Throughout the last three decades, Morrie's musical projects, most notably the legendary and highly influential DEAD END (est. 1984) and, more recently, experimental Creature Creature (est. 2005), have been an attempt at striking the balance at these seemingly opposing elements, at times fusing uplifting, guitar-oriented harmonies with dark and philosophical lyrical themes, the sun with the moon. Each project has also been aesthetically consistent, yet never constrained by a particular musical genre within the overarching categories of rock, heavy metal—and beyond.
Occasionally more Dionysian, Morrie's music is, in the words of that same poet, for those who are "bound together from the start in secret and esoteric aesthetic experiences, a secret sign recognized among artistic blood relations." As he approaches a milestone birthday on March 4, he reflects upon his calling (the word “career” may seem too vulgar here).
How do you evaluate your creative life path?
Morrie: I, Now, Here, Being. Being here as "I." This itself is a miracle, my happiness. The question I always ask is what is the "I" that thinks this thought of what is the "I."
Your body of musical work is quite prolific. Currently, you are engaged with DEAD END, Creature Creature, as well as your solo pursuits. How do you differentiate between these projects as separate entities in terms of purpose, aesthetics, and other factors?
Morrie: In DEAD END, I am 1/3 part of the sum. We all play a very equal part in the unknown creations. Creature Creature is a time and space where I express and explore my musical ideas with other musicians. I have been working with most of the same members for five years, so I write with them in mind with voicing for two seven-string guitars, five-string bass, and drums. In the end, everything written for Creature Creature goes through my filter. I would say that in both bands I perform with similar intensity. DEAD END is more centrifugal, and the lyrics are explosive and outward. Our impetus has a kind of a death drive. Creature Creature is more centripetal with lyrical content evoked by philosophical questions of Being and what is "I." I think that the lyrics of what I am singing about in each band certainly shape my performance. In my solo work, I compose songs without thinking of form. It is the most free and boundless kind of writing. I do not have the performers in my mind when I write for the solo project, and the range of expression is limitless.
If Japanese rock and heavy metal music had its own Olympus, you, no doubt, would be one of the deities. Of the younger musicians you've influenced, which ones are your favorites?
Morrie: I like those bands that make a sort of a chemical reaction that goes beyond themselves: when each member brings something forth, and the interaction creates something that exceeds the expectations. I see this exciting phenomenon happen in some younger bands.
Some artists are motivated by the injustices they see in the world; others—by personal struggles; others yet—by the high arts or the beauty and impermanence of Nature. What has been the most consistent inspiration for you over the years?
Morrie: The most consistent inspiration is the questions about the secret of Being, the secret of "I." It leads me to find companionship with the great philosophers. The answers and path are beyond good and evil and beyond justice. Truth. The truth of us. The truth of language. That is beauty. What is Being? What is "I"? I sense that this question cannot be eternally solved, but I am lured to these questions, and am inspired by those who devoted and dedicated their lives to probe and pursue them. Why is "I"—"I"? This question lingers, and is the starting point and tone to all I do and create. Singing is executed from the body. It is a great machine that I need to maintain.
When done right, there is a certain level of theatricality and an almost ritualistic atmosphere—in terms of audience engagement—to live musical performances. What is your approach?
Morrie: The best performances for me are when I do not think or feel what I am doing on stage. I become the music. Those are the best moments for me, but ironically, I have little memory of what happened.
How well can your fans get to know the real Morrie through your music and lyrics?
Morrie: Impossible. I don't even know. There is no real Morrie.
Metropolis is read primarily by English-speaking expats in Japan. You have been living in the U.S. since the 1990s. What are the most notable aspects of émigré life for you?
Morrie: When one is inside of something, one does not recognize what it is until one is away. Like in a dream, one does not know it is a dream until one awakens. Living outside of Japan has made me recognize and discover another Japan.
Who is your classical-music composer of choice and why?
Morrie: Wagner. Every time I listen to the Prelude of Tristan and Isolde, my body and spirit are transported. From the Baroque period—Bach. When I listen to Bach, I am not moved emotionally, but yet I am blown away to the end of the universe, especially listening to his fugues. Bach evolves in the silent space above like an enigmatic star.
Is there something about you that would surprise your admirers if they were to find out?
Morrie: I cannot live without high-cacao chocolate.
In an essay called "Building Dwelling Thinking" (1951), German philosopher Martin Heidegger writes, "The mortals are the human beings. They are called mortals because they can die. To die means to be capable of death as death. Only man dies, and indeed continually, as long as he remains on earth, under the sky, before the divine ones." Using this as a jumping-off point, here is a loaded question: what is the purpose of life—to leave a body of work that will be remembered once its creator is gone; immortality—by passing on one's genes to one's children; to partake in every enjoyment that the world has to offer; to be surrounded by meaningful, like-minded people, etc.?
Morrie: To pursue the meaning of life is the meaning of life. Make life meaningful and fruitful in your own way.
18th February, 2014