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‘Having limits is boring’: experimental survivor Damo Suzuki on Can, most cancers and krautrock | Music

YoIn 2014 Damo Suzuki was identified with colon most cancers and given a ten% probability of survival. It was virtually precisely 30 years earlier, when Suzuki was 33, that he was first identified with the illness. The identical most cancers had killed his father when he was 5.

When going through main surgical procedure in 1983, his state of affairs was made all of the extra life-threatening: as a consequence of Suzuki’s then religion as a Jehovah’s Witness, he could not settle for the blood transfusion he desperately required.

I’ve survived each bouts of most cancers. Now 72, he smiles warmly over Zoom from his dwelling in Cologne, nonchalantly describing his state of affairs. “Every part is OK,” he says. “I am optimistic and in case you have constructive ideas then the whole lot shall be good.”

The trailer for Vitality: A Movie About Damo Suzuki – video

Suzuki’s zen, positivity, dogged spirit and memorable endurance is on the coronary heart of a brand new documentary, Vitality: A Movie About Damo Suzuki, by Michelle Heighway. Shot over 5 years, it follows Suzuki as he makes an attempt to proceed a neverending world tour whereas mounting a herculean battle towards a most cancers that may see him operated on 40 occasions between 2014 and 2017. “The religion and resilience in his character is infinite and I like that,” says Heightay. “It was so inspiring how he lived every day and second prefer it was his solely certainly one of him. He was at all times within the now.”

Being within the now’s the essence of Suzuki. Ever the itinerant, he left Japan in his teenage years to journey Europe to stay in hippy communes. He’s additionally a performer for whom improvised music is the one form of music. Since surviving most cancers in 1983 he has been performing with out pause because the Community, enjoying stay experimental improvisational music with ever-changing native musicians – his ensembles have included members of Mogwai, Black Midi and Bo Ningen – that he refers to as his sound carriers de the. It is a ceaseless stay run that even outweighs Bob Dylan’s celebrated touring stretch underneath the identical banner.

But it is as frontman of the pioneering German band Can that Suzuki stays greatest identified. Between 1970 and 1973 he led the band by its unquestionable peak, together with a trio of albums as daring and revolutionary as any within the Twentieth-century rock canon: Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days. However regardless of the band’s untouchable repute because the archetypal krautrock outfit, cashing in on the legacy, nostalgia and standing of Can is of little curiosity to Suzuki. “I am not krautrock, I am not German,” he says within the movie, as a substitute suggesting that journalists should be extra inventive with their genre-labelling, providing “sushirock or sashimirock”.

He usually refers to Can merely as “that German band” and can casually prevaricate about his time in them, claiming he cannot recall a lot as a result of “I used to be at all times completely stoned”. Suzuki left the band to dedicate extra time to faith, though some members claimed he’d been brainwashed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. After his departure from him he stopped making music for a decade however re-emerged after recovering from most cancers – and leaving the church.

Damo Suzuki (second proper) with Can within the early Seventies. {Photograph}: Pictorial Press/Alamy

He quickly turned locked right into a perpetual quest for progress in music. “I am not fascinated with hanging on to the previous,” he says. “As a result of I can’t change it. If I can’t change it, I do not wish to spend time there. I wish to spend time within the now as a result of there I can create one thing new however previously I can’t.”

Maybe this ever-present perspective is bolstered by the truth that Suzuki by no means actually got down to be the place he ended up – he is by no means had a plan. “I did not have any ambition to be a musician,” he says. It was whereas busking on the streets, performing intense vocal improvisations, that he unintentionally ended up in Can. They noticed his efficiency by him and invited him to sing with them that very night time as an experiment. After the current departure of earlier vocalist Malcolm Mooney, Suzuki turned a everlasting member.

His distinctive type of singing – vulnerable to fervent and unpredictable shrieks, gliding between a number of languages ​​(together with invented ones) with a lyrical type that favors the indirect relatively than the narratively coherent – ​​created a wildly exploratory sonic framework and band dynamic. This allowed Can to shift between stretched psychedelic grooves, eruptive blasts of avant-rock and a common amalgamation of such variant sounds and approaches – merging the bare-bones primitive with classically educated gamers – that is still a singular and inimitable power in music.

Suzuki has carried on this experimental method over time, embracing improvisation – usually by way of one lengthy musical piece performed for an hour or two – as a way to evade stagnation. “I do not wish to play the identical piece time and again,” he says. “Repetition is boring. Each efficiency needs to be a singular expertise.” He affords a soccer analogy to explain his inventive philosophy. “If you happen to watch Sheffield Wednesday, you do not know the rating earlier than the sport begins,” he says. “Music, for me, is form of like sport in that you do not know any outcomes earlier than. Individuals should not come to a live performance and have already got expectations. It needs to be an expertise that we each undergo collectively – a communication. Music is at all times a communication.”

Damo Suzuki in Brighton in 2016.
‘Music is therapeutic me’ … Damo Suzuki in Brighton in 2016. Photographer: Michelle Heighway

For that reason Suzuki does not document music or launch albums himself. If the bands he performs with as his sound carriers from him want to launch a stay album then that is as much as them. “I want cash however the primary level of my life is not to make bread from music,” he says. “Music is just too vital to consider as a enterprise. I’ve by no means labored with any managers. I am my very own one-man firm. I’ve full freedom and no tasks to anybody.”

That is by no means extra clear within the movie than when Suzuki embarks on excursions of DIY venues throughout the UK, sitting in small, shabby and palpably chilly backstage areas, as he watches soccer or reads on an iPad whereas making an attempt to masks the ache his most cancers is inflicting him. “Music is therapeutic me,” he justifies at one level. “At dwelling, if I do not do something, I am rather more sick.” At one level he performs a staggering 24 live shows in 10 international locations over eight weeks, all performed with main operations going down both aspect of that timeframe.

One 2016 live performance throughout his remedy proved to be monumental. “I used to be in the course of my heavy occasions with most cancers,” he says. “I had luggage in my physique and everybody was frightened about me. I hadn’t performed a live performance for 2 years. However this present day was some of the lovely days I’ve ever skilled. Even I used to be doubting myself if I may make this occur nevertheless it actually was one of many happiest moments of my life. I may have bred.”

At one level within the movie Suzuki says “having limits is boring” – however even Covid drew a line for this seemingly unstoppable artist. He hasn’t toured for the reason that pandemic struck and in the intervening time has shifted his inventive forces elsewhere. “I paint,” he says. “Earlier than I joined Can I wished to be a comic book guide painter however I gave it up about 50 years in the past. It was my dream to be a painter as a baby and now at 72 I am doing that.”

Regardless of a lifelong dedication to impulsive and groundbreaking musical adventures, he views the documentary that has been made about him as much less of a music movie and extra of a doc of hope. “It is a message to different individuals who have heavy illness,” he says. “I survived this and if someone watches this movie they could discover motivation or energy. Once I was sick, at occasions it felt like being in jail, I wasn’t allowed to eat something for 2 weeks at one level. However now I can see a future that’s actually shiny. I worry nothing.”

Vitality: A Movie About Damo Suzuki excursions the UK with Doc’n’Roll movie pageant, 30 Oct-11 Nov.

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