The Musician Yohji Yamamoto

Last week I answered Marco Braunschweiler’s question about Yohji Yamamoto’s car, which is a Nissan Cedric from the mid-1980s. It features in this extremely content-free short film made in 2014 for Nowness by Matthew Donaldson. Other hype-related media outlets explain that Yamamoto acquired the car around 2013. The most notable thing about the whole thing is the music.

the cover of Yohji Yamamoto’s 1997 album, Handful Empty Mood, via discogs

It turns out to be from Yohji Yamamoto’s first second solo album, HEM Handful Empty Mood, released in 1997. The designer wrote and performed vocals on all eleven tracks with a one-and-done group called Scum Riders, which consists of several members of the boomer Japanese rock band Moonriders—including Keiichi Suzuki, also credited as HEM’s producer—and Yukihiro Takahashi, the drummer for Yellow Magic Orchestra [Ryuuichi Sakamoto RIP].

The album was released on Consipio, Takahashi’s label, which also released the music from Yohji’s fashion shows in the 1990s, both mixes selected by the designer, and commissioned works [Here is one of Michael Nyman’s tracks from the 1993 show. Here is Bridge, a 35-minute piano recording by Ryuuichi Sakamoto for Yohji’s 1995 collection.]

But Handful Empty Mood was not Yamamoto’s first foray into musicmaking. He produced and did vocals on one track of a 1994 concept album?—is it spoken word over guitar? I can’t tell—titled, Your Pain Shall Be Your Music, which also featured tracks by Wim Wenders and John Cale [above, the only track I’ve found so far online].

Yamamoto’s first known musical project, La Pensée, was a collab with Takahashi for the 1987 Collections. The designer is credited with “theme & concept,” while Takahashi did all the music and arrangements. It starts out with pensive piano, and proceeds to a kind of synth & percussion pomo oompah band. I bought my first Yohji piece in 1987, and honestly, I don’t get what they were thinking here.

Cover of Yohji Yamamoto Band, c. 1990, photo/text tabloid, via Tenderbooks

In 1991, Takahashi produced Well, I Gotta Go, (Saa, Ikanakya), where Yamamoto played guitar and sang twangy Japanese country-style music. It’s the closest thing I can find so far to the designer’s lost tapes project: Yohji Yamamoto Band. Yohji Yamamoto Band was an ensemble led—and dressed—by Yamamoto that performed Japanese “conceptual folk-rock” in the early 1990s. The only documentation is a promotional tabloid/pamphlet, a copy of which is at UK rare book dealer Tenderbooks.

Consipio went offline in 2009. The most recent music I can find from Yamamoto is this 37-second clip from a 2012 visit to Y-3 in New York. And I guess the thing I come away with is that sometimes noodling around on the guitar, or jam banding with your buds, or just driving around in your car, can be a vital part of your creative process, even if it is sort of pointless in itself.