From the physical to the instrumental.
"I'm in a transition period," says Shoji Hano. "Over the past two or three years, I've moved away from the aggressive, no-holds-barred approach I'd always taken."
In the '90s, Hano traveled tirelessly back and forth between Japan and other countries. In Europe (including the former Soviet Union) and America, he played with the likes of Hans Reichel, Peter Brötzmann, Johannes Bauer, Werner Lüdi, and Eugene Chadbourne. In turn, he invited these artists to tour in Japan. In addition, Hano was very active in numerous projects--Japan-oriented and otherwise--such as Poly Breath Percussion Band, which includes players of traditional Japanese instruments. His playing in that period was truly an exploration of physicality through the medium of drums--influenced, apparently, by the martial art shintaido.
"Before, there were other players and there was me," Hano says. "I put out sound and sound came back to me; I absorbed sound and released it. I thought that as long as the space expanded in a dynamic way, it was interesting. It wasn't about me or the other people there." When he got involved in solo improvisation, however, he "didn't want that," but hoped instead to "discover something new and original by concentrating more on the sound." He says, "When you play with other people, you're inspired by what they do, so you can pick up the sounds around you," but "in a solo, it all comes from inside yourself. It's about how far down you can dig, to what extent you can create a space where it's possible to bring out things from your unconscious." This is the act of rediscovering the "Shoji Hano sound," which includes turning around his own concept of drumming.
At the same time, it is a pursuit of the drums' further instrumental possibilities. Hano first encountered jazz drumming through players like Max Roach and Elvin Jones, and more than anyone, he insists: "I'm a drummer, not a percussionist." In addition to a physically powerful sound and widely varied rhythms, his playing in recent years has shown a new dimension, in terms of the use of tone color and sound texture.
"I had never thought as seriously about solo playing as I did in these performances," says Hano. By returning to the question of "how to confront the instrument called drums," he has entered new territory as a drummer.
(Translated by Cathy Fishman and Yoshiyuki Suzuki)