I am a Japanese military spouse, and after spending eight years living in Canada and the United States, I have returned to Misawa, Japan, accompanying my husband on his four-year tour. I have been interested in the remarkable artist, DJ, remixerand producer named Maynard Plant, also called blanc. When I turned theTV on, the pleasant music and the words created by the Japanese pop-rock band, Monkey Majik; of which he is also the lead vocalist; got to my heart. Their unique melody and songs mixed with Japanese and English, such as "Around the world" "Sora wa Marude", are always stuck in my head. My selection of music was usually the American top music, R&B or Hip Hop. I hardly caught up with Japanese pop music or karaoke songs at that time until I saw that they were on TV. I still remembered I was excited and shocked to see their performance through the TV as they pleasantly played their song in Japanese. Even though my husband questions many Japanese artists trying to partially use English in their songs, I believe his music works are different from many of the other artists using English. As a bilingual, it is comforting to listen to blanc's music. He and his fellows are based in Sendai city and are remarkably successful in the Japanese music industry. After 3/11/2011, they know no boundaries but music activities; they actually go around cities including Hachinohe and support many disaster areas. Therefore, I always find something congenial and feel curious about them. I am truly appreciative and am honored that I have a great opportunity to have an interview and introduce him in The Insider.
Q1. Please tell me about yourself and the relation to Aomori.
I first came to Aomori Prefecture in 1998 on the JET Progamme. I lived in the town of Shichinohe for two years and then moved to Momoishi for the third. I still love visiting Aomori as much as I can. There's something very special and calming about it's landscape and the people who live there.
Q2. How do you differentiate your works between blanc. and Monkey Majik?
"blanc." is what I do when I'm not busy with Monkey Majik J. I'm always alone when I write for blanc. It's the "anything goes" project. I really don't have an agenda when I write songs for blanc., so I'm allowed a lot of freedom. The word "blanc." itself means "white" in French so the idea is that I'm always painting on a white canvas. I suppose most blanc. songs could be described as electronic, but I often blend organic elements in the mix as well.
Monkey Majik on the other hand is a collaboration between four musicians; my four best friends. Naturally, we never feel limited as to what we can do, but it is a band and thus we usually conform to a band sound. Monkey Majik has been the core of my professional life for over 11 years.
Q3. How do you create the songs in Japanese and English?
I've been doing it so long that I really don't know how I do it. I suppose certain melodies are innately "Japanese" while others are not. It's usually just a gut feeling and we try to go with the flow.
Q4. Could you tell us about your voluntary works after 3/11 and the project called SEND "愛 = LOVE as SEND AI"?
On the third day after the earthquake I had read that the city of Hachinohe had opened up a volunteer center and I felt that I had to help. I spent the first week in the Ishikawa area of Hachinohe and from there returned back to Miyagi ken to volunteer in Tagajo and then Ishinomaki. I spent about three months cleaning out houses that had been devastated by the tsunami. I suppose it was about June when the band was able to reunite and we decided to do something as a band to help victims. SEND AI was born out of this reunion. Our first concert was in Osaka. The whole principle behind SEND AI was to raise as much awareness as we could and encourage people to donate. Thanks to all staff and musicians who worked for free we were able to donate all the proceeds from ticket sales. Later in the Fall we brought SEND AI to Sekisui Haim Super Arena in Sendai city. This was probably the most important show I have ever played. We hope to continue SEND AI for as long as we can.
In addition to playing charity concerts we also started a charity auction on Yahoo. Every week we feature goods from various artists, television and radio personalities, as well as professional Athletes. It's been an extreme success. I'm so grateful to all those who have both donated their money and possessions to this extremely worthy cause.
Q5. Out of your music works, would you tell us what songs you considerably feel for and why?
Tough question. They're all very important to me. I suppose the songs that I have written since the earthquake feel more profound. In particular "Ki O Ueta Otoko" (The Man Who Planted Trees). This song represents everything I feel right now.
Q6. How do you like Japan/Sendai?
Love it. Never want to leave.
Q7. What is your next object?
I would like to spend more time with family. They're more important to me than anything else.
Q8. Any message to your fans and the military family members in Misawa?
I've always had such a great time in Misawa. Over the years I've made many friends and deeply respect the sacrifices they've had to make being so far from home. I'm looking forward to visiting again.
Check out the following links for the great music.
MONKEY MAJIK Profile
The band Monkey Majik was formed by two Canadian brothers, Maynard (Vo&G), Blaise (Vo&G) and two other Japanese men, Tax (Dr) and Dick (B) in 2000 in the city of Sendai. Their songs have become popular by being used in different medias such as movies, drama, and television commercials. They also collaborated with many artists like m-flo, SEAMO, and the Yoshida brothers. The Yoshida brothers are Shamisen players, traditional Japanese guitar. Last year, they made a best of album "MONKEY MAJIK BEST ~10Years & Forever~" for their 10th anniversary. They had a good start to 2011 until the Tohoku region's natural disaster struck Japan. They became victims to the tragedy and questioned what they could do with their musical ability. They began enormous volunteer activities to provide immediate relief to the areas. Their music performances encouraged many people in Japan and still work for the project called "SEND AI." The great Canadian artist and film director of short animated films, Frederic Back, who won his second Academy Award for Animated Short Film for "The Man Who Planted Trees" in English, offered to create a music video for Monkey Majik featuring a special song. On October 26, they released the latest single "Headlight" as their support toward the Tohoku disaster areas and is broadcasted through television as "the Tohoku Smile Project Infomercial CM song."
Insider Art & Design Co. Ltd.
Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved.