WHAT IS ELECTROMAGNETIK PUNK?
WE INTERVIEWED THE MAN BEHIND IT ALL...
Ei Wada is a Japanese artist and musician who is reinventing the ways we produce music. He performs using instruments of his own creation, where he frankenstein's old home appliances such as fans and TV’s into instruments that output mind-bending electronic sounds.
He leads Electronics Fantasticos, a collective who arrange interactive performances, that synthesize music, technology and art. The sound and energy of their music has birthed a new genre, self titled ELECTROMAGNETIK PUNK.
Ei Wada recently revealed his latest project ‘Barcode Boarding.’ This concept relies on the communication of electromagnetic signals between barcode scanners and printed barcode patterns. He demonstrates how they can be used to modulate an audio signal and create high or low pitches by scanning barcodes of different sizes. Wada's infectious energy will keep you hooked as he creates a musical experience you may never have heard before.
Read our interview with Ei Wada as he shares with us some early moments in life that inspired his passion for electronic music, where he plans to take the genre Electromagnetik punk and what his predictions for the landscape of live music are in 50 years time.
How did this all start and how long have you been creating your own musical instruments?
It all started 15 years ago, when I accidentally found a way to make sound by picking up static electricity from a CRT TV. After that, I started performing using the TV as a percussion instrument by picking up the static electricity from CRT TVs with my bare hands. I felt that the sound might be "the voice of the CRT TV" and thought to myself, "If we can catch electrical signals, all kinds of electrical appliances can become Native Electromagnetic Instruments that make sounds. In 2015, I launched the project "ELECTRONICOS FANTASTICOS!" with various people to reincarnate old home appliances into musical instruments. Over the past five years, more than 20 types of "home appliance instruments" have been created.
What was your first musical creation from an old appliance?
I used multiple reel-to-reel tape recorders in a row to create a collage of sounds on the spot by intricately combining recording and playback, changing the speed of rotation, and shaking the sound by touching the tape directly with my hands.
We called it hardcore music concrète.
Photo by Ryo Fujimori
“The metallic sound has stuck in my mind like a trauma.”
Have you always had a passion and love for music?
I have two memorable and shocking encounters with music.
The first was gamelan music, which I experienced when I was three years old on a family trip to Bali, Indonesia. The metallic sound has stuck in my mind like a trauma. The second is The Velvet Underground, which I first heard when I was in elementary school after finding my father's LP record in the closet of our house and dropping the needle for the first time. The flood of distorted sounds vibrated my eardrums and heart violently, and I fell in love with electric music.
What type of music do you like to listen to yourself?
In recent years, traditional instruments from various regions have become electric, and electronic music that reflects the local musicality of each region has been born all over the world. I'm a big fan of that kind of music.
How did you come up with the idea for the electronic fan harp?
It was born from a fantasy: "If Jimi Hendrix, the god of electric guitar, were to play a fan, how would he play it? After a lot of trial and error, I came up with the idea of attaching a guitar strap to the fan, carrying it upside down, and attaching a light bulb to the back of the blades. By attaching a light bulb to the back of the blades, I was able to create the "Electronic Fan Harp," a musical instrument that uses optical and electrical methods to pick up and play the flickering light produced by the rotation.
Photo by Mao Yamamoto
“We don't think of ourselves as cyberpunk or steampunk, but as ELECTROMAGNETIKPUNK.”
Which one is your favourite to play?
The CRTelecaster is my favourite right now.
Electronicos Fantasticos live at Murasaki Park Tokyo 2021
“I think we will be able to output electrical signals directly from the brain [in 50 years].”
Tell me about the new Barcode-Boarding and why you wanted to tap into skating?
It resonated perfectly with the mindset of skateboarding, which is about remembering the sense of play in the city. I imagined that the board could be a musical instrument that scans the streets and makes sounds. I've never skateboarded before, but I'd like to take this opportunity to get started.
How do you get inspired? Who do you look up to in terms of creators or musicians?
"The street finds its own uses for things." This quote by science fiction writer William Gibson captures our imagination. We don't think of ourselves as cyberpunk or steampunk, but as ELECTROMAGNETIKPUNK. We continue to fantasize and explore the instruments and music of a world where electromagnetic technology has developed beyond the realm of reality.
Where do you see live music performances going in 50 years?
I think we will be able to output electrical signals directly from the brain. But people will still be holding on to their musical instruments for the sensation of their body playing sound!
Where do you want to take the Electronics Fantasticos project in the future?
Considering that home appliances can be found all over the world, in every city, I would like to form an electromagnetic orchestra without borders, starting with making instruments out of old home appliances!