Ghost Magnet Roach Motel at LAPFF 2017

Ghost Magnet Roach Motel at Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 207

Visual artist and musician Shinpei Takeda (THE CLOSEST MEXICO TO JAPAN, LAAPFF 2009) returns to Festival Week with a passion project very much in sync with his artistic bent as a global citizen invested in breaking down cultural borders and traditions. GHOST MAGNET ROACH MOTEL is not only the name of the art punk collective musical group he is part of but also, the documentary he has created to chronicle his band’s professional and personal journey as individuals and as a group. Comprised of a Japanese multimedia artist, two American musicians, and two Mexican visual artists and based in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, the group’s existence and work present us with an intercultural view of artistic collaboration complete with both literal and figurative “border-crossing.”

Mixing elements of the road movie, experimental cinema, and the tour film, Takeda brings us his own brand of the punk musical documentary, which he has coined as “punkformance” (the mixture of punk music and performance art). Employing use of aggressive sound design and gritty shot selection and fusing together his worlds of punk rock music and visual artistry, he serves up both a one-two punch of both the joys and challenges of DIY musicianship and the personal demons of those creative personalities often involved. Drummer Brian Sueda’s on-and-off drug addiction, for instance, gets his bandmates to enact an intervention and escort him down to a rehab center south of the border in order to seek treatment. The band as an ad-hoc family unit saves Sueda’s life as one bandmate intuitively chimes in, “You didn’t hate your life when you play with Ghost Magnet […]”

In the humble, grand tradition of guerilla-style filmmaking and aesthetics, Takeda melds and mixes various visual styles in his vérité camerawork, media formats, and B/W and color shooting flexing to whatever mood he wants to convey at any given moment. In doing so, he hopes to immerse his audience, both filmic and music, into a fully sensational, auditory and visual experience that should not be missed.

— Melanie Ramos, with additional contributions by Lindy Leong

Community Partners: Giant Robot, Save Music in Chinatown

Director’s Bio

Shinpei Takeda is a Japanese artist and filmmaker based in Tijuana, Mexico and Düsseldorf, Germany. His works involve a wide range of themes regarding memories and history. His recent projects include Alpha Decay, Beta Decay, and Antimonument. He is also the director of Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, the punkformance unit from Tijuana and the main topic of the movie.

Producers: Shinpei Takeda, Adriana Trujillo
Director: Shinpei Takeda
Photography: Joey Muñoz, Johann Leitner
Art Director: Daniel Ruanova
Sound Mix: Jose Inerzia
Music: Tony Cozano, Brian Sweda, Julio Orozco
Editors: Shinpei Takeda, Margit Bauer

Q&A with Director Shinpei Takeda

Q and A with Director Shinpei Takeda

Q&A with Ghost Magnet Roach Motel’s Shinpei Takeda

By Martin Wong of Save Music in Chinatown

In my past life, I’ve supported attended film festivals as a writer, judge, and participant. And now I just go for fun. I love independent, underground, and international movies–not to mention pretty much every trashy genre flick and a handful of arty ones–and how cool is it to watch them with a crowd of like-minded fans? I hate watching on a laptop and actually borrow DVDs from the library to watch on TV if I have to.

So I was stoked and flattered when friends at the Los Angeles Asian American Pacific Film Festival reached out to me and asked if Save Music in Chinatown would be a community sponsor for Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, an art-damaged documentary by a Japanese guy about a noise band from San Diego and Tijuana. First, we achieved “community” status? Second, sign us up!

I took advantage of the situation to hassle director Shinpeil Takeda about his movie, his band, his art, and his life for posting purposes. What an interesting human being, and I look forward to meeting him and perhaps seeing some of you at the screening at the CGV Cinemas in Koreatown on May 3 at 9:30 pm.

Explain your international background. Where did you grow up and how did you become a visual artist?
I was born in Osaka, Japan. Because of my salaryman father, who moved to different places for his company, we lived in Düsseldorf, Germany for 5 years (where I’ve spent half of my time for the last 3-4 years) and Chicago for few years. Then I went back to Japan for most of my adolescence but went to North Carolina to study geology.

After that, I went to San Diego to start a nonprofit and earn a master’s degree in organizational theories. I founded and ran the AJA Project, which I am still involved in, but I got tired of it and also my relationships in the United States or maybe SoCal or maybe just my immediate surroundings, and moved to TJ.

When I crossed the border, I discovered something else about human relationships—different notions of family, individuality, and collectivity, and so on–that are augmented by the damn geopolitical psycho cultural border… That is one of the big themes in the movie.

That was almost 12 years ago in 2005. When I crossed the border, I started producing my first documentaries, images, and installations. I became artist and TJ was like my art school.

What exactly is your relationship and role with the band?
I am kind of the founder and producer, as well as a participating artist. The band started almost 12 years ago in San Diego and, when I started living in Tijuana, we got joined by some of the best visual artists of TJ (Daniel Ruanova, and Julio Orozco) along with the surviving members of the American side of the band (Brian Sweda and Tony Cozano).

When you started making the movie, was it to share the music or tell the band’s story?
This is my third feature-length movie. The first was called El Mexico mas cercano a Japan, about a Japanese photographer Kingo Nonaka who was the first documentary photographer of Tijuana in 1920s. The second was Hiroshima Nagasaki Download, a road movie in which young Japanese friends visit and interview the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki living on the West Coast as they drive from Vancouver to Tijuana.

I wanted to make another movie with a different type of storytelling and very little or almost no critical distance since I would be very much a participant in it. I would have a very biased outlook but hoped that the intimacy of the work would make audiences get to the core of our human experiences and struggles existing in this world with borders in every dimension.

I think a traditional movie about a band is usually about its success, way to fame, and ups and downs—not about its music as sound. I wanted the movie to be another output of this project and an extension of what we do with our noise punkformance. In a way, all the protagonists of the film are punk-forming, living their lives and struggling but keeping up the punk spirit against the system and humanity’s decay.

What is “punkformance”?

Who is your audience and how do you feel watching your friends onscreen?
I am still trying to understand who my audience is. Of course, my friends onscreen are important. I want them to see themselves on the big screen and see that their story is valid and important and how it can affect people. In a way, they represent different parts of myself and different possibilities. But I also respect each one of them as artists, and I think the film editing shows that however fucked up they are, there is always dignity.

The San Diego Latino Film Festival showed it, but the San Diego Asian film Festival didn’t take it. And now with the LAAPFF, I myself am trying to figure whose story it is. We will see.

How have your bandmates received it? Were they involved in the edits?
I had to run away from Tijuana to edit because it was too intense and I couldn’t see it from far away. So I got a grant in Düsseldorf, Germany, where I used to live as a kid, and worked on the film with a German editor. I wanted it to decontextualize it so that notions of addiction or borders could be much more universal rather than just alcohol or the specific border of TJ-SD.

I kept updating them with the edits, but most of them trusted me. It was natural and that is how we play music, too. We just trust each other and immediately make a wall of noise. They are cool artists, so I know they get it.

But even though I wanted to get them to come to the movies, when we showed the film in San Diego one member came drunk 10 minutes after the movie ended. In the movie, he goes to rehab but, as you can imagine, life is much more complex. Art cannot heal people.

Art is fragile and requires a lot of sensitivity, precisely because we are all artists and it isn’t easy for us to have our complete individual freedom yet produce something collectively. But that is what I think we achieve in the movie and in this project. That type of human relationships is very difficult to build in society.

Can we get back to the AJA Project and your work with refugee kids? What exactly is “participatory photography” and how do you use it to help them?
The AJA Project has been working with refugee kids (Afghani, Iraqi, Somali, Burmese, Syrians), as well as other marginalized kids (immigrant, homeless, teenage mothers, juvenile court system…) in San Diego. We teach not just technical aspects of photography but how to use it as a tool to tell stories and to communicate. Find your voice, use your voice, and raise your voice—that is the thing!

We do a big public exhibition of their work to create a full circle in which they can see that their photographs and stories are not only valid, but also important. They are in fact good documentarians because they see American society from the outside, just like how I saw the U.S. coming from other countries.

It is bit related to my band and Ghost Magnet Roach Motel in the essence of providing an outlet for your chaos.

That’s great, connecting the arts and the underground and empowering children with them.
For me, they are part of the same thing.

Noisey Specials: Ghost Magnet Roach Motel

Noisey Specials: Ghost Magnet Roach Motel
Joey Muñoz
abr. 10 2017, 6:55pm
La banda experimental de Tijuana/San Diego se fue de gira por Estados Unidos en búsqueda de la identidad de Brian Sweda, el miembro más caótico de la banda y uno de los músicos más interesantes del underground.

Hace 6 años conocí a Ghost Magnet Roach Motel casi por accidente. Fue de esos raros momentos en los que a pesar de ser prácticamente un adulto me sentí intimidado por un grupo. Me había marcado un amigo para ir a grabar una sesión de la enigmática banda y accedí porque no tenía nada que hacer ese día. No sabía mucho del proyecto pero tenía entendido que era una banda experimental de noise compuesta por dos tijuanenses (Daniel Ruanova y Julio Orozco, infantes terribles del arte contemporáneo mexicano), un japonés (Shinpei Takeda, artista internacional que por alguna razón se enamoró de Tijuana) y dos gringos (Tony Cozano y Brian Sweda, dos ex-músicos punks que en ese momento vivían en las calles de San Diego). Sabía que sus conciertos eran más instalaciones o performance, y que en ocasiones les gustaba lanzar cubetazos de insectos a su público. Ahora entienden por qué me dejé intimidar.

Llegué a casa de Shinpei y Julio, una hacienda grande y vieja en un cerro de la ciudad, con mi camarita listo para grabar algo que no tenía idea cómo saldría. Poco a poco fueron llegando todos, cada personaje más extraño que el anterior. Nos dirigimos al estudio de grabación a dejar las cosas, solo para regresar a la casa, fumar unos gallos y beber Tonayan. A pesar de ser personas completamente diferentes entre sí, los cinco miembros de GMRM compartían un dolor evidente, producto de años de loquera. Para Ruanova y Shinpei, y hasta cierto punto para Julio, esa loquera fue domada hace años, pero los gringos Brian y Tony seguían viviendo recio con el propósito de conocer los límites de su humanidad. Mi impresión, sobre todo de Brian, era de un hombre que había perdido todo, alguien que estaba hecho pedazos y cada uno de esos pedazos estaba buscando embriagarse o drogarse para olvidar. En cambio Tony, que venía acompañado de su hija, me parecía un güey bastante simpático, pero un poco perdido en su propia mente. Regresando al estudio, Shinpei pidió apagar las luces. Le dije que mi cámara no iba a lograr captar bien las imágenes en la oscuridad, pero me aseguró que no importaba y prendió un estrobo desde su área para iluminar esporádicamente el espacio. Grabaron en un solo corte un disco completo de improvisaciones, y a lo largo de esa hora sentí como si hubiese entrado a un hoyo negro donde lo único que había era los demonios estos señores.


Esta fue mi inducción a la verdadera música noise, un género que a partir de ese momento he aprendido a disfrutar bastante. Y de igual forma, a partir de ese momento forjé una amistad con los cinco. Sobre todo Ruanova y Shinpei me invitaron a grabar un par de veces con ellos. Pero nada me podría preparar para la mini-gira que me invitaron a grabar por el noreste de Estados Unidos. Unos meses antes de viajar, la banda ingresó a Julio y Brian a un centro de rehabilitación en Baja California, del cual salieron limpios y listos para empezar de nuevo. Se juntaron para tocar en el festival All My Friends en Rosarito, para este show armaron una estructura amarilla en la que Julio se vistió de astronauta, parecía que esta nave espacial estaba apunto de despegar en cualquier momento. Este performance fue llamado MEXICAN JUDGEMENT DAY (Día del juicio Mexicano), y fue un tributo a la rehabilitación de Julio. De igual forma la gira por Nueva York y Philadelphia sería titulada SEARCHING FOR THE WHITEMAN’S SOUL, un tributo a Brian no solo por dejar las drogas si no por ser él. Brian es el corazón del proyecto, y ni ellos ni yo podría definir por qué con precisión. Por suerte, este documental corto puede ser el documento más completo sobre los 5 individuos que conforman Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, y el propósito del proyecto. Más allá de este reportaje, Shinpei Takeda acaba de terminar un documental experimental del proyecto y se encuentra en en festivales de cine documental.

Voice of Mexico

Voice of Mexico
by Robert Blaid

Probably best to draw your own conclusions about what the state of music in Mexico says about the current socio-political scene there, but after hearing a number of bands and duo acts at South By Southwest from south of the border, I have to say that the sounds of Mexican rock, dance and electronic music are among the most creative, assaultive, imaginative and outright bizarre music being made on this planet today.
Stereophile Contributing Editor John Swenson and I make an annual ritual out of finding the weirdest Mexican acts and this year we hit paydirt the first time out. Tijuana’s Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, who followed a new trend in indie music and dressed in costumes, were one of the most apocalyptic musical assemblages I’ve ever seen or heard. Swenson observed that it sounded like the soundtrack to a Roberto Bolano novel about murders in Mexican border towns. Donning spacesuits and in one case blackface (?) for a touch of self-deprecating humor or perhaps a comment on their place in the technology-driven world, they used a bullhorn to crank out a massive wall of sound, which did not, sadly bust into a Sun Ra styled breakdown. This was steamroller noise rock which drove the audiophiles in the crowd out of the venue after a couple jams. Is it something I would go back to? Absolutely. Any chance of a long and fruitful career? Very doubtful. But a music with a vision, albeit one that’s very, very dark? No doubt about it.

Tijuana’s Ghost Magnet Roach Motel Bringing Their Multisensioral Punk-Formance to Brooklyn’s Trans-Pecos

Tijuana’s Ghost Magnet Roach Motel Bringing Their Multisensioral Punk-Formance to Brooklyn’s Trans-Pecos

Tijuana’s Ghost Magnet Roach Motel Bringing Their Multisensioral Punk-Formance to Brooklyn’s Trans-Pecos

by Reuben Torres, Oct 14 2014

There’s a great deal of stereotypes surrounding Tijuana, and a great many more regarding its musical scene. Believe it or not, it’s not just Javier Batiz, and Nortec, and ruidosón (Auto-tooting horn here, yes). The city has also been rife with some of the most challenging, out-of-left-field, downright un-categorizable music this (or that) side of the border.

Chief among this vanguard is veteran ensemble Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, comprised of two American musicians, two Mexican visual artists, and one, count him, one Japanese artist, tallying up to one batshit crazy quintet. The six-year strong band has consistently pushed the categories of “noise” and “improvisation” with their outlandish, apocalyptic and unabashedly epic performances.

Case in point is their MEXICAN JUDGEMENT DAY performance at this year’s All My Friends festival in Tijuana, which they’ve now compressed and compiled into one half hour performance, and which they’ve released in anticipation of their upcoming tour –– dubbed SEARCHING FOR THE WHITEMAN’S SOUL –– kicking off at the fresh as fuck venue, Trans Pecos in Brooklyn –– brought to you by the same folks who gave you 285 Kent.

If you’re looking to get schooled in both Tijuana’s wider musical scene and some of the most interesting experimental music coming out of Mexico today, you owe it to yourself to hear them –– in recorded form, and if you’re in the borough, in live form as well. You can download the entire release through the band’s Bandcamp page. And you can find more details about their performance with XD HD and ZVI at this link.

Ghost Magnet Roach Motel: con el cosmos en el ADN

Ghost Magnet Roach Motel: con el cosmos en el ADN

Ghost Magnet Roach Motel: con el cosmos en el ADN

Desde el nombre comienza todo. Un ruido aquí, otro allá. Y así hasta terminar formando el ritual llamado Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, proyecto experimental que integra músicos de San Diego, Tijuana y Japón, y que forma parte también del cartel del All My Friends 2014.

Este proyecto de artrip está formado por Tony Cozano (guitarrista de música clásica, bossanova, y punk ochentero), Brian Sweda (baterista que vive en San Diego), Daniel Ruanova (pintor, dibujante, escultor y también artist project space TJ in CHINA), Julio Orozco (fotografía, video, imagen e instalación) y Shinpei Takeda (instalación, fotografía, cine documental).

Y aunque no lo parezca, GMRM es una banda punk. Una que elabora frecuencias a baja fidelidad, paisajes fuera de cualquier dimensión conocida y sonidos para perder el cuerpo. Experimentar con lo no experimentado. Ellos mismos lo llaman punkformance. “Entre dos músicos americanos, dos artistas mexicanos y un artista japonés, creamos algo que puede suceder sólo en la frontera de Tijuana”, afirman. Y sí.

Charlamos con ellos y nos aclararon el panorama: viajar hacia otro mundo mediante un ritual del ambient punk multidimensional. Justo así como suena. Ni más ni menos.

¿Qué es GMRM?

Creamos una experiencia multisensorial con nuestro lenguaje que tenemos 8 años desarrollando. No es música, ni es performance, pero es “punkformance” para “que salgan las cucarachas.”

¿De dónde les viene el interés por lo experimental?

¿Para qué hacemos algo que ya está hecho? ¿Para qué repetimos la misma chingadera? Este “punk,” o como dice Daniel Ruanova, uno de los integrantes, “neo-geo-retro punk”, ha sido siempre nuestro DNA como grupo, porque cada integrantes hacen y viven el punk a su manera.

¿Qué formación tiene cada uno de los integrantes?

Cada uno de nosotros tiene totalmente otra formación artística y esto es precisamente lo que hace enriquecer al proyecto. Los integrantes son dos músicos americanos, dos artistas mexicanos y un artista japonés, creamos algo que puede suceder sólo en la frontera como Tijuana.

¿Cómo es una actuación de GMRM en vivo?

Es una experiencia multisensorial. Hay parte punk, hay parte ambiental, hay parte acid jazz, hay parte electrónica, hay parte noise, hay parte música clásica, y estos sonidos vienen y salen como una serie de olas que se construyen en una harmonía y que se terminan en destrucción. En esencia, es repetición entre creación y destrucción, y la intersección entre caos y orden es lo que proponemos en la mesa.

¿Qué experiencia buscan crear en el escucha?

GMRM es una experiencia que se convierte en ritual. No es un ritual tradicional con peyote y chamán en el desierto, pero es un ritual contemporáneo donde invitamos a la gente a que abran sus corazones y que lleguen al epicentro de su memoria. Nos amas, y nos odias. Por eso hemos tenido gente vomitando y llorando mientras estamos enamorando y viajando.

En el caso de su próxima presentación en el All My Friends, ¿tienen preparado algo especial?

Vamos a hacer punkformance con el Monumento que acabamos de construir en Tijuana. El Monumento básicamente nos va a servir como una mother ship para llevar gente a otro planeta.

¿Qué hay de sus grabaciones?

Somos más de tocar en vivo, pero hemos sacado dos discos: Greatest Hits 2008-2012, y otro más de título homónimo (2012), que está disponible en nuestro SoundCloud.

¿Cuál será su próxima intervención sonora?

Recientemente hemos hecho sólo proyectos conceptuales como “Intervención sonora”, “Losing face in Beijing”, “Great Fight”, y después del AMF, la siguiente invasión será en Japón. Pero cualquier lugar que necesite orquesta para cucarachas, allá estamos.

¿Qué instrumentos usan en vivo?

Usamos de todo, desde herramientas de construcción hasta iPad. La mayoría d lose instrumento son lo-fi y nada especial…. guitarra eléctrica, pila, teclado Yamaha, Casette Player/ VHS player, entre otras cosas.

¿Algún artista o proyecto que los haya inspirado?

No hay ningún artista en especificó que nos inspiró. Tal vez una manera de explicar nuestra música es una orgía entre Miles Davis + Velvet Underground + King Crimson + CAN + Antonio Jobim.

¿Algo más para terminar esta entrevista?

Que vengan al AMF a vernos si quieren experimentar algo nuevo.