Interview with Cyclamen Part One – Music, Creativity & Composition

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Cyclamen singer Hayato Imanishi is such a fascinating fellow that a conversation with him just can’t be confined to one single interview! In the first part of an epic discussion the Japanese maestro talks about how he creates the unique sound his band is known for…

So, let’s start somewhere easy. The new demo you guys have brought out – absolutely amazing. Are you guys happy with how it’s turned out?

Well, it’s all done by me in a very short time…Entire writing and recording process was in 3 days, everything by myself in the restricted time frame of working. But within that environment, it came out well I think. We’ll re-record it with full band members and more organic recording once we write enough songs for a new release – But to get a good idea of how the songs go, it’s good enough 🙂

It’s so unusual the way you’ve done it – I know you released an instrumental version before you did the vocals; so many bands can be so, so, so fussy about not releasing things until they’re “perfect”, but you are obviously confident enough in the material to be able to do that – what is it that makes you so secure in what you’re doing?

You know in Myspace days, all “Bedroom musicians” will just casually upload new demos with no plans for big promotions? I liked that casualness a lot. And I still do. I think music should be fun, and not all business. For demos it’s not a big deal at all for me. I want everything to be immediate and spontaneous. Like when I was pretty much nobody, just uploading new demo I recorded over the weekend to the Myspace player you know?

Ha yeah, absolutely. Too much is too manufactured nowadays…

Things are getting a bit too professional for my liking these days…It’s not a bad thing necessarily. More people are listening to my music, and I enjoy scaling up what I do. Gives me more options. But why I started music was because I enjoy writing it. I don’t want to forget that, and this casualness is somewhat very important to me. If that makes any sense to you.

It totally does – music should be impulsive and passionate, and I think you can lose that once you start focusing on ‘I must write this to sound like this so this person would like it’

Yeah, and “to look professional, I have to this and that” It’s not about that. It’s about doing what you love, and do just enough so that you can earn enough money to keep you feeding.

Completely and utterly. Most bands start to lose their  edge when they become “professional”

Yeah I think so, understandably. More money, more responsibility.  But I don’t want that responsibility. That’s why Cyclamen stays DIY. We have to do everything, but we can choose every single action we take. Make sure we do things the way we want.

Do you think you’d change from doing things the DIY way at all?

If writing contract with whoever we sign with will guarantee steady, good enough income for every member of the band, then maybe – Just treating it completely as work. But then I’ll probably make sure I get the contract let me write music for fun, and release it free separately, as some other project.  I don’t mind doing music as a job, or business. But I don’t want to lose my love to music. And being free to write what I want is important you know? Even if it’s the best curry in the world, if you are forced to eat it every day, you’ll be sick of it.

Haha, yes – completely. I think it’s nearly impossible to start having this management and that label and etc etc without having to change something, and that’s a slippery slope.

I understand it. They are investing in you. It’s a risk for them. They ought to have some input to what the band do.  But it doesn’t mean I like it.

No, it means that the original vision changes

Exactly. And with more people involved, the direction of everything becomes compromise after compromise after compromise you know?  Say you go to a trip with your friends. Discuss where you want to go and 3 of you have 6 destinations but only time to go to 3. You’ll probably end up choosing 1 location each, but if you were on your own, you can go to 3 destinations you really wanted to go, and quality of the trip would be so much better. Something like that. More people = more compromise. Less clear path to what you do.

Yes! Exactly. But how do you and the band get around that in terms of creative visions for the band?

I still write mainly.  At the moment anyways.  And when I have certain parts I’m not happy with, I ask them to write. Or, other members send me new ideas regularly. and I pick up parts I like from what they’ve written. It’s working better so far with me in charge, just putting lego pieces together, rather than everyone working at the same time to complete it. Keeps the creative vision more focused.  But I want others to write more – I’ve got more and more management work these days that I don’t think I’ll have much time to write.

Do you think that will change the overall sound of the band dramatically? Or will you still keep that final say, and keep it sounding as you are now?

I will always keep that final say 😛 The band members call me CEO which is really funny. The sound might change, but it’s okay as long as I approve.  I’m kinda quality control of the band. Just make sure no one in the band produce crap, including myself.I don’t have any problem with me not producing certain things.

I just trust my sense most, and people who loved Cyclamen so far trust my sense. I think even if others produced it, as long as it still appeals to my senses, people will like it.

I think you’re very right there. With you taking on more management jobs, does this mean Cyclamen will be taking more of a backseat, or will it always be priority for you musically?

I write less, I practice less, I spent way more time dealing with emails and designing merch. I guess I am technically taking more of a backseat, but at the same time I’ve never dedicated this much time into the band either. So in that way, I’m more committed to the band than ever.  And we’re doing more live shows.  So, a little funny really. I think eventually, when I find a vocalist that I can trust, I can stop doing live shows and be a sound guy or something. Making sure everything is orchestrated well.

Would you really do that?!

Yeah. It doesn’t matter to me whether I am a part of my own music live. As long as it’s done in a way I want.  Classical composers don’t necessarily perform their piece right?

I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anybody who’s said that before…Well, that is very true – I’ve never looked at it that way. Would you not feel less connected to it?

I am a hikikomori (Japanese term for a geek who likes to stay home) and I always will be. I like the comfort of staying at home. As long as I keep writing music from my bedroom, I will always be connected to music. I realise this is not the vision of everyone in the band, so I’m happy to work the way around it if possible 🙂 What’s in music if it’s not fun? We don’t earn, we don’t score girls, we get looked down a lot by society. I won’t ever do things that will stop people from having fun with music, because I’d hate that.

That’s such a beautiful way to look at it. Do you actually enjoy performing live, or is it more a means to an end?

I get to meet people face to face, and get to say thanks to them for supporting what I do directly. I really enjoy that. Because I truly appreciate their help and all positivity they’ve given me over the years.  As for performance, it’s a good de-stresser hahaa. I don’t actually hate performing. I enjoy it. But all the wasted time that comes with touring, I really hate it. hours of being in the van, waiting for soundcheck etc. You have 24 hours in a day, and you are there all day for 40 minutes of performance. You could do so much with hours you had in the van or the venue! I feel it’s still worth the time and effort just to meet them physically and say thanks though. That’s why we do tours and live shows 🙂

Do you find yourself able to write when you’re on the road and touring?

Nah, I’m the babysitter during the tour. No time! I tell you, these guys in the bands are crazy! In a good way though – They are like kids…They want to see so many places, eat so many different food – we LOVE sightseeing. We actually dedicate as much sightseeing days as possible every tour that we go away for a long distance. So no time to write really. The van is normally too small to comfortably come up with some new songs. Although Tristan) wrote few ideas during the last UK tour.

I guess when you’ve got the chance to see places, the thought of staying in the van and trying to write isn’t that appealing!!

NOPE! Especially if you came all the way to Europe from Japan! It’s good though. These things gives up inspiration.  Staying at home all the time will limit your way of seeing in the world. It’s good to study what the world can offer to you every now and then.

Interview: Felicity Hall

Cover Photo: Craig Hutton


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