VOLUME 28 NO. 14 | MARCH 28 - APRIL 3, 2009

Fate brought them together voluntarily — to make music

Last updated 3-26-09 at 8:27 a.m.

By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly

Voluntary Mother Earth is a three-member, avant garde, “oddball rock combo” from Tokyo. The group recently kicked off its U.S. tour on March 11 in Pittsburgh. The band’s name derives from the band’s lead singer Akihiko Hayakawa’s universal belief that “everything is voluntary.”

The band was formed in 2004 in Denton, Texas, where Hayakawa was studying music at the University of North Texas.

He moved back to Japan after college, and the band was reformed with new members. Hayakawa believed that the band members were “brought to each other by ‘the Force.’”

Hayakawa describes himself as musically driven, laidback, and sedentary. His main musical influences are the late musicians Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix.

Bassist Noriff Micky and drummer Fajita Fujita are the other members that make up the band. Hayakawa describes Micky as the “nice guy of the band.” He joined the band in late 2006. He is described as the typical Japanese shy guy and “the one to cool things down when things get heated.”

Fujita, 21, is the youngest of the trio and has a background in punk/hardcore music. He used to be in another avant garde band until Hayakawa recruited him to join Voluntary Mother Earth. According to Hayakawa, Fujita is “very well-rounded and always eager to learn new things,” and is an “excellent keyboardist.”

The band comes up with strrange song titles that tend to turn heads when read aloud. “Forgive My Penis” and “I Said ‘Just Water, Please’ and She Gave Me Sprite” are examples of their odd titles. Hayakawa said that the band’s inspiration derives from “life’s absurdity, the weird, the odd, the abnormal, and the atypical.”

“I’m just documenting these absurdities [of life] through music, and the music that goes along with the documentation becomes absurd accordingly,” he said.

Hayakawa describes their music as the band taking different threads of cultures and creating a musical quilt.
Unlike other bands, Voluntary Mother Earth’s sound has some “Oriental flavor” incorporated. According to Hayakawa, it takes ideas from the Asian culture and ties them into its music.

For example, a heavy metal song can be mixed with some Asian melodies to add contrast and dimension. At other times, the songs have a more conceptual Asian meaning to them. Hayakawa pointed out that one of their recent songs, called “Just Another Nice Guy from the Orient,” is based around the concept of Zen.

“The guitar keeps playing the same dreamy arpeggio over and over while the bass plays the same riff again and again. Both of them make it sound very meditational. But the drum pattern and its rhythmic accent keep changing, and this represents the changes of your life cycle. Towards the end of the song, the three come together and explode — the enlightenment,” he said.

The band sometimes uses many repetitive song phrases to make its music sound richer in sound and tone.
Voluntary Mother Earth cannot simply be labeled as a punk rock group or a rock band. Hayakawa doesn’t believe in labeling his band under a specific genre. In fact, it creates a genre of its own. “Voluntary Mother Earth is trying to achieve ‘musical peace’ through ‘voluntary connections.’”

However, it does acknowledge that the concept is sometimes hard for others to understand. “It’s the atmosphere we create together with the audience that makes us one of the weirdest bands that has ever existed on Earth. Seriously, what other band brings a bunch of girls and boys from the audience onstage and have them do push-ups while playing a slow ballad about teenage love, lust, and fornication?” Hayakawa said. (end)

Voluntary Mother Earth will perform in Seattle on March 26 at the Comet Tavern, 922 East Pike St. For more information, visit www.voluntarymotherearth.com.

Nina Huang can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


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