An Interview With The Japanese Rock Band, RADWIMPS On New and Old Music, Biggest Inspirations and More!
The Japanese rock band RADWIMPS are massive superstars in Asia! They finally released their highly anticipated new album “Human Bloom” stateside a couple months ago.
RADWIMPS is known for their genre-bending style, mixing elements of modern rock with the feel of jazz and hip hop and have made serious waves, recently completing a tour that spanned across Europe and Asia and ended with them playing to a crowd of over 30,000 people at Makuhari Messe in Japan.
The band is blowing up internationally right now as they were brought on to compose the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed, award-winning anime movie, Your Name., which is smashing records right now — it’s currently the second highest-grossing Japanese anime film of all time, right behind Spirited Away (with some saying it could become the highest-grossing Japanese anime film in the global box office), and is set for a run in the states in early 2017. It’s also recently been announced as part of the shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Learn more about Radwimps in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that 2016 is over, what are some words you would use to describe the year for the band? What have been some of the highlights for you all and your music? What are you most excited about for 2017? Did you make any resolutions for the new year?
Yusuke Takeda: Satoshi Yamaguchi, our drummer, went on a break due to illness in September 2015 so year 2016 was a new start for the remaining three members. Highlights of the year has to be the OST of movie “Your Name.” and how so many people found out about us through it. We couldn’t do many shows in 2016 so we hope to bring our music directly to as many people as possible in 2017 through touring.
Yojiro Noda: It was one of the busiest years for our band last year. And we are very satisfied about it. Since our drummer got sick, we started moving on with only 3 of us.
I think the biggest highlights were the Movie ‘Your Name.’, I guess. We didn’t expect the huge results. Very surprised with it. But happy that everyone liked the movie and the music inside that we really take time and work hard on it. This year will be a gig year. Travel around many places delivering our music directly.
Akira Kuwahara: We released 2 albums last year and with the huge success of the movie “Your Name.”, a lot of people got to know us for the first time. It was a very fruitful year for the band. This year, we will be doing a lot of shows so looking forward to that.
Growing up, did you all always want to be musicians? Can you talk about this group first formed and how you came up with your name?
YT: I wanted to become someone who makes instruments.
YN: I didn’t have any idea of being a musician at all. My dad was a normal business man, there weren’t any relatives who were working in the music industry or anything.
The very first member got together when we were 15. And we named it RADWIMPS. Of course we didn’t expect the band to last so long so in a very light feeling. I don’t remember very well when I came up with this name. But I always had this ambivalent feeling and wanted to have that in the name.
AK: I’ve been dreaming about joining a band since Jr. High. In high school, Yojiro joined the band I was in through a mutual friend and around when we were 19, Satoshi and Yusuke joined.
Since forming in 2001, how do you think your sound and the band dynamics have grown and really changed?
YT: Other than guitar, bass and drummers (usual band instruments), we started to incorporate varieties of other instrument.
YN: I think it changed a lot. And is still changing. I always wanted to be related to the era, the generation. I wanted to be affected by it. Affected by new music and new thoughts. Filter it through my brain and trying to make new music.
AK: We now have varieties of ways of approaching music. We’re still in the midst of it but we’re definitely evolving.
What does it mean to all of you to be really targeting the US now? Is this something that you’ve wanted to do for awhile?
YN: Actually, U.S. is too big for targeting. I can’t really imagine where to start. But the people supporting us told us that now’s the time, so I kind of took that in. I’m very excited to come to the place where I actually stayed when I was small. Wish I could tell him (young-self), that ‘you’re going to come back with your music’. I love this country and also want to discover how it changed over the last 20 years.
AK: There are so many great worldwide musicians from America so I want to know how far we can go in that market.
You wrote the soundtrack to the award-winning anime movie, “Your Name.” Can you talk about putting that collection together? Where did the inspiration for it come from?
YT: We wrote the basis of songs by watching video storyboard and built on top of that by closely communicating with the film director.
YN: At first we took time. Almost year and a half. We talked with the film director and the producer so many times that I can’t even remember. The music was moving on at the same time with the animation so it effected in both ways. The music changed the story, the lines, and if the new scene came up, we change the music. It was very creative moment.
The 2 main characters were very attractive. So I concentrated on them. How, when their feelings move, we weren’t able to see the actual animation until it was all finished so we focused on the script and director’s words.
And kept imagining.
AK: There was no one thing that inspired us but I wrote songs to match the images Makoto Shinkai (director) had of the film.
How is your album, “Human Bloom” going to be different or similar to anything else that you’ve released in the past?
YT: Diversity of the songs on the album hasn’t changed much from before but “Human Bloom” seems to be more open minded and happy and out there.
YN: It is in the extension of what we have done in our career, but this one is the brightest album for us, I think. I truly had this joy of playing music, joy of keep playing for more than 15 years.
AK: Biggest difference is that our support drummer, Mizuki Mori, is playing most of the drum part on this record. I think this album is very easy to listen to compared to our past albums.
What if anything has surprised you about the music industry? What do you think has been your biggest challenge? And what do you think has come really naturally to you?
YT: We get to use the studios for free!
YN: We knew nothing about music industry so there wasn’t anything shocking or surprising. We just accepted what it was. But it’s not that bad, like people around us say.
Maybe from this year is going to be the biggest challenge. We’re going to have the longest tour around the world, and along with it, that song writing will change.
AK: I was surprised and happy that we could record and rehearse without spending our money.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire you and your music? Who would you still love to work with in the future?
YT: Red Hot Chili Peppers! I watch their live DVD before our own shows to hype myself up.
YN: Radiohead, Bjork, Elliot Smith, The Flaming Lips, Hiromi Uehara, John Frusciante, Ringo Sheena.
AK: I love Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay and Mr. Big. I hope to work with them some day.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners continue to take away from your songs?
YT: Instead of us hoping for the listeners to receive our messages in a certain way, I hope each and every one of our listeners will naturally receive and feel something from our music. That’s all I wish for.
YN: It really depends on the song. It’s very different feelings what I lock inside songs. I just want people to receive it just the way as it is. I hope my songs give listeners new changes to their ordinary life.
AK: We really put our thoughts and emotions into our music but I think it’s OK for the listeners to interpret them any way they want.
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you all unwind from it all?
YT: Video games!
YN: Watch movies, eat, drink. Nothing special, pretty boring. Making music is fun. I take a long bath.
AK: I like playing video games. Sometimes, I do it all day.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or the music you make?
YN: Thanks for reading this. Thanks for knowing us. Hope we could come to the U.S. to perform so please come over to see us then.
AK: If there are people in the US waiting for us, we hope to go and do some shows!