Freedom of Expression
So we were discussing this earlier; since the making of Requiem DUB, you were creating tracks alone by using Yamaha’s QY series. This is a portable music workstation with a sequencer.
You were making the bass line with QY also?
See, that’s hard to believe by listening to your work. Tell me how you recorded Requiem Dub with Lloyd Barnes participating as the sound mixer?
KodamaTo make CDs or just to make a proper audio source from that machine is quite difficult because the genuine interior sound of QY is used. So the sound is mixed within the machine and there are only two mixes that come out from it at one time.
KodamaSo what I do is breakdown each channels and parts: meaning I mute all of the sounds except for the instrument that I’m recording and play it individually. Then, if I were to take the hi-hat for example, I would drop that to the multitrack recorder. Then finally, the engineer would mix the multitrack.
I see, that’s quite a task…
KodamaI know, right? It’s digital but not to the extent. By then, people around me were using computers and laptops but I was way behind. But I finally got this tool called QY that allowed me to do everything by myself. And Yuzuru is the one who recommended me about it.
What? Mr. Yuzuru Kashiwabara? (Bassist of the Japanese band Fishmans.)
KodamaYuzuru was using it as a memo for making music. I was so out of date digitally, and when he noticed, he was like “this is quite easy to use, you know, for noting down ideas.” He was being all saucy about it.
KodamaHe probably didn’t think that I‘d be using it for actual recordings, only as a convenient tool. That’s when I started to use it.
So this is the time when you started to make music with digital sounds.
I see. And I understand how the encounter with Rhythm & Sounds comes in while you were building up your style. After trial and error, Requiem DUB was born coevally as those guys in Berlin.
KodamaYep. If you go back further, Brian Eno’s work has the same sense of quietness of course. There is certain impact that ambient music can express. But after that in the 80s, I dash into reggae music. There is this chaotic sense rising inside myself mixing within the era. When I made distance towards a band formation and became on my own, I tried to uncork everything. I realized that I could do anything if I have a sequencer. For instance, if I say to myself “I feel like trying a punk rhythm today,” I can do it on that day; the way to express obviously becomes wider. So in another words, I can paint whenever I want to. I used to only be able to draw when I was with people, but now I can draw whenever I want to. There are no boundaries now.
You’ve seized the freedom of expression.
KodamaAnd QY game me that freedom.
Tracks of KTU are also done by you, correct?
Kodama Two of us, with Toki of Little Tempo.
In Resonance with Undefined
So this is how all these solo works were made, released from Victor. Excuse me for jumping on one topic to another, but how was it like when you co-composed “New Culture Days?” When I listened to it for the first time, I immediately thought of Requiem DUB and KTU.
Kodama I figured that Undefined and I were artists whom both shared something in common about what I have been discussing with you. I figured that out in an instant when I listened to the demo. But I will repeat; a track having no rhythm and irregular beats is such a rare case. However, I found that aspect fascinating. It a minor affair but being musically radical happens when it happens. In a way, the sounds I make with the QY is the same issue. Everybody around me is using computers and making top quality sounds; and here I am, way behind the times making music with QY. But what’s wrong with that? You’ve heard of sleng teng in Jamaica? That dancehall riddim begins with Casio tone, right? I have the same feeling. I don’t care if I’m made fun of: “I’ll go ahead and draw with my own paint,” do you get where I’m coming from? When I listened to the demo of this track, I knew that it was something new to me and I sensed their intention. They wanted to express their statement even if they had to cut the beats; and I found that element very radical.
It really is interesting, as if a trace of reggae is left behind like perfume. When you listen to it, the brain complements the unheard sounds but there definitely is a track of reggae rhythm.
SaharaWe have the metronome pacing through our earphones, and we perform by listening to it. By doing so, there is this rhythm that two of us are able to share but the listeners can’t hear. I think the listeners’ are able to track down the rhythm trace by us playing this way. When Undefined was formed, we were looking for a bassist and couldn’t find any that matched our perspective towards music. This might go the same for the story of Mr. Kodama and his QY; we probably came up with our style because we lacked a bass player. Now that I think about it, because there’s only the two of us playing reggae, we are able to express freely and are able to feel unwound now.
You identified with each other in that aspect too.
KodamaYes, when I listened to the track, I found that part as a positive aspect. I thought their idea of cutting the sounds to the extreme was defiant in a good way. This world is filled with rhythms, so they are becoming less pop. But it’s not avant-garde either, and that’s what it’s good about it.
The New Breeze
So there is the Dub Station Band and recently you were the guest performer for Silent Poets for example, which are all different.
KodamaBasically, the band sound is totally different. I have been active doing live performances these days. In 2017, Newdubhall contacted me and right after, which is very strange, Shimoda of Silent Poets also gave me an offer. Right now, I’m involved in a band, playing everything from ska, rock steady, roots etc. You know, doing reggae among reggae type of music and completely different from what I’m talking about regarding Newdubhall in this interview. Also, for quite a while, I barely received any recording offers. You know, like that 40th anniversary project by BEAMS: the TOKYO CULTURE STORY, covering “Konya wa Boogie Back (Smooth Rap.)” I played about 8 notes and just about it. So Newdubhall kind of got me moving. And that’s fate too, you know. It’s quite wonderful.
HIMAWARI-DUB just came out so I’d like to hear about that too. You’ve been avidly active as a band for the past few years, having multiple releases and performing live. What served as a trigger for your actions?
KodamaFirst and foremost, the bass player of the band Kouchi really gave me a push. Back when the Dub Station Band was taking a break and then the drummer left… during that long, blank period, he came and insisted on continuing the band. It all started there. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be as active.
I really enjoyed the recent gig at Quatro in Shibuya.
The sound is so united… menacing almost.
KodamaYes, I feel that as soon as we start our first sound check at rehearsals. The sound pressure from the rhythm section is astonishing.
And I think it’s great that your music is spread like this to the world by a certain musical format.
KodamaEverybody wants to record music, but we are in dark days for that. Our keyboard player, HAKASE-SUN has made over ten solo albums but that’s his personal work. It’s totally different from recording a band sound, and for that, I’m saying we are in an unhappy age right now. Dub Station Band carries such great and talented members but we are struggling to make releases. We started off with a 12inch and then finally made it to releasing a CD.
It’s been about ten years since MORE was released.
KodamaI have been active in Dub Station Band but not as a solo. So that’s how difficult the situation is. That’s when Newdubhall contacted me. I said to myself “they’re trying to make music from this sound?” but made me happy at the same time. It would be great if I could continuously make solo work like Requiem DUB but more than ten years has past, and don’t think I’m not distressed by it. It’s easy to say it’s my own fault, but I’m living with more than ten years of stress of not being able to make something by myself. So I was on cloud nine when Newdubhall contacted me, allowing me to collaborate with their kind of music. I don’t mean to sound snobby or anything, but it’s as if they poked me at the best timing (laughs.) They brought me a project that I wanted to do but wasn’t able to for a long time. And soon after, Shimoda’s offer came; it’s easy to imagine how gushed out I am right now.
location：FUKUSUKE at Kunitachi Tokyo