toco toco ep.32 Kenji Kawai, Composer



Hi and welcome to toco toco,
the show where we go see things with people. Today, the world-renowned composer Kawai Kenji, famous for his work on anime and film, such as Ghost in the Shell, The Ring or Patlabor, will take us to Kita-Shinagawa, where he grew up,
then we will visit his studio. Hello, my name is Kawai Kenji, I am a composer. Today, I would like to introduce you to Shinagawa,
where I was born and raised. First, I would like to introduce the Shinagawa shrine. This shrine is for us Kita-Shinagawa locals,
kind of a sanctuary. We all come here and visit it. I visit the Shinagawa Shrine since I was a little boy, for me, it felt like a playground. The shrine is located on a hill
and you can see that there is a cliff behind it. I would go there to build my secret base
or to catch bugs. It really was my playground. Also, every June, a festival is held here. During that time, the shrine is filled
with food or game stands, it gets really lively. During the festival, there is also a portable shrine,
the "mikoshi". I don't know where this comes from,
but this is one of the rare festivals where it has a drum. The movements of the "mikoshi" are guided
by the sound of the drum and a flute. I don't know exactly how other festivals proceed, but most of the time, the "mikoshi"s movements
are guided by a whistle, or by somebody who gives orders. At the Shinagawa Shrine, it is a drum and a flute. It is very uncommon. The drum's sound is like a part of me,
you could say I was impregnated with it. I always found it was very elegant and always wondered if there was a way I could use it in my work. In the end, I used that sound for
"Ghost in the Shell: Innocence". I took as a main reference for the soundtrack
the sound of the drum from this shrine. This is the Tokaido road. This is one of Japan's oldest roads, that would take travellers from Tokyo's Nihonbashi all the way to Kyoto. Here we are on the Shinagawajuku part. Shinagawajuku, as its name says,
contains the word "shuku", which means "shelter". Which is why there used to be a lot of inns here. Travellers who left from Nihonbashi,
would stop here for their first night. They would also have fun here. This is the base around which the city grew,
but there are also a lot of temples here. I was born and raised on this shopping street,
I would walk here every day to go to school. When I was a boy, I would never pay attention, but with age, I started to appreciate
the small streets and alleys. Which is why that now I take pleasure
into discovering the small side streets. It is one of my pastimes. The city is currently holding the Cherry blossom festival, even though we cannot see any blossoms yet. And… I ended up like this! This is my guilty pleasure! They're good, right?
He used to have a yakitori restaurant before. – He is a pro! – Right. After our walk in the streets of Shinagawa,
here is our last stop, my studio. Usually, I spend most of my days here, I compose, record and mix here. It is too small to accomodate an orchestra, so I take a bigger studio for those occasions. The reason why I became a composer
is quite mysterious, even for me. Originally, I wanted to become
an engineer, or something like that. I would play guitar during my free time,
however I wasn't doing very good in school. Considering I was going to a school
that taught nuclear engineering… It was very hard. It was hard to keep up
without investing all my time in it. I quit and used to spend my days playing guitar. Which is why I decided to pursue a career in music. I started going to a music school, but it was full of girls and I spent my time having fun. In the end, I wasn't a good student there either. I didn't really know what to do. Since I used to compose songs on my guitar,
I decided to start a band with some friends. We participated in a contest and won a prize. That was lucky of us. After that, we were approached to sign a contract, but I quit in order to make my own songs. And, here I am… This is embarrassing, but I always ran for an easier path, and in the end I became a composer. I feel a bit ashamed by this… When I was in school up until junior high, French pops and western music
were very popular in Japan, together with The Beatles, obviously. While everyone was listening to the Beatles,
I would prefer French artists, such as Raymond Lefebvre, Francis Lai, etc. Also American artists, Burt Bacharach for example. I would listen to a lot of movie scores as well. How to put it… I like warm songs. Since I was listening to this kind of music,
I didn't have much to talk with the others at the time. I keep looking for this "ideal" music,
I wouldn't know how to explain it either. It would probably be "scary" music, Not in a "horror" meaning,
but music bringing up human feelings such as love, but also regrets, and fears of human beings. This is what I aim to express with my music. It may be strange to say, but I would also like to express this in more "comical" songs. I don't want to scare people off, but I want to make music that echoes deep within them. I think that I achieved it a little in songs
from the "Windy Tales" soundtrack. At the time I didn't really realize it,
but later I found that this stood out a bit. First, I think of the soundtrack's concept,
talking with the director or the producer, or people working on sound,
then I pick up the instruments. For "Ghost in the Shell", at first, the director Oshii Mamoru
told me he wanted drums. I went to buy some Indian drums
that I liked the sound of. However I found it very hard for me
to portray emotions only with drums. I found it very hard as there is no scale with drums, It was a like world in black and white for me. I was wondering
whether it wouldn't be better to add voices. At the time, the Bulgarian voices
were starting to become famous. I thought that it could be interesting to have those voices added in rhythm with the drums. After talking to a few people there,
they told that those were folklore songs, that it wasn't the kind of music you put on a partition. I didn't know what to do but at the same time
I was working on "Ondo", Japanese traditional singing. There was this singer singing "Minyo",
Japanese folklore music, After listening to her voice,
I figured we could maybe try something interesting. Originally, "Minyo" is only sung with one voice. I tried to make it a choir, then we listened to it with Mr. Oshii
and found it was good. At the time,
we would have never heard that kind of thing before. With Mr.Oshii,
we were a little worried whether we could pull this off. We still found that it sounded good
so we pursued in that direction. However, on screening day, nobody could clearly say whether they liked it or not. We didn't know what to do… Finally, the first time the soundtrack was acclaimed
was in France. I was attending an event in France, where people came to congratulate me on my work for "Ghost in the Shell". I was surprised because it was a first for me,
but I was so happy I still remember it to this day. As I compose all my music here in Shinagawa,
in a very local environment, I find it hard to realize that people from other countries listen to my music. I am very touched that people from all over the world listen and watch my work. The expression I would like to teach is: "Ichigo Ichi-e". ("Treasure every meeting, for it only occurs once.") This expression means: "When we meet someone, even the first time, something will happen, that person can introduce us things,
have an influence on us.". During my career,
I got the chance to meet with many people. Each person I met was important. All these people I met
are what made me who I am today. This is why I like the expression "Ichigo Ichi-e". Thank you for spending time with me today. I hope you enjoyed our walk in Shinagawa, and that you will appreciate its charm if you come by. Goodbye!

22 thoughts on “toco toco ep.32 Kenji Kawai, Composer

  1. English and French subtitles are available under the “CC” menu. Community contributions are also open for additional language submissions. Thank you for following toco toco!

  2. And what is the name of choir and who is the vocal at 11:38? Why I can't find these infos. I've crushed the internet and couldn't find any single name. Everybody talking about Ghost in the Shell, it's great music and tensai Kenji Kawai but no one mentioning the voice behind the song. No one seem to appreciate and respect the vocal. Who is this beautiful voice actually making it come true! Someone answer me please!

  3. It's amazing how much humble this man can be. I 'm fully convinced that stars aligned in the '90. Its a decade in which the right people were in the right place at right time. The GITS theme its one of the final pieces of a puzzle that draws a cicle in the cyberpunk gold years if we talk of it as contracultural aggregate. Oshii's work would not be the same without the touch of Kawai sensei.

  4. Apart from the outstanding music Kawai-san in general seems like such a nice person. I'm used to seeing people his age more closed off and restrained but the way he holds himself creates such a friendly atmosphere. Thank you for your wonderful videos that never fail to show us different sides of the creative people.

  5. Bordel ça me tue l'humilité du gars ! J'aurais composé la BO de Ghost In The Shell tu me trouverais tout la journée à boire du champagne dans le carré VIP avec des putes de luxe

  6. Ooh! I waiting for it for long time! Maestro Kenji Kawai-san one of these Japanese composers who deeply influenced me since about the 2006-2007 when I heard the Higurashi no Naku koro ni OST for the first time. And now I found and know more and more great OSTs by Kawai-san. I was really surprised he listened and like the music by Raimond Lefevre, I also liked his music since I watched many French movies and heard many music in it.8:30 "… I want to make music that echoes deep within them …" It`s true. He's done the trick.

  7. Thank you very much for this interview. I'm a big, big fan of Kenji Kawai for…oh, over 20 years? And I'm very happy to know that he can see how much people outside of Japan enjoy amd value his work and career.

  8. Very informative video! Thank you! Cheers from Finland.

    Btw, does anyone know if he has a place where he can collect donations from fans? He is a very influential figure in music generally and I bet he has a lot of fans who would like to donate. Thanks.

  9. This is priceless. Seriously, my gratitude for making this. Kenji Kawai is one of my all time favourite composers.
    And I love that you especially used music from "Maison Ikkoku" the greatest, purest favourite of all time for me. Not even going to say about "Ghost in the Shell" and other works of art, while being a true Cyberpunk connoisseur. Hats off to Kenji for Masterpiece music to it and other brilliants.

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