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J-Pop Exchange Exclusive Interview with Matsuo Kiyonori

Matsuo Kiyonori J-Pop Exchange Radio Show Exclusive Interview


SeanBird (J-Pop Exchange): Hi Mr. Kiyonori, thank you for taking the time to speak with us…

Matsuo Kiyonori: You’re welcome. It's my pleasure. I am very happy to know there are people who like my songs in America.

SeanBird: Let us start from the beginning, according to your biography you were born in Fukuoka, Japan and you studied engineering at Kyushu University.

Matsuo Kiyonori: Yes, I was born in Fukuoka prefecture and I graduated from Kyushu University, Department of Chemical Science and Technology.

SeanBird: How much of a role did music play in your early life and how did you make the transition from your hometown to your first big break in music?

Matsuo Kiyonori: I am part of what is often referred to as the Beatles generation, that ran back from school and spent hours in front of the record player listening to The Beatles or The Beach Boys almost every day. I started writing songs when my friends and I created a band during my university years. I moved to Tokyo as soon as I graduated, and started doing live performances. At the same time, our band made demo tapes and one of those tapes brought us a chance to debut as professional musicians.

SeanBird: What musical instrument(s) do you play?

Matsuo Kiyonori: I play guitar and piano.

SeanBird: What kind of activities have you done as a song writer?

Matsuo Kiyonori: I made my musical debut in the 80’s. In the 90's I didn't work much as a solo artist; although, I offered lots of songs to many kinds of musicians during this period. After 2000, I re-started my solo and band activities … and that continues to today … and I still write songs for other artists at times.

SeanBird: Who are your musical influences?

Matsuo Kiyonori: I'd have to start my list with music from the 60’s, such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys. In the 70's I listened to artists who possessed strong individuality … such as David Bowie, 10cc and Queen from the UK, and Todd Rundgren and Al Kooper from the US.

SeanBird: What music do you like to listen to?

Matsuo Kiyonori: I like good music wherever I can find it. No matter where the artist was born, all the new bands and artists interest me. I like artists who can create good songs and melodies, rather than a particular style or genre of music.

SeanBird: I noticed some information on your website regarding visiting San Francisco earlier this year. Can you tell us something about your trip to San Francisco and what you were working on?

Matsuo Kiyonori: It's not THIS year I that I went to San Francesco, but I was there in 1984, the year when I made my debut … It was a long time ago … I was there to shoot my promotional video, and that video was released as a DVD this year, in February.

SeanBird: I also notice that you say your favorite historical figures are Bach, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare. Can you tell us something more about this? What do you like about them? Do they inspire you in some way?

Matsuo Kiyonori: It's not so much about my inspiration, but more about my appreciation; I like Bach's holy and sorrowful sounds, as Procol Harum played in the song titled "Whiter Shade Of Pale". And I like Shakespeare, because even though he created his various works a long time ago, they are still arranged and performed today. I even think he is like the Beatles in the world of literature.

SeanBird: Please tell us more about Cinema and something about its history as well as “Cinema Returns”.

Matsuo Kiyonori: As I said at the beginning of this interview, I debuted with one demo tape, and at that time I was in the band CINEMA. CINEMA broke up after releasing 1 album and 3 singles, but we got together again and re-organized the band under the same record label, same director and same producer after 26 years. We released our new album "CINEMA RETURNS" in 2007 – and that's where we are today.

SeanBird: Your song “Sunny Shiny Morning” which was featured in the anime “Maison Ikkoku” has made a particular impression on me. It has become one of my favorites. Can you tell us something about how the song came to be created? And what led to it being used in “Maison Ikkoku”? — how did that come about?

Matsuo Kiyonori: I made about 20 songs for my 3rd solo album. When I had a meeting to select songs for the album, it was mutually agreed that this song was our favorite. So we decided to promote this song as a single, and as a result this song got the chance to be featured as a theme song for Maison Ikkoku. This song is a favorite for many of my fans.

SeanBird: In 2007 you composed the music for the Studio Ghibli Special "Iblard Jikan" (イバラード時間). How did this opportunity come about? What was this experience like? From a creative perspective, did composing music for this special differ from standard songwriting?

Matsuo Kiyonori: The painter, Naohisa Inoue, is a friend of mine. And Hayao Miyazaki and people from Studio Ghibli love his artwork. So they came up with the idea to create a DVD together. This project included his paintings and added animation as well … And my artist friend and I took part in creating the music for this project.

I personally love movies, and it had always been one of my dreams to create songs for the movies, so I really enjoyed writing songs for this project.

SeanBird: Would you ever consider performing live in the USA?

Matsuo Kiyonori: So far, I don't have any plans to perform in the United States, but if a chance came about ... I'd love to!

SeanBird: Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you would like to talk about?

Matsuo Kiyonori: Basically, I will work on my solo and band projects, such as CINEMA. And I will also keep writing songs for other artists.

SeanBird: Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. Good luck with everything!

Matsuo Kiyonori: Thank you, too! Thank you! Bye-bye!!