Q. Congratulations on new album release. I think that there is the person who knew you in Pop 4. So I would like simple self-introduction. Hello. Music has always been my form of expression from a very early age. I've been playing music for many years in various situations, but have always enjoyed writing and recording music the most. I grew up with older siblings who played many of the British Invasion bands, The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and I loved the New Wave bands of the 70's, The Police, The Cars, XTC, Elvis Costello. As I began to mature as a songwriter, many of the qualities of these bands influenced my writing. These days the influences are so many that it has become quite a puzzle trying to work out where the bits and pieces come from. I like to feel I have developed my own sound.
I had been friends with Andrea, Scott and KC from Pop 4 for many years before they asked me to join them in the band. With their encouragement and blessing I have released a solo album, UNDERTOWN. Q. I am going to ask you about "UNDERTOWN". It is a solo album since "LITTLE ELEVATOR" released in 2005. When did you elaborate a plan from? UNDERTOWN has been in the works for a while. I have a hard time letting go of the songs as I love my time spent working on them. It is a very important therapy for me. I am writing constantly! The theme of UNDERTOWN is that there are qualities and energies that affect us lurking out of sight; our subconcious desires, the lies we tell ourselves, the fictions built up all around us, the way we avoid truth, sometimes. The music was influenced by so much of the music I have been listening to over the years as well as performing in public but also by the production of Mitchell Froom, T-Bone Burnett and Tchad Blake. I love layering sounds and creating an atmosphere, using lots of different guitars and different musical styles. I also like a pop song and a catchy melody. So hopefully, I have blended the two. Q. When did you write each songs? Most of these songs were written over the past 3 years or so. "Undertone" is the oldest, written 5 years ago! On LITTLE ELEVATOR I attempted to deconstruct the songs and subvert the pop song tropes by removing as much of my influences from the songs and production as possible. On UNDERTOWN I was less strict and allowed my influences to come through a little more (I think). Q. You let the pop music that it is wonderful in various origins including jazz and the blues sublimate. Would there be any concepts? I still think I am basically writing pop songs but I like to include jazz and blues elements for the texture and atmosphere. A song is about a mood for me and I want to capture it in the best way. The jazz and blues elements are just other colors for me to paint with. Q. Does the lead guitarist of "Pile Of Dirt" use resonator guitar? The lead guitar on "Pile Of Dirt" is a Guild acoustic through a microphone. It does make it's tone a little more hollow. The resonator guitar appears prominantly on "Fiction" and "Officially Strange". I love the atmosphere it brings! Q. In the lyrics of "Cross The River", there is the word the "Under town". Do you think that it is music to symbolize an album? In many ways, yes. "Cross The River" is about wanting to go out and have a wild night. It also symbolizes accepting and reveling in the often, repressed and hidden impulses we all feel. "I wanna follow that sound, beneath the ground". It's not a bad thing! It's just a way of seeing life as it really is, both sides of the coin. Q. "Business As Usual" seems to see the totally old movie. (Double Bass brings on a good atmosphere.) I'm glad you feel that way! I am very happy with the way it turned out. It is a film noir in song reflecting some of the harder realities of life on Earth. I would like to use more Double Bass in the future, Q. Is "Hindenburg" a Zeppelin? Will you perform a metaphor of anything? Yes, the Hindenburg was a zepplin that exploded in the late 1930's killing everyone on board. The character in this song can see his relationship is about to end. He feels as though he is boarding this unfortunate air ship that he knows will crash. Q. "Flying Cars" feels flavor of The Beatles in particular. "The Beatle's number 9 Gave me the creeps Every time" in the lyrics. I feel calmness such as the music of George Harrison from "Make Believe Love". What kind of feeling would this music be written with? Yes, I wanted "Flying Cars" to have a retro sound as it is about my youth and my expectations of the future and wanted to capture what it felt like for me while growing up. I used a Dan Electro 12 string in the background. I like to imagine it being listened to through an old transistor radio. "Number 9" did scare me as a child. I love it now! "Make Believe Love" is about the fictions we create for ourselves. This person has either misread his relationship to another or has totally fabricated it. It's up to you. Sometimes you think you have a connection with someone that isn't truly there. You have to come to terms with it. I enjoyed taking the listener on a little trip via the guitar solos in the center of the song. I can appreciate the Harrison comparison. Thank you! Q. The album is over in "Officially Strange". Through an album, I felt it like one story. The cover art is described by yourself, too. What is the meaning put in "Mr.Anthead"? When determining the order of the songs, "Officially Strange" felt right at the end. It leaves you with an atmosphere and sums up the feeling. Nothing seemed right following it! Ironically it is one of my favorite tracks on the record. It came out exactly as I imagined it. My painting of "Mr. Anthead" has been a favorite of people who have viewed my art. I use to have t-shirts with him on them. I felt like he needed to be given a higher profile! Also, the theme of UNDERTOWN is dealing with what lies below, the secret longings and barely understood motivations. An ant goes underground and then back up to the surface with equal ease. Who better for a trip to the underworld? So, we become a man with an ant's head to better understand ourselves and to venture below into mystery but be able to return to the surface. Q. I am just surprised for your guitar performance. Your bend and slide in particular is splendid. Who is an affected guitarist? Guitar is my primary instrument and my biggest influences are probably, Rory Gallagher, Bill Nelson (Be Bop Deluxe) and George Harrison for slide, to be sure. More current guitarists I like would be Bill Frisell, Nels Cline and Marc Ribot. Q. What is the highlight of the album? The songs that seem to be getting the most attention are "Undertone", "Hindenburg" and "Together Alone" though "Soul Shadow Time" and "Officially Strange" have both gotten radio airplay here in the States. Q. Could you give some message to the fans in Japan? Yes! I am very excited that people in Japan might be interested in listening to my music. I hope they'll give it a try. For an artist it's a feedback loop. We are nothing without people to share our music with. I am always trying to make music that has a meaning and can make a bell go off in someone else. Thank you, Hiroyuki, for the opportunity. Power Pop Revival