“I’m creating time and space within the moment” – an interview with Damo Suzuki
By Tom Taylor . May 19, 2018
Can’s Damo Suzuki is on his way to Berlin
Damo Suzuki has already secured his place in musical history. His contributions as singer to German kraut-rock band Can gelled perfectly with the band’s repetitive rhythms on classics such as Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi. Can’s ‘kraut-rock’ came to define German music to the wider world and the roots of dance music can be traced back to bands such as Can, Neu! and Cluster. The genre has recently seen a resurgence in popularity, with bands such as King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard using this hypnotic style to much success.
Born in Japan, Damo Suzuki spent his teenage years wandering around Europe. The story goes that Damo was spotted by members of Can whilst busking in his typically idiosyncratic style on the streets of Munich. He was asked if he could perform that night with the band and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since leaving Can in the mid-’70s, he has returned to wandered the world, performing his characteristic vocal style with local musicians (he describes them as ‘sound carriers’) wherever he ends up. The Damo Suzuki Network will be performing in Berlin, and that night it will use the talents of local musicians Budgie (Siouxie and the Banshees), Knox Chandler (Psychedelic Furs) and Shawn Mulrooney (TAU).
We asked Damo a few questions about his life, musical philosophy and what to expect when he visits Berlin next month.
What did your time in Can teach you about playing music?
I‘m not sure if I’d have made music if hadn’t met them on the streets of Munich in 1970. Like most life processes, I learned many things. They learned a lot from me too. In particular, the importance of good communication in music.
A world traveler, you still call Cologne home – what changes have you seen in your adopted country?
As a father of three sons, it‘s necessary to live in Cologne to be near them. Also, it’s quite helpful for travelling since Cologne is in middle of Europe. You see both good and bad changes happen when you live in a country as long as I have. There are many things I like, but I can’t really comment on German politics since the era of Helmut Kohl. I think moral and living standards are getting worse in Germany and I‘m thinking of moving on from here and finding my last station to live.
I‘m natural born bohemian, travelling is the best thing to do for me to feel normal.
Are you a fan of Berlin? Any particularly memorable concerts that stand out for you?
Berlin isn‘t the best place to visit in Germany. There aren’t many supporters in Germany for my kind of music. Berlin’s a good city to perform in but it’s not a German city. It’s something else. Generally, I‘m not fond of capital cities – I prefer provincial towns – that’s where I find the local specialties.
You’re headlining Interkosmos Festival #3 – what’s it going to sound like?
Every show is a different and special moment. It’s like a football game – each show starts with the score at 0 – 0. You wouldn’t watch sport if you already knew the result! I‘m creating time and space within the moment with the local sound carriers I work with. Every show is different and I don’t like to know in advance what’s going to happen.
Every sound carrier has something to offer. If there’s a good flow during soundcheck then I know that we’re going to create a special moment. The audience also play a role since music is about communicating a feeling and an idea to them – let’s see how they react.
Creativity should come from nowhere – that way we can be open to all possibilities to create something unique. Freedom is the best thing you can have in your life.
I‘m creating time and space within the moment with ever-changing local sound carriers.
How do you keep your improvised performances fresh? Is it the constantly changing nature of Damo Suzuki’s Network that keeps things different?
I have to be healthy in soul and body and just be myself. I show respect to everyone and try and meet people before the show. I‘m a DIY person. I just like to have people near….music is communication. I try to create a platform for both the sound carriers and visitors to get something out of the music.
You’re playing with members of The Fall on May 12th. Does this have special significance to you?
I don’t listen to music much and I don’t know much about The Fall. I met Mark E Smith twice – he was a nice person to me, although I know he was not always that way. Many young people make connections between The Fall and me – I’ll just try and make the show different and exciting. I trust the audience will react if it’s good – I trust their opinion more than any pundit. I’ll just see what happens!