Interview with Rie Miyazaki
Rie Miyazaki is an accomplished bassist who has played with bands such as Marble Sheep, Heavy Metal Glue, Mammal Machine and The Barretts.
Tell me about your musical upbringing. Were you exposed to lots of different styles of music from an early age?
Like many children, I just listened to the music from TV during my childhood. Most of them were animation songs or Japanese hit songs, so they didn’t have many different styles. The only thing I listened to could be considered special were the columbia records from Panama my mother used to listen to.
When I was 2-3 years old, our family lived in Panama city, so I heard Panamanian songs or Spanish sounds naturally. Anyway they didn’t influence my music style so much, but my character, I think…
I preferred singing than playing instruments, so I joined a local junior choir. There I sang Japanese and western choruses, Gregorian chants, Bulgarian folk songs etc. But as a member of the choir, I was always a dunce…
It’s a common beautiful story that a young stupid girl gets into the rock scene arising from a feeling of inferiority. It was only natural that I quit the choir and started to listened to rock music under the influence of my eldest brother. He was pleased to lend me his guitar and taught me how to practice it and also about the hard rock music he loved. He is ten years older than me, so I was so lucky to hear music from the 70′s till the early 80′s that my classmates didn’t know at that time.
It’s not an uncommon tale among bass players that they were asked to pick up the bass simply because nobody else was around to fill that role. Is that true in your case?
Yes, it’s true. In any other bands before Marble Sheep I was always a guitar player. Also in Marble Sheep I played the guitar at first.
What were your aspirations when you were first starting out?
I just wanted to play in a rock band, and did not think much about it.
Off course I had a vague dream, like meeting a whole variety of people through the music or travelling to play in many lands. And there is absolutely no change in my thinking in this regard still now on.
Who was the bass player influenced you most?
I was influenced most by Shige, the female bassist of Segawa Hiroshi’s band called Travellin’ Ocean Bluebirds. Hiroshi Segawa was the vocalist of a famous 60′s group sounds band The Dynamites and Shige is his wife. She was also a member of Bananarians, a Japanese new wave band, they were among the first to bring reggae rhythm into their music. So she can play every rock music in a reggae groove.
I was totally knocked down by her own groove, that comes from simple riffs. Then I started to think I’d like to pursue my own groove but with simple phrases .
What is the record that got your career kick started?
It was an oldies compilation album “More! American Graffiti”. This LP was also the first western music record I bought by myself, and actually I bought it by mistake. I was looking for the sound track album “American Graffiti”.
Since that time I was captivated by rock’n roll from hearing Little Richard’s tracks “Tutti Frutti” and “Ready Teddy” in it. I think I was lucky, because the album “American Graffiti” has no Little Richard’s track, so it’s a beautiful mistaken arrest.
There are many male bass player but not as many female. What’s it like being a female in an environment that’s traditionally been dominated by men?
It’s true that there are not so many female bass player working solo in their own name but bass players playing in their own band, that’s not necessarily so, I think. After all, are bass players in a band needed to have more or less something feminine inside? I know many nice female and male bass player who play a role as a mother of their band. They control their band leader, keep track of finances, take their time to promote the band as the manager, etc…
In my case, now I play in some bands or sessions, so, unfortunately, I’m not needed to be a faithful mother so much like them, But I always try to be a good promoter, because it will be meaningless if there are no listeners, even when we can play good music…
Your resume covers such a broad array of styles from psychedelic to jazz to heavy metal and more. What styles do you prefer to play?
I don’t care about my music style so much but I think it’s important for me either to play music loud with smile or to express big amplitude of mind while playing. If I can make many good friends through the working like this, I couldn’t be happier.
Tell me about playing with Marble Sheep.? How did that opportunity come about?
The first contact with Marble Sheep was in summer of 1988 when I was a high school student. I came to a Marble Sheep gig in Osaka by chance during my summer traveling with my girl high school friends. The chaotic sound of early Marble Sheep had a catastrophic impact over me and I felt that I learned in an instant what psychedelic is.
10 years later, one day in 1998, the second contact came about when I was freed from the catastrophic impact. The leader of Marble Sheep, Ken Matsutani visited to the music studio I worked for. At that time his band was in a rest condition since 1992, but he often came to our studio to mix for bands belonging to his label, Captain Trip Records. Through talks like my first contact with Marble Sheep, we became friends in a short amount of time.
In the following year Marble Sheep was back in action, and in the end of 1999, they made their reunion gig come true. And luckily, I could be on the stage of this historic gig as *Marby.
( = the mascot character of Marble Sheep, a big sheep.)
After that, because of some member changes, I converted from Marby to a guitarist, then after from a guitarist to a bassist. In so doing, I started to play the bass in 2002.
Traveling around the world with Marble Sheep must have been a lot of fun. What was that experience like?
I toured in Europe from 2002 till 2007 as a member of Marble Sheep, and every tour was based in Germany.
The beginning was the Finkenbach Festival in 2002. The festival is hosted by Mani Neumeier, the leader from Guru, every year and he invited us to his festival. At that time, we played only one show at this festival but we were featured on the front cover of a German underground psychedelic magazine MOONHEAD, surprisingly!
After that, Marble Sheep toured in Europe three times from 2006 till 2007. Only on the first tour in 2006, we had a real sponsor, and the next two were perfect DIY-style tours. One of our best friends lives in Berlin and he booked the gigs, organized the tour, and traveled with us. The tours, with a van full of instruments including two drum sets, huge merchandise, band members and a big sheep Marby, was like a touring circus.
On these tours, I could play two faces on every stage. One face is as a bass player, and the other is as Marby. I was lucky enough that I could be on stage as a player, so I was more than happy that I could travel from country to country as Marby’s unique position.
That was an amazing experience only Marble Sheep can give me now and forever.
You are now playing for three bands, Heavy Metal Glue, Mammal Machine and The Barretts. Can you tell us a little about each one and what types of music they play?
Heavy Metal Glue：60′s Hardrock Garage Monaural Sound
This band is actually not a heavy metal band, but a garage hard rock’n roll band. What we are particular about most are sound pressure & groove, and we packed them in this cassette with gimmick glove cover.
The idea of this handmade cover was from HMG guitarist Ken (Marble Sheep, Captain Trip Records). It take a bit long time to make it, but we are happy, if we can show our spirit of anti-downloads like this way.
Mammal Machine：Improvised Progressive Psychedelic Sound
Mammal Machine started when Yumi Hara Cawkwell (Vo. & Key.) an improvisator based in London asked me to play something with her. At first, this band was only for one night session, but when we played a gig, we could get better reactions from audience and better feelings ourselves than we imagined. Then we decided to try studio recording.
The recordings were played totally improvised, and I cut edited and made them up as tracks. The working was so exciting, and I realized that I do love working like this. Yumi and I gave words and titles to the tracks, and made up them a conceptual album “Mitsugi – Esoteric Rituals”. This album has many kinds of sound like ritualistic dark sounds, progressive suite, free jazz, hammer beat R like German NW, etc.
As a live band, in reversal Mammal Machine plays improvised psychedelic rock on very loud. Watanabe beats out big waves of rhythm from his fine technic, and Tabata’s cosmic guitar takes audience on a trip to kaleidoscopic world.
The Barretts：Psychedelic Pop-Rock Sound
I don’t play as bassist of The Barretts anymore, because the band is now formed by infinite members. For about two years I played in The Barretts, and it was a fun and fascinating time. The Barrets has a long history from early 80′s, and I’m proud of that I wrote a page in their history.
What lies ahead for you and your career? What else would you like to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
Actually I’ve played overseas only as a member of Marble Sheep, so if I have chance, I would love to tour overseas with any other music project like Mammal Machine.
You also work for Captain Trip Records. Can you tell us a little about the company and your role in it?
What I do in Captain Trip is just what Ken is not good at, so it’s not so creative. However, I feel so lively, when we organize overseas musicians’ concerts. In thickets of long weird time we spent, we lost some of our mutual friends, but now I’m happy that we can try again to make our new friends together.
What do you like to do that’s not necessarily musically oriented?
First, I would like to study German again…, then drink some beers like always.
What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
It would be so nice if I could be a translator… because my grand father was a translator of French literature and so eccentric, so he slept whole the day and woke up whole the night through his life. It seemed me so cool, I don’t know why…
Where can we go to find out more about you and your work?
These CDs might be less well-known works than others…
[V.A./Tokyo Flashback 8] PSFD-200
A compilation album of Tokyo PSF Records, an underground label from Tokyo. inc. Heavy Metal Glue’s track.
[Instant Drone Factory/Ho Avuto Paura del Mare] Fuenfundvierzig
Studio recording of Instant Drone Factory, a multinational musical unit. Recorded at Electric Avenue Studio in Hamburg, 2006. Released in 2011. Also Sawada (ex.Marble Sheep) played as a drummer in it.
［Mick Farren/ To The Masterlock: Live In Japan 2004］CTCD-513
Live recording from Mick Farren (The Deviants) Japan tour 2004. Ken(Marble Sheep), Watanabe (Mammal Machine), Nabeji (Slunky Side),and I played as his back-up band, Japanese Deviants. About other works, please check my discography from here: http://www.myspace.com/rie0627 Anyway, come by my gigs, enjoy together and drink much beer!