• Music & clubs
  • Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead

Music & clubs

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead

INTERVIEW. The cult of Blonde Redhead can rejoice. Barragán (Kobalt), their album of stripped down pop, is just out, and they’ll be playing for the damaged on Wed, Sep 17 at Frannz Club.

Image for Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead
Photo by Marlene Marino

Maddened early on by easy comparisons with Sonic Youth, Blonde Redhead, consisting of Japanese singer/guitarist Kazu Makino and Italian twin brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace, truly came into their own at the turn of the millennium with Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (Touch & Go), a mature, poetic touchstone of the period that dipped the shoegazing templet into both chanson and experimental waters. Having lived through 9/11, four record labels, a horse trampling and a tsunami benefit record, one aspect they do share with Sonic Youth is longevity. Barragán (Kobalt), their ninth studio album of elaborate and reflective stripped down pop, is just out, and they’ll be playing for the damaged on Wednesday, September 17 at Frannz Club.

Tell me about moving record labels. You were with 4AD and now you’re on Kobalt.

We definitely lived this whole lifecycle with 4AD – it’s like a whole journey. It’s not like Fugazi putting out albums from Dischord; we’ve always been kind of like a floating reed. We’ve never been grounded like that because we are just a bunch of foreigners. I mean, Kobalt is quite different from any other labels. It’s not exactly a label, they are a publishing company who is trying to do something quite new – a label service they call it. So, I like the contract we made. It’s quite phenomenal and it’s very protective towards artists and if it works, it works like it’s never worked before. Yeah, it’s a whole new chapter for us and a whole new chapter for the way musicians can do business. So, we’ll see.

So you said you are sort of floating like “reeds” or “weeds?”

You know that plant that floats on the pond or the lake not attached to anything? We are little bit like that. None of us are American, we live in New York but it’s not like we’re bound to a place. We worked with a few labels: 4AD is from the UK, Touch and Go is from Chicago, Smells Like from New Jersey.

What’s it’s like working with twin brothers?

Uhhh….What’s it like…what’s it like? It’s tough. It’s tough. Not because they are twins but because they are really, really eccentric people. And we are very, very different. But you know, at this point, it’s hard for me to – clearly I saw something in it and clearly I didn’t get out of it when I could.

Are you trapped, is that what you are telling me?

[laughs] I do feel trapped, at times. But what can you do?

Can you give examples of their eccentricity?

They are really controlling. One is controlling about one thing and the other is controlling about another area, so they cover the whole ground. At the same time, I hate to be controlled. So that’s what keeps us attracting each other – I think they are still trying to control me and I keep trying not to be controlled. And it just keeps on going and going.

Who’s the perfectionist? Who’s the easygoing type?

None of us really are perfectionists.

[Cat meows in background]

Oh, you have a cat?

Yes, I do. You can hear her in the background?

Your name is Kika and then you have a cat!

Let’s talk about your pets. You were trampled by a horse while riding, which was your inspiration for the 2004 single “Equus.” Do you still have horses?

I only have one, his name is Harry. His real name is Flagmount Cliff. He has a very good lineage.

What kind of a horse?

An Irish sport horse. He has, like, a perfect family lineage.

Have there been any other kinds of incidents in your life that have inspired your music?

Other accidents?

Not necessarily.

Major incidents. Hold on –

Things that you think shaped you as a person.

I also got pneumonia off a European tour. That was really bad because I had to be in bed for two to three months. And then I think we wrote the whole album in bed, there.


An older album. So, that was kind of major. This album was quite major because I became really, really poor before Barragán. I was quite poverty-stricken. Poverty isn’t the right word but we took a big risk; I took a big risk in my private life, also. This album was the most expensive album we’ve ever made and we did that after [2010’s] Penny Sparkle (4AD). The last time being so unsuccessful, it was sort of a madness to make a record in this luxurious way. But we decided/not decided we wanted to do it this way. And I decided, in order to work a lot more on the music, to move my horse closer to the city but still in a complete natural surrounding. That was a really big risk I took. I became poverty-stricken, I had no idea if I was going to be okay or have any idea if I could carry on anymore. I’m still doing what I want to, so it seems that I’m going to be okay. But it was quite intense.

What was your contingency plan if you did become “poverty-stricken?”

I couldn’t think about that. I would have had to give up my horse, which never ever would have happened. I would have had to make some miracle happen to carry on. In some moments, I felt so vulnerable I felt like “Okay, I should just let it go and walk away from everything.” But if I did that, I would have felt really defeated and maybe it would really change me entirely.

It’s sounds like he’s an important presence in your life, your horse.

The song, “Defeatist Anthem (Harry and I),” on Barragán, is about me and him.

Your band is named after the DNA song “Blonde Red Head.”

Yeah, I regret that because we needed to come up with a band name really quickly, we needed to put an advertisement in the newspaper, and I was like “Come on, let’s just put something.” We were going to play a gig. I regret it.

Which Blonde Redhead song would make a good band name?

Oh, my god. I don’t know. Our song titles are quite long, no? “Hated Because of Great Qualities” or “Loved Despite of Great Faults.”

I think “Defeatist Anthem” would be a pretty good noise rock band.

I always give each song a nickname and I forget about the real name. Like for example, “En Particulier,” we call it “xx,” and now the xx exists.

Is it easier for you to remember?

It’s also because we used to not making a set list. We wanted to be more spontaneous and we would have to call it out on the stage. And we didn’t want to be like “Next one is blah-blah-blah-blah…”

Blonde Redhead, Wed, Sep 17, 20:00 | Frannz Club, Schoenhauser Allee 36 (Kulturbrauerei), Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Eberswalder Straße