Were you one of those guys who sit in their room and practice
guitar all the time?
I started to listen to hard rock in junior high, and became heavily involved in music in
senior high. That was the new wave era, during the late eighties there were a Lot of bands
in my school at that time. Our school was pretty strange, come to think about it. There
were a Lot of bands playing at the school festival and I was in about ten bands at the
same time then. Bands doing covers such as The Cramps, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The
Smiths, The Jam, The Specials, Seven Seconds, Misfits, even Match (Japanese pop idol and
The Checkers. When school festival season came around, there was no one who could play
guitar, so I would be in different bands at each school festival For the Cramps band, we
would all be dressed in black and play Gretch guitars. for The Specials band, we would all
be wearing a polka dot hats and so forth. I wasn't the one who took initiative in putting
together those bands, but I did play in a Lot of bands of at[ different genres.
It seems that you came to music a little bit later in life.
I don't really recall when I actually got into music. There's not this certain point when
you recognize that you start Listening to music. My parents were involved in music as
well, but I didn't really acknowledge that I was in these musical surroundings when I was
small. Recently, my parents moved house and came up with all these pictures that I drew,
records I used to Listen to, pictures and videos of when I was a child. It was then that
my memories of the past, which I had totally forgotten through all these years, suddenly
came back to me. There were pictures of me holding musical instruments, me playing a
record, there was even video footage of my family and reLative5 all singing along to a
Carpenters song with my mother on the piano. When I saw that video, I honestly thought,
wow. this family is crazy! I also loved the kid TV action series such as Kamen-rider and
Mazinger Z. I owned a whole Lot of records from those TV series and was always drawing
pictures of those characters. Even now, I can sing full verses of those theme songs. My
father was also in a band, one of those so- called Hawaiian kayo-kyoku (traditional pop)
bands. There's one song on the previous album that my dad remixed-96/69. The Last song on
the album. The one I remixed with Konishi of Pizzicato Five. My dad's band plays on that.
You mention mostly foreign bands when you talk about the bands in
your high school. Were there any Japanese bands that you were interested in at that time?
Well, I mentioned The Checkers. We're talking about a school festival here, and there
would be guys from the soccer team who would say, "I want to do a Checkers
band." They were my friends as well, so I'd say OK and there you are.
You have a thing about soccer, don't you? You have that soccer
compilation on your Trattoria disc.
Actually. there's a person at Trattoria who is really into soccer. He went all the way to
Atlanta Last year to see the soccer games, and he's telling me that he is going to the
games in the year 2002 as well. That's how much he's into soccer. He's mad about the game.
Basically, it was two people, me and him doing Trattoria. Trattoria also has it's own
Flipper's Guitar seemed important because it was one of the first
Japanese bands to not seem completely insular; it seemed to recognize that musically there
is a world outside of Japan.
But now, there's so many bands Like that. I do think there were other bands like that in
the past as well. But I guess you can say that Flipper's Guitar was the first band to sell
and be recognized like it was outside of Japan.
Why do you think that Flipper's Guitar sold?
I don't really understand it that well, either. The first album didn't do well at all. The
second one got a TV tie-up, so I guess that might be the only reason it got popular so
How do you define the difference between the domestic style and the
I don't know. I guess it's just a matter of the impression. But what's funny is that
"Camera Talk" wasn't released overseas, but it sold more than "Dr.
Head" here in Japan. I think.
When the Shibuya-kei sound was coming together, internally was there
a sense that you were doing something new or special, that it was a movement or a scene,
or was it just lots of people that happened to be doing the same thing and was summed up
as a scene by the people outside of Shibuya?
It was originally individuals doing separate things. I think that Shibuya-kei is not
actually about the musical style- Coincidentally, there were foreign-originated record
stores in that area such as HMV, Tower Records and so forth, and I think Shibuya-kei is
about the domestic (Japanese] artists that do well in those kind of record stores. It
wasn't a scene or a movement at all to me. It was just the fact that all those record
stores happened to be Located in Shibuya. But, on the other hand, with other so-called
Shibuya-kei bands such as Pizzicato Five and Original Love, actually, I do think we have
some points in common-
Do you think that the success of flipper's Guitar has anything to do
with the current success of the Japanese Indie movement?
flipper's Guitar wasn't indie from the start. We did use to do club shows and once made a
flexi-disk for a fanzine called "Eikoku- ongaku" (now
"13eikoku-ongaku-American Music"), but we didn't make any records on our own. We
did, though, make our own demo tapes and sell them at shows. But we were not signed to any
indie Labels. From the start, we recorded under a Label affiliated with a major Label, so
actually, we weren't indie at all. Trattoria is under a major Label too, by the way.
But you can sound Indie and be on a major Label.
I'm sure Indie labels have existed before. There was one period when the word
"indies" was really hip. To be honest, I wasn't at all interested in the
so-ca[Led "indies" thing. My close friend set up a label called "Cru-el',
but I wasn't a part of that either. But opposed to the so-called "indie" scene,
I did Like what Cru-el was doing, Like Kahimi Karie and stuff Like that. As for Cru-el, it
just so happened that there v,/as some- one who didn't agree with the way things were
being done, and it just so happened that that idea was very similar to mine. You can say
there was something new going on which didn't exist 10 years ago. But if I'm asked if
flipper's Guitar set up that movement, I don't really think so.
The packaging of your music is always playful. But around the edges
there's this sense of being very quietly rebellious. For instance an 96/69, there is a
voice sample that says "in 1996 Cornelius wilt release the new Citrus records on
Trattoria Records, causing panic in the music industry and overthrow the standards.. .
." Is that just a style or something with substance?
Yeah, there was actually a silly prophecy thing in the records stating that we'll cause
panic in the radio stations with the release of Citrus, seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss
Her, Violent Onsen Geisha... Maybe there is substance in it, maybe there isn't. I really
like to go record shopping and especially like to see the packaging. I have bought some
records just because the artwork and the packaging were cool. Accordingly, I really care
about the packaging of my records as well. The next album also has 211 those detailed
things like slogans and credits and stuff written on it. I try to have things coincide
with the content of the album, but where I see or put it is pretty weird, I guess. I think
there's a Lot of humor in it.
So you think of the slogans as jokes? You don't have a real problem
with the Japanese music industry?
Well, they are jokes as well as part of the whole packaging, so I do put serious thinking
into that in terms of working on the packaging. Of course. I do think it would be great if
I could overthrow the music industry. It's kind of a weird way for me to express that
Do you really care about setting records or is the Look of art and
the production the important thing?
I do think it would be great if I could sell one million copies, but then again I think
that's impossible for me to do. I don't sit down and think I want to set[ one million
copies of this and then start production. If I did, I wouldn't make something like what I
Why don't you really think you can sell that much?
I just really enjoy making my music. That's all. Do you really think there is a person who
first thinks to make an album that would sell, well Let's see, about one million copies?
Maybe Komuro.... By the way, about three days ago, I saw a show with Globe and TRF in Hong
Kong. Right in the first row. That's the first time I ever heard their songs from start to
finish. Boy. Globe they were crazy! It wouldn't be strange if they were playing at one of
these noise clubs in Osaka. Komuro, must be like 38 or 39 years old now, but he still has
Long hair and at the opening of their show, he just rams on the synthesizer Like crazy.
The singer had bleached hair and was dressed as a punk, wrist bands and all. The other
guy, Mark, was the only one dressed casualty, Like a home boy. The three of them standing
together on stage was very, very weird. They had this funny Look in their eyes as well,
just staring at the audience. Komuro also plays the guitar You can't really tell if he can
play it or not, but he's up there with a guitar. and he is into all these arm theatrics.
The singer is also crazy by first starting off in a really low key, then finishing in a
high key scream. I never heard that kind of music before in my Life.
You have a very highly developed sense of the ironic. Do you
consciousty look for irony?
I don't know. it's just that you can't really see a globe show in the first row in Japan
all the time and it was an experience! The camera filming the show came closing in on the
first row where we were and it was totally funny! They are so popular in Hong Kong. The
Hong Kong kids had these flags with TRF written on it and they were just screaming their
Not just that, but, for example, an your Last record, you played
Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" on top of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man."
It's not actually irony ... The word irony (in Japanese) has this kind of bad feeling to
it. It's more that it would be fun and interesting if we did classical music and
"Iron Man" together. Si4-npLyjust that. I don't have anything against both of
them. And also Komuro!
Pizzicato Five must be the only recent close to mainstream Japanese
band that has sold many records overseas. Konishi of Pizzicato Five has said that even
though he has license agreements to sell records overseas, he still cares more about
selling records in Japan than abroad. I've heard the same thing said about you, that you
are not interested in setting overseas. And yet, it seems Like out of all the Japanese pop
bands, Cornelius would be the kind of music the foreign audience would take to. Do you
have any interest at all in the overseas market?
I don't really consciously think about the different markets, whether overseas or
domestic. It's not that essential to me. I just concentrate on doing what is interesting
to me. It's basically up to the listeners. If there are people overseas who are interested
in my music. then I would Like to release stuff abroad. There are people in Japan that
want to listen to my music, so I release them here. But I would Like to release overseas
if there is a chance sometime.
Before, we were talking about internationalized music. You seemed
very hooked into what's going on worldwide in terms of musical trends and you take a
Little bit of this and a bit of that and kind of mix them all up. And you make something
that is brand new. Its been said that that's a distinctly Japanese trait, or instance
that's what Japanese business does. Do you think our music is distinctLy Japanese in that
sense or distinctly Japanese at all?
In terms of musical style, I guess you can say that I bring in various styles, to make a
mosaic in the end. But a Japanese style ... hmmm. .. I don't know. Come to think of it.
yeah it could be a Japanese way of doing things.
So you don't think of yourself as a distinctly Japanese musician?
Well, I am Japanese But in Tokyo, especially Shibuya, music from all around the world is
easily accessible. I have been raised on records which were available in Shibuya. Shibuya
is a part of Tokyo which is a part of Japan, and it just so happened that I had been
Listening to music from Shibuya, so there is a mixture of music from the world happening
inside of me. It's nothing oriental though, I guess you could describe it as a Tokyo style
or a Shibuya style instead of a distinctly Japanese style.
Your new record is All over the place stylistically, from drum and
bass, to noise, to pop. What prompts you to take in all these influences'? How does it
work for you in making the music?
I guess I genuinely Like all kinds of music. I Like Komuro, My Bloody Valentine,
Hanatarashi, Boredoms, bossa nova, jazz, etc ... I even did a Bach cover, the song 201 0
on the new album. ALI these things suddenly spring up and get jumbled in my mind. That's
the only way I can explain it.
As your music is getting wilder and wilder, Trattoria as a label is
becoming wilder and wilder. You Look at the original Trattoria catalog and it's strictly
pop, whereas now there is something in every genre. Is there a relationship between the
evolution of your music and the evolution of the label?
Of course, there should be a Lot of influence, but in the first place, I wasn't really
intent on making Trattoria just a pop Label. I originally intended to do all kinds of
things. When I first started the Label. I was about 23 or 24 and at that time, there were
only similar people around me and not so many other kinds of bands. So I started off with
the people or bands I knew at the time. But Lately, I think I have achieved what I wanted
to do originally.
Is there any one thing that connects the bands that you Look for?
It's just whether I get excited or not.
In the sampler CD, there's this painting of you in the midst of all
of the Trattoria artists in different costumes, sort of Cornelius and his musical
playground. Is Trattoria your own magical kingdom?
would be too egoistic for me to say I am the king. I do think everyone on the Label is
having fun. For instance, the sampler CD" Menu l00" was made in a way that isn't
that different from playing with "Planet of the Apes" toys. Like building up the
base camps and fiddling around with the characters. Having fun and simultaneously trying
not to upset the record company.
The first time I read about Trattoria, it seemed Like Cornelius'
record company. What exactly is your relationship?
At the very beginning, there was a soccer compilation which was originally made by Mike
Alway from Britain. Mike sent me a tape of the soccer compilation and wrote that he wanted
to release it in Japan as well. This was just when flipper's Guitar broke up and I wasn't
doing anything special yet. So I went down to the Polystar office and asked them if they
could do it, and they asked me in return if I wanted to start a Label. From then on, I
started by releasing friends' bands such as Bridge and Venus Peter and Kahimi Karie ... I
am not exactly the owner, and Polystar funds the Label, but I am in a position where I can
say and do anything I want. I did do some sound producing on Bridge and Kahimi Karie. but
I basically Leave that to the band or someone else. I guess I do A&R kind of stuff,
Like Let's do this band next. Bringing bands into the Label, Like from Shock City, artists
such as 00100 and Hanatarashi. Citrus, seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, bands that I
Like. I am not the owner though, more Like an employed executive. I guess label producer
might be the best way to put it....
Your Last album was very collaborative. Someone wrote that every
interesting Japanese musician from Hide of X Japan to Denki Groove got involved in either
the original album or theremix. why is the new one different?
I found that it was fun doing everything myself this time, whereas i had other people
participating and working together on the last album. i wanted to pursue one image i had
for a song where a girl drummer sings like Moe Tucker from the Velvet Underground. So i
invited Robert Schneider and Hilarle Sidney from American band Apples in Stereo to help
me. Just coincidentally they were coming to Japan for promotion for one of there albums.
Hilarie is a drummer and Robert and i have the same love for 60's sound, like the Beach
Boys, and the same taste for chorus work and chord progressions. We all sing together and
you can't tell the difference between us. I'm realty bad at English, but through music, I
was able to communicate perfectly. I Learned that it is actually possible to communicate
through music. It was a great experience.
Cornelius vs. Oyamada-san. Is there a Line where Cornelius begins
and Oyamada-san stops?
I get confused myself. I try to define it from time to time as well. Sometimes I
consciously think that this is a Cornelius project when I'm recording, but then when I
really think about it, it's me working so hard on this, so it should be me. Recently,
Cornelius and I have a good relationship.
Is Cornelius something to hide in or something to express through?
A place of expression. But then again, I sometimes use it as my hiding place as well.
Your Last album, 69/96, was very happy an the surface, but
underneath seemed sort of melancholic.
Yeah, it might be that way I am not the kind of person who could realty put on a big smile
and mean it, as if I was genuinely happy all over Even if I Look that way on the surface,
I'm pretty much sighing inside. I might he a dark kind of person, basically.
If that's the case with 69/96, then what about Fantasma. It seemed
Like the soundtrack to a film when I Listened to it.
Basically, it's always a soundtrack to me, too. First there's an image, scenery and then
there's the passing of time, the movement of space, and eventually you see a Lot of
different places. you wander into the woods. go to different countries, walk into the
water ... The scenery changes as I go along. It's Like watching a movie being played
inside of me. Also, I make up backgrounds for the people who appear in my Lyrics. These
things don't actually come up in the Lyrics, but I create small details Like that in my
head. There's a basic story and scene built up in my head which I explore while making a
song. In that sense, it is a soundtrack. 69196was more guitar oriented with really thick
guitar sounds and really rocking stuff, teenage stuff. The new album has got more heart-
It's more sincere than earlier albums. But basically. there is this distinctive tone that
I have always mixed with sighs, and when I Listen to it, I think this must be what I
realty am. The sighing person.
What makes you such a sighing, melancholic guy?
When I spend my time at home, the records that I pick are quiet, introspective records
such as Robert Wyatt's vocal records or Ben Watt from Everything But The Girls solo album.
I always think that this sense is what is running deep inside of me. I don't mind
listening to the Ramones and going wild, but what feels most comfortable are those
Do you define yourself as a melancholic person?
I don't really know that myself. Listening to the new album, it does have a melancholic
side to it. But I don't know how or why that came about and I am not really sure about
myself, either There are also songs that aren't melancholic at all. Sometimes I just want
to go full throttle. But then I'm always coming back to the melancholic side, I guess.
Who would you be if you weren't Cornelius? Or where would you be?
well.... I might have been working in a record shop!
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