It feels like another life, but a long, long time ago, I was living in Marseille, in the South of France, and I had an all-consuming passion for Blonde Redhead, a punk rock band I still absolutely adore. Fan to a point that, with my best friend, we decided that Marseilles couldn’t live without hosting a Blonde Redhead concert and so we decided to have them stop on their tour.
That’s the first time I met Kazu.
She represented everything that made me dream. She was an amazing performer, she had a wonderful sense of style, she had the most alternative lifestyle I could think of, she came from Japan but lived in New York with two awfully beautiful and talented Italian twins that were the other members of her band, and, well, she was a beauty.
Long story short because I could go on forever, I had always dreamed of talking to you about her and, more specifically, of something that has little to do with her music… Her passion for horseback riding. I think I just have a thing for passionate people. I would love to find a thing, apart from my work, where I could invest the same type of love and energy. Diving, knitting, singing, whatever the thrill, something I can always go back to and that’s just mine. Maybe surfing will be that, one day…
I’m going to let her talk about it, but I just wanted you to know how happy I am to present you with this story today…
When did your passion for horseback riding start?
I always loved horses. Apparently I told my parents I wanted to be a jockey. When I was little, I did try to have a go in Kyoto, where I was living. I was invited to this farm and I think it happened to be very, very high level. They were like, “Would you be willing to send your child to school from this farm, like she would have to live here but we could really train her?” And I remember saying no because I didn’t want to be away from my parents. I never really rode when I was little, but as soon as I came to New York I started looking into it. At the end of the day, in Japan it’s hard to ride because a lot of the horse world is based on race horses — that’s a whole other territory, so I waited.
But I’ve been riding at least 15 years or so, intensively.
I researched everything in New York, and I found out about these people who have a training ground for horses. They imported English horses, Irish horses… It was a good range of horses I got to learn on. As naive as I was… I learned kind of in a rough way, but in a good way also. I fell a lot, but I never felt like the horses didn’t want to help me learn. I was really really into it.
And how did you find a balance between music, touring, being a New Yorker and being such a passionate horseback rider?
That was, I suppose, the issue. My days became me just staring at the calendar, my band mates would make fun of me because I was just looking for a little timeslot to ride. You have to be so mindful. You couldn’t be spontaneous about this, you had to really know where you’re going to be.
You can study riding at the same time as playing, and it really works hand in hand because to me it’s basically the same thing, music and horses. The sensation it gives you, pretty much the same. Of course, the music doesn’t give you the sense of danger as much as riding does. But aside from that, the groove and the rhythm it gives you… They’re the only moments I don’t feel like an outsider. I always felt foreign, whenever I was doing anything but, when I play music or when I ride, I feel like I belong to this place. That’s a very good feeling, and that’s a big part of it.
You had a horse riding accident, but you never stopped riding. How did you get through it?
It was a really big one. Like I said, I was so naive and I felt my love for riding was so powerful that I really thought nothing could ever happen to me. I really believed that I liked it too much for something bad to happen. I would sit on any horse that was assigned to me, I was confident that I could figure out whoever I was riding. And then it happened. The horse I was riding stood on my face. We both fell, but he didn’t care.
I was shocked and I was about to record this album called Misery Is A Butterfly. We thought we were ready to go into studio and then this happened, so I couldn’t. My face was disfigured and my jaw was gone, basically. It took me about three months before I could actually start rehabilitation, or open my mouth. So that was quite amazing because we were kind of forced to re-work the entire material for the album because we had so much time. We went through and through, the arrangement was so intricate and over the top. For a long time, that record was just too much. Like eating a stick of butter. Each song was to me so rich, there’s no other record that we made that was like that. In a way, it became a sort of blessing in disguise, we got to slow down and work harder.
And your horse, Harry, what has he taught you?
My horse is incredible. Love at first sight. When he walked into the barn, I saw his hair, the way he swayed his body, the way he walked and everything, his eyes. Everything about him I was like, “I’m finished.” I fell in love with him so hard. Clearly, he was way too big for me, he was way too advanced for me, because he was, and still is, a very very strong horse. So, it was like completely out of my reach in skill, but I spent three years getting to express myself.
Because he’s so big and I’m so little, he’s actually very, very sensitive. And very eager. Quite a combination of character; a bigger horse tends to be more docile, but Harry’s really hot as if he’s a very agile, skinny thoroughbred. He’s always anticipating. You have to ride him very sensitively but at the same time he is so strong, you have to be there to support his strength. You have to be very tactful to ride him.
At times, things get really rough, but still, I will never compromise it. It means so much to me that he is there and in a good place, he’s happy.
You just returned from some shows in Japan. What next?
We were scheduled to go to Paris and to play at David Lynch’s nightclub called Silencio, but it’s not possible because of the political situation. So now we are just waiting to see if we can reschedule or not, and hoping that will happen sooner than later and so we spend little time in Europe to do something else. I’m very interested in doing collaborations, that’s why i was so thrilled to hear about David Lynch.
I feel like it’s time to kind of do something out of our comfort zone and collaborate with other people. Also, there are still places we’ve never been. We want to go to Thailand to play a show, and also we might go to Istanbul. Again, it’s just something with the world, it’s not so easy to move ourselves from one point to the other. It’s almost irresponsible to think, “Oh, we are going to go here, we’re going to go there”. I don’t really want to ever be political, I just want to do what we do, which is play music. So, we’ll see.
Then yeah, it’s time to write new songs!
Kazu Makino and Harry “Flagmount Cliff” Makino
Look 1: Jodhpurs, Ariat; Riding jacket, Asmar Equestrian; Helmet, GPA; Boots, Tredstep.
Look 2: full look, Isabel Marant.
Special thanks to LDS Equestrian
14 Shinto Farm Lane, Millbrook, NY 12545 USA | +1 (845) 677 3549
Words: Garance Doré | Photos: Erik Melvin