COUCHxJAPAN: Interview, Mabanua

It seems like you do everything–from drumming to piano, to
beat-making. How did you get into music?

I’ve been loving music since I was little. I was already making music when I noticed.
Piano was the first instrument I encountered. But I liked observing any kind of instruments.

Were you formally trained?

I’ve learned piano only for five years since when I was five. Even though I was classically trained at that time, I still don’t understand music theory well.

Your music spans everything from hip-hop to jazz. Who are the artists that influence you?

I’m influenced by all artists and music that exist in the world. I’m inspired by not only musicians but also artists of other media/fields.

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Can you explain the process you use to make a beat?

Basically, I pick out what I want to use from my collection of samples and recordings of drums I played. Then, I record it on my MPC2000xl to make beats. But lately, I sometimes record only myself playing instruments and not using MPC at all. The method of making music is different from what I used to do. It will take forever to tell you how I make music because there are so many ways!

You’ve worked with everyone from Akil from Jurassic Five and Kev Brown from Washington DC. How did you get to work with these artists? Did they approach you or did you approach them?

I approached them myself. I’ve been a big fan of Akil and Kev so I started out with sending a message to both of them on Myspace. Then I asked them to collaborate with me after telling them what I do and my beat-making. They both were down-to-earth and worked on my album with ambition.

Are you surprised at the response you’ve gotten to your work outside of Japan?

I was really surprised! To be honest, I didn’t even expect to get such response from overseas when I began making the album because my music had never reached out to the world before. But when the album was done, I had a strong sense of responsibility that I had to let people all over the world listen to my music.

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Your 2009 Album Done Already has become somewhat of an underground classic. What was the thought process behind that creating the LP?

I wanted to realize the music that came up on my mind with absolute accuracy. And I wanted my music to be enjoyed over generations. I just chose the best way for various people to pick up my music.

I’ve heard great things about your live performances. Can you explain your live shows to someone who has never seen you in concert before?

For my live shows, I basically perform with a live band instead of performing with only a laptop and a DJ. I also sing while I play the drums. As for the reason, my starting point of music is not being a DJ but a musician.

There are many artists who perform with highly-skilled DJs and computers. In order to differentiate myself from them, I need to incorporate something different from them and what I was best at.

I think my live shows are totally opposite from flashy entertainment. I just focus on delivering sound as a message while I perform.

I think people in The States are amazed when they hear about the thriving soul and hip-hop scene in Japan. Can you give us a brief history of how the scene has evolved in your country?

As you know, Japan is not the place where hip hop was born. None of popular music today in Japan is Japanese origin. Although it hasn’t been long since black music was introduced to major Japanese music scene, hip hop and soul music are taking root in Japan because Japanese people like music itself. It doesn’t matter where the birthplace of the music is. You like the music or not, is the only matter to them. I strongly hope their way of thinking will never change.

I hear that you’re back in the studio working on the a follow-up to Done Already. Is that correct?

Yea, that’s right. I am making the second album. I feel certain that this album will give a strong impact to people in a positive or even negative way.

What are the top 5 songs that you are listening to right now?

Benny Sings : For Your Love

Pharrell : Keep it Playa

Budamunky & S.L.A.C.K. : Super Kitchen Brothers

Bobby Baby : Bye Bye Snow

Dibiase : Code Of Life