Kan Mikami — 馬鹿ぶし (baka bushi aka ‘Rude Idiot’)
from Mikami Kan No Sekai (The World of Kan Mikami) (1971)
Japanese blues troubadour Kan Mikami sings as if you were cutting his heart out…slowly, meticulously, while he bleeds. (Look at the cover) This song, the first track on his debut album, is the most produced, with flutes and pizzicato plucks, but his seething vocals don’t hide behind the graceful instrumentation. The demons are alive in his voice, as it wavers between smooth lullaby tones and chainsaw rage. As an ode to a ‘Rude Idiot,’ it works quite well.
If you track down this album, also don’t miss the track おど (odo). He shrieks the way you would if someone hammered a pin under your fingernails.
There is a wonderful, extensive interview with Mr Mikami at Psychedelic Noise from Japan and NZ. Here are a few highlights taken from that interview.
When did you first pick up a guitar?
Mikami: Must have been in 1965, but I didn’t know how to play then. I’d just look at it and polish it.
What did you think when you first arrived in Tokyo?
Mikami: I thought of the word “violence”. It was as if the city was controlled by violence. The countryside is really pastoral, and I understood the relationship between man and nature. And then you come to a city, and suddenly violence is the real power. Like when the traffic light changes and everyone sets off at once in the same direction—when I saw that I felt like I was being chased by someone. Like there was someone following me and someone controlling it all.
Do your children listen to your songs?
Mikami: Yeah, occasionally. My son really likes them, but my daughter always looks like she’s about to burst into tears.
Out of all the songs you’ve written, which do you think are the best?
Mikami: Maybe ‘Odo.’ That’s the only song that I’ve ever taken to perfection—the only one where I’ve thought that I don’t need to sing this anymore. When I played it in the trio in Yokohama with Haino and Aketagawa, it was like I could see the song flying up to heaven. I knew that I’d never be able to sing it any better than that. It’d be fucked up to sing it any more. It was really like a kaleidoscope. … I realized that songs really do have a proper end, that they do live their lives and then die. Singers can’t suddenly become popular after they’re dead, can they? Once you die it’s over—that’s especially true for musicians. A musician dying is the saddest thing of all—because you’ll never be able to hear that sound again…