2012 was a great year for music.. Not only was I fortunate enough to review some of the better albums that I’ve heard in a long time.. I also managed to listen to a few albums that are bound to stick with me for years to come… One such album was the brilliant 151a by ultra talented multi-instrumentalist Kishi Bashi.. 151a was by far one of the better albums I heard last year and I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone that’s a fan of indie/alternative music that’s not afraid to break out of the confines that the genre sometimes seems to set for itself… Luckily for us Kishi Bashi was kind enough to offer some time out from his hectic touring schedule for a short interview about who he is and where he’s headed.. Enjoy!
First of all.. For the readers out there that don’t know your back story, could you take a little time to fill them in on your musical endeavours previous to stepping out on your own as a solo artist?
I lived in NYC for about 10 years, at which time I played jazz violin in the Circus, fronted the band Jupiter One, and toured as a side musician with Regina Spektor and of Montreal.
How did you get your start in music?
I’ve been playing violin for as long as I can remember, and it’s probably contributed to a lot of my melodic musings. I did spend a lot of time in highschool playing chamber music. Great music by Ravel, Debussy, and Shostokovich was a part of that time for me (as well as the usual male teenage stuff like Nirvana, Jane’s Addiciton, and Rage Against the Machine)
When did you learn to play the violin? And when did you decide that it’d be your musical weapon of choice?
I started when I was 6 or 7. I always enjoyed playing it, although I absolutely HATED practicing. I’m glad I had a very strict and terrifying teacher, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be so decent at it. I really got into improvising with it, and that led me to Berklee College of Music in Boston, so I could study jazz and composition. I ended up with a degree in Film Scoring, but my passion was wailing on the violin. Haha
What were your main inspirations for your brilliant debut album 151a?
I began really to dig into looping the violin and I tried to base my album off of the sounds created by the violin. I also love ELO and Pink Floyd, and I decided early on to confine myself in the acoustic/synth/psych world of these groups. Acoustic guitars, analog synthesizers, layered vocals (no electric guitars).
For those who don’t know about how you craft your songs, are you able to give a brief rundown of some of the equipment that you use to create your layer upon layer style of music?
I use a violin through a Digitech Whammy pedal and Boss reverb/delay, and then I layer in a Line 6 DL-4 (the green one). That pedal has a cool half/double speed function that can really create some other worldly sounds with layered violin and vocals.
151a came to fruition in part due to a fundraising campaign through Kickstarter.com, how exciting/daunting was it to put yourself out there for your fans, and how great did it feel when the campaign reached its goal?
It was extremely exciting because it was the first indication of how successful this album would be for me. People instantly lined up to support it and I haven’t looked back since.
I found 151a to be the most upbeat of all albums that I listened to in 2012.. Do you think that the joyfulness that shines through in the album is a manifestation of the happiness that you’ve managed to find in your own life? And does your general mood tend to influence the style of song writing that you take on at any given time?
I tried to keep this album generally positive and as beautiful as possible. I have the ability to go very dark, but I tried to stay away from that. I am also a generally positive person, so it could be a reflection of my personality. I do find that strings and the violin are easily able to excite and connect emotionally with the listener, so I tried to exploit that as much as possible. I also find that I love to make people happy, so I tried to make a shiny, bright album. It’s difficult to make happy music (without being too cheesy), so I tried to be somewhat experimental with the sounds.
Where did the title for 151a come from, does it hold any significance?
151a can be read as “ichi-go-chi-e” in Japanese, and it’s a very popular Japanese idiom that roughly translates as: “enjoy this moment in life with all it’s beauty and imperfections, for it will never happen again this way.” I found it very appropriate to the way I created this album.
Who were your main musical influences growing up, and do they still hold a great influence on the musical style that you practice today?
Again, classical music probably has had the most influence to me. I find that having internalized all the most beautiful melodies of the past 500 years has given me a very strong melodic jump off point. There’s a reason why we still listen to Mozart and Tchaikowsky. It’s lasted the test of time. What of Radiohead do you think people will be listening to in a hundred years? The Beetles will probably stand the test of time.
And Finally.. Now that 151a has been released into the wild what are your plans for the next 12 months? Can we expect you in Australia any time soon?
Oz is definitely on my plans for the spring/summer of 2013. See you soon!
I just want to give a big thank-you to Kishi Bashi for taking the time out to do this interview… Thank you for releasing amazing music and for being such a nice guy. And I’d also like to give another big thanks to all of you readers and artists out there that continue to support both me and taken by sound.. Thanks for being awesome..