killer and Demons from Nipples.

Moreover, AMT have spawned at least nine offshoots with equally wild names, like The Cosmic Inferno, The Pink Lady Blues and Guru Guru tacked to the end of their name. The version that will likely perform at The Casbah on Monday, April 18, is Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. (the abbreviation standing for “Underground Freak Out,” natch). But Makoto always likes to leave room for uncertainty—so much uncertainty, in fact, that he’s claimed that AMT have never rehearsed, instead letting everything unravel onstage. Improv is crucial to their aesthetic.

Part of the absurdity of Acid Mothers’ world likely comes from Makoto grasping onto certain words and ideas just for the exciting and provocative imagery they produce.

“English isn’t my language,” he says, characterizing AMT’s album titles as “just parody.” “I don’t want to put any messages on our music by words.”

In keeping with their spaced-out jargon, The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.’s latest LP, early April’s Pink Lady Lemonade: You’re from Inner Space, is epic—the first track is more than a half-hour long—and intensely trippy. During one track, guitars might rise into something heavenly, melodic and impossibly alluring, while at another moment, the instruments will violently grind against each other, pulling the sound into Hell.

While the earnestness of AMT’s approach wavers— sometimes, they’re playing up the hippie-mystic shtick for fun; at other times, they appear to genuinely believe in cosmic rock ’n’ roll messages—Makoto espouses one message worth sincere attention. He’s repeatedly discussed the idea that creative inspiration can point you toward a sort of self-liberation where you’re split from your ego. Sharing this free-spirited, anything-goes feeling is what makes their “trip music” worth absorbing.

Even though the band’s been playing live in some form since 2007, catch them while you have the chance. You never know when Makoto’s post as a cosmic receiver might be through.

“If I can’t hear any more music from my cosmos, then I can stop playing music,” he says. “Finally, I can go on to the second stage of my life!”

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. play with Buzz or Howl and Little White Teeth at The Casbah on Monday, April 25. acidmothers.com