ーー Is this your first time coming back to Japan since 2017?
TYCHO : No, I was here last year just for a vacation. I was in Hakone and Tokyo with my wife. Her family is from Yokohama so we went and visited them as well.
ーーYou come here every year?
TYCHO : Not every year but since 2006, I think I’ve been here six or seven times. So every couple of years.
ーーSo first, about your signing with the record label, Ninja Tune.
TYCHO : Yeah. A lot of the artists were a big influence on me and the first electronic music record I had ever heard was a Ninja Tune compilation. I thought it was an artist named Ninja Tune and my friend was playing the CD and I was like “oh there’s some great artist called Ninja Tune” and then I found out later that it was a record label not an artist (laughs).
ーーSo you’ve known Ninja Tune for a long time now.
TYCHO : Yeah, that was like 1995 I think. 24 or 25 years ago.
ーーHow do you feel now that you’ve become a Ninja Tune artist?
TYCHO : It’s a huge honor. Them and Mom + Pop are the ones that released it in the US and working with both of them, it has just been a great experience. Working with a bigger team and having more resources to just get the word out for the record. There’s so much that goes into an album release and it was great to have a lot of help this time.
ーーFor this time, for “Weather”, you collaborated with Hannah and it concentrates on vocals. But the previous album is more electronic music driven. So for the previous album did you feel like you’d finished some sort of period of being an electronic artist?
TYCHO : Yeah, definitely. I mean finished is a heavy word but I just see that as a period and it was what I was focused on at that time and now I need something new and something refreshing. To kind of have a jumping off point for whatever the next ten years will be like so I always wanted to make a vocal record and I just finally got the opportunity to. I met Hannah and everything just really clicked and it felt so organic and her voice was a part of the music and so it made it really easy. I know a lot of people hear it and hear this big difference but I don’t really hear that difference. I think that it is very similar to the other music. The tones and the structures are intact. It’s just a different instrument. Instead of a synthesizer it’s a vocal, a voice.
ーーI think the core of the albums hasn’t been changed forever.
TYCHO: Oh, thank you. It’s good. That was a core.
ーーIt’s part of adventure for you. That was I feel like.
TYCHO: We gotta try new things.
ーーYou said you met Hannah and decided to make this album. However, you’ve been meeting a lot of vocalists. What made you think that you wanted to use vocals mainly for this album at this time?
TYCHO : It was just the first time that I had the opportunity and the ability to. In 2003, when I started making “Sunrise projector” and I was really into Zero 7 and The Cinematic Orchestra and these kind of vocal tracks and air. I was like “ I want to make a vocal record” but it just didn’t work out. I just didn’t have the skills and the right people at that time and so I went on to this instrumental trip and spent a better part of 16 years doing that and I met Hannah totally by chance and I had been working on all of these instrumentals and it felt like they were missing something and I really wanted those things to be vocals but I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to find the right voice to fold it in with and match the music but the second I heard Hannah sing it, it just all kind of clicked and made sense and that’s when I decided that not only did I want it to be a vocal record but I wanted it to be all of the same vocalist. There was a time when I thought “Maybe I want to work with multiple different vocalist and maybe it’ll just be a few songs on the record” but once I met Hannah it was like this whole song needs to be all about vocals and it should be just her voice.
ーーYou played twelve songs to Hannah and then she said that she liked a certain songs out of them all, and it was the one that you liked the most too. So it’s like you two have common tastes.
TYCHO : We definitely have a synergy, yes. Definitely on the same wave length. That’s actually what’s been so exciting about this. When you’ve been doing this for a long time and when you get set in your ways and you start to focus on smaller and smaller parts you can lose sight of the beauty and the reason you’re doing the whole thing. Seeing it through her eyes, she’s young and so excited and it’s all new to her and it reminds me of how I was when I first started making music. So it helped me channel an earlier version of myself and kind of get more excited about music again. It definitely felt like a new start in a way. Almost like making my first album because it was just so different.
ーーThe rhythm is the important element in your music. For this album however, the guitar and the instruments are very complex. You set very high expectations in your instruments and how did you guide the other band members Zak and Billy for this record?
TYCHO : Rory, I recorded him playing the drums before just so I had a foundation to build from, like drum parts. Because I really like to work with drums where you cut them and chop them up so I worked with him and used it for the foundation and built all of the instrumentals and wrote everything. I wrote all of the songs with a drum machine because I kind of wanted to get back to my old process of drum machines and then layering it with live drums over the top of it so there was a lot the two electronic drums and the live drums. I just wrote everything with guitar bass and synthesizers. Zak helped at the end. He did the arrangements and the post production stuff. It was definitely a fun experience than any of the other records in a way. It was more about getting back to my process when I first started out years and years ago. I wanted to reconnect with that and work from that and rebuild whatever the next ten years is going to look like you know.
ーーSo you used the drum machine, put some real instruments on top of it and then the vocals. Did you overlook the whole song after the arrangements?
TYCHO : I made the songs instrumentally like I would make them for an instrumental like the early versions of the song that is pretty and simple. All of the parts are there but slightly arranged. I sent them to Hannah and I knew that those were probably going to change a lot. I kind of wanted them to be more structured like verse core songs. I figured, once she started singing it would show me the way in which I should arrange the song so I actually let the arrangements follow her vocal. So once she sang, then I went back and restructured the songs and did a lot of work on them to make them work with the vocals. So it’s cool because basically the songs have two phases. You write the song and then she sang and that gave me all of these ideas on how it could change and how it could be different and the songs morphed into something else. But the instrumental versions, the originals, I put out like “pink and blue”, the singles. It came out as an instrumental and vocal version. Same with “Japan”. I’m putting out a whole record of all of the instrumental versions of the songs in a couple of months.
ーーIn order to make an album, you mentioned that you invite everything into your internal mind and the internal space of yourself. It like a process of translating is what you said. You started using vocals into this album. Has that process changed considering this?
TYCHO :I think that is the beauty of the vocals. That was kind of the goal. All of the instrumental songs is me trying to translate how I experience the natural world. That is what TYCHO is to me. I think that’s still the guiding force as to why I still write music and it was definitely why I wrote all of these songs and instrumentals for this. But I think the thing that is really great about the vocals is that it is this much more literal. There’s no translation, this person is just telling you how they feel and you can interpret those. It’s illustrating one kind of relation to the music as opposed to leaving it open-ended like before. Which I think is a nice contrast to the older stuff. I still do love the instrumentals and they are open-ended and they allow you to interpret them as you please but the for the vocals I thought that it was important for this record to have a foundation with that one person’s experience with the music and that’s why it’s so great to be working with Hannah because she understands what I’m trying to say with the music.
ーーYou’ve been performing a couple of times before your performance at Fuji Rock but did you feel any change?
TYCHO : Yes. It’s definitely very different. It’s a full band and it was just really interesting to see how people reacted to the vocal music. Because you never know how these people are going to interpret it or how they are going to react to this in a live context and even on the record. I’ve seen some people singing the lyrics in the front row and I think that’s beautiful because I listen to mostly singer songwriter vocal music when I’m just consuming music,and to see people connecting with the music in that way is just really fulfilling just because it has been something I wanted to do for a long time. To see it all come together in a live context was just great.
ーーYou have an American tour coming up. Are you going to change the set for that or no?
TYCHO : Probably going to change it a little bit. For every tour I try and pick older songs that we haven’t played in a while and get those ready to play. So we’ve made some ready for this trip. For this trip, we’ve been playing a lot more of the new record so I think we’ll keep doing that and try and find some old interesting songs. Also do some edited versions, probably. But at the very beginning, I like to stay true to the album versions of the songs and play it pretty much like it is on the record. So people recognize it and slowly start to change them over time.
ーーWe really like the album art for this one. For this album why did you choose this particular artwork?
TYCHO : Thank you. I always design it myself. I didn’t take that photo so it was my first time that it was an image that I didn’t take but that I could connect to and kind of open it up.It was like working with Hannah, opening up the ideas to this new voice and I think that image to me just embodied everything this record was about, a personal calm internal space. It’s a woman sitting indoors but you can’t see her face but there is something intimate about it. That’s what I wanted this record to be about. Most of the images that I create are more about translating nature and illustrates how powerful, beautiful and huge it is. But this was about more closed internal emotional space so I had to go find an image that said that because I’m not really good at making any images like that.
ーーChoosing an abstract image is quite an easy thing to do. But for this album you selected a more objective and organic image and we think that it is great.
TYCHO : I’m a graphic designer by trait so that comes easy to me.
Sometimes I think that there is a little bit of an emotion and you can get pretty distant. But that’s what I wanted it to be about. Those other records were about an external experience but this one I wanted it to be personal, beautiful and intimate.
ーーReally looking forward to your perfomance.
Thank you so much.
photography Yosuke Torii
text & edit Ryoko Kuwahara