CD_PA058 Day Tripper
For our third interview, we’ll talk with another track maker (a composer in the Japanese hip hop scene) called PARKGOLF working out of Sapporo, Hokkaido. Taking influence from artists like KREVA and various others, he humbly started by making instrumental hip hop on his computer at home. In addition to topping the iTunes Japan electronic chart with his first digital single “Kiss Me,” which was released on the Day Tripper label, straight out of Osaka headed by artist Seiho, he’s also working as a songwriter with artists like Sakurayuraya, Amagawa Uchu, and DAOKO (working on tracks arranged by tofubeats “水星” (Mercury), “嫌” (iya), and “ミュージック” (myuujikku) for the major debut “DAOKO”). Expanding his international activity, he recently went to London for “POKO Vol. 1,” an event by Maltine Records.
His signature sound is making pop music by starting from a cluster of fundamental elements and putting them together in form. Linking eccentric hooks and trippy sounds one after another in a wide open space, colorful textures surge into your ears in the form of unfolding geometric figures. The mystery of his sound, mixing both “more” and “less” simultaneously is what put him far ahead of his peers in terms of song structure. In April, his debut album “Par” was released on the Osaka label Day Tripper Records headed by artist Seiho. Making up the core of his work to date since he finally made up his mind to pursue a career as an artist in earnest, this album, a collection of 15 songs, can be seen as a autobiography of PARKGOLF. If you take the time to unravel this work, his journey as an artist is beyond clear. This time, with his cooperation we’ll hear his views of every song on the album and we’ll get to know PARKGOLF through “Par” - which was my purpose in recording this interview.
Anyway, PARKGOLF's album “Par” is.... Wait, this golfing photo shoot has to be an act, right? No, that's a bit too obvious. But, let's see..!
The event in London was really awesome. I felt like the things I do out personal interest won’t really change no matter where you go.
――In March, you went to London to perform at “POKO Vol. 1” (appearing with bo en, Kero Kero Bonito, Spinee, Tomad, and Seiho). What was it like actually being there?
Well, the event was all planned out by a Japanese organiser, but first of all, the food wasn’t very good (laughs)
――The food? (laughs)
I figured that I’d order fish and chips, but I didn’t really understand the menu so I just ordered what was at the very top of the menu. So then, what came out was some tasteless bread that you put chips (fries) on and eat (a popular dish in the UK). I was like “I don’t need anymore fried potato.”
――(laughs) So, how was the actual event?
From my impression the songs the DJs were playing weren’t much different from DJs in Japan. It was the same as the event where we played and the day before that, the event we went out to which was a ACTIVIA BENZ show (organized by Slugabed) was also like that.
――So, in contrast there isn’t much difference between Japan and the rest of the world?
It felt like that, yeah. It wasn’t like we were “connected with the world” but it’s like the things I do out of personal interest don’t really change no matter where I go. In London there was a lot of enthusiasm at the events. It was kind of a maniac event for London, even though it was Sunday there were quite a lot of people who stayed until the very end, that was awesome. About two years ago I got to go to Taiwan with a fashion and art exhibition, but it wasn’t music-centered. So, this time was my first experience to play at a club overseas.
――Did you get to meet the local artists there too?
At the ACTIVIA BENZ event, Slugabed and Gunge were there and when we went to bo en’s place to hang out, Jack Dansu (Jack댄스) and Kane West, who puts out music on PC Music (PCミュージック), and others, came with a lot of people and we all had a pizza party together (laughs). I talked with bo en about stuff like what he thought of J-POP. They have a notion of what J-POP is, but it’s like “Nakata Yasutaka is the God.” PC Music (PCミュージック) is probably also really influenced by that.
――While expanding activity overseas, his job as a music provider and producer has been increasing in Japan, after attending DAOKO’s major debut album.
With DAOKO, we were given a song, then we each given the opportunity to give our opinions and talk it over. It wasn’t really like being a producer. But, before that, I thought it was great producing on Sakurayura’s “Shunkan Saidai Fusoku” and Amagawa Uchu’s “Iyana Koto Wa Futtobashitai” (from the record 『平行宇宙マジカルプラネッツ』). For those 2 songs, being in charge of both the lyrics and music, I got to know more about my own pop music and vocal songs.
――When a song has been put together, have you ever felt like you want to change a part of the structure or the way you made the song?
I guess you could say that for songs with lyrics, I want to place importance on either the melody or the first thing that really stands out to the listener. Simply to leave a feeling like “Ah, this is going to be stuck in my head forever.” And with those 2 songs, I focused in very heavily on only those aspects when making the tracks. Especially “瞬間最大風速 (Shunkan Saidai Fuusoku),” it was the first project for me, so I was thinking “I want to use powerful words,” but in the end what was left was “瞬間 (instantaneous)” and “最大 (maximum)” and so on...
――So, you stuck with that? (laughs)
Yeah, I did. Actually, when we did the final recording, the song turned out totally different. Initially, we made the demo and we were like “alright, let’s go with this” and then we recorded, but after mixing, we listened to it and it is wasn’t what we were going for. I started to feel that is was no good. So, at first, it was a really up-tempo song, but then we remixed it by using a calmed-down melody and cutting the tempo down a lot. We only used the vocals as-is, other than that everything was changed. That’s why I say nothing from the original is still there (laughs). I think the results were good, though, you know.
―― But, now with “Par,” your own debut album being released, you had been wanting to make this for quite a while, right?
Yeah, which is why I started to look like a fraud, saying “I’m going to put out an album, I’m gonna do it” for so long (laughs). Originally, in 2013, I put out an EP called “CAT WALK” with Maltine records in July. Then, about 3 months later, we did a bonus remix collection with 4 tracks “Kiss Me,” “Route 36,” “Ghost,” and the previously unreleased “WWW.” Around that time, I started to think, “I really want to work with mixing things together,” and was thinking I wanted to put something out between spring and summer of 2014. I posted about it on Twitter and what not, but by the time I got started it was already April, 2015 (laughs). I really didn’t think it would take this long….
――It seems like you’ve been doing more shows and steadily getting busier.
Definitely, the shows are steadily increasing… Honestly, until now it wasn’t like that, things just changed so much all at once - there were some parts that didn’t go so well, I guess.
Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of short videos that seem like GIF’s or those “PythagoraSwitch” videos while working on music. What I’ve realised recently is that “this is my style.”
――This time, I’d like to ask you to talk about the process of making “Par” and, at the same time, how you have progressed by looking at each song from the album, one by one. SO, the first song, “QUEEN” -- this song starts off the album with a kind of peaceful piano part.
Yeah, I started out doing instrumental hip hop, you know? So, I wanted make a song at about 90 BPM. I opened shows with that song a lot too, so that’s why I decided to make it the first track.
―― “Queen,” what’s the story behind the title?
Right, ya know, there are times when I put thought into a song’s title, but there are times when I just name it without much thought at all too (laughs). In this case, there just happened to be a DVD I borrowed from a friend, a film called “IQUEEN” (starring Nagasawa Masami) lying around...
――So, you mean you… (laughs)
But I couldn’t just call it “IQUEEN” so I just went with “QUEEN” (laughs). After that, I started to make a song called “KING” but couldn’t finish it -- so it actually didn’t end up on the album. But for the second track, “Platinum Curve,” it was like a “four-on-the-floor 120 BPM” kind of thing, which I know is hard for me to work with, and it didn’t really turn out to be four-on-the-floor, but that bending, meandering synth part at the end, I realised “that’s it - that’s Platinum Curve.” I knew, “this is how it had to be.”
――The next song, “Route 36,” it’s about the road in your hometown, Sapporo?
That’s right. Route 36 is about a 5 minute walk from my home and if you go down that road for a while, you’ll be in downtown Sapporo where most events for the area happen and where people usually hang out. So, that’s why it’s that road’s song. At first, it was called “North” because that seems more like “Hokkaido.” So, I think that association led me to “Route 36.”
――So that was your inspiration for making this album?
Well, I quit my job on May 31st of 2013. Then I performed at an event called INNIT Sapporo (the Sapporo version of “INNIT” which was started by artists Seiho, And Vice Versa, and others). After that performance, I had a whole lot of free time. And, “Route 36” was one of the many tracks I made in that span of time.
――Did you quit your job because you wanted to work full-time on your music?
I have always really wanted to focus seriously on my music and so I guess I just quit because I wouldn’t be able to do so otherwise. I thought I probably wouldn’t do it unless I really pushed myself. At that time, I wrote four songs, and of those four I think “Route 36” has the most emphasised melody. The next track from the album, “Jewel,” was the last song I wrote for the album. There was a period there, for a while, that I could write anything at all. So, I tried limiting myself to using as few sounds as I could in order to produce a completed song. That’s why that song doesn’t use much bass - it’s mostly just the synth, drums, and vocal samples. If I had of used only vocal samples, it may have gotten really intense (laughs).
――You didn’t think about finding a guest vocalist?
Yeah, I thought about that too. But since it was my first album, I wanted to try to do everything on my own. Even for tracks, quite a while ago, I had been contacting Spazzkid (a Filipino track maker who has said publicly that he takes influence from Japanese culture) and was like, “let’s work together,” but first I wanted to try and do it alone without worrying about doing something like a remixed version. (A limited edition remix collection can be downloaded from a special site).
――Next, I’d like to talk about the 2013 EP “CAT WALK” that you put out on Maltine records featuring tracks like “LUCKY” and others. At the time, I remember people at Maltine and listeners were like “there’s this really awesome artist in Hokkaido!” when they discovered you. So, I’m curious, how did you get connected with them?
Sure, well, I put out the EP with Maltine, that was in like the first year I had started writing, but that gave me the chance to put out the remix I did of “Toumeikan (透明感)” by Kindan no Tasuuketsu (禁断の多数決) up on Soundcloud. I bought the original song, the acoustic version only available on iTunes, thinking I wanted to remix it and then spend an entire day just carving up the vocals (laughs). Then after I finished the remix, Tomad reached out to me and that’s how that got started. That guy’s ability to dig is insane (laughs). I have no idea how he found me - it’s mysterious. But he likes Maltine’s sound so I guess he must have found out about me from that EP.
――Were you aware that what you and what the people at Maltine were doing was so similar at that time?
I was probably a lot later than them to start being active on the internet. I think a lot of them are internet natives and have had their own computers since jr. high or high school. But in my case, I had been using shared computers until about 3 or 4 years ago when I got my own for the first time. I had been making music with real instruments and I’ve only really recently familiarised myself with the internet (laughs). So, the internet was one of a ton of new things for me at that time. But I think the way they went about making music was the very similar to the way I had been making instrumental hip hop; then I gradually started to making music that seemed to take influence from them.
――Around that time, did it feel like your musical perspective was changing?
I think it really started to change significantly after I got familiar with the culture and music of the internet. For one, the amount of music I listened to changed. Now, if I listen to “LUCKY” from that EP (“CAT WALK”), too, it really feels like an “internet song” to me. But this time I wanted to make something a little more cohesive. That’s why I mention “CAT WALK.” Because if I look at the title of the next track “If And When,” it’s like… What?... It’s really confusing and mysterious, isn’t it… (laughs). I guess I liked the idea of going from a kind of jazzy chord progression into a beat that was almost like a marching song.
――Next, the seventh song “Purple Pulp” from the 2014 “VANDCAMP” - a compilation featuring DJs from Hokkaido BUDDHAHOUSE, QRION, Ninja Drinks Wine, DJ YEN.
Yeah, when we did that compilation, everyone, including me, were starting to get some recognition, little by little, from outside of Hokkaido. I really wanted to make a single combined album, so I suggested it and we made it.
――How did you get to know them?
Me and BUDDHAHOUSE went to high school together, same grade. And actually, he and I weren’t really good friends (laughs). He had been DJing since about jr. high and I started making music too in high school. So we started to go to shows and stuff and then started to get to know each that way. YEN and BUDDHAHOUSE did shows together. Ninja was in the band scene at first, he played with a band called “FOGPAK” actually, and I was like “that guy’s from Hokkaido?” QRION started out making tunes with an iPhone app, she was following me on Twitter, and I thought she was just some old guy the whole time (laughs). Her tweets really seems like an old guy, but then she told me “I’m a high school girl” I was like “no way!!”
When BUDDHAHOUSE or YEN were doing shows, she was like “I’ve got a curfew, but I can go for a little while!” And when she came we saw she really was actually a girl (laughs). And, she’s like really quiet and shy, too. Anyway, I talked to BUDDHAHOUSE about how there aren’t very many active artists in Hokkaido and said why don’t we do something together. After that, we had more chances to hang out. If we weren’t all in Hokkaido, I think we probably wouldn’t have done it, we were all just there so we got together. But I think it’s good to have that difference of approaches and styles.
――Number 8, “Woo Woo” was recorded live, which makes it stick out, and the vocal sample used is really passionate….
We really were saying “Woo Woo”... (laughs). I wanted to record that song live and keep it separate from the album, but Seiho told me “Wouldn’t it be better to just put it on the album?” And I thought, if there are people hearing my music for the first time when hearing this album, it would probably be best to put something live on it. Then the next one, “Ghost,” seems like a really strong, attacking Future Bass song. I put a filter on it and then a strange voice coming in in the middle, then cut it out completely in the second half… I thought that seemed totally like “Ghost” you know? (laughs)
――What inspires you most to make music?
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been watching a lot of short videos that seem like GIFs or even those “PythagoraSwitch” videos while working on music. Like, when in the middle of a song a hook suddenly dives in or like a really strange progression in a song, it’s a lot like that. What I’ve realised recently is that “this is my style.” The track I personally like best is number 10, “Sexual Attraction.” I think the best kind of songs are like a GIF animation. If I can express that kind of “situation” or “progression” then that’s the best kind of song. I’ve got this clear mental image, and I want to make songs that live up to this mental image.
――What kind of mental image is that?
It’s like this incredibly vast, bright place - and your going towards some destination but you don’t know what it is. Then, you see people coming from far away - but they are more like some kind of objects rather than people. That initial destination is also some kind of object….
――Ah, I can see the relation to a GIF animation or one of those PythagoraSwitch shorts.
Yeah. Short GIF-like videos, they always have this “essence” don’t they? Nothing superfluous, it’s all continuing to express that essence. I’m really captivated by that. For example, it’s like in a strange progression of something, suddenly some kind of hook bursts in and various elements start to go along with it. With this approach to arranging songs too, if you put in an impressive hook or progression, then take a look at the balance of the whole song and think “I’ll put this in later,” or “putting this here is little strange so I’ll change it back” or something - that kind of approach. Like one cluster (=essence) tied together in succession, that kind of atmosphere. I also feel that when I listen to the tracks.
――Like the sense of “Less is More,” do you feel that it is important to be “not completely full”, “something is missing” or “lacking”?
Well it is a bit different from “lacking” but when I listen to other artists’ music, I sometimes get the feeling for those songs to be “too perfect”. Surely it is good just how they are, but I would like to obtain something stranger. Besides, in my case, something is often naturally “lacking” (laugs). I hope that this, me naturally lacking, could be something that allows PARKGOLF to stand out.
――The 11th song “Kiss Me” topped the iTunes Japan electronic chart.
I was really happy about that! “Kiss Me” is the song that I made right after I quit my job, so I was really happy for it to have topped the chart. I spent quite a long time on this song as I wanted to make something that would truly represent me. When I uploaded this song on Soundcloud, Seiho approached me about releasing an album.
――For the next song “Major”, the intro is linked to the later part of “Sense Of Water”, right? There seems to be other songs that are connected to other songs in this album… Is it coincidental?
I used to play hip hop, so I like such things. So “Major” is linked to “Sense of Water,” and “Sense of Water” is linked to “Sexual attraction”. In this album, songs are linked to each other. This really amplifies the effect of “Woo Woo” as it is primarily for live concerts.
When I went on a tour with BUDDHAHOUSE, I found this keychain in Osaka, “Glass City Billiards” was written on it. That is where the 13th song came from (laughs). [while saying that, he showed the picture with his phone]. I thought that the character sequence was really cool (laughs). I associated from them and used the sounds of a cue hitting a ball (= Billiards) and glasses breaking (= Glass). I just wanted to use them; so as long as I could use them, I didn’t care much about the rest (laughs).
――The next one, “HERSHEY’S,” is that the chocolate brand?
Exactly (laughs). I was eating Hershey’s chocolate sauce. Either “HERSHEY’S” or “Glass City Billiards” was the last song that I made. Kind of the ending of a movie, I envisioned these two songs as the ending for the album. Neither of them became the last song after all, but rather “Sense of Water” did. This song is the first song that I made at the request of someone else. “Water images” was the theme, and it was definitely the oldest song of all the songs on the album. But I feel refreshing when I listen to it, even now. So, as one of the most important songs to me, I decided to put it as the conclusion.
It was really nice in the end that I could release the album at this time. I think the timing and everything was really awesome. Same goes for the label that I wanted to release it with too.
――When we look back, this album “Par” is not a piece of work that expresses one theme or concept; rather, it reflects the events of the past few years of your life artistically.
That is true. I was still working when I made the first song “Sense Of Water,” which is the last song on this album. After that, I quit the job and made four other songs, “Kiss Me” and “Route 36”, for example. As I began to play more shows, I made the dance track “Woo Woo,” and also made “VANDCAMP” with people from Hokkaido. Live, unlike a DJ, I have to play my own songs, so it ends up being the same songs every time. So I was going to make a new song, and it came out as a really quiet song acting as a rebound. In the end, I think it was really good that I could release the album at this time. Both with the Maltine EP and this time with Day Tripper, I’m putting out just what I wanted to put out. But when I look back at it all, it has been such a long path (laughs).
――How did you come up with the title “Par”?
First I wanted to have a title with a building’s name like “~ Heights,” “Heights ~,” or “Chateau ~.” But the strength of those titles changes depending on the word that I would end up choosing. Also, I wanted a bigger impact with the title. Then I thought “Par” would be great since it’s a golf term that relates to my stage name. I was torn between “Par” and “DATE SPOT” before finally deciding.
―― “DATE SPOT”
Mizuno Shizu once said “PARKGOLF is such a unique name. It almost sounds like a date spot.” I thought what she said didn’t make sense (laughs), but then I thought “DATE SPOT” is kinda cool. So it was on the “potential titles” list. So I may use it some other time in the future (laughs).
――“Par” surely resonates your name, but it also has a meaning as a golf term? In the sense of not an “Eagle”?
(laughs) “Par” means the prescribed number of strokes per round. With this album, I wanted to create a first album that could be a new standard by working exclusively with songs that I made on my own. In that sense, this album is like “Par” where “Par = Standard”. It being the standard, I could have many artists make remixes of the songs. Come back to think of it, I think “Par” is a nice title after all (laughs).
――Why did you decide for your name to be PARKGOLF in the first place?
First, I was using my real name. One day I was talking to BUDDHAHOUSE and one of my juniors, and they thought my real name was too cool. I am surrounded by people with funny name like BUDDHAHOUSE and Ninja Drinks Wine. We sort of agreed on setting our group as such (artists with funny names). I was suggested something with GOLF, (one suggested ~GOLF), but at first I didn’t like it since it didn’t really make sense. But as we were making a list of other ridiculously long names, only “~GOLF” ones were left as options. Even though I have never played golf before (laughs).
――(Burst of laughter)
When I was in high school, I used to work at a golf center, picking up golf balls. They paid ¥1,000 per hour but they only let me work for an hour a day. I could earn only ¥1000 even if I work for a day after all, it was so late at night that I overslept, which made them angry, so I had to quit before long. That was the only connection between me and golf…. But park golf is big in Hokkaido, you know?
――What kind of artist do you want to become eventually?
Artists often have models that they “want to be,” but I don’t really have anything like that. From my experience, Japan and abroad, I realized that I had done similar things no matter where I was. So, I feel like everything is basically the same when it comes to music. Sure, there is so much to improve, but I realised that I could manage if I work towards it. That’s why I want to keep on trying a heap of different things like making songs and producing for other artists. I want to produce an album containing songs with vocals and songs for rappers. Also, I want to try the process of composing, producing, mixing, and making videos at least once on my own, as I would never know about the stages of such work unless I do it myself. I would like to try things like that for the next album.