Last year’s Salyu X Salyu project, a collaboration between J-Pop siren Salyu and inventive producer Cornelius, was an exploration of an individual, in this case Salyu herself. Long a middle-of-the-road J-Pop star blessed with some incredible pipes that seemed wasted by most, Salyu X Salyu allowed her to just let go, an artistic rebirth urged on by Cornelius’ unobtrusive sonic creations.
It’s an intensely individual project, yet that hasn’t stopped Salyu and Cornelius (real name Keigo Oyamada) from touring behind Salyu X Salyu. They assembled a Salyu X Salyu Band and have toured all over Japan and, recently, Europe, including a stop at Spain’s Sonar music festival this past June. Augustus KKB, of London outfit Kero Kero Bonito, recently talked to Salyu, Oyamada, Yumiko Ohno and Asa-Chang of the Salyu X Salyu Band on June 15, before the group played a show at London’s Jazz Cafe. Ken Kobayashi handled translation duties.
Listen to the interview above, or read a transcript after the jump.
Augustus: How did the show at the Jazz Cafe materialize?
Keigo Oyamada: There is a festival called Sonar at Barcelona and we were invited to play there. But then there were no direct flights to Barcelona and we found flights via London. So we thought it would be a good idea to do a show in London too.
Augustus: Do you think the Jazz cafe will be a good venue for the Salyu x Salyu show?
Oyamada: I don’t know, hahaha. But it’s quite a established, old venue isn’t it? 90s.
Augustus: Did you make the album with live performance in mind?
Salyu: Not at all!
Oyamada: We overdubbed the vocals a lot . On the CD, she is singing all of them. But at live shows, there are these girls who have the same hairstyle as Salyu, who sing along. Salyu and they know each other since childhood. They met at a choir group and became friends back then.
Augustus: Who suggested you do a live show for Salyu x Salyu?
Oyamada: We wanted to start playing live shows, a normal feeling I suppose!
Salyu: Well, in my musical career, as I released new materials, I always did live shows to promote it. So when I was producing this album with Mr. Oyamada, especially when it came close to completion, it was natural thing for us to start asking “what shall we do about live shows?”. There is only one Salyu but there are many layers of my vocals on the album. And then I thought “oh, I used to be in a choir group didn’t I?”. So I called my old group members. And even before the CD was released, we started rehearsing the songs together. The girls all have normal jobs. They work during the day, therefore we met up on weekends. Saturdays, Sundays. It was like a training camp.
Augustus: How did Yumiko Ohno and Asa-Chang get involved in the live show?
Asa-Chang: Well I listened the tracks Keigo produced. I had never heard or listened to those tracks before. They had very complicated programmed rhythms. You can’t play them even with 8 hands and 5 legs! But then I guessed that Keigo thought a drummer, well me, should be somehow able to sort it out and play it at a live show.
Ken Kobayashi: So Oyamada invited you?
(Oyamada: Yeah, I invited both of them (Asa Chang and Yumiko.)
Asa-Chang: Yes, but I didn’t get involved in the recording at all. Just the live show.
Augustus: How does playing with Salyu x Salyu compare to playing in other projects, like Buffalo Daughter/Asa-Chang and Junray etc?
Asa-Chang: I don’t think at all about my own project when I play with Salyu x Salyu. I’m supporting Salyu as a cast in the band. My project is a separate thing. I don’t think much about it when I’m with Salyu.
Asa-Chang: In Asa-Chang/Junray I never play the drums.
Augustus: I guess Junray tronics is quite a different experience for you compared to Salyu x Salyu?
Kobayashi: What do you do in Junray tronics?
Asa-Chang: Oh yeah I have a group called Junray and we have a machine. And the role of that machine is….a secret! There is an Intel inside!
Oyamada: I play in a band called Cornelius. That’s another, separate project. And I am a fan of Asa-Chang and Buffalo Daughter. Salyu’s project was an opportunity to play together in a project with them. And I thought those two should be able to do a good job performing those complicated songs.
Augustus: What are your favorite things about the Salyu x Salyu live performance?
Oyamada: I think it’s the vocalization, the combination of Salyu’s and Salyu sisters’ voices. The intricacy of it. I think that the biggest characteristic of this band.
Salyu: And the rhythm too. The girls play percussion and other instruments. They sound very nice. But what’s also very cool is the way in which the rhythms produced by these girls get merged with the rhythm produced by the band. They match very well. Together with the vocal choruses on top, it produces an interesting sound.
Oyamada: “Melody, rhythm and harmony” is the theme.
Salyu: Yeah that’s the theme, or how do you call it? Slogan.
Augustus: How did the Respond Records catalog reissues on Trattoria come about?
Oyamada: I released it a long time ago. I think like 15 years ago. That label, Trattoria doesn’t exist anymore. When I was a teenager, I liked it (Respond Records material) a lot. It just happened to be that when I was running the label someone contacted us with the offer to own the rights and re-release these records. That’s how we released them.
The audio of this interview originally appeared on Goldsmith University’s student radio station, link to their site here.