Just outside of Tokyo’s busiest business corridor exists an unassuming alleyway of shipping container-sized bars. On the second floor at the end, there is a doorway, now adorned with a Film Threat sticker, that opens to Masaru Hatanaka’s personal utopia: Bar Nightingale.
The space is smaller than a rich person’s closet. A bar about five seats long abut a couch and a piano. A small screen looping ocean textures hang above the record player. A larger screen playing experimental films from Masaru’s DVD collection is mounted right behind the bar, inhabiting much of the customers’ vision. Charcoal sticks and eggshells hang from the ceiling above two large woofers pounding obscure noise music from his vinyl collection. Fine whiskey bottles line the short bar surface. If you stand up in a certain spot, you can see a doodle by Tim Burton on the metal vent above the ice chest. A signed Ryoji Ikeda poster faces the doorway.
Yelling over the raucous din of “challenging” noise music, I had the chance to become acquainted with Mr. Hatanaka alongside fellow Film Threatener Adam Keller, who had discovered the hidden gem a few weeks prior on the Internet. For most of the night, we were the only guests of the bar. Masaru agreed to answer some questions for an exclusive Film Threat interview about his experimental exhibition space. Welcome to Bar Nightingale:
Can you tell the story of Bar Nightingale?
I studied photography and music in school then moved to Tokyo for getting a job.
In 2001, I started this bar after getting bored to work in the industries. To build a bar space was like an installation art to me. If I sell booze there, I can get money to buy more materials to keep creating the space. I thought that if I took time it would bring it closer to the ideal picture.
“My bar had to keep changing. It is like inside my brain. It still makes a unit.”
What was the bar like in the beginning?
I streamed Nintendo Famicom games with my projector and I always turned the sound volume to maximum. It was really loud. I had no money and I knew better than to put on airs by playing expensive video works. Playing shooting games and hearing the sounds were like creating music such as noise and techno. In a sense, it was a live show.
As I tried doing that, one of the regular customers stole my idea then he started his own Nintendo bar in the same neighborhood. So I changed my own way. I thought I would had no future if I kept doing the same thing which was easily stolen by someone else. Each time someone stole mine, then I changed mine. My bar had to keep changing. It is like inside my brain. It still makes a unit. Even though I broke my concepts so many times and it was very complicated for a long time. It still makes sense as a unit.
When did you first become interested in experimental film?
Yasujiro Ozu films. I watched them on a CRT television when I was in my twenties. Ozu films to me are “art of design”and ”ambient music”, like Erik Satie. The music which can be effected even you don’t listen too carefully. The movie which can be effected even you don’t watch carefully. Without emotional control, he is cherishing to spread “distance and composition of visual and sounds” to a space.
“…I don’t play music with lyrics because I don’t want to set any limit. I always look for communication tools more than words…”
Which of your favorite filmmakers do you know personally?
Julz Cahn from Los Angeles.
Is Bar Nightingale your personal utopia?
Absolutely. Music and films I pick are non-mainstream. They are obviously minorities but those artists and fans visit to my bar from all over the world. Sometimes one of artists creates new stuff with new ideas during the visit. It is great to me because it never happens in the market for the purpose of consumption only.
What is your other job?
Working as an interviewer. Interviewed with John Cale, Jeff Mills, Oneohtrix Point Never, Leos Carax, Michel Gondry, Mamoru Oshii, Shinya Tsukamoto, and more.
Which famous people have visited the bar?
Ryoji Ikeda, Dan Deacon, Tom Sachs, Tim Burton, Steve Goodman known as Kode9, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and more.
How do you find films?
Websites such like RE:VOIR, some video stores which sell cult films, and YouTube.
Can you describe the music you play?
I recently play non-emotional songs like noise and drone music. I treat music in my bar as a space. It is like the Erik Satie’s Furniture Music. I don’t play music with lyrics because I don’t want to set any limit. I always look for communication tools more than words.
What kind of drinks do you serve?
Anything except complex cocktails. I can’t provide those fancy cocktails because I have to control equipment for music and video alone at the same time.
Why is it called “Nightingale”?
Inspired by John Crowley’s ”The Nightingale Sings at Night” and The Old Testament stories.
Which films are you most eager to get?
I don’t stick to things. I try to find better one if I can’t get it.
Which music are you most eager to get?
Same as above. That’s why I treasure things without shapes.
“Machines were broken and animals were screaming crazy sounds. So I recorded the sounds by field recording style…”
Do you make films or music?
Released limited 300 CDs when I joined dOCUMENTA (13) in Germany. In 2013, unrest was in the air in Japan after the super-gigantic earthquake and tsunami. Machines were broken and animals were screaming crazy sounds. So I recorded the sounds by field recording style then made up concrete music. The CD is not for sale now and my music rights are stolen by a very famous Japanese artist.
I also make my own films. One of the titles is called “Porn Movie” and it was uploaded on YouTube 8 years ago. Unfortunately, it was already removed by YouTube. I think it had more than three hundred thousand views. The “Porn Movie” was focused only female’s fingers, hairs, and film’s color by collecting close shots of vintage porn movies. It had no exact specific things there and it was my experiment what if eroticism can be reproduced with color and line only.
Can you recount a few of the most memorable moments at the nightingale?
A Spanish American guy. He came to my bar and it was empty. He was completely drunk already and he insisted “I am in Nazi!”. Then he became totally naked with music rhythms. He then screamed “Look at me!!” and I found out that he had tattoo of emblem of Harken Kreuz with Hitler’s face. Though it did not look a skillful tattoo.
What is your dream for the future of Bar Nightingale?
My purpose is Art. I don’t care about methods. I am fine if music is not like a music or film is not like a film. I don’t want to be interference in the existing market. I just want to provide a discovery place for my customers who are creators.
Golden Gai G2 2nd Floor, 1-1-10 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo JAPAN
Open daily 7pm – 3am / Service charge JPY 1,000
Rude customers will be immediately kicked out so it’s safe and comfy for you.
10 out of 10 Alcoholic Drinks