Having started producing her own music at an astonishingly early age (in grade five or grade six, by her recollection) 4s4ki released her first full album in 2020, and makes her Fuji Rock debut this year. I caught up with her via Zoom, to get a feel for where she is headed.
Tiernan: At what age did you first get interested in producing music?
4s4ki: It was in the fifth or sixth grade that I first made music by myself. When I was very young I played the Electone, but I couldn’t read sheet music, so I tried to learn songs by ear. Gradually, through that, I developed the ability to compose musical arrangements by ear. And, that’s how I started producing my own music, towards the end of elementary school.
Tiernan: Of course, since you are Japanese – and might write most of your lyrics in Japanese – I’d like to know which Japanese artists influenced your music. However, since I am introducing you to a western audience, I’d also like to know if there were any western influences on your musical debut.
4s4ki: I’d say I wanted to be a (music) producer from the get go, so people like Nakata Yasutaka and Porter Robinson were my greatest influences. Of course, they are primarily track makers, and they also perform in front of people.
Tiernan: I listened to some of your earliest tracks, and some of your most recent work. And, it seems to me that when you started out, your music was more gentle, but it seems to have gotten darker and harder as you went along. Is that correct, or how do you feel about this?
4s4ki: In the early stages, (I think) my skills were not good enough to express what I wanted to do. So, I was doing what I liked and what I could do at the time. However, over time, my skills developed – and I also liked Japanese anime songs – so, over time, those became an influence as my skills got better. And, you know, what you pointed out (about how I started off gentle and then became more agressive) is something I agree with.
Tiernan: I am a bit of a gear nerd, and I know there are many of us around the world. So, on behalf of all people like me, I’d like to ask you about your signal chain; from your choice of instruments, and microphones, to processors, etc. In short, could you please tell us about your favorite pieces of gear, as well as your signal chains, and processors that you like to use; from your sources to your software choices?
4s4ki: I use Logic, in terms of a DAW. I tried a few other DAW’s, but they never felt comfortable to me. I’m also a big fan of piano sounds, so I like using a MIDI piano which can get me a good piano sound. I’m not one to pay too much attention to the model names of my gear but, in terms of brands, I’m using an M-Audio keyboard with 61 keys, mostly, as well as a Blue mic. The mic was a gift, so I don’t really remember the model name. I am not much of a gear nerd. I’ll use whatever is in front of me – if it feels good – and do whatever I can with it.
Tiernan: I hear that Björk has a similar approach….
4s4ki: Yeah, and I hear that Grimes makes her own sounds as well, so that’s what I aspire to do.
Tiernan: Could you please tell me some of your favorite songs that you’d like to present – particularly – to western audiences?
4s4ki: This July (2021) I released an album called “Castle in Madness” on which you can find a track called “Obon,”; about the Japanese festival of the same name, to honor one’s departed loved ones. And, I don’t know if any western countries have this type of custom, but that is part of Japanese culture in the summertime. And, I hope that people in western countries can enjoy this sample of Japanese culture.
Tiernan: Have you ever performed overseas and, if you have not, where are some places that you’d like to perform?
4s4ki: In terms of performing overseas, I performed at a festival in Taiwan in 2019. And, from now on, I’d like to perform all around the world.
Tiernan: What were your favorite performances of your career so far?
4s4ki: On my birthday, on March 11th of this year, I had a solo show that I really liked. And, before, I didn’t really rehearse much for shows. But, for that one, I put in a lot of preparation time, so I feel that it was my best performance so far.
Tiernan: What can fans expect from you at Fuji Rock this year? Will it be something different to what you’ve done before?
4s4ki: I am going to use a new instrument at Fuji Rock this year, and I have a new song to perform. So, I hope that people will enjoy it. Also, like the show I did for my birthday, I put my soul into the lighting; so I hope people will enjoy that as well. I will also play piano by myself at Fuji Rock 2021, which is something that people cannot hear on my albums.
Tiernan: I heard a rumor that – despite the fact that you released a new album in July of 2021 – that you actually have a new recording in the works. Is that true? If so, what can we expect, and when might it be coming out?
4s4ki: I am planning to release something new by the end of this year. It’s a collaboration with another artist, but the person’s name isn’t being publicly revealed yet.
Tiernan: Do you have a message for your potential foreign fans who might come to see you, or might want to check out your music?
4s4ki: I’ve never been to the Fuji Rock festival before, so I find it quite amazing to be going there for the first time as an artist. And, during my set, I am going to give you the coolest, most attractive performance I can, while bringing you the best music I have. So, I hope everyone can come and watch my set. Also, for those who cannot attend the festival, please be ready for my new releases which will be coming out in the future.
Tiernan: Thank you very much for that, and thank you very much for doing this interview, 4s4ki!
4s4ki: Thank you very much!
4s4ki makes her Fuji Rock debut on August 22 (Sun) from 21:00 to 21:45 on the RED MARQUEE stage.
The Latin-ska-hip-hop band Zoo comes from Valencia, Spain, and though it’s their first time at Fuji Rock, several Zoo band members have played the festival before. The bands Obrint Pas and La Grossa Sorda are well remembered for rocking the damn house with wild Spanish horn-fueled punk at both the White Stage and super fun late-night parties at the Crystal Palace Tent. Zoo is a contemporary evolution of these sounds. Imagine a merging a ska band with, hip hop MCs, and a raging Barcelona dance club, and that’s pretty much what you get with Zoo. When they play in Europe, it’s a giant Latin house party and audiences are in the thousands. Now they’re coming to Fuji Rock 2019 for sets at the White Stage and Crystal Palace, and also to the Tokyo Wednesday night pre-event on July 24, Radical Music Network. We caught up with band leader and MC Panxo for an email interview to learn a bit more about the band. From the sounds of it, the message is: Fujirockers! Put your hands up! And get ready to dance!
Italian group Banda Bassotti have been likened to the Clash for mixing ska, punk and a fight for social equality, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. They also rock the house in a very major way, so expect them to whip the crowd into a frenzy when they play on Fuji Rock’s White Stage on Sunday, July 28. This is Banda Bassotti’s third visit to Fuji Rock, though the last time they were were here was 14 years ago in 2005. A lot has happened since then: In 2006 the group released a song called “Fuji Rock” on their album Vecchi Cani Bastardi. Last year, founding member and vocalist Angelo Conti passed away, with tributes stretching from Rome to Japan. We caught up with the band’s manager Luca Fornasier to talk about Banda Bassotti, two decades of coming to Japan, and his own upcoming DJ sets as Goldfinger Selecta at both Fuji Rock and at the Tokyo pre-fest party, Radical Music Network.
The Waterboys appeared at Fuji Rock in 2014 for the first time, and will be returning to Naeba this year. The UK band was formed in 1983, centered on Mike Scott. Mike has been known as one of the UK’s greatest songwriters for over 40 years, with many other artists covering his songs; for example “The Whole Of The Moon” covered by Prince. We got an opportunity to interview Mike during his recent stay in Japan. He talks about his previous appearance at Fuji Rock and looks ahead to this year’s festival appearance.
Imagine bypassing railway stations and boarding your very own private vehicle for Fuji Rock. Enjoy the comfort of cup holders, electric outlets, air-con, and bunk beds. Keep your beverages chilled and your rucksack tucked away. Best of all, when it rains, you will be 100% watertight.
As for the amenity that many ask about, “only use it in an emergency” is what the rental lot attendant instructed before we headed off down the highway.
Starting last year, with the addition of Craft Beer Market at Fuji Rock, bringing along 4 booths of the country’s top brewers and importers, (concurrently offering a total of around 20 different craft beers at one time) the standard for quality beer at the festival was substantially raised. This was great news for beer fans all throughout Naeba. READ MORE
“Big Willie” McNeil is a long-time friend of Fuji Rock, playing just about as along as the Palace of Wonder has existed, also inhabiting new stages like Cafe de Paris. You could say these places were built for him and his love of burlesque, one of the first forms of musical theater. We had the good fortune to catch up with Willie as he was packing up feather boas for the flight over.
1. Tell me the truth Willie, do the burlesque girls look as good in the morning without the makeup?
It’s amazing what make up, push up bra’s, dancers fishnet tights and heels can do. False advertising actually! But they do call it make up… One time I did a big show in Chicago with around 20 dancers and the next morning on the flight home when everyone was in their sweats and tennis shoes, I didn’t even recognize some of the dancers who I didn’t know well!
2. What can we expect from you at Fuji this year?
A special international show! I have two Cuban musicians, an Italian guitarist, my Argentinian dancer Carolina plus for the special ‘G&G Orchestra’ show Elvis and two background singers. We’ll play Cuban and American music.
3. Any acts you looking forward to?
- July 17, 2018 ● Interviews
Vinyl mania has long been part of the Fuji Rock culture, including musicians, DJs, fans and the festival production team. Now that passion manifests as the Blue Galaxy Stage, an expansive circus tent powered by two turntables and a roster of DJs with truly immense collections of rare ska, reggae, world music, Japanese garage, and all manner of vinyl rarities. The man powering the Blue Galaxy is Jim West, a British vinyl nut who’s been coming to Fuji Rock for 20 years. He will DJ four and a half hours each evening of the festival (though only three hours on Sunday). Now a full-fledged festival area, the vinyl stage is in reality Jim’s baby. In 2011, he launched the Fuji Rock’s first vinyl-only DJ stage, Jim’s Vinyl Nasium as an experiment in the World Food Court. Over the following years, the Vinyl Nasium got better and better. After the 2016 Fuji Rock, the organizers couldn’t help but make it into a proper area, so in 2017, they expanded it to become the Blue Galaxy Tent. This year, guest DJs will include Sim Cas, the Cumbia Kid (aka Jason Mayall), Caribbean Dandy, Astro Black (US), DZ (Basque Countries), Koichi Hanafusa (Fujirockers.org), King Nabe and the Club Ska All-Stars and several others. Yet for the meat of each evening, it will be powered by Jim West and his fellow vinyl maniac Salam Unagami. To learn more of the backstory for this unique DJ stage, we caught up with Jim for a quick Q&A interview.
Sometimes a solo musician’s artistic evolution can progress in surprising ways. Tanizawa Tomofumi debuted as a pop singer-songwriter with good, quirky production and unique songwriting. After making a splash and a paycheck off of penning the opening theme for popular anime Kimi Ni Todoke, he spent a year traveling the world. The whole world. All the way to Antarctica and back. He returned significantly more psychedelically cosmic and with a lot of new world-music influences to add into what was already a super-strong pop sensibility. The result is some of the most sonically and artistically unique music to come out of any ‘singer-songwriter’ you could hope to find.