Oct 07

[interview] Zazen Boys

Although Zazen Boys didn’t make it back to New York City as soon as bandleader Shutoku Mukai promised, they’ll perform alongside Boom Boom Satellites, Puffy AmiYumi and Echostream at Irving Plaza as part of the Far East to East Showcase on Oct. 10. Mukai’s kept busy since Zazen Boys last performed in America. He’s toured solo and paired up with indie pop musician Leo Imai to form a new band, Kimonos. Mukai answered some questions via e-mail, shedding light on Zazen Boys’ future and why his relationship with Imai is strictly platonic.

pS: It’s been a year and a half since you performed in New York City. Last time I spoke with you, you said you Zazen Boys intended to come back last September. What happened?

Shutoku Mukai: I did say that. I’m sorry. We had some problems with the initial bookings. These kinds of things are always subject to change.

pS: In the spring, you did another Acoustic & Electric solo tour. You originally performed solo after Number Girl disbanded. Did this tour have any significant meaning?

Mukai: Playing solo feels very natural and easy to me, not least because I can move freely on my own. So I’m always playing by myself here and there through the year.

pS: Will you ever release studio recordings of your solo performances?

Mukai: Not yet.

pS: On the flip side, you recently formed Kimonos with protégé Leo Imai. How did this band come into existence?

Mukai: I would not say he’s my protégé. Our relationship is very much on an equal footing. We started out just having fun together. Not in a gay way. Just as friends. We thought we’d get together to cover some recordings of songs by people like Talking Heads and Cypress Hill, just for fun. Then we started to click musically, started writing our own songs, and became more and more serious about the songs until we decided to turn it into Kimonos.

pS: Please tell us about Kimonos’ album, which is coming out in November.

Mukai: Leo and I have very different backgrounds. I come from the Japanese countryside; he is half-Japanese, half-Swedish. Yet we have a very similar outlook on the city of Tokyo, and Kimonos is that outlook put to music. Our vision of Tokyo is definitely more real than something like, say, Akira.

pS: I believe Kimonos is the first band of yours in which you are not the lead singer. What was the reasoning behind having Leo Imai front the band, and how does it feel?

Mukai: I do sing on quite a few of the songs. But Leo sings more, and I just like his vocal style.

pS: How does the songwriting process differ between Zazen Boys and Kimonos?

Mukai: Its pretty much the same. Except with Kimonos, it’s two people doing the writing.

pS: Based off “Almost Human,” Kimonos has a dance sound, which you’ve also explored in Zazen Boys. Will Zazen Boys take a different direction to contrast?

Mukai: I don’t know yet. It could go either way.

pS: How will you juggle both Zazen Boys and Kimonos?

Mukai: Basically, Zazen Boys are ongoing.

pS: Is Zazen Boys working on any new music?

Mukai: Yes we are. We have many illmatic songs now.


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  1. burada lilotto

    A giant thank you for your fantastic article post.Really thank you! Fantastic.

  2. Holden-commodore

    hey good interview!!

  3. packetpirate

    “Not in a gay way.”

    Thanks for clearing that up, Mukai… I’m sure that without that little gem, my first assumption would have been that you’re screwing around with him.

    1. Victoria Goldenberg

      I’ve considered the possibility that something was lost in translation–I wasn’t given the raw Japanese answers. But it’s still funny, and it would make a good tagline for Kimonos.

  4. Victoria Goldenberg

    I didn’t know what “illmatic” meant prior to this. Thank you, Urban Dictionary.

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