Research is one of those terms that gets thrown around in the arts, but for singer Ruby Kato Attwood of Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, research is part of what she does as a musician.
“We’ve all sort of been through the university rigamarole, so it’s been drilled into our heads that you have to look into what you’re presenting,” Attwood says. “It’s an enjoyable process also.”
The range of topics that Attwood and the group are interested in is reflected in Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s music, which combines Asian pop with progressive rock and opera, Japanese Kabuki and Noh theatre, costumes and giant stage designs. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is as much performance art as music, with the visual parts of their performance being inseparable from their sound.
The band members make their own equipment into visual art. When Attwood and drummer Alaska B. were studying fine art at Montreal’s Concordia University, they fashioned musical instruments out of garbage, which Attwood says, half-joking, was done the end of their art degrees for financial reasons.
More recently, Alaska B. and the band’s projectionist Aylwin Lo built a LED lighting system for their live shows.
“I’m interested in repurposing industrial items, such as zip-ties and industrial fabrics to create larger-than-life characters,” Attwood says. “The point is to present an interdisciplinary spectacle that is musical, but also based in experimental theatre and traditional theatre.”
Attwood says their performances have changed since they began touring.
“At this point in our shows we’ve moved a little away from using giant puppets and stage sets because the rigours of touring really don’t support it,” Attwood says. “Trying to modify and fit into that system without losing the elements that we find are very integral to the work has been an incredible challenge.”
In the meantime, Attwood is preparing for a residency at the Knockdown Centre in New York City at the end of September with directors Derrick Belcham and Emily Terndrup, which she says is the largest art instillation she has ever done, at more than 4,500 square metres.
“I feel like I’m in sponge mode,” Attwood says. “It’s been a whirlwind in the last two years and I feel that I need to really process all the amazing things that I’ve seen and bands that I’ve toured with.”