Now online is the fourth and final comic in the series that I’ve been editing for Red Bull Music Academy’s 2014 Tokyo festival. Titled “Switched On” it is an overview of the life and career of synthesizer master Isao Tomita, with a story cowritten by Jordan Ferguson and Yuko Ichijo and drawn by Ichijo. As with the previous three comics in the series, there is light animation. I’m especially pleased with this one because it is as distinct from the others as they are from each other, and because Ichijo managed to use Japanese and English side by side, with the exception of the narration that appears at the bottom of each page.
As with the other manga in the four-comic series, the one about DJ Krush, I co-edited this with Hideki Egami, long the editor of Shogakukan’s Ikki magazine. The other previous two were Can and MF Doom.
Ferguson wrote the recent 33 1/3 book about J. Dilla’s album Donuts. And here is Ichijo’s biography:
Yuko Ichijo is a cartoonist from Miyagi, Japan. After completing her study at Musashino Art University’s faculty of graphic design, she received honorable mention at the 159th Young Jump Best New Comer of the Month Awards in ’92 with Fujiyu Nikki (Inconvenient Diary), which led her to debut on the Young Jump magazine. Since then she has published numerous comics, and her latest series called Ahou Ressha is currently been published by Shogaku-kan Publishing up to the third volume.
The third comic in the series I’m editing for Red Bull Music Academy is now online. The series is timed to RBMA’s annual, city-centric festival, which this year takes place all over Tokyo. It’s by writer Zack Soto (Study Group Comics) and illustrator Connor Willumsen (Treasure Island). The comic, “When Damo Met Can,” presents the period when Damo Suzuki was recruited as the lead singer of the German rock band Can. (In related news, the 33 1/3 series book on Can’s Tago Mago, written by Alan Warner, is being published this month. The timing is a nice coincidence.) Willumsen lends incredible detail, period feel, and psychedelic immersion to Soto’s story, which draws from band anecdotes and drops in some sly references.
I initiated and have been editing a series of three-page comics and manga for Red Bull Music Academy to coincide with its Toyko festival, which is underway right now. The first in the Red Bull Music Academy series tells the story of “The Rise of MF Doom” (detail above) through the lens of classic comics like, naturally, The Fantastic Four, with art by Dean Haspiel (Billy Dogma, The Fox, Batman) and a script by Gabe Soria (Batman ’66, and Life Sucks with Jessica Abel), supported by Allen Passalaqua on colors and Vito Delsante on lettering.
The second RBMA piece (detail above), created by manga-ka (or manga creator) Haruhisa Nakata (“The Tree of Maüreca,” Levius) focuses on one of my favorite Japanese musicians, DJ Krush. The story takes Krush’s early childhood habit of making new toys out of spare parts and connects it to his making music from pre-existing recordings. Titled “Building It,” the manga is based on an interview that Krush did specifically for the RBMA series. I co-edited the Krush manga with Hideki Egami, who was long the editor of the excellent manga magazine Ikki, known for such series as Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea, Iou Kuroda’s Sexy Voice and Robo (I wrote an essay that appears in the English edition of the manga), and Taiyō Matsumoto’s No. 5 and Sunny. Egami generously accepted my invitation to help on the Japanese side of this international project. All the RBMA comics are appearing online in English and Japanese, and each features light elements of animation. The crew has coalesced in a great way, with Nakata taking the time to assist by lettering in Japanese some of the English-language comics, and Delsante assisting on some of the English versions of the manga.
For background, I edited the comics in the music magazine Pulse!, published by Tower Records, from 1992 to 2002, and later worked for half a decade at Viz, the U.S.-based publisher of manga in translation, and it’s been great to bring those experiences together. At Viz I worked with folks like Jessica Abel, Ed Brubaker, Barry McGee, and Adrian Tomine early in their careers, and with folks like Dan DeCarlo, Justin Green, Peter Kuper, and P. Craig Russell further along in theirs. Full index of the Pulse! comics here.
On October 18, a Friday, I’ll be participating for the first time as part of Litquake, the big annual literary festival here in San Francisco. The event is being held at the Cartoon Art Museum downtown. It starts at 7pm and has a suggested donation of between 5 and 10 bucks.
The event is titled “Comics on Comix,” but I was told in advance, when I was invited to participate, that the fact that I am not a standup comic is fine. I was also told I don’t have to talk about comics, that it’s OK to talk, more broadly, about science fiction. I’m still sorting out what my spiel will be about. Right now the two top plans are: (1) things I learned about manga in Japan, a snapshot of manga at the height of its recent U.S. popularity, or (2) a memoir-y cultural map of science fiction touchstones in my hometown, a kind of proto–geek culture thing, a snapshot of that world circa 1979. Either way, the talk won’t be directly related to Disquiet and ambient music, but if I do the manga idea, there will be material about visual representations of sound, and if I go the 1979 route, there will be much reminiscing about my TRS-80.
That Friday we’re up against Mary Gaitskill, Anne Perry, and T.C. Boyle, among other luminaries, but if you can make it, that would be great. My fellow event participants are Joe Klocek, Michael Capozzola, Karen Macklin, Tom Smith, and Mike Spiegelman. Should be a lot of fun.
The artist who goes by johnny_ripper on SoundCloud refers to one of his latest tracks, “Cat Soup,” as a “love letter” to the Japanese animator Masaaki Yuasa. Ripper goes on to explain, “95% of this song is music and sounds from the movie *Cat Soup*,” a decade-old Japanese anime that Yuasa created. The anime itself, an abstract and psychedlic journey into sublime weirdness (still image above), had little in the way of score (at least in its first third, which is shown streaming below), depending instead on much in the way of sound desgin elements like wind chimes (see screen shot below), insects, and other everyday noises — as well as on the unintelligible voices of massive spiritual forces and strange beasts.
Ripper has taken these sounds and managed to both keep them recognizable from the source material, and yet construct from them a jittery, glitchy instrumental pop song that captures the original film’s more cheerful aspects.
• October 13, 2016: This day marks the start of the 250th weekly Disquiet Junto project.
• November 16, 2016: I'll be sharing the mic at Adobe Books in San Francisco with my fellow 33 1/3 author Evie Nagy for an evening hosted, from 7pm to 10pm, by Marc Kate (facebook.com).
• December 1, 2016: A likely speaking engagement. Details to come.
• December 13, 2016: This day marks the 20th anniversary of Disquiet.com.
• January 5, 2017: This day marks the 5th anniversary of the Disquiet Junto.
• Ongoing: The Disquiet Junto series of weekly communal music projects explore constraints as a springboard for creativity and productivity. There is a new project each Thursday afternoon (California time), and it is due the following Monday at 11:59pm: disquiet.com/junto.
• My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury, is now in its second printing. It can be purchased at amazon.com, among other places.