Anchorsong: ‘Unpredictability is the key to exciting live music’
Tokyo-born Anchorsong has fast earned himself a reputation as an incredibly innovative and exhilarating live act. Fans are left agape after watching him literally building tracks on stage using an MPC. But how refreshing to learn that like most people, he first developed his musical talents at primary school, peeping away on a plastic recorder.
This weekend he joins DJ Kentaro for a special one-off show in London, where he’ll be showing some new material and performing alongside headliners Hidden Orchestra.
How has your approach to making music changed since relocating from Japan to London?
I hardly paid attention to what’s happening in the underground scene in Tokyo. I was just making whatever I considered cool because the market for the scene was small and there’s no chance for me to make a living by playing music anyway. There’s always a particular trend in electronic music scene in Europe and now I do pay attention to it. I take some essence of it into my own production if it’s suitable. It doesn’t mean I want to be a part of the trend though.
What’s the ratio of improvised to pre-planned when it comes to your live shows?
Ninety per cent is pre-planned, 10% improvised. The harmonies in my music are carefully composed, and I’d like to re-create it on the stage rather than adding spontaneous arrangements. The rhythm part is a little more flexible, so I improvise the drum pattern sometimes. In that sense, my music is probably closer to pops or classical rather than jazz.
Are you looking forward to the London gig, do you have any AV aspects planned?
I like London audiences, so I’m always looking forward to gigging here. I’ll have just a simple loop-based projection this time but I’m working on creating an interactive visual for my set with a very talented creator at the moment.
What was the first instrument you learnt, are you from a musical family?
I’m not from a musical family. The first instrument I learned was Soprano recorder which was given to all the students at my elementary school. I played timpani and snare drum in the school marching band and I was quite good at it. My musical teacher suggested that I should start learning it properly but I wasn’t interested that time. I never thought I’d be a musician back then.
Who else on the bill are you looking forward to seeing?
Hidden Orchestra and DJ Kentaro. Both of them are good friends of mine and talented musicians.
Are you working on any new material at the moment?
Yes I am and I’ll surely play some of them this weekend. I premiered those tracks a couple of weeks ago and received excellent feedback, so I’m looking forward to playing them with additional strings arrangement.
AraabMuzik and Daedelus are similar to you in the way that they build tracks as they go. Who else do you consider to be a peer?
Steve Reich. He does the same thing with real musicians on the stage and it’s far more difficult and complicated than what we do with electronic equipment. He’s one of the pioneers of this “build-up” style composition/performance.
What led you to start building entire songs from scratch as opposed to being a part of a band?
I was the main songwriter of the band I used to belong to. I was always making a demo track on my own with an 8-track recorder and a drum machine, so it was a natural progression that I became a producer.
What brought you to London?
I wanted to be a full time musician and London seemed to be the better place to fulfil the ambition. Besides, I always wanted to live here as I’d been into the music scene in the UK for ages. It’s been stimulating both my creativity and hunger for exciting music.
You lived in New York for a time, what did you find most interesting about the city?
I met so many interesting people there and they were all being very creative in different ways. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after I graduated until then. But meeting those creative people there encouraged me to do what I really wanted to do. I doubt I’d have become a musician if I hadn’t spent some time of my life in that city.
What would you suggest to artists who want to emulate your style – what’s more important, an MPC or ideas and drive?
Although it might require some performance skills, what I’m doing isn’t technically difficult after all. The most important part for me is to keep the balance of the quality of the composition and the accessibility of the live performance. There’s nothing wrong with emulating somebody else’s style for a start. You’ll discover your own style at some point if you’re being serious with it.
Do you still enjoy playing the guitar?
I do. The next record will feature lots of minimal guitar riffs which is one of the things I’m pursuing for a while.
Who’s your favourite classical composer?
Mmm, Beethoven..? I like his pieces for string quartet but I’m not so familiar with classical music after all. At least not yet.
What do you think playing with an analogue sound like the quartet brings to your sound?
They’ll bring more thrill of live music into my half-programmed performance. Unpredictability is the key to exciting live music. A live show of electronic music tends to lack it, so I try to compensate for it by playing with them.
What’s your criteria for a fantastic live show?
The accessibility. Some people believe an electronic music show isn’t enjoyable because they don’t understand what the performers are doing on the stage. I do feel that way as an audience sometimes, so I want to do a show which can appeal to those people.
Soundcrash presents Hidden Orchestra + Anchorsong, September 29th, Village Underground, London.Anchorsong, Daedelus, DJ Kentaro, Hidden Orchestra, tokyo
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