Merzbow is the Vegan Straight Edge Noise Project
of Masami Akita (born 1956, lives and works in Tokyo, Japan). In late 70s, he gradually withdrew himself from the rock scene and began experimenting in his basement with broken tape recorders and feedback. He started the project Merzbow in 1981. Merzbow began as the duo of Masami Akita and Kiyoshi Mizutani, who met Akita in high school. Akita started releasing noise recordings on cassettes through his own record label, Lowest Music & Arts, which was founded in order to trade cassette tapes with other underground artists. In 1984, he founded a second record label called ZSF Produkt. During this era, Merzbow found much wider recognition and began making recordings for various international labels. He also started touring abroad with the help of various collaborators. Merzbow performed in the USSR in 1988, toured the USA in 1990, Korea in 1991, and Europe in 1989 and 1992. Kiyoshi Mizutani left Merzbow after the 1989 European tour and continues to pursue a solo career.
During the European tour in September-October 1989, Merzbow could only bring simple and portable gear; this led to the harsh noise style Merzbow became known for in the 90s. Recordings from the mid-1990s onwards are mostly of extreme volume, some mastered at levels far beyond standard. Merzbow's sounds employ the use of distortion, feedback, and noises from synthesizers, machinery, and home-made noisemakers. While much of Merzbow's output is intensely harsh in character, Akita does occasionally make forays into ambient music. Contrary to most harsh noise music, Akita also occasionally uses elements of melody and rhythm. During the 90s Akita's work became much harsher and were generally mastered at a louder volume than usual. These were heavily influenced by death metal and grindcore bands of the time. In 1994, Akita acquired a vintage EMS synthesizer. From 1996, plans were made to release a “10 (or maybe 12)” CD box set on Extreme Records. In 2000, Extreme Records released the Merzbox
a fifty CD set of Merzbow records, twenty of them not previously released.
Since 1999, Akita has used computers in his recordings, having first acquired a Macintosh to work on art for the Merzbox
. Also at this time he began referring to his home studio as “Bedroom, Tokyo”. At live performances, Akita has produced noise music from either two laptop computers or combination of a laptop and analog synthesizers. Since 2001, Akita started utilising samples of animal sounds in various releases starting with Frog
. Around 2002, Akita became a vegan. Also in 2002, Akita released Merzbeat
, which was seen as a significant departure from his trademark abstract style in that it contains beat-oriented pieces. In 2009, Akita reintroduced the drum kit, his first instrument. This could be heard on 13 Japanese Birds
, a thirteen disc series recorded and released one-a-month throughout 2009. At this time he changed the name of his home studio to Munemihouse. Beginning in November 2009, Masami Akita started releasing archival material from the 1980s and 1990s, both reissues and previously unreleased material, several of which were released on cassette. Merzbow has also released several archival boxes: Merzbient
, Lowest Music & Arts 1980-1983
, and Duo
. Merzbow has released more than 300 Records & CDs.
Merzbow performed concert/sound installation in all over the world. Merzbow played international music festival such as Sonar (Spain), All Tomorrow Parties (UK etc), FIMAV (Canada), Super Sonic (UK), Molde Jazz Festival (Norway), etc. Merzbow also played at contemporary art event such as the Westbunt Biennale, Shanghai (2013), the Yokohama Triennale, Japan (2001), and the 3rd Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2004). Merzbow also collaborates with different kind of artist such as Balazs Pandi, Mats Gustafsson, Thurston Moore, Boris, Keiji Haino
, Richard Pinhas, Duenn, Nyantra, Jim O'Rourke
, Lawrence English
, Xiu Xiu, Gezan…