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J-Pop Exchange Exclusive Interview with Hajime Mizoguchi

Hajime Mizoguchi J-Pop Exchange Radio Show
Exclusive Interview

SeanBird (J-Pop Exchange): Thank you for taking the time to speak with us…

Hajime Mizoguchi: Thank you SeanBird-san, I'm happy to be here. (I'm looking forward to rediscovering myself through these questions)

SeanBird: Did your interest in music begin in your childhood? How did you become interested in music?  Please tell us about your musical studies and training.

Hajime Mizoguchi: My mother got me a piano, when she saw me dancing in front of the TV--- Kerajan was conducting.

My mother was into Tango, and was good friends with a well-known Bandoneon player….who became my first piano teacher. I loved playing the piano, and practiced every day. My mother trained me to have perfect pitch, which I am very thankful of.

I switched to Cello when I was 11, when I saw Pablo Casals' performance at the United Nations on TV. Luckily, there was a cello teacher living 3 minutes away from my home.

SeanBird: How and when did you decide to pursue a career in music? Was it always your intention to pursue a career in music?

Hajime Mizoguchi: As I continued my cello lessons, I joined a rock band as a keyboard player, when I was in middle school and high school. We covered songs from the Beatles, Deep Purple, Cream, and the Japanese band, The Sadistic Mika Band.

When I was in 9th grade, my cello teacher told me, I should try out for a music high school, but I didn't pass the entrance exam. My cello performance, however, was above the passing mark. So I studied hard for 3 years, and got accepted to Tokyo University of the Arts as a cello performance major. And that's when I decided to live as a musician.

SeanBird: Can you give us some insight into your writing process? When you compose music, how do you progress from inspiration to creation?

Hajime Mizoguchi: I've never studied composition. I was always a performer, and was not interested in composing.

When I was 23, I got into a car accident, and couldn't sleep for months. So I made songs to help me fall asleep. That's how I started composing.

Composing changed me, it was as if the world all of the sudden became color from black and white.  For about 10 years, I had so many images and inspirations, just coming out, flowing in my mind.

These days, I am more strategic. I come up with some images and the main focus of the piece, let it grow in my mind for 3 to 7 days. Images come to me when I am driving, walking, watching a movie, doing housework…. not when I am trying to compose.

I put together these images, using a computer, and make it a piece of music. It's like, putting beautiful crystal gems in line.

SeanBird: Who are your musical influences?

Hajime Mizoguchi: So many! Especially the music I listened to when I was 10 to 22 has strongly influenced me as a musician.

Classical music : Karajan, Pablo Casals, Heifetz, Debussy, Brahms

Rock and Roll and more : The Beatles, Deep Purple, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Ralph Turner, Carlos Jobim, Claus Ogerman, John  Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, U2, Sting, Johnny Cash.

And especially Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra, and Linda Ronstadt, since I had the honor of playing together with them.

SeanBird: What music do you like to listen to?

Hajime Mizoguchi: I listen to music of many genre, but I do not listen to Japanese Enka. I have a lot of Red Hot Chilli Peppers , U2, and Jonbim's recordings in my car.

SeanBird: How did you become involved with composing music for anime?

Hajime Mizoguchi: Personally, I don't watch Anime so much. But I know that there are some great musicians who produced music for Osamu Tezuka's animations.  I remember the music for "Princess Knight", written by Isao Tomita. The orchestra was beautifully synchronized with the animation.  It was amazing.

Writing music for Anime could be fun and thrilling, just like writing music for movies. Because of the nature of Anime, the music can be free, and it can be very stimulating.

SeanBird: Please tell us about the scoring process behind the production Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. Where in the process do you, as a composer, become involved?  Please tell us more about this experience.

Hajime Mizoguchi: The production processes in Japan can be very different from other countries.

After they give you the plot and the storyboard, you meet with the director, producer, and the music director, they make a sample tape and discuss the pieces. When everything is filmed and edited, you meet with them again for a more detailed arrangement. At this point, I only have about 2 weeks to finish everything. In Japan, the composer is responsible for everything. Composing, arranging, orchestrating. I do it all by myself, and it's a lot of work!

SeanBird: Also, please tell us about the scoring process behind the production The Vision of Escaflowne. Where in the process do you, as a composer, become involved?  Please tell us more about this experience.

Hajime Mizoguchi: Basically the same as what I answered in the previous question. But for this, the recording was divided in to several sessions, since it was a year-long TV show.

The composers, Yoko Kanno and I were chosen when the show was planned.. Yoko always had a clear vision, she was perfect as a music director. We had been partners for a long time so it worked out nicely. We both did what we were good at. She came up with the big picture and images, and I expanded those images and worked on the details.

The recordings were done in Japan, Italy, and Poland. Yoko and I have different tastes and recording styles, so we had separate recording sessions, even for the ones overseas.

The voice "Escaflowne" in the title credit is by an Italian recording engineer. I asked him jokingly when we were recording.

SeanBird: Are there particular instruments that you prefer to use in your compositions or orchestrations?

Hajime Mizoguchi: I like composing and arranging on a grand piano. Other times I use samplings on a Mac. I also use my computer for arranging pieces for orchestra. I almost never use Cello when composing.

SeanBird: Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you would like to talk about?  Please tell us about your latest album.

Hajime Mizoguchi: I have record labels of my own, and have released several albums. I really enjoy the high-resolution DSD recordings. I'm always trying to find new ways to record with a better recording quality.

Last year, I've released a cello quintet album. This year, I have 2 albums out, and 2 more to come.

SeanBird: In conclusion, is there anything you would like to talk about that we have not discussed thus far?

Hajime Mizoguchi: I am a cellist, and that is my foundation. But I also love making music. It's a tough business to have your own label, and to make your own albums. But it's very rewarding. Aside from that, I'm also thinking about finding and producing new talents. And of course, I'm going to keep performing as a cellist, playing great music in concerts.

SeanBird: Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.  Take care.

Hajime Mizoguchi: Thank you very for everything; I really enjoyed this.







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