The composer and ambient musician known as Meitei has quickly come to mean very much to a passionate circle of music fans. Inspired by tales of his grandmother, and a general yearning for a Japan that perhaps only exists in memory and imagination, he began, over a few years, to work on the recordings that became Komachi.

As mysterious as it is accessible, unknowable as it is intimate, it instantly struck a chord with listeners, not to mention myself. Considering it's the highest score I've given out in nearly 10 years of music writing, it's safe to say I like the record a bit.

Unsurprisingly, then, I was thrilled to link up with the man behind the music for an open, searching conversation. The dialogue below has been largely unaltered, so just keep in mind the speaker's limited familiarity with English. Read on for his unbridled thoughts.


What's your earliest memory of music?

Maybe I was in elementary school ... I went to a relative's house twice a year and stayed. (The house where my grandmother lived, who died last year) I went there and had a very good time. And when it was time to go home from there, BGM was beginning to flow in my head. For me it is a sentimental childhood memories. And for the first time there I felt music close to me.

Was your family a musically inclined family? I know your grandmother influences you greatly, did she often play you music?

I think she didn't play music. But my brother-in-law loved Jazz. He said, I was dancing to the music of James Brown that was flowing in his car when I was young. I do not remember that....

Who/what was your first favorite artist/band?

I think that it is the music of Joe Hisaishi that is flowing in the film of Hayao Miyazaki. Nausicaa, Totoro, Laputa.

When did you first realize you wanted (or needed) to make music?

I was 21 years old. At that time I went to school to become a fashion designer. And a good friend of mine recommended me John Frusciante's Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt. From there I bought a guitar and got hooked on the music. My life has changed. And I immediately started composing.

I wouldn't have at all have expected that album to have been your catalyst, what was it about that record that struck you?

His album was very special for me. I like much of his work but I was really passionate about this album Niandra. At that time I was 21 years old. At that time I went to a fashion school in Tokyo. My friend who met me recommended me this album. The shock I felt when I first listened to this album was overwhelming. This existed in a place different from the dimension of music that I had listened to so far.

There are many complex things here and there. It was a very pure feeling. I need to mention John here. One of them is that he made this album purely. This is not an album for a drag. He himself mentions it. But just lying on the internet. It is misleading.

I was born and I have always been lonely. I did not know why. And his album came to me to hug the loneliness. Curiously, his album began to ease my loneliness. And I knew my hidden true existence. I realized for the first time that music has such power.

And I have been listening to their album for many years. I basically do not listen to a lot of music. I keep listening to my favorite things. And it's the type of person who sticks to it. I bought a guitar when I was 21 by listening to this album. And soon I realized that I did not fit on the stage of the fashion school. Then for me the next stage of life began. Music has become most important to me.

I think his elements are largely included in the direction I showed in early recording art. Actually I still stock the music I created on the 8track yamaha multitrack recorder. It is my first work for me. I disliked it. But I was moved when I heard it last year. The reason I was most moved is that there is no doubt about it. It is pure.When I listened to it ten years later, I learned something important from my past. "Unless you look away from the truth, you will see the footprints of the miracle" It is only recently understood that kind of thing. Since I am 34, I finally can see my 24 year old self.

What kind of stories of an older Japan (from your grandmother or anyone) most touched you?

There are many, but my origins are folklore ... I have two grandmothers, and my 99 year old grandmother died last year. And one is alive at the age of 97. She managed a small temple. So they gave me strange old and spiritual stories. The fox's curse and the meaning of praying. I could not remember the contents of each of the various stories, but I feel that such signs and mood are ingrained in me.

How did those stories influence your new album?

I think that Komachi has traces of emotions that I felt at that time. When I make music, there is not much logical process. Emotions come from somewhere, and something is created if you notice. So it is not influenced by my grandmother's story or the logic of folklore, but I feel the existence and energy of those in my body and the sound is produced. I always communicate and update energy.

Do you dislike modern/current Japan or simply believe both cultures have a place?

I think there is a place in both cultures. The reason is that there is no room for personal preference. Culture is a kind of truth that flows differently from personal preferences. That's why the culture is timeless.

How do you feel in modern epicenters such as Tokyo?

It is a vague and high existence. Tokyo is a city with people's energy, and unique production activities are taking place.

How has Kyoto shaped your music? Did you often walk its streets and temples for inspiration?

Kyoto is a city that gave me loneliness to my life. That was a very deep experience. The days I spent in Kyoto are HQ training periods for me. At that time I was lost in life. I stopped making friends. But I continued to make music. But I did not think that was my best work. I must have music to do as an artist, but I had no idea what that was. I was looking for what I needed to do. While thinking about such things, I walked the old roads of Kyoto every day and visited temples. The experiences I see and feel there are my life guidelines. Meitei is the answer.

What is your best memory of exploring Kyoto?

There is a story that feels in places with water like ponds and rivers. I often visited the Katsura River flowing through Arashiyama(Togetsu-kyo) and felt something. And then I climbed the road next to the river and enjoyed the deep Arashiyama. There are wild animals there.

Then I visited Utano(Sagano area) and took a walk around Hirasawa pond(Origin of Meitei's Ike). Then I went down the Kamogawa from Kamigamo Shrine and tasted the night wind. I experienced such an experience as a habit for many years. And the night town of Kyoto was somewhere elegant.For me, Kyoto was a city where you could enjoy a very luxurious solitude.

Where do you plan to take your music next?

My next work expresses one of the Japanese old spirits. And it expresses the elements that the Japanese did not disclose until now. It is Japanese complex (a feeling of inferiority). I really wanted to feel positive in Japan in a new era.

Do you have any interest in working with singers? I recently interviewed Nanako Sato, she was deeply kind and modest, and it occurred to me your understated sounds alongside her vocals would be truly special!

Yes. Well ... I don't know. But I have noticed only one thing. It has a color that suits me / Meitei. It is deep blue or dark green, Dark Navy, Viridian, Ash turquoise blue. I'm interested in working with people who are making vocals and sounds that symbolize these colors. But it exists beyond the music scene. Images and artifacts, such a comprehensive art. I think Mitski has such a color. I respect those who are brave.

What do you see as the primary difference between Kwaidan and Komachi? How were both conceived in contrast to one another?

First of all, Kwaidan expresses a conceptual story in an album. It was made in 2017. When I was making this, my mind was well imagining scenarios like the performing arts and movies. And the sound reflected the work of a great Japanese kwaidan writer.

But Komachi has different focus on Japanese scenery, places, people and things. It was actually ade in between 2012 to 2017. So the ambient elements stand out. The times at which these were created are also quite different. But I think that both albums are new works of images that have not existed in Japan so far. It is a completely different album I produced as a Japanese.

Do you enjoy the film Kwaidan? Did it influence your album title at all?

Yes, I am enjoying the film of Kwaidan, but I am more influenced by Kwaidan [literature]. Folklore books such as Koizumi Yakumo, Shigeru Mizuki, and Sankai etc. I think there is a comical side to Kwaidan I drew. That's because I expressed a cute and spoky rhythm like Yokai & Obake. I think this is a Japanese personality.

Who is your favorite Japanese filmmaker? Why?

It is Hayao Miyazaki. He is my hero. He always notices a blind spot in the minority. And he has a brave innovating style. It can be said that his work partner is the same. He is a great artist who raised his hand in a democratic country like Japan. His work was always honest and clumsy. It is because it is human. And he is sometimes very arrogant. It is also human. It feels like the mood of Japan we are losing. He is drawing light and darkness. Sometimes he can draw a foolish man and at the same time create a smile there. He is a human who can warp different dimensions.

What was the last great book you read? Why did it touch you?

Wabi Sabi for Artist, Designers, Poets&Philosophers / Leonard Koren. The image of Japan that people of different countries always feel like this makes Japanese features that are difficult to understand clear. He is honest This is a good example of that. I want Japanese people to read it.

If you could recommend any Japanese musician for Western listeners to try, who would you pick?

Takashi Tsuda. I do not know a musician who can produce sounds more sophisticated than him.

What devices were used to create Komachi?

Cubase software and my original sound library (like a woody sound, nature sound etc)! I am not sampling anyone from other artists in Komachi or Kwaidan.

Do you have any particular memories of crafting the songs on the album? I'd love to hear some stories of your process.

The most special track for me is 'Utano'. When I was making this, I lived in Kyoto and lost my life. I often headed to the Utano area and walked around the Hirosawa pond. The season was just about summer. I always came here to check here at night what kind of tone the damp night wind is drawn. I traveled many times here. Because there were fireflies, they also wanted to paint the tone. It was a series of trial and error. And from this time I realized that I could not express this in my performance. I have a foundation of my own style now. I realized that it was best to sample the phrases I played once to create different mood tones. Repeat it and polish the sound until it is in the mood of Utano. It is like a sculpture. I knew for the first time that this kind of experience could be done by sound. And I still feel that it is a unique composition method.

Are there any foreign artists you'd like to collaborate with? I think you and Nicola Cruz would make for a truly special blend, I recommended you when I spoke to him.

Oh,thank you!!I am interested in collaboration. I want Mitski to join as a vocal. Her voice is sometimes pale and navy in color. That's the color that fits my track.

Where would you most like to travel? Why?

I would like to travel to a country that has a working partner that is currently associated with Meitei. Berlin, Singapore, New York, UK, Ekaterinburg etc. While living in Japan, I am presenting works of Meitei worldwide. That's because they are there. But I was not expecting this to happen. [Laughs]