In Part 2 of our interview with the legend Taku Takahashi, he reflects on dealing with artist blocks, his favorite foods in LA, how california rolls and Japanese music go hand-in-hand, and his upcoming projects. Read on!
KKS: I feel there is a growing demand for Japanese artists overseas, but it’s very inaccessible for fans abroad.
TT: Anisong (Anime Song) has drastically change, Suisei no Majo (Mobile Suit Gundam: Witch from Mercury) features YOASOBI and AiNA THE END. Not typical anisong artists, but popular mainstream artists.
KKS: I was in Japan recently and heard YOASOBI’s IDOL from Oshi no Ko almost every where I went.
TT: Nobody saw that as a big opportunity back then.
KKS: They should pay attention now. You yourself helped to produce the first Panty & Stocking Soundtrack with other artists. The show itself was unique in itself and didn’t have a typical anime soundtrack.
TT: The first priority was to make the anime great. The second priority was the introduce electronic music to the anime industry. It’s the same reason why I’m here in the states to perform. (Pauses) Well, two things that brought me here, Beatmania and the Panty & Stocking soundtrack.
KKS: Trigger just announced a new Panty & Stocking actually, are you also going to be working on the soundtrack for the sequel?
TT: It’s still a secret.
KKS: Fair enough, let’s take things in a different direction. A lot of artist will experience “artist block” in their creative careers. How do you deal with that?
TT: I’ve been making music for 25 years. I never not have a block. I always have a block.
KKS: So you try to work through it?
TT: Something I got to live with you know? There’s always a block and it’s always a challenge. There’s higher blocks and lower blocks to be fair, but it’s still a block. It’s built up by myself, an expectation and the worst kind is bring pulled towards the negative thinking of “what if people didn’t like it? if my friends think it’s not cool?”. So what I try to do is just try and stick to how fun music creation is. I try to shut out the noise inside me. I be patient to myself.
Making music can be scary. You never know how it’s going to end. Here’s the thing: the most fun part about creating music is towards the end. You have everything set, it’s all editing, doing some subtractions and maybe adding some more asobi (twisting) and littles techniques, like vocal chopping. The toughest part is creating from 0 to 0.1. So I just keep on playing my keyboard or Abelton Push. Yeah, just be patient and believing in myself. I’ll sit down for two or three days and maybe things start clicking. And some times even that doesn’t work so I just stop (pause) and play FIFA or watch Star Trek.
KKS: Going through your long careers, being in the career in both m-flo and your solo work and you’ve incorporated numerous styles throughout your discography. Lately what genre of music are you working on?
TT: I’ve been doing a lot of producing. I produce a new boys group called BE:FIRST which is starting to get big in Japan. And also SKY-HI. I’ll also be doing a Utada Hikaru remix for their new soundtrack. I’ve been making a lot of Jersey Club and love the artists and scene there. Aside from that, there’s a Y2K revival so a lot of UK Garage, and Drum&Bass. Going back to Jersey Club, I love how people dance and create a lot of bootlegs. Overall, many artists are much more eclectic than before. I see DnB artists creating House music and then the House artists are creating Jungle music.
KKS: Artists nowadays are able to jump around genres rather than stay in their niche.
TT: Yeah, for example I was really intrigued by the African genre, amapiano. It’s interesting how people dance to that beat. But if you asked me to choose, it would be Jersey Club. The authentic kind.
KKS: What is authentic Jersey Club like?
TT: It has this groove, it’s not just kick-boom-boom boom-boom-boom, there’s more to it.
KKS: Let’s move from music to food but what’s your favorite spot in LA to eat.
TT: That’s not an easy one!
KKS: You’ll try to have it every time you’re in town.
TT: Uh… Yoshinoya! (laugh) I’m just kidding.
KKS: It’s worlds apart here and Japan. (Laugh)
TT: Last time I had it in the US was maybe 40 years ago, nah that can’t be I’m still in my 40s! Probably 25. Let’s see… Tommy’s Burger and spicy tuna rolls. Spicy Tuna roll is very hard to find in Japan.
KKS: Is it because of it’s spiciness?
TT: It’s not authentic sushi. There’s this controversy about California Roll not being authentic but I agree and disagree. There’s a story or rather several stories of how it was made. In Japan you can get raw fish anywhere but back in the day (in the US), people didn’t have access to raw fish or sashimi. So the person who made it learned about imitation crab, avocado, eggs, and cucumber. They used those ingredients to make it as close to how they had it back home. That’s innovation. California Roll wasn’t an imitation, it was a way to adapting it with the ingredients they had access to. They used innovation to make it and Music is like that too. For example, if you live in the US, there are boom boxes everywhere, in their cars and on the streets. In Tokyo, there aren’t too many. We tried to respect the music created in the US and created something with what we had and that eventually evolved into J-pop. The sushi analogy applies to music as well in reverse. That’s where the originality comes in.
KKS: So Tommy’s Burger, Spicy Tuna Roll, and California Rolls.
TT: What else! My friend takes me everywhere but I like going grocery shopping because we don’t have Cookie Crisps in Japan. And Betty Crocker Cake Mix. Oh and LA Galbi and soondubu.
KKS: It’s interesting to know how LA Galbi at Korean BBQ is an LA thing.
TT: That’s what LA’s about, it’s multicultural.
KKS: Given your long history in the music scene, there’s anyone you have not worked with but would like to very much?
TT: I would like to work with Dave Filoni. (Director of Star Wars: Clone Wars and The Mandolorian)
KKS: Want to work on a Star Wars?
TT: It doesn’t have to be Star Wars! I also want like to work with Maasaki Yuasa. He did Devilman Crybaby, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!. And also Shinichiro Watanabe again.
KKS: You worked with him on Space Dandy?
TT: Yeah and Carole & Tuesday. And aside from the visual people, I would love to work with iri, a singer from Japan.
KKS: Alright we’re coming to end but let’s go with one more, what do you want to share with your Los Angeles fans on your long awaited return?
TT: I have a long career, 25 years now. I’ve met a lot of fans and I’m really thankful for all the fans who love m-flo and my stuff. Very grateful that you like what I like to do. I’m very happy and also at the same time there are people who don’t know me either that I’m from Japan or it could be a generation thing not having been back for a while. So I hope I can introduce myself to new fans and they’ll like what I do.
KKS: Introducing yourself to a new generation.
TT: Yeah, it could be older people as well. I’m still a rookie. Doing this for this long doesn’t mean I’m big. I would like to continue my music creation and connect with people who have similar interest as I do. And I appreciate you for giving me an opportunity to introduce me to other people I haven’t met yet.
TT: I still like new things. I keep on doing new things and keep looking forward. I don’t like to look bac because I’ll feel old, but I start to realize what I’ve done. Though I’ve hated listening to my old stuff, I do like what I made back then. It has caused miscommunication with my fans who liked my old music and it offended them. (Laugh) The Japanese music scene is evolving now. In 2012, I said f*** J-pop. I said it because it stopped evolving. It’s evolving very fast now and it’s exciting and I’m hoping there will be more people listening to Japanese music as well as mine. I should be wrapping my solo project too soon.
KKS: We’re very much looking forward to that!
Thank you again to FAKESTAR again for the opportunity.