Friday, August 20, 2010

More Qs from Sai

Sai asks some more:

“It's nice to hear that you're sticking with the indie-roots for the most part, despite being considered part of Speed Disk. Is that a permanent thing, or will you guys be parting with the company once the one-man and the release of your final of the five singles? Or do you think that you'll stay with them and put out an album? (Are you guys planning an album?)"

That’s still up in the air. We’d like to continue if they’d like to take us on more.
Not sure about an album yet!

“My brother plays guitar for an American band and he says one of his biggest fears is getting his band well-known, signed to a label, and then losing all artistic integrity.”

That’s awesome, and I’m glad he’s thinking about that. I'd love to check them out!
Me, on the other hand… I’ve done a lot of work with other artists here in Japan, as well as foreign artists coming to Japan, and the more I look at it all, I’m never really sure what ‘losing artistic integrity’ really means, and if it doesn’t mean different things to different people. I do, however, think it’s admirable to be dedicated to that. I’m the kind of person who just plain doesn’t like financial situations being up in the air, so if something can make me money, I’m more willing to consider that than the overall integrity of the product. Then again, maybe I’m just a huge sell-out! :-P

“It's nice to hear that CP isn't having those kinds of problems.”

Well, being in a visual kei band means that you do have those kind of problems, even if they’re small. It’s pretty obvious that in order to be a huge-selling vk band you sort of have to sound and do things a certain way. One of them is in terms of song-writing. Some bands are lucky and can generate hits, or a nicely-sized following, with their own style, but some are tempted to appeal to the masses a bit more. I don’t see that much of a problem in that, as long as you make your standards and boundaries clear on both sides before inking a deal, I suppose.
Another lies in image. Bands started to look like more harmless hosts and toned down for a reason, and it pays to look relatively harmless. We must face facts: most big-selling modern vk is, essentially, pop idol-dom, just add guitars. I am not saying this pejoratively.
Our problem lies in the fact that we are often told, in both good and bad ways, that we do not sound like a visual kei band. As an exercise, we have tried writing vk-ish songs, and they still end up not sounding very vk to listeners. Those who pledge their allegiance to vk as a whole concept haven’t quite warmed up to us yet, and those who try to avoid the vk stigma probably haven’t given us a chance. It also limits the media you can appear in, at least at first.

“It's also nice that you guys are working closely with only a few people, rather than a lot. I would imagine that it makes the process a little easier, or at least more comfortable. Better to have a few people you know and are able to form connections with than having nameless faces.”

This I definitely agree with, you’re right. I’m much more comfortable knowing everybody’s name, or at least knowing that I’ve seen such-and-such a person before. :-P

“As for the recording-- it sounds like it was quite an experience. You think you'll ever do it again? Think you CAN do it again? Do you think you'll ever WANT to do it again?”

-no! Haha.

“Impressive that you guys didn't break down into sad piles of musician-goo by the end of that.”

I don’t think it ever occurred to us to take a break!

“Also, you got to play around with some of the songs? Which one did you have the most fun editing?”

My skills were more in the music theory department. Do these parts actually match up on record, or did they just feel good at the time and did we not think it through? My job was to do all synth parts, which means the strings in Canvas, the horns, piano, and organ in Ashland, and some of the various noises on the first two singles. (The beeps and boops in the main part of Canvas, however, was all Joe.)
I was also in charge of all vocal arrangements; that is, everything that was not a main vocal line or harmony part. Any sort of choir in the back chorus, though sung by Tenten, was arranged by me. I also wrote the female vocal parts. I also wrote all the English lyrics, though that should be apparent. Most of it was either based directly on lyrics Tenten gave me, or based abstractly on themes he discussed with me, or made up entirely. :-P
The background chorus arrangements were difficult because Harlot, Bellamy, and Memento Mori were written just like that. The rest were sort of added as we went along, which means they aren’t as artfully crafted to my ears as those others, though I really like the parts I wrote for both ladies, and I think the choruses in Irotoridori and Sakana turned out really nicely.

My mother is a conservatory-trained pianist and vocal teacher, so I’m hope she’s proud!


Sai said...

Hey, if they do they get a good band! If not, there are plenty of other companies or you guys can figure out something else. I think that's the beauty of doing something you love--it makes you strive for things that would otherwise be considered out of reach. If the setting and people change it doesn't mean that the overall passion for the music is different. Either way, as long as you're doing what you love you can't really go wrong.

My brother's been playing in various bands across the years (jumping when they start getting more recognition, I noticed a few years back...) and as I watch the music change, I understand what he meant. For example, a deathmetal band he was involved with a few years back almost completely revamped their musical taste to fit a more mainstream sound. It was a really bizarre thing to watch because they were almost two complete opposites that merged together into something that wasn't what he wanted to be part of. Then again, as I've watched I've noticed that he's willing to bend at certain places: he now has some solo work that he's doing (things that he, as an artist, believes are important in the music he creates... and it also means he can avoid any and all people wanting to dare hint that he try to go major or change his music to fit with a specific ideal) along with playing bass for a band that is actually (from my knowledge) gotten a lot of notice lately for playing in some video game or something... I'm an awful sister, but his new band kind of creeps me out. It's name is Killenstein, I think.

But, back onto topic--I do agree that 'artistic integrity' really is up to the artist. To me, I see it as allowing yourself to lose sight of the most important thing to artists--your individual attachment to the music. If you change your music, so be it. That is something that I believe is natural-- music has an ebb and flow. It's not a stagnant rock, it's a continuously moving thing. When you lose sight of that, when you begin to lose your attachment or even enjoyment of the music you create for profit/fame/or to please someone other than yourself, I think that's when the lines begin to blur. That's why 'artistic integrity' isn't something that someone can tell an artist they should or shouldn't feel. If tomorrow morning you wake up and want to spend the rest of your life writing jingles for commercials and make a ton of money, as long as you're happy with what you're
doing and enjoy making those jingles then your artistic integrity hasn't been compromised.

Sai said...

You're right about the Visual Kei thing, though... as unfortunate as it is, I do see that a lot of V-Kei bands willing to change their entire self (or parts of themselves) to fit into a neatly packaged and labeled box. The industry almost seems to stagnating itself with the sheer amount of the same music and sound that's going in. Without new material, without some bands willing to break out of that particular box, the industry won't die, but it won't be a pretty place to be. I actually don't know how you guys are willing to go out there and try to sound different. I can flip on my media player and there's a decent chance that the next three songs I play sound (at least vaguely) alike. I'm actually really glad that Chemical Pictures has something unique that gives itself a different sound-- though that may deter listeners at first. Do you think that the band can be successful without falling into the particular traps that most V-Kei bands fall into? I think you guys have been pretty successful so far, but I'm only an outside opinion. Do you think that you guys can continue making music and stay on the outskirts of the genre, or do you plan on integrating your music slowly? From those exercises you have tried, it looks like your musical sounds and those of 'modern' bands just clash so much that they can't be connected, but do you think they can be? Or will you guys just say 'screw it' and keep going without a care to whether the larger audience is willing to bend?

Do you think that visual Kei as a genre needs to be revamped to allow the music to breathe? Or has it become so marketable the way it is that changing it is out of the question?

And huh, that's really interesting. I always vaguely understood the importance of music theory, but seeing how it actually works in music is different than reading about it in a book. It's also a lot different for someone like me, who doesn't play an instrument, to know that there's real-world uses for it.

Also, the parts in Yamusora, My Harlot Broker and Memento were really nice--I mention those specifically because they're some of my favorite songs from the first three singles (along with Picasso, which is just as excellent). As for the English, I can't always understand it (as proven by my failure in my first set of questions) but what I do understand certainly adds a nice tone to the songs. Irotoridori and Sakana are from the last two singles, right? Guess I'll just have to wait and listen for it.

As for your mother, I bet she is. You're using the skills she taught you and you're doing pretty well for yourself.

On another note, I'm kind of surprised by your response to MP3 rips, and also quite impressed at your logic and well-thought answer. This is such a prickly topic with so many musicians and listeners (the fights between those who are alright with it and those who are completely against it can leave you feeling like you were mugged in the back alley and shanked a few times in the forehead.) I guess I'm so used to many people flipping their lids about the subject that reasonable responses are gold. So, thanks for that.