I got enchanted by her album “Qoosui” some years ago, and that listening was the sparkle for our first talk in 2017. After four years, Haco‘s music gently touched again my eardrum and my soul by her forthcoming album “Nova Naturo” (out on 18th June on Room40‘s sister label Someone Good) to the point that I decided to reprise the talk with this talented Japanese singer, lyricist, and composer, that someone knows for having founded the legendary avant-pop group After Dinner, one of the first Japanese bands who toured out of Japan and who were praised for the level of their music by renowned zines like NME and Melody Maker in the 80ies. Enjoy Haco’s words and sounds.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi there! How are you again?
Haco: Hello, I’m doing fine, thanks again! I am very, very excited about the release of my new record with the wonderful Someone Good again.
Chain D.L.K.: We already had a conversation saved on this webzine when Someone Good pushed your lovely album Qoosui. What happened during all these years? Do you think you stayed somehow the same or not?
Haco: I had been keeping busy with performing and recording. In September-October, 2017, I toured Japan for the “Qoosui” launch along with the Czech electronic artist Tarnovski, and toured Europe for a month in May-June, 2018. In November 2019, I performed at the festivals, Le Guess Who? in the Netherland and at Intermediale in Poland, and several other events in Europe. I was fortunate to spend some time there and that is eternally precious time. I am deeply grateful to everyone who came to see my concerts and all organizers and dear friends who supported me in each town. Between the tours, I wrote songs and worked on recording at home little by little.
Luckily, I had various kinds of fantastic releases between 2018 and 2020. To cut a long story short, “Suiqoo,” a remix compilation for “Qoosui,” by the six outstanding electronic artists who I love and admire. “Where We Overlap” by WildSonicBlooms, a specific collaboration with the five excellent New Zealand musicians. “Kannazuki,” an 18 min piece based on a live recording in Tokyo with Dustin Wing, Takako Minekawa, and Tarnovski. A reissue of After Dinner’s 1988 “Souvenir Cassette,” the gold cassette edition on Fish Prints (US) was sold out immediately, yet the CD edition of ReR Megacorp (UK) was released later in 2019. Additionally, nine other albums, including compilations that I took part in were released. And also I digitally released a few album reissues on my Bandcamp page.
Chain D.L.K.: I remember you told us you used kora, an African string instrument, on Qoosui. Any new interesting sonic entity in Mescalina studio?
Haco: Actually, I used the sampled sounds of kora, which is played by the wonderful UK musician Will Newsome, for two songs on “Qoosui”. As for “Nova Naturo”, I used a couple of hand-cranked music boxes in some parts of the arrangements. One is quite DIY as I programmed the notes and punched the holes to play it. The other is a larger round toy music box made from plastic and metal. I sampled every single note of it and composed it with a computer. And then, the mixed sound of the music-box was dubbed on a cassette by me to make sound nostalgic. You could hear the resulted sound on “Luna Nokto”.
Chain D.L.K.: Any new workshop (if you keep on doing)?
Haco: I very much enjoyed the ‘Sound Bugscope’ workshop as an instructor at Divadlo 29 in Pardubice (CZ) in June 2018, and at Moscow Music School during the Synthposium festival in Moscow in August 2019. There were phenomenal moments with amazing participates. I describe that ‘Sound Bugscope’ is a practice of exploring the possibilities between sonic art, improvisation, impromptu composition, and soundscapes, and attempting to use the ear to approach sound from a different angle.
Chain D.L.K.: I was lucky to listen to your new awesome album “Nova Naturo” in advance. It’s going to be released on June 18th. Is there any feature of the sound you explored that can be somehow related to the choice of this period of the year?
Haco: Compared with “Qoosui,” which consists of reverberated voices with nature sounds and electronics, this album has a wide range of musical expressions, various vocal moods with effects, and acoustic & electro compositions. I started to create this album in 2018, so I don’t know what is related to this period of the year. Yet, this album includes the long-distance collaborations between Japan, France, and the Czech Republic. Every player and artist didn’t record along with me in the flesh, this means that all of it was created in a sort of time distance, remote work method. In spite of it, I feel every sound and noise are harmonized with my layered vocals. I’m happy that borderless work has been done with an incredible team in this period.
Chain D.L.K.: I can’t really say which moment is my favorite one, as I think Nova Naturo is really well-made, so I cannot but ask you… is there any moment and track you feel particularly bonded? If yes, why?
Haco: Even now I still find a lot of moments that I dig on this record. I rather hope the listeners discover new bonded sound each time to play the album as I do. The tracks of my collaborators brought me a new dimension for writing the lyrics and singing. I was like getting into character for the story I made up during the vocal recordings if this makes sense. And I have a different character as a mix engineer and producer. I was bonded with each sound when I was balancing, panning, effecting, editing, or processing it, you know.
Chain D.L.K.: You inserted many field recordings over “Nova Naturo”. Lovers of field recordings could be interested in where what and how you grabbed and how you related to any song, but feel free to explain their meaning in one or two tracks…
Haco: “Lost and Found (Excursion 2)” was written in memory of Mami Chan, who was a very talented musician and a beautiful friend of mine. I still have a lot of fond memories of a short train trip from Paris to Normandy in France to visit her new house in the mountain and spent a miracle time there together. It happened during my European tour in November 2019, yet I didn’t bring a recorder at the time. For this song, I did binaural field-recording in the local train when I went to the lost and found nearby a station for picking up my muffler I dropped somewhere in a platform.
A bell cricket chirping on the track “Luna Nokto” was recorded from a back window of my house in an autumn night.
Chain D.L.K.: What are your pieces of advice to enhance the listening experience of “Nova Naturo”?
Haco: No particular advice, but let your body and brain soaked up the sound of the music, and imagine whatever or wherever your sensitivity or experiences in your life might take you. It could be good sometimes you listen to it closely. This record was mastered by the excellent engineer, Ondej Jezek at Jamor Studio in Prague. The sound of my final mix got deeper, more dynamic, and hi-res. I can say that you would hear the difference in the sound quality between just streaming and the CD or the downloaded files.
Chain D.L.K.: You drew inspiration from myths about rebirth. Which ones in particular? Can you describe a couple of tracks of this album, focusing on this aspect?
Haco: The lyrics are focused on the inner landscape. “Teardrops of Aurora” was inspired by Aurora, a Roman myth. “New Nature” borrows words from Dostoyevsky’s novel ‘The Idiot.’ But I twisted meaning something positive and related to rebirth. “Myths and Facts” is an imaginary urban legend. There are two backstories in parallel. Once I was stuck and researching audio dithering technology, and at last, found the best answer for me, the explanation was entitled Myths and Facts. And also I was pretty much inspired by an episode, which a friend told me, how she recovered from multiple chemical sensitivity. It was a mysterious and quite funny true story. I imagined it might be a kind of rebirth with a neural circuit as if it was science fiction. However, the sound itself is more important for me than each meaning from the beginning to the end of the album.
Chain D.L.K.: I saw both Stabilo (Speaker Gain Teardrop) and Tarnovski (Gurun Gurun), who already collaborated on Qoosui, give their support and their creativity for “Nova Naturo”. What’s the main reason of such a good feeling with these artists?
Haco: Stabilo’s music always takes me to another place, somewhere to feel grand-magnificent views. His imaginary world is much bigger than me and I’ve got a feeling to jump in it for collaborating every time. And I also used a couple of sampled sounds from his playing guitar, this time too. I have been a big fan of his shoegaze guitar in the band Speaker Gain Teardrop.
Tarnovski’s electronics and sound mosaics are very unique, delicate, and challenging at once. I laid his awesome sounds like a collage on the four tracks. He was a not only collaborator but also a sweet adviser for my post-production. When I did the almost final mix for each song, I let him listen and asked his impressions. His precise suggestions about the mix or arrangement were really helpful for me. My ears and brain were pretty tired after the self-recording of hundreds of vocal tracks and those complex sound craft. It was absolutely good to have another head and ears at the final stage of the creation. I am forever indebted to Jara for his passionate and heartfelt support.
Chain D.L.K.: Any word on other people collaborating on this album?
Haco: About Tetsuji Mastuo, for the first time, I collaborated with him on this record. “Frozen in Time” and “Pendulum Feelings” are based on his instrumental songs. The original tracks were only posted on his SoundCloud page. They were recorded by himself casually, but I found he had a keen sense of drumming and melody lines that I loved. I got an idea to write the lyrics on them and boldly re-arrange the tunes. I also used his recording of natural floating piano on “Lost and Found”.
Makoto Inada also lives in my town, Kobe, and is an old friend of mine. His double bass lines are playful and cool on the bottom of a range of sounds on “Pendulum Feelings”. He also played the electric bass on “New Nature”.
Manuel Adnot, who based in Nantes, France, is a remarkable composer and improvised guitarist. His music is influenced by avant-jazz and post-rock like the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. The first time I met him and performed together was in Osaka in 2018. He sent me several recordings of his guitar impromptu compositions, and I chose the three tracks that I was tremendously inspired by. His playing special 8-string electric guitar with effects is on “Teardrops of Aurora” and his heavily distorted guitar is on “New Nature.” And “Spinning Lantern” is based on his acoustic guitar composition from the live recording in New York.
Chain D.L.K.: You also co-signed a track with Keiichi Sugimoto, that is considered a real master of Japanese electronic music scene. Any word about this collaboration?
Haco: About three years ago, I enthusiastically asked him to remix a track from Qoosui, and he made a brilliant remix piece “YUKI NO ATO” as FourColor. And then, he proposed to me to do a collaboration trade for the next. In summer 2019, I composed vocal parts for his new fantastic instrumental track. It was the tune, “A Mind Resort”, which was included in his Vegpher’s latest album “Minutus”, released in 2020. I liked the song very much and decided to make an alternative mix as ‘Shiokaze Ver.’ for my own album Nova Naturo. So, we have two versions of the song.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to make some video clips from some tracks of the album?
Haco: The breathtakingly beautiful video “Frozen in Time” by the amazing director Tomas Knoflicek is already launched on Room40’s YouTube page. It was premiered via Foxy Digitalis’ site (US) on April 20. We’re expecting a new video by Eiichi Tosaki who did the wonderful artwork for this album. He has developed his own system in Bimanual Coordination Drawing. We’ll see it soon.
Chain D.L.K.: Any other work in progress?
Haco: I’m going to make a remix track for Sontag Shogun’s Japanese edition of the new album for 2022. Sontag Shogun is a neo-classical lullanoise trio based in NYC & Montreal. A collaborative album with the Czech post-everything quartet Gurun Gurun is still in progress. And some compilations that I contributed tracks and special reissues will be coming out this year.