Wednesday, May 20, 2020

an interview with Formless Master

Formless Master is one of several new projects that heralded Gridlink guitarist Takafumi Matsubara's return to health and grindcore. Joined by members of Invidiosus, Deterioration, and Cognizant, the project is a loving tribute to no-frills grind and Bruce Lee. Since they have a new split EP out through Horror Pain Gore Death, I reached out to the band to find out more about their high-kicking "karate grind". Vocalist Matthias Joyce was kind enough to answer my questions.

Dreams of Consciousness: What is Formless Master?

Formless Master is a grindcore band created by Takafumi Matsubara, Crawlin Lewis, and Matthias Joyce.

DoC: Please give a brief history of Formless Master - when did you form, and what brought you together?

We formed in 2018 with the rough songs of what went on to be First Strike. We then recorded and debuted First Strike in 2019, and jammed one live recording in Minneapolis that later became the tracks for the Bayht Lahm Split. We were brought together by our love of grindcore, karate, and killing posers.

DoC: Formless Master is one of several new projects that TAKAFUMI MATSUBARA took part in after his illness. What is Takafumi's health like now, and how is he writing so much music so quickly?

This is Matthias writing to you, so I cannot speak for him. I know Takafumi is always working extremely hard at his job, practicing karate/kickboxing, and of course writing music. He is one of the busiest musicians I have ever met. I believe that he has a brilliant mind for music, and his ideas seem to just flow out of him.

DoC: The members of Formless Master are split between Japan and the US. With this in mind, what is your songwriting process like?

Takafumi writes all of the songs on guitar, then sends us the guitar parts along to a click track. Crawlin records his drums, then we add vocals and sound samples last.

Formless Master is self-described as "karate-grindcore", and your songs are heavily influenced by martial arts films (particularly the work of Bruce Lee). What is it about Bruce Lee that makes for good grindcore?

Bruce Lee was the original poser-killer. He went against many taboos in the martial arts world, and created Jeet Kun Do, a martial arts style that was entirely unique and innovative at the time. Many people attribute the development of modern-day MMA (mixed martial arts) to Bruce Lee’s philosophies. He is the O.G. Formless Master.

DoC: You released your debut First Strike in November of last year. Where/how was it recorded? How long had you been working on it prior to its release?

Takafumi recorded his guitar parts at Studio Rag in Kyoto, Japan. Then he sent his guitar parts to us, and Crawlin recorded all of the drums himself using his own microphones and interface. Matthias and Jim’s vocals were recorded at The Dojo in Minneapolis, MN using a single microphone and lots of beer. First Strike took about one year to write and release, as Crawlin and I spent many months on tour with our other band, Invidiosus.

DoC: First Strike features the contributions of three different vocalists. Why did you decide on the multi-vocalist approach? How do you decide to split duties?

Grindcore rules. I have known Jim Kahmann since about 2007, and he was actually the one who showed me GRIDLINK, Takafumi’s amazing grindcore band with Jon Chang and Bryan Fajardo. Coincidentally, Takafumi had been listening to DETERIORATION for years, so when he found out we were friends (and live in the same state), it was just an obvious step to include him. Kevin Ortega (COGNIZANT) is just a sick vocalist and I thought it’d be cool if he did vocals on a couple tracks.

DoC: You have a new split EP with BAYHT LAHM. How did the split come about? What would you say Formless Master and Bayht Lahm have in common?

We recorded about 6 minutes of live songs at The Dojo (my basement) when Takafumi was in the USA in 2019. We then decided to turn those tracks into a split. I play in another band called ROTTENNESS with Carlos Estrada of BAYHT LAHM, so we decided to make a grind split together.

DoC: The final track on the split is a tribute to Bolo Yeung, one of the greatest martial arts film villains. Why did you choose to create a song about him? What would you say his best onscreen role is, and why?

Bolo Yeung is the greatest actor of all time. He transcends space and time. Bolo Yeung has saved humanity on multiple occasions but he is too strong and powerful to take credit for his accomplishments. He is still alive and always will be.

DoC: What's next for Formless Master?

We have a debut full-length LP in progress right now. There are many grindcore riffs but also some drum and bass and experimental elements. Takafumi has so much in the works right now, he is constantly collaborating with amazing musicians and has many different styles and projects on his plate at all times. He is a black belt in riff-writing.

Crawlin and I are working on the Formless Master record, and a new Invidiosus full-length record. We will continue to make music as long as we have the ability to do so. Thank you for your time.

Formless Master on Bandcamp

Be Water, My Friend:

Mixtape 98: