#2. Midnight Wanders
#3. Sleeping Nights
#4. Not Again
#5. Lost Apologies
Please introduce to yourself.
Hello, my name is Kensuke Yamamoto and I write music and play acoustically in Tokyo, Japan!
I also do a little video podcast, and help artists with their english lyrics.
Please tell me about your roots. You were part of After Tonight, a band that helped spread pop punk in Japan. What was the first song or artist that made you love music?
The first CD my dad bought for me when I was in elementary school was the Jackson 5 best hits CD.
I was blown away by how good the singer was, and my dad told me he was younger than I was. Since that I always was a big fan of Michael Jackson. I found punk a little after that but the first “music” I fell in love with and still love is MJ.
How do you see the Pop Punk scene right now?
Well, I don’t know if I’m in any place to talk about it cause it’s not just me that made it.
I used to say this at our shows but we really owe everything to everyone that listened to us.
I know that sounds cliche’ but even if there are 100 bands playing music,
if no one is there to listen to you, I wouldn’t call that a scene.
So the fans really define if there is a scene… to me.
I was so surprised when I started seeing people singing along to our songs. That’s because most people that listen to us don’t speak English.
Yet they read my translations, contextualise it in their lives, and then learn the English words.
I still can’t fathom how much dedication our fans had for our band and I’m we were something important to them. Speaking of our oversea fans, we’ve made great friends over the years through our music and it just sucks that we never had a chance to make it over there. We’re sorry,
but you guys are amazing.
You guys killed it.
You used to play in a band and now you are a solo acoustic. Why did you decide to go this route?
I always wanted to play acoustically.
I wrote all the After Tonight songs acoustic and I listened to a lot of acoustic artists over the years. The reason why I wanted to do this alone was simply liberation.
I had great members that I played in a band with but by playing alone I felt like I could fit music more naturally to my working life style.
What is your concept or vision of the songs you will write?
I have two EPs that I recorded, unmixed just from my desk and those songs are alot darker. It sounds real negative but I think it’s more honest. Having a full time job (9AM-6PM) makes me dream and fantasise about music a lot more on a day to day basis.
I was never good at writing a love song so I guess my struggles are heavily based on communication with people or losing a sense of identity when you’re working in an office.
The concept has always been what was happening in my life, and I guess that’s just what I find myself writing about recently.
How is writing music alone different from writing with a group of people?
Well, in AT(After Tonigh)t I wrote all the basic parts, melodies, and lyrics and from there, we made it into a song. Not having that team work part is really scary.
Especially because a lot of the recordings that I like are raw, one take ones.
I want to keep that to a certain extent and not sound too “produced”. The problem with that is, with recent quality of songs and how great they are,
I think it’s getting harder for people to listen to for a lack of better word “bad” recordings.
That’s why I take those raw covers on Youtube. I don’t want too much production to go into those.
I loved watching old really raw sounding covers or songs on Youtube.
Do you miss playing with other people?
I do on some levels but in general I like to be alone. Even on tour, I used to take my alone time seriously because it required that I spend a good amount of time with other people.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like them but, personal space is important to me. Especially when I’m writing.
You went to an International School from Elementary to Highschool. With your bilingual abilities, you have been writing English lyrics for Japanese bands. Please tell me about that.
It was something that I thought I could help with. It started off just by helping friends out and other bands wanted me to try for them too.
I have done different genres from pop punk to hardcore. I feel weird when I write down lyrics like “ I’ll pave your face to the fucking ground”. But that’s what the band wants and I have no opposition toward that. Maybe I just have a really dark evil side to me.
This is a personal opinion but you seem “neutral”. You never were stuck in a certain scene and also you don’t seem put off about utilising Social Media like many people do. Can you tell me your opinions about that?
I’m down to try new things. Leaving AT(After Tonight) and playing solo really brought me back to the roots.
I play smaller shows on weeknights where I have to pay if I don’t sell enough tickets kinda thing.
I’m really enjoying this type of “Reality Check” kinda thing.
I never thought I was a cocky person but subconsciously I thought it was normal to have a certain amount of people at our shows and so on. But now that that’s not the case,
I feel like I can’t take things for granted even more than before. It’s also not a step down. It’s like those games that you beat and when you start from the beginning,
you have all the experience and items that you had when you beat it. I’m at the start again but I’m very different now regarding experience than when I first started at 18. It’s truly exciting and I let go of all the “That’s not cool so I’m not doing it” mentality.
You know, fuck it! Do everything you can to connect with people that enjoy listening to you.
What are your favourite records?
Here’s an impossible question!
But to me an important record is The Photo Album by Death Cab For Cutie and Early Years, vol. 2 by Tom Waits.
I have a rule that I am only allowed to listen to the Photo Album once a day, because I won’t be able to work after that.
haha Tom Waits really showed me the light to “raw recordings” and I still listen to his earlier recordings on a day to day basis.
Final thoughts to people that read till the end?
If you actually read this whole thing, thank you so much for reading this. Sorry it’s not an interview someone more important. I felt like I ranted on and on but those were all my honest thoughts.
I hope to see all of you guys someday somewhere so I can tell you my thank you in person.