Our breath was vapor and the rooftops were still powdery white the morning we knocked at Rachael and Ichi’s door. Kindhearted and delightfully receptive, Rachael and Ichi welcomed us with freshly brewed coffee and herbal tea and showed us around their home and their creative spaces, opening up about how they met in Japan at a small DIY festival near Nagoya, the joys of parenthood and how they sometimes experiment together with the typewriter, the steel drum and the handmade wooden xylophone that Ichi made for Rachael.
What we love about their experimental and collaborative approach to music is how they invent, transform and communicate childishly hybrid and refreshingly soulful compositions in a total intimacy between musical instrument, eardrum and the sound itself, an intimacy that transposes the listener into some fresh green parallel universe where every sound can become music.
While Rachael went out to pick up the children, we kept Ichi company in the kitchen as he was cooking what seemed like an intriguingly experimental meal, chatting about the Japanese underground music scene and how everyday objects, including cooking utensils, can become instruments of sound. And when Rachael and the boys arrived the world somehow became brighter and rounder, beautifully unpretentious and joyfully spontaneous, and having the privilege to sit down for food with them and enjoy their vibrant and guileless company, living became fluent with the the moment we were living, as John Cage would put it.
For those who are not yet familiar with your work, who are ICHI & Rachael Dadd? Tell us a little about your backgrounds.
Ichi is from Japan. He grew up in Nagoya city. From 14 he played in many bands then created his solo project ICHI when he cut the neck off his double bass and stuck it to his xylophone. Now he plays a whole myriad of musical inventions and intersperses ping pong, typewriter, toothbrushing and all sorts of objects into the mix.
Rachael writes her songs on all sorts of instruments and plays solo, duo with Ichi or lately with a band and is making a new album with Portishead's bass player Jim Barr.
What are your most vivid childhood memories?
Ichi: playing in the bamboo forest and by the river and underground tunnels with my friends in the neighbourhood.
Rachael: exploring the fields around my house and sailing at sea with my family.
How did you two meet?
We played a small DIY festival near Nagoya city in an old traditional wooden house.
How did you get into music? Who or what nurtured your passion for music?
Ichi: my older sister liked punk music and I fell in love with The Clash, Ramones and Sex Pistols. My older sister’s boyfriend gave me a bass guitar and I started a band with a few friends who I introduced to punk.
Rachael: I had a fun piano teacher who played blues and a really inspiring college music teacher who was passionate about jazz, John Cage and Steve Reich. I started writing at 14 and had my passion nurtured. From early on I loved lots of songwriters: Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Tori Amos.
You are both creative people. How do you influence each other and what are the most striking similarities between your visions?
Ichi: I don't know.
Rachael: I'm inspired by Ichi’s experimentation and get him to accompany me on the typewriter, steel drum and handmade xylophone. Actually I've been playing his xylophone myself recently and am loving it. Thanks Ichi!
Ichi, your musical instruments look like surreal assemblages or sculptural artworks per se. How do you make them?
Every instrument is completely different. Firstly I want to make a certain sound, then I want it to be comfortable to play in a few different ways (for example the kalilaphone is harp/horn/thumb piano/lute all in one), then it has to be compact and easy to pack down small, then finally I think about the look of it.
You have recently collaborated on a new project called ((( On Pa ))) meaning “soundwave” in Japanese. Can you tell us a bit more more about it?
We used to play family shows as Ichi and Rachael Dadd combined but decided to create something that was new and different with costumes and visuals on an overhead projector. It's playful and fun and gentle. We're enjoying it!
We love your experimental and collaborative approach to music. What messages or emotions you want your music to evoke?
Freshness / Joy / Listening to the world imaginatively / Wonder / Curiosity
What is it about experimental music that you love the most?
Do you feel that every sound in the world is music?
It can be if you want it to be.
What metaphor would best describe how you feel when you make music?
Rachael: like taking a walk in some fresh green parallel universe and coming back from it restored with new life force.
Ichi: quite similar to drawing a picture, cooking a meal or having a trip.
What objects, creatures or sounds appear most often in your dreams?
Ichi: people (often strangers) but also nature and creatures, especially sea creatures. I once dreamt about swimming with a huge whale. I sometimes dream music and imagine sounds in dreams but forget when I wake.
Rachael: I was once vermin prey to an eagle. That was scary! I have dreamt what I believed to be the best music ever. Then gone on waking, what a shame!
What does Bristol have to offer you as musicians?
Ichi: friendly audience, new music, often great world musicians tour through, people of Bristol love music.
Rachael: lovely nurturing DIY scene and sense of community.
Your lifestyle seems to be essentially semi-nomadic. If you could live and work anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
Ichi: Tropical place. Somewhere people are relaxed. Not England!
Rachael: I'm scared to settle in one place now. I love our island in Japan called Mukaishima. But I want to travel and see many more cultures and corners of the world.
What are you listening to these days?
Low Chimes / This Is The Kit / ズビズバー(zubizubar) / 島唄
Can you recommend us:
A book: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
A film: Tampopo