|Monday Michiru "Moods" -- Interview by Sonya Vallet|
|3/27/2017 10:34:21 AM - SV: Where and when were you born and raised?|
MM: I was born in Tokyo, Japan on August 19, 1963. I was raised between Japan and America, although more in America. To be precise, at the age of 1-3, I was in New York and New Jersey, 3-7 in Beppu, Japan, 7-9 in New York, 9-15 in the suburbs of Los Angeles, 15-17 in Interlochen, Michigan where I attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, 17-23 in Los Angeles, 23-36 in Tokyo, and currently living in Long Island on the
North Fork in the farmlands!
SV: Please tell us about your artistic background, and how it lead you to acting, DJing, music production and performance?
MM: I was fortunate to have parents who are jazz musicians, as is my step-father who raised me from the age of 7, and because of them I always had music playing around me, mostly jazz and classical. I was naturally interested, and started fiddling around on the harmonica at age 6, and the recorder when I turned 7. At age 8, my mother gave me the choice of studying piano or ballet and modern dance, and I chose the latter as my mother is a pianist and with her strict ways I didn't want to give her any more opportunity to "guide" me. At age 11 I picked up the flute, then at age 13 I quit the ballet when I realized that between school studies and the flute, I just didn't have time to stretch out my time to focus on dancing anymore. I just wanted to play the flute. I went to the Interlochen Arts Academy, as I mentioned earlier on, to study further into the classical field and was determined to become the next Julius Baker but as fate would have it, I didn't get the scholarship I needed to study at my choice of music colleges (Julliard or Curtis), and the following year, just weeks before my auditions, I got into a car accident which completely shattered my lower front teeth and lip, and knee as well. Without any time to get over the accident and be up to par on my playing, needless to say my auditions were a failure. By then I had started losing hope of being the next great thing on the flute, and was in limbo for a while, but then slowly took an interest in singing and songwriting. After a few demos, my picture and demo ended up in the hands of a Japanese director, Somai Shinji, who was notorious for working with amateurs and propelling them to fame, and he was at the time looking for a singer to play the part of an anguished opera singer, and I miraculously got it! (Only weeks before, I was at a bachelorette party where they had a psychic who told me that she saw my picture on big billboards and I was like, whatever. Spooky.) I never really had an interest in acting and although working with Somai-san was a great experience for me as he is such a purist, I didn't really enjoy the other jobs they led to as an actress. The good part of it was that I was allowed to try my hand in other things such as radio DJing (I used to buy CDs and vinyls at an alarming rate back then), various projects on
TV which also included interviewing other artists and also traveling to various cities in Japan and other countries, "modeling" for various designers and magazines, etc. During this time, I just kept building up a network of musicians and producers, and finally went to the president of my then production/management company and BEGGED him to let me record an album, which he did. I released it on Virgin in Japan and it did horribly in sales but I was ecstatic about the opportunity. None of the record labels really wanted to touch me afterwards but I was shameless in meeting as many musicians and DJs and producers as possible and asking them to give me an opportunity to do something. I was doing a bit part on a TV production skit, where in my skit I was the singing angel, and I would sing all these songs accapella, such as "Over the Rainbow" (it was really cutting edge-avante garde TV, made by the people who did the Snakeman Show in Japan) and the guys from United Future Organization dug my singing (even though I knew them through the club scene) and asked me to sing on their next project. Before that was released, I also got involved in a compilation album produced by S-Ken called "Jazz Hip Jap" (awful title!), and I invited DJ Krush to produce an original track with me. It all came out both in Japan and in London under the Mo' Wax label at the same time as the UFO album right around the acid jazz movement in London and Japan (far before it became hip in the U.S.) and suddenly I was dubbed the queen of acid jazz, a title I absolutely scringed to. It's funny, because that scene in Japan really was a meeting of minds against the major music scene at the time and nobody really intended to start a new movement, but that's what it became, and it ultimately led to the surfacing of the underground club culture to the mainstream. After that, because of the buzz on me at the time, Makoto Kubota, who had produced Sandii and the Sunsets and many others, approached Kitty Records to let him produce me, and my second album came out. He really encouraged me to write my own tunes and to have more confidence as a singer/songwriter. The albums after that, I just took it upon myself to produce and enlist other producers, arrangers and musicians, and slowly honed my own production and writing skills. During this time, I also became more and more engrossed in the DJ culture, being a vinyl buff, and Okino of Kyoto Jazz Massive, who was my manager for a couple of years, encouraged me to DJ at clubs to help promote my releases. I sucked in the beginning and finally hung up my headphones in 1999 and never really got that great at it although I enjoyed it (never enjoyed the hours though), but people still say that I had a certain flavor and DJ'd like a guy (let's just say that I didn't grow faint from hard hitting beats!). But the reasons I chose to retire from DJing was the same reason I was getting stuck in a certain cycle musically, where I found I was too engrossed in club music which was conflicting more and more with the organic side of music that I was more interested in exploring. Now I feel free to create whatever I want stylistically and sonically without feeling limited by what is acceptable or "cool" as defined by club music.
SV: I would like to take this chance to thank you, so much, for the five years of work you gave me, the touring, the recording, the whole entire process was simply heaven sent to me. Could you share a little more of what it was like being multicultured, and a bright woman in the Japanese industry?
MM: I don't know about "bright" -- I feel like there's a few bulbs missing at times -- but the multicultural thing is something that I know you can relate to being Ms. Multi Kulti yourself! And thank YOU for being always so gracious to lend your talent to me with your voice and wondering attitude and love for music. You've always been one of my best supportors, as I am a great fan of your's.
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