from: Spike Radio

by Dave Sanford and Tamaka Takefushi

Fantastic Plastic Machine and Cornelius are two Japanese musicians who have succeeded in making a name for themselves in the United States. Though both artists have toured America several times, they had yet to actually meet and hang out.

At the Coachella Festival in Indio, CA, these two ground breaking musicians got together for the first time to discuss such important topics as jetlag, touring, Beck, G.I. Joe, cab drivers, upcoming projects and the perception of Japanese music culture by the American audience at large.

The conversation took place in an isolated area by a beautiful lagoon at the Coachella Festival. Here's the conversation as it happened (with just a little bit of editing to make the translation to English flow smoothly)...

Fantastic Plastic Machine: How did your show go yesterday? I thought your guys were brilliant.

Cornelius: I was still asleep a half way through....I was struggling with jetlag the whole time.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I know! The jetlag is extremely harsh here in the States.

Cornelius: Isn't it!?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: In Europe, the time difference from Japan is suited especially for nightly active people like us. In America though, it is so much harder to deal with it.

Cornelius: I totally agree with you! When we have to perform here, we are virtually supposed to be asleep!

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Incidentally, when I'm here, I go to places and venues that you've already been to, or performed, or the other way around. We always follow each other, but this is our first time that we ever met each other at a same place!

Cornelius: Running after each other...Last year, I basically followed places where Buffalo Daughter had played all the way through.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: My wife ran into Moog Yamamoto (of Buffalo Daughter) before she came and visited me here this time, and he told her how hard it is to tour across the America. It surely is...How many times have you toured here so far? Is this one your 2nd or 3rd time, like a substantial tour?

Cornelius: I guess I've toured here 4 times.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I've come here 4 times within a year, which means every 3 months. I realize every time, touring in this country is quite tough(laughter).

Both of them: But, it's really fun too!!

Cornelius: Something unbelievable could happen when you are on tour here..

Fantastic Plastic Machine: What happened to you?

Cornelius: This cab driver, after he heard that I'm in a band, suddenly asked me, "do you know Keiji Heino?" (laughter) You never find any cab driver like him in Japan, you know?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: No, no way, nobody would mention Keiji Heino in a taxi! I just had a similar experience yesterday. When we got in this taxi at Ontario airport, although a driver was an old man, it was his first day as a taxi driver then. He asked us whether we are in a band or DJs or blah-blah-blah. Then he confessed that he is friend of John Peel.

Cornelius: Is that man an American?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Actually, he is from Scotland. He was talking passionately. Well, there are colorful people out here after all. Another thing happened to me was that when my tour manager and I were about to go through customs at Vancouver airport, we saw a know what this dog is for. Then, I was like "What a cute doggie", then this dog would never leave from my tour manager. This dog sat down right beside him, then they thought we were bringing drugs, of course we were not! Then, they started checking and went through our bags one by one for a hour and a half very carefully. I purchased an astronaut G.I Joe the day before, they even took off all the clothes from G.I. Joe and made him completely naked!! How brutal! I was sad...Surely enough, they wouldn't find any drugs, but won't say sorry or anything. Well, that's the way they are(laughter). You also played at Reading Festival this summer, didn't you? We played on a different day. How was it?

Cornelius: I had a great time there, I enjoyed my show. After I did lots of festivals this year, I was convinced that Reading is the hardest one.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I performed at Benicassin Festival in Barcelona this summer, and this one was really nice. Everybody there treats you nicely, it was almost perfect in many ways, I loved it much. Meanwhile, Reading makes you act "do-it-yourself", you have to sort out the time-schedule and whatever.

Cornelius: I felt Reading was cold to all the bands who played at small stages.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I know there is such an obvious hierarchy there!

Cornelius: Right, right! You feel and find it obviously! But, I don't find it here at Coachella.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Me neither.

Cornelius: I was like, "that sort of hierarchy really exists?"

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Are in the middle of recording now?

Cornelius: No, I hardly ever do so these days.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Everywhere I go in the States, a lot of people ask me what Cornelius is up to, when his new record is coming out etc....

Cornelius: (Laughter) You must go, "I don't know, don't ask me!!"

Fantastic Plastic Machine: (Laughter) I don't know either, I want to see it too!! So, everyone here wants to say and put us into "Shibuya-kei" even though I am a Kyoto person.

Cornelius: I know, people here think we are all from Shibuya!

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Yeah, they tend to believe that we all hang out together in Shibuya, and make records together way!

Cornelius: There is much more opportunity to make me aware that I am Japanese whenever I come here. You know when you play in Japan, you don't even think you are Japanese. Then, when we come here, many people ask me, "what's going on in Japan? What's going on amongst Japanese people" etc. I never think about these normally.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: So, people here want to put us in a position where we are the voice of Japanese people. But, we are not like that because you know what, if people here believe Japanese people get up at 2 pm and go to bed at 7 am daily - it is our particular life style - it's no good!(laughter) But, I guess we are becoming the voice of Japanese in reality.

Cornelius: I guess people are curious about us simply.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Yeah, maybe.

Cornelius: Have you be asked by people here why there seem to be more Japanese bands lately?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: It happens to me all the time!

Cornelius: Then, don't they ask you why?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I don't know the answer!

Cornelius: I don't know either!

Fantastic Plastic Machine: There've always been millions of bands in Japan.

Cornelius: There've been lot of people who make and play music out there!

Fantastic Plastic Machine: It seems that people in America have an impression that being in a band is trendy in Japan now.

Cornelius: I wonder what causes this.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I assume there are some Japanese artists like you, Takako Minekawa, Buffalo Daughter, and myself put out the records in American market, which is increasing nowadays.

Cornelius: Yeah, there are surely more Japanese artists who are also active here in this country than before, but when I'm asked what's the reason for it...I can't say. In fact, we were a kind of invited to do something here rather than we pursued to come here to make it.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Exactly. I mean we didn't have so-called heated ambition to make it here or get an enormous success or anything. We never had that passionate will that Dreams Come True(a Japanese pop group) had......When I went to Vancouver, people said to me that I was a first Japanese artist who came here since Dreams Come True.

Cornelius: Wow, you also played in Vancouver?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Yes, I've been there twice.

Cornelius: Chemical Brothers played there too.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: You would have to come to Coachella next year too.

Cornelius: Well, if I could deliver my new record on time.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: That's true.

Cornelius: Are you going to start recording after you go back to Japan?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I mean to. In fact, I want to do a band now.

Cornelius: Really?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I have this up-coming project to play with Tokyo Ska-Paradise Orchestra for 2 months or so.

Cornelius: Nothing to do with FPM?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: No, totally a side-project. Initially, I just simply wanted to play "Smoke On The Water" on the stage(laughter). Then, when I mentioned casually about it to a member of Ska-Para(Tokyo Ska~), I thought I meant it as a joke, but he took it seriously. But then, I couldn't say it was just a joke anymore! I told him that I want to install Roland Synthesizer as a shelf-wall right by Marshall. Then, it became a serious plan. I couldn't walk away from it...ha-ha-ha. So, at this point, me and Ska-Para will record "Smoke On The Water".

Cornelius: What are you going to do in it?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: What should I do?

Cornelius: You were playing in a band before, weren't you?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Yes, I played a bass-guitar.

Cornelius: That's right!

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I still play it from time to time.

Cornelius: When you do your show, you play only on a turntable?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Yes...I just bought a vocoder a while ago. I will work on it. Vocoder would do everything in a live show(laughter). So, I still haven't decided what I'm going to play for this project. And, afterwards, I will start working on my new record. What about you?

Cornelius: Me? After I go back to Japan, I have some remixes left that I have to finish up.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: You must do tons of remixing.

Cornelius: Yeah, I get more and more offers now.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: You can't do everything though...

Cornelius: No, I really can't.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I'm the same way, so I don't do most of the remix offers. In order to make my album, I have to turn them down unfortunately.

Cornelius: Yep.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: If you keep accepting these offers, you never can't do any of your own stuff. By doing remixes, an entire year would be passed!

Cornelius: Tell me about it! Two years have gone by for me because of remixing. Touring and remixing. took up full 2 years..

Fantastic Plastic Machine: But, you know what? Since you have not put out anything since Fantasma, I kind of thought "well, Cornelius must be taking it easy now," which would make me feel it's ok not to put out any record for a while. So, you are a sort of a barometer for me! So, don't put out many records continuously. Oops, I should not compare myself to you(laughter). Meanwhile, Marin(from Denki Groove) keeps releasing lots of, I felt I had to do something too!

Cornelius: Overall, I want to make my record in my own way, no hurry, the way I want to. That's my ideal.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I know. At the same time, you must have been changed - your feeling, sensibility, whatever after you toured for a while.

Cornelius: Yes, I've been changing gradually, so I don't dramatically notice it. But, when my new record is done, I will find now much I've changed right then. I've gained so many different experiences in a last couple of years, and I'm sure they will be reflected on my work.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I am becoming more and more macho or masculine as time goes by, especially my senses. As I mentioned, a song like "Smoke On The Water", I am more fascinated by heavy metal which I used to love a long time ago. I mean I wouldn't say I would play heavy-metal myself, but when I hear that I am a lounge/bassa-nova/sound-track DJ, I actually feel, "no way!! Don't call me that." You know, a lot of things are changing within myself, but when I am written in articles, I am constantly categorized as "Shibuya" or "Lounge" after all. I guess it's ok...I've started enjoying the difference or gap between real-me and my public image now.

Cornelius: (Laughter) Seriously, you are well balanced when it comes down to it. I'm impressed.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Very nice to be like that.

Cornelius: I don't even know how I'm perceived by public.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Ultimately, we can't control what others think.

Cornelius: Exactly.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Once you start doing so, it is not a pleasant thing. Basically, there's no right answer or right way.

Cornelius: Do you think about playing band-style as FPM?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: In fact, I want to try it next year. When I saw your show at Budokan(in Tokyo), I was inspired. I'd like to include an 8 piece string section in it.

Cornelius: A live band should be very cool.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: With a live band, you can still use samples. A mixture of DJ and band performance will be my idea. It's possible to play my songs in this band, then play someone else's in a DJ set, then continue like this. Since it seems that any DJ's own band strictly has to play your own stuff, but my idea is to play my stuff in the band, and play other stuff on DJ-set, then add live-instruments over it. I think it should be possible playing in the band as if you were playing as a DJ, you know? So, you do same methods with a video? I read it about it in some article -- while you listen to sound of video, you get cue out along with it.

Cornelius: Yes.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: The most low-tech can be most effective.

Cornelius: I know. Since we have to move around all the time, then think about possibility of any trouble on the equipment. Anything low-tech is better.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Chemical Brothers had a loud sound last night.

Both of them: Very clear, beautiful sound.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: In Barcelona, when they were playing, the sound stopped, but from the monitor-speakers, there was still sound coming out...poor guys!

Cornelius: Their set is amazing, those 3 screens too. I hear they carry these tools everywhere! Can you believe it?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: I know! Then they slightly change the video-images everytime. That's neat.

Cornelius: Who else did you see yesterday?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Let me see. I strolled around entirely. Who did you like yourself?

Cornelius: I couldn't get to see a lot then.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: You were doing some interviews?

Cornelius: Yes, a bit.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Did you see Beck?

Cornelius: Yeah, I enjoyed his show very much. I was blown away that he covered one of Eddy Grant's songs! Especially that track is my favorite!

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Wasn't it great?

Cornelius: God, he is such a true entertainer.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Yes, he is.

Cornelius: He reminded me of Mick Jagger last night.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Yeah, Mick and Prince. His movement was exactly like Prince. How awesome. Meanwhile, Chemical's sound was really loud...again. Though, they were still good. Who are you planning to see today? Rage?

Cornelius: Ummm...I want to see Gil Scott-Heron so bad. Oh, also Rahzel!

Fantastic Plastic Machine: We've got to see him! And, Cibo Matto.

Cornelius: Right. Rahzel is a guy who scratches with his mouth, right? Have you seen him, is he good?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: He is amazingly good. He rhymes drum'n'bass, synthesizer, female vocal and bass-drum...everything all at once!!

Cornelius: (laughter) Wow...I really have to see him. Do you remember there were "human-Karaoke machine" guys in Japan a long time ago?

Fantastic Plastic Machine: Yeah, there were!

Cornelius: These guys played YMO by playing around their mouth. Rahzel made me recall them.

Fantastic Plastic Machine: This guy is seriously jaw-dropping. I happened to play on the same night with him for CMJ's opening party in NYC, there were Jungle Brothers, Cut Chemist and Femi Kuti...but he was most outstanding.

Cornelius: Oh boy, I can't wait...

This conversation probably would have gone one for three more hours, but at this point security showed up and made us return to the festival grounds. Upon doing so, a large group of photographers and reporters made it impossible to continue the interview.


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