> Ari Tsugi on musical chemistry, spirituality, and gifts of the universe. - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Ari Tsugi on musical chemistry, spirituality, and gifts of the universe.

Chris Queen interviews Mashu Harada for this month's SNACK

The latest signing to Rebecca Vasmant’s label, Rebecca’s Records, Ari Tsugi are a psychedelic eight piece who found their home in the Glasgow jazz scene. I caught up with guitarist Mashu Harada about the release of their first album Simultaneity (同時性) just as he was packing his bags before heading on the way to play Glastonbury.

How did the band come about?

The band started probably around four years ago. Clement, who’s this French, really wonderful person, just decided to come to Glasgow because his friend from Paris was going, and then somehow he ended up in the jam I was organising at mine. I invited the drummer, Joe, and Angus, who was a keyboard player, and we had a really wonderful jam.

Afterwards, me and Clem and Joe kept coming back and playing together, and we really had a great musical chemistry together. And it was sort of all this spontaneous way the jam happened. After that Clem had to go home to France, but we were like, ‘let’s come back in autumn together and record an album’. Since then the band has been slowly growing. So now we’re seven people and we have so many wonderful musicians added to the lineup. But then it was just a trio.

Ari Tsugi – Hold Me Tight (抱きしめて)

Glasgow does seem to have a really supportive, collaborative jazz scene at the moment. What do you think is behind that?

I think the reason is the size of the place. Because it’s not too huge, not too small. You really know the people who are in it and by virtue of it being small, you end up having time together for each other or at gigs and you become friends with everyone easily, you know?

There’s this sense of support that facilitates a feeling of neighbourhood and community. We ended up on Rebecca’s Records because my friend India she was releasing her album through Rebecca’s Records as Azamiah. We sent the first mix of the album and she seemed to really like it and she said okay, let’s meet up and talk about the project. And from there she was like, okay, let’s do it.

That big kind of freak-out, psychedelic moment on ‘Mezame’, is incredible. Is that representative of your live show?

Yeah, yeah, definitely. We wanted to have one track on the album that was just improvisation. And I definitely love psychedelic rock. Lots of us are jazz musicians, but also there’s a few of us that are really into rock, so it has that energy. I think with live performances now we’ve evolved, because the album was made four years ago and since then we’ve changed a lot.

But actually, that track has definitely elements of what we do live, which is really build up in energy and go hard. So I think you’re right, yeah. It shows the glimpse of what the live show is. Although we also have really intricate and beautiful sounds, but it gets to there sometimes.

Is the live show mostly improvised?

We have a setlist, but within the tracks we have a passage or section where improvisation is encouraged. Sometimes we do these games where we ask the audience to give us a theme, and then we improvise around the theme. Like if they say ‘snow’ or ‘fire’ and then we try to recreate that concept, and then you can get quite psychedelic.

Spirituality runs throughout the record. Is that an important part of your process?

I think it’s an important thing for me because I really have this view that we exist in this universe and that the universe gives you multiple aspects of experiences, like colours you can see or the food you can taste. And music you can make in a jam is also just one of those experiences that the universe creates.

I think what spirituality embodies is this connection and the gifts of the universe. And I think everyone in the band also has the similar feelings when we make music, because music – improvising music – it’s almost coming out of nowhere without you knowing where exactly what you’re playing is coming from. But it comes from somewhere and it’s definitely from the universe, you know?

Ari Tsugi – Haru (春)

The movement of the seasons is a big theme throughout the record, and that’s something that’s inspired a lot of artists over the years. Why do you think people keep coming back to that?

When we made the songs, we only had two weeks to record the album, two weeks to make up materials and then to record. When I was trying to give or find conceptual meaning, we found it nice to reflect on that as human beings; everyone being born in this life and not knowing what the real true reason is behind it. But you end up moving throughout your life and ages.

It’s also like a season of childhood, adulthood, and then to the death, slowly walking towards it as if to winter. It felt good to assign this meaning, but I think it’s because the season and movement is also really, really embodied in every aspect of our life that musicians and artists often find inspiration from it.

Simultaneity (同時性) is out now via Rebecca’s Records

All Photos Credit: Harrison Reid

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