[tokyo jihen] Kronekodow "Dai-hakken" Interview   1 comment

Tokyo Jihen’s new album “Dai-hakken [Great Discovery],” finally got released. Here, we’ll show you a “Dai-hakken” interview by all the members. A Great Must-See.

[The Creation of the Title]

“Dai-hakken” is quite the peculiar album title, but to start off tell us about the origin of that.

Shiina Yes. To begin with, when we had come to the studio to do pre-production (* the work of confirming the song composition, arrangement, key, etc before the actual recording) for “Dopamint!” in June of last year, it started during a silly break-time conversation with “Wouldn’t ‘DJ Mother Nature [lit. “great nature”]’ be an artful name?” (laughs). I feel a sense of rivalry that, as I suspected, how you think of the name “Ringo Shiina” is approximately the same as for “Sensha Yoshida”-san* (laughs). So, when we started to wonder if this was going to win out no matter what we did, we got talking like, wouldn’t it be good if we put “great” in there. Frankly, we’d thought we really tried our best with “Sports” and the “Ultra C” tour. For that reason, somewhere we probably had feelings like, for the next album as a reward to ourselves we could even put something like “great.”

Hata With that, we all made various contributions, didn’t we? Great Prairie, Great Plain, so on.

Shiina Coming out with everything all the way ’til things that would overturn what we’d set as our basis, “Great Love” and so on (laughs).

Kameda From there, it became all about, let’s contribute jointly to a title that has “great” in it, forgetting the channel connection once, but Shiina-san was struck by the idea that if it were “Dai-hakken” it would connect to the Discovery Channel.

Shiina I was already holding on to the conviction of “‘Dai-hakken,’ that’s it!” and went home that day in a spirit of satisfaction. After that I started my efforts to instruct or maybe I should say brainwash everyone by writing in a text to the members, “I think ‘Dai-hakken’ is good, but if there’s anything else good, by all means” (laughs).

[The Harvest from “Sports” and “Ultra C”]

The previous work “Sports” and its tour “Ultra C” became a tour based on an album that became a very big turning point for Tokyo Jihen. This spot has been discussed in several media so far, but thinking it over now anew, what sort of thing do you think that harvest was?

Shiina It’s exactly muscle, isn’t it? Perhaps I should say a throbbing; we learned a mobility with regards to fan interactions. Like, “How close can we get (to the fans).” If spoken objectively, it would probably tend to be summarized in one word as “directing,” but for me I think of it as everything—from lighting to imagery to the songs we chose—becoming one just so to make a “Jihen live concert,” so with “Ultra C” on that premise exactly, that means it was a challenge with the number-one highest degree of difficulty.

Ukigumo When the tour began, we’d been doing things like preparing a “Bit About This Place” slide that we used in places like Niigata, but as we faced the conclusion, we took out most of our MC.

Kameda Yes. Via things like adding songs instead on mutual consensus, we’d gone and steadily honed ourselves.

Shiina There was anxiety too. Because, is it really all right that, in favor of music, there’s not really even any conversation with these fans who’ve listened to our music habitually and were finally able to see us in the venues? But that was our big treat, so to speak, that we got to go out to meet the power we got from the fans saying “Don’t tease us!” That was a spot that almost embarrassed us. Thanks to that, I think it turned into the one tour in the history of Jihen that could take it away from the start at increasingly faster levels until the high-score finish.

A good example of how the fans have decided on and stuck you with band characters.

Shiina That was it exactly. To have been made to study and research our shows was a very luxurious opportunity.

Ukigumo In terms of live concert progress, my stance is relatively passive, but I think my ability to deal with that has gone up considerably. Maybe I should say, I’ve grown able to deal with it no matter how the situation develops.

Izawa I acquired stamina as a player. Later I even felt like the parts of me that are nervous had been released. Like, I’m with this band and our staff, so it’s okay if I abandon myself to where I am without worrying later.

Hata I feel like, together with my muscles, I also learned something like numerical formulas. Study through experience (laughs). Different from what’s forged at the gym, maybe I should say musical muscles entangled in numerical formulas.

Kameda As we had challenges called using up all our musicianship to face nonetheless the tall hurdles established in both mind and body, although we had suitable troubles too, our “bond” as a band soundly intensified that much more. So, it’s not strange that even though we had a break period like usual after the tour, as we had the good luck to get offers for dramas and commercials, that’s why we rushed to record “Tengoku e Youkoso” and “Dopamint!”

Shiina Since we got each offer for the drama and the commercial during the tour, allowing me to visualize the songs right away while looking at the members’ faces, I think that recording these two songs immediately after “Ultra C” affected their finish. If there had been more of a gap in the time between “Ultra C” and recording, I wonder if the songs would have wound up in wholly different completed forms.

[The “Standard” Derived from an Order]

New versions of “Tengoku e Youkoso” and “Dopamint!” were recorded for “Dai-hakken.” As these two songs had their respective TV drama theme song and commercial tie-ins, last year they were released for digital download.

Shiina The motive itself for the work had sprung forth from the offers for the drama and commercial. At the time of recording for the album this time around, we thought that we wanted to arrange them closer to the album sound. Especially “Dopamint!” changed to a form closer to the arrangement Izawa originally brought, didn’t it.

The lyrics of these two songs and, of course, the single of “Onna no Ko wa Daredemo,” “Sora ga Natteiru,” used in commercials are conspicuous for having as “writer” Shiina-san, who has furnished a lot of music for other artists, too, up until this. Shiina-san can fully express herself within Tokyo Jihen as “Writer, Ringo Shiina.” I would think these circumstances are incredibly favorable, but…

Shiina Up until this I might have placed arbitrary limits on myself. So, in terms of the result, this time Director Satoshi Miki (* film director. Worked on the TV drama “Atami no Sousakan”) gave me a very focused order of, “I want you to make a standard that Jihen would play,” it gave me the chance to lift those limits.

In other words, the director gave you a hint to one of this album’s keywords, “standard-feel.”

Shiina Truly, yes. It boosted my self-confidence, and it pushed me from behind. This is the same for the commercial. As it’s such an honor, I was very grateful.

[What You “Discover” In Yourself First]

With the title “Dai-hakken,” under keywords such as, “standards,” “primitive,” “back to roots” that had faintly come to light, you gathered music from each member. What were the criteria for selecting what to include?

Shiina They were strict, weren’t they? As I’d gone so far as to put “great” before “discovery,” it took me aback myself that, before we could first start screening, we had to have songs that, in short, “discover.” If we were re-purposing something from our previously written stock, we had to have a lot of self-confidence in whether it really fits the premise. Because even though it’s our own stuff, if it doesn’t surprise us there’s no point in putting it out, is there? (laughs)

Hata Altogether we had about 30 songs.

Kameda Yes. Two, three days after submitting mine I was doing things like trying to go home, trudging and worried: “Oh, just like I thought, it wasn’t Great Discovery, it was Average Discovery” (laughs). There was a fair amount of trial and error.

Shiina Yes, at that point Izawa took over the song Kameda-san had been trying to withdraw with a “Hold on” and wrote the B-melody and an impressive riff, which was “21seiki Uchuu no Ko.” Izawa being Izawa, there’s both a lot of music that he submits and a lot he wants to withdraw (laughs). He says things like, “Yeah, I guess there’s nothing here after all.”

Kameda Yes, exactly! About six hours in (to playing the song), when I thought everyone had come together, he said, “Ahh, there’s nothing here after all, this is a crap song.” Everyone’s all, “Whaaatt!!” (laughs).

Ukigumo In the worst case, he said it at the recording stage (laughs).

Izawa Yes (laughs wryly). When I did that, Shiina-san said, “Then I’ll take this over” and took it home.

It was decided to record the song “21seiki Uchuu no Ko” from among the stock hurriedly, just before mastering, wasn’t it?

Shiina The truth is that after the earthquake, I wanted to finish writing its lyrics to make it worth “Yoake no Uta” as a song, but I couldn’t easily complete it. But as I got into the best part of album work, when I tried listening to all the songs straight through lined up in order, I thought the missing piece was this song, so I decided to add it.

Izawa-san, you wrote not with a keyboard but with a guitar on most of the songs, didn’t you?

Izawa Yes. I thought I wanted to make a “discovery” by doing that.

Shiina Like in “Zettaichi tai Soutaichi,” I’m not sure if I’d call the song Izawa wrote “me-like” but as I felt it was a song that he’d gotten very close to me, from there I tried to add my own touch to it by seeing how I could close that distance.

Ukigumo By doing things like recording vocals on the bars that were left open for guitar solos, right?

Shiina Yes. I try adding paradoxical elements, musically speaking, to what was originally the raw material. What surprised me at where it happened this time, was that it had become possible for the back-and-forth exchange over that sort of yet unseen music aspect to be oral alone.

That’s a vignette symbolic of the current status of inter-member communication, isn’t it.

Ukigumo There were also things Shiina-san went and changed at the lyric level, or maybe I should say vocal aspect.

Shiina “Atarashii Bunmei-kaika,” a song Izawa was about to withdraw, saying “I feel like this is different from pop,” was also a song that, with the instruments’ approach in the state that it was, I took and completed with “Leave this spot here to me!”

Izawa At those times, me not getting it no matter how much I think it over, Shiina-san, in a truly amazing way, smoothly brings the exact right answer. “Kinjirareta Asobi” was like this too. Although it was a song I’d been worrying about all the way until the very day of recording, in the end while recording vocals Shiina-san made the melody line for the big hook for me at the same time as the lyrics, and it all brightened right up before my eyes.

Shiina When it comes to the so-called “stops” and “upticks” of the calligraphy, so to speak, of the person who wrote the song, I have a rule of not wanting to add my own touch as much as possible. So I think that if the flow can be seen in the vocals, that’s most ideal.

Ukigumo Shiina-san, at times like that there were killing words, weren’t there?

Shiina What was that? I didn’t have that intention, but I’ve certainly made proclamations several times like, “I’ll make this a killer tune for sure,” haven’t I.

“Kaitei ni Sukuu Otoko” is music and lyrics by Ukigumo; “Katsute wa Otoko to Onna” is lyrics by Shiina, music by Ukigumo, yes?

Ukigumo “Katsute wa Otoko to Onna” was written especially for this, while “Kaitei ni Sukuu Otoko” is a song I wrote seven, eight years ago, but it’s a song Shiina-san had been pleased with for a while.

As “Kaitei ni Sukuu Otoko” is a song that has a glam rock glitter feel, it’s an unusual song for Jihen, right?

Ukigumo It’s funny how it’s become a song that’s a little charming due to Shiina-san singing it.

Kameda Uki-chan’s demo tape included up to the chorus, so it was easy to grasp the full contours, so right away you could see clearly the finished form.

The credits for “Osorubeki Otona-tachi,” with the music a Kameda/Shiina collaboration, are unusual, no?

Shiina It was the first time I mixed into one of Master’s** songs. Through a method still different from “Sora ga Natteiru” and “21seiki Uchuu no Ko,” I thought I wanted to make a song that would give an impression like nothing of Jihen up until then.

Kameda Through Shiina-san’s changing the song’s melody with the arrangement in the form I made it, a Great Discovery was born. The A-melody I considered at the outset has become Uki-chan’s guitar riff.

Ukigumo There, too, has a collaboration feel again. So looking at the credits, for example, it’s become writing by Shiina-san and someone, but this time all the songs have a feel of collaboration by every member of Jihen.

Kameda Probably our “collaboration” will be of a slightly different variety than what’s commonly referred to as such. Since our style involves us as a group adding our own touches to what one person completed once alone in the capacity of author, thereby continuing to make it an even tastier perfected form. Each of us looking forward to how it will go entrusting your song to someone else, or rather we wanted to leave the initiative to another’s care. We didn’t have any walls there.

Shiina That’s good. I’m happy. Since I’ve been a little worried (laughs).

So since this doesn’t mean that the “rule” from “Variety” of separate members as authors was in existence, you finally reached a point—via the natural outcome and results of production—where you had such collaboration-rich credits, which is quite interesting, isn’t it?

Kameda Yes. Exactly in order to make all the tracks “Dai-hakken,” we mobilized the power all the members have. In doing so, by the time we realized it there were a lot of collaborations as a result. It’s just like that.

Ukigumo This was the first time, wasn’t it? I think it felt really good.

Shiina So this time is unusual in that we have a lot of things in stock, but there was a huge sense that the songs that made it in the album got some direction from those that unfortunately did not. Of course as even the songs that didn’t make it have no problems when it comes to quality and so on, if we just jump clear of even the problem of the sell-by date, there might even come an opportunity of being able to debut them to everyone.

[Cheerfully Rational Recording]

It sounds like recording this time progressed in a very cheerful atmosphere.

Shiina Yes. Whether it was that we were just riding the energy from the tour, or that we had a little too much energy, sometimes it was like the approach of a young band debuting after no time (laughs). Once or twice we did some course correction for that.

To get the primitive beat that you could even call Afro glamour in the first track, “Tengoku e Youkoso For The Disc,” you played using a cajón box, not drums, right Hata-san?

Hata Yes. Kicking a big cajón box with my left foot, pressing the two-bass with my right foot. It was quite a unique set-up, wasn’t it.

Shiina Izawa and I were making noise by stomping on wooden planks like sumo wrestlers. We asked tap dancer Kazunori Kumagai-san to tell us what the best planks for that purpose would be.

I think that was a pretty rare occurrence in terms of Jihen studio work (laughs).

Kameda The finished sound gives off an intensity larger than the number of people involved in making it.

Hata And above all this time it was really huge that we used Pro Tools (* a creation/production system used most for all purposes in creative workplaces currently) since pre-production.

Kameda Yes, using Pro Tools this time, we could bring home audio every time that was the same quality as the on-air recordings of the arrangements of each part. This was an incredible luxury, but thanks to that we could get more than enough of a grasp of the whole picture of the composition by playing it ourselves. As we added to the number of times at the studio one by one, bringing in more and more elements, it became possible to lay a foundation of them.

Shiina When I compare this to when we made “Sports,” I was trying to do something elaborate, but it was a case of plowing ahead regardless, or maybe I should say “probably driving”***–right? Saying, “‘Probably’ such and such will be like this” (laughs). Since we even had so many time-related losses.

Kameda Yes, exactly, and there was also cutting-people-off driving, right (laughs). So since last year we got a different job partway through and the earthquake got in the middle of things too, it looks just like we took a long time working, but in reality the time we worked on it, compared to up until now, is not that much longer. Rather, each individual phase of the production process was more concentrated than before.

Ukigumo Another good thing is that it was easy to conduct experiments. We could immediately deal with suggestions like “If we do this here how would it be?” and “If we do it at this tempo how would it be?” and get an answer quickly. It was also amazing that we could try out immediately, as a group, things that someone at home would have made a home recording to try.

Shiina That’s why we even got to increase our speed, since no one could make excuses. From the start Jihen has been a band that, if we meet in the studio at 1 p.m., we have to stop working at 6; a degree of about five hours a day. If someone gets sleepy or hungry we stop (laughs). If you go against your body, you’re not going to get very good results.

Kameda Regardless of day or night, pulling all-nighters–we don’t do things like that at all. Come to think of it, we never got dinner delivered to where we were this time, did we? I just realized that! (laughs)

[Lyrics That Greet a New Stage]

Upon getting the songs together, Shiina-san dealt with the lyrics. Jihen is always composition first, Shiina-san addressing the lyrics later. For this stretch only you’re all alone anytime you run into conflicts, but how was it this time?

Shiina That was it in the beginning, and though I dealt with it by telling myself, “During ‘Sports’ you gained hard muscles there (with lyrics) too, right?” I suffered after all. From the start during “Sports” I had the feeling that I used force to go pick up on what kind of words were playing in the songs written by everyone. But this time I got the impression that it became a task of seeking “where” the song would play.

Its… “place”?

Shiina Somehow I really got a sense that it was different from happily applying lyrics. As soon as the rhyme scheme and so on seized me, I’d become completely unable to write that day.

“Denki no Nai Toshi” in both title and lyrics makes us remember scenes from after the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Shiina That was written by Izawa. It’s a good song, but for a long time I couldn’t keep my grip on the identity of this song very well, whether before or after the earthquake. After the earthquake on the day of a planned power outage, when I saw the spectacle of all the lights around Saitama-shintoshin, including the Super Arena, go out completely, suddenly I heard that piano intro. It didn’t repeat, it was just once, and I soon understood the music that had just “played” so I thought I had to get it down without letting it escape.

Izawa I just got goosebumps listening to that story…….

Shiina But it’s really the case that if you want to have it played on the floor you title the song “Disco,” and for the artists I normally think are really cool, it’s obvious to all of them to do it that way, you know. I thought “I’m sure late on this” but this time it was fun to write the lyrics with the motive of considering “Where will the song be played?” It became one discovery for me.

Study and play are in the “Dai-hakken” song titles. Nature and civilization. Man and woman. Adults and child, past and future. And land (city), sea, sky, and wind, up to heaven above all that. In short, you want it to really be an album that, amid the days the listeners spend in everyday life, is “played” in all those settings. It’s an album that includes those sorts of wishes.

Shiina What a wonderful summary……

Izawa Here we want you to write that all the members said, “Great Answer!!”

Shiina Because our wish was a want to cram in all of the results until now of Jihen’s research that happened naturally just by living life. Of course since it was like that for the albums up until now, we had been warned that want alone shouldn’t stand on its own, but.

[Turning to Live Tour 2011 Discovery]

You have about two months free after the release, and from September on you’ll start the national tour at last.

Kameda Just before this interview, the male members were talking about this. “We wanna do the tour soon.”

Hata Finishing up “Dai-hakken,” since there’s a lot of things that make it great this time too, I got the sense talking with everyone like, “We’ll be able to do it soon.” There was nothing like from “Sports” of “What’ll we do?” We’re impatient, we want to perform live soon.

Shiina For me, how should I put it… of course I feel like I want to bring it live before everyone soon, but I also feel a yearning somewhere. Thinking of an album that was just like a beloved treasure chest, and the back and forth with everyone until it was complete, and all my precious feelings about it. I also feel like I don’t want to open what’s all locked away.

Ukigumo I kind of get that. Like, you really want it to be listened to, but if it means it’ll be over you don’t want to release it.

Shiina Yes, that’s really it. Conflicting feelings. All of the works I’ve handled are “reserve quality,” but I have a sense of, “Well, it’s okay to listen, unwilling but yielding, to the complaints about ‘Sports.’ But just for ‘Dai-hakken’…… Please don’t, okay?”

Izawa It’s a treasured item even for me. I’m in a state of continuous, nonstop coming and going of feelings so pure they astonish even me–like,  I want/don’t want it to be listened to, I want/don’t want it to be known, same as Shiina-san (laughs).

Kameda This album is packed with the concentrated time from last year to this one, even including before and after the earthquake itself. That’s exactly why in the tour I want us to be new selves who can perform the songs of this album in front of everyone, renewing our very selves more and more from 6/29 when “Dai-hakken” releases until September.

Ukigumo I also want to face it with that readiness. I’ll do my best starting with cleaning my place (laughs). Then I want to perform without feeling rushed. I don’t want to perform in a way where I’m chased down by my attitude, not the configuration or the progression or anything. Like even in a song with fast BPM, exactly because it’s an irreplaceable song, I want to play it in a well digested way.

Hata If you could only get your physical strength ready, the rest is left to chance. Because of that it’s absolutely bound to make for good live concerts, since that’s the one thing that the album grew to have.

Shiina It was an album where we could share in the pure time we spent working on it, with none of the five of us forced to take the lead on craving the limelight. It was truly the first time that I hold such feelings for an album. I am fulfilled and happy right now.

(Masaki Uchida)

———————————————————————————-

* Sensha Yoshida is a manga cartoonist; sensha means “(military) tank.” Compare how their stage/pen names sound to Japanese speakers to understand what she’s saying: Tank Yoshida and Apple Shiina.
** A widely known fact among the Japanese fans is that Ringo calls Kameda “master” [師匠  shishou] as a sign of honor to his seniority in the music industry.
*** “Probably driving” [だろう運転 darou unten] is a known phrase in Japanese and refers to driving while thinking that you “probably” won’t get into an accident–but precisely because of that optimistic inattention, you do.

Original Japanese interview here.

Translation © Sarah/Frecklegirl 2011-onward

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One response to “[tokyo jihen] Kronekodow "Dai-hakken" Interview

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  1. Nice translation… much appreciated Sarah 🙂

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