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Friday, Dec. 25, 2009
The decade's most influential
By IAN MARTIN, DANIEL ROBSON, JAE LEE, RICHARD SMART, ROBERT MICHAEL POOLE
Special to The Japan Times
Last week, The Japan Times picked Hikaru Utada as the most influential artist of the past decade. This week, our writers ask various figures in Japan's music scene who they thought were the most influential artists of the noughties. We asked them to choose one Japanese artist and one non-Japanese artist, a task that proved to be difficult for some. Meanwhile, other musicians thought movements such as the Internet were the star of the decade rather than an actual performer. Here's what they said:
I think the most influential artist overseas was either Beyonce or Alicia Keys. On one hand, Beyonce, the whole world would agree, has accomplished so much and influenced so many artists. She's the ultimate. But I think Alicia is one of the greatest writers of the decade. I've seen her perform, she knows classical so you can hear that element in her songs, you can tell she is really interested in old-school soul and integrates it into her own style really well. She is a pure artist. Beyonce and Alicia are different categories, but Alicia has the newness, the oldness and her own style.
As for a Japanese artist, I'd definitely say Hikaru Utada. She is very artistic. She writes, self-produces and has created her own category of music. She is on point every time and has set some records.
Crystal Kay's "The Best Remixes of CK" is now in stores.
Vocalist/guitarist, Asian Kung-Fu Generation
I think the most influential domestic artist of the 2000s is Shutoku Mukai, because he invented the new Japanese alternative rock sound with his bands Number Girl and Zazen Boys. His bands have had great influence on many young musicians.
As for the most influential foreign artist, I think it is Thom Yorke and Radiohead. Every rock kid wants to be Thom Yorke, and "Kid A" must be the most important album of the decade: It's like a blueprint for the sound of the last 10 years, even though it was released way back in 2000.
Asian Kung-Fu Generation's single "Shinseiki no Love Song" is out now.
Music producer, solo artist, member of Motocompo
Vitalic (Pascal Arbez) was successful in introducing a punk approach to techno and house, forming the foundation of the new electro scene that has spread worldwide throughout the 2000s. If it hadn't been for his work, I don't think this scene could have ever emerged.
It's difficult to talk about the Japanese music scene because being so closely involved in it I can't see it from outside. However, if I had to choose one artist, it would probably be Shiina Ringo/Tokyo Jihen. She's played an active part in the usually boring J-Pop and major-label scene, but more than that, she's had a big influence on young musicians in the underground scene.
Motocompo's "Chiptop Lips" and Dr. Usui's "Datajockey" are on sale now.
In the rush to use digital technology and the Internet, there have been both blessings and curses. For better of worse, the world's information and entertainment has unfortunately changed to become flat. In the old days, the hitmakers were the chosen ones from major record labels, but now anyone can upload their music so the profession of the self-styled artist has developed and new stars have been born.
However, there is a loss of locality. For example, in Japan and perhaps throughout the world, the differences of how you raise a club audience to climax has faded. The songs DJs will choose have also become predictable and the number of young, average DJs has increased.
The overwhelming access to information has certainly been convenient. Based on that, in the age of information overflow, what is the meaning for you to make something. What is it exotic anymore? Does anything unknown still exist? How do we excite the imagination and provoke emotions now? Now I am coming to focus my mind on this and there is still more to come.
Towa Tei will perform at HOTEL H at @ fai aoyama on Jan. 8, 2010. Guests include Haruomi Hosono (Yellow Magic Orchestra), Ayuse Kozue and DJ Gata Gattaca. For more information, call (03) 3486-4910.
ALI& and JUN
We think Cornelius is the most influential Japanese artist of the decade. Even now, he continues to inspire artists in many different genres of music.
As for non-Japanese performers, French duo Daft Punk were the most influential artists of the decade. We both think that without the release of Daft Punk's "Discovery" album in 2001, today's popular electro scene would not exist.
80kidz' album "80kidz presents THIS IS MY WORKS" is on sale now.
Owner, Dotlinecircle label; vocalist, I'm Tokyo, You're Osaka
James Murphy is the man behind LCD Soundsystem and through the DFA label he's released so many great records. He made "Sound of Silver," a great collection of songs, and put out "Beaches & Canyons" by Black Dice, which influenced groups like Battles and Animal Collective. He's so careful about the details, the sound, how the music feels in a club. He's a music lover who wants to create more music lovers. DFA has become a stamp of quality
I should be careful here because Nisennenmondai are a band I've worked with, but from the moment I first saw them live they struck me as something new and important. No matter how much I've worked with them or how often I've seen them they always seem fresh. Even though they're not that popular in Japan, they've always got amazing reactions abroad. So many bands try to work in a businesslike way, but they've always found their own path, and in the last decade I've never found another band like them.
Love of Everything will play with Chuck Bettis and Japan friends (Brown Wing Overdrive, Hime from Nisennenmondai and Aya from OOIOO) on Feb. 15, 2010, at Shibuya O-Nest.
DJ for Dexpistols
I think the Japanese artists that have been the most influential over the last decade are the Dexpistols and all the people at Roc Trax. I don't have any reason for this, just because.
The most influential international artists are Justice and the Ed Banger Records crew, because they started the new electro scene.
Dexpistols will be performing at Ageha in Tokyo on Dec. 31.
Vocalist/guitarist, Shonen Knife
This decade has passed so quickly, and I'm getting old, so I don't remember very much! Most of my favourite bands are from the 1980s or 1990s, but one Japanese band from the 2000s that I really like is The 50 Kaitenz. The members say they were influenced by Shonen Knife, so we have them as guests on our next album. I like their fashion and their attitude on stage, and their songs are very fun.
They're not from the 2000s, but last year I saw Cannibal Corpse for the first time and they inspired me a lot. I was so surprised by them! They're pretty hard, and their hairdos are excellent! Their lyrics are too scary for me, but their stage performance is great.
More than any bands, the changes in the music scene are of course having a big impact. We just finished a monthlong North American tour, and in all that time I saw only one record shop. CD shops are gone in America; everybody's downloading. I still prefer albums. On our U.S. tour, many people asked us for vinyl records, so I think vinyl will come back again. I think the time will come soon!
Shonen Knife's new album "Free Time" will be released Jan. 6.
Rapper, m-flo; Teriyaki Boyz
I think (the most important development) was in dance music exemplified by Kanye West and Daft Punk collaborating. Hip-hop fans never got into that kind of house and Daft Punk fans didn't really get down to hip hop. But when the two came together it was magic. Sampling Daft Punk, anyone could have done that, but he shot that video for "Stronger" in Tokyo and that also made Tokyo cool — and by the way I lent him my sunglasses for that video! In the 1990s, hip hop had to be 92 bpm or it wasn't real hip hop. But this decade the new electro movement started and changed how hip hop was defined.
Also, economically, people needed help (as the revenue from falling record sales affected some artists) so with the genres mixing there was a feeling of needing to get together and this resulted in artists from opposite ends of the spectrum becoming interested in each other.
m-flo's "MF10 - 10th Anniversary Best" is on sale now.
Bassist, The Mornings
I think it's the way Prefuse 73 put music together, using CDJ and samplers together with live drums, and the way all the pieces fit together was I think pretty innovative. It was the first time I'd ever heard hip hop and electronica being mixed in that way.
Obviously they weren't a major band, but for people like us in the undeground scene Green Milk from the Planet Orange were really important because of the way they took progressive rock but played it like a hardcore band. The other thing about them was that they were the only band of our generation who did what Melt Banana had done, by touring abroad and working really hard to gain popularity in the United States.
The Mornings will play Nishi-Ogikubo Studio UEN on Dec. 27 and the Shinjuku Motion countdown party on Dec. 31.
Bassist, programmer in Petit Panda Extreme
I think Maximum The Hormone has played an important role in Japan's music scene over the decade. Their sound might be too heavy for some, but they still get high sales because they have a very pop sound — even if it is not to everybody's liking. A lot of teenagers try to play their songs and because of this I think in the next few years it will emerge that Maximum The Hormone are one of most influential bands of the last decade.
As for international artists of the last decade, I think Muse are the most influential. Their music is beautiful, loud, melancholic and even nostalgic. They are a band that can move an audience to tears.
Petit Panda Extreme's album is on sale now. Visit ppe.12inch.com for details.
Producer, Fuji Television
In Japan, I think Mr. Children is the most influential band at the moment and has been for the last 10 years. Mr. Children has built themselves a great number of fans among the general public and many followers in the underground-music scene.
Outside of Japan, I think U2 has been the most influential band for the last decade. U2 is the 21st century's first band to be globally influential and I sincerely believe their reputation as a band is indestructable.
DJ YOU-DIE!!! will spin tunes at Minami Aoyama Red Shoes on Dec. 26, visit ameblo.jp/boobee-004/
YUU NAKASHIMA, AKKO NOMA and TURKEY
Vocalist/guitarist, bassist and drummer for GO!GO!7188
Nakashima: For me, the most influential Japanese band of the decade is Ling Tosite Sigure. They created a genre that didn't exist before, and their live performances are so powerful and unique that it makes me feel proud to watch them. Noma: I've been influenced by the writer Makime Manabu. His ideas are so unusual and his stories have a really traditional sense about them. Turkey: Polysics have been really influential and are probably the most successful Japanese band abroad at the moment. Their stage performance always slays the audience. Noma: As for a foreign band I'd say CSS. They came out of nowhere and totally exploded, which made a big impact on me. Nakashima: The international artist of the decade would be The White Stripes. The fact that they're brother and sister gives the band so much character, and they put great effort into not only the sound but also their image. Turkey: Internationally I think Weezer have a great way with melodies. I think they'll continue to influence people into the next decade too.
GO!GO!7188 will play the Countdown Japan festival. Their new album is due in spring 2010.
Bassist, Jeena Majestic
Mr. Children were the most influential Japanese band, because as well as producing songs they are also the band that many Japanese people try to emulate when they go to karaoke bars.
Bon Jovi have been perhaps the most influential international band. Whenever they release a song, it's played all over Japan. They have also managed to sell thousands of records over the years and gain fans across generations.
Jeena Majestic will play Daikanyama Loop on Jan. 31.
Electronic music producer/DJ
This decade there has been so much musical innovation because of technological advances, so it is very hard to pick a single artist from the hundreds that have appeared. But among foreign artists, Ulrich Schnauss was the first person to merge indie song-writing elements and electronic instrumentation, and as a pioneer of the shoegazing genre, his production proves what a true artist and innovator he is.
For a Japanese artist, Hiroshi Watanabe (aka Kaito, Tread, Quadra, 32Project) has a different name for every style of production he represents. He is the most acclaimed Japanese electronic music artist overseas and rightly so. Dig around enough and you can find his music — you wont be disappointed.
Polaroidfades will play 24K, an event being held at Ageha in Tokyo on Dec. 30.