Both members of Boom Boom Satellites are bleeding – alot. Just minutes earlier the Japanese electronic band finished a pounding nine-song set at Philadelphia’s North Star Bar, and now they’re in the green room nursing gashes on their hands “from playing too hard.” Lead singer/guitarist Michiyuki Kawashima and bassist/programmer Masayuki Nakano (along with unofficial third member and female drummer Yoko) sufficiently rocked a good-sized audience despite the fact that the Philadelphia Phillies were playing a crucial playoff game during the band’s set. With only a few more dates left on their first US tour in 12 years, I sat down to talk with them about Linkin Park, humming and Rocky.
You guys are huge in Japan but are only really getting started here in the USA. How does it feel to be playing for American audiences?
Michiyuki: It’s fun. About ten years ago, we toured with Moby in about 22 cities in the the States, and for a long time we didn’t release an album over here. We released our last album Exposed in the US [in 2007], and we wanted to try again over here, so we released [our new greatest hits collection] Over and Over here. We’re so excited to come again to so many cities.
Compared to your fans in Japan, what do you find different, if anything, about American audiences?
Masayuki: American audiences are energetic. Japanese audiences are passive – they’re sensitive and listen to music carefully. American audiences are more open-minded.
You make use of a number of different styles of music to create a sound that’s wholly unique. Who are your influences?
Masa: I listen to so many different kinds of music – rock stuff, punk, pop, dub. It’s difficult to single out.
Michi: I feel like I listen to more heavy rock. For example, I love Linkin Park.
The songs on 2010’s To The Loveless are bigger, grander, and more cinematic than some of your previous work. Was that a conscious decision you guys made or did that come about naturally?
Masa: It’s just our direction. You said the sound is cinematic, and our music is basically based on visuals and imagination. Nowadays music seems to be about downloading songs one by one, but we wanted to make music that was quiet and scale-ized and bigger, and we expressed that on To The Loveless. So that was direction we were going in.
You guys put out one album a year from 2005 to 2007. Your latest, To the Loveless, wasn’t released until earlier this year. What were you guys up to during those 3 years?
Masa: We were touring in Japan and we played many festivals in Japan, Asia, Taiwain and Korea. We spent a lot of time recording To The Loveless, too. We have private studio, so everyday we worked on the album.
Over and Over is your new greatest hits collection. What was your thought process in picking what songs would and wouldn’t make the collection?
Masa: It’s difficult to say … [The album] is kind of an introduction for the United States audience, so it’s kind of a history of Boom Boom Satellites. I wanted to make it as representative of the band as possible. Also, we wanted to arrange the tracks so they fit together as an album – not just a collection of songs.
For Over and Over, you re-mixed and re-mastered all the songs on the collection. Did you run into any problems with that?
Masa: It was very difficult to adjust the old songs and the new songs. Trying to make the old songs sound similar and fit in with the new songs was very challenging.
You guys finish up your US tour at the end of the month. What’s next for the band? More touring?
Masa: Right now we have no plans, but maybe we’ll start work on a new album. We’ll release To The Loveless [in the US] next year, so maybe we’ll be back [in the US in 2011].
I know you just released an album earlier this year, but have you written any new material for the next album?
Masa: Now that we’re touring in the US, we haven’t been writing a lot recently. But when I go back to home in Tokyo, we’ll work on music day by day.
What is the creative process like?
Masa: We’re inspired by everything. Reading books, watching movies, walking down the street, talking to friends. Today, we got confidence from the audience, so maybe that’s good material for making music.
Mich: It depends on the song.
Masa: If we have direction, I make a bass beat and a bass line. If I want to dance, I make a beat. If I want to make something more sensitive and I want more melody, I play piano.
Mich: I hum. Then we record, and shape it.
Masa: We spend months sometimes on one song, so it’s not so easy.
Have you been doing a lot of exploring of the US cities you’re playing on this tour?
Masa: Today we went to Philadelphia Museum of Art and ran the Rocky steps. (puts arms up in the air like Rocky)
Any particular cities you’re excited to play in?
Masa: I think each state is like a different country – a totally different place. It’s very exciting for us, coming out here to the States, and a very important learning experience for us.
Photos by Pamela Lin