Exclusive interview with Bentley Jones
French J-music Awards 2008 : the results !
mikan music articles
By Shimoa, on 2009-06-09 15:45 - Translation : janiine■ mimu: First, could you briefly introduce yourselves to the readers who may not know you yet ?
Cana : Well, I'm Cana, the singer. Before Sotte Bosse, I was a featured singer for i-dep, Nakamura's club music band. At that time, I was singing in English, but usually, when I hum, it's in Japanese. That's while we were talking about making music together "in Japanese" that came up the idea of creating Sotte Bosse.
Nakamura : I'm Hiroshi Nakamura. I've lived in London for a year, in 2000. I come from the countryside and I wanted to become a music producer, so I had to move somewhere. T├┤ky├┤, London... I compared them, and (he clicks his fingers) I chose London, because I wanted to make a few friends abroad (laughing). One day, I sent three demo CDs, respectively to English, Japanese (Sony Music) and Italian labels. And I don't know why, but I received an answer from the Italian label saying "Maybe we will work together" (laughing), and that's where I started.
■ Your new mini-album Way will be released on May 27. Could you talk about it ? For example, where does the title come from ?
■ And what would be the themes, the changes compared to your previous works ?
C: Well... on our previous albums, following the pop tradition, pop in Japanese, we were composing based on simple criteria such as writing nice lyrics, pretty melodies. This time, we wanted to give ourselves challenges, such as for the sound. We wanted to compose songs like we had never done before. For example, as far as I'm concerned, I have sung high notes that I had never explored before. With this approach, we aimed at doing something new.
N: Always doing the same thing is impossible for me. Changes, challenges, that's what liven things up at the studio.
■ This album is only made of original compositions, but Sotte Bosse debuted with covers. Then original songs came progressively until covers finally disappeared. How did this transition happen ?
C: At the beginning, composing seemed to be natural for us, then covers appeared to be useful to make our name. The reason why we created Sotte Bosse is that I wanted to sing in Japanese. At first, we did not consider doing covers. But while we were thinking about what we were going to do, we were told about covers and we thought "Why not ? Let's do this !".
N: Even before starting with the covers, we had composed a song called hello.
C: That's right, and hello was featured in innocent view, our second album. Even if the idea was not ours, we've worked on covers with all our heart. Then after two albums, how can I say it, we had the satisfying feeling of a "completed task".
■ During this transition, did you have worries, hesitations ?
C: That comes with every changes. But our kind of motto was "Be honest, Be honest". "What do we do next : covers or original compositions ?". We chose the second option.
■ How did you select the songs you would cover ? Sometimes, you had asked your fans to vote, hadn't you ?
C: That's right. We had received votes from fans, and we made a selection according to three criteria. First, we should like this song. Then, Hiroshi should be able to see a way to rearrange it.
N: Sometimes I can imagine how I can arrange a song, sometimes I can't.
C: And finally, I should be able to sing this song convincingly. For example, the lyrics, the message of some songs are made to be sung by men.
■ Have you ever chosen yourselves ?
C: For the first two albums, we have chosen ourselves. It's for the third one than fans could vote on the Internet.
■ If you could introduce Sotte Bosse with only one song to someone who doesn't know you, which song would you choose and why ?
C: Probably a song from the album moment... Ah, or Hajimari no Uta (note : means "Song of the Beginning")...
N: Any song would be OK (laughing).
C: Hum... That's tough ! hello or Hajimari no Uta... ! Actually, we cannot be described by only one song. I would say two of them could. hello well represents what we are as a whole. But if we want to show what we are now or what we are going to become, it would be Hajimari no Uta.
■ You are the two members of Sotte Bosse, but before that, you were already working together in a band called i-dep. Hiroshi Nakamura, how did you meet Cana ?
C: Although there were a lot of customers around... (laughing)
N: I thought "She's great".
C: I'd rather be listened "a cappella". On a tape, it is harder to transmit some feelings.
N: Actually, I had listened to the tape before asking to meet her.
■ And what were your motives to call her on for the i-dep project ?
N: The fact that she had a good voice, of course, but also the fact that she had a many-sided personality. Her voice fits well in the songs and she can sing different kinds of music. For example, whether a model is wearing a dress or a pair of jeans, you can say "Ah, that's her", don't you ? That's the same thing for Cana, whether she is singing club music for i-dep or pop music for Sotte Bosse. And don't forget she is funky (Cana laughs). Anyway, she is full of possibilities and it's very nice to work with her... It's just a little bit too funky (all laughing).
■ (To Cana) Do you agree ?
C: Aaaah... I don't know... !
N: Like at the studio, I was playing a nice arrangement on the keyboard and she went "Ooooh GREAT !!!" (*applauding*) (all laughing). I said "Shhh !". Anyway, she livens things up.
■ Actually, when you see her, you would think she is a very quiet person...
N: Exactly !
C: Lots of people are surprised when they see me... Not to say all of them (laughing). Like "Eh ?! So that's how you are ?!"
■ Let's change the subject. Could you talk about the origin of your name "Sotte Bosse" to the readers ?
C: As you know, it's a neologism. The idea came from the murmurs, the whispers that you can hear when I sing. In Italian, it would be called "sotto voce". After repeating these two words, Hiroshi finally ended up with "Sotte Bosse".
N: There are a few sounds that are cool to pronounce for us Japaneses. Like "Michael Schumacher". "Sotto voce", not that much, but "Sotto Bosse" is better.
C: Then I allowed myself to change "Sotto" into "Sotte", it seemed to be more original (laughing)
■ Why Italian ?
N: I was at the studio with i-dep, I was thinking about a name for the duet and there was a Japanese-Italian dictonnary next to me (laughing).
Indeed, Cana's very own way of singing, is it something natural or something you have worked on especially for Sotte Bosse ?
C: (laughing) Hum... Personally, I don't think voice is something you "get from birth", as opposed to a physical characteristic for example. The voice I have now that I am 26 is due to 26 years of encounters, experiences. That's how I see things, and my voice will continue to change time after time.
■ Cana, could you tell us about what led you to singing and to electo music, as well as to your other activities ?
C: About electro, my encounter with Hiroshi has been important.
N: At first, she hated it.
C: That's true (laughing).
N: Once, she even called me and said "No, I don't want to" (laughing).
C: About singing, since I was little, you can almost say that I'm a compulsive singer. Growing up, I have taken part in several bands with friends, we have recorded a few demo tapes... including the one I've sent to Hiroshi before we first met.
■ What about you, Nakamura, what was your path ?
N: Well 10 years ago, I was still a roofer. I was making roofs for houses. I was extremely serious about my work. Then one day, I had an accident, I got a spinal fracture. And the doctor said "When you turn 50, you will not be able to work again". That's why I decided to go to London for a year, just a year, and I would stop music after that.
■ Eeeeh ?!
N: I don't know why. I was thinking "I must work, I must earn money". That is true, we have to eat. Then luckily, there were this Italian label... Becoming an artist is something I was dreaming about since I was a student, but I thought it was impossible.
■ Let's talk about the Japanese electro scene in a general point of view. The creation of iTunes, MySpace or YouTube has completely changed the spreading of music, including the electro artists', and even you created Sotte Bosse TV (note : available on YouTube) almost a year ago... What do you think about this evolution ? How far do you think it can go ?
N: Music is great because within like 15 secondes you can say "Waow, that's great, I want this song !". Then, we want more information, we check on websites... I'm fond of discoveries myself, for good music or anything interesting. For example, recently, researches in a Japanese university are led about something that, with an encephalogram, sensors on the head and everything, would be able to read your feelings, and then send you through iTunes a song chosen if you are sad , happy, etc. For the spreading of the artists on the Internet, I hope that great music, not necessarily the commercial one, can be spread, and I think it's good that everyone tries to make known the songs they like. So we created Sotte Bosse TV, which is really just for fun, we only do what we want to do.
■ Japanese electro has always been the most exported music genre from Japan. Today, J-pop is slowly beginning to sell while the Japanese pop culture is getting popular, but electro remains the only genre that can touch a larger public than this market niche. Recently this phenomenon seems to increase, partly thanks to this new web diffusion, and Shinichi Osawa and 80kidz were playing live in France last April. In your opinion, what makes the Japanese electro music so popular worldwide, where the other music genres from the archipelago are not able to emerge ?
N: I thought about it when I was in London... Lyrics in English are an asset, and there is the "body music", that is felt by the body more that by the ears, and where lyrics are not necessary anymore.
■ Do you have any international project ?
N: Not for the moment. But we would like to travel abroad.
■ What would be the last word ?
C: Hum... Be honest (all laughing).
I knew it (laughing).
N: Making music the way you want to, that may be the most important thing. Rather than thinking "I'm gonna do it because it's in fashion", we want to make things we like.
■ Let's end the interview with that ! Thank you so much for your time, and all the best for the future, including your album Way, that will be released before the interview is published !
Finally, here is the mikan drawn by the duet :
Sotte Bosse official website
Hajimari no Uta PV on YouTube
Order Way on CDJapan