Name: Takahide Higuchi aka Foodman
Current Release: Foodman's Yasuragi Land is out on Hyperdub.
Recommendations: Book: Tales from Earthsea - Ursula Le Guin; music: XTC - Apple Venus 1
If you enjoyed this Foodman interview, follow him on Facebook and Soundcloud to stay up to date on his work. He also has a bandcamp store.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started making music when I was 18 years old. I had no interest in music production until I was that age. One day, I bought a game by chance - "DEPTH" which had a feature that allowed me to create music by combining simple loops. That's when I discovered the fun of club music and music production.
The first CD I bought was Talvin Singh's "OK" album. It was a fusion of Indian music, Okinawan folk music, and drum 'n' bass. It made me very excited. I really enjoyed making music, creating my own world out of nothing.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I was first influenced by the preset sounds of "DEPTH".
After that I was very much influenced by the sound making style of Japanese artist Susumu Yokota. He was a former designer. I had the impression that he created sounds as if he was working with designs. I've read many of his interviews. He talked about not doing anything superfluous and creating the maximum effect with simple editing. I am still influenced by his words.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I consider it to be very influential.
In my case, I have always loved drawing and painting since I was a child. When I create music, I think I unconsciously create sounds as if I were drawing a picture.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My first assignment was to make a sound change, which I had a hard time doing. The sampler I was using at the time was very simple, so it was all I could do to make simple loops (but that's why I was trying to be creative and make something interesting).
Nowadays, equipment and software have evolved. It's very easy to make changes in sound. However, I try to remember the feeling of ingenuity I had when my equipment was limited, and to listen to every detail of the sound in order to create powerful loops.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
The first piece of music equipment I ever bought was a Zoom St-224 sampler. It has a simple sampler and sequencer function. The sound quality is not very good, but it has a unique texture. I used it to sample various environmental sounds using records, radios, and microphones. I used to record the sounds I made with this sampler using an AIWA cassette component. I've been producing in this style for about 6 years.
Then I started producing music using a PC. The software I was using at that time was Cubase. I was not that dissatisfied with it, but after using it for about two years I changed the software to Ableton Live, which I still use today. It is so easy to use and very flexible. I use a Korg ESX-1 for live performances. It's another old piece of equipment but very easy to use in a live setting. I still use it today.
Basically, I choose equipment that is easy to operate and has simple functions. That way, I can quickly give shape to the images in my head. Of course, Ableton can be used in very complicated ways, too. But I only use the minimum number of functions necessary.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Ableton Live has very much changed my production style. Before I started making music, I used to draw. Being able to work with sound as if I were painting allows me to create intuitively, remembering the feeling I had at the time.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I hope that collaborations will add elements that I don't have, and that chemical reactions will be created in the collaboration. Since I usually create alone, new ideas can be born.
There are many ways to collaborate with other producers and artists. Sometimes we share loops of demos we've made for each other, and other times we've written songs in the same studio, each producing our own parts. However, my favorite way is to have a jam session using a hard machine. I like to improvise my own sound while feeling the other person's sound, which can create tension - or it can sound rough. But I like the roughness of it.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I wake up around 9:00 a.m., have breakfast, check my email, etc. Then I start music production around 11:00. Sometimes I work in my home studio, but more often I go to my favorite sauna and bring my computer to work in the sauna lounge. The sauna is a great way to expand my mind and to get new ideas.
Nowadays, you can make music with just one PC. It's fun to work in different places. My favorite sauna and my favorite diner to go to on the way home inspire me.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
There are many works and performances that are special to me. One of my most special works is "Ez minzoku", which I released in 2016 on Orange milk record. Thanks to this work, more people got to know my music, and I was able to create my own interpretation of the influences that footwork had on me.
Kode9 heard it, and I had many encounters with people as a result of this work. In my own way, I wanted to create something new that hadn't been done before, so I made this work.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I think I can concentrate best when I'm in a state where I'm like an elementary school student playing my favorite game without thinking about anything else. I think I can concentrate best when I am just enjoying myself.
When you become an adult, you have to think about a lot of things, and that affects your work in many ways (of course, sometimes that pressure works in the right direction). It's not always easy to put myself in that state, but I try to remember the feeling of playing with sound when I'm working on my pieces. I don't try to finish something, I just let my senses do the work.
Right now, the world is still in the middle of a pandemic. There is a lot of negativity in the air. I often feel that way too, but by going to the sauna, I can reset my mind and create with a restful mind.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I have experience with both. Sometimes I get excited when I listen to a strong and tough sound, and sometimes I feel painful when I listen to a love song because it reminds me of an old love memory, and sometimes I get even more tired when I listen to a dark sound when I am tired.
In this current pandemic situation, music may be powerless, but I think there is a need for music that can help people keep their minds at peace and feel at least a little hope for the future.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I think it is important to respect the scene and culture. Understand the context and history. It's important to learn where the music and culture came from and who started it.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I have some thoughts about the sense of smell in particular.
Sometimes the smell of a club or live music venue reminds me of a sound. I once went to a club where I used to hang out when I was young, and when I smelled it, I remembered the music I listened to 10 years ago.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I first started making music as if I were playing a game. It's for a very personal pleasure, it's a lot of fun to create your own idea of a world out of nothing. But my life has changed a lot from there.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
YES. I sometimes feel this in music or background music that is casually playing on the street.