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12 July

Interview of Masayoshi Fujita, a SHAPE artist

Before Maintenant 2016, Electroni[k] interviewed Masayoshi Fujita, a SHAPE artist (SHAPE is a three-year initiative, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union).


Hello Masayoshi. As a teenager you were playing drums in a rock band, but it is only in your early twenties that you started practicing vibraphone. What made this instrument so appealing to you?

I knew the sound of vibraphone from the jazz records my father used to play at home. I liked its warm and deep sound. I always looked for a vibraphone player to play with but I could not find anyone. One day I met a jazz vibraphone player and talked to him. He said he was giving private lessons so I took it. When I played the vibraphone by myself for the first time it sounded so nice that I decided to change instrument and play it on my own. I love its softly vibrating sound.


In 2006, you left Japan for Europe and moved to Berlin. What were you looking for then?

I was making more electronic music and a lot of my favorite musician and labels were based in Berlin. So I just wanted to go there and be in there. I think I was looking for a better environment which is more suitable and inspiring to create the music.


This year, you’ve been chosen by the SHAPE platform to promote innovation and creativity in the field of music. What’s your view on the emerging scene in Europe?

I don’t really know much about music scenes and I don’t really work with innovative new technologies but I think I am trying to make something innovative or original. It doesn’t have to be a new technology but it could be to show different aesthetics, possibilities or point of view. On the one hand the technology is giving more possibilities to the music and art, on the other hand the analogue equipments and acoustic instruments are more appreciated, I think.


Be it for creating music or making wood prints, you draw most of your inspiration from nature. Could you tell us more about your art and how it connects with your music?

I started to make wood prints to make the cover artwork of el fog’s first album. I tried to show the aesthetic and atmosphere of the music by the artwork as well. So both music and the artwork have the same aesthetic or images. They both have the same roots in common. And those images are very much connected to the nature, the images of nature which have accumulated in me since my childhood.


You are self­taught concerning music writing. Could you describe your work process? How is made a song?

Most of the time I just play around the vibraphone and hear nice harmony or melody, or even one chord. When I hear it, I play it again and again and then try to make it a bit longer or to find next phrase or variation. Most of the time it already has certain image from the beginning. So I make the image or story grow as the song grows. I record small pieces of song and listen it and by repeating this process, the song grows. You’ve made two electronic­oriented solo albums under the moniker of El Fog.


Then in 2012, using your actual name this time, you released “Stories”, an entirely acoustic work. Your latest record “Apologues” is in its continuation. How do you explain this new direction?

As I have been making music with vibraphone as el fog I practiced vibraphone more and more and I became more and more interested in the instrument itself. Then I started to compose songs on vibraphone. It was kind of natural progression for me. Of course I still like electronic music and want to make it again but I am now more into the acoustic music. But maybe I will make something with electronics again in the near future. 


Experimentation obviously holds a significant part in your creative process, how did you come, for instance, to prepare your instrument?

I was playing in a experimental band or collaborated with other people in experimental field. In those projects I used a lot of diverse ways to play or prepare the instrument, like putting many different things on the instruments or play it with different materials and so on. Then I picked up some of nice­sounding ideas and used them in my solo music, but not just to make strange noise or effects but in more “musical” way.


During the improvised session you recorded with Guy Andrews for BBC3’s Late Junction, you play vibraphone with violin bows instead of mallets. How did you arrive to that idea? Was it out of curiosity or were you trying to recreate a specific sound that you may have heard or thought of?

Like mentioned in the question before I first tried it in the band I played in and now I used this technique quite often. It’s more like a standard for me now. I remember that when I started using this technique for my music, I wanted to control the sound from beginning to end. For example when you play string instrument or wind instrument you need to move the bow or blow and finger to make and control the sound whole time. But with vibraphone you just hit the note and stop the sound. Nothing really in between. So I wanted to have some way to control the sound while it’s sounding. It is of course quite difficult to control it nicely, though.


In 2010, you made an album in collaboration with Jan Jelinek, “Bird, Lake, Objects”. How did this project come about? Did you exclusively focus on the vibraphone part or were you fully involved in the composition work?

I met Jan at my friend’s gig. I talked to him and sent him my album later on. After a while he had a gig offer and he was asked to invite other musician for it. So he asked me to join. Actually this gig didn’t happen but we just decided to play together in his studio to record something. I played with some effectors and a loop pedal with vibraphone too and did a little bit of edit afterwards for some of the song.


What’s next for you? A sequel to “Stories” and “Apologues”, or maybe El Fog‘s return?

I will have some shows and some collaboration albums are to be released this year. I started to collect some ideas of new songs but I don’t know how it’s going to be. I need more time to grow them.



Interview par Fahir Nazer

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