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Meitei brings "lost Japan sounds' for upcoming Taipei performance

Japanese experimental musician seeks solace in sounds of everyday life

Meitei to perform in Taipei on Oct. 25. (Nanasaki Yuri photo)

Meitei to perform in Taipei on Oct. 25. (Nanasaki Yuri photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Hiroshima-based experimental musician, Meitei (冥丁), will perform in Taipei on Oct. 25, bringing an eclectic blend of sounds that the artist describes as “lost Japanese mood.

Meitei creates atmospheric music through tape loops, digital effects, and found sound to create meditative, trance-inducing music. A reclusive artist who rarely accepts interviews, here is the transcript of his e-interview with Taiwan News, translated from Japanese.

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Meitei describes his music as "lost Japan mood." (Nanasaki Yuri photo)

Taiwan News: Your tracks are quite beautiful, unique, and intriguing. I think there’s quite a lot of “nostalgia” in your work, like a search for an earlier time that is free from the “noise” of modernity like slithering subways and saccharine J-Pop. Is your music a refuge for you and your listeners?

Meitei: I amnot sure how to say but I have never made music as a refuge from the noise of the city or the modern world.

And I have never thought about the importance of the visual experience and effect of the music for the listener. I simply wanted to express the music that I wanted to seek out in a modern context, and as there were no grown-ups expressing it yet, so I thought it was worth trying.

But, when I came up with the theme of “lost Japanese mood,” I was living in a kind of refuge.

I lived in Kyoto until seven years ago. At that time, I was putting myself under a lot of pressure. I won't tell the reason here. As a result, I suffered from mental depression and panic attacks and had to give up living in the city.

At that time I could not cook even simple food, I could not ride public transport and I could not even get any sleep. So I returned to my hometown Hiroshima to recover my health. I spent a total of five years recovering.

After going back to Hiroshima, I couldn't work for long time so all I could do was make music. It was during that period that Meitei was born.

In Kyoto, you see traditional, hybrid Japanese cityscapes, but in the countryside of Hiroshima, you see Japanese landscapes that looked like they were ready to decay. I just looked at it every day. And at some point I started to think that I could translate this impression into something musical.

The albums I made during that period were “Kwaidan," “Kofu” and a few songs from Komachi, and I also made the album as Tenka. So if you feel somehow like a refuge when you listen to those albums, it might be because my state of mind, circumstances and environment at that time have created that kind of sensory impression consequently.

By the way, all my health conditions were cured two years ago. But I had a foundation of musical interest about Japanese impressions when I was living in Kyoto, and that might have worked uniquely in Hiroshima.

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Art work from a recent Meitei album. (Meitei image)

Taiwan News: The theme of “ghosts” permeate your first album. Do you feel like you are a spirit amongst the living? Or to put it another way, like an anachronism, or a person living in the wrong era?

Meitei: I am quite a modern type of person by nature. But on the other hand, I have many old-fashioned aspects. But I consider myself a normal person. Because since I started working as Meitei, I have met many people who are very unique. Comparing myself with other people, I guess I am a plain person.

But when I work as a composer, I might become a different person. Sometimes I think it's similar to working as an actor. Maybe it's because I have a great curiosity for the possibilities, but there have been times when I've been extreme depending on the theme of the production.

I lost more than 10 kg of my weight during making the album “Kwaidan”. Furthermore, I had long hair at the time and I think it seemed I was an unapproachable man.

I have always had an interest in dark subjects. I also like horror and mystery films. It's no wonder that my interest has turned to this ghost. In addition, I also believe in the existence (concept) of spirits. I think it is because of the influence of my late grandmother, whose life was very close to the concept of Buddhism.

I still pray every day at a nearby small temple. It is my personal routine in this rural town. When I stand in front of the temple and pray, I can understand myself objectively by standing there. I can immediately see if I am in a bad mood today, or if I am in a good mood.

So I think I am more connected to the spiritual realm on a different level from knowledge than the general Japanese people of today, without thinking. But I think I am simply a normal person.

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Meitei creates music that is primal and not pre-planned. (Yamakawa Akio photo)

Taiwan News: The repetition in your music makes it unique and not a simple soundtrack or environmental recording. I believe it’s meant to be meditative or contemplative. Am I wrong?

Meitei: It is not wrong, but I do not intend it to be at all.

When I make music, from a certain point in the process, I do not think about anything else. Then I repeat the design, arranging and deleting sounds until I am satisfied. And I always end up where I think this is the right moment.

But there is one thing I can be proud of. I think this is the best answer to this question. When I make music, I try not to think. I don't unravel or interpret it logically. I think that is because my personality is not to think too deeply about things. But I always like to see things purely.

For example, before I start making music, I do not decide what musical genre I'm going to make. because if I did, I would start composing with my mind set towards that music genre. There is a sense of stability in a situation where you know the music you are going to make before you make it, but I think you are stuck in an existing position of scene or genre instead of the way things are supposed to be. I so not like that so much.

If you listen to Meitei’s SPOTIFY playlist, you will understand that the music I make is completely different from the music I usually listen to. I think this is very natural. If you are aiming to make ambient music, listening to ambient music, and after a certain amount of research you end up composing. I don't think you can understand what ambient is all about other than the formal context.

I think human beings are not formal. Everyone has different opinions and personalities. So I think it is necessary to say how it was in my opinion, even in music. Ambient is musical, but I think it also exists in other places. Though there is also the meditation music, but I think it is on a different dimension from meditation music.

There are times when I drive a 300 km section of motorway late at night without listening to music, without thinking. In the darkness, the headlights and electric lights of cars appear in front of me and then disappear somewhere as if they are blowing by.

I just keep looking forward. Sometimes I forget that the steering wheel is still in my hand. And before I know it, I've arrived in Hiroshima. Probably I am in the zone. Some parts of me inside become zero and the other parts of me becomes 100.

One of my original characteristics is that I am over-concentrated. While I am in the state of over-concentration, I think I perceive there and translate into the music

And before I start composing, I decide a theme, not a musical genre. And I try to fit the music to the theme as much as possible. I recently worked on the advertisement music for Nike Jordan.

Then I thought I needed a different element from the music I've made as Meitei. In that case, I naturally feel that I need and want to face the subject in front of me in an honest way.

Recently, I have also been thinking about moving for the production of a new album in the future. Though my circumstance always changes from time to time, I don't want to go against this natural flow of my life.

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A flyer for Meitei's upcoming Taipei performance. (White Wabbit image)

Taiwan News: Dutch E. Germ is associated with Warp Records and he once told me he likes “dangerous, difficult music.” Do you think your music falls into this category?

Meitei: It could certainly be included in that category, but I'm a timid and unfunny person myself. So I am not sure if it is actually be included there ...?

But when I'm composing, I feel like a completely different person than I usually am. I grew up listening to Warp Records music. Recently I am interested in KASSA OVERALL’s music.

Taiwan News: What can we expect from your live performance?

Meitei: My performance is pretty simple. It looks like DJing but there are many parts that I play live. I do not carry a lot of equipment with me, and stylistically I prefer to have less equipment.

In my live performance, I always reconstruct and perform based on the music that I have released.I hope all my fans who know the original songs can enjoy more in my live performance.

Follow this link for performance information.