Apr 30, 2012

Currents: April 2012

Orguss 02 OST rereleased under a new title

Orguss 02 OST, one of the most sought-after Hikashu releases among collectors, will be resurfaced at last. The release date has been set on May 31, 2012. The new edition is remastered by Ono Seigen. Also it has a bonus track and new cover art, and it will be released as an original Hikashu album, under a new title "Fushigi o Mitsumete."

There should be no problem with the re-titling. Though it was originally released as a tie-in of a video animation series, the music itself is not directly related with the video in any way, and intended and recorded as a Hikashu album from the start. HMV has already listed the item and now takes pre-order. here

May 21 Update: The release of the album mentioned above is postponed to August 12, 2012.

More Reissue to Come

Now the reissue project of past Hikashu albums counts 11 titles, and there are still more to come. Just recently one item is added to the waiting list - "Acchi No Me, Kocchi No Me" [Dazzling Eyes] is a 1993 effort of the band, recorded in Berlin as its predecessor, "Hanauta Hajime."

What a notable the album is that it is only, up to now, a fully collaborated Hikashu album with artist outside the band; Lauren Newton is an American voice performer and educator who has been residing in Germany for years. She has performed with a lot of musicians, and had been a member of Vienna Art Orchestra. She participated in throughout the album, and contributed one composition. She even did a Japanese tour with the band.

The album is great. It focused on the possibilities of human voices, and Newton's performance on it is just incredible. You would know what we mean when you actually listen to it. Unfortunately the album has never been reissued before, and it's now hard to find. Although the release date is not available at this time, it's likely not too distant future.

Fuji Rock Festival 2012 update

It's officially announced that the appearance of Hikashu and company has been set on July 29 - the last day of the festival. But time slot and venue is still not yet open to the public. We'll let you know when things are disclosed.

Apr 26, 2012

Kuroyagi Shiroyagi the First Tour

Kuroyagi Shiroyagi, the bass-drums duo from Hikashu, will embark the first tour this weekend. They are already booked a date at Bar Isshee of Shibuya in late May as well. Though started as a unit of improvised music, they now play some original compositions. Especially "Chizuni Nai Shima" [The Uncharted Island] is a notable tune.

April 27 - Nanya, Nagoya
April 28 - Socio, Osaka
April 29 - Elevate, Osaka

May 30 - Bar Isshee, Tokyo

April 27, 2012
@ Nanya
at door - 2,800 yen
start 19:30

Nanya, Nagoya

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April 28, 2012
@ Socio
open 18:00 - start 18:30
adv 2,500 yen - at door 3,000 yen
other acts: ЯёSёT, DELILAH, and others

Socio, Osaka

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April 29, 2012
@ Elevate
open 14:00 - start 14:30
adv 2,500 yen - at door 3,000 yen
other acts: numerous to list

Elevate, Osaka

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Apr 20, 2012

Food (Iain ballamy, thomas strønen) with N P Molvaer now touring Japan

This is from the performance in Shinjuku last night.

Go see them if you could.

Don't miss it.

Related Entry:

Food (Thomas Strønen, Iain Ballamy) Japan Tour 2012 with N.P. Molvaer and Makigami

Hikashu will reunite with Godzilla Legend and Charan-Po-Rantan at Fuji Rock Festival 2012

They will do it again. Hikashu did a special concert with Godzilla Legend and Charan-Po-Rantan last year, and there will be a reunion at this year's Fuji Rock Festival, the biggest rock event in Japan.

The personnel and instrumentation are the same. 3 horns (trumpet, trombone, baritone saxophone/bass clarinet), a guitar, and double trio (2 keyboard, 2 bass and 2 drums) with 3 vocalists. All the members of Hikashu, Charan-Po-Rantan, a stellar cast from Japanese jazz scene including the members of Shibura Shirazu Orchestra, and the founder of Godzilla Legend (and ex-member of Hikashu), Inoue Makoto. All of them are to be present.

The godzilla legend's performance last year was just awesome. The sound was so full and thick. And Charan-Po-Rantan sang the famous tunes from classic Mothra movies.

Needless to say, the Hikashu's set was terrific as well. Having Inoue Makoto as a guest, they played nearly two hours (although there were three acts before them!). At the end of the gig, the audience was quite overwhelmed.

This is the second time for the band to perform at Fuji Rock. The first time was 2010 and it was also a memorable moment.

We'd say this is the great opportunity to see the band, and you should consider this seriously. Perhaps the band will play some rare tunes for the gig (as they did in 2010), and this time they team up with Godzilla Legend and Charan-Po-Rantan. This line-up may not be the last, but apparently not so often. This year's festival will be held on 27th, 28th & 29th July 2012.

Right now, there are many things still uncovered. For instance, the schedule is not announced so we cannot tell you which day Hikashu and co. will appear. We'll keep updating about the event so stay tuned.

Fuji Rock Festival official site

This year's line-up (more to come - still updating)

Fuji Rock Festival 2012

The introductory clip by the organizer, Smash Japan.

The event's coverage by Axiom Magazine. As you can see, the weather can be very bad, so preparation is a must.

Hikashu & Tomoe Shinohara Live in Concert, NYC

The clip contains a footage from Hikashu's performance at Fuji Rock Festival 2010, at 1:20.

Related Entry:
Fuji Rock Festival 2012 update
Godzilla Legend 2011 video

Apr 16, 2012

The Making of Uragoe, Day Three

May 16 was the second and the last day of the recording session. Again, the following quotes are translated from Makigami's blog written last year.

I woke up early in the morning and went to the other members' room. My room had a bedroom with a twin bed, plus a living room and a kitchen. The other members' were a triple room and a twin room, with a huge living room and a big beranda, and a balcony.

The condominium was a property of the production company we had contracted with for a while long time ago, and it was conveniently located.

I rang a bell, and Mita came out at door. He completed music for the song "Uragoe."

No one seemed to write music for the lyrics called "Hitori Hokai" [Collapsed by Oneself]. There was a guitar in the living room, so I picked it up and make a music with it for myself.

There was a big merit for all the members staying the same place. For example, Shimizu transcribed "Umaretate No Hana" [A Newly Born Flower] very quickly. He took only two hours for doing it in the morning. Incredibly efficient.

At 11 o'clock, we moved to the studio by taxi. It costed $10. This time we recorded compositions mainly. "A Newly Born Flower," "Yuugata No Iesu" [Twilight Affirmation], and "Uragoe."

We finished the session in the evening. I took dinner with my family and Kenji at cacio e vino. We took pizza.

And that's how the session ended. It was a short period of time but very important three days for the band. Now almost a year has passed, and finally we could listen to the final product.

The vintage Rogers set which Sato favored so much.

From left to right: Marc Urselli, Shimizu Kazuto, Makigami Koichi,
Sakaide Masami, Sato Masaharu, and Mita Freeman.

The members were out for lunch.

The Making of Uragoe, Day Two

May 15 was the first day of the recording session. The members visited the studio, EastSide Sound, for the first time, although Makigami had been there before for a Tzadik session with Ikue Mori in 2010.

The following quotes are translated from Makigami's blog, written last year.

At 10 o'clock, we arrived at EastSide Sound in NoHo. Marc, the engineer, greeted us with smile.

The studio situated in a very unlikely location. Without knowing it, no one ever imagine there's a recording facility in such kind of neighborhood.

More surprisingly, everything was prepared almost perfectly at the studio when we arrived. Of course, we had exchanged some mail beforehand, but being ready to start recording at once was incredible, and I was thoroughly impressed with it. Moreover, there were some labels of instrument and performer in Japanese for each monitor.

It seemed that they had a wide variety of drums as well, and Masa had chosen a Rogers set. The vocal microphone which assigned for me was a very strange shaped one, having a huge square hole in the middle, and I inspected the mic so closely. I was told that the mic was called 'Blackhole,' and it was made in Latvia. There was another one for my cornet. It was a ribbon microphone made by RCA.

Before noon, we had recorded four improvisational tracks, all were very interesting.

Quick. So quick.

The Making of Uragoe, Day One

Three days.

What is that?

That's what Hikashu needed to make the album, Uragoe.

Well, this could be arguable. What is the definition of "making an album" in the first place?

To be accurate, they took three days for writing songs and recording them. One day was for composing, and two days were for nailing them onto tape. Mixing, mastering and preparing artwork are excluded here, although all of them are very important process as well. (By the way, Tabaimo took several months for the artwork. Drawing is not like making music, we'd say.)

The day one was May 14, 2011. The band had performed a concert at Japan Society the evening before, and that day was off, although they had something to do - writing songs for the upcoming session. So that they had to retreat their hotel room and do some work. Makigami already had some ideas for lyrics but no music.

For this recording session, they had decided not to use any stock song, which they had plenty, and write brand new songs on the spot instead. The session was coming next day, so the time was imminent. They all locked up themselves at hotel room early and worked throughout the day.

Why did they stick to new material? We don't have the answer for that, but we assume it's because the tragedy in March had made them in the mood of not using any old stuff. In fact, around this time, Makigami went to say that "after the disaster, something was definitively changed." Maybe they were compelled to do something completely fresh. Perhaps it's like "it's the time only to look forward, not to think backward."

Now Uragoe is magnificently displayed at Tower Records Shibuya, the biggest store of the national chain. The sign says "Terrific! But 'Something' Strange!," "Very 'Addictive!'"

Apr 8, 2012

An interview with Marc Urselli - the engineer of Hikashu's "Uragoe"

3 Grammy Awards winner, Marc Urselli is the man who recorded and mixed Hikashu's brand new album, Uragoe. In this interview with yours truly, Mr. Urselli talks about the band, the recording, and himself, including various projects of his own. He could be reached via web http://www.marcurselli.com.

First of all, how you came to work with Hikashu? You recorded a Ikue Mori's session for Tzadik in 2010. Is it that when you met Makigami for the first time?

That's correct. Ikue was working on her new DVD "Kibyoshi (黄表紙)" for John Zorn's Tzadik records. I record and mix all of Zorn's studio albums and a lot of the Tzadik releases by New York artists, so Ikue came to my studio EastSide Sound to record with Maki. We pretty much hit it off right away. Maki san is a great guy, very smart and interesting and talented, and I enjoy working with people like that a lot!

Last year you saw the band playing at Japan Society. How's your impression of the performance?

I loved it. I wasn't sure what to expect but it was a great evening and it was great to see Makigami do his thing with vocals, theremin etc… His facial expressions are amazing too! So much vision and so much sound in their performance!

Then you worked with them in studio. You guys spent two days together and recorded an album, and the members enjoyed working with you very much. They have been raving about you ever since the session. How did you feel working them in studio?

It was an amazing two days. When people are cool and musicians are great things can only go well in a recording studio. The guys were really nice and I did my best to make them feel at home. There was of course some issues with communicating because unfortunately I do not speak Japanese but Makigami's english is great and Masami-san speaks English and even German (which I do speak a bit) and so we were speaking three languages at times! But the truth is, language was not a big barrier because the music was doing all the talking and there was a great vibe in the studio, very creative, very fun. Everyone was so relaxed that we even went out to lunch both days… usually that doesn't happen because there is the pressure of time in the studio, but we were all having a blast and took lunch breaks to go check out some amazing NYC restaurants.

They also praised the studio, EastSide Sound. The atmosphere was nice, and the gear was all impressive. For example, Sato-san, the drummer, asked a vintage Rogers kit from your gear list beforehand, and he was very glad of seeing the actual kit because not only it sounded great but the condition was superb. Makigami-san used a brand new microphone from Latvia, and that sounded very nice, too. I can understand the importance of procuring good instruments for recording, but obviously the studio has access to a lot of exceptionally great gear. In the blog, you said the Eastside sound is your favorite workplace. Could you tell us something about the place?

Yes! In my humble opinion EastSide Sound is the best studio in New York City and one of the best studios I have worked at, in the world. Sure, there are bigger studios and amazing locations but EastSide Sound has incredible gear, a uniquely versatile layout and an owner that cares! Lou Holtzman opened the original EastSide Sound in 1972 and 40 years later the studio is still around and making great records. Lou is a great guy (he's like a father to me!) and he is a collector and restorer of vintage drum kits so Sato-san was in luck when he asked for a Rogers drum kit. Lou keeps all his drums in great condition and the studio has two vintage Rogers drums sets available to all musicians.

EastSide Sound has 6 iso booths around the live room and therefore it is possible to record up to 7 musicians completely isolated. Every musician gets a headphone mixer so they can do their own mix and they can look at each other through glass windows to maintain eye contact during performances. This is pretty unique… I've been to many studios and the most booths I have seen is 4, while EastSide has 6! I helped design the new live room so I am very proud of how flexible and versatile EastSide Sound is. As you mentioned the atmosphere is very nice, relaxed and chill, but it is a top notch world class recording facility that some of the greatest musicians in the world enjoy recording at on a daily basis. We have an amazing array of vintage and modern gear and the owner has a great collection of microphones from the 1940's to this year! For Makigami-san I used my own Black Hole microphone by JZ Microphones, a new company from Latvia which I endorse with pride. I love their mics and the Black Hole is my favorite one! It is a large diaphragm condenser with a hole in the middle (hence the name) and it has depth and warmth that few other microphones have.

Another incredible feature of EastSide Sound is the Harrison Series Ten B console. It is an 100% analog console with total recall and digitally controlled automation on every single knob, fader and switch. There are 96 channels and you can automate faders, Aux sends, EQs, compression, gates etc and it all comes back when you want to recall a mix. All of this while keeping the warmth of the analog sound (no AD/DA conversion takes place!). This was extremely important when mixing Hikashu's record because after coming up with my mix I would send the guys files to listen to and they would write back comments via email. I then re-opened the mix, tweaked the mix and sent them a new file to listen to… Total recall made this very easy and quick!

How's your opinion about the album? Right now I have listened to it only once and was surprised that's pretty rocking, more fierce than ever. Raw and wild in a good sense. And the rhythm section is extremely tight. It's incredible you guys took only two days for recording that.

I listened to it once only as well… no no just kidding! ;-) The album is great fun! There are many layers of things happening even though the instrumentation is the same and there aren't really many overdubs. Almost everything you hear was recorded live in the studio and you can feel the energy of the performance in these takes. It is not a doctored album created in the computer like many albums today, it is a bunch of guys playing their asses off, together, to each other, as it should be. I love this energy and this approach and I love that the band was eager to play everything and to put it all to tape as it happened. As you say, it is pretty rocking and so it's a fun ride and you can't do anything but going along for the ride! ;-) I wish I spoke Japanese so I could hear what the lyrics are about…

You also did the mixing on the album. On all recent Hikashu releases, Sakaide, the bass player, had been doing it singlehandedly. So when I was told that he asked you for mixing this time, I just saw how he really thinks highly of you. How's your approach for mixing the album?

I was honored to hear that Sakaide wanted to me to mix the album. This shows great trust and respect and I wanted to make sure that they were 100% happy with my mixes. I started by mixing two songs, one of the heaviest and one of the quietest ones so that I could come up with two general directions for the sound. I sent them those two mixes and asked them to comment on the general sound. They liked the direction right away and so I knew we were on the same page about things. I just went ahead and mixed all the other songs. My approach to mixing the album was similar to that of many other mixes that I did. I record instruments pretty much flat and I pay close attention to using the right microphone in the right position and with the right pre-amp. Once I have good sounds on the recording mixing becomes much easier. I stay true to the original sounds and I just do a little bit of EQing and compression where needed. For EQs I use the board EQs from the Harrison board and for compression I mostly use the McDSP G Channel compression. During the recording I might use some hardware compressors like the 1176 or the LA-2, but during mixing I usually stick to the McDSP plugins.

There's a very interesting episode that Sakaide recently told me about recording. According to him, musicians tend to have images of sound in mind when playing, but it's very hard to capture that thing on tape. Merely recording a performance makes a different sound on recording, and to record it properly you have to figure out some way. And you just did that, succeeding to reproduce the exact sound in his mind, and that's quite an accomplishment, he said. When I was told this for the first time, I just thought that's great. But after a while, I began to wonder how such thing can be achieved, because it sounds like mind-reading or something like that. Being no musician, I just don't get what he really meant. What do you think of his remark? Are you conscious of such kind of thing while working with them?

This is the fist time I heard this actually, he never told me this thing he told you, so I cannot say I was conscious of this during the recording. I think subconsciously we were all on the same page so things didn't really need to get explained much. The fact that there was great synergy probably helped me achieve the vision he had. I just did what I usually do to get the best sounds I can at EastSide Sound and once I knew they were happy with the sounds I knew we were going to have a great album. My concern during the recording was more about what might get lost in translation or might gone unsaid. Westerners tend to think that Japanese people don't always say 'no' or don't always clearly say what they think and so I was afraid that maybe the band would not let me know if they didn't like something I was doing. But once I met the rest of the band I knew it would be an easy collaboration and I trusted that they would let me know if they didn't like something.

They also told me that it was a pleasant surprise for them to find out their name on the console, in Japanese. It made them relax and feel like being at home. They clearly sensed you're really caring, and that made them very happy. Apparently you know how to treat musicians nicely.

Well I certainly try to do my best. A professional recording studio is like a hotel, you have to make your guests feel like they are at home and they can do whatever they want. I wanted them to feel welcome and to feel relaxed so that they could focus on the music and the creativity. Usually when I work with artists from Japan I prepare labels for all the channels of the headphone mixers in japanese characters (instead of writing "guitar" I write "ギター"). Although I love Japan and I have always wanted to learn, unfortunately I don't speak Japanese so to do this I simply go to Google Translate (http://translate.google.com/) and I translate the names of the instruments that are going to be used in the session so that the Japanese musicians can feel at home and not have to worry about anything.

The first time I did this was for an album of Teiji Ito music called "Watermill" (Tzadik). Ito's daughter was on the record but I didn't know who else would be on it so I prepared for a session of all non-english speaking Japanese musicians… It turned out that most of them were American and spoke perfect english… However it didn't matter. The idea is you always prepare for the worst case scenario and then you go from there, it can only get better ;-)

I also have business cards with Japanese translations for when I go to Japan and people seem to love to receive them from me!

Let's talk about yourself. Having read the biography on your site and the long interview on brutalism.com, we came to know a lot about your background. Particularly we find very interesting that you were pretty motivated from the very early stage of your career.

Yes, I've always had a marked entrepreneurial spirit and an eagerness to try new things, learn, evolve and experience life. I started very early (when I was 12 or so) to play with bands and when I was 15-16 I was playing with people twice my age. Most of my friends were much older than me too. When I was 17 I opened my first recording studio after an internship in a local recording studio to learn the basics. I am good at what I do and I am lucky to have met such incredible musicians and artists in my life. I am now 35 and still have a lot to learn and time to get better! I better get to work! ;-)

I'll translate both documents into Japanese and would like to introduce you to people in the country. They're very educational, especially for aspiring youth. By the way, there's one thing not covered by them - could tell us your latest venture, Stridulation Records? It must be important thing for you because it surely takes lots of time and you look like being very busy.

Yes I am extremely busy and I never have enough time for all my projects and ideas. Time and money are the enemies! Stridulation Records is one of my latest projects. I've always wanted to start a record label because I felt the urge to support the scene that has supported me. It is time to give back to the community that has given me so much and I decided to do it in the form of a label. Because I don't have enough time to do everything alone I partnered up with two great guys from Norway and from Italy. Eirik Havnes is a festival organizer and electronic musician, very smart and cool guy in Trondheim. Fabrizio "Fabban" Giannese is a black metal musician (founder of the band Aborym) whom I've known for years and lives in Rome. Together we plan to release very few but very special albums in extremely unique, beautiful and limited editions.

I also plan to start two concert series in New York, one at my apartment and one at EastSide Sound.

Another new project I have is a taiko-metal band with drummer Tim Wyskida from Blind Idiot God and Khanate and taiko player Kaoru Watanabe from Kodo. I play distorted 12 string bass. We are currently rehearsing and writing songs for our first album and hopefully a tour in Japan if we can find somebody to help us get over there!

It seems that you have some knowledge about Japanese language. Where you learn that? Have you worked with other Japanese artists? Or have you been in Japan? Anything to say to people in Japan?

I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Japan. I would love to move to Tokyo for a few years but (un?-)fortunately I have too much work in NYC to leave. I have been to Japan 3 times and can't wait to go back. I have worked with some Japanese artists in the past (Akiko Yano, Chihiro Yamanaka, Sayuri Goto and I still often work with Ikue Mori, Kaoru Watanabe and others from the downtown scene) but unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I don't speak any Japanese except for a few random words (Domo, Konnichiwa, Sayonara, Sumimasen, Mizu and Matcha Ice Cream o-kudasai!!!).

Any comment to the band, their fans, or just anything you'd like to.

Hikashu mo!
I would love to work more with Hikashu in the future.
I would actually love to do more work with and for Japanese artists in general as well. If there are any artists based in Japan who would like to work with me I will gladly come to record in Japan and/or mix their album at EastSide Sound!

Thank you very much for taking the time!

Hikashu - Uragoe (2012)

Hikashu - Uragoe (2012)

1. Fude o Fure, Kanata-Kun [Wave the Brush, Mr. Beyond]
2. Chiisaku Ikizuku [Slightly Alive]
3. Uragoe [Uragoe]
4. Haraburi [The First Time in the Original]
5. Hitori Hokai [Collapsing by Oneself]
6. Sudeni Kokoni Nai [Gone Already]
7. Bintoru [Take a Bottle]
8. Sokohaka [Faintly]
9. Yuugata No Iesu, Asagata No Nou [Twilight Affirmation, Morning Denial]
10. Shikotama [Plenty]
11. Beniten Ni Kurenai [Crimson in the Cloud]
12. Umaretate No Hana [A Newly Born Flower]
13. Tsugi No Iwa Ni Tsuzuku [Continued on Next Rock]

Makigami Koichi - vocal, cornet, theremin, shakuhachi
Mita Freeman - guitar
Sakaide Masami - bass
Shimizu Kazuto - piano, synthesizer, bass-clarinet
Sato Masaharu - drums

produced by Makigami Koichi
recorded and mixed by Marc Urselli at EastSide Sound, NYC
mastered by Ono Seigen at Saidera Mastering

released on April 8, 2012

"Ikirukoto" is an album which could be descibed as an overall representation of the current line-up. It's like textbook.

So, what "Uragoe" could be expressed? You may ask. I would answer the question as, it vividly captures an undocumented side of the band. That is, they are a tremendous live band, and the album clearly shows that.

In short, this album rocks. Very heavy, more fierce than ever.

The album has 5 compositions and the rest are improvisation. The songs are all great, of course. Only "A Newly Born Flower" is a ballad. The title track and the theme part of "Twilight" are in mid-tempo, and the rest are fast or heavy numbers. Most of the improvised tracks are somewhat short but striking, and there's a surprise in the end - the last track is a very lengthy jam session (12 minutes!) and you could see how tight the rhythm section is. It's very organic - the rhythm constantly moves back and forth but it's never been lost. And that's an aspect of the band documented here for the first time on record. Long jam is frequently featured at their gigs and now those who cannot see them live can taste a slice of it.

Talk is cheap. Go out, get the album, and experience how hard the band rocks if they want to.

Available worldwide via HMV Japan here

Apr 5, 2012

Makigami Koichi interviewed with Time Out Tokyo

The new album is coming real soon and the band looks getting some press appearances recently. The first of them is Time Out Tokyo. A long and nice, very informative article. Well done. And thankfully, this humble blog got an honorable mention.

Hikashu - the Interview - Time Out Tokyo

And if you are in Tokyo area, do not miss a gig tonight. New songs and some fresh improvisations. It's going to be a wild evening, and do not forget to check out the new album.

Time Out says
34 years into their career, the 'pataphysical rock' band led by idiosyncratic vocalist (and sometime theremin player) Koichi Makigami seem to have hit a purple patch. Hikashu release a new album, Uragoe, on April 8 (yes, on a Sunday), and they'll be marking the occasion with a gig at one of their favourite stomping grounds, Kichijoji's Star Pine's Café. Expect new wave pop, vocal gibberish, extended rock improvisations and maybe even the odd jaw harp solo.

Hikashu - Star Pine's Café - Time Out Tokyo