The song was “Mon Oncle”,
from a French film. I watched the film by Jacques Tati
in the fifth grade. The music impressed me,
so I rushed to the record shop, and I bought a record of “Mon Oncle”
sung by a Japanese singer. That was the first record I bought. Understand? You know well. Thanks. Japan was quite distant from
other countries back then, so… we weren’t able to get
the latest records. I wanted the soundtrack
but they didn’t have it. They had a version of “Mon Oncle”
by a Japanese jazz singer, I had to buy it.
I had no other option. Jacques Tati is popular now
in Tokyo, maybe all over Japan. A DVD box set including
a documentary about him was just released, I recommend you buy it.
It’s really interesting. Like old silent films, his films are centered on
the music and Tati’s movements. That kind of film is hard to make. Without Tati, this kind of film
wouldn’t be possible. Tati’s films induce
much calmer laughter than Chaplin’s, more like chuckling or giggling. I really would like you all to watch one. Yes. Well… The first comedian for me
was Charlie Chaplin. His short films were on TV. Then, when I was in the sixth grade, American comedy films
were released in Japan. I went to watch, by myself,
a film by Jerry Lewis. He’s still active. I imitated his way of moving and sitting. He was my hero. But adults didn’t like Lewis,
they said he was silly. Got it? I was born in 1947, which was two years after
the end of World War II. It was the time,
as in France and Germany, I guess, that a huge wave of American music
came to Japan. So I grew up with American culture. I always listened to that music on FEN, the US military radio station. So almost all of the music
I listened to was in English. I was thoroughly Americanized,
I even regretted that I wasn’t American. Many of my favorite groups
were from California. The psychedelic movement was happening there
when I was a teenager. Groups like Moby Grape, and Buffalo Springfield.
A lot of legendary groups were there. I covered their songs in English. I felt their music was somehow profound. The key to their music was that… they brought the essence of
American roots music into their sound. That led to their originality. We realised that, and we thought about
what our own roots were. We were disconnected from our own roots. Traditional Japanese music,
like Shamisen or Shakuhachi, I knew nothing about it. The only clue was words. I mean lyrics in the literary sense. Novels and the language of poets
in the Taisho era were beginning to
strongly influence me at that time. Though I learned the importance of roots
from west coast groups, the direct influence was from
Japanese literature, especially poetry. That’s my background. Right. It was… 1973, or perhaps 1972.
I don’t exactly recall when. In LA, California, there is a famous studio called
Sunset Sound Recorders, where… we recorded Happy End’s third album. I don’t know how we got there.
Someone arranged it for us, I guess, Suddenly Van Dyke Parks
visited the studio. He’s a great musician. He was with Lowell George, the guitarist from group Little Feat. They came in, and
we got caught up in their pace. That was a really new experience for us. For example, their recording method was… very Western. It was very layered, let’s say.
We learned that method. Before that our style was flat
like Japanese picture scrolls. We hadn’t thought about depth. We learned that from Parks. Understand? He was really a crazy man. He was high when we first met. I wanted to stay away from him.
I didn’t like him. He first gave a speech
in the middle of the studio. Like a monologue. It was about the Japanese emperor. We were so puzzled, Who is this guy?
That was about when we first met. I met him again when he was sober.
He was nice. We are still friends. I like him a lot. When Parks was young,
he made his debut album “Song Cycle.” It was too difficult for us. And he released “Discover America”
about the time we first met. It was an excellent album,
still highly regarded. Parks started his career
as a child actor in Hollywood. He played in the movie “The Swan.” It’s still shown sometimes. He studied music under a famous teacher. Aaron Copland, maybe. Anyway, he learned from a maestro. With that academic base, his orchestration was professional. He did film music, too. His ideas are extraordinary, though. For instance… on “Discover America”, he hired an arranger,
but he also did arrangements. The same lines and chords, but separate string arrangements. It’s a bit complicated. He put these two arrangements together
at the recording for the first time. This is an amazing idea. I was surprised because
no one had done it before. It was really magical. I listened to Martin Denny a lot
when I was a kid. On the radio.
His music was called “jungle sound.” Animals calling and birds singing. It was probably called “Quiet Village.” Those music remained in me for years and I suddenly remembered
about it around 1972. But I couldn’t find the record. I asked a collector to
copy it on a cassette. I began to listen to it everyday. Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny… These Americans living in Hawaii, I felt empathy with them. Not America, not Japan.
The idea of Hawaii was right for me. It was so appealing. I also listened to his “Firecracker”,
which YMO covered later. I was originally a bassist. In Happy End, I had to sing
because it was my turn. We needed some more songs
to make an album. I first thought,
“What? I have to sing?” I was terrible on the first album.
I don’t even want to hear it. Gradually I learned how to sing, In the 70s, A plenty of singer-songwriters
came into its scene. I mean, in the US. Like James Taylor. My voice is low so I used to listen
to artists with that kind of voice. Tom Rush, and others. I thought “OK, maybe I can sing too.” You know every songs were with high notes
The Beach Boys before that. I was singing low-range “Surfin’ USA.” I don’t want to watch. No choice. It was 40 years ago. This one. I’ll say something later. Thanks. Can I say something? I was even more emotionless then,
and I was… missing teeth. Two musicians don’t care about
missing teeth: me, and Jerry Dammers. Someone said that. That’s all. My stage name was Harry Hosono. It was inspired by
Japanese Americans in Hawaii. In Japan, there were many
comedians with westernized names, like Frankie Sakai or Tani Kei.
I was sort of playing a role of comedian. Exotica musicians appreciated
something far away, and something different.
I was trying to… become that exotic world.
It was a bit strange. If you go to back streets
or downtown Tokyo, you’ll see some exotic cityscapes. I was on a trip somewhere like that. Sort of a psychedelic world. It was more like
hand-made production with friends, with no business plan. A friend of mine brought me
this cover art before the recording. The “Tropical Dandy” art was done
before the music. The artwork had a strong impact on me. Actually it was reflected in the sound. I didn’t ask him to do the art. He just made it. He brought it just before the recording. Good timing. It always happens to me.
Timing drives things forward. I’m lazy. I don’t do anything. Just make a wish. The artist is Tadanori Yokoo.
I believe you all know him. At that time, he was deeply into saucers. Flying saucers. He wrote about them. I really appreciated exotic sound
at that time, but… India seemed a bit too much,
and I hesitated to visit. But when I went to Yokoo’s atelier, he soon asked me to go to India. I just answered “Yes”, and I was there a month later. I was offered a job by the Tourist Bureau,
so we went around India for a month. I noticed that
Yokoo was talking about work. He said, “We have to make an album
after this trip.” I didn’t know,
but he said that was my job. That’s how it was made. There were… so many troubles in India.
It’s a long story. Not now. I got sick first. It was terrible. I don’t drink alcohol. We shouldn’t have had ice in India. We were at a hotel, everybody was drinking
whisky with ice, so I guess the germs were
killed by alcohol. But I got some powerful germs
directly in my system. It was terrible.
I thought it might be cholera. My face had the shadow of death. I looked like a dead man,
and nobody came near me. I kept throwing up… and down. You know. Diarrhea. I struggled for about three weeks, I thought I’d die. It’s a long story. When we were in Chennai, A Japanese consular chief officer
came to me. He worried about my medical problem. He said his wife made Japanese cuisine. He invited Yokoo-san, other members
and me to his house. Yokoo-san had similar as me and
also had a stomach ache. So, we went to his house and
I ate Japanese salmon set meal. The meal totally recovered my condition. The officer’s wife has a big face,
like this. She wore a dress and a pearl necklace. She gave us a Japanese bow,
putting her fingers on the floor. She was strange in a way. She sat in front of us
while we ate. Then, she said
“Your sickness will recover.” After eating, we really recovered.
That was very strange. And another thing,
I saw a flying saucer. Thank you. This was the first I played on
the computer-controlled Moog synthesizer. And also an old synthesizer
connected by KORG patch cables. Music was all composed by a synthesizer. It was the first time to compose
all with a synthesizer. I have to tell you something first. I heard that Isao Tomita was here
for this session. Tomita-san recorded an album
“Clair De Lune” with al Debussy’s music. That was years and years ago. When I first heard it
I was completely stunned. The articulations were so rich,
Debussy’s taste was well reproduced. The music was controlled by computer. So, I knew I have to find and meet
Hideki Matsutake, who was a manipulator on that album. When I found him out,
I went to meet him and asked him to work with me on
our new album “Cochin Moon.” The album would’ve never been done
without him. That was when I was still a very
beginner on computers. So, I was shocked. Coincidentally, Ryuichi Sakamoto was
also looking for him. Matsutake-san had
all those instruments and equipments. Moog and Arp. All the expensive wall-like
kind of gears and stuffs. It was too expensive for us to buy. But he had it, so working together
brought all of us meaning. Needless to say, his sound manipulation
speed was really fast. He manipulated instruments
like a register at a supermarket. None of us could do this at that time, but we later came to handle those well. The prices for
this kind of equipment dropped. And we slowly parted ways. This track was composed with
a rhythm box made by Ace Tone. Rhythm speed was controlled manually. The sound like a gamelan-style bongo, it was a child’s toy…
What can I say? Tekkin (metallophone)?
I don’t know. Anyway, a child’s toy. So, it was not a traditional
instrument or something. I liked to create sounds with
something around me at random. This track is like that, isn’t it? Actually I used to be a session player,
a bassist. Sakamoto was a keyboard player
in a studio. He and I got to know each other. When I was in college,
I met Yukihiro Takahashi. He performed in both my band and
his band, and we played together. He was young and cocky but hip. I asked him if he was interested to
create a new musical unit. At that time he was playing for
the Sadistics, an instrumental band. And we really were getting stuck. So when I asked him to join,
he accepted. Sakamoto sort of joined in doubt like
“What are we gonna do?!” This all happened
from the late 1970’s to 1980. He’s basically an aranger, and
hadn’t played in a band. So, he was afraid of
forming with other musicians. So I convinced him to use
this opportunity as a stepping stone. And he did so. All of sudden we were asked
to appear on “Soul Train.” And it was like “For real?” We believed America accepted our music, as we played “Tighten Up” and
“Firecracker” making it on the R&B chart. A lot of musicians say
they were influenced by YMO, like Afrika Bambaataa, which didn’t seem to be strange
to me then, but now that I think of it,
it is a bit weird. The president of Alfa Records
came to us, while YMO was making the first album. He encouraged us to play fusion, cause he didn’t understand
what we were doing. It was actually a company
promoting fusion. It had “Alfa Fusion Festival”
which I was a part of it. And that was our debut. Tommy LiPuma from the States
was in the audience to see us. And he seemed to be inspired
by our music. Tommy said he wanted to do
something with us and the president invested
a lot of money, and we did our first world tour. I was surprised to see
kids listening to “Rydeen”, when we came back. Kunihiko Murai was
the president of Alfa Records. He had the respect for Ahmet Ertegun
of Atlantic Recording Corporation. Also he enjoyed a friendship with
Julie Moss of A&M. He wanted to launch a company
just like them in Japan. The Japanese music scene at the time
was following a strong sense of traditions. He wanted to put up a new genre. Then Yumi Arai, Yuming came into ths scene.
So there were Yuming, and us, YMO. His plan was successful
and even incredible. There was no phrase equivalent of
Techno-Pop at that time. Kraftwerk was already popular at that time, and this kind of music was
still obscure in Japan. Our music didn’t appeal
to Japanese people. It sounded more like a toy music or
a one-hit wonder. It was oblivious to all but us. We were excited however. I wanted to remix “Firecracker” with a computer, and to know how doing that changed
a classical music piece by Martin Denny. That was one of our experiments. Disco became a fad out there. Dance music was a common language then. We hoped more people
would check out our music. I’m basically a shy guy. I wouldn’t even like to go public like this. Our music happened to hit
the chart and I had an awful time. I was too famous to walk around. I knew what it was like to be a baseball player. As the dust settled,
I was liberated at last. I love to be free. I never want to go for big projects.
I had it enough. The more money a project cost,
The more terrible I feel. Japanese are quiet. I saw John Lennon at Karuizawa,
but thought better to leave him alone. Most of Japanese are like me. I used to go disco and clubs. Sounds too noisy to talk at there.
Anyone had to dance. I only followed Kraftwerk,
as their music’s on I would start dancing. Right. I met Ralf two years ago. We performd on the same stage,
but not together. We had a chance to have some food together
after it. He sat next to me and asked me, “When are you born in?” I was born in 1947,
and he was born a year earlier than me. That frustrated him. He complained of
being the oldest of us. It was funny. Age is important. I have always been the oldest among friends
since the Happy End years. And I’m also the oldest in here. Thank you. The ’80s was really a period
when great changes occurred in terms of making music. This was because the equipment
quickly evolved. When I made this album, a musical
sampler called the Emulator was released and I bought one
even though it was expensive. I was really excited. Sampling was
an important concept at the time. The Emulator is an American product and Stevie Wonder got the first unit. It had serial numbers on it
and mine was 060. I decided to record
a whole album with it, and “Philharmony” was the result. When you listen to it, it sounds normal.
The Emulator was a sampler, so it could sample live sounds.
It was an interesting instrument then. I first learned to use a computer. It was a sequencer called the MC-4
by a Japanese company called Roland, a computer that specialized
in making music. It had a ten key keyboard, and the length, volume,
and pitch of the sounds could all be programmed using numbers. For instance, the note C, or Do, is 36 or 48. You input numbers like that. And it was no trouble at all.
It was enjoyable. So… I learned how to analyze and assemble
sound for the first time. And as I was absorbed in
such a fun process, that album was done before I knew it,
so it was no trouble. It might have looked like it though. Because I was sleeping on the studio
floor and working like that. No need for applause. We called them arcade games, and those video games were everywhere
at the time. All three YMO members loved playing
those games. You could play them in coffee shops
as well. The famous “Space Invaders.” I didn’t know where they were from, but as a techno musician,
I felt close to that industry. Then I found out that
Taito is a Japanese company. I thought, “These are Japanese?” “So Tokyo is a ‘Technopolis’ after all!” I felt really excited by that
and played those games a lot. Day in and day out, I played those tabletop video games
found in coffee shops and restaurants obsessively. Then that one called “Xevious” came out. It was so fun. I played it
until I could clear the stages. I don’t play them anymore though. What was the question? Anyway, the times were like that. Everyone from kids to adults
began playing video games. And the record company said to me, “Please produce an album like this,”
so I did. That’s the story. It was the record company. I didn’t contact the people
who made the hardware, but there were many people
making the music. Game music was made
using FM oscillators, which is a very limited type
of tone generator. I met with the creators
of the game music. I didn’t make the “Xevious” track,
Mr. Endo did. I met the game music creators and said
I wanted to reproduce their sound. I converted their sound
with the sequencer. I reproduced the music
using a synthesizer. That much I remember.
The rest I’ve forgotten. The sound effects from video games
were essential to YMO from the very beginning. For the first half of “Firecracker” we converted the sound from what we
called “balloon games” and used that. That was how fun
video games were at the time. So without sound effects,
it didn’t feel right. That’s why we reproduced the explosions
and other such sounds. Those sounds are music, too. We were the only ones who gave
game music any attention. Normally it’s something that would be
considered to be like Muzak, but the music for games like “Xevious”
and “Super Mario Brothers” were excellent. There were composers who made them. And I thought it was a good idea
to record their music for posterity. It wasn’t very common back then.
It became quite a hit. The more difficult making music becomes,
the more enjoyable it goes. So I’d say it was fun. But behind all the fun, there’s always
a certain amount of difficulty. That was Ryuichi Sakamoto’s specialty,
not mine. He talked about Stockhausen a lot. His music was a bit too difficult for me. Not just German, though, for example John Cage’s works
for prepared piano influenced me. And… I can’t recall their names… I also liked Philip Glass. It was a transition period then and say,
Michael Nyman would hit the charts. A kind of mutual approach was happening, and pop and contemporary music
were getting closer at the time, so I didn’t listen to only difficult music. I liked pop music. Go ahead. Right now he’s recuperating
from a throat illness in New York. I enjoy working with him very much. We do stuff now with him on piano
and me on guitar. Hello. About Rainbow 2000, which was the first outdoor techno rave
in Japan. I enjoy watching the documentary
about it, and in it, you… When techno was big in Japan
and everyone was playing it, you were playing electronica
and ambient music, and in the interview afterwards
you said, “From now on,” “ambient will evolve
and everyone will play it.” “But by then I’ll be doing
something else.” I said that? Yes. And your words really inspired
and encouraged me, and I’ve continued to make music. What kind of music do you
find interesting now, Mr. Hosono? There was a time in the early 2000s
that I was completely absorbed in electronica. But things like that lose their appeal when conventions are born
and everyone follows suit. Ambient was the same. When everyone
began doing formulaic things, the essence of the music faded and
the true sound became unrecognizable. Just listening to the first bar of the music
is enough to understand. What the person who made it
was thinking. It doesn’t lie. Ambient music is especially like that,
so it’s actually quite formidable. The real artists of ambient music
emerged from the late ’80s to the ’90s. In the ’90s, I was also adrift in the sea of ambient music. But I was resetting myself
during this time. The period up to the year 2000
was like that for me. The Millennium came and went
but nothing happened. Apathy was in the air,
but I’d been resetting myself so I was drawn to pop music once again. When I was into ambient,
pop was annoying. It sounded worldly. But I gradually came ashore
and am now back in that world. Right now I’m loving boogie-woogie
from the ’40s. Don’t you listen to my recent work?
Just kidding. Thank you. It’s difficult to explain. Japanese traditional painting, Ukiyoe it’s described as well defined flat. It lacks the articulation
of closeness and distance. Since Japanese people may
have this sense by nature, we arrange music in line
with those rules as well. But there’s the Western
notion of perspective. Its techniques are very logical where the eye of the viewer
is drawn into the distance. Western music also
composes with those rules. Like an echo processing. There’re many
different methods. We’re working on popular music,
so we have to keep on studying. Van Dyke Parks brought us
the depth and dimension by his music. We understood
the importance of this method. Of course, it’s important
in that recording and mixing. But it doesn’t have much to do with a band. You’re well informed. I’ve seen a lot of her recently. She is pursuing a singing style
called crooning or crooner. The style popularized in U.S. in the 1940s. This is about recording technique. She has released her new album,
“Madame Crooner.” It’s a jazz collection of covers
mainly of standards with her French style approach,
it’s fantastic. Please listen. You know, I think
it’s my generation problem. I believe that my generation
has a very unique fate. About American culture,
as I’ve mentioned before. We had an intense longing
for the postwar U.S. It was the first time
I danced boogie-woogie. When I was a little kid
with SP records, I bounced around to the music.
Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman and that sort of music. I think that’s why I like boogie-woogie. I’m working on such music.
I want young people to listen to them. It’s my strong desire. Boogie-woogie is interesting for me now. British people are celebrated for their really good wits. And cynical jokes.
The Beatles represent it directly. Monty Python followed
in their footsteps. But I don’t quite understand them. I can’t keep up with
their jokes. They are too eccentric. How about Japan? We had The Crazy Cats. It’s what we call
a Japanese comic jazz band. It’s likes Spike Jones in the US. It’s like something called novelty music. Everyone has already
forgotten it. It’s an important music with humor. It’s created to provoke humor.
Music is not only love songs. I mean it’s not only about love stories. I think it imitated Monty Python, Snakeman show started
from a radio broadcast. I listened it every week since its
music and jokes are simply interesting. But I heard the radio show
came to an end. I got in touch with the show, because
it was too great to come to an end. I wanted to release the show’s record
and they agreed with me. The Snakeman show featured
three comedians consisting of a writer and two disc jockeys. Katsuya Kobayashi who
speaks English fluently. Masatoh Eve, he is an actor.
They continue to work actively. They’re really interesting.
I might join them again. I think I’m unique, and different
from a lot of the other musicians. So, I don’t know whether
it is useful or not. You think I seem boring, but the most
important thing is to enjoy music. I’m very happy with music. But life is not all fun for people
who established their styles. They have to work hard like athletes do. Fortunately, I’m a musician. If I were a singer, I would have to
strengthen my throat like an athlete. The worst thing is
my voice is getting hoarse. I just want to go easy. Does it make sense? As you already know, the massive earthquake
hit Tohoku including Fukushima. Many people pretty much stopped
listening to music from that day. So did I. I also couldn’t listen
to amusing stories. Then I stopped watching comedies. Fast forward three years, Many people could feel
these actual emotions fading away. But no one knows
when the earthquake will hit again. We’re in a place where
earthquakes could hit us anytime. Well, what should I say… My future life is now limited
and I can’t relive my past. 20th century music
means the world to me. It will be forgotten as if it’s going to become extinct. I want to do what I experienced before,
such as boogie-woogie. I want to stay free in order to
express myself in my own way. I want to show beat and groove. I don’t want to use computer technology. I just want to continue to perform live. I know it’s a really difficult thing. Japan has changed drastically
since World War II. There’s no longer people
who would inherit our traditions. Some professional singers
sing folk songs and ballads. We still have genres of
standard Japanese pop and Enka as well. These booms have been cooling down
and suffering talent shortages. I think that such things are
going on around the world. Despite this situation,
some young people decided to pass these traditions
down to the future. Everyone has to manage everything
by itself without any system. They’re expected to accomplish something
individually with their instincts. So, a person who has talent tries everything. Trying to
work on a traditional music and techno, as well. I like this free chaotic state in Japan. I can’t wait to see
the new next creation from Japan. YMO sampled sound materials like
raw sounds, sounds from a city. They’re our original sounds.
We didn’t copy at all. But in more recent years,
times have changed. Various sampling music became fads. Some of them become controversial. For example, about YMO, I believe Jennifer Lopez
sampled “Firecracker.” But nobody complained about it.
No one blinked an eye. On the other hand, when YMO and
Snakeman Show released an album that contained a sample from Elmer Bernstein. I don’t remember how the music
is called in English. It’s “The Magnificent Seven.” The theme song is fantastic.
It’s instrumental. We only used its intro
but Bernstein asked us for his credit and royalties.
They’re expensive. We won’t let it happen again. Thank you.
Thank you very much.