An explosive mix: a violin, noise, and a performance from group A

Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic met in 2012. Unlike many bands, they have built their collaboration on the contrasts rather than similarities. Having a different background and musical preferences, they've formed a group that does not fit any simple niche categorization. According to the artists themselves, these differences contribute to their uniqueness, using their music as a medium to broadcast their feelings and experiences, distrust of modern society, capitalism and political processes. Earlier, they were putting out music mainly on tapes, but last year they released their debut vinyl on Alessandro Adriani’s label - Mannequin; the second one, called "Circulation" has just came out on Kashual Plastik in August.

An explosive mix: a violin, noise, and a performance from group A

Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic met in 2012. Unlike many bands, they have built their collaboration on the contrasts rather than similarities. Having a different background and musical preferences, they've formed a group that does not fit any simple niche categorization. According to the artists themselves, these differences contribute to their uniqueness, using their music as a medium to broadcast their feelings and experiences, distrust of modern society, capitalism and political processes. Earlier, they were putting out music mainly on tapes, but last year they released their debut vinyl on Alessandro Adriani’s label - Mannequin; the second one, called "Circulation" has just came out on Kashual Plastik in August.

An explosive mix: a violin, noise, and a performance from group A

Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic met in 2012. Unlike many bands, they have built their collaboration on the contrasts rather than similarities. Having a different background and musical preferences, they've formed a group that does not fit any simple niche categorization. According to the artists themselves, these differences contribute to their uniqueness, using their music as a medium to broadcast their feelings and experiences, distrust of modern society, capitalism and political processes. Earlier, they were putting out music mainly on tapes, but last year they released their debut vinyl on Alessandro Adriani’s label - Mannequin; the second one, called "Circulation" has just came out on Kashual Plastik in August.

An explosive mix: a violin, noise, and a performance from group A

Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic met in 2012. Unlike many bands, they have built their collaboration on the contrasts rather than similarities. Having a different background and musical preferences, they've formed a group that does not fit any simple niche categorization. According to the artists themselves, these differences contribute to their uniqueness, using their music as a medium to broadcast their feelings and experiences, distrust of modern society, capitalism and political processes. Earlier, they were putting out music mainly on tapes, but last year they released their debut vinyl on Alessandro Adriani’s label - Mannequin; the second one, called "Circulation" has just came out on Kashual Plastik in August.

An explosive mix: a violin, noise, and a performance from group A

Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic met in 2012. Unlike many bands, they have built their collaboration on the contrasts rather than similarities. Having a different background and musical preferences, they've formed a group that does not fit any simple niche categorization. According to the artists themselves, these differences contribute to their uniqueness, using their music as a medium to broadcast their feelings and experiences, distrust of modern society, capitalism and political processes. Earlier, they were putting out music mainly on tapes, but last year they released their debut vinyl on Alessandro Adriani’s label - Mannequin; the second one, called "Circulation" has just came out on Kashual Plastik in August.

An explosive mix: a violin, noise, and a performance from group A

Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic met in 2012. Unlike many bands, they have built their collaboration on the contrasts rather than similarities. Having a different background and musical preferences, they've formed a group that does not fit any simple niche categorization. According to the artists themselves, these differences contribute to their uniqueness, using their music as a medium to broadcast their feelings and experiences, distrust of modern society, capitalism and political processes. Earlier, they were putting out music mainly on tapes, but last year they released their debut vinyl on Alessandro Adriani’s label - Mannequin; the second one, called "Circulation" has just came out on Kashual Plastik in August.

An explosive mix: a violin, noise, and a performance from group A

Tommi Tokyo and Sayaka Botanic met in 2012. Unlike many bands, they have built their collaboration on the contrasts rather than similarities. Having a different background and musical preferences, they've formed a group that does not fit any simple niche categorization. According to the artists themselves, these differences contribute to their uniqueness, using their music as a medium to broadcast their feelings and experiences, distrust of modern society, capitalism and political processes. Earlier, they were putting out music mainly on tapes, but last year they released their debut vinyl on Alessandro Adriani’s label - Mannequin; the second one, called "Circulation" has just came out on Kashual Plastik in August.

You both were involved in some projects before you started group A. Tell us about it.

S: Actually, I was not involved in any projects before group A.

But what about Albino Botanic?

S: It was a duo started two years ago with my high-school mate. He does techno and asked me to help him with a project as a violinist. But it is not like a regular thing and just for fun.

What about you Tommi?

T: I was invited to form a punk band when I lived in London. That was the first time I started making music, and I was a singer. The idea was to have me screaming like crazy in Japanese on stage. After some time I moved back to Tokyo, and I felt the need to continue making music. So I formed another band which was more like post-punk and started to play bass guitar and write lyrics. But we had to stop soon because our drummer had to move to South Japan and then I formed group A.

What had the most significant impact on your tastes in music and what shaped your unique sound in group A?


You both were involved in some projects before you started group A. Tell us about it.

S: Actually, I was not involved in any projects before group A.

But what about Albino Botanic?

S: It was a duo started two years ago with my high-school mate. He does techno and asked me to help him with a project as a violinist. But it is not like a regular thing and just for fun.

What about you Tommi?

T: I was invited to form a punk band when I lived in London. That was the first time I started making music, and I was a singer. The idea was to have me screaming like crazy in Japanese on stage. After some time I moved back to Tokyo, and I felt the need to continue making music. So I formed another band which was more like post-punk and started to play bass guitar and write lyrics. But we had to stop soon because our drummer had to move to South Japan and then I formed group A.

What had the most significant impact on your tastes in music and what shaped your unique sound in group A?


The key thing for group A, for Sayaka and me, is to have quite different tastes in music. We don't really talk about music.

The key thing for group A, for Sayaka and me, is to have quite different tastes in music. We don't really talk about music.

T: I mean, there are a few bands we both like a lot, say, some of the 70s-early 80s electronic music, but we have different backgrounds. I come from punk. Sayaka, where do you come from?

S: I came from experimental, noise music. I like classical music, but I also love rock music and punk.

T: group A is about combining things that seem to be opposite into one, to break preconceptions.

Sayaka, you've mentioned that you hated violin classes in childhood. So why are you playing the violin in group A?

S: When I was six my mom wanted me to become a classical violinist because she loves classical music. But I hated the classes. I couldn't understand why did we all have to practice the same songs at the same time, and there are so many rules on how to play violin, how you should hold it or something like that. It was really boring, so I quit. And when we formed group A, I was like: "What kind of instrument should I play?" I used to be in a violin class, so the idea came up, and I immediately bought one on Amazon. I couldn't remember how to play properly, but I knew how to deal with it.violin, how you should hold it or something like that. It was really boring, so I quit. And when we formed group A, I was like: "What kind of instrument should I play?" I used to be in a violin class, so the idea came up, and I immediately bought one on Amazon. I couldn't remember how to play properly, but I knew how to deal with it.

T: I mean, there are a few bands we both like a lot, say, some of the 70s-early 80s electronic music, but we have different backgrounds. I come from punk. Sayaka, where do you come from?

S: I came from experimental, noise music. I like classical music, but I also love rock music and punk.

T: group A is about combining things that seem to be opposite into one, to break preconceptions.

Sayaka, you've mentioned that you hated violin classes in childhood. So why are you playing the violin in group A?

S: When I was six my mom wanted me to become a classical violinist because she loves classical music. But I hated the classes. I couldn't understand why did we all have to practice the same songs at the same time, and there are so many rules on how to play violin, how you should hold it or something like that. It was really boring, so I quit. And when we formed group A, I was like: "What kind of instrument should I play?" I used to be in a violin class, so the idea came up, and I immediately bought one on Amazon. I couldn't remember how to play properly, but I knew how to deal with it.violin, how you should hold it or something like that. It was really boring, so I quit. And when we formed group A, I was like: "What kind of instrument should I play?" I used to be in a violin class, so the idea came up, and I immediately bought one on Amazon. I couldn't remember how to play properly, but I knew how to deal with it.

You told that you were fed up with Japanese society and moved to Berlin to find an escape from it. Do you still portray yourself as Japanese artists or not?

T: I actually do, more than ever now. When I moved to London I felt comfortable being myself for the first time in my life. To the point that I was almost considering myself more as a British than a Japanese. I did not want to accept the fact that I was from Japan, where an economy was more important than culture. That’s how I saw it and moving to London was my dismissive reaction to that as a teen. And moving to Berlin was my second rejection, this time more towards politics, and also the music scenes (especially club scenes), there still wasn’t much that made me appreciate it. I was feeling ambitious and excited to learn about German politics, culture and discover music that I had not yet heard. But this time, instead of falling deeply into the new culture, I started feeling more conscious about where I come from. Studying communication design in Tokyo gave me a chance to realise what I have and what I can do with it through creative works.

S: When you are in Japan, you always get stressed about everything. But once you get from there and look at the country from another perspective you find something good. I've started listening to Japanese music more often.

Aren’t you afraid that the fact that you are Japanese will be your main difference among other bands in Berlin?

You told that you were fed up with Japanese society and moved to Berlin to find an escape from it. Do you still portray yourself as Japanese artists or not?

T: I actually do, more than ever now. When I moved to London I felt comfortable being myself for the first time in my life. To the point that I was almost considering myself more as a British than a Japanese. I did not want to accept the fact that I was from Japan, where an economy was more important than culture. That’s how I saw it and moving to London was my dismissive reaction to that as a teen. And moving to Berlin was my second rejection, this time more towards politics, and also the music scenes (especially club scenes), there still wasn’t much that made me appreciate it. I was feeling ambitious and excited to learn about German politics, culture and discover music that I had not yet heard. But this time, instead of falling deeply into the new culture, I started feeling more conscious about where I come from. Studying communication design in Tokyo gave me a chance to realise what I have and what I can do with it through creative works.

S: When you are in Japan, you always get stressed about everything. But once you get from there and look at the country from another perspective you find something good. I've started listening to Japanese music more often.

Aren’t you afraid that the fact that you are Japanese will be your main difference among other bands in Berlin?

The place you come from is your background. It makes your personality. It makes your outcomes, your perspectives of seeing and judging things in your everyday life and how you swallow it into your body and put it into music and performance.

The place you come from is your background. It makes your personality. It makes your outcomes, your perspectives of seeing and judging things in your everyday life and how you swallow it into your body and put it into music and performance.

T: Everybody has a different way of doing it. But I think that even if we were in Tokyo now, we would be very dissimilar to everybody. We don’t really fit anywhere.

That’s probably because we aren’t really musicians. We don’t release records as often as other musicians because our goal isn’t to make great music. Our goal is to break as many preconceptions as possible, and we chose to do it through performing music live because there are still a lot of traditions when it comes to playing live. Not many people have challenged that before. So there is a lot of work to do.

In one of your songs 'Liar Lier', you voice some critique regarding the Japanese prime minister (Shinzo Abe). How important is a political context for group A?

T: Very important, I think. That's how I get motivated to create. Of course, I love listening to the music that drives me to go back to the studio. But when I feel uneasy about society I live in, or unpleasant about politics, I find myself rushing to sketch the feeling onto something, if not a notebook, the sound. Just like writing the diary. If I were happy about everything, well, that never happens but, probably, I would not be creating. Still, I don't want to say the politics is the most important aspect, because we look at so many other things as well.

S: The things that used to bother me in Japan, still bother me. Some kind of social pressure, for instance. If you live in Japan and you are over 30 years old female, people ask why you don’t get married. Normal people just don’t have to ask about it. Japan is still a conservative country. We are from Tokyo, so many people think that we have a lot of freedom, but it’s not true, in my opinion.

T: Everybody has a different way of doing it. But I think that even if we were in Tokyo now, we would be very dissimilar to everybody. We don’t really fit anywhere.

That’s probably because we aren’t really musicians. We don’t release records as often as other musicians because our goal isn’t to make great music. Our goal is to break as many preconceptions as possible, and we chose to do it through performing music live because there are still a lot of traditions when it comes to playing live. Not many people have challenged that before. So there is a lot of work to do.

In one of your songs 'Liar Lier', you voice some critique regarding the Japanese prime minister (Shinzo Abe). How important is a political context for group A?

T: Very important, I think. That's how I get motivated to create. Of course, I love listening to the music that drives me to go back to the studio. But when I feel uneasy about society I live in, or unpleasant about politics, I find myself rushing to sketch the feeling onto something, if not a notebook, the sound. Just like writing the diary. If I were happy about everything, well, that never happens but, probably, I would not be creating. Still, I don't want to say the politics is the most important aspect, because we look at so many other things as well.

S: The things that used to bother me in Japan, still bother me. Some kind of social pressure, for instance. If you live in Japan and you are over 30 years old female, people ask why you don’t get married. Normal people just don’t have to ask about it. Japan is still a conservative country. We are from Tokyo, so many people think that we have a lot of freedom, but it’s not true, in my opinion.

What is your attitude to a phrase “music outside politics”?

T: Art and music are often considered to be a response or a reaction from a society, even if it’s not directly influenced by politics. Music can speak with words whilst art speaks where words are unable to explain. Using music or art to give a voice to issues can be an effective way to reach out to people in your society, the real people who make the society. And your voice can transform people’s opinions, which can consequently change the society.

S: I don't really care about what other people think. We share the feelings with the society or that kind of anger towards the government. We create music naturally with those feelings.

Tommi, how do you create lyrics?

T: I have to say that I’m not good at writing lyrics. I don’t think I can express myself very well with words. But I still like using my voice. There is no better instruments than my own voice to express my feelings, which I can not express with words. My approach to making music is that of an infant. It’s more of an instinctual than intellectual process to me.

But your lyrics have a lot of meaning to it.

T: I have written a song about Atomic bombing in Nagasaki, or that one about Shinzo Abe. There’s a track where I’m singing about capitalism and another one about hypernormalisation. The thing is, that I’ve started to realise that this world is more complicated than I thought it was, than it’s ever been, that I don’t know how to express my feelings with words anymore. If the politicians can’t explain it, how are we supposed to explain our feelings about it? So I am singing in an unknown language right now, like glossolalia, which requires a lot of practice, but unless I find a better way, I’ll keep this style.

What is your attitude to a phrase “music outside politics”?

T: Art and music are often considered to be a response or a reaction from a society, even if it’s not directly influenced by politics. Music can speak with words whilst art speaks where words are unable to explain. Using music or art to give a voice to issues can be an effective way to reach out to people in your society, the real people who make the society. And your voice can transform people’s opinions, which can consequently change the society.

S: I don't really care about what other people think. We share the feelings with the society or that kind of anger towards the government. We create music naturally with those feelings.

Tommi, how do you create lyrics?

T: I have to say that I’m not good at writing lyrics. I don’t think I can express myself very well with words. But I still like using my voice. There is no better instruments than my own voice to express my feelings, which I can not express with words. My approach to making music is that of an infant. It’s more of an instinctual than intellectual process to me.

But your lyrics have a lot of meaning to it.

T: I have written a song about Atomic bombing in Nagasaki, or that one about Shinzo Abe. There’s a track where I’m singing about capitalism and another one about hypernormalisation. The thing is, that I’ve started to realise that this world is more complicated than I thought it was, than it’s ever been, that I don’t know how to express my feelings with words anymore. If the politicians can’t explain it, how are we supposed to explain our feelings about it? So I am singing in an unknown language right now, like glossolalia, which requires a lot of practice, but unless I find a better way, I’ll keep this style.

You know, the whole post-punk period soaked up the ideas and techniques of modernists. The bands of that time even borrowed the words and gestures from Dada, Brecht, Bauhaus, and Duchamp. What is your personal attitude to this kind of possession; do you borrow ideas from famous artists?

S: I personally like Dada and Duchamp, and I got influenced by his work. But when it comes to group A, we don’t really borrow the ideas; we try to create some rather than follow them.

T: It depends. Everyday I feel different and do things differently. I get influenced a lot by other artists. I borrow ideas when I’m stuck in my creative process, and then I try to do it in my own way.

Do you consider your costumes to be an essential part of the performance or another instrument for sharing your message with the audience? What do you use as a reference?

T: We don’t make costumes anymore. The costumes don’t really have any meaning. We started half-naked, but that was just because we thought that wearing regular clothes would look weird.

You know, the whole post-punk period soaked up the ideas and techniques of modernists. The bands of that time even borrowed the words and gestures from Dada, Brecht, Bauhaus, and Duchamp. What is your personal attitude to this kind of possession; do you borrow ideas from famous artists?

S: I personally like Dada and Duchamp, and I got influenced by his work. But when it comes to group A, we don’t really borrow the ideas; we try to create some rather than follow them.

T: It depends. Everyday I feel different and do things differently. I get influenced a lot by other artists. I borrow ideas when I’m stuck in my creative process, and then I try to do it in my own way.

Do you consider your costumes to be an essential part of the performance or another instrument for sharing your message with the audience? What do you use as a reference?

T: We don’t make costumes anymore. The costumes don’t really have any meaning. We started half-naked, but that was just because we thought that wearing regular clothes would look weird.

You can see inside of us more when we are not wearing the costume I guess. I think now we don't need to dress up in costumes anymore and I think the message would go straight to the audience without them.

You can see inside of us more when we are not wearing the costume I guess. I think now we don't need to dress up in costumes anymore and I think the message would go straight to the audience without them.


Would group A exist without performance?

T: No, never.

How do you prepare for your performances? Are your performances always 100% prepared or there is a room left for improvisation?

T: At first, we do our little research to find a concept for the show - check the space we are playing, what kind of building or what kind of event it is, how the stage looks like, stuff like that. Then I try to focus on one subject that I’m most disturbed by at that moment. Generally, that’s about politics, and I draw sketches. After that, I try and think what the preconceptions are, and try to break them as much as I can.

The way I’m using my gear right now requires a lot of preparation, but I leave space for improvisation, my vocals, Sayaka’s violin and whatever comes into my mind during the show.

Do you decide what to play when on stage?

T: No, we always prepare beforehand. And improvise on top of it.

Do you consider your costumes to be an essential part of the performance or another instrument for sharing your message with the audience? What do you use as a reference?

T: We don’t make costumes anymore. The costumes don’t really have any meaning. We started half-naked, but that was just because we thought that wearing regular clothes would look weird. You can see inside of us more when we are not wearing the costume I guess. I think now we don't need to dress up in costumes anymore and I think the message would go straight to the audience without them.

How did you start working with Alessandro Adriani?

T: After moving to Berlin I went to Mannequin records night at OHM. I introduced myself to Alessandro and after literally a 5 minutes conversation we kind of naturally agreed that we should do something together. I wasn’t particularly looking for a label at that time. We had never worked with labels before and I just didn’t have that idea. Now I'm curious to see what it’s like to work with labels. I always liked what he released on MNQ and I was interested to work with him, but I didn't think it would come so early. It happened two weeks after we moved to Berlin and it was our first release on vinyl.


Would group A exist without performance?

T: No, never.

How do you prepare for your performances? Are your performances always 100% prepared or there is a room left for improvisation?

T: At first, we do our little research to find a concept for the show - check the space we are playing, what kind of building or what kind of event it is, how the stage looks like, stuff like that. Then I try to focus on one subject that I’m most disturbed by at that moment. Generally, that’s about politics, and I draw sketches. After that, I try and think what the preconceptions are, and try to break them as much as I can.

The way I’m using my gear right now requires a lot of preparation, but I leave space for improvisation, my vocals, Sayaka’s violin and whatever comes into my mind during the show.

Do you decide what to play when on stage?

T: No, we always prepare beforehand. And improvise on top of it.

Do you consider your costumes to be an essential part of the performance or another instrument for sharing your message with the audience? What do you use as a reference?

T: We don’t make costumes anymore. The costumes don’t really have any meaning. We started half-naked, but that was just because we thought that wearing regular clothes would look weird. You can see inside of us more when we are not wearing the costume I guess. I think now we don't need to dress up in costumes anymore and I think the message would go straight to the audience without them.

How did you start working with Alessandro Adriani?

T: After moving to Berlin I went to Mannequin records night at OHM. I introduced myself to Alessandro and after literally a 5 minutes conversation we kind of naturally agreed that we should do something together. I wasn’t particularly looking for a label at that time. We had never worked with labels before and I just didn’t have that idea. Now I'm curious to see what it’s like to work with labels. I always liked what he released on MNQ and I was interested to work with him, but I didn't think it would come so early. It happened two weeks after we moved to Berlin and it was our first release on vinyl.

Does the music format matter to you?

S: It actually doesn’t matter. I have a cassette tape fetish, but when it comes to listening it doesn't matter.

T: Media format matters a lot. There’s a major difference between physical formats and digital formats, not just the sound, but experience and perceived value of the music are as different as chalk and cheese. I never listen to music on cassettes, because I don’t have a cassette player. I don’t understand why people love cassette tapes, for me, it's a very unpractical format. Concerning releasing on vinyl, I find it important because that is one medium that will last longer than tapes, CDs or digital. So I find it really important to put out vinyls, and maybe in one hundred year time people will be able to listen to our music, isn’t it amazing?

The next and the last question might be very important for you, and it could also serve as a recommendation for other artists: how to keep the DIY spirit?

T: My aversion towards capitalism motivates me to stay DIY. So you need to hate money basically. Ha, which is not always easy, as we all know. But it’s important to think where the money comes from and where they go, where does your performance fee come from and what you do with the money. You need to become a filter to make the money good, by spending money on something worthy, something that has true value. Don’t spend money on rubbish.

DIY doesn’t necessarily mean you have to limit yourself to underground scenes. Still, the audience and followers in underground scenes are way more real and they are less likely to be superficial. Because they aren’t masses, they are not controlled by mass media, they are not controlled by money.

S: For me, DIY means not being under control, so in the way, we are still DIY.

Does the music format matter to you?

S: It actually doesn’t matter. I have a cassette tape fetish, but when it comes to listening it doesn't matter.

T: Media format matters a lot. There’s a major difference between physical formats and digital formats, not just the sound, but experience and perceived value of the music are as different as chalk and cheese. I never listen to music on cassettes, because I don’t have a cassette player. I don’t understand why people love cassette tapes, for me, it's a very unpractical format. Concerning releasing on vinyl, I find it important because that is one medium that will last longer than tapes, CDs or digital. So I find it really important to put out vinyls, and maybe in one hundred year time people will be able to listen to our music, isn’t it amazing?

The next and the last question might be very important for you, and it could also serve as a recommendation for other artists: how to keep the DIY spirit?

T: My aversion towards capitalism motivates me to stay DIY. So you need to hate money basically. Ha, which is not always easy, as we all know. But it’s important to think where the money comes from and where they go, where does your performance fee come from and what you do with the money. You need to become a filter to make the money good, by spending money on something worthy, something that has true value. Don’t spend money on rubbish.

DIY doesn’t necessarily mean you have to limit yourself to underground scenes. Still, the audience and followers in underground scenes are way more real and they are less likely to be superficial. Because they aren’t masses, they are not controlled by mass media, they are not controlled by money.

S: For me, DIY means not being under control, so in the way, we are still DIY.

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Text: Maya Baklanova
Photo: Kiril Bikov

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