After they’ve invented Skype concerts and Frutilizer (a sound system based on two electrified needles and a cucumber – ! – which produces archaic electro sound), you can’t say this Dadaist couple (in art and life) from Zürich (Tim) and Tokyo (Mimi) is not inventive! Recently, the Swiss label Mouthwatering Records released their album entitled “The Stone Collection of Tim & Puma Mimi”, which is a collection of tracks coming from their collection of stones, their main source for inspiration along with people and real life situations! Some of them were too heavy or too dirty, but some of them turned into nice melodies of freaky electropop. After a period they had to live a long distance relationship, they finally got married and live together in Zürich, where they obviously keep on collecting stones. Enjoy this chat!
Chain D.L.K.: Hi there! Compliments on your new record… it’s really nice and funny! But before speaking about it, let’s begin with introductions… your story sounds like a modern and fully wired fairytale with a happy ending! Could you tell it shortly in your own words?
Tim: Hi there! We both studied in the Netherlands, Mimi in Amsterdam and myself in Utrecht. A friend invited us to a Sinterclaas (santa claus) party in the end of 2003. It was well organized with poems and presents. We both were not organized, as we didn’t bring neither poems nor presents, and we didn’t understand Dutch poems, so we talked about us and soon after about music. Mimi as a former punk singer in Tokyo sounded interesting to me. She never did electronic music, but after a few days we found a way to make music together and our first EP was made within 10 days in January 2004. Then a long period of toying between Japan and Switzerland happened. Mimi went back to Japan and started to work. In the meanwhile I tried to convince Mimi that she could make a living out of music, at least in Switzerland. Otherwise she could only take 10 days holiday in a row, so that no tour or anything else could take place… that’s why we started Skype concerts. Mimi quit her job in 2009. And then the struggle with passport controls and visa started, so we thought that marriage was the easiest solution. It’s romantic, isn’t it?
Chain D.L.K.: Definitively! I’ve read you had a huge collection of… stones! When you finally got married, what’s the stone you had in your pocket?
Puma Mimi: It was a stone from the street. Not a gem! 😉
Chain D.L.K.: You got famous for your original way of performing through Skype. How did such an idea come to mind? What are the main problems you’ve had with it?
Tim: We continuously Skyped, it was a long distance relationship… after 3 hours, you don’t know what to talk about anymore, so I got my guitar and played some tunes… Mimi started to sing, and it seemed like a nice idea. Friends of mine organized a new media festival, and I said: we could play a Skype show. For a while I couldn’t sync Mimi, she was always 1 sec late. But when I found out about how to delay the electronic beat (Mimi only hears this one) on our side with a delay, I could sync with Mimi’s voice at last. Then it was quite easy. Of course, many break downs or bad connections occurred, but audience was always tolerant! 🙂
Here’s some club stories about that… at NBI in Berlin, their office was locked, so we couldn’t get a password for the WLAN of the club, so I got a wireless signal from the internet cafe next door, but some moments before the show, I found out, that the cafe was closed and the connection was gone, so the NBI crew had to find a tech guy who could open the office and authorize my computer on their wireless network… the concert got delayed 2 hours! The Knitting Factory in NY cancelled our gig, because they had no internet there. While for instance in Helsinki and at Boschbar in Zurich the club had to get the longest internet cable (50m or so) to get internet from the neighbors!
Chain D.L.K.: What about forthcoming concerts? Are you going to reverse roles so that Tim needs to book a flight to Tokyo before Puma Mimi starts her journeys all over Europe?
Tim: At the moment we play like a normal band. But we are working on new concepts and ideas. We ‘re just waiting for 3D visualisation on Skype! 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: There are many highlights in your stone collection… and I finally discovered the origins of that notorious Japanese game known as Tamagocchi! Tell us about “Tamago”?
Puma Mimi: “Tamago” means “egg”. Tamagocchi is a game to hatch an egg. And “-cchi” is something cute-funny suffix like “-li” in Swiss German. Simple as that. But for this song, I didn’t get inspired by Tamagocchi, but rather by Dadaist Hans Arp. In very early stages, for convenience, Tim titled the sketch of the song “Hans Arp” and asked me to sing. Then I thought about one of Arp’s painting I had seen in a museum called “Drunken Egg Holder”. An egg can be drunken when it is boiled. OK, imagine, egg as a symbol of cosmos. If you boil the egg, you can make the cosmos drunken. If you eat a boiled egg, the cosmos stays in your stomach. Isn’t that a nice delusion to drink?
Tim: I called the sketch Hans Arp, because Arp is also short for Arpeggio.
Chain D.L.K.: You dedicated “Ohayo Baby” to the newborn baby of some friends of yours in Tokyo. You do know that if you made similar nice songs for every newborn, you’d be a part of the campaign for the repopulation of Planet Earth, don’t you?
Puma Mimi: I’m not sure if our creativity can keep up with all new-born babies…
Chain D.L.K.: “Musik Business”, a very nice track featuring NY-based rapper Zebra Baby, has been inspired by IFPI Switzerland related investigations. What’s that all about? And what’s the connection with “Frère Jacques” aka “Brother John” aka “Yuki Kaai”?
Tim: Everyone complains about the music business… the most common opinions about it are “they were not able to react to internet sales”, “they just put a lot of money into commercial acts, no experiments anymore” etc.
In Switzerland a music group had a hit with a song that was also used for a campaign (you can listen at the following link). It was obviously a hit… but top charts didn’t accept it, because they didn’t know who the label or distributor were.
They only accept songs that are released on a label or have official distribution that the jury members are familiar with.
So this band accused IFPI and now WEKO (Wettbewerbskommision) is investigating IFPI and two of their directors already had to leave…
Chain D.L.K.: While most people around the world curse out traffic lights, especially when they look like enemies who steadfastly try to make you be late or miss an appointment, you found inspiration! How come?
Puma Mimi: In Japan, it is very common to play music at a crossings for blind people. But for Tim it was something new. In addition, Tim thought that the song he heard at the Kyoto crossing was very melancholic. Tim thought, the song should be positive to encourage people to cross the road, and asked Mimi why the song was so sad. Mimi explained to Tim that the song is called “Toryanse” and means “go through the road”. So, from a lyrical point of view, it all makes sense. And, Japanese traditional codes include many minor codes.
Chain D.L.K.: There’s a track, “Spiderweb”, inspired by Pastor Leumund in X-berg. How did you met him?
Tim: I met Pastor Leumund when he squatted the Cabaret Voltaire (a nightclub in Zürich’s Old Town) where the Dadaism art style was founded in the 1920’s. He always came up with the “Wort zum Sonntag”, a dadaistic version of a Saturday night church… very nice.
Later he invited us to play our first Tim & Puma Mimi show in another art squat in Zürich. In 2009 we decided to go to Berlin on holidays, and he wrote me that we could sublet his flat in Xberg to us. It was a very nice place nearby Heckmannufer river. We found some instruments lying around, and of course we had to play them.
An old piano and a keyboard which was taken from the streets. It was a Yamaha keyboard and he had written the word Yamahasutra on it. The cheap beats are from that keyboard.
Chain D.L.K.: What about future projects by Tim & Puma Mimi? Any possibilities to see a “battle” with Deerhoof?
Tim: We love Deerhoof. If you want to organize that battle, we are in for sure! 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: Honestly… what are the main differences between the sensibility of a Japanese and those of a Swiss, both in music and in life?
Puma Mimi: I don’t find cultural difference about music creation. Even though I sing in Japanese which Tim doesn’t understand, he treats my lyrics and voice in a good way musically.
Tim: I love that Mimi sings in Japanese. I don’t like when I can or should understand the lyrics, as it confuses me and takes me away from listening to the music. Moreover I feel a bit bored by instrumental music.
Japanese and Swiss differences? I don’t know, both of them are very special people with special rules and fashions, but in one way or another, every country is very special!
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