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Disk Union Solo interview with BOH [The Kari Ongen – Demo]

Translated for reference purposes only.

Please refer to the original Japanese article here

The release of the first mini album of the Kari band – ‘The Kari Ongen – Demo’. 

We have the ‘Kari Band’ 6-string bassist, BOH-san here to talk freely about this band that has spanned the entire world with its dynamic sound. 

The session unit ‘Kari Band’ composed of Fujioka Mikio (guitar), BOH (bass) and Maeda Yuuya (drums) which was launched in November of 2015 has at long last released its first mini album titled, ‘Kari Ongen -DEMO’. 

From live houses with a scale where the venue is filled by a few dozen fans to the arenas and stadiums that are considered to be the largest venues on the planet…… This band featuring some of the most talented artists in the world has experienced all this and all in between and has released their heart filled album featuring their original songs putting them up for an evaluation of their worth. ‘Kari Ongen -DEMO’ composed of these members who have garnered attention because of their virtual Heavy Metal god inspired performances along with guest artists such as Calmera, Nishiwaki Tatsuya, ISAO as well as rapidly up and coming pianist, Kuwahara Ai is certain to be met with enthusiastic approval from Jazz Fusion fans around the world. 

Our ‘Music Magazine’’s May features the interview that we carried out with the Kari Band, but here we would like to provide you with our solo interview with BOH-san. Coincidentally we were both born in the year of the dog and both come from Asahikawa city in Hokkaido so we felt like friends right from the git-go. I was so thrilled and happy to have received an instant approval to do another interview at another time centering on Jazz/Fusion and our shared home town. 


BOH-san, when you were a student where were you purchasing musical instruments and CDs and so on? When I (Harada) was a student the only place selling musical instruments in my home town of Asahikawa was Machii Gakki (closed in 1997). And for records there was really only ‘Kokuhara’ (closed in 2008) located in the building that housed the ramen shop, ‘Baikouken’, or ‘Gyokkoudou’ (since relocated in the suburbs) located in the basement of the department store ‘OKUNO’. 


Mostly I made use of Gyokkoudou’ and Shimamura Gakki (Musical instruments). 


Did you like music from an early age?


Actually, in fact it would be better to say that I didn’t like music (laughs). My mother worked as a music teacher at an elementary while my father worked in the market and served as the conductor of the Asahikawa city choir as a way to be of benefit to the community. When I was a little boy I was made to go to the city youth choir club as well as music school and so I came to hate music. Of course I did – it is not ‘wild’, you know. Growing up in Asahikawa it was just a natural progression of things that I would want to become a member of the Self Defense Force. 


That is because the 7th division of the Japanese Imperial Army was located in Asahikawa in the past. About 1/2 of my classmates from elementary school were children of Self Defense Force members. 


Yes, in summer vacation I would head out into the mountains and stay there for like a full week with only a supply of rice. I was always doing things like that as I wanted to get into that feeling of being in survival mode. However, there was this time that I went to a culture festival in Jr. High where my Senpai were performing and the girl I had gone there with said to me, ‘BOH-chan, do you play some kind of instrument?’. At the time I didn’t play anything so could only answer honestly that I was not able to play an instrument, to which she responded, ‘Oh, that is so uncool.’. The fact that she wasn’t even a cute girl just made me even more angry at her reaction. If that had been said to me by a cute girl I would have been shocked but since it was her I felt more anger than shock. Kind of the sense of, ‘Fine, I will transform myself into someone who is not uncool’, I went over to my friend’s house to give a guitar a try. Doing so, I felt this instrument with 6 stings and the way you had to work to make the chords was really off-putting. The bass, on the other hand, had only 4 strings, it was easier to play and you could look and sound good even with its monophonic sounds. Soon I was pumped up thinking, ‘I am simply the best!’ and from that point on I just got more and more into playing the bass. 

I am pretty sure that I was at first playing a score of Luna Sea that I had bought, and that was their ‘True Blue’ (released in 1994). My trip on this path started with me thinking, ‘I have just bought a bass but I am already almost as good as the professionals. This certainly means that the music gods are telling me to <become a bass player>’. I was interested in Western music and expanded my adventures into MR. BIG and came to like Billy Sheehan and that interest in the bass led me to be impressed with Victor Wooten, who I thought was amazing, and that further led me to ‘wonder how Marcus Miller was able to produce such amazing sounds. This furthered pursuit gradually led me in my high school years to listen to more jazz and fusion music. Also, at this time, my younger brother was into Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and other bands from the 60’s and 70’s and so I was also influenced by these bands as well.


What was the first work by Victor Wooten that you got your hands on?


That was a VHS of ‘Live at Bass Day’ 

When I was wondering if there was another ridiculously talented bassist out there after being so moved by Bill Sheehan, I was lucky enough to find this video in a video section of a music shop. The way he has his hands placed on the bass in the picture on the jacket is so obviously strange, you know. This got me interested in finding out just what he was doing. That is the reason I bought that album. As far as his albums go, I really like ‘Show of Hands’ (1997). 


The first band I heard with Billy Sheehan was ‘Talas’. I was labeled using his name in Katakana, ’ビリーシーハン’ <Billy Sheehan>. 



Counting back from MR. BIG’s best album (1996), I was also listening to performances from Talas and the David Lee Roth Band. I did not know of anyone else who was able to do such interesting phrasing as a rock bassist. It was extremely interesting to hear his different approach when he played rock in such endeavors as when he teamed up with Dennis Chambers in the fusion band, Niacin. The first bassist for me to carry out phrase analysis on was the bass player, Billy Sheehan. 


What other fusion type of bassists did you listen to? 


I was totally blown away by ‘Jaco Pastorius’s Word of mouth’. I couldn’t believe that these were sounds made by a bass. I also liked Stanley Clarke, Jeff Berlin, Stuart Hamm and  Nathan East. I was also later very drawn by the approaches taken by the guitar work of Brian Bromberg and I thought the vocals of Richard Bona were also wonderful. Added to that I was moved by the artist that it would not be an exaggeration to say created the 6-string bass, Anthony Jackson. He personally calls it the contrabass however. And his trio with Michel Camilo and Horacio Hernandez was absolutely outstanding. I got hints about performing slap playing mostly from Marcus Miller 



Not from Victor Wooten?


Wooten has kind of an acrobatic approach to slapping. The way he does slapping I feel is not the usual way one thinks about it where he kind of scratches the strings will all of his fingers. Marcus’ way of slapping is more of a building up of a foundation for the sound and his ‘backing’ is also fantastic. 


To return to your story…after you so impressed by Victor Wooten and Billy Sheehan, you made your way to Tokyo at last. 


From the time I was in High school I was saying that ‘in the future I will go to Tokyo and debut in a band’. My mother however felt that, ‘if you go to Tokyo and try to get into music while doing part time jobs will just play around with nothing to show for it’, and suggested that I enroll in a music school. I took her up on that and entered the Human Academy Music College in Aoyama, Tokyo. It is no longer in existence however. Upon entering I found out that there a lot of really good players (laughs). Most of the teachers were studio musicians and it was then that I learned that there are other ways to go about making a living at music other than debuting in a band and that led me think that I wanted to be a musician who could work doing sessions and as a back band performer. It was a 2-year program but I went on to be an instructor there after I graduated. After that I started to get a lot of offers from outside the school of people asking me, ‘hey, could you play for us?’, and it was during this time that I met DAITA-san, the guitarist for Siam Shade. At the beginning, I worked as a supporting bassist for the unit BINECKS that DAITA-san and KEITA had formed but later they said to me, ‘we are going to make our major debut and would like you to join as a member’. So, I became a member of BINECKS toward the end of 2007. I had no interest in making a major debut but they were my Senpai and all that, so I couldn’t really turn them down (laughs). 


When did you start playing mainly on a 6-string bass?


When I had first arrived in Tokyo I was of course playing a 4-string bass, but this extremely bothersome and rather scary teacher at the music school said to me, ‘Omae, your going to have to play a 6-string bass’. After summer vacation had finished and classes had started up again I still did not have a 6-string bass and that teacher got really angry at me – ‘Why do you not do as I tell you! I told you to buy a 6-string bass. Get one and bring it here!’. And so, I bought cheap 6-string bass. At the time I couldn’t really play the guitar nor the piano very well as the classes devoted to chords were rather hard to follow. But with the 6-string bass I was able to play the chords, making it easier to follow along with the classes and I was able to digest music theory as well as chord study much more than I had been able to do before. So, I started to think, ‘hmm, this 6-string bass is a good thing’. Additionally, I was told by a cute woman teacher that, ‘since there are very few back band bassists in Japan using mainly a 6-string bass you will be able to become a 6-string representative for Japan if you work at it from right now’ (laughs). From that point on to now I have been playing the 6-string bass. I only have one 4-string bass in my possession at the moment. I have been playing the 6-string for a long time now and am very used to it. It is very interesting to play and I don’t get asked to play a 4-string anyway. 


So it is kind of like, ‘If you need a 6-sting bassist, ask BOH-san’?


I think the people in the industry know, ‘if you ask for BOH, you know what you will get’. And I don’t know why it is, but I get asked almost exclusively to perform difficult pieces. It is not that I personally like difficult songs though. The other day when we finished recording ‘Chuku’ in a 13 time/beat (?) as the Kari Band I got an offer to perform in 13 time/beat for another band. I have gotten extremely good at this 13 time/beat so I am sure the day will come when people will say, ‘that guy is incredibly good playing in a 13 time/beat, but for quadruple time…not so much’ (laughs). 


On the Kari Band’s, ’Kari Ongen – Demo’ album you can really fully enjoy BOH-san’s 6-string bass playing. In addition to ‘Chuku’ that came up in the discussion a bit earlier, the tapping performance in ‘Ninja Groove’ is amazing and the tranquil riff in ‘Snowflakes’ is truly impressive. 


The foundation for ‘Snowflakes’ came from a phrase that came to me when I was practicing the bass in my home when I was a student. It is a riff of the Lydian scale (a scale where 4 degrees of the major scale have been raised up a semitone) that came to me due to being really into the guitar of Steve Vai at the time. If you delve into Billy Sheehan you always arrive at Steve Vai. I got really interested in this scale that he used that is kind of hard to determine if it has a good feel to it or actually a kind of bad feel and looking into it I found it was the Lydian scale that he was using.  I remembered being really impressed with myself for this really cool phrase that came to me at this snow covered park in Asahikawa. During the recording I was constantly repeating this scale over and over, it is actually really easy. The rest of the parts of this song I left entirely to Fujioka-sensei (Fujioka Mikio). (laughs)


In your Kari Band live shows you do a cover of Mike Stern’s ‘Chatter’ (included on the 2003 album, ‘These Times’), but the songs on this album are all original pieces, right?


The Kari Band is a session band and we started out just bringing together the songs that each of us liked. In the live shows we do quite a bit of cover songs. The inclusion of ‘Chatter’ was the idea of our drummer, Maeda Yuuya. 


With 6 songs on the ’Kari Ongen – Demo’ album it is treated as a mini album, but their is a myriad of music and sounds, and the contents are really dense. Also, the jacket is so overpowering. 


Yes, it is an instrumental album that has the feel of us the members who all like jazz and fusion getting together and performing what we most want to play at the moment. As for the jacket, right from the outset we said to ourselves, ‘lets go with a real Japanese look’. We have gotten a lot of messages of interest about the release of the album from people overseas as well and so I think this kind of jacket will be met with pleasure by people overseas (laughs). Also, there probably aren’t too many albums with a ‘Japanese style jacket’ in the Jazz/Fusion section of music stores. I am looking forward to the reaction it stirs and how it looks when it hits the record shops. 


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