Name: Kazu Makino
Occupation: Vocalist, Multi-Instrumentalist, Songwriter
Current Release: Adult Baby on Adult Baby Records / !K7 Music
Recommendations: Right now, all my inspiration comes from the sea, the sun and a man.
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When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
When I met my bandmate Amedeo Pace I started writing music. My early passion was lot of things. As a child, my parents and some adults were concerned that I was strange ... that I was obsessive. So they monitored my interests carefully and took them away as soon as they saw that it became excessive. Eventually, I learnt to hide my feelings about what moved me. But it didn't cure me. I was totally obsessed and passionate about anything that caught my attention.
Music and sounds are the quickest way for me to transport myself to the imaginary world I guess.
For most artists, originality is first 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? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I feel everything I do comes from outside of me. Sometimes as obvious as copying someone's song. Sometimes I think they are just floating in the air. Either way, it is 'me' that's picking up on things which are unique - even if I felt like I am ripping off someone bluntly. You learn your uniqueness once your music starts to reach people. You kind of figure it out through others. But then you have a danger of starting to copy yourself too. (laughs)
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I get terrible demo ideas. I like things that I do without thinking, not knowing what they are and to emulate that. Once a song is finished, in the studio trying to record the best versions of them, is like parting with accidental genius. But you have to let go of that and just finish the thing the best you can.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I don't remember. I do believe that good instruments make you play things that you wouldn't otherwise. And it doesn't mean only fancy stuff, but things you discover that contain your voice. I love my CS 60. Gibson SG and Fender amp. Another is the VSS keyboad which allows me to sample my voice to the keys. And I would like to have a beautiful sounding piano and synth that has great string sounds.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I think the main difference between us is that we don't need a grid and they do. But both are good ...
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I am not good at software at all. So when I force myself to do it in order to put down ideas … usually, some mistakes happen that originate from stressing my software. Which I find hilarious and make me almost feel affectionate towards my computer.
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?
I like talking and working with people directly the most. I lke finding things that each artist does best in my own music and that is much easier when we are in the same room. But bouncing ideas from a distance can be rewarding if you are very compatible musically. Then it's a treat to spend time and sending things to each other.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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 take my matcha and start listening to music immediately. If I am going through an insomniac phase I might leave music on all night long. If I need to work on my own music then, I might deprive myself from listening to other's music. But I often take a long time to wake up, do errands and go to the sea. Although if I work on music, I often lose sense of time and I miss everything and suddenly, you are exhausted and it is late at night. Anyway, for me the best day is I get to the sea and then in the evening I work on music and then after midnight or later I go out for a glass … that would be a beautiful day.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
Um, for my solo album, I started by making loops not necessary digitally but just playing the parts repeatedly. Then I wrote melodies over them. After that I took it to the studio with amazing gear and looked for great sounds. I traveled to wherever I had until I found the sound I love and record them pristine. And then, I asked the guests to add to the songs, keep pushing them further and further. This process is like a journey to the moon but numerous times.
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?
Sometimes it takes a while … Especially if I am pressed to do so. I would clean the whole house, pay my bills and do things that I normally hate to do - anything other than working on that piece of music. But then once you are in it, time stops and you stay there until you want to reflect on it or look at it from the outside. I think the only possible distraction is someone telling you what to do or judging you right there and then while you're trying something.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I think you know the answer already it seems. Lots of new ideas for songs come from playing shows and improvising or even act of tuning can lead to something new on tour. I think this repetitive daily actions helps, because you repeat the same thing over and over for weeks, sometimes until you are compelled to change. And that change is normally good.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Similar to the previous questions but I think sound makes the music … Have you ever heard heavy metal music without the guitar effects? It is the nerdiest but also pretty unimpressive piece of scales. The same goes for my music, too. It's like a voice. A thousand different voices can say 'I adore you'. But you're still going to have your favorite one or two ...
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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Obvious ones are colours. I do see them linked and hear things in colours. I like textured voice, too. Some voice feels like velvet with a little bit of crackling in it … I also try to smell nice before I perform. Not because I want to be presentable, but because it allows me to travel to someplace else while on stage. I also wonder whether some in the audience catch this smell and link it to the music. I used to want to fill the room with a certain smell in every venue. I might still try.
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 think the more you do it - meaning your art - the more influence you have in making your community better. Which is the most important thing. Then you can voice your opinions but your opinions are so much more powerful when your art has an impact on people and your community.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21stcentury with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I like to hear pop music that speeds up and down ...