Interview Shozo

Tout sur les techniques de sons traditionnels

Re: Interview Shozo

Messagepar Utnapishtim » Mar 24 Sep 2013, 17:48

Je viens de tomber sur une vieille interview de Shozo (anciennement parue dans feu le magazine Didgeridoo & Co).

C'est comme l'interview ci-dessus (il y a d'ailleurs quelques passages dans lequels il dit la même chose à quelques détails près), mais en plus long et en plus détaillé. Shozo y expose notamment la façon dont il appris le didgeridoo, sa relation avec le yidaki puller Djamana d'Elchoe Island, la création de l'album Sleeping with a Ghost, sa vie personnelle à Londres...

C'est vraiment très instructif, aussi bien pour en apprendre davantage sur la vie de Shozo, que pour mieux comprendre le contexte dans lequel les premiers joueurs de didgeridoo occidentaux ont découvert et se sont appropriés l'instrument dans les années 1990. Et bien entendu, c'est tout en anglais ! :D

Shozo Kimlee is Japanese, but has been living in England for many years. He can frequently be seen performing in Europe. Didgeridoo & Co's John Macdonald met him by chance in Zürich, Switzerland, and this interview ensued.

John: Shozo, you're certainly a person who gets talked about a lot! Your very definite ideas about how to play and your personal version of traditional yidaki style are almost legendary in the European didge scene. Having just listened to your new "Living with a Ghost" CD with the seven-piece band Ali-JapTap, I suppose tongues are going to be wagging again – what a contrast to your last recording! How did Ali-JapTap come about?

Shozo: Ali-Japtap is an experimental studio band with session musicians, based on world music, formed by Kad Achouri and myself. The story of how those musicians became involved with the album is unforgettable for me. The shape of the band only became clear as the project went on, as I wasn't sure who exactly I would bring to the studio when recording started. I had never played with any of them before except for Ben (bass) and Hilarius (flute, saxophone). Everything that happened with regard to finding the musicians was so lucky: I mean, the timing when I asked them to join this project was so lucky. Right at the beginning, before the recording started, I received the first e-mail I'd had from Ben in 8 years. He played bass on 2 tracks of my first album (1995). But he left England just after the album came out, and then we never managed to find out where each other were living...But all of sudden in January 2003, he e-mailed me and said that he had found my e-mail address on the Internet. I couldn't believe it. He is one of my favourite bass players and I really love to work with him – the way he interpreted the original track when he played with me always impresses me so much.

I e-mailed him back straight away: "I'm thinking of making a new album this winter..." and then he replied the same day and said he could do some bass for it. That was a very dramatic start for this project. He's living in Singapore, but we decided to send tracks to each other via the internet. This idea worked brilliantly and saved us a lot of time. His bass playing became a very important factor for the tracks, as a clear framework for each piece which inspired the other musicians in a certain way when they were fitting their sound into the songs. Eventually Ben played bass on 8 tracks. This made the album so rich and, in a way, comfortable to listen to.

The next musician who came to the studio was Hilarius. We met in Switzerland in 2002, and played together at my concert in Germany in the same year. He is from the Philippines, but has been living in Switzerland for a long time. He makes me feel a kind of Asian connection which I miss sometimes, maybe because I don't have many Asian friends in London. I invited him to come to London before he had to go back to the Philippines to produce his new album. So the recording started with two great musicians.

Then a while later I saw JC-001 (beat-box, mouth-sound effects, rap) in a local café. I've known him for 5 years. He became my dream artist when I saw him on a stage at a gig in London. I had this idea that he could come to the studio one day and do something for my album, but I didn't want to ask him until I felt I was ready. He recognized me in the café and we started chatting about what we'd been doing since, etc...suddenly a great idea came into my mind. I said maybe he could do something for the new album. He'd just came back from a European tour and had 2 months free before his next tour. He said "Let me hear your tracks, and if I like them, I'll do it for you." That was amazing. I never thought I would really get him on my album.

A few days later, I gave him 3 demo tracks from the CD. He rung me and said "I listened to your tracks, I will do it." I remember very clearly on that day when I put phone down, I said to myself "miraculous things have started happening on this project!" JC's recording was so perfect and quick. It took only 15 minutes to finish his recording on 3 tracks, including a short break between each session. He did all this tracks with just one take. His Dad was in a hospital because of a serious illness on the day when he came to the studio. He had to go back to the hospital immediately after his session to see his father.

A month later I saw Kad Achouri (piano, French vocals) in the local park near where I live. We'd seen each other frequently by chance on the street for 6 or 7 years, but we'd never talked to each other. This is something that I also find pretty weird – I never thought he was a musician and he had no idea how I make a living, but on that day something made us talk to each other for the first time. I always thought he looked like Prince. Previously we had just had quick eye-contact with each other, without exchanging words or stopping walking. But he recognised me and said "Hey man! Long time no see." Soon we started talking about music. He became very curious about my project, so I invited him to come to my place to listen to the rough mix of my new tracks. He came to my flat a few hours later and I played him the mixes of Ben's bass, JC, and myself, and he said "Wow, your music has a very strong inspiration and it sounds very raw". Then he asked me if he could do something on the CD. I can't believe what I said to him: "You can try if you want, but I'm not sure if I wanna use them or not", because the 3 tracks he wanted to try something on sounded already complete to me, and I also had no idea about how he played.

Anyway I gave him a copy of the 3 tracks.

The next day when I came home, I heard a familiar sound on my answering machine. I listened again carefully and I realised it was my new tracks with piano added by Kad. He had already recorded and rough-mixed the 3 tracks. I rang him straight away. He said "Do you like what I did Shozo?" I said "Oh yeah, DEFINITELY!" I realised that he is a very special musician. The next day I went to the big record shops in London to buy his first album "Liberté", but unfortunately they were all completely sold out.

We've been seeing each other all the time since then. We found out that we live so close to each other: it's only one minute's walk between our houses.

The last musician I wanted for some other tracks was Michael Ormiston. I saw a performance of his about 3 years ago in London. He is definitely one of the best non-Mongolian overtone singers. I've seen many people who do overtone singing, but what most of them do is show how weird overtone singing sounds, and when you get used to the sound, you will find sooner or later that musically it's quite empty. But Michael can sing proper songs. Actually, when he sings Mongolian traditional songs I get flashbacks to when I played with the Mongolian traditional band “Altai, Hangai, Gobinujanga" for a month in Amsterdam in 1997.

Michael was very ill when I phoned him. He had been suffering with an acute skin disease through the whole of the winter. He asked me to give him a month's time to recuperate. When spring came, he got much better. Finally we got him in the studio. and we recorded 3 tracks with him. He is also a multi-instrumentalist. When we had finished mixing with Michael on three tracks, the album got a nice variety, which created clearly different characters to each song. This is so important when I make a new album: it's just like the menu in a restaurant. It's nice to taste something different in all the 13 dishes, otherwise you don't appreciate the food any more after the second plate.

Another surprise occurred when I had 2 tracks left without being able to find a musician for them. Gareth the engineer said that maybe he could play guitar or something if I couldn't find anybody, but he hadn't played guitar for 10 years because he didn't have time to play an instrument as he was a popular engineer in his studio. To be honest, I didn't even know that he could play guitar, but when I listened to the guitar recorded and mixed with yidaki, I could hardly believe that he had had a 10 year gap in playing. That's incredible to me. If I had to play yidaki in the studio for the fist time in 10 years, I don't think I could do it.

We all respect each other as a musicians who are flexible, technically skilled and "heartful", harmonising in the music. Anyway, this is how Ali-Japtap was born.


John: Has the new CD been well received by the public in general? What about those who appreciated your last "traditional" style album? How do they react?

Shozo: Please don't say "25 Visitors", recorded in 1999, is a "traditional" album. I'm not a traditional player by the way. I just became influenced by traditional styles because I've been learning their style for a long time. The reason I studied traditional material is because I needed to learn the proper foundation to be able to produce a basic sound with the right character. But being a traditional player means that you understand how to play with the Songman, and you have to understand the lyrics. That has nothing to do with your playing having a similar sound texture, or that you can play the same quality of toots as is in their playing. In that respect I have great respect for all traditional players from Arnhemland. My style is not Western or pure traditional style. I don't know what it's called. I don't think about style so much any more when I play or listen to someone else playing yidaki. All I'm interested in is if the sound from the player makes me feel good or bad. I'm not talking about just sound quality, but also the structure of the song, including the design of patterns, the character of each phrase, the timing when it comes in and out, etc. The most important thing about playing any instrument to me is the total impression as a song, nothing to do with which style has been used.

Let's get back to your question! Where was I ? Oh yeah, feedback from people who listened to my new album is so different to my previous albums. I got loads of compliments from many people, especially people working in music industry. Already some record companies have become interested in publishing this album. I'm actually in the middle of negotiation with one of them at the moment. I've played this album to many different people who are not particularly into this instrument, and they’ve loved it. When I saw their reaction to the album, I was so pleased, and I started to believe that this album will be accepted by the public as a good music album. My motivation in producing the new album was very different to when I made the last 2 albums. I didn't make this album just for the didgeridoo market. I knew very clearly that the direction of this album was for the standard music industry. This is not didge music or a didge album, but music using didgeridoo. That's a big difference to me.

The people who liked the last album "25 Visitors" all much prefer the new album, just as I do. In my opinion, "Living With A Ghost" shouldn't be compared to the previous one. "Living With A Ghost" is the first time that I made an album which I wanted to hear myself. We spent 7 months recording, mixing and mastering. This length of time gave me enough chance not to have to compromise if anything went wrong in the studio. This is a big difference to when I did the last album. I wasn't in a good situation at the time. The top priority was finishing the album as soon as possible. It was too late when I found some serious errors were involved in the recording process. 50 songs with yidaki were already recorded and all of them were individually characteristic and had different stories. That was what I expected at the most for "25 Visitors”. All the tracks were completely improvised for the album. To be honest, I never played most of the songs in "25 Visitors" before or after the recording. Anyway, I decided to use 25 songs with unsatisfactory recording quality because I simply didn't have the chance and time to start from the beginning again, and I needed to finish everything very quickly because my first album had already been on the market for four years.

John: I believe there's quite a lot of didgeridoo players in Japan, which surprised me for some reason. How did you end up in London?

Shozo: Yes, indeed. Many people play didgeridoo in Japan now. When I went back to Japan in 1995 to promote my first album, I was surprised to see that there was a "Japanese Didgeridoo Institute" in Tokyo. They had 50 members who played didgeridoo. I'm sure that many more people play now, especially since Jamiroquai started touring Japan every year. So many young people have been attracted to playing this instrument since Jamiroquai got a yidaki player playing onstage in front an audience of between 20,000 and 30,000 people.

Most of these young people who started playing in the 90s had a different image of the instrument than I did when I started. It's like a mixture of something trendy and mysterious to them. Jamiroquai contributed enormously to public awareness in Japan and throughout the world – he introduced the instrument to many people who had never even heard didgeridoo before.

I was already living in the UK before the didgeridoo became popular in Japan. It's hard to explain how I ended up in London. Why I came to London and I'm still there has no connection with the didgeridoo. Actually, I didn't know what I wanted to do when I arrived in London, after having travelled to different parts of the planet. I remember that I was quite satisfied with not having any clear idea what I wanted to do.

I had my small didgeridoo with me when I came to England, but I wasn't a good player at all, just a beginner. I never practiced seriously in the beginning, because I thought I could never play as well as everybody else did. To be honest, I preferred to listen to somebody else playing for me. I really enjoyed that a lot more than playing myself. Then about a year later, I became completely addicted to making noise with the didgeridoo. After that all I did was practice all the time at home, but it wasn't because I wanted to be a professional didge player or anything like that, it just became a strong habit, part of my daily routine. I had no other addictions. I know many other victims who have had the same problem for a long time. Then, sometime, I lost interest in going back to travelling or moving to another country.

Someone said to me a long time ago, "You don't need to live in London if you want to spend all your time playing an instrument!" I replied "You're right, but I don't have to go to another country to do it either." I thought the best way to keep practising was to stay in one place all the time, since practising became the most important thing in my life. But I still wasn't interested in making my living like that. It was the pure challenge of satisfying my personal kind of subconscious desire. My lifestyle became much simpler, because I was doing almost the same thing every day, 365 days a year. Just playing with short breaks between. This period continued through all my chances to go somewhere different to live.

Now I don't have as much time to practice as before, but I've got more opportunity and reason to do something different which I couldn't have done before. But I always come back to London afterwards, wherever I go. This is my home. I always have a question in the back of my mind: "How long do I wanna live in London?" I still don't have the answer to that. It's very difficult to think "Where do I wanna live?" God knows! So this is how I ended up in London.


John: So how did you learn? From other players? From recordings? Who was your inspiration?

Shozo: In the beginning, I started learning from cassette tapes, CDs, and anybody who played better than me. My first yidaki music was a cassette tape with songs from western Arnhem Land with David Blanasi on yidaki. Someone gave it to me when I didn't have anything else to listen to. It was recorded in the 1960s when he was in his thirties. I used listen to that tape all the time in the beginning, since that was all I had. I tried to imitate the sound that I heard on the tape. Of course my playing didn't come close to what I heard in the tape, as my ears weren't developed enough to catch the whole sound from what I heard. Therefore it was too early for me to recognize how great his playing and the texture of his sound was. I had been playing for just one year at that time, and I didn't even know the difference between traditional and other styles.

Soon (in 1990) I started meeting good players from Australia accidentally in London, such as David Hudson, Phil Peris, Phil Conyngham, Alan Dargin...I have to say that 1990 was a big year for my didgeridoo story. I was still a complete beginner when I met them. I really liked their styles. Their playing sounded so alive to me compared to the local players I had met before in the UK. It wasn't really a traditional style, how they played, but it's wasn't the common Western style either. Those players had their own unique style with high technical skill and stability. I felt a kind of strong foundation behind their playing. I practised their styles for a while. I had a lot of opportunity to spend time with Phil Peris in particular, when he was living in London (1990-1992). I was always impressed when he played for me. He looked so relaxed and effortless when he was playing. I also listened to David Hudson's first album "Proud to be Aborigine". That's still his best album ever, in my opinion. The way he played on the album is extremely characteristic, and fits well with the music.

Anyway, those four players stayed in my mind for a while as my "textbook" when I practised, until my interest turned to Arnhem Land players. I'm sure that I learned something from all of them, even if it's so different to what I've learnt since I started with traditional style.

The first traditional yidaki player who I ever met was Djamana, from Elcho Island (off North East Arnhem Land), when I was in Darwin in 1990. He was my first "true" inspiration for playing yidaki. He was living in the hotel where I was staying in Darwin. He is definitely still one of my favourite yidaki players from amongst all the great traditional players I have met so far. I was deeply touched when I heard his playing right in front of me for the first time. It sounded so polyphonic, which was something I'd never experienced with anybody playing didgeridoo before. It confused my image of the didgeridoo immediately. To be honest, the sound he created made me think that I knew was a kind of magic to me. It was impossible not to feel that my battery was getting recharged very powerfully just by listening to his playing. When I heard his playing, I couldn't put it in the category of just music. His sound took me beyond music. It had some extra layers, with sharp edges, even if he played only one short basic drone. I had no idea how anybody could make sounds like that using the instrument. Since then, that sound of his has never left my mind. Even now I always hear it subconsciously when I think of yidaki. Later on I had the same experience when I spent time with Yothu Yindi's yidaki players in London (1993-1997).

It was a bit strange for me when I spent a month with Djamana. He was playing with his traditional band on the stage in our hotel's big patio twice every week. Most of time all he did offstage was sleep, even in the middle of the afternoon, otherwise he always had a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. And most of the time I stayed with him, night and day. I hoped I could learn something about how to play from him, but he never played or talked about yidaki when he was offstage. He looked very satisfied and happy with everything he got in his life. Actually, he didn't have so much apart from a big collection of Japanese rice-wine which he had got as a gift from some Japanese businessmen when he played for them. His one and only yidaki had lots of big cracks. His only income was the small fee he got twice a week for his gig. All his income went on drink and cigarettes.

I was a bit disappointed because he seemed uninterested in teaching me or telling me some yidaki stories...I always sat right front of the stage when he played. Every time he played it sounded so perfect. He didn't need to warm up before playing, not even for a few seconds. The sound just popped out with perfect shape when he started. He didn't need to prepare in any way to play yidaki professionally. Drinking didn't effect his playing at all. These things made me wonder what being a professional yidaki players really meant. He became a mystery for me. Nobody would ever have thought he was so special if they had never seen him perform. He liked to stay in his bedroom all day to drink and sleep. One day he told me why he stayed in his dark room all day: "Because it's too hot to be outside."

I really liked him just the way he was, but in the end he surprised me. The day before I had to leave Darwin, I heard someone knocking at my door. When I opened the door, I saw him standing there with his yidaki. That was the first time he had come to my room since we’d met a month before. He saw my recordable-walkman on a table, and said "I'll play for you, you can record my playing if you want." I couldn't believe that he knew what I wanted from him. I recorded the two different songs he played on my cassette recorder. It was a big gift to me. I still listen to the tape sometimes. It always makes me dream: "I wonder if one day I will be able to play like him...?" I still highly appreciate him spending all his time with me for a month. He never talked about yidaki or Aboriginal culture and history, but of family, friends and daily routine. He treated me like his old friend. When I think back to that month with him, I feel that he taught me something very special which you can't learn from a stereotypical workshop, or even from private lessons....

When I met Yothu Yindi for the first time in London in 1993, my interest in traditional style was increasing, and I was clearly able to see the difference between their sound and non-traditional styles. I was introduced to them by Wallis Buchanan (who played yidaki for Jamiroquai). Wallis was the only yidaki player in England who I was learning with. We played for each other. We met in 1990 in London just after we started playing. Having someone with the same interest and passion to learn was a great blessing, and enabled me to learn faster and deeper. It's so important to have somebody who listens to your playing and says "There's still something missing in the sound." Otherwise you might be happy with any ****. We went to see Yothu Yindi again and again, every time they came back to London. We were allowed to go to their sound-check, backstage, in the changing room, and even went back to the hotel with them in the coach after their gigs. I felt like my dream had come true, because I knew that they were the right people to give me the answers to all my questions, which no-one could help me with in England. I was so excited about getting new knowledge and technical advice from them.

Almost everything I was told about how to play yidaki was so new and different to my old knowledge, which I had heard from loads of non-traditional didgeridoo players before. For example, here everybody believes that your mouth should be wet, shouldn't be dry, when you play didgeridoo, but traditional players believe that the mouth should be dry for a better sound. Their approach to everything is more than just different, it's almost completely the opposite. This fact convinced me that using just our imagination to guess how to get their sound out will be about as likely to succeed as winning the jackpot in a lottery. I believed everything they said to me, as the sound was the proof.

Those extremely opposite ideas and logic, as applied when playing the same instrument in either traditional or non-traditional style, formed a clear contrast in my head. It became a clear indication of which way I would go. "Traditional style" isn't just one style. There are many different styles within Arnhem Land. For example, Western Arnhem Land and North-East Arnhem Land have completely different styles, but all these different styles are based on the same foundation. There is the same basis when playing the instrument, just like there is for us when playing the trumpet or other wind instruments. This kind of thing can't be twisted. The didgeridoo is not the exception as a wind instrument.

I respect traditional players because even if they only play one short phrase, none of them ignore that foundation. If you see a carpenter hold a nail upside-down on the wood before he hits it with his hammer, you will be suspicious, and you won't believe he can build a beautiful house!

I slowly begin to understand the structure of their sound, their breath and muscle control, and their accurate timing, through my endless repetition of watching, listening and imitating. I've learnt from cassette tapes, CDs, and privately filmed video from Arnhem Land from those I didn't have the chance to be with.

When I was in Arnhem Land, I met so many great yidaki players almost everywhere. Believe or not, most of them are at master level. I couldn't believe that it was so difficult to find anyone who doesn't play yidaki so well. Playing yidaki really well just seems to be no big deal to them. I also learned a lot from the local children on the beach when I was visiting north-east Arnhem Land. All I wanted to know was how to make just one basic sound "their way". I couldn't believe it when I saw how the children play yidaki there. They all know the most important techniques for playing yidaki – even 5 or 7-year old kids!

Learning from little children worked brilliantly for me. It was great to see what and how children practice to become great yidaki players. They were very keen to show me anything I didn't know. They wanted to tell me everything they knew. They were so innocent, but great teachers for me. I remember them coming back to me every half an hour or so to give me a quick demonstration on the yidaki and then running away again. Incredibly none of them put any effort into playing. The perfect sound popped out straight away as soon as they started playing. I never got bored with listening to them play. You forget a little kid's age when you hear the quality of their playing. I had always been curious to know how the elders had practised when they started playing in their childhood, and I finally found that out when I saw how all the kids play there. It's easy to see the natural connection between the elders and their kids. I would say that all those kids were potential "real professional yidaki players" for the future. Which is pretty obvious when you think who they learnt to play yidaki from.

When I look back on the history of my learning from 1989, I feel I've been very lucky to have met with great knowledge and teachers who put me back on the right track at an early stage. Otherwise I would have lost my interest and my passion for playing this "one-note wind instrument" a long time ago...
Modifié en dernier par Utnapishtim le Mar 24 Sep 2013, 17:49, modifié 1 fois.
Fabulous secrets were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic yidaki and said : « By the power of hard tongue ! I have the Poweeeeer ! »
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