EP Stream: Formless Master’s First Strike and Takafumi Matsubara Interview

Takafumi Matsubara almost had to call it a day a few years ago when the complications from a brain inflammation/infection he contracted pretty much left him unable to play guitar. Well, never tell a determined grinder the odds, because the former Gridlink, Hayaino Daisuki and Mortalized axe slinger has beat the odds to sling his axe another day. And knowing how lucky he is to be given a second chance at what he loves, Matsubara is cramming ten pounds of grind into a five pound bag. Further to Gene Meyer’s profile on Takafumi and the recent release of his solo album Strange, Beautiful and Fast, he’s also come storming back with a bunch of Retortion Terror releases and Formless Master, the band we’re showcasing today in which he also plays bass. Below is a stream of First Strike the new EP by the trans-Pacific outfit – Matsubara lives in Japan, the other members are in the US – and an interview with our man conducted via email.


What can you tell us about the recovery you went through and what you had to do in order to get back to proficiently playing guitar again? Was playing guitar part of the physical therapy involved in getting movement and dexterity back in your hands?

Thanks for giving me a chance to talk about Formless Master and my guitar. Strictly speaking, my middle finger has had problems. It has no feeling and is always numb. But it works now, though I can’t move the way I want. I’m really glad I can move and use it again. No feeling always makes me make mistakes and I can’t play well without watching the finger, but I believe practice will help me overcome that. I went to so much rehabilitation, and I practiced karate, though that was dangerous. Those [two activities] made my blood circulation better and helped my recovery, but the doctors always say that was a miracle. I think so too. I have practiced fingering with various scales since I decided to come back music. That was so hard, but it was so good for my finger. The amount of time and money I spent was so much, but I couldn’t give up music by any means.


How are you doing? Do you feel you’re back to playing near 100% or are there aspects of your playing you’ve had to alter?

I’m fine. I work every day and love my cats every time. I practice karate and the guitar every day. [My playing is] not 100%. I altered the way I write riffs. I have been writing and playing riffs where I don’t use my middle finger. My friends say my songs and riffs are different from my old ones.


How did the Formless Master project come together?

[Vocalist] Matthias [Joyce] contacted me after I retired. He encouraged me and wanted to do something with me. He gave me the chance to do a split with Invidiosus after I started Retortion Terror. I supported them at their Osaka show and we became very good friends. And I was really surprised to see them. They were a very good band and [drummer] Crawlin [Lewis] plays super hyper blast, so I gave them some songs with all my gratitude. That was the beginning.


How long was Formless Master in the works and what are you hoping to achieve with it?

[It’s been in the works for] maybe one year. I wanted to make something new with my own grindcore: no mercy, no melody, with triggers and gravity blast beats.


With members spread out as they are, how was it written and recorded?

At first, I send members guitar tracks with click. Second, Crawlin added his drumming. Third, I recorded my guitars on his drumming. Fourth, vocals were added on that. Fifth, mix and mastering. I often do things this way.


With Formless Master as well as the Strange, Beautiful and Fast solo album, was all this material written after your recovery or does any of it go back further?

The songs of my solo album were written after my recovery, except the song for [the late] Hee Chung [or Unholy Grave and Naquro] called “Selfish Vow.” Hee Chung and I had planned to start new band and that song was for it. I didn’t know he had recorded the song. I wanted to add my guitars on it and release the song. That was the reason I decided to make my solo album.


How would you say Formless Master differs from the solo album and other bands you’ve been involved with?

Of course, many grinders say [there is no difference]. For me, Formless Master is ‘Gore Grindcore.’ I really know it is quite different from true gore grind, but some great bands like Deterioration make their own grindcore. They are called ‘New Wave Of Mid-West Gore Grind.’ I think FxM is close to it, but I want to make my own Gore Grindcore.


Having endured and overcome what you have, what would you say are some of the lessons you have learned about life and yourself in the process?

Ummmm, I had been making my family and doctors worry because I was reckless, but I think I cannot do anything without reckless mind and practice. If someone wants to do something, he needs various things like time, money, friends, endurance and determination. I enjoy these and they made me come back to grindcore.


Once the Formless Master and solo albums are released, what else do you have planned and will you be working on?

I [will be doing] many Retortion Terror splits and I have started writing songs for the next FxM full length album. I have plans to make a second solo album and albums with various musicians.  So many riffs come into my mind [all the time], though I don’t know the reason. I will do everything I can. I need practice for that. I also want to do FxM live shows in various countries and make short movies with FxM sounds.

First Strike is available as of tomorrow from the Formless Master Bandcamp or get it from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions here.