Thursday, 15 February 2018
(This first appeared in issue #70 of Shindig! magazine.)
More simian adventures in sound! Cornelius returns after an eleven year gap. Duncan Fletcher steps in to the infinite cage with Japan's avant-electronica wizard.
In the Planet Of The Apes film from 1968 Dr. Cornelius is archaeologist and historian played by Roddy McDowell, an intelligent character with an open mind to new theories and possibilities regarding evolution. Cornelius is an apt choice of name then for a musician aiming to surprise, dazzle and entertain while taking music into new realms. Keigo Oyamada was born in Tokyo in 1969. Inspired by the original Planet Of The Apes trilogy, he chose the name Cornelius as his creative alter-ego for his solo musical projects that have made him a big name in Japan since the early '90s.
Inspired to pick up the guitar after hearing Black Sabbath - “The driving riffs were great for learning and playing guitar” he says, Oyamada first came to prominence in the Shibuya-kei music scene as a member of Flipper's Guitar who made fey guitar pop in the style of Aztec Camera. Oyamada says his favourite memories of those days were “recording at AIR Studios in London and hitting all the used record shops while in the UK.”
This crate-digging gives an insight as to where his music was heading next. After Flipper's Guitar folded, Oyamada adopted his new stage name and released a string of adventurous, genre-merging albums, including 1997's Fantasma, which gained him critical recognition overseas. It's been eleven years since his last full-length release (2006's Sensuous), though he's remained active - “I've been busy with many projects - recording and touring with Yoko Ono, supporting Yellow Magic Orchestra, and producing salyu x salyu. There's also been film music for Ghost In The Shell, a kids program called Design Ah, and a few more collaborations and projects.”
The wait for a new LP is over with the release of Mellow Waves. Fantasma's holy trinity of Beck, Bossa Nova and Brian Wilson has been replaced by one comprised of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich. It's a subtler piece of work, more about textures than attention grabbing shape-shifting, and will appeal as much to chin-stroking Late Junction listeners as it will to pick 'n' mix pop fans. “Its a little more grown up or middle aged compared to my other works... Musically this one has more waves or strings of melodies compared to individual sound points being placed on a grid-like formation for song structure.”
Cornelius will be touring the new album throughout Japan including a high profile appearance at the Fuji Rock Festival - “This will be a new four-piece band with new members like Yumiko from Buffalo Daughter. Although we will not be completely reproducing the songs from the album, they are arranged in a simple yet musically demanding performance from the band.”
Despite approaching fifty, Cornelius' interest in new music shows no sign of diminishing, thanks in part to his son Milo working in a record shop - “He's now my main source for finding new bands like Mind Designer and Liss.”Having worked with many respected musicians over the last few years it seems there's still one dream collaboration he'd like to happen - “I would one day like to work with my son.”
Mellow Waves is out now on Rostrum Records.
(Click over the jump for the previously unpublished Q&A)
It's been 11 years since your last full-length album, why such a big gap?
I have been very busy with many projects like recording and touring with Yoko Ono, supporting YMO, producing salyu x salyu, doing film music for Ghost In The Shell, a kids program called Design Ah, and a few more collaborations and projects…
I'm really enjoying the new LP Mellow Waves. How would you describe the mood of the album to someone who hadn't heard it?
Well, it’s mellow and has waves of sounds, a little more grown up or middle aged compared to my other works.
How have your working methods changed since the last LP?
Not really. Musically this one has more waves or strings of melodies compared to individual sound points being placed on a grid like formation for song structure. Although some software has improved and others expanded, I didn’t find any major developments or game changing differences in technology.
You're touring in Japan later this year. What size band will be playing and does the live sound differ from the recorded music on Mellow Waves?
This will be a new 4 piece band with new members like Yumiko from Buffalo Daughter. Although we will not be completely reproducing the songs from the album, they are arranged in a simple yet musically demanding performance from the band.
Black Sabbath were one of your earliest musical influences. Can you remember the first time you heard them and what was it about their music that you liked?
I thought “cool!”. The driving riffs were great for learning and playing guitar.
It's thirty years since you started Flipper's Guitar. What are your favourite memories of being in that band?
Recording at AIR Studios in London and hitting all the used record shops while in the UK.
How did you come to work with Yoko Ono? What was she like to work with?
I met her through her son Sean whom I met through Cibo Matto. Yoko has a amazing aura. She’s Yoko Ono!
I saw a video interview on YouTube where you said your son was working in a record store and introducing you to lots of new music. Is he still working there? What new music are you currently listening to?
Yes, he’s still working there and in now my main source for finding new bands like Mind Designer and Liss.
What do you think of the newer Planet of The Apes films compared to the originals?
I actually haven’t seen it and am waiting for the natural time to come.
Having already worked with Yoko, Beck, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and salyu x salyu, who would be on your list as a dream collaboration?
I would one day like to work with my son.
Any plans to tour outside of Japan?
We are eager to get out and play this tour wherever we can! Hope to see you on tour!