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m-flo Reunion Interview: Tripod Is Back

December 16, 2017 3:50am
by Lachlan Johnston

It was only yesterday that m-flo surprised fans all over the world with the announcement that original member LISA would be returning to the group to create new music in time for their 20th anniversary. For those of you who are unfamiliar with why this is such a big deal, LISA’s contributions to the group’s first 2 albums (Planet Shining & Expo Expo) were a significant part of their appeal abroad, and some of those original tracks remain fan favorites even to this day. Her departure from the group to pursue a solo career led to Verbal & Taku Takahashi to press forward and create the massively successful ‘m-flo loves’ series, which brought a whole new level of international notoriety with it.

While LISA did contribute to a few tracks during this era in the group’s history, fans have never stopped hoping for the trio to get back together and usher in yet another chapter era in m-flo’s story. Thanks to our friends at block.fm, we have been given the opportunity to share the first interview with the newly re-formed m-flo with you, along with some additional comments specifically for their international fans. Both longtime fans and newcomers just joining the ride, we hope you enjoy this deep dive into what is already one of our most anticipated reunions for 2018:

Interview with Taku Takahashi:

Q: Almost 20 years after the debut of m-flo, why was it that the three of you have now decided to reunite?

It definitely wasn’t something that just happened suddenly — it’s actually been in the talks for quite a while now. It was a little bit ago now, but I was offered a gig to DJ for LISA at a Christmas event last year for J-Wave, a radio station in Tokyo. This would actually be the first time you and I met properly, if I remember correctly. We performed a few m-flo tracks, and couldn’t be more happy with how emotionally the crowd responded. They welcomed us very warmly, both myself and LISA were truly touched. That night both LISA and I agreed that we’d work towards doing something like this again, given the chance. This was the moment the idea of LISA returning to m-flo really started to spark; though, to be honest, VERBAL and I had already discussed it many times. It was after this performance, however, that I knew it had to happen. It was when I went to talk to VERBAL about this that something terrible happened, following a large-scale car accident on Christmas Eve. 

It took some time, but I was beyond relieved when I heard he was going to be okay. We actually had a booking for Universal Studio Japan’s Countdown Party, which was something we had to decide if VERBAL could make it or not for. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it, but I thought it was clear that the show should still go on, and decided it would be the perfect time to propose bringing LISA in for support. It was awesome to hear them say yes right away, and the Countdown Party event ended up going incredibly too. I want to give a shout out to the USJ staff for supporting us too. We had a really good talk when I went to see VERBAL in hospital about LISA returning for more than just that show, and he was totally down for it. So that’s how we got to where we are now.

Q: What was it like having the three of you back in the studio after all this time? Was there any difference now compared to the earlier days?

Back then, VERBAL would write all his lyrics back at home, but these days he likes to vibe out with us all at the studio while writing. I was also surprised how much faster LISA was when it came to recording now too. All that said, however, I don’t think much has changed amongst us fundamentally. The most important thing to all of us is how we express our emotions, and how we make them sound interesting. That’s what our journey is all about. It’s also super easy given how well we all know each other, we can sit down and just vibe without needing to explain ourselves.

Q: What about yourself? What’s been giving you inspiration to create as of late? 

I’ve got a weekly radio show on block.fm which acts as a catalyst for listening to new and emerging electronic music from all around the world. It’s a great experience to be able to do such, but I feel as though it stagnated my ability to clearly view what I want should be making. My idea of m-flo has always been a platform to introduce something different, create a new trend in the world of J-pop. Since EDM-style is starting to become more mainstream in Japan, I’ve had to ponder what the next big thing I want to introduce should be.

Listening to new tracks from around the world is definitely stimulating, but that’s not enough — there needs to be research and studying involved too, something I got tired of very quickly. I remembered a quote from from Osamu Tezuka around this point, “If you want to become a great comic writer, you need to consume great music and movies. Try to get inspiration from a medium outside of what you usually work with.” I took that to heart, and dwelled deep into US dramas and cartoons such as “Game of Thrones” and “Rick and Morty,” just to name a few. They helped me become more so aware of the global scene, and inspired me to stimulate myself with more content from outside of Japan. 

I’m somewhat defiant towards listening to old m-flo work. I always manage to find some small mistake that I wish I could fix, and it’s the inability to do so that makes me regretful. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist in that regard. It was because of this I avoided listening to our older works; I didn’t even have any of it in my playlists, except for some I would use in DJ sets. Recently I actually had the chance to listen to some of our older works, however, after a friend of mine forcibly played it in front of me. I started to realize that it wasn’t as bad as I imagined, and even began to ponder how I pulled off some of my old sound tricks. It made me look back and realize something simple — although my old works weren’t perfect, it was all different and unique in a way that was good for both Japan and the international music scene. It was honestly quite stimulating. I couldn’t believe I had been so inspired by work from 20 years ago, let alone something by myself. This was something I’d never expected, a breakthrough in where I pulled inspiration from. Funny how that works. 

Q: You’ve been playing a lot of DJ gigs outside of Japan this year, with a particular increase in shows in the United States. Did you manage to pull any inspiration from those trips?

I had the unique opportunity to perform at nine different conventions this year, and it was totally awesome. The best part about convention raves is that I can just be myself; I can play all the underground music, while also spinning in a little m-flo at the same time. The audiences are so energetic, it’s always exciting to witness. In a way, I’d even suggest they’re a little more open to a wider variety of styles than even the Japanese underground scene.

Q: There are a number of m-flo fans in the United States that are looking forward to the upcoming production. Did you ever get to interact with any of them, and would you say you learned anything if you did?

Whenever I attend a convention, I try my hardest to avoid just being the DJ for the night. I want to interact personally with as many people as possible, whenever I get the chance. People will tell me all about how they feel in regards to what I’m doing, as well as to m-flo and I always walk away with new inspiration. One of the more interesting comments I received at one point was a question regarding why we chose to start making EDM-style music, and why we would simply adopt what was already big in the US. They finished that up with a message that they appreciated what we did before, though. It was pretty harsh, but also very interesting (laughs). As for my perspective on the comment, it’s just as I mentioned above — m-flo is all about introducing something different to the J-pop music scene. What was big in the West was not big in Japan, so it fit the motif at the time. That being said, it did make me realize the tremendous difference between the ‘classic m-flo’ and m-flo post the “Loves” series. 

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two time periods, however, is that I’ve gotten technically more advanced in music production. I also now have access to a better music creation team. The technology in the field has also leaped forward, meaning it’s much easier to create much higher quality electronic music than ever before. Since I first started making music, it’s always been a matter of me finding something I like, trying to put my own spin on that style, then implementing it into m-flo. That’s the very same mindset I’ve had from the beginning.

The thing was back then, we all had different synthesizers. Let’s say I liked the bass line utilized by Daft Punk, and let’s say they were using a Roland synthesizer. If I own a Moog synthesizer, no matter how hard I try to recreate the Daft Punk bass line sound, I simply wouldn’t be able to. But that was the beauty of it, in trying to replicate that sound using something different, you’d in turn create something different that might sound great. That made each sound unique, and that was also what made the old m-flo sound so unique. In other words, my flawed desire to create something perfect is what gave m-flo it’s unique edge.

Since there’s been so many advancements in the field of computer-based production as of late, it’s very easy to make some really great things which I think is cool. Everyone has access to the same software synthesizers and that’s combined with all the great sounding presets. I can’t control that urge to create something inspired by other artists, but that’s a bit of a problem given everyone is using the same tools these days. I figured at this point I should give some of my old production techniques a shot. That was part of the reason I started breaking some of my vintage synthesizers out of the attic — using them in pair with my old style has always proven to create some pretty good accidents different from others.

Q: Is there anything you’re excited to try with the new m-flo?

I really want to focus on creating great music with m-flo. We’re having to be aware at the same time of how we release our music in this age of the internet. We’ll of course be releasing on both CD and digital services, but VERBAL and I are trying to come up with something different that’s not been done before.

I kept on mentioning the importance of introducing something different in the J-Pop scene, but I also am heavily invested in introducing the up-and-coming artists of Japan’s underground scene also. These days it’s uncommon for a lot of Japanese artists to do remixes, but we’d like to try and get some really great remixes done. I’d actually love to have a bunch of bootleg remixes done and sent through to me. Maybe we could even work on making it an official remix if it’s something great. I want the J-pop scene to be more creative, rather than just focusing on commercialism. We might be able to start releasing new remixes in the near future.

Q: Finally, can you tell us three of the things you like about m-flo?

The cool thing about m-flo is that, firstly, we all have different areas of expertise which helps make something completely unique and different from anything else. Secondly, we can be experimental while still releasing in the major market, there’s not many artists that can do that. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, we have fans that are there for us because our music is different. I sincerely appreciate that. I would like us to create something genuinely unique for thing J-pop and Western culture. 

Interview with VERBAL:

Q: To get the ball rolling, let’s talk about when was the decision to re-form m-flo as a trio made. What was the catalyst for all of that?

At the end of last year, during the annual “Universal Countdown Party” held at Universal Studios Japan, I was set to be performing alongside Taku as m-flo, but right before that could happen, I was hospitalized after a car accident in Hokkaido. That was when LISA swooped in and saved the day by filling my spot. Her performance was wild, and it became a pretty trending topic with everyone requesting we start performing as a trio again.

Q: So in 2017, that idea became more solidified amongst you all?

During 2016 we played around with the idea quite a bit, but nothing was ever really set in stone. After the Universal Studios Japan show, however, we really began to think that the time was right to reunite as a trio.

Q: Did it feel like there had been a drastically long period since you last worked with LISA?

Between both myself and Taku, the topic of creating music together with LISA was almost a part of daily conversation. We were actually thrilled that she made an appearance as a guest singer in “BEAT SPACE NINE.” As time flowed on though, we all became involved even further with our respective solo careers, and it was only now that the timing became ideal -- but really, I was always enamored by the idea. As I suspected, when LISA entered the studio with us once again, she brought that special something that only she possesses, and it felt right at home for m-flo.

Q: Compared to m-flo’s first recording, was the approach for this latest one any different?

Yeah, it’s changed pretty clearly in many ways. When we debuted in 1998, none of us were all too familiar with how to conduct ourselves as musicians. There was this strong feeling of recklessness in wanting to create songs that sounded cool to us over all else. We didn’t understand the formula for creating something great, and we didn’t pay attention to things like being ahead or behind on trends. We simply went along with how we felt about music. 

Looking back on it know, working with all the artists we did during our “m-flo Loves” series definitely helped us experience a whole world of things outside of the realm of simply making music. But when I entered the studio with LISA and Taku recently, I again was hit with that feeling of ease I could find only with them. It wasn’t even just because it was easier, but more so because it felt all the more right. Being in an environment where I don’t have to hide my passion, that’s definitely the best thing. When describing LISA, the term bandmate definitely comes to mind. Of course, I have enormous respect for her, but when we’re working together as a trio, it’s so much easier to just speak my mind (Laughs).

Something that I’ve gotten used to recently is thinking of lyrics after I’ve arrived at the studio. In all my previous works, it was always a matter of coming up with them before hitting the recording studio. I think it’s easier to create lyrics while in the studio now, especially coupled with the sound of the music through the speakers available in there. I’m also able to speak with those involved while I’m there too, that’s something that helps a lot.

The major difference between the m-flo of the past and the m-flo of now is how we’ve all essentially matured into adults. In the past there was a pretty big desire to represent myself first and foremost (laughs). I just wasn’t capable of seeing the whole picture back then. Even now, Taku’s been producing soundtracks for movies and TV shows, all while building up block.fm at the same time -- we’ve all piled on these unique experiences. Now, I feel like we can analyze a situation properly to figure out which route will work the best. When I first started, there was also a massive desire to cram everything I wanted to do into just one song. These days, however, I’ve got more of a bird’s-eye view on what I want to accomplish, allowing me to spread all of that out over multiple songs.

Q: Was that feeling of things feeling “right” when the three of you are in the studio together reflected in your songs?

LISA once said to me “Haven’t your raps been kind of same-same lately? It was way better when you used to say a number of crazy, out of this world stuff in the past.” I spent a bit of time trying to figure out what she meant by that, and actually began looking at some of my old lyrical notes. I realized the me of back then was kind of weird, but in a good way. I started to agree with what she was telling me, and began going back to my previous style of writing lines.

LISA’s melodies tend to boil and pop at the surface like hot water. The songs she’s sung for us recently all have that kind of feeling. One thing that hasn’t changed in regards to the way Taku does things though is that all his demos tend to be pretty rough. When we made “come again,” he actually gave me a drum-only track. Without even knowing any sort of theme, I was tasked with writing the lyrics and LISA would write the melody. Following that, Taku would wrap up the arrangement, that’s our process. Now it’s not quite as bad as before, but we still record on a rough track. Taku will then start adding the strings and so on. LISA would always mention that she would rather sing on a more complete version of the song (Laughs). Taku’s always fast with his production though, and he has a lot of ideas. He’s really leveled-up his skills, the both of them have.

Q: Do you all get hyped-up when talking about music?

LISA is always saying that listening to Western music while she’s outside of Japan allows her to vibe more than when she’s listening to it in Japan. When it comes to Taku and I, however, we tend to throw a bunch of YouTube videos between each other and discuss technology that we think is cool.

Q: What kind of direction are you looking to head in your newest work? For example, are you shooting for a more worldwide direction?

Rather than aiming to be worldwide, we really just want to create music that will really stick with the people.

Q: How do you feel being a member of m-flo today?

For us, being part of m-flo is like being at home. It’s not a job, really. It’s not about making a lot of money or becoming really famous either. It’s something we do for all of those that enjoy it. In saying that, I’m not saying that my other projects are purely for the money (laughs). The fans are always at the top of our minds. At events, they’re always asking us when the latest releases will be coming; we are always conscious of their expectations.

Q: 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary since m-flo’s debut, and you’ve also done so many other things during this time. Did you ever imagine you’d still be rapping after 20 years?

I never could have imagined it. Ever since the 90s, there was this very apparent difference between rappers and rock artists. Many prominent rappers seemed to have a deal of success with side businesses, and it became quite cool to do so. For example, Puff Daddy started both fashion and alcohol businesses, Rick Ross started selling champagne and Slim Thug even got into real estate. 

I always imagined myself following a similar path. When I did get around to trying it out, the attitude towards such a thing in Japan was quite cold. I was a bit lucky, though, since I was able to do it in conjunction with the office I used to work for. One person asked me “Can’t you just support your family through just rap, rather than with some other jobs?” I responded with a firm “No.” (laughs) 

I didn’t think it would be so realistic to be able to survive on rapping alone, so until my second album I was going to university in America, and would often go back and forth between America and Japan. I am constantly engaged in creative businesses, a recent example being the brand "AMBUSH®" I launched with my wife YOON. We opened a shop in Shibuya and it has been a great success. In the past, I would have thought I’d be done rapping when I hit age 30, but here I am beyond 40, standing on stage.

Q: So not only has your musical world expanded, but so too your creative ventures.

All of my experiences have been quite useful in everything I do. I can confront all of my ideas not only with the mind of an artist, but also with a realistic business sense. It’s been a blessing. I’ve been involved recently with the talent agency LDH to develop their international division. And just a little while ago, I met NAKED’s president Ryotaro Muramatsu together with Taku, and we talked excitedly about art and technology. I’ve been involved in so many ventures both within Japan and abroad, collaborated and networked with many artists and business partners, and I feel like I’ve achieved a real state of usefulness in the broader business world. Now, I want to take all of my own networking experience and spread it around for others to take advantage of.

Q: What kind of creators are you inspired by?

People with whom I get along well are those who look worldwide. It’s been like that since the very beginning. Those who are globally-conscious with unique ideas. They could be either a rapper or a business person, any profession is fine. It’s always fun to be around people like that, and it’s also extremely inspiring. It’s important to have strong synergy between myself and whoever I’m collaborating with, and I also want them to profit as well. If the other party wouldn’t gain anything, then I wouldn’t want to collaborate with them. If the collaborator doesn’t “feel it,” then it doesn’t really work out. I’ve seen a lot of those kinds of collaborations that didn’t work that well. For example, people with similar goals tend to bond quickly, for instance, myself and LDH’s EXILE HIRO. He has a strong philosophy in believing that the world can be happy through entertainment, and I completely agree with, and work with him. There are many people who really dig this idea for international collaboration, but at the same time those who do not. I’ve become better at sensing this, and I tend to be quite aware of other people’s motivations. 

Q: When you deliver collaborations and works to end users, are you conscious of the various generations and targets that are strived for?

If I’m working with a brand or marketing, I think that it is possible to utilize information like ages, demographics and targets with data, but when making music, since I emphasize my own sense of being, I am not particularly conscious of any sort of data.

Q: Recently in the music world, the ideas of "young people" and the "younger generation" are often emphasized -- what do you think about that?

I think it should be “people with a young mind,” rather than “young people.” Regardless of age, no matter what you say to a person who is stuck in their ways, nothing other than a fixed concept sticks. Young, open-minded people were m-flo listeners, and I think that our music has stuck with them. It is with those people in mind that we continue to create. So I would like to continue to support such “young-minded” individuals. Actually, I want to create a platform where young people who are creatively hungry can be active. I have various ideas floating around.

Q: Such a platform sounds pretty amazing.

The experience of being in your twenties now versus when I was in my twenties is completely different. Like, now you can immediately learn new information from a smartphone. Nothing like that existed during my time, and making contact with others was tougher.  I even remember Taku’s number from that time (laughs). The notion of having a dream is completely different now too. In the past, it was “Aim for million!” or “Perform at Kouhaku! (a popular end-of-year music show in Japan)” -- that was the romance of the music industry. Now, however, that same feeling is not there. I feel that there are many artists and creators who want to be more pure, flat and cool. If I had to guess as to why that’s the case, we now live in an age where it is not unimaginable that you could be booked at Coachella. Now, we are more free in our process, and that’s what is considered cool. Talking with the people who have been able to grow up and prosper in this environment is fun, and I want to support them.

Q: So you are looking to nurture the next generation of artists?

I am not good at any sort of “training,” especially when it comes to other people (laughs). I just want to make the platform. When I debuted, there were some cases where I thought “I want to collab with this overseas artist,” but I gave up because it was too difficult. I was told to go through some corporate representative, and it was kind of a pain. At least in my case, I just wanted to hurry through any barriers and get the work done. I’ve found other ways of doing it on my own now, and I feel the time is right to share my experience and know-how with others. I want to allow young Japanese artists who may say “I want to collab with that person” to easily turn that thought into a reality. If the possibility is there, the process will become smooth and fast. Creating a successful system to allow for this kind of experience is important. 

Q: Your work has been growing rapidly both in Japan and abroad, so what does your typical day look like?

How am I spending my days recently? From early in the morning, it’s just meetings, meetings, meetings (laughs). I’m a bit of a morning person, so I’m still able to check my emails before my meetings begin, and then I end up really looking forward to my recordings and more creative work (laughs). Also, I make a lot of business trips overseas -- places like Shanghai and Los Angeles. I still make time to go to the gym 2-3 times a week though. In my accident, I broke eight ribs and was in rehab for a long time, so not being able to do weight training and running on the treadmill has been a little depressing. 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your future visions?

Of course, I will be continuing to make music, but I will also be working hard on that platform. I’m very motivated by the possibility of being able to connect people, content, and business together. 

Q: Finally, who do you hope hears the music from the new m-flo?

Firstly, I want to deliver this straight to the fans who have been waiting for so long. They’re like close friends, and people I could toast drinks with. It’s a “Thanks for waiting!” kind of feeling. Next, I feel like this release will be one that sticks to those open-minded people who are seeking new possibilities, so I hope that they listen too. I think they’ll be shouting “What?!” over the news of this 2018 m-flo resurrection, but in a good way. I really want to surprise them. I want to accomplish something new. 

Interview with LISA:

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how the three of you come to work on the new release?

As in, how did I come to reunite with m-flo?

Q: Exactly!

Sure thing! It was around Christmas last year, Mercedes-Benz held a live show for a Tokyo-based radio station called J-WAVE. Up until then, I hadn’t really seen Taku for quite some time.

Q: So you’d call it a chance meeting at this Christmas event?

Up until that moment, we’d frequently call and talk on the phone, but this was our first time doing an event together in quite some time. It was an invite-only show hosted by J-WAVE, and I actually recognised a lot of people from the “Planet Shining” and “EXPO EXPO” days. They were kind of like my original fan club, so to speak. I was overwhelmed with joy to see them. It had been quite some time since I had last performed in Japan, so I thought most of my fans would have disappeared. While we were performing, I even saw people cry in joy -- even though so much time had passed, I wanted to live this moment again. I felt it was almost my mission to again bring m-flo together as a trio, rather than continue on solo.

Q: So about how many of those old fans were actually at the show?

It was closed event, and people were only able to get in via a lottery. So I’d guess around 150 or around there.

Q: Would you say it was a very intimate party because of that?

It was extremely special to me. I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic when seeing each person’s face. “Oh, I remember you. I remember you!” I saw the audience members crying, and I was close to tears even while singing some of my happier songs. 

Q: I’m sure those people would be happy to see this interview in that case.

If they saw it, I’d actually be quite happy myself. They’re the ones who touched my heart so much.

Q: It’s great to hear all about that event, thank you for sharing! More recently, would you say you’ve been making progress on an album?

We’re actually working on several different types of songs at the moment, and we just recently finished a ballad. It’s going to be the ending theme song from an upcoming film called “Kyonen no Fuyu Kimi to Wakare.” It’s jam-packed with m-flo sounds, even if it is a theme song. It’s genuinely impossible for us to create something together that isn’t loaded with our true feelings. We’ve finished another song too, and it’s definitely very “us.”

Q: What would you say the difference in being an m-flo member now is versus the time you were featured in the “Loves” series?

We always had a role within the original m-flo days -- we knew what we had to do, and it was very natural for us. There was a very similar feeling to that in the “Loves” series too. This time, though, that feeling is even stronger. We have a greater sense of teamwork now than ever before. 

Q: How’d it feel to get back in the studio after all these years?

We hadn’t been back in the studio together since the “Loves” series, and when we finally got back together, we realized so much time had passed, and we had all matured and become more experience with it. The messages in our lyrics got stronger, and what we would write felt more real than ever before. That’s something extremely important to me. As we’ve gotten older, our messages have too matured -- something I consider precious. I noticed even VERBAL was bringing in coffee for everyone, and being a total gentleman (laughs). I started to realize maybe it isn’t bad to get older, and I realized it’s always fun to be around Taku and VERBAL.

Q:  With all that said, what would you say m-flo is to you? 

We’ve all grown up, and we all have more mutual respect for each other. We know what buttons we shouldn’t push with each other now too. Both of them have jobs too -- Taku has his DJ’ing, and VERBAL has PKCZ®︎. For me, I only have m-flo, and sometimes I wish they’d focus more on the group. I feel that was especially because m-flo is essentially my home-ground. I’ve started to realize that more and more lately, and I’ve been on a mission to bring everyone back together. That used to be Taku’s thing, but now I feel like it’s my role to bring everyone together -- almost like a mother (laughs).

Q: So what have you been up to as a solo artist?

It’s been like 8 years, hasn’t it? I was honestly getting tired of repeating the same cycle over and over again -- I felt like I needed to stop. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything throughout those years though. I’ve gotten a number of offers from various labels, with the most recent actually being a collaboration with Taku for an English-language album called “KID’S SONGS.” Taku produced the tracks, and I provided the vocals. I have a pretty extensive library of music from the past 8 years, but listening to it now is heartbreaking.

Q: Is there any chance that one of those songs might find its way into the next m-flo release?

If it ends up fitting what we’re working with, then it’s a possibility.

Q: Has your creative flow with m-flo changed since back then?

It might not be the most polite way to say it, but I think that both Taku and VERBAL have really stepped-up recently. Taku’s tracks have become even more cool, and VERBAL’s raps have become even more melodic. His raps used to be a bit abstract, but now they have more of a West Side flavor. I frequently write my songs when I’m in Guam, I actually just flew ever there to listen to Taku’s second demo in a different environment; one that was fresh and full of sunshine. While I was there, the melodies and lyrics pretty much just fell from the sky, and I sent it all through to them. They absolutely loved it.

Since I originally left, the two of them had gotten a lot more into DJ’ing and collaborating, while I spent most of my time listening to a lot of top 40 pop. So I bring a lot of the pop essence to m-flo, while they bring in their own unique aspects. We complement each other, and they trust me with what I create.

Q: Would you say there any differences between your solo work and m-flo?

I’m 100% dedicated to m-flo now. I’ll probably get offers from elsewhere for solo performances and such, but I would like to devote myself to m-flo entirely. That’s where I’m at right now. 

Q: What are you especially excited about in creating together again? Is there anything you’re looking forward to leading up to the release?

I’ve been excited everyday as of late; there’s not a single day where I’m not listening to new music, and I can’t wait to sing in front of the fans. I feel like there’s astronomical possibilities with the three of us back together. I’m most excited to bring everything we’ve been working on to the fans and see how they all react. We’re all actually going on a kind of ‘songwriting camp’ abroad, which is something I came up with (laughs). I know the two of them are really busy, but I insisted we go anyway for just a week. I’m also really excited about that.

Q: You’re going to be standing in front of an entire audience soon. What type of emotions are you expecting to stir?

I wish I knew the answer to that, God only knows. I might even take a moment and cry if I’m honest.

Q: How do you typically interact with your fans? Is there any particular routine?

Let’s give an example, say I’m going to the concert hall by my house, there’s not some sort of ‘artist switch’ that I flick on and off. I just interact how I really am, I like to be as natural as possible. Being an artist is just part of my identity, so I don’t like to build walls between myself and m-flo fans. I try and be as honest as possible, and I hope others interact the same way. If I was to stop being real with myself and others, it’d break down everything we built. m-flo was never about putting up a front, it was just about showcasing who we are to the world. 

Q: There’s a whole lot of people all around the world who are ecstatic that the original m-flo trio are back together and are anticipating the album. How does it feel to know that?

I’m delighted to hear that, of course. As we all know, the group continued to work hard after I left, and I couldn’t be more thankful towards Taku and VERBAL. Back when I was in the group initially, I wasn’t conscious of our international audience at all. I couldn’t imagine people listening to our music. I’m thankful that we were able to connect with individuals all around the world. All three of us went to international schools, so it only makes sense that none of us should limit ourselves to only Japan. 

If there’s anyone with interest in our works, I can only ask that you’re patient, and when the opportunity arises, you make it out to one of our live shows. I’d love to have you be there. m-flo was one of the pioneers in the bilingual English and Japanese music breakthrough in J-pop. However, I can also speak Spanish due to my Colombian origins, so I’d love to try creating something in Spanish and connect with our Latino audience too. 

Q: Can you tell us three things you like about m-flo?

The first thing would have to be the mutual respect the three of us share for each other. We all understand our individual strengths as musicians, and that allows our real feelings to flow without compromise. 

The second thing would have to be the history we share. We’ve known each other since junior high, but even still after all these years, we can still get together and watch as our light glows strong. 

The third thing would have to be how much we’ve matured and flourished. It’s clear to all of us how in our new music our message is all the more powerful. Our music isn’t only for adults, but it ranges from youth all the way to the elderly — that’s just the flexibility of our style. That’s something special to me for sure. I feel like when I’m working with m-flo, we can truly do anything and go anywhere. 

Q: Finally, have you got anything special you want to say for your fans internationally?

I’m overwhelmed with joy to be back involved with m-flo! It’s been so many years, but not once did I stop thinking about what we did. I just hope we have the chance to get back over to the United States, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, and everywhere else! I hope everyone has a chance to come see us, because our new music is seriously wow. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. 

Thank you for always supporting us, I have so much love for you all. I’m back, and I hope you’re ready for what’s to come! I’ll see you guys all soon, and bless you all! Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for new music!

For those of you that may have missed the highly-teased announcement yesterday, the tripod are officially back together and here to stay. With a new song on its way in 2018, we couldn't possibly be any more excited. To check out more of our previous write-ups, including yesterday's announcement, you can check our full archives here.

Credits:

Interviewers: 
Jay Kogami // VERBAL
Takeru John Otoguro // LISA
Lachlan Johnston & Takeru John Otoguro // Taku Takahashi

Editors:
Lachlan Johnston
Mike Tamburelli

Translation:
Mike Tamburelli

Visual Support:
MAKI

Editor in Chief:
Eddie Lehecka

SPECIAL THANKS to block.fm

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Animator Kojo Tanno is Crafting Mysterious and Dreamy Shorts

May 22, 2018 3:00pm
by Lizzy Zhang

Do you enjoy the kind of abstract, dialogue-less, post-or-near-apocalyptic, heavy impending-doom-vibe type of story that hits all of the right spots? Did you enjoy ‎Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, Minetarō Mochizuki’s Dragon Head, or all the mysterious hallways and special abilities in Kazuma Kondou’s Deadman Wonderland? Independent animator Kojo Tanno is creating brief clips that capture such aesthetic with a thick air of mystery, all from his home in Nagasaki.

I really don’t feel as if I can properly put his works into words that will do them justice, so check out this short video:
 


A Google search for Tanno will yields mostly ambiguous results, including long-since archived articles by sites such as Crunchyroll and Anime News Network covering his video “VIEW” from 2012. There are quite large gaps between his uploads, with his first Youtube upload, “SAYONARA, WATASHI...” being from well over 9 years ago to date. Since then, however, Kojo Tanno has uploaded a total of 14 videos to his YouTube channel, his most popular being “JOSHI ni tsuite (Regarding Girls) that holds its ground at nearly a million views:
 

With all that being said, however, it's his recent video “QUARANTINE” that has been making its rounds on Twitter as of late. Since its initial posting this past February, I've been digging deeper and deeper into his works, leading me to his recently launched Patreon. Contributors are granted the ability to see his filmmaking progress, ask questions, and buy exclusive merch that he makes available only to patrons. With his Patreon, Tanno aims to gain funds to produce his own film, something that longtime fans have probably been waiting for almost 10 years now. 

Kojo Tanno’s works often have non-conclusive endings that leave your mind to fill in the rest of the story. The symbolism in each video is left to the viewer to contemplate. He’s definitely a mysterious guy, and I’m personally really excited to see where he takes the rest of “QUARANTINE”. If you’d like to follow along as well, be sure to check out Kojo Tanno’s Twitter for updates and occasional livestreams. If you’d like to contribute a little bit every month to his filmmaking, you can find his official Patreon, here

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New ‘Hunter x Hunter’ Collaboration Earring Unveiled

May 22, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Togashi Yoshihiro’s Hunter x Hunter isn’t the sort of series that gets a lot of merchandise, but that just means that it’s always a special time when some does come out - even when it hits a little too close to home.

Contains spoilers for Hunter x Hunter.

A new collaboration piercing was unveiled today, and it’s not what you’d expect, like a replica of Chrollo Lucifer’s earrings, or even Kurapika’s for that matter. Instead, the iconic and heartbreaking adult form of Gon Freecss - playfully called ‘Gon-san - which he transforms into after giving into his rage and trauma following the revelation that Kite cannot be brought back following despite Neferpitou’s healing powers, is now available to hang on your earlobes.

Coming in at around 3000 yen for the normal version and 10,000 yen for the ‘high-end model,’ the earring highlights Gon’s extremely long hair in this form - making the piercing very long, around 90mm in fact. Depending on how your ears are pierced and your personal preference, you can also choose between an earring and piercing design for the part that attaches to the earlobe. Wearing just one of the unique ear pieces looks great, as shown below, but you can also buy a pair of them. Pre-orders will be open until August 5 on Premium Bandai’s website.



Seeing such a heartbreaking and iconic part of the series turned into an accessory was surprising to hear at first, but after seeing images of the design, I must admit that it definitely makes for a rather unique accessory. That being said, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Gon’s adult form turned into apparel, as he also made an appearance on one of the Jump 50th Anniversary Uniqlo collaboration shirts. These shirts have quickly made themselves at home in my closet, so I suppose wearing an earring of Gon-san isn’t a step that much further removed - even if it is a little bit close to home.

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MONDO GROSSO Shares New Music Video for 'One Temperature'

May 22, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Following up from the March 21, 2018, release of MONDO GROSSO's seventh studio album, "Attune / Detune," the legendary producer is back with their latest collaborative music video alongside Big-O, "One Temperature". Shared via the official avex YouTube channel earlier today, the music video utilizes a number of 90s filmography techniques to create the perfect throwback sound to accompany the song's hip-hop lyrical basis. Let's take a look at the music video below:
 


Released within the nine-track album "Attune / Detune" that released earlier this year, "One Temperature" takes MONDO GROSSO's signature sound to fresh places, something that rung especially true across the whole album. I couldn't picture the track with vocals from anyone else, either, as Big-O lets the lyrics flow in a manner only he can execute so well. There's little room for error on this track, as well as the rest of the album, and this one is definitely going to be bopping for days on end. 

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Puma x Sega Sonic & Dr. Eggman Sneakers to Release June 5

May 22, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It was just a short period of time ago during the month of March that the world was first teased with initial images of SEGA and Puma's collaborative Sonic the Hedgehog sneakers. The initial pixelated imagery left a lot to the imagination, but it wasn't until earlier today that we finally got our first real look at the RS-0 Sonic and RS-0 Dr. Eggman sneakers, as well as their release date and price point. Set to hit the streets on June 5, 2018, at a total cost of $130 USD, the sneakers are a mostly subtle throwback to a couple of gamings most iconic characters. 
 


Initial impressions of the sneakers are scattered and mixed, with some in love with the inspired designs and colorways, while others are finding faults in the "high price point" and material choices. While I sit on the positive side of the fence when it comes to this one, I will admit I'm not exactly jumping at the initial images of the materials, though that could change when I actually get to see a pair of these sneakers in person. I can't picture everyone picking these up as everyday pieces, but I'm sure any fan of the series could incorporate them quite well.

Set to be made available worldwide from June 5 at a price point of $130 USD, you'll likely want to jump on these early before they sell out. Those interested in picking up a pair can make their way to the official website for further information.

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‘Steins;Gate 0’ Takes Over Akihabara With Collaboration Events

May 21, 2018 4:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Akihabara is featured in many anime, but I think it’s safe to say that none of them have been as effective at advertising the otaku hub as the science-fiction adventure series Steins;Gate.

The way that Okabe, Mayuri, Daru et al. are situated so well in the locale has gone a long way in making the area an integral part of the series. This, along with the excellent storytelling and character writing, has been an excellent advertisement for the otaku hub since the original game’s release to critical praise in 2009. For me as well, experiencing the same locale as the characters of Steins;Gate and being able to feel the spirit of the series in the area is a key part of why I love it so much.

That being said, with the new Steins;Gate 0 anime beginning it’s broadcast this season, it seems only fitting that the whole city mobilizes to advertise it. And so it has - not just with billboards on the Sofmap and Sega buildings, but with a multitude of collaboration events and goods also.

Running until May 31, the first major collaboration is with the AR app “Butai Meguri,” which will be using Akihabara as it’s playing field for a new Steins;Gate themed adventure titled “OPERATION;HEPHAISTOS.” This is actually the second time the app has crossed over with the series, previously running an event in Saitama. By using the app and visiting iconic Akihabara locations such as Chuo-Dori and Animate, players will receive a free badge set featuring Kurisu and Maho. There are only eight locations to visit, and anyone familiar with the area will probably be able to do it in no time, so it definitely seems worth giving a go.

During the time of this event, there are also plenty of food-related events scheduled. Firstly, Cafe Mailish is holding a special event to in honor of the “Supa Hacka” himself, Daru. It will feature a special themed menu as well as a gallery for the loveable otaku himself. An odd choice perhaps, but not when you realize that Daru’s birthday was actually on May 19 - so I’d like to think that we’re throwing the often unappreciated Daru a birthday party.

Kanazawa-style curry chain GOGO Curry will also be serving up a special collaboration curry and clear file in their Chuo-Dori store. The curry utilizes fried chicken - an ode to Mayuri’s own love for “Juicy Karaage Number One” - which is in turn drizzled with a yellow sauce, named “Gelsauce” after the “gelbananas” of the first series. I was able to sample the dish, and as usual, the curry was excellent, but what made it even better was the clear file that came with it. The humorous design features Okabe holding some GOGO curry and Kurisu with one of their signature forks. This collaboration curry will set you back 1200 yen, a little expensive but definitely worth it.

Even if you’re just walking around Akihabara, not aiming to participate in any of the above events, it seems almost impossible to escape the series at the minute - many of the vending machines have been adorned with Steins;Gate characters, Dr. Pepper is doing a crossover with the series, and even without any explicit reference to the series, it seems as though Steins;Gate has once more entered into the soul of Akihabara. As it should be.

For more details on collaboration events, check out the official website

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Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is Coming to Nintendo Switch... Via Streaming

May 21, 2018 3:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

In a weird turn of events, Capcom announced earlier today that they're bringing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard to Nintendo Switch in Japan on May 24, 2018, but only a version of the game that has to be streamed via their cloud servers. If that wasn't odd enough, beyond the fact that you're streaming the game, at no point will you actually "own" the title, with Capcom requiring players buy 180 day passes at the price of 2,000 yen every half-a-year. 
 


Those interested in playing the game will be able to simply go to the JP Nintendo eShop and download the 45mb Resident Evil cloud application, beginning the initial 15-minute trial before deciding if they want to purchase the full game pass. Included in the cloud version of the game, players will have access to all available DLC including Banned Footage Vol. 1 & 2, End of Zoe, and Not A Hero. Players are recommended to either have a 5ghz router or be using ethernet to enjoy a stable experience, though internet speeds will definitely be a major factor.

While it isn't particularly a standard in the West, nor in most of the world just yet, cloud streamed games have unfortunately been gaining more and more traction over here in Japan. Just recently we saw the launch of Phantasy Star Online 2 for the Nintendo Switch running on a similar cloud streaming platform. In my personal experience with that title, in particular, the game was riddled with lag and delays which effectively rendered it unplayable for the better part. We'll definitely have to see how Resident Evil 7 performs, especially if it is following that same path. 

While there's currently no official word of a Western release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard on Nintendo Switch in the West, and we quite strongly doubt there ever will be in this format, we'll be sure to keep you up to date if any information does arise. Until then, we'll be giving the Japanese eShop version a try. Those interested in checking out further information can find it via the official website.

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FLCL Progressive Receives New Trailer Ahead of June Premiere

May 21, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

The countdown has begun and we're officially less than two weeks away from the June 2 premiere of Toonami's FLCL Progressive. In preparation for the story that's about to unfold before our very eyes, Adult Swim has begun streaming the first English dubbed trailer for the series. The first entry into two brand new FLCL stories, FLCL Progressive follows 14-year-old schoolgirl Hidomi as her life takes a turn for the weird as we're taken through the wild ride that is adolescence. Let's take a look at the new trailer below:
 


Set to premiere on Adult Swim's Toonami block on June 2nd, 12:00 am (Eastern Time), FLCL Progressive will consist of a total of six episodes. Viewers in Japan will have it a little differently, however, with the show set to release as a single film that will actually come out after the other story, FLCL Alternative. Reasoning and structure behind this are currently unknown, but that could make for an interesting twist amongst international discussion. Toonami describes the series below:

FLCL Progressive tells the story of 14-year-old Hidomi, her classmate Ide, and two otherworldly beings, "Jinyu" and "Haruha Raharu," who are determined to unlock their hidden potential. Mixed up in this is an all-powerful force known as "ATOMSK," a gorgeous vintage car... and a certain Vespa Scooter.

For many international anime fans, the original FLCL acted as a cornerstone in their developmental years alongside the anime medium. Now over 18-years since the original series aired on television, we're given the opportunity to expose an entirely new audience to such an important series in fresh and exciting ways. With less than two weeks to wait until the series finally premieres, we'll be sure to keep you updated as further information is revealed. Until then, be sure to check out the official website.

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