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Masami Akita at Moers Festival 2007
|Birth name||Masami Akita|
|Also known as||Merzbow|
|Born||December 19, 1956 (1956-12-19) (age 54)|
|Genres||Noise, experimental, dark ambient|
|Instruments||Magnetic tape, homemade guitars, synthesizer, effect pedals, percussion, laptop, drums|
|Labels||Important, Misanthropic Agenda, Relapse, Lowest Music & Arts, ZSF Produkt, among many others|
Reiko Azuma (aka Reiko A.)
Tetsuo Sakaibara (aka Bara)
Merzbow (メルツバウ, Merutsubau?) is the main recording name of the Japanese noise musician Masami Akita (秋田 昌美, Akita Masami?), born in 1956. Since 1979 he has released in excess of 350 recordings.
The name "Merzbow" comes from German artist Kurt Schwitters' artwork, "Merzbau". This was chosen to reflect Akita's dada influence and junk art aesthetic. In addition to this, Akita has cited a wide range of influences from progressive rock, free jazz, modern classical and musique concrète to BDSM and Japanese bondage. More recently he has been inspired by animals, animal rights and environmentalism.
As well as being a prolific musician, he has been a writer and editor for several books and magazines in Japan, and has written 17 books of his own. He has written about a variety of subjects, mostly about art, avant-garde and post-modern culture. His more renowned works have been on the topics of BDSM and fetish culture. Other art forms Akita has been interested in include painting, photography, filmmaking and Butoh dance.
In 2000, Extreme Records released the 50 CD box set known as the Merzbox. Akita's work has been the subject of several remix albums and at least one tribute album. This, among other achievements, has helped Merzbow to be regarded to some as the "most important artist in noise".
 Life and career
 Early life
Masami Akita was born in Tokyo in 1956. He listened to psychedelic music, progressive rock, and later free jazz in his youth, all of which have influenced his noise. In high school he became the drummer of various high school bands which he left due to the other members being "grass-smoking Zappa freaks". By this time he and high school friend Kiyoshi Mizutani had started playing improvised rock at studio sessions which Akita describes as "long jam sessions along the lines of Ashra Tempel or Can but we didn't have any psychedelic taste".
He later attended Tamagawa University to study fine art from which he majored in painting and art theory. While at university he became interested in the ideas of Dada and surrealism and also studied Butoh dance. This is where he learned of Kurt Schwitters' Merz, or art made from rubbish, including Schwitters' Merzbau, or "Merz building" which is the source of the name "Merzbow".
 Lowest Music & Arts (1979–84)
Merzbow began as the duo of Masami Akita and Kiyoshi Mizutani who met Akita in high school. He started releasing noise recordings on cassettes through his own record label, Lowest Music & Arts, which was founded in 1979 in order to trade cassette tapes with other underground artists. The first tape made for the label was Metal Acoustic Music and was sold exclusively by mail order. Various other releases were made before the first real release which included Collection 001 and a very limited release of Remblandt Assemblage. The Collection series was originally ten cassettes that were going to be distributed through an independent label called YLEM, but when it became defunct and cancelled the series, Akita decided to release them through Lowest Music & Arts.
His earliest music was made with tape loops and creatively recorded percussion and metal.
I threw all my past music career in the garbage. There was no longer any need for concepts like 'career' and 'skill'. I stopped playing music and went in search of an alternative. - Masami Akita on Lowest Music & Arts.
Early methods included what he referred to as "material action", in which he would closely amplify small sounds so as to distort them through the microphone. The early releases were photocopies of collages made out of manga and porn magazines he found in trash cans in the Tokyo subway. Akita explained this as trying to "create the same feeling as the secret porn customer for the people buying my cassettes in the early '80s". In 1984 he founded a second record label called ZSF Produkt.
 ZSF Produkt (1984–90)
ZSF Produkt was founded in 1984 to release music by similar artists within the industrial movement but eventually became the successor to Lowest Music & Arts. Numerous releases were made in the ZSF Produkt studio with Mechanization Takes Command being the first. The studio continued to be used until 2001 when Akita started producing home recordings from his bedroom studio.
During this era, Merzbow found much wider recognition and began making recordings for various international labels. He also started touring abroad with the help of various collaborators. Merzbow performed in USSR in 1988, toured USA in 1990, Korea in 1991 and Europe in 1989 and 1992. For most of the late 1980s through the 1990s, Merzbow live was a trio including Reiko A. on electronics and Bara on voice and dance. Around this time he started crediting the name "Abtechtonics" (or variations of this) on his recordings under artwork. He explained in the Merzbook that this name is used for him publishing his own artwork which he attempts to do as much as possible.
 Digital era (1990–2000)
Nick Cain of The Wire argues that
|"||Merzbow's analogue era, which began roughly around the time of his first CD, Cloud Cock OO Grand, is Akita's most sustained period of creativity, when he realised the latent potential of his 1980s work, accelerating it into a new variant of Noise.||"|
Merzbow's first digital recording was the CD release Cloud Cock OO Grand in 1990. With a higher international profile in the 90's, Merzbow started working on more ambitious projects such as the Noisembryo, which was a Merzbow album sealed in a car released in a limited edition of one copy. The disc was sealed in the CD player of a BMW Sedan which was rewired to play the CD whenever the car was started. The CD was also released normally on the same label. Recordings from the mid-1990s onwards are mostly of extreme volume, some mastered at levels far beyond standard (Noisembryo, Pulse Demon). From 1996, plans were made to release a "10 (or maybe 12)" CD box set on Extreme Records. In 2000, Extreme Records released the Merzbox, a fifty CD set of Merzbow records, twenty of them not previously released.
 Laptop era (2000–2010)
Since 2000, Akita began to use computers more in his recordings. At live performances, Akita has produced noise music from either two laptop computers or combination of a laptop and analog synthesizers. Reiko A. and Bara left Merzbow during this time, Reiko Azuma now has a solo career. Since 2001, Jenny Akita (formerly Kawabata) started being credited for artwork on various releases.
Since 2001, Akita started utilising samples of animal sounds in various releases starting with Frog. Around 2002, Akita became a vegan, he stated how it began:
I started raising four bantams, the little ornamental chickens. With this experience as a start, I gradually started to be concerned and care about chickens and all the barn animals I used to eat without giving it a second thought before. So I started reading books and researching on the internet about Animal Rights and that triggered an awareness of "evil" that human society has done.
During this period, Akita also became a supporter of PETA which is reflected in his animal-themed releases. An example of this is Minazo Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, dedicated to an elephant seal he visited often at the zoo and Bloody Sea, a protest against Japanese whaling. He has also produced several works centered around recordings of his pet chickens (notably Animal Magnetism and Turmeric).
Also in 2002, Akita released Merzbeat, which was seen as a significant departure from his trademark abstract style in that it contains beat-oriented pieces. This has sparked some controversy among fans, though some reviewers pointed out that it sounded very similar to Aqua Necromancer (1998) which features samples of progressive rock drumming. Merzbird (2004) and Merzbuddha (2005) followed in a similar vein with sampled beats combined with Merzbow's signature harsh noise.
Through 2009, Akita released a 13 CD box-set called 13 Japanese Birds, a set which was released monthly (one album a month). This release features the return of Akita to the usage of analog sounds and also the use of drum kits. Also in that year Merzbow cancelled his tour over United States and Canada due to the swine flu outbreak.
 Current era (2010–present)
Beginning in November 2009, Akita started releasing archival recordings from the 80s – early 90s, including several on cassette. Blossoming Noise has reissued cassettes like E-Study, Normal Music, Flesh Metal Orgasm, and two volumes from the Collection series. Also on the same label he began the Microkosmos series, which are new recordings with visual collages created in 1982–83. Merzbient, a 12 CD boxset of unreleased recordings from 1987–90 was released by Soleilmoon. Other cassettes of unreleased material include Untitled Nov 1989, 9888A, April 1992, and Variations for Electric Fan.
 Musical style
Merzbow's sounds employ the use of distortion, feedback, and noises from synthesizers, machinery, and home-made noisemakers. While much of Merzbow's output is intensely harsh in character, Akita does occasionally make forays into ambient music. Vocals are employed sometimes, but never in a lyrical sense. Contrary to most harsh noise music, Akita also occasionally uses elements of melody and rhythm.
Akita's early work consisted of industrial noise music made from tape loops and conventional instruments. Similar to his present albums, he produced lengthy, disorientating pieces. He also became infamous for the sheer amount of releases in a short time frame.
Audiences in general, especially those of "closed societies", did not quite know what to make of his style. During his performances (with Kiyoshi Mizutani) in the USSR, at the Jazz-on-Amur '88 festival, what incorporated improvised, electroacoustic and experimental music that time (the fest's producer consciously obscured both the very type of Akita's music and the erotic trend of his art from Soviet officials), whereas the producer, rocky youth and Soviet improvised music guest stars were extremely pleased, the unprepared orthodox jazz and agier parts of the audience were severely frustrated, particularly, with loudness, to leave the site, and for the second performance, for another, 1000-place hall (of the Soviet Army Officers' House), and even much more conservative audience, he was asked to play "more musically" so he toned it down a bit. On that first stage, Merzbow used the finest example of "classical analogue live noisemaiking technologies" to display: untuned guitar, a drumset, various micro-objects, small springs centered in its shell baffles, large aluminium boxes with strings inside to be attacked with a fiddlestick, etc. along with multi- piezo-pickuping and close-miking techniques, live processing through vintage US fuzz, ring modulator etc. boxes, and quite vivid and spontaneous approach, backed by slide and light shows. This live recording was re-processed and released as Live in Khabarovsk, CCCP (I'm Proud by Rank of the Workers) LP - and as the CD 26 of the Merzbox later on.
During the 90s Akita's work became much harsher and were generally mastered at a louder volume than usual. These were heavily influenced by death metal and grindcore bands of the time (a prime example is the Venereology album). The mid-90's saw Akita being heavily influenced by psychedelic bands and this was reflected in various albums.
After 2000, Akita started making vague concept albums and experimented with sampling rhythms. He also began to use laptops.
 Side projects
In addition to Merzbow, Akita has been involved in a number of side projects and groups.
 Side projects
SCUM was a project where Akita made new releases out of previous Merzbow recordings. SCUM is an acronym for "Society for Cutting Up Merzbow" (a reference to the SCUM Manifesto), "Scissors for CUtting Merzbow" or "Steel CUM" among others.
True Romance was a performance art project in the early 90s with Tetsuo Sakaibara (who later joined Merzbow live) and Toshiyuki Seido.
Right Brain Audile is co-credited on the two Music for Bondage Performance albums, as they're soundtracks he did for several bondage films produced by Right Brain. "RBA" reappears on Merzbient, which features recordings from this era.
Merzbow Null was a collaboration between Masami Akita's Merzbow and Kazuyuki Kishino's Null, including Kiyoshi Mizutani and Asami Hayashi among others. Tibeta Ubik was Akita and Kishino duo. Both groups made several cassettes of live improv performances.
Bustmonster was a "conceptual death metal" (because they couldn't play death metal) group with Tetsuo Sakaibara, Fumio Kosakai, Masahiko Ohno, Shohei Iwasaki, Maso Yamazaki and Zev Asher. Flying Testicle was just with Yamazaki and Asher.
Sponge was an anonymous group whose personnel are named after prominent Japanese businessmen/doctors, the actual performers are believed to be Jojo and Junko Hiroshige, Masami Akita and Maso Yamazaki.
Other groups include: Merz-Banana with Melt-Banana; Melting Lips with Hanayo; Muscats with Hanayo and Masaya Nakahara; Commando Bruno Sanmartino with Incapacitants and Violent Onsen Geisha; Shalon Kelly King with Fumio Kosakai; Maldoror with Mike Patton; MAZK with Zbigniew Karkowski; Satanstornade with Russell Haswell (they later released an album entitled Satanstornade under their real names); Boris with Merzbow; Kikuri with Keiji Haino.
Akita also played drums for Hijokaidan during the early–mid 90s.
Balázs Pándi has drummed for Merzbow at several concerts since 2009.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (video game)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from E.T. (Atari 2600))
|E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial|
|Atari's silver label box art depicts E.T., the titular protagonist, and Elliot.|
|Designer(s)||Howard Scott Warshaw|
|Media/distribution||16Kb ROM cartridge|
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (also referred to simply as E.T.) is a 1982 adventure video game developed and published by Atari, Inc. for the Atari 2600 video game console. It is based on the film of the same name, and was designed by Howard Scott Warshaw. The objective of the game is to guide the eponymous character through various screens to collect three pieces of an interplanetary telephone that will allow him to contact his home planet.
Warshaw intended the game to be an innovative adaptation of the film, and Atari thought it would achieve high sales figures based on its connection with the film, which was extremely popular throughout the world. Negotiations to secure the rights to make the game ended in late July 1982, giving Warshaw only six weeks to develop the game in time for the 1982 Christmas season. The end result is often cited as one of the worst video games released, and was one of the biggest commercial failures in video gaming history.
E.T. is frequently cited as a contributing factor to Atari's massive financial losses during 1983 and 1984. As a result of overproduction and returns, unsold cartridges were also buried in a New Mexico landfill. The game's commercial failure and resulting effects on Atari are frequently cited as a contributing factor to the video game industry crash of 1983.
E.T. is an adventure game in which players control an alien (E.T.) from a top-down perspective. The objective of the game is to collect three pieces of an interplanetary telephone. The pieces are found scattered randomly throughout various pits (also referred to as wells). The player is provided with an on-screen energy bar, which decreases as time passes. To prevent this, the player can collect Reese's Pieces, which are used to restore the energy of the character; when enough are collected, the player can call Elliot to obtain a piece of the telephone. After the phone pieces have been collected, the player must guide the character to a call-ship area, which allows him to call his home planet. When the call is made, an interplanetary spaceship appears on-screen, and the player must reach the spaceship in a given time limit. Once the spaceship is reached, the game starts over, with the same difficulty level, while changing the location of the telephone pieces. The score obtained during the round is carried over to the next iteration. The game ends when the energy bar depletes, or the player decides to quit.
The game is divided into six environments, each representing a different setting from the film. To accomplish the objective of the game, the player must guide E.T into the wells. Once all items found in a well are collected, the player must levitate E.T. out of them. An icon at the top of each screen represents the current area, each area enabling the player to perform different actions. Antagonists include a scientist who takes E.T. for observation and an FBI agent who chases the alien to confiscate one of the collected telephone pieces. The game offers diverse difficulty settings that affect the number and speed of humans present, and the conditions needed to accomplish the objective.
The process began in July 1982 and was completed before the end of the year. Total production costs were estimated to be US$125 million. Following the commercial success of the film in June 1982, Steve Ross, chief executive officer (CEO) of Atari's parent company Warner Communications, started negotiations with Steven Spielberg and Universal Pictures to acquire the license to produce a video game based on the film. In late July, Warner announced its exclusive worldwide rights to market coin-operated and console games based on the movie. Although the exact details of the transaction were not disclosed in the announcement, it was later reported that Atari had paid US$20–25 million for the rights, a high figure for video game licensing at the time. When asked by Ross what he thought about making an E.T.-based video game, Atari CEO Ray Kassar replied, "I think it's a dumb idea. We've never really made an action game out of a movie." An arcade game based on the E.T. property had also been planned, but this was deemed to be impossible given the short deadline.
After negotiations completed, Kassar called Howard Scott Warshaw on July 27, 1982 to commission him as developer of the video game. Kassar informed him that Spielberg asked for Warshaw specifically and that development needed to be completed by September 1 to meet a production schedule for the Christmas holiday. Though Warshaw had spent over a year working on consecutive development schedules for games (seven months working on Yars' Revenge and then six months on Raiders of the Lost Ark), he accepted the offer based on the challenge of completing a game in a short time frame and at Spielberg's request. Warshaw considered it an opportunity to develop an innovative Atari 2600 game based on a movie he enjoyed. Kassar reportedly offered Warshaw US$200,000 and an all-expenses-paid vacation to Hawaii in compensation. Kassar then told him to arrive at the San Jose Airport a few days later to have a meeting with Spielberg.
Warshaw used those days to design the structure of the game and segmented the concept into four ideas: world, objective, path to achieve the objective, and obstacles. He envisioned a three-dimensional cube world as the setting and adapted part of the film's plot, E.T. phoning home, as the goal. Warshaw then conceived that E.T. would need to assemble a special phone to call his ship and arrive at a special landing site to achieve this goal. He considered obstacles as an element that would determine the success of a game, and experienced difficulties when taking into account the time constraints and technical limitations of the console. Inspired by the movie, adults were implemented as antagonists that would chase the alien. Feeling more adversity was needed, Warshaw included a time limit for players to accomplish the goal. Pits were devised as an element to hide the pieces of the phone as well as expand the game's world.
Warshaw and other Atari executives presented this design to Spielberg, who did not express enthusiasm. Spielberg instead asked him to create a game similar to Namco's Pac-Man. Believing the concept too derivative of a common game design, Warshaw proceeded with his concept, which he felt would capture the sentimentality he saw in the original film. In retrospect, however, Warshaw stated that Spielberg's idea might have had merit. He spent the remaining time programming the game. Atari anticipated enormous sales based on the popularity of the film, as well as the stability the video game industry was experiencing in 1982. Due to time limitations, Atari decided to skip audience testing for the product. Emanual Gerard, co-chief operating officer of Warner at the time, later suggested that the company had fallen into a false sense of security by the success of its previous releases, particularly its console version of Pac-Man, which was commercially successful despite poor critical reaction.
Anticipation for E.T. was high in 1982, and it was a sought-after Christmas gift. Prior to the game's release, Newsweek called Atari's procurement of the intellectual property its "biggest coup". In early December 1982, the New York Times reported that video games based on successful movies, specifically E.T., would become "an increasingly profitable source" for video game development. At first, retailers ordered more supplies than what was expected to be sold, but Atari received an increasing number of order cancellations as new competitors entered the market, an event the company had not anticipated. John Hubner and William Kistner of InfoWorld attribute the cancellations to changes Atari initiated between its relationship between distributors. On November 1, 1982, Atari informed them that their contracts were canceled and that exclusive deals would be established with select distributors. Hubner and Kistner believed the action prompted retailers to cancel orders, which Atari had not properly tracked.
E.T. met with initial commercial success. It was among the top four on Billboard magazine's "Top 15 Video Games" sales list in December 1982 and January 1983. The game eventually sold 1.5 million units, becoming one of the best-selling Atari 2600 titles. However, between 2.5 and 3.5 million cartridges went unsold. Hubner and Kistner commented that the large amount of produced cartridges would have resulted in excess inventory regardless of E.T.'s success. Though the game was a best seller during the holiday season, retailers stated that its sales figures did not meet expectations despite an increase in consumer interest in video games. Warner Communications also expressed disappointment at the number of sales. The poor sales and excess inventory prompted retailers to steadily discount the price. Former J. C. Penney employee Al Nielsen mentioned that his copy of the game was discounted five times from US$49.95 to less than a dollar. According to Ray Kassar, about 3.5 million of the 4 million produced were sent back to the company. Despite sales figures, the quantity of unsold merchandise, coupled with the expensive movie license and the large amount of returns, made E.T. a financial failure for Atari. Next Generation Magazine reported that Atari earned US$25 million in sales, but netted a loss of US$100 million. By 2004, the cartridges were still very common and priced at very low amounts.
 Critical response
E.T. was negatively received by critics, with common complaints focused on the plot, gameplay, and visuals. New York magazine's Nicholas Pileggi described it as a loser when compared to other games Atari could have released like Donkey Kong and Frogger. Kevin Bowen of GameSpy's Classic Gaming called the gameplay "convoluted and inane", also criticizing its story for departing from the serious tone of the film. Author Steven Kent described the game as "infamous" within the industry, citing "primitive" graphics, "dull" gameplay, and a "disappointing story". An editor for The Miami Herald described it as a difficult game to learn to play, but felt it was worth dedicating the time.
Critics bemoaned the repetitive gameplay involved with falling down holes. Emru Townsend of PC World discussed the game with a group, and found a universal dislike for the pits that E.T. falls into, describing it as "monotonous". Writer Sean "Seanbaby" Reiley also criticized the pits, claiming that they are "time-consuming" and "difficult to leave without falling back in". Trent Ward, a former Next Generation Magazine reviewer, commented that this element prompted him to immediately return the game for a refund after purchasing it in his youth. Classic Gaming commented that despite the negative reception, the game can be enjoyable after the player has learned to navigate the pits.
In published materials written over a decade after its initial release, E.T. has been universally panned by critics and is frequently listed as the worst video game ever. Reiley ranked it number one in a list of the 20 worst games of all time in Electronic Gaming Monthly's 150th issue. Michael Dolan, deputy editor of FHM magazine, has also listed the game as his pick for the worst video game of all time. Townsend placed E.T. at the top of his list of worst video games, noting that, "about a third of the people I quizzed came up with this title almost instantly, and it's not hard to see why." GameTrailers ranked the game the second worst on their "Top Ten Best and Worst Games of All Time" list.
Critics often attribute the poor quality to the short development time. Townsend commented that the rushed development was very apparent after playing the game. Warshaw's contributions to the game have been met with mixed responses. Classic Gaming called the game poorly designed, while IGN's Levi Buchanan stated the "impossibly tight schedule" given to Warshaw absolves him of blame. Warshaw does not express regret for his part in E.T., and feels he created a good game given the time available to him.
 Impact and legacy
E.T. is the second video game based on a movie. GamePro, GameTrailers, and Bowen cite the game as the first poor quality film–video game tie-in. Patrick O'Luanaigh of SCi Games called it the most famous disaster story among film-inspired video games as well as within the industry. Describing it as the one of the "games that changed the world", GamePro stated that E.T. established a standard of subpar quality video games based on movies. They further commented that other publishers adopted similar marketing and production practices with licensed movie properties. The publication listed the game as the second "worst movie game ever", citing it as an example of how poor gameplay can bring negative reception to strong licenses.
 Effect on the industry
The game is often cited as one of the most important titles in the industry. Billboard magazine's Earl Paige reported that the large number of unsold E.T. games along with an increase in competition prompted retailers to demand official return programs from video game manufacturers. The game is also considered to be one of the causes of the video game industry crisis of 1983. By the end of 1982, Atari had begun to lose dominance as more competitors entered the market. Poor critical reception and lack of a profitable marketing strategy made this game one of many cited decisions that led Atari to report a $536 million loss in 1983 and led to the company being divided and sold in 1984. GameSpy's Classic Gaming called E.T. Atari's biggest mistake, as well as the largest financial failure in the industry. Reiley commented that the game's poor quality was responsible for ending the product life of the Atari 2600. Occurring soon after Pac-Man's negative critical response on the Atari 2600, E.T.'s poor reception was attributed by Kent to a negative impact on Atari's reputation and profitability. Authors Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost echoed similar comments about Pac-Man and E.T.'s combined effect on the company's reputation and the industry's reaction. Buchanan also cited the game as a factor to Atari and the industry's crash. He stated that the large amount of unsold merchandise was a financial burden to Atari, which pushed the company into debt.
On December 7, 1982, Kassar announced that Atari's revenue forecasts for 1982 were cut from a 50 percent increase over 1981 to a 15 percent increase. Immediately following the announcement, Warner Communications' stock value dropped by around 35 percent—from US$54 to US$35—resulting in the company losing US$1.3 billion in market valuation. Expecting the drop, Kassar sold five thousand of his Warner shares a half hour before the announcement. This prompted an investigation for insider trading against him by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Atari attempted to regain their market share by licensing popular arcade games for the Atari consoles. The games, however, did not reverse Atari's decline and they went further into debt. In 1983, the company had decreased its workforce by 30 percent and lost US$356 million. Other companies—Activision, Bally Technologies, and Mattel—experienced similar results as the industry declined.
 Atari video game burial
In September 1983, the Alamogordo Daily News of Alamogordo, New Mexico, reported in a series of articles that between ten and twenty semi-trailer truckloads of Atari boxes, cartridges, and systems from an Atari storehouse in El Paso, Texas were crushed and buried at the landfill within the city. It was Atari's first dealings with the landfill, which was chosen because no scavenging was allowed and its garbage was crushed and buried nightly. Atari officials and others gave differing reports of what was buried, but it has been speculated that most unsold copies of E.T. are buried in this landfill, crushed and encased in cement. The story of the buried cartridges became a popular urban legend, with skeptics disregarding the official accounts. In 2005, Warshaw expressed doubts that the destruction of millions of copies of E.T. took place, citing different policies Atari practiced at the time.