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Chihei Hatakeyama: Longing for Nature

img  Tobias

Your current album “The River“ was partly inspired by a quote from “Apocalypse Now“ about how you can never enter the same river twice ... In which way was that a direct influence on the music?
I think you're talking about the line that says “You know why you can never step into the same river twice? …’cause the river is always moving.” Which was quoted by Jordan Sauer who did a review for this album. I’m not making any direct reference to this specific line in my album, but the essential aspect of the film that is symbolized by this line also forms the essential part of the album. The songs of this record are inspired by some of the scenes of the film that made a strong impression one me, and the order of songs follows the order of appearance of these scenes. If you look closely at the titles, you’ll be able to tell what scene a particular song refers to.

You are said to have made use of “memory-evoking soundscapes“ ...

When my first album“Minima Moralia”came out, a friend wrote a description for it that included that particular line, “memory-evoking soundscapes”. I liked what he wrote about me, so I’ve been using that line in my profile. In my early works, my aim was to have my music touch a universal essence of memories and experiences that each person has. I would usually have something like a vague visual image of something I’d experienced in the past; for example, a childhood memory of me getting lost and trying to find my way home, and I would try to transfer that image into sound. However, I recently try other approaches, just like on this album - where I am trying to shift the images of scenes in to sound.

How would you describe the production process for “The River“?
I first record the sound materials – in my case the guitar, piano and vibraphone, and then I make drone materials out of them. I don’t use midi recently, so I edit the improvised recordings of mine that use those drone materials. On “The River” I used a lot of the piano compared to other albums.

Another new release of your, “Saunter“, deals with a variety of topics. Why, for one, did you find it interesting to cover the transition from Fall to Winter?
One reason is because I was making the album right around that time of year. I had just moved to a place called Zenpukuji in Tokyo in spring that year. Zenpukuji has a lot of nature, but I was especially stunned by the beauty of the transition from Fall to Winter in this area.

What about the Chinese painting style of ‘Sansui-Ga’?
I don’t have much detailed knowledge about the Sansui-ga, but it is a very common thing if you live in Japan. Most houses have at least one Kakejiku – which are scrolls with a picture or calligraphic work pasted in the center that are hung on the tokonoma wall - or something similar that has a Sansui-Ga in it. I was influenced by the monochromatic color of the sansui-ga, and tried to unify the tracks by simple/ similar and not colorful sounds.

Visual arts such as painting and movies, in general, appear to be a stronger influence on your work than musical ones. How come?
Actually, I do listen to a lot of different types of music. However, because I use a laptop, it is pretty easy to imitate the sounds I hear in other music. So I try to avoid  drawing my inspirations from already existing music. Even though influences from the musicians I like still come in to my music.

In which way did you try to make the sound palette on „Saunter“ match your conceptual ideas?
I first begin by selecting the materials for tones. Then I decide which material matches the concept (monochromatic tones). However, this decision is subjective. Some of the tracks that I made just for fun sometimes coincidently match the concept I’m working on. In most of my albums, I usually make rough songs at first, then fix the orders of them, and then start working on the details and finishing of the songs after I get a total image of the album. Some of the concepts come to me when I’m deciding the order of songs. For example, on “Saunter”, the transition from autumn to winter is a theme for the order of songs.

A lot of your work seems to evolve from themes of nature. Why, do you think, is that?
I live in a big city, so I have a kind of a longing for places and environments that have a lot of nature. I also had a lot of interest in magnificent views of nature since I was a child. When I was little I used to live in a place called Kamakura, which is surrounded by the ocean and mountains, and I would visit those places every week. My music is expressing the sensibility that was raised in that period of life. For the theme of the transition of seasons, Japan has a clear distinction between the four seasons, so it is one of the close portions of nature that you can feel even in a large city. I also think of nature as an absolute otherness that moves under a different law that man does. However, I do think that in some sense, man is part of nature. Therefore, I have a desire to convert the laws and beauty of the nature - which is an otherness - in the root of me.

Homepage: Chihei Hatakeyama
Homepage: Hibernate Records
Homepage: Room40 Records

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