How did you become a musician?
Actually, I've been making music by myself for a long time, and when I first became interested in it, it was around the time when techno music was developing. I couldn't play any instruments and had no band experience, so I started by buying equipment such as Roland's MC-303 and MPC2000. After that, I became obsessed with Autechre and learned software such as Max/MSP by myself, but unfortunately, I couldn't make a song that would be released to the world. After that, I made intermittent IDM style music, but it didn't go well. However, a few years ago, I saw an ambient live performance in Tokyo with only a small number of people, and I was influenced by it, so I stopped using a MIDI sequencer to make music and became obsessed with improvising ambient music. I haven't learned any musical instruments yet, so I'm making music using only white keys, C major/A minor.
Amazing! If you will use only black keys, you get one more pentatonic scale.
I tried that too, but I felt that it was a little too exotic lol. I've made hundreds of songs using only the white keys, and I'm still not tired of it. If anything, I might be more interested in space and timing.
It's hard to believe because you have so many different tracks. Do you feel any connection with the musical traditions of your country or some genre or style from the past?
I have never studied traditional Japanese music, but from reading books and other sources, it seems that some traditional Japanese music does not have regular rhythms, and even those that do have regular rhythms seem to have a "beat expansion and contraction" characteristic. I also find such characteristics in the Japanese spoken language, which may have some affinity with ambient music. I also often use the Taisho koto, a unique instrument invented in Japan in the 1910s that combines the traditional instrument called the koto with a typewriter. It is a strange instrument that only produces a single note, but that may also have a positive effect. The violin-like sound of the last song on the album, End, was created by bowing a Taisho koto. I am strongly influenced by the imported Western culture, but I have a desire to get away from it, not in a political sense, but in terms of what is Japanese.
What instruments did you use on the latest albums?
I used electric taishōgoto (Nagoya Harp) on most of the tracks in place of strings and guitar, while synthesizers were mainly Roland Alhpa Juno 2 (my favorite!). I also used some software and hardware synths. In addition, I used some modular synths, which I'm not very good at. I also recorded most of the field recordings with a Zoom H5. There are a variety of plug-in effects, but I used the Arturia Filter Mini and the Valhalla VintageVerb for the most part. Also, since dub and delay were one of the themes of this album, I manually wrote automation for the Valhalla Delay. The DAW is Ableton Live.
Are there any instruments you have not used yet but would like to try?
I have also played and recorded a toy accordion, a toy piano, a toy flute, a mini harp, and my grandmother's piano, even though I had no training in any musical instrument. I also want to go to a nearby studio to record drums. As a result, it may not be called an ambient song. Also, I recently got a new synth, Novation's Summit, so I'm making songs that make use of it.
What inspires you to write music?
In the age of the internet and streaming, it's become possible to listen to a lot of strange music, so it's fun to listen to music and be influenced by it to make music. I think it's a good time to be able to get ideas from esoteric music such as musique concrète and 12-tone techniques, even for people like me who have no musical education. Also, since I started making ambient music, I feel like it's become easier to express ideas or emotions. I'm a poor graphic designer, I'm not good at making videos or three-dimensional objects, and I have a weak sense of time and space. However, in ambient music, I can't say it well, but I've been able to create a lot of songs because I can create music like I'm taking pictures or drawing pictures.
Tell us about your new album Currents. Why is the album remarkable and what is the idea behind it?
I write songs on a daily basis and often create songs without any particular concept in mind. However, in selecting the songs, I mainly chose songs in which the melody feels like a line rather than a mood or atmosphere. For this reason, I used less reverb and more delay than usual. (Well, I did use a lot of reverb!) The pandemic is almost over, but I'm still working at home, and I wanted to express that kind of introverted situation, with all kinds of emotions swirling in parallel. I titled it Currents to express the image of such lines or the movement of different emotions coexisting like currents in the ocean. I also think there is a reason why I used field recordings of ocean sounds in my hometown for the name.
Also, technically speaking, I tried to pass most of the sound through the mic preamp to make it thicker. I always worry about mixing and mastering.
Do you always do mastering by yourself or do you sometimes ask somebody to do that?
It's my fault, but I've tried to ask others in the past and it didn't feel right, and I find it difficult to convey my vision. Also, I simply make songs quickly, so I tend to want to make up for the shortcomings of the mix with mastering. I apologize for asking someone to do that. Well, it's simply the biggest thing that it leads to my learning. Well, mastering is like my hobby.
What does Soloi mean?
It doesn't make much sense, but... “Soloi” is a Japanese word that means a situation where similar beings come together, or simply a pair or a group. I often record 2-3 tracks of the same instrument and layer them (sometimes muting other tracks). When I do that, my poor and irregular performance often sounds unexpected thanks to the power of chance. Also, I often group together unrelated materials such as field recordings and materials from different project files, so I named it Soloi Sounds to mean such a 'group of sounds'. Also, since I'm making songs by myself, it also has the meaning of Solo-i...
Interviewer – Dionis Afonichev (Dionisaf)
Photos from Yosuke Goto's archive
Edited by Iuliia Rychkova
More surreal ambient music in our Spotify playlist