It was really exciting for me because I was obsessed with Japan as a teenager, and then I was doing what sort of teenagers do : I was reading books on Zen Buddhism, wearing kimonos, eating sushi, and reading, you know, Machine Man, something like that. I decided since I’ve got so little time, I’ve got to build on that. You know, that was twenty years ago, because that’s something that’s brewed inside me for a while and got layers to it. Just kind of more like what I like music to be, something not superficial or surface stuff, but like something that’s integrated within you for a long time.

And then, somehow, to sort of connect with that and also to read something I’ve never read, though it was also a bit fresh for me, was the Shinto stuff. And that actually ended up being really really helpful because I realized that that’s maybe the reason why I felt there’s similarities between Iceland and Japan, because they’ve got this kind of pagan religion that is still in the country. You know, we’ve got technology, but when Buddhism came to Japan in the year 800 I think it was the only Asian country that didn’t sort of erase whatever nature pagan religion there was there before. You know, kind of what the English did to the Druids or whatever when Christianity came. That didn’t happen in Japan, and it didn’t happen in Iceland as well, but because of a totally other set of reasons. So I started off doing the Shinto thing, then from that I found the Sho - the instrument.

it’s basically a set of seventeen pipes from bamboo that can only be picked from a roof that’s been above a kitchen for one hundred years. Something about the type of moisture in the wood. And then they pick seventeen pipes and they place them in the shape of the wings of a phoenix bird.

So the length of the pipes goes purely by aesthetics, so it’s got nothing to with what notes you need. But actually two of them don’t work, because some emperor didn’t like them. So you’ve got actually fifteen notes that cover two octaves, but it’s kind of random which notes are missing. So you’ve sort of got three notes and one note missing, and one note and one note missing.

Mixing It @ BBC Radio 3, 5 august 2005