mouse on the keys Interview: “I want to make music that touches my heart.”

mouse on the keys

mouse on the keys’ new EP Out of Body is out on Topshelf Records now.

It’s refreshing to hear a band that cannot be easily reduced to one genre. Japan’s mouse on the keys are one such entity. Combining elements of classical, jazz, and electronic music with the tension and insistence of heavier genres such as math rock and hardcore, the group stand at the forefront of music experimentation not just in Japan, but worldwide.

Their latest release is their Out of Body EP. An exploration in restraint and nuance, the EP is influenced by the book Near Death Experience by the Japanese journalist Takashi Tachibana. The EP is an adventure that melds disparate genres into a whole that is uniquely mouse on the keys.

We spoke to Akira Kawasaki from the group about the influence of hip hop on their work, why his music has slowed down, and the group’s future plans.

Overblown: Despite the fact that the album is about death, I find the music to be wonderfully beautiful and even positive in nature. Does that surprise you?

Akira Kawasaki: The theme of the album is “Out-of-body Experience”. It’s like a soundtrack of a movie about the experience. I studied a lot from a book “Out-of-Body Experience” by a journalist Takashi Tachibana and also by a TV documentary based on the book. All the people who have experienced out-of-body says that dying wasn’t scary and they felt very peaceful. These are different from the image that I had on death and I thought it’s very interesting. I won’t know until I actually die if these are true, but these witness makes me feel easier to spend the rest of my life. Also, each title on the album are named after the things that happens on the process of the out-of-body experience.

Overblown: Before writing and recording this album, Akira Kawasaki suffered from asymptomatic brain infarction. How did that affect the writing and recording of the album?

Akira Kawasaki: Due to the asymptomatic brain infarction and my strength declining, I’ve been making music with more slow rhythms and long phases lately. I want to make music that touches my heart.

Overblown: It seems to me that the music on the new album, such as ‘Earache’, has a much larger influence from hip hop than your previous work. Is that accurate? Why do you think that is?

Akira Kawasaki: I always like J Dilla kind of tracks, the tracks with “discrepancy” in the patterns. And I always wanted to put that on my tracks. So yes the album has been influenced by Hip Hop. One of the subjects / themes throughout the album was “discrepancy”. Especially I could have been able to do it on “Earache”. I also was influenced by Meshuggah and Don Caballero.

Overblown: I feel the album has a late night, reflective atmosphere. Was this the type of atmosphere you were aiming for?

Akira Kawasaki: As I said before, I wanted to make meditative tracks, and I guess that’s why you feel that the album has a late night atmosphere.

Overblown: The artwork for the release is quite beautiful. I like the contrast between the fact that the picture is of two lovers kissing but the picture has been torn up. It suggests, very simply, the complexities of life and relationships. Who created the artwork? What is the concept behind it?

Akira Kawasaki: The artwork was created by a collage artist Kosuke Kawamura. I’m a big fan of his works and very glad that I’ve been able to work with him on my album. The artwork was one of his existing works that we chose for the jacket. This was an old pornography and he said by collaging it turned out like beautiful flowers. In my perspective, his works are made by intuitions and in a good meaning they have no particular meanings. So each people have different impressions. When I saw this artwork, I felt life and death.

Overblown: I think your music is very visual and cinematic. Do you have any visuals that accompany your music when you play live?

Akira Kawasaki: Yes, we do visuals. We project visuals on to the screens and also we use lighting such as fluorescent lights.

Overblown: Do you have any plans to tour Europe?

Akira Kawasaki: Our plan is to make the album in this year and to release it in spring 2018. And in the support of the album, we want to do a world tour. We’ll definitely go to Europe again! I want to play in countries where we’ve never been before!

Overblown: What is next for mouse on the keys?

Akira Kawasaki: We’ve just finished the European tour and we’re going to focus on making new songs. Also we have some shows in Japan coming up. We’ll play at the Fuji Rock Festival in July! And we’ll release a new album next year. Stay tuned!

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