KAN “Ai wa Katsu” Interview (1992)

Yesterday, it was announced that this man—one of my favorite songwriters—has passed away.

I had been working on this interview about his most well-known single, “Ai wa Katsu,” and my intention had been to post it today. I’m going to go ahead and publish the interview as scheduled, but please allow me first to express a couple of thoughts.

I just want to say that I absolutely adored this guy. Everything about him. I loved his voice. I loved his singing. I loved his piano playing. I loved his sense of humor; how he had seemingly dedicated his entire adult life to never ever being serious when he spoke. Even his lyrics were silly and comical more often than not. Humor was his life philosophy, and deservedly so. After all, what point is there to life if you can’t even have a wink and a laugh about it?

Most of all, however, I loved his sense of melody.

We all have our “sweet spots” when it comes to music, and for me the things he did as a songwriter often hit those sweet spots exactly on the mark. Anyone could tell he was a real musician’s musician, always wearing his influences—Beatles, Billy, Stevie, et al—on his sleeve. I’m going to miss this guy so much, and I’m going to continue singing praises of his work forever.

I wish I had something more meaningful to say. I feel like there has to be a better set of words I could string together to express how I feel about him. But this is the best I can do for now.

I love you, KAN. Thank you for the music. ❤️

Is KAN‘s 1990 hit single “Ai wa Katsu” your favorite goddamn song of all time? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here, you see, is an entire 5000-word interview dedicated to that very tune.

This interview was originally published in the 1992 book Boketsu Bari Hori.

Text: Morita Kyoko
English translation: Henkka
KAN links: Website, Twitter, YouTube

Note: You can buy KAN’s physical releases on CDJapan.

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MONO NO AWARE “AHA” Interview (2018)

Here is an interview with MONO NO AWARE members Tamaoki Shukei and Kato Seijun. The interview focuses on how the pair first met, as well as on the band’s sophomore album. Enjoy!

Interview & text: Miyake Shoichi (Japanese text)
English translation: Henkka
MONO NO AWARE links: Website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

Note: You can buy AHA on CDJapan.

(L-R) Takeda Ayako, Tamaoki Shukei, Kato Seijun, Yanagisawa Yutaka

MONO NO AWARE have just completed their second album, AHA.

Ever since the band’s beginnings, there has been no one else like them when it comes to musical expression. “This part is rock, this part is pop“—there are no such borderlines in their music. And yet, their musical imagery carries with it a contemporaneity which organically reminds the listener of all kinds of different cultures, along with a synchronicity which makes it feel like you’re tripping between reality and some parallel world.

Those aspects of the band’s music become even more vivid on this work, with the evolution in their sound production and songwriting making one’s earliest childhood memories rise to the surface.

Having accompanied the band for the filming of their music video for this album’s lead song, “Tokyo,” we then conducted an interview with their songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Tamaoki Shukei and guitarist Kato Seijun.

We visited their hometown of Hachijojima, Tokyo—a 55-minute direct flight from Haneda Airport. While the town is actually still a part of Tokyo, that sense of travel I got from going down there and standing in that environment, surrounded by nature, it gave me flashbacks of that peculiar feeling one experiences when listening to MONO NO AWARE—a sense of, “It’s my first time here, and yet somehow it’s like I know this place.”

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MONO NO AWARE “Jinsei, Yamaori Taniori” Interview (2017)

Here is an interview with the cool youngsters of MONO NO AWARE. The interview focuses on the history of the band’s formation, as well as on their debut album. Enjoy!

Interview & text: Kaneko Atsutake (Japanese text)
English translation: Henkka
MONO NO AWARE links: Website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

Note: You can buy Jinsei, Yamaori Taniori on CDJapan.

(L-R) Tamaoki Shukei, Yanagisawa Yutaka, Takeda Ayako, Kato Seijun

MONO NO AWARE, a four-piece band who derive their name from the concept of mono no aware—the natural transience of things and feelings experienced with respect to life’s subtleties—have released their debut album, Jinsei, Yamaori Taniori.

With overseas garage rock and post-punk as the backdrop, their music can be quite volatile, with daring changes that can occur even within individual songs. Another characteristic of the band—also apparent in the album’s title—is their wordplay, always causing involuntary smiles. While their music has some similarities with the currently trending psychedelic pop of the Tokyo indie scene (as showcased at the “BEACH TOMATO NOODLE” party co-hosted by Tempalay and domico), the band neatly avoids categorization, with their easygoing feel giving them a unique personality.

At the core of the band are its two Hachijojima natives: songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Tamaoki Shukei, and guitarist Kato Seijun. Tamaoki, the intuitive humanities type, and Kato, the research-oriented sciences type, complement each other nicely in their search for musical freedom, their aims simply set for “somewhere other than here.” Led by this duo—somehow reminiscent of Natsume Tomoyuki and Sugawara Shinichi of the Siamese Cats—now that they are “out of the well,” so to speak, what kinds of different worlds will this group be showing us next?

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Chakra Ogawa Mishio Interviews (2011–2012)

This is a conversation with Ogawa Mishio, vocalist of the Japanese new wave band Chakra who were active from 1978 to 1983. Chakra is also the main topic of this discussion. Enjoy!

(Note: This is, in fact, two separate interviews compiled into one post. Thus, the questions and the order of the questions have been slightly edited to maintain the flow of the conversation.)

Interview & text: Shikata Hiroaki (Japanese text: one & two)
English translation: Henkka
Ogawa Mishio links: Website, Twitter

Note: You can buy Chakra’s music on CDJapan.

Chakra — a band of the New Wave Era who radiated a profoundly mysterious charm. Now, their albums Chakra and Satekoso have been re-released with five bonus tracks each!

In this interview, we asked the band’s vocalist Ogawa Mishio about her time in Chakra.

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Kitasono Minami “Never Let Me Go” Interview & Liner Notes (2015)

This is an interview with Kitasono Minami about his third (and, as of this writing, most recent) EP, Never Let Me Go. Also included are his liner notes for each song. Enjoy!

Interview & text: Kato Naoko (Japanese text)
English translation: Henkka
Kitasono Minami links: Website, Blog, Twitter, SoundCloud

Note: You can buy Never Let Me Go on CDJapan.


Kitasono Minami, who released his second EP, lumiere, this past July, continues to showcase his increasingly colorful realm of pop. But the artist himself remains shrouded in mystery, choosing still not to reveal his face in any promotional photos. The fact is, however, that even this mystique is something that gives his work a certain kind of charm.

Being in charge of writing all the lyrics and music, doing all the arranging and singing, performing all manner of instruments by himself, but also featuring in his captivating world of sound a great number of highly skilled supporting players—beginning with the strings and a brass section—Kitasono Minami surely offers one so many different ways of enjoying his music, capturing the listener’s imagination.

And now, bringing a renewed sense of inspiration to that sound world is his third EP, Never Let Me Go, which was just released a short while ago. With a focus on winter songs, this work features five warm, bountiful numbers that make for perfect listening as we near the Christmas season. With some new performers taking part in the recordings—Ishiwaka Shun on drums, Kusui Satsuki and Morita Yusuke on bass, Ogaeri Ami on piano—the involvement of these young, spirited jazz musicians is surely another important characteristic of the work.

Eager to learn more about this highly interesting EP whose lyrics stand in stark contrast to its bright sound, we conducted an email interview with the artist himself.

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