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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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Kenshi Yonezu Releases Latest Music Video 'Flamingo'

October 22, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Earlier this week saw the release of Kenshi Yonezu's long-awaited ninth single, a sadistically playful tune by the name "Flamingo". Accompanied by an all-new music video which debuted on the rapidly-rising talents YouTube channel, "Flamingo" was joined by the announcement of two other songs composing the three-track single release that is set to drop on October 31, 2018. 
 


Shot in and around the parking lot that plays host to the adorably hidden Chinese restaurant Derika, the music video for "Flamingo" is the perfect match for the tone set by Kenshi Yonezu's lyrics. Getting straight to the point, "Flamingo" is very much a Yonezu song, but that's by no means a problem. Much like previous releases, "Flamingo" is a story expressed not just through song, but also Kenshi Yonezu's expressive movements and off-color music video.

It's totally questionable whether Kenshi Yonezu himself, or music video director Tomokazu Yamada, is an avid follower of Twitter trends, but I found myself immediately grabbing my phone when I noticed the filming location for this video -- it was all too familiar. As it turns out, this exact spot was the center of a recent viral tweet in Japan detailing the restaurant and sharing praise for its off-trail location and cheap prices. Well, either that or he's a diehard fan of Hiroshi Fujiwara, given it was this exact store that inspired him to launch his The Park-ing pop-up store in Ginza following his chance encounter with Derika while returning to his car.

Either way, there remains no doubt to the testament that Kenshi Yonezu is one of the biggest talents in Japan right now, and that's a trend that isn't looking to slow down any time soon. Several months ago the airwaves were filled with "Lemon", Yonezu's eighth single and a major turning point for the artist. Whether it was on television or the streets of Tokyo, your favorite music stores, or even arcades, you couldn't step anywhere without hearing Kenshi Yonezu's infectious life-after-loss ballad.

While it remains to be seen if "Flamingo" will have the same lasting effect, this certainly won't be the first time I've had a song called "Flamingo"  stuck in my head for weeks on end. 

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PlayStation Releases Lineup Video ft. Taku Takahashi, YUC'e, hy4_4yh, Kamura Micau

October 22, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

There's no denying it when I say that PlayStation Japan absolutely kills it with their lineup videos each and every time they're uploaded, regardless of what console you have your hands on. Consistently bringing on some of the biggest names in the Japanese music scene, we've seen anybody from banvox to tofubeats, with this latest four-person combo taking things to new heights. Bringing together the respective talents of Taku Takahashi, YUC'e, hy4_4yh, and Kamura Micau all together for a four-and-a-half-minute fever-dream, the video can be checked out below:
 


Filled to the brim with rave stabs and other high energy elements, we're sped through nineteen upcoming and currently available titles at lightspeed to the flow of rap duo hy4_4yh and Kamura Micau layered over Taku Takahashi and YUC'e's signature sounds. If you're familiar with these trailers, you likely already know what's going on, PlayStation Japan throws their most anticipated upcoming titles at you all at once while you're left bouncing around your room to whatever incredibly produced track they bring forward this time. It's a formula that's still yet to disappoint, though this certainly does raise the bar.

We're of course seeing a number of titles in the lineup that I can't wait to get my hands on, including SEGA's upcoming JUDGE EYES, as well as Square Enix's much-anticipated Dragon Quest Builders 2, so that ends up amplifying the hype by about a million. With such a flavorful mix of both veteran and up-and-coming musicians brought together for this video, it'll definitely be interesting to see how PlayStation Japan one-up's themselves next time. Now we just wait and see who's next.

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Kindan no Tasuketsu Release 'Early Years 2012-2016' Compilation Album

October 22, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Alternative pop music group Kindan no Tasuketsu are a difficult group to digest, and an equally difficult group to understand. Their music is seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and it remains truly difficult to really describe their activities with any level of comprehensive understanding. I've attempted a few times in the past to share their music, most of which I listen to a whole lot, but I just genuinely couldn't put words together to describe the group. But here I am once again, giving it a shot, following the release of their latest compilation album "Early Years 2012-2016". 
 


For a band that's constantly evolving, four years is a massively expansive time to compile; yet across a tracklist spanning twenty-six tracks, Kindan no Tasuketsu piece together a semi-coherent image of their history through sound. I had most definitely not heard every single one of those aforementioned twenty-six tracks, which honestly made the whole listen-through all the more exciting. There are a few tracks that the group obviously want you to direct your attention to, including the fittingly dreamy single "nemui" which originally released in 2012, having received its own music video earlier this week.
 

It'd be slightly odd for a group to suddenly drop a compilation album like this, were they not teasing a "season 4" of Kindan no Tasuketsu via their various social media accounts. So with an entire "season" of new music on the way from the group, it's cozy being able to divulge in their history via the "Early Years 2012-2016" album. We're sure we'll be seeing more music in the coming months -- if not weeks -- so we'll be sure to keep you updated when it finally drops. Until then, you can check out even more information on the group via their official website.

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Latest Pokémon: Let's Go! Trailer Reveals Post-Game Master Trainers

October 19, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

It was just earlier this week that I was sharing some news about the release of a new trailer for Game Freak's upcoming Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! titles on Nintendo Switch, but it doesn't look like The Pokémon Company is ready to stop dropping teasers just yet. Uploaded to The Pokémon Company's official YouTube channel, the latest trailer gives us a look at some of the post-game content we'll be able to enjoy, namely the "Master Trainers" system that's being implemented.
 


I'm not really sure how cool I am with post-game content just being shown like this, I actually like a bit of surprise, but none-the-less it's pretty neat to see in action. The new "Master Trainers" system effectively introduces a master for each of the original 151 different Pokémon, a trainer that specializes in that Pokémon exclusively, who you can battle with that same Pokémon to earn the title of "Master Trainer". It's a really interesting system, though I really hope that the game doesn't provide you with the particular Pokémon for the battle and leaves trainers catching and training their own. 

Set to release exclusively on Nintendo Switch on November 16, further information on both ​Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! can be found via the games' official website. Those interested in getting their hands on the upcoming games, as well as a limited-edition Pokémon: Let's Go! Nintendo Switch, be sure to check out our ongoing giveaway, here.

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NASA Announces Designated 'Godzilla' Constellation

October 19, 2018 1:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

One of the more interesting pieces of information to cap off the working week, NASA has officially announced an all-new constellation that you can spend your time looking for in the sky -- the King of Monsters itself, Godzilla. The pop cultural icon joins numerous other characters in the sky, bringing just a little more light to our night alongside Hulk, The Little Prince, Mt. Fuji, and mythological legends Hercules, Perseus, and more. I've never been too good with constellations, but a full visualization of the new Godzilla constellation can be seen below:



Made up of numerous likely blazar, a definite blazar, a starburst galaxy, a gamma-ray pulsar, and an unknown entity, the lining is much like other constellations in the fact that you'll definitely have much of your imagination do the work. NASA states on their official website to describe how the constellation came to be " Godzilla's trademark weapon is its "heat ray," a fiery jet. This bears at least a passing resemblance to gamma-ray jets associated with black holes and neutron stars."



Obviously there are a lot more technicalities to the Godzilla constellation that I'm not even going to bother trying to wrap my head around, but for those who are interested in checking it out, NASA has created a page to detail it all on their official website.

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Funimation Annoucnes End of Licensing Agreement with Crunchyroll

October 19, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

In a somewhat shocking turn of events, it was announced today that Funimation will be ceasing operations with Crunchyroll beginning next month from November 9, 2018. The announcement comes just a year after the acquisition of the anime distributor by Sony Pictures Television, to which Funimation CEO Gen Fukunaga shared that the acquisition directly correlates with the decision to stop collaborative efforts between the two companies. Originally announced in 2016, the partnership brought together the catalogs of both anime giants and allowed customers to reap the rewards of both services in numerous ways.

While subscribers to both platforms are likely to feel a little bit of a hit, it was shared by Funimation's Gen Fukunaga that FunimationNow subscribers will have access to several hundred subbed series, but are going to be losing a handful of dubbed series. In addition to this, some content licensed during the partnership will remain on both platforms for now, with currently simulcasting series such as My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan remaining on both platforms. Both platforms have shared that they will disclose what content will be removed at a later date.

While this is quite a substantial loss for Crunchyroll, it's been reported that the breakup was executed on good terms between both companies. In addition to this, it's been detailed that Crunchyroll's sister company VRV will be replacing FunimationNow on their streaming platform with content from anime streaming service HIDIVE in the next few weeks. While the timing for this new HIDIVE partnership seems like far too much of a coincidence, Forbes reports that insiders have stated it was unrelated.

It'll be interesting to see over the next few months how Sony plans to proceed following their withdrawal of Funimation from the Crunchyroll/VRV partnership. It wouldn't surprise me if this withdrawal is Sony's way of showing that they mean serious business when it comes to taking Funimation to the top, and that is something that will certainly prove interesting from an industry standpoint. Until we find out, however, you'll be able to keep up with everything Funimation on Crunchyroll until ​November 9, 2018. We'll be sure to keep you updated as further information is revealed. 

Source: Forbes, Funimation

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‘Kaiji’ VR Game Heads to Smartphones

October 18, 2018 2:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

While fearing for my life isn’t usually my idea of fun, when it comes to Nobuyuki Fukumoto’s gambling series Kaiji, I can just about stomach some immobilizing dread. Indeed, nothing allows you to do so more than the Kaiji VR game, which has been a constant staple in Japan’s many “VR attraction” venues in recent years. Now, that attraction is making it’s way to smartphones - giving even more people the chance to experience Kaiji’s dread first hand.

Titled Kaiji VR: The Nightmare Bridge, the game seeks to replicate Kaiji’s experience crossing a bridge suspended between two buildings, as was one of the ‘gambles’ featured in the second part of the series. Simply reading or watching the arc was nerve-wracking enough, and I can promise you that it’s even more terrifying in VR, having had the opportunity to test it out for myself last year.

It’s worth noting that the VR game has already seen two ports for PlayStation VR as well as Nintendo Switch last year, but the game’s port to smartphones means greater accessibility, especially for those who can’t simply go and experience it in the VR attraction venues. And what a perfect time to do so, with Kaiji spinoff Tonegawa currently airing, and the manga having just entered a new arc.

The difference between the various ports over the years are interesting, as although the PSVR version of the game was more or less exactly the same as the original version since the Switch doesn’t support VR, the version available on the console uses a third person camera in some instances as well as gyro controls. I sincerely doubt that the non-VR version on Switch can capture the same dread you’re able to feel when playing the game in VR, so it’s great to see that version available on smartphones is the VR version - for which you’ll, of course, need some sort of VR goggles/phone strap.

The recent activity in properties related to Kaiji is curious, with both spinoff manga Tonegawa and Hancho receiving an anime adaptation, and now with this surprise smartphone port of the VR game. I can only hope that this is to gauge interest for a third season, so if you haven’t checked out the VR game yet, then I’d recommend you do - if only to tell MADHOUSE that we want a third season already. Kaiji VR: The Nightmare Bridge is available now on the App Store and Google Play for 360 yen.

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