Name: Buffalo Daughter
Members: Sugar Yoshinaga, Yumiko Ohno, MoOoG Yamamoto
Interviewee: Sugar Yoshinaga
Current release: Buffalo Daughter's latest album We Are The Times is due September 17th via Musicmine (Japan) / Anniversary (worldwide). They have also just issued a remastered version of their formerly Japan-only EP Long Life Story Of Miss Cro-magnon.
György Ligeti: Portrait (1993)
I recently watched this with English subtitles on YouTube. It’s a great documentary to know how the great composer‘s creative paths and thoughts.
Twin Peaks The Return (2017)
We are huge Twin Peaks fan from the original TV series but this series, set 25 years later, is far more than you can ever imagine. You would love or be bored. We have learned so much about being creative. Thank you David Lynch.
If you enjoyed reading this Buffalo Daughter interview, visit their personal homepage for more information. For current updates and music, head over to their social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Cassette 4 tracks.
Roland MC-500 sequencer.
Fostex 16 track multi-track recorder
Apple Macintosh Classic with Cubase.
Apple PowerBook with Emagic Logic.
Apple Mac Pro with Apple Logic
Apple MacBook Pro with Studio One and Pro Tools.
I’ve always loved home recording – putting/weaving musical/sonic ideas onto multi track recorder. Making/playing music with a sequencer is like playing with my band mates, but it’s free. No studio fee and you can work on it whenever you want.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Since our interests in music are diverse, we always tried to find a sweet spot where all my interests could meet/be blended together. And we also love experimenting.
Playing blues guitar over TB-303’s acid bass line, playing with shortwave radio noise as synthesizer, putting a chopstick under record on turntable for weird loop, etc.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
We are all humans living everyday life in each part of the city. Our music is definitely influenced by our environment and circumstances (what music isn’t??).
Let’s say, music from all over the world is like a postcard from different place in the world. It’s always a big joy to get one from a place you would never have expected, and it’s great especially when it resonates in you.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Thinking back, in the beginning I had so many interests, so many possibilities, that it was hard to put together ideas and establish them as my own work.
As I've gotten older, my interest are still in many places and it has not changed, but I think I've become better at making choices when I want to put them together.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
In the beginning, experimenting with old analog instruments was at the core of our music. Without those instruments, we wouldn't have existed as a band, probably. Just by turning the knobs we could make it an 8 minute song.
As tge years passed, we were getting used to it and could be losing interest at some point, but we found a way to compose from a different perspective with digital editing. Today we are still turning the knobs. The quest never ends, I guess.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Our first two EPs were recorded on analogue multi tapes.
From the second album New Rock we started using A-Dat digital multitrack which had us have so much freedom in dubbing/editing. Then we started making music at our own small studio - most of all our remix works were done there.
Then came the tapeless digital recording era - ProTools. It made it so much easier for indie/DIY band like us not only budget-wise but also time-consuming-wise. It kind of brought me back to where I came from - when I was making demos from cassette 4-track multi.
I can still make/record music whenever I want but now I can even finish it at home. It’s great to catch and record the ideas as soon as they pop up in my mind.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
On a Buffalo Daughter music production, I and Yumiko write the song, mostly together. We play some ideas to each other and talk to see how we would like to develop them.
Technology changes in recording tools help a lot with this because we can keep putting those small ideas onto our DAW when they are fresh. It's like wrapping up the vegetables you just picked this morning and putting them in the freezer right away. You can decide later how you cook them. Sometimes you would forget what the material in the fridge was for, but it’s good for cooking because it was frozen when it was fresh.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I wake up in the morning and read through news and SNS on my phone in bed for half an hour to an hour. Then out of the bed for morning coffee (my favorite thing in the morning), feed and play with my parrots. This definitely keeps me sane even under this unusual pandemic situation.
After this, I go to my home studio to make music or go out for other studio or venue to play with my mates.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I feel this new album we are releasing this fall is so special. I don’t know if it’s going to be a breakthrough work, but it’ll stay a special one to me.
Seven years have passed since the last album’s release, and I went through ups and downs during that period. Maybe it was one of those midlife crises, I don’t know, and there came many new types of music that sounded like they were made in Ableton Live and I was personally so overwhelmed by them. I felt like the music I was making was outdated all the sudden over night.
I kept making music though and eventually my worries became less and less, and I was able to concentrate on my own work. Like I sing in the first song of new album, “music is the vitamin to live under too much pressure in quarantine. It gives me back neutral state or adrenaline”. Music hurts me sometimes, but it saves me more than I get hurt.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
This life in the pandemic world is driving me crazy, but it's also taught me that it’s time to slow down a little. I didn’t realize it myself before but now that I was forced to face it, I do. It was unfortunately a negative impact in the world dominated by social networking.
I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish the album if I hadn’t been forced to stay home. The more I wondered when I would be able to go back on tour and if I would ever have that kind of life again, the more I was able to focus on what was in front of me then, which was finishing the album in a great form. Considering this as what worked for me, I would say that having a neutral state of mind is important to be creative.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I don’t know if I get hurt by listening to music ... Well, probably by a bad sound system at the event or venue? It makes me sad when I hear a bad sound for music. It’s like ruining a good steak with a bad sauce.
Music is definitely good tool for healing. Music can make people cry and bring tears to their eyes, but why? Music can reach deep inside people, I think. Because it can be interpreted in a wide range of ways, it can sound sad to some people while it’s heartwarming to others.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
This question reminded me of this – some years ago I heard some young rappers rapping over our song "New Rock”. They made it available for free as a download, probably to avoid us getting mad at them for using it without permission. But honestly, it made us happy. It was so cool that they picked a song which was more than 15 years old at that time and turned it into a rap track. We offered them to make the “official” one later and released it on our Best Of album.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I personally like to smell things. The smell of the guitar, smell of pedal case, smell of guitar amp. Smells bring back memories of good and bad times and become an inspiration. I think I can smell the sound.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I try to be honest and sincere when I create, because if you lie in your art, later you will have to compensate.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music does not necessarily use the verbal brain, and can be directly connected to the feelings that are hardly expressed in words.