Painting Trees: Damo Suzuki on Being Content at Home

by admin  10th May 2022 Comments [0]

By Bill Furbee

 

Paintings and the outdoors have taken the place of a tour van and stages for improvisational icon Damo Suzuki. Spring is here and, today, Damo can probably be found in a nearby park, painting trees.

Damo and I first spoke in February of 2020—an interview to promote a scheduled performance at Chicago’s Empty Bottle. Shortly after, however, venues around the world shuttered their doors in response to the spread of COVID-19. With his schedule suddenly silent, Damo happily agreed to a follow-up call just a month later. Thankfully, his amiable nature was still on tap.

“I don’t have a job at the moment,” he told me, then. “It’s not possible to do anything. I canceled my US tour, I canceled my Italian tour … I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he reported from his home in Cologne, Germany.

He paused to pour himself a Kölsch beer.

“But it’s okay,” he told me. “Maybe (this is) an opportunity to make something else.” He reflected for a moment, then beamed a wide smile. “Cheers!” he said, lifting a frothy glass of beer to the camera on his computer monitor.

And now, we’ve spoken for a third time. Damo’s still at home, and in no hurry to get back on the road. Vaccine requirements and contract tracing—measures that are helping to bring the virus under control, allowing concerts to take place again—aren’t exactly conditions that Damo can get behind.

“At the moment, it’s so much difficulty traveling,” he says. “I don’t like to make a test at the airport; I don’t like to make anything that the system wants to have. Every country has its own directions—like if you eat or drink in a cafe, you sometimes have to have a vaccine passport, you must be vaccinated or you must have a test,” he says.

“For me, it’s a good time to have a break. So I treat it as my vacation, at the moment—for three years,” Damo admits, with a chuckle.

“It’s okay,” he reasons. “I’ve traveled quite a lot already before.”

Damo also has a lot of books at home—nearly 10,000, in fact. He’s eager to share titles and authors that he’s preoccupied with, while admitting, “fiction I can make with myself … my life is sometimes like fiction! Nonfiction is much more interesting at the moment.”

Meanwhile, a number of his recorded performances are still being issued. While Damo would much rather perform than release recordings, he acknowledges that many of his collaborators are interested in releasing those performances. So, he mostly leaves that decision to them.

“I’m not so particular about making an LP or album,” he stresses. “It’s not (been my job) for a long time. I just like the live concert, and not always documenting. But some people who have performed with me, they like to release it. It’s okay, they can make it. I don’t say many things. Because they also have the right to make something as documentation. So I cannot say, ‘oh it was not very good’ or anything—it’s not my task, it’s not freedom. They just ask me, (and) 99% of the time I say ‘okay.’ But, if they have something like on the front cover I wouldn’t like, if it’s demonic or satanic, or something like that, then I really don’t like to have it.”

Worth noting that Damo’s most celebrated band—psych-rock progenitors Can—has also been issuing a steady stream of reissues and rediscovered concert recordings of late. Damo, however, assures me that he’s had no communication with management or any surviving members.

“No, no (input) at all, I don’t have any contact with them,” he says. “That was already a half century before, you know? So it’s not that much things to talk about. I don’t take too much time to think about things, past.”

He adds: “I like to make music for the people who like this kind of music; I have never been interested in having a huge audience. It’s not my thing.”

Where does this leave Damo?

“I feel good!” Damo laughs, quick to point out that he now has time to exercise and observe nature. “If you’re outside, you can get vitamin D, the sun,” he says, “and it’s not been so cold this winter.”

As spring heralds in a season of new beginnings, Damo is happy to stay where he’s at for the time being.

“I like to go outside with a sketchbook,” he says, as our call wraps up. “And I like to paint trees. Spring,” he says with a beaming smile, “is always good!”