Fujiya & Miyagi are featured on ‘Brand Neu!’ the inaugural release by new label Feraltone out 18th May, we caught up with main man David Best to discuss their music, their influences and what they think of the current music scene.
We’ve also been given 5 Fujiya & Miyagi t-shirts to give away (in S, M, L and XL sizes)… all you have to do is email [email protected] with your name, address and what size you’d like with “Give me a F&M t-shirt!” and we’ll send the to the first responders!How did you guys meet and what’s the story behind the band name?
We met playing football and describing how we got our name again makes me want to kill myself.
How was recording Lightbulbs a different process to recording Transparent Things? Did you go into the studio with a better idea of how to make a record? Was there particular themes or ideas you wanted to explore?
We tried to make it sound more how we are live, which means a few less layers and a bit tougher. I’m not sure if this it how it turned out. With Transparent Things we recorded over a long period of time, which meant that we could live with each song until we were happy with it. Lightbulbs was recorded in a chunk. I think there are pros and cons to both ways of working. Lyrically I didn’t want to talk about all the travelling we were doing at the time hence its predominantly domestic themes. It’s like the sound of a man stuck inside a flat. Next album I might try and get to the end of the street at least.
Your music seems quite sparse and intricately put together. How do you go about writing a song? Is it something that’s natural or hard work? Do you start with the music then fit lyrical ideas into that?
It can be quite a tortuous process sometimes. I think we are all agreed to try and make it more spontaneous for the next record. Sometimes the music comes first and sometimes the words do, and sometimes they come both together. I personally like songs that feel like everything came at once, rather than lyrics being stuck onto the music.
As I’ve not been fortunate enough to catch you guys live – how much different is your live act compared to your recorded work?
I think it’s faster and more aggressive sounding. I think most people prefer us live to on record, but I may be wrong in that. We’ve played a lot of shows over the last few years so that’s my main reference point of what we are about because I don’t listen to our records once they are finished.
A track of yours is featured on a new *ahem* Neu! compilation – how did that come about and just how much of an influence has Krautrock and the European music culture been on the band?
Ren, who put the compilation together used to run Groenland which released our last two records in mainland Europe. I’ve liked Neu! for a long time so we were happy for one of our songs to be used. Michael Rother came to see our group play when we were in Hamburg and it was really good to meet him. I’m glad that things like this are happening because it may encourage someone who likes Oasis for example to go and buy the Neu! records. We’ve never hidden our appreciation for groups like Can, Harmonia, Kraftwerk, Cluster etc. On Transparent Things we were obviously indebted to a lot of these groups but I think less so on Lightbulbs, which was deliberate on our part. We don’t want to be thought of as a Krautrock tribute act and hopefully in time we won’t be. I still love all those groups though, it’s just that they did it first and they did it best so there is nowhere left to go after that.
Where do you see the next album taking the band? Are we going to hear a big change in direction or will your current musical development between your previous albums be continued.
I’m hoping we will surprise people and ourselves with the next record. We don’t want to make the same record again and again and I think now is the time to stretch out our wings and fly an eagle, rather than a magpie. I think there will be more music on it, as it would be harder to become even more sparse. It’s hard to say what it will sound like because we’ve only written 3 or 4 tunes so far. I’d like us to become our own thing, rather than use other genres or songs as reference points.
A number of your tracks have been used in adverts. What’s your view on the allegations of “selling out” by letting an artists work be used to sell products? Do you have much control over what the music is used for?
We have complete control over what our music is used for, so if you hear it on an advert it’s because we’ve run out of money. Once the songs are finished and are out in the air I don’t feel that precious about them. Obviously I wouldn’t want our songs on a Mcdonald’s advert or anything like that but if people get music for free they are going to have to accept that the people who make it are going to have to make money somehow. I feel good when we get money from large corporations as normally people spend their whole lives paying these people in one way or another.
You guys get involved in a lot of remixing work – how do you go about picking a band or track to remix? Do they come to you or are you a little more pro-active? What do you think is the best remix you’ve created?
We aren’t pro-active in getting remixes. It’s always if we are asked and we have time and if we like it. Then if all those three things are ok it’s whether we think we can do something interesting with it. We did a remix for Half Cousin that I quite like. My mind has gone blank on the others we have done. Mercury Rev one was good. I think we’ll be doing one for Au Revoir Simone soon which I’m looking forward to.
What do you make of the current trend for bands to give away their music away for free on the internet (Radiohead, NIN etc). The ongoing digital revolution seems to have turned the industry on its head. Other artists we’ve spoken to recently seem to see it as a positive thing. What are your thoughts?
Well, Radiohead and NIN pockets are a lot deeper than ours so it’s easier for them to justify it. I think it’s a case of people cottoning on to the fact that this is how the music world is now. I quite like the fact you can get songs from blogs and stuff. There’s a great site called Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven which has old soul songs on it which in a lot of cases would not be heard if they weren’t on there. I think one of the problems is that if music can be got for free it can be easily dismissed and music becomes throwaway. The internet is good for goldfish but not for owls.
And finally, what books, films and albums have you been reading, watching and listening to? Anything you’d like to recommend?
I’ve nearly finished the Miles Davis autobiography called Miles, which I’m really enjoying. I haven’t been reading any novels lately because when we travel I find it hard to dip in and out of them. I’ve been reading lots of books about Bob Dylan and before the Miles book I read that 13th Floor Elevators one, which I thought was really good. I haven’t watched many films either. Me and my girlfriend have been watching the West Wing. We have only got two episodes of the final season to go and I’m worried that our lives will be slightly emptier once it’s gone. I bought a French film called La Pacha which has Serge Gainsbourg in it. When I got it home I found there were no English subtitles, but I watched it anyway.
Music-wise I’ve been listening to the new Bill Callahan record on repeat. I love it. Other than that I’ve been playing Miles Davis, the complete Jack Johnson recordings and numerous Dylan songs. Also some Townes van Zandt and today on the way to the post office I listened to Syd Barrett’s Madcap Laughs for the first time in ages. That sounded good.