Talked to bo en about his new EP for Metropolis
I’ve recently started contributing a bit for Metropolis magazine here in Tokyo, and my latest piece is an interview with bo en about his latest EP with Sugar’s Campaign singer Akio.
“Calum Bowen is no stranger to singing over his whirlwind pop, and the London-based artist who releases music as bo en figured his vocals were bound to pop up on his newest collaborative project with Japanese singer Keita Hatada. He says that, initially, the last song on the pair’s recently released Bokura No Irotoridori EP would be a duet, a back-and-forth affair.
“But he’s really good, and I sounded bad next to him,” Bowen says with a laugh from a yakitori restaurant in Ogikubo. “The blend just didn’t work that well.”
Writing about Maltine Records for The Japan Times
Revisited an online label I love for The Japan Times, Maltine Records, which will hold a big event this weekend in Shibuya. Talked to founder Tomad about it, and the state of the imprint.
“Music runs online in 2016. Songs become smash hits via YouTube, while global superstars command attention by giving exclusives to streaming services. Looking back at a time when web-only artists were novel seems absurd now.
“‘Around 2010, I think the internet music scene really existed separate from the indie and major scenes,” says Tomohiro Konuta, founder of online imprint Maltine Records. “But now, lots of artists become big from Soundcloud or Bandcamp. In a way, everything is internet music. It isn’t really special anymore.'”
Talking to Yasutaka Nakata and Oliver Heldens for The Japan Times
Two new features in The Japan Times this week. I had a larger feature about artist and producer Yasutaka Nakata, ahead of his festival.
“Yasutaka Nakata’s schedule tonight is packed. He’s being photographed by a Japanese magazine in a basement studio after 10 p.m. on a Friday, and it’s taking a little longer than expected. After this he’ll have a (very) late dinner before heading to Tokyo’s east end to do an early-morning DJ set at club ageHa.
The months ahead don’t look any less chaotic. He mentions “deadlines” for electro-pop trio Perfume, bubbly performer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and a number of young music acts hoping to get that same digi-pop shine that Nakata has become known for as a producer and composer. And that’s just the tip, he has even more personal projects to undertake ranging from his duo Capsule to his solo work as a DJ.”
Writing a guide to Korean electronic indie music for Bandcamp
Returned to Bandcamp with a large feature about Korea’s burgeoning indie electronic scene, featuring interviews with a lot of artists.
“Earlier this year, Seoul synth-pop artist Neon Bunny embarked on a tour that took her to Austin, Texas for South By Southwest and a jaunt around Europe. Wherever she went, she was labeled as a K-Pop artist by journalists and promoters.
“Yeah, it’s a really freaky thing to me. I’m not a K-Pop artist in Korea. If I go abroad, though, I’m a K-Pop artist,” Neon Bunny (real name Yoojin Lim) says from her apartment in the capital of South Korea. She loves Korean pop music—Lim recommends checking out the debut from Blackpink and Cosmic Girl’s “Secret”—but says she feels strange being given the description.”
Two new CD reviews in The Japan Times: Nishino Kana and Snail’s House
CD reviews are back in The Japan Times, and I covered two of the summer’s highlights — Nishino Kana’s Just Lovebut so much more) producer Snail’s House. Read that one here.
Writing about Kento Yamada for The Japan Times
This week in The Japan Times, I talked to a member of rising band yahyel…and a very successful video director, Kento Yamada.
“Music in 2016 is every bit as focused on the eyes as it is the ears. Videos play a pivotal role in helping artists stand out in the digital age. One viral clip can break a previously unknown name, or bling up existing acts.
“’When I’m making a music video, it’s almost like I’m constructing how people will view the band,’ visual artist and video director Kento Yamada says, tired but thoughtful after a night of filming. ‘I can almost decide how the world will see these bands, since YouTube has such strong power.'”
Covered Summer Sonic — featuring Radiohead, Underworld and more — for The Japan Times
Went to the Summer Sonic music festival outside of Tokyo last weekend, and reported on it for The Japan Times.
“Few bands can draw a massive round of applause for 15 minutes of ambient music, but that’s just what Radiohead received at the start of its Sunday night headlining set at this year’s Tokyo leg of Summer Sonic.
The crowd at the main Marine Stage in QVC Marine Field was losing it well before the British band played a single note, though, whooping every time the stage lights dimmed.”
Reviewing Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol. 4 for Pitchfork
Latest for Pitchfork is a review of the great Atomic Bomb Compilation Vol.4, a great collection of juke and a politically charged set too.
“Nuclear energy produces anxiety in Japan. Long a controversial topic, it became a renewed source of worry following the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi power plant during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Fears stirred by the aftermath—and of similar incidents occurring—caused a nationwide furor in subsequent years, leading citizens across the nation to speak out about how little they trusted the government tasked with harnessing a nuclear program. Anger over Fukushima even drew out a group that isn’t always eager to get political in Japan—musicians. Long constrained by commercial commitments, performers such as Ryuichi Sakamoto and Kazuyoshi Sato criticized the government’s handling of the situation online and appeared at protests against nuclear power. Still, many artists chose to express anger and worry through heavy metaphor rather than directly, if at all.”
Ahead of Summer Sonic, talked to the fest’s founder for The Japan Times
One of Japan’s largest summer music festivals, Summer Sonic, happens this weekend, and I talked to the event’s founder Naoki Shimizu about this year’s edition, dream headliners that didn’t happen and the challenges of working in China for The Japan Times.
“Creativeman President Naoki Shimizu says he had the perfect idea for this year’s Sonicmania. The event, an all-night party that comes ahead of Creativeman’s Summer Sonic music festival, would feature EDM heavyweight Skrillex and long-running synthpop outfit New Order as the headliners, bringing out young fans and seasoned punters in equal droves.
Unfortunately, this fantasy booking couldn’t happen due to scheduling, so Shimizu decided to nix Sonicmania altogether.”
Writing about Virgin Babylon Records for The Japan Times
Two of my favorite albums of 2016 came out in May via Virgin Babylon Records…and in a stroke of good timing, I talked to the head of the label (and the artist Metoronori) for The Japan Times:
“It is surprising to hear Katsuhiko Maeda say one of the unifying traits found on his Virgin Babylon Records releases is “pop.” The artists putting out music through the imprint touch on many sounds, from dramatic metal to macabre spoken-word electronica — not exactly radio-friendly fare.”