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Akita, Masami (Merzbow)

Born in 1956 in Tokyo. Akita studied painting and art theory at the Art Section of the Tamagawa University in Tokyo. He played in several rock improvisation bands in the late 1970s but he gradually withdrew himself from the rock scene and began experimenting in his basement with broken tape recorders and feedback before founding his own noise music and starting a project Merzbow in 1981.

While at university, he became interested in the ideas of dada and surrealism. The name Merzbow comes from German artist Kurt Schwitters’s famous work Merzbau, which he also called The Cathedral of Erotic Misery.

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. The earliest recording he made was Metal Acoustic Music. Various other early releases included Rembrandt Assemblage and Solonoise 1.

Akita’s earliest music was made with tape loops and creatively recorded percussion and metal. Early methods included what he referred to as “material action,” in which he would closely amplify small sounds so as to distort them through the microphone. This method was used on Material Action for 2 Microphones and Material Action 2 N.A.M. 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 United States in 1990, South 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 1990s. Cloud Cock OO Grand was the first example of this new style, Merzbow’s first digital recording (on DAT), and the first recording made for the CD format. It also includes live material recorded during the tour. 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 homemade 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 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 analogue 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, he 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 monthly 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. He has recorded more than 300 CDs. Merzbow performed concert/sound installations throughout the world, including at international music festivals such as Sonar (Spain), All Tomorrow Parties (UK), FIMAV (Canada), Super Sonic (UK), Molde Jazz Festival (Norway) etc. He also played at contemporary art events such as Westbunt Biennale in Shanghai (2013), Yokohama Triennale (2001), Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2004) and many others.

Merzbow also cooperates with artists such as Mike Patton, Alec Empire, Boris, Sunn, Keiji Haino, Richard Pinhas( Heldon), Jim O’Rourke.


Selected discography: Lowest Music & Arts 1980−1983 (2012), Merzbow vs Nordvargr* − Partikel III (2013), Tamayodo (2013), Kookaburra (2013), Merzbow Meets M.B. (2013), Grand Owl Habitat (2013), Takahe Collage (2013), Duo (Masami Akita & Kiyoshi Mizutani, selected studio sessions from 1987−89; 2013), Nezumimochi (2014), Full of Hell & Merzbow (2014).


Selected concerts and installations: Holland Festival (Amsterdam, 2001), Toulouse Music Festival (2001), Molde Jazz Festival (Norway, 2001), Yokohama Triennale (2001), Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (Canada, 2002 and 2014), Frequency [Hz] Schirn Kunstalle (Frankfurt, 2002), Kunsthalle (Vienna, 2002), Metamorphose (Shizuoka, 2003), Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (Porto, 2003), United Nation University (Tokyo, 2003), Volksbühne (Berlin, 2003), CTRL_ALT_ DEL Festival (Istanbul, 2003), The Arches (Glasgow, 2003), What is Music? Festival (Brisbane−Melbourne−Sydney, 2004), 3rd Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2004), Contemporary Art Center (Vilnius, 2004), Feed Festival (Birmingham, 2004), Underground Film&Music Festival (Lausanne, 2004), Perspective (Västerås, Sweden, 2004), sound installation Sound Oasis (Mexico, 2004), Romaeuropa Festival (Rome, 2005), Kunstraum Walcheturm (Zurich, 2005), Roskilde Festival (Copenhagen, 2005), All Tomorrow Parties (London, 2005), Wrocław Industrial Festival (2007), Artissima Festival (Turin, 2007), Super Sonic Festival (Birmingham, 2008), Church of St. Thomas the Martyr (Newcastle, 2008), Republic (Salzburg, 2009), Berghain (Berlin, 2010), Elevate Festival (Graz, 2010), A38 (Budapest, 2011), Galerie Sans Nom (Moncton, 2011), FIMAV (Victoriaville, 2011), Super Sonic Festival (Birmingham, 2012), Kuudes Linja (Helsinki, 2012), Spazio Concept (Milan, 2012), Aurora Festival (Sydney, 2012), Shanghai Biennale (2013), Alt Music Festival (New Zealand, 2013), Sonic Protest Festival (Paris, 2014), Oval Space (London, 2014).