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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Best (and Rest) of Fujiya &Miyagi

posted by on March 7 at 18:58 PM

Fujiya & Miyagi: Masters of that driving beat.

This week’s Data Breaker feature focuses on hot British trio Fujiya & Miyagi, one of the most effective new revivers of the motorik groove. The group’s David Best gives good interview, so I’m going to post the entire Q&A (after the jump) on Line Out, where space is infinite and everybody can hear you whisper.

F&M play Chop Suey Sat. March 10 with Prototypes and Young Knives; doors at 5 pm (that’s right).

What inspired you to start making music? What were the decisive events, albums, songs, gigs, film sequences, videos, magazine interviews, books, etc.?

David Best: My first musical hero was Shakin’ Stevens, who was like the Welsh Elvis, but more original. After that, it was just a desire to make records that attempted to be as good as our favorite records, such as Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom or Can's Ege Bamyasi. When we started, it was not contrived; it just so happened that where we ended up had certain nods in the direction of the people we admire. In terms of shows that made me want to start a group, the most memorable ones would be My Bloody Valentine, Prince, and Dexy's Midnight Runners. However, the thing that made me really want to perform is the fact that when you watch a group, you get really squashed and it's horrible. The bands always have a lot more space and they haven't got a fat man in a sleeveless T-shirt sweating over you dry humping your leg. I prefer making the music rather than performing it, to be honest, so it was never some cry for attention.

I haven’t been able to track down your earlier releases. How do they differ from Transparent Things? To what do you attribute any changes?

The earlier songs were a lot more subtle and more laidback. We came from more an electronic angle where choruses do not exist. This changed for three reasons. 1) We started playing live and didn't want to bore people shitless. 2) We wanted to incorporate all our musical ideas and influences into our thing. And 3) we got better.

I’ve been hearing a lot of new bands using the motorik rhythm over the last couple of years. How do you explain your attraction to it and the increasing prevalence of it among young musicians (besides it being one of the greatest rhythms ever conceived)?

Well, it instantly sounds good for a start. I suppose it's like a statement of intent. Maybe there is also an element of acknowledging that you like Neu! or whatever. It can also take away from what else you are doing. For example, on our record there are only three songs with a motorik rhythm. On the other songs we've got funk, hiphop, ’60s freakbeatish, and electronic rhythms. They never get mentioned ’cause in the press release it says we like krautrock, so the journalist’s job is done. I like French music more than I like German music but that never gets asked ’cause of that beat.

F&M are British men using krautrock rhythms and singing like shy Japanese dudes for whom English is a second language. Are you deliberately avoiding any British signifiers and, if so, why? (I like your music, so I’m not complaining, just trying to get to the root of your motives.)

I'm not trying to sound Japanese. I like how [Can vocalist] Damo Suzuki sings and that was a big influence on how I started. What I'm singing about is really English, though. You don't have to wrap yourself up in a Union Jack with a bowler hat popped on your head. Elvis's singing style was contrived, and Bryan Ferry's. And Bowie's, too. It's just how I sing.

Your influences are fairly obvious to people knowledgeable about semi-underground music and some will surely complain about your “derivativeness.” However, I find Transparent Things very enjoyable despite spotting most of your inspirations. Do you think “originality” is impossible at this late date—or maybe it was always a myth? Can musicians “only” blend unlikely elements from the past to achieve any degree of freshness?

Can liked the Velvet Underground and James Brown, Kraftwerk liked the Beach Boys and German folk music. Captain Beefheart liked Howlin’ Wolf and free jazz. Nothing has ever been original. Everything has a starting point. We aren't stealing melodies or words. And we aren’t pretending that we aren’t aware of the groups we admire. I'd rather listen to a group who liked Harmonia and it showed rather than a miserable bloke pouring out his heart riddled with clichés on an acoustic guitar ’cause his girlfriend left him for a cooler kid who had a synth and a Kraftwerk record.

Do you whisper because you have little confidence in your voice? Or is it to cut through the over-emoted bluster of many singers? I think your vocal style is an effective complement to the cool-blooded, stripped-down music.

A bit of both. To start with, I wasn't confident at all, as my voice is not the strongest. But I hate people who over sing. It's like you can say the most banal, clichéd thing but if you emote, it's okay. Well, it's not.

What’s the Brighton music scene like these days? Are people there gearing up for the Big Beat revival?

I sincerely hope not. It's about as relevant as saying that people are looking forward to Genesis reforming. There are some good groups in Brighton and there are some shit ones. People are doing their own thing, so there is not a scene, really, which is a good thing. Why would people want to be part of a scene that all look the same and sound the same? What's the point?

“In One Ear & Out the Other” sounds like a slowed-down, more subdued version of Roxy Music’s “Love Is the Drug.” Was that song an inspiration for this?

No, but I like the connection. The first five Roxy Music records are among my favorite records and I don't think they get enough credit for what they did. Combining electronics with funk bass lines and interesting words is definitely some sort of blueprint for what we are trying to do and they sort of started that. You can hear influences from the Velvet Underground through to doo wop, and that wrapped up in sequins and quiffs is pretty mental in my book.

Your favorite krautrock albums of all time?

Can, Ege Bamyasi
Cluster, Zuckerzeit
Kraftwerk, Computer World
Harmonia, Deluxe
Neu!, 75
Faust, IV
La Düsseldorf, Viva
Can, Future Days
Can, Tago Mago
Eroc, 1st LP
Cluster, Sowiesoso
Kraftwerk, Autobahn

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