By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
"I think everybody is influenced by political issues, whether he's interested or not," says Sakamoto. "I try to put my feelings about those issues in my music; I don't like to put social or political messages onto my music."
Sakamoto was moved when he witnessed in person the fall of the World Trade Center, and now "I feel some responsibility to do something." Though he has long disliked using his name to promote causes, last year Sakamoto recorded a single, "Zero Landmine," to benefit the HALO Trust, which raised millions of dollars for that organization's land-mine-removal campaign.
"I was tired of being tired," he says. "In Japan, almost all musicians and artists are still very quiet, not political. I was like that; I was involved in the late-'60s student movements, and I saw a lot of bad things, and I was traumatized. But that project with the land mines was very fascinating, because I had to re-see myself as a musician."
SAKAMOTO'S RESTLESS. WHILE HE'S PROVED HE can beat the band in most musical settings, at age 50 he's on the prowl for meaningful modes of expression, new technologies that can alter the way we experience music and sound itself. 1999 found him exploring digital interactivity with the star-studded opera Webcast Life, which allowed viewers to convey in real time their approval or disdain. His video-and-animation-enhanced CD project Discord (with guests DJ Spooky, Laurie Anderson, Bernardo Bertolucci, Banana Yoshimoto, David Byrne, Patti Smith, David Torn and others) is a marvel of user-participatory potential. Recent performances have seen Sakamoto applying his encyclopedic knowledge of composition theory and pop, ethnic and electronic history to the art of deejaying.
"I've been doing a kind of laptop deejaying. Instead of using turntables and CD players, I've got a lot of audio files in my hard disk, with some digital programs. Basically, it's the same as deejaying, but virtual, software-based. I could have 10, 12 different turntables at the same time on my desktop, playing and mixing at the same time. No blueprints or anything -- it's all spontaneous. And it's so free."
While he'll continue his scoring work in several upcoming big- and small-scale films, including the prize-winning documentary Derrida and Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale, freedom of expression, in the end, is what Sakamoto's all about. And, he says, time is of the essence.
"All music is still based on measurements, and I'm losing interest in that. I wish I could have a program or software where the musical space can be a canvas. I just put, like, some painting from Miró, I put some color here, and some shapes here, like a painting, without thinking too much about structure based on time. Because we are still trapped by the flow of time in music, and this limitation is so strong, for all kinds of composers, like punk rock, rap, classical -- we are like a slave of time."
Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto perform at the Knitting Factory on September 7.