Ruins are an incredible bass/drum duo from Tokyo, Japan. We were able to spend a little bit of time talking with Tatsuya Yoshida and Ryuichi Masuda before their show at Blake's Afterworld Lounge in Berkeley earlier this year on their first American tour. A hearty thanks to Andy Neuschatz for interpreting.
The lyrics in a lot of the songs, from what I can tell, don't seem to be in the Japanese language.
Yoshida: No. The lyrics are improvised. There is no meaning.
When written out, they look eastern European...
Yoshida: I just choose the sounds that seem right, whatever gives the right atmosphere.
You've been a band for a pretty long time. I think 1986. Is that right?
Yoshida: That's right. This is the third bassist who has worked with me in the band.
Masuda, how long have you been in the band?
Masuda: Two years.
You use an unusual bass, a five-string. Is there a reason for that?
Masuda: This is the first time I've played bass and I learned it because Ruins has been using 5-string basses since the beginning.
Yoshida: I am looking for certain sound that requires a range that goes from very high to very low.
Masuda: It has a sound a lot like a guitar. I was a guitarist before Ruins, so I am used to 6 strings. The 5-string makes a good compromise. It's kind of a combination sound.
In the song "Burning Stone," I hear a short guitar riff that sounds like the American baseball anthem "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Yoshida: (laughs) I don't know. I don't know that song.
Sometimes I find things in songs that aren't really there.
What other musical projects/bands have you been in?
Yoshida: I've been in various bands, used to be in YBO^2 and early Zeni Geva, KK Null's bands. I'm also working on some solo stuff right now. Both of us are also in a band called Men of the Continent Versus the Mountain Women.
Did you have something to do with the percussion group Vasilisk? Are they still together?
Yoshida: I was involved just a little. They are still together.
How many drummers are in Vasilisk and what other instruments?
Yoshida: Four drummers plus a vocalist. Sometimes there is a guitar player.
Have you recorded with John Zorn?
Yoshida: I think there are two songs on the Early Works CD where he plays sax.
The effects used on the vocals seem to change while you are playing live. How do you do that while drumming?
Yoshida: I have two foot pedals that control my voice.
Masuda: I have many effect pedals for both the bass and my voice.
When I describe your music to friends, I say it is an energetic jazzy-punk. How did you learn to play? Do you have formal jazz training?
Yoshida: I am completely self-taught. I haven't studied it, but I do like jazz.
Sometimes the vocals remind me of the Residents and Caroliner Rainbow. Are you familiar with these bands?
Yoshida: I've heard of the Residents but I never heard of Caroliner Rainbow. We haven't taken an influence from them.
All the Ruins albums have beautiful pictures of stone statues on the cover. Why do you like stone statues so much?
Yoshida: We use that because it goes with the name (laughs). I like the combination in the word ruins of these ancient statues and graves and the idea/message of destruction. It seemed like the right combination for our music.
How does your other current band, The Continental Men Versus The Mountain Women, sound compare to Ruins?
Yoshida: Completely different. They have always had a lot of people, and is currently ten. Tonight there will be three, so it will also sound completely different.
On your solo album Magaibutsu, it sounds very different than Ruins. Some songs are very pretty. It's not as aggressive as Ruins.
Yoshida: (laughs) I'm not sure if I would call it pretty. I think the core sound is the same.
(as of summer 1993)
II EP (1987, Trans-22)
Ruins EP ( 1988, Trans-39)
Stonehenge LP (1990, Shimmy 37)
Early Works CD (1992, Bloody Butterfly ZIKS BB-004)
Burning Stone CD (1992, Shimmy 57)
7" EP (1993, Public Bath PB-10)
II and 19 Numbers CD (1993, SSE 8010CD)
0' 33" 7" (1993, H.G.Fact/Public Bath)
"Stonehenge" on ABSOLUT #2: The Japanese Perspective CD (1990, EAR Magazine)
Constructive Music 1990 CD (UPD 004)
Dead Tech 3 CD (1992, Charnel House CHCD-4)
Magaibutsu CD (1991, Review Records RERE 163CD)
VASILISK (with Yoshida as a guest)
Acqua LP (1989, Musica Maxima Magnetica - Italy, EEE04)