Japanese rock act [Alexandros] speaks to Hello Asia’s Johnny Au exclusively at SXSW 2016. This is the second time [Alexandros] has showcased at the prestigious event in Austin.
In the first part of our two part interview we speak with Yoohie, Hiroyuki, Masaki and Satoyasu about their current and previous SXSW experience, we ask [Alexandros] how they come up with their album names, their songwriting process and we ask what flavour is their music?
Congratulations on your SXSW showcases! How is your SXSW experiences so far? How was your showcase just then?
Yoohie Kawakami: The show was really fantastic we really loved it.
A great crowd turned up too!
Hiroyuki Isobe: We came to SXSW two years ago and today for better than last time. So right so far. But there’s a long way ahead of us still. We’re not going to be satisfied with this. we’re not going to take it for granted. We’ll keep moving on.
What’s been your SXSW experience like so far? Have you walked around and checked out the music?
Satoyasu Shomura: Last night I got see NOFX. Very fun!
Yoohie Kawakami: I wanted to see Deftones last night but we missed it. So hopefully we can check out Wolfmother from Australia. I love them.
Last time you were in Austin you were known as Champagne. What did you learn from the last SXSW you attended?
Yoohie Kawakami: You have to speak English (laughs).
Hiroyuki Isobe: Personally I learnt that wherever I go, what we can do is all we can do. I learnt that to try harder is not going to make a good result. Do what you can do. We still think we’re cool and that’s what’s important I guess.
Yoohie Kawakami: The whole environment on (SXSW) stage is really different from Japan. Back home everything is really organised. But it doesn’t really matter if the performance and art is really good. It doesn’t really matter.
Your records have some fantastic titles – we especially love “Where’s My Potato?” and “Me No Do Karate”. How do you choose your album titles?
Yoohie Kawakami: First of all obviously we want to make people laugh. I wanted to make a title that sounds really nice. Titles like “Me No Do Karate” and “Where’s My Potato” sounds good. And it looks good when you write it down. Its unique.
Tell us about your songwriting process? What is the starting point? How does your music come together?
Yoohie Kawakami: First I make the music with my guitar. Recently I bought a PC to make music. I just started making music on a personal computer.
Hiroyuki Isobe: We basically don’t use a computer to make music. Yoohie used to make the melodies and bring it into the studio and we would just do a session to see what chords work for the melody. So recently we had just started using computers like all the other bands in the world. Personally I don’t want to get too used to creating music on a computer.
Do you find it easier doing it on a computer?
Hiroyuki Isobe: Its easier so we want to use it. But we don’t want to get too used to it. Doing sessions in a studio is still fun.
Yoohie Kawakami: Sessions is much better because there is a miracle happening in a studio.
Hiroyuki Isobe: Getting all instruments with the four of us together is important.
Some of your lyrics are a mixture of English and Japanese. Is there a conscious decision behind how much of each language is used or do the lyrics just form that way naturally?
Yoohie Kawakami: Yes its a natural process.
If [Alexandros] music was a flavour, what flavour would it be?
Yoohie Kawakami: Its a really interesting question. It sounds like a Japanese question (laughs). Japanese magazines love this type of question. I go with pizza. Because its got a lot of flavours on it.
Hiroyuki Isobe: What kind of pizza?
Yoohie Kawakami: Like a quattro pizza. Its got honey on it. Its got hot sauce on it. Its a mixture of flavours.
In the second part of our two part interview Yoohie, Hiroyuki, Masaki and Satoyasu talk about the Japanese artists they listen to, the highlights of their career so far, an insight into their upcoming new songs/album, plans for 2016 and when will [Alexandros] be coming to perform in Australia?
You guys host “The J-Rock Sessions” on Australian radio – which Japanese artists’ music do you most enjoy?
Yoohie Kawakami: There’s an artist called Mr. Children. I love them.
Masaki Shirai: Japanese artist? I like Blankey Jet City.
Satoyasu Shomura: I like Luna Sea.
[Alexandros] has supported Kasabian, MUSE, played the Great Escape in the UK and SXSW and sold out the Budokan – what has been the highlight of your career so far?
Yoohie Kawakami: Actually SXSW is our highlight. We changed our name last time and we learnt a lot of things here at this festival.
Hiroyuki Isobe: I agree with that. Personally I used to live in America so its good to be back.
Its your home gig
Hiroyuki Isobe: Yes definitely.
When will we see [Alexandros] perform in Australia?
Yoohie Kawakami: We would love to! When are you guys going to invite us? (laughs) We are always ready.
Hiroyuki Isobe: Hopefully in the near future!
[Alexandros] has new material that will be released very soon. What can you tell us about the new material? Have you done anything different in writing and recording these tracks?
Hiroyuki Isobe: Besides using computers! We are always trying something new in every song.
Yoohie Kawakami: We’re trying to reduce the amount of layers we have on our tracks. We used to layer our music a lot but this time we reduced it. We used to play five guitars in one song. But now we only play one guitar. And we have introduced ambient sounds on new songs so it sounds like Brian Eno made it. We’re stripping it back.
After SXSW, what’s on the cards for [Alexandros] in 2016?
Yoohie Kawakami: SXSW is a very sacred place for us. I came up with the name [Alexandros] here last time and I was sure we would be back to do another gig. But we’ll be back to play at Madison Square Garden someday. In the very near future.