Black Rock

"If God was a Rock Star..."

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Monkey Majic recording at Black Rock

Japanese band "Monkey Majik" talking about their recording experience at Black Rock.

2010 was the 10th anniversary of when the band was formed, and as such you were engaged in a pretty vigorous schedule.

tax: Yeah. Last year was really busy... We were on tour starting February, in May we played in the Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall, in July we released our best-of album, "MONKEY MAJIK BEST~10Years & Forever~," and starting in October we went on tour again. Before that we went to Greece to work on mixing our new album, "westview," and before we went to Greece we did the pre-production for it.

When did you start doing the pre-production?

t: It was about 2 months before we went to Greece, so probably around June? Since then we've been talking about this new album, and we've been writing songs for it since about a month before we left for Greece.

When you first started production on the album, what sort of image for it did you have in mind?

Blaise: Last year was the 10th anniversary of our formation, and we did tours and released a best-of album for it. The best-of album was a relatively big project, and it perfectly suited a 10th anniversary. So then, for "westview" we wanted to forget about the 10th anniversary. It has nothing to do with the 10th anniversary, and we frankly just wanted to try something new. We didn't really think about it too hard. (laugh)
t: (laugh) We did the mixing and recording for the best-of album in Tokyo, but when we were done with it we went out drinking and started talking, saying "I want to do this kind of song," or "I want to do that kind of song." That was the feeling we put into this album.

So then, rather than having a specific image for the album, you more wrote the songs that you wanted to write?

t: That's exactly it. We didn't want to do old, warmed-over songs, we created the songs little by little from what we could do with the melody and letting the lyrics take us where they would. In our case, the fine-tuning took a lot of time, and time-wise that was the worst part.

I see.

t: Also, after we first went major, there was a a lot of talk of doing commercials or the theme songs for dramas and movies, and we followed the suggestions of other people as well as wrote songs that fit with the images we wanted. But this time, we started from scratch. That is to say, we let ourselves play with it, and we had fun. It was something we hadn't done in a long time. Because of that, it was odd to do something so fresh. I mean, aren't albums usually made out of songs that were singles first?

That's very true.

B: So then, when you listen to this album, I think it seems like a real album. We weren't thinking about commercials or dramas.

So you mean that you took a totally different approach with your best-of album?

B: Yes. The songs on the best-of album were songs that had a commercial feelingsto them, like they could have been on a commercial or movie or drama, but the songs on this album were made with our own images and worldview, so I think it's easier to enjoy these songs.

You mentioned that you did the mixing for the album in Greece. Why Greece?

B: For the pita bread. And the feta. (laugh)
t: (laugh) Well, it was partly for our 10th anniversary, and also because we'd been talking about it for a long time as a place that we were pretty sure we could relax and not work.

So kind of like a business trip for pleasure for your 10th anniversary?

B: Well... Yeah, pretty much. (laugh)
t: It was half that, and... Before we ever thought of Greece, we'd decided to do our mastering in London. We thought there might be a good studio someplace in that general region, so Blaise got on the internet and searched. He just happened to hit upon Greece.
B: I was thinking about Hawaii, too, but we figured we could go to Hawaii anytime, and there weren't any good studios anyway. Besides, it let us create the album with a very "homey" feeling. If we'd gone with Hawaii we'd stay in a resort and the studio would be in some totally different place so we'd have to commute to it every day, but the studio on the Grecian island was just one big house.
t: The studio was on an island called Santorini Island, and the studio was attached to lodging, so it was perfect. It's a place where time stands still, and every day you see the same landscape. When you wake up in the morning and look out the window, the same view is stretching out before you, the sun shining, not a cloud in the sky. At night, you drink sleepily, and the next day you wake up to see the same sky and think "Huh? Wasn't it just night?" (laugh) It's the kind of place where you can't keep track of how many days have gone by.

Creating music in a place like that, you could begin to see the form of the album little by little... What kind of album do you think "westview" is?

t: At a glance it doesn't seem to have a sense of unity, and as an album it doesn't seem to have consistency. Sometimes you buy CDs from the artists that you like, and although at first it doesn't strike you, as you listen to the CD over and over again, you come to find that you like it. This is that kind of album. Whenever we finish with an album we just want to give our ears a rest, and we don't really listen to what we've made. But this time, even while we were still in Greece, we listened to it over and over. Even when we were on the way back to Japan, we were still listening to it, and there are a lot of songs that catch in your ears. I've never been as satisfied with one of our albums as I am with this one.

And what do you think, Blaise?

B: I think it's a great album. When you listen to it, it sounds exactly like Western music. I think it's weird for me to say that. (laugh) But I got the same kind of feeling from our final indies album, "eastview."

I also thought of "eastview." They have similar titles, and "westview" has a more or less similar feeling to "eastview" as well, so that they seem almost to form a pair.

B: Yeah. We recorded them with pretty much the same style. "eastview" was created over the course of two weeks while we were all living in the same house. And "westview" was the same. In the villa we stayed at in Greece, everyone had their own room, and there was a living room, and it really felt like a house. So we also created them in a similar way, as well.
t: Although we weren't aware of it when we were in the middle of creating the album, we weren't thinking about how to balance the album against a single or anything, just like when we made "eastview." We just created the album song-by-song as we thought of them.

Even if you put songs from "eastview" onto this album, they wouldn't seem out of place. It seems that, fundamentally, you haven't changed from what you were five years ago [when you went major].

t: Indeed. Hearing you say that makes me feel really good about it. (laugh)
B: So now we just need to make "southview" and "northview," and ten years from now we can release a 4-disc box set called "the view." (laugh)

(laugh) In any event, it's an album that sounds so similar to what you released before your debut, it's a definite must-listen album.

t: Yeah. I don't think that there are a lot of people who would enjoy this album, but there are some people who understand how fun music is, and those people might understand. And if people listen to this album and get a sense of how much fun music can be, then we'll be happy.
B: We really just want people to enjoy it. And we want them to like it more and more no matter how many times they hear it. It's that kind of album. It has a feeling kind of like "Pinkerton."

By Weezer?

B: Yeah. The first time I heard that album all I thought was, "What the hell is this?" But over time as I listened to it more and more, I thought "Wow, this is a good album." I think it's Weezer's best.

I see.

t: Also, as I said before, since we didn't put anything from a single onto this album, and since we weren't thinking about commercials or dramas when we made it, the songs have strong hooks. We created "westview" knowing that the sound would be impactful, because we worked on it freely. I originally took note of the images and words we wanted to use in the songs. Doing that was really fun.

This is a deep album that really seems quintessentially Monkey Majik.

t: Yeah. But, even saying that, it's not like they don't have strong hooks. So no matter how many times you listen to them, you get only a little of their flavor. We hope there are a lot of people who will enjoy that.

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