Before starting Boredoms, Yamantaka Eye already had a reputation as a particularly notorious and extreme artist (even by the standards of Osaka underground scene that witnessed more than a handful of bizarre and violent noise acts). He was a leader of a highly controversial Hanatarash band, banned from performing anywhere in Japan after a particularly reckless show at Tokyo's Superloft in 1985, involving Eye driving a mini-bulldozer through the venue's wall and attempting to throw some Molotov cocktails inside. With a new band, named in honor of Buzzcocks' song Boredom, Yamatsuka focused on working strictly in the realms of musical composition and vocal improvisations, rather than exploring 'artistic' angle of vandalism and explicit physical aggression.
The first official production by The Boredoms was a song U.S.A. recorded in 1985 by Yamantaka Eye with ex-Hanatarash drummer Ikuo Taketani for Beast 666 Tapes compilation Kill S.P.K. (subtitled 'Anti Music Against Commercialism,' it was a protest against 'sell-outs' SPK, Australian industrial pioneers who turned to synth-pop on their latest album Machine Age Voodoo). (The same track under Super Punk King title appeared on Dead Tech Sampler - No Wave From Japan LP, a 1986 compilation by the German label Dossier that played a significant role in uniting the latest wave of Japanoise underground.) The debut song was soon followed by the first official EP, Anal By Anal 7" released on Transrecords in Aug 1986. It was recorded by Eye with guitarist Mitsuru Tabata (also a member of local noise-rock band Noizunzuri), featuring three acapella lo-fi punk improvisations mixed over random instrumental samples from Ponta Murakami instructional cassette.
In March 1988, Boredoms released their debut full-length album, 恐山のストゥージズ狂 (Osorezan no Stooges Kyo) / Onanie Bomb Meets The Sex Pistols, on Japanese hardcore punk label Selfish Records. Featuring a crossover of musique concrete sketches, Eye's vocal hacks and reasonably straightforward noise-punk songs, the album was well received by the listeners and Japanese critics. Boredoms played as an opening act for Sonic Youth several times, so Eye and Yoshimi quickly befriended Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Yamantaka Eye also met John Zorn and soon joined his latest free jazz/grindcore experiment Naked City as an official guest vocalist. Naked City became widely successful and produced seven albums in the following years, promptly exposing Zorn and Eye to the international hardcore metal audience.
In 1989, Boredoms released their second album Soul Discharge, domestically through Selfish and in the United States by New York's ultra-hip label Shimmy Disc (ran by Mark Kramer of Bongwater). This was the first international release, and after it Boredoms signed a long-term record deal with Warner Music Japan. The band negotiated a complete creative freedom for themselves, and delivered some of the most challenging and radical works for any major label in the nineties. This contract also allowed Reprise Records, Warner's US subsidiary, to release and distribute any albums of their choice in North America without a premium 'imported' price tag.
In 1992, WEA Japan and Reprise released the band's third album, Pop Tatari featuring rejoined Toyohito Yoshikawa singing, as well as Hira on bass, Yoshimi and ATR (Kazuya Nishimura) on drums, Seiichi Yamamoto on 0dB guitar, supported by 'King Kazoo' Eye himself doing 'ahhhg' and 'kazoo & nothing.' This album showed Boredoms extreme and unpredictable improvisational dynamics, from aggressive hardcore noise-punk to cartoonish interludes, and became an instant success, bringing more media attention to Boredoms. Some American critics compared Pop Tatari to a cult psych/experimental rock '86 album Rembrandt Pussyhorse by Texas avant-punks Butthole Surfers.
Boredoms again toured with Sonic Youth in 1992, followed by eight consecutive shows with Nirvana in late Oct/early Nov 1993, and more shows with Brutal Truth in 1993. The band recorded their next album Wow 2 for John Zorn's Avant label in Oct '92 in the United States, at Brooklyn's BC Studio. In July 1994, Boredoms produced the fifth album, Chocolate Synthesizer, released by WEA Japan and Reprise Records. Recorded in just four days and mixed by Eye in a week, Chocolate Synthesizer received positive reviews, later selected by Alternative Press as one of the best albums of the era. Boredoms performed at the main stage of Lollapalooza Festival in support of the album. The band also had a successful European tour around that time, with Eye and Yoshimi opening on mini-drums as Tonki every night. Meanwhile, Reprise re-released their debut album Onanie Bomb Meets The Sex Pistols (with three tracks from Anal By Anal single as a bonus), unavailable in States and long out-of-print since the original Japanese vinyl pressing of 1000 copies.
The year of 1995 is when 'boremania' reached its peak in USA, generating more buzz than ever for such experimentally sounding act. Kurt Cobain, who curated Lollapalooza Fest, again invited Boredoms to play on the main stage (since his first choice, '60s Brazilian psych-pop group Os Mutantes were on hiatus). For an opening act, Boredoms had ceremonial introductions by a large crowd of Tibetan Buddhist monks in traditional robes. Most of the audience was not particularly impressed by this gesture, as well as bizarre homemade costumes, awkward stage performance and structurally chaotic music that followed.
The band's first full-length studio album in four years, Super æ was released by WEA Japan/A.K.A. Records in May 1998 (since the contract with Reprise Records was already over, the US release was handled by Californian label Birdman Records). Boredoms worked on this record for two years at different studios around Osaka. Super æ revealed the group's metamorphosis from disorganized chaos to 'organized peace,' shifting from the earlier atonal Japanoise tendencies towards proper psychedelic/space rock jams they began exploring in Super Roots series, as well as elements of electronica and choral singing. Yamatsuka Eye described Super æ as a rebirth point for the band, after which Boredoms got rid of the guitar/bass, so the group now consisted of four elements: ƎYE with a turntable DJing and three drum sets, facing each other in the circle. They experimented with drum orchestrations, using percussion as string instruments and exploring individual character of each drum. The band began tuning their drums as guitars, so when three drummers are playing together sub-patterns start to emerge, forming 'lines' and 'dimensions' of sounds, not only singular 'dots' — the technique often used by minimalist composers.
In October of 1999, Boredoms presented their long-awaited new album, Vision Creation Newsun, released by WEA Japan/A.K.A. Records. This session marked an even further departure from avantgarde sounds and chaotic improvisations towards space rock, Eye's power electronics and turntablism, atmospheric breakbeats and cosmic synths, as well as complex tribal drumming routines. In 2000, Yamatsuka Eye oversaw a series of WEA Japan/A.K.A. remix albums: Rebore Vol.1 by UNKLE in Sep 2000, followed by Ken Ishii's Rebore Vol.2 in Nov 2000 and Rebore Vol.3 by DJ Krush in Feb 2001. It was concluded by Eye's own Rebore Vol.0: Vision Recreation By Eye, seven remixes on Vision Creation Newsun released in May 2001.
EYE suddenly decided to rename and reorganized the band, and in June 2001 they appeared as V∞redoms during Fuji Rock Festival: two O's forming the symbol for infinity, V represents a needle in the record's groove. The band now had six drummers in total, including new players Yojiro Tatekawa, Die5 and Akimi, and Kiyoshi Izumi (electronics) as a permanent member. After a few appearances under the new name, V∞redoms went on a brief hiatus, only leaving Japan for selected European festival spots like All Tomorrow's Parties in London (invited by ATP curators Sonic Youth and Matt Groening).
In September 2004, Warner Music in Japan released a mysterious new Boredoms album, Seadrum / House Of Sun. The group's first long-playing record in four years featured two long tracks of shamanistic drumming, Indian raga sitars, sparkling jazz piano improvisations, guitar 'meditations' by the long-departed Seiichi Yamamoto, bassy electronic melodies, recordings of underwater drums — material mostly produced years earlier. This album marked a departure from WEA Japan to a smaller independent label Commmons for domestic releases.
In 2005, V∞redoms signed a new long-term North American deal with Vice Records, which begins with Seadrum / House Of Sun CD re-released in America. The band announced a five-stop US/Canada tour that included a headlining spot at Musique Actuelle Festival in Quebec. To avoid any confusion, V∞redoms are travelling under a more familiar 'Boredoms' name. All subsequent releases both in Japan and overseas were also credited to the old alias, so none of the labels really played along the renaming game.
In April 2007, V∞redoms played three shows with Sonic Youth in Japan. The band also released Live At Sunflancisco DVD/CD in December 2007, featuring their new 'band-as-a-record-player' configuration with EYƎ on CD turntables surrounded by ATR, Yoshimi, and Yochan (Yojiro Tatekawa) drumming. On July 7, 2007 (7/7/7), precisely at 7:07pm, Boredoms held a unique 77 Boadrum performance at the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn, New York. A free open-air concert was organized with a help of Adam Shore of Vice Records and Hisham Bharoocha (ex-drummer for Black Dice), with 70+ prolific New York City drummers, multi-instrumentalists and percussionists joining Boredoms: Alan Licht, Andrew W.K., Brian Chippendale, Butchy Fuego, David Grubbs, Josh Bonati, Spencer Sweeney, Taylor Richardson and many others. The term 'Boa' signifies a serpent, and seventy-seven drums were set up in a right-handed spiral like DNA. The performance is documented on 77 Boa Drum 2xCD/DVD released by Commmons in 2008. The second 88 Boadrum occurred on August 8, 2008, at 8:08pm at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, featuring the same crew plus 11 more players.
Boredoms continued experimenting with their band configuration, and during the 2008 US tour with Iron And Wine, they appeared with a monstrous hybrid Sevener (Sevena) percussion instrument, constructed by Masuko Shinji from DMBQ by attaching seven Telecasters together. Yamatsuka Eye and other band members played it by hitting the strings with a drumstick (or a 1m pole to reach all strings at once). Masuko subsequently became a sub-member of Boredoms and helped EYE to bring the ensemble in the new direction, developing various interactive and sensor-activated devices for him. Soon Masuko presented an updated Sevena, modular version with seven separable steel guitars on a cymbal stand. Boredoms would now use both Sevenas, connected through a Marshall amp to a mixing console operated by Masuko, to play 77 to 84 strings at once.
In 2009, Boredoms toured in Japan and internationally, including solo concerts in London and Mexico and two BOA DRUM performances at All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Matt Groening at Butlins Minehead in England. A follow-up BOADRUM 9 took place on September 9 at JFK Airport Terminal 5 in New York. This time, nine drummers played: Yoshimi + Yojiro from Boredoms and Zach Hill (Hella), Hisham Bharoocha (Soft Circle, ex-Black Dice, ex-Lightning Bolt), Butchy Fuego (Pit Er Pat), Kid Millions (Oneida), Jeremy Hyman (Ponytail), David Nuss (No-Neck Blues Band) and Aaron Moore (2) (Volcano The Bear).
In 2011, Boredoms premiered new material at the ATP I'll Be Your Mirror Festival in Tokyo. Six drummers were arranged in a circle around EYE, who used motion sensors to trigger ambient drone soundscapes created by Masuko that corresponded to each drummer. Jeff Mangum from Neutral Milk Hotel curated All Tomorrow's Parties at Minehead in UK, and he again invited Boredoms to play in March 2012. The band continued Boadrum series, headlining 7X13 BOA DRUM (7/13/2013) performance at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, where Yamatsuka Eye and 90 drummers played together in the ambitious attempt to annul negative stigma attached to the Westerner's 'unlucky' number 13 by invoking positive energy concentrated in the 'lucky' 7.
In 2014, Boredoms developed a new mandala-like circular system with multiple omni-directional speakers, seven 'core' members (Eye, Yoshimio, Yo2ro, Hisham, Ryan Sawyer, Jeremy Hyman and Kid Millions) sitting in particular order in the center, surrounded by twenty cymbalists and Guitar Borchestra (eight guitar & bass players). This extended ensemble debuted during "StarFes.'14" performance in September at Makuhari Seaside Park, and performed again at TAICOCLUB '15, Kiso County in May 2015. Boredoms also created an elaborate performance with 88 cymbals for Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening exhibition at Barbican Centre in London in June–July 2015, curated by Doug Aitken.
In 2016, Boredoms again participated in All Tomorrow's Parties 2.0, curated by Stewart Lee at Pontins, North Wales, played a few solo shows in London, Paris and Milan, appeared at Fuji Rock Festival (Japan) and Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona.
The band's configuration had changed significantly during their career. By the mid-eighties, Boredoms settled with a fairly conventional ensemble of drums, guitar, bass and vocals. The group was expanded by adding second and third drummers. By the end of the nineties, EYE decided to discontinue guitar and bass entirely to play in a 'band as a record player' configuration: himself DJing with a turntable plus three drummers in a circle. In the more recent years, V∞redoms has been gathering dozens of guest drummers and cymbalists.
V∞redoms (Current line-up since 2004)
Yamatsuka EYƎ – vocals, noise, Sevena, electronics, tape manipulation, turntables, kazoo (since 1985)
Founding member of the band
Yoshimi (Yoshimi P-We) – drums, percussion, Casiotone, djembe, keyboards, trumpet (since c. 1989)
The band's first guitarist Mitsuru Tabata introduced her to EYE in the late eighties, and the two immediately found some common ground and began working together. Eye invited Yoshimi to join Boredoms, and they also soon established a whole barrage of wacky aliases, alter egos, and mini-bands on the side — Ultra Freak Out Or Die, OOIOO, Noise Ramones and many more.
Kazuya Nishimura (ATR (4), Atari, アタリ) – drums and percussion (since 1992)
Joined the band permanently as the second drummer soon before Pop Tatari was recorded
Yojiro Tatekawa (Yo2ro, Yo-Chan) – drums and percussion (since 2001)
First appeared during the debut concert with reformed V∞redoms at 2001 Fuji Rock Festival (one of the six drummers alongside Yoshimi, ATR, E~DA, Die5 and Akimi). Became a permanent third drummer after E-DA's departure in 2004.
Masuko Shinji – guitars, noise, tapes, turntables, Sevenas, electronics & multimedia (2008 – ??)
An adjacent member of the band, collaborated with EYE on several multimedia performance systems. Masuko developed two versions of Sevena percussion instrument (seven guitars attached together on a cymbal stand), as well and interactive system with motion sensors that allowed EYE to trigger certain sounds and laptop patches via gestures and body movements.
Kiyoshi Izumi – synthesizer, electronics (2001 – ??)
First appeared as a guest musician in 1998, became a permanent member since V∞redoms appeared for the first time at 2001 Fuji Rock Festival. Possibly and ex-member.
Kazuhisa Iida (E~DA) – drums, percussion (1997 – 2004)
Enlisted as a third drummer in 1997. An experienced, older session musician, who used to play with Japanese pop star Yosui Inoue, and initially met EYE through Mark Ibold, Yoshimi's partner in Free Kitten band.
Ikuo Taketani – drums (1985–86)
One of the founding members, ex-Hanatarash drummer who recorded the band's first song with EYE, and left shortly after their debut compilation appearances to play with Zeni Geva. He was replaced by Toyohito Yoshikawa.
Toyohito Yoshikawa (Human Rich Vox Y) – drums, percussion, vocals (c. 1985 – 1989, 1992 – 1996)
Replaced Ikuo Taketani on drums. According to the unconfirmed stories, he originally met Eye during Einsturzende Neubauten show, when he offered shortish Yamatsuka to sit on his shoulders. Since Yoshikawa was technically a weak drummer, EYE re-assigned him to co-lead vocals and percussion after their debut LP was released, vacating the spot for Yoshimi. Left the band around '89, first briefly replaced by Chu Hasegawa on percussion, and eventually by ATR. Yoshikawa re-joined the band on vocals in 1992, appearing during Pop Tatari sessions, and had been performing with Boredoms for at least four more years. Left in the mid-nineties in the middle of European tour, frustrated with his new unofficial 'technician' role (setting up and dismantling Tonki kits every night).
Seiichi Yamamoto (Yamamotor) – guitar (1986 – 2000)
Joined the band to replace Mitsuru Tabata, the first guitarist who played with EYE since the early pre-Boredoms days and who left to join Zeni Geva soon after the debut Anal by Anal 7" EP. Yamamotor left in 2000, since re-organized band didn't require a guitarist anymore, and he was too busy playing with and producing nine different projects besides Boredoms.
Hisato Hosoi – bass (1985–86)
One of the founding members, left the band soon after debut song was released.
Hira (Hilah) – bass guitar, percussion, add. vocals (1986 – 2000)
Joined the band to replace Hisato Hosoi. Left in 2000 since re-organized Boredoms didn't require a bassist anymore.
Mitsuru Tabata (Tabata Mara) – guitar (c. 1985 – 1987)
The founding member, had been playing with EYE since the earliest pre-Boredoms days. Stayed with the band for at least a year after three other original members Makki Sasara, Hisato Hosoi and Taketani left. Recorded Boredoms debut Anal by Anal EP with Yamatsuka Eye. Left the band in the early 1987 to join Zeni Geva.
Makki Sasarato – vocals (1985–86)
Female vocalist, little details are known, Makki participated in the earliest pre-Boredoms sessions, when the band was still known as 'Acid Makki & Combi and Zombie.' Left due to creative differences soon after the debut compilation appearance.
God Mama (Godまま) – dancing (c. 1988–92)
A mysterious female dancer, on-and-off member credited for 'pistol & produce' on several albums.
Kenichi Yamakita – percussion (c. 2001–02)
First appeared during the debut concert by reformed V∞redoms at 2001 Fuji Rock Festival. Hadn't been notably active with the band afterwards.
Die5, Akimi – drums (c.2001–03)
Two additional drummers who appeared during V∞redoms first concert at 2001 Fuji Rock Festival.
Chu Hasegawa – percussion (c.1989)
Percussionist, member of Omoide Hatoba group, who briefly replaced drummer Yoshikawa before ATR became a band's permanent second drummer.
Muneomi Senju (千住 宗臣) – drums (2005 – ??)
Played with Boredoms since 2005, participated in European and North American tours. He was one of the drummers at 77 BOA DRUM performance (7/7/07) in Brooklyn, New York.