A perfect human being does not exist. That's what I thought until I met him. Daisuke Tsuneta. He is not only the leader of King Gnu (a renowned Japanese band with 200 million views on YouTube) who also just launched a new project called millennium parade but is a multi-talented artist we need to be on the lookout for. His profound knowledge of music and art leads to his extraordinary creativity, not to mention his chic features and powerful presence. There is not a single trait he lacks. But still, he seeks. “I want to be the first Japanese artist to make it in the world”. Not settling for status quo, what exactly is reflecting in those eyes staring into the future. As the popular 3DCG anime Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 theme song “Fly with Me” was released, I had the opportunity to talk to him.
--- You’re the leader of King Gnu but can you tell us about the other project - millennium parade which involves several creators. What is the biggest difference compared to your activities as King Gnu?
King Gnu was started with the goal of being active within the confines of the mainstream music industry in Japan. That is why we intentionally make music that fits the typical J-POP format that is so popular here. But that isn’t where my musical roots are from. So, a project that is closer to the roots of my personal musical sensibilities that allows me to showcase my creativity – that is millennium parade.
--- Was it a project planned before King Gnu formed?
Both ideas have been around since around the same time, but it feels like millennium parade is now finally starting in earnest. In Japan, when you try to be active outside of J-POP, your market tends to become smaller. But with King Gnu creating popular music and succeeding in the mainstream market, it makes it easier for us to have a chance to create the type of music millennium parade makes. So, with millennium parade, I want to try vastly different things. I want to create something that breaks all expectations, beyond being categorized as mainstream or underground in Japan, the way that pop art did.
--- Latest single “Fly with me” which dropped on April 22nd attracted a lot of attention as the Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 theme song. How did it all happen?
The Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 production team got in touch with us and asked us to create the theme song out of the blue. And so, in the beginning, I made two tracks and sent them. One track I created with Ghost in the Shell ‘s classic musical style in mind, and the other track I came up with my own interpretation, which was “Fly with Me”. In the past, music for Ghost in the Shell was written by Yoko Kanno or Cornelius, so I created the first track with a similar sound in mind, but I felt this sound lacked impact for these times. I felt it was necessary to express the lives we live today with a stronger sound, which is why I also created “Fly with me”. In the end, we were more passionate about “Fly with me”, which we conveyed to the directors and the production team, and it was chosen as the theme song.
--- The music video for “Fly with me” was spectacular. How was it created?
The PERIMETRON members and I started talked about a year ago about creating a huge CG project that we could all be extremely proud of, as we were all beginning to really master the skills needed for each of our roles. This was going to be the culmination of everything we had done so far. With our directors (Shu) Sasaki and (Yuhei) Kanbe heading the project, we created everything from the location setting to the character design from scratch. Although the production took over 6 months and became our most expensive project yet, we feel it is a creation that will stand the test of time. Artists need to keep throwing punches into the world. And this creation was only just the start of many more.
--- What is the reason that the film directors and members of millennium parade or PERIMETRON are all in-house?
For any single project, the main plan, or rather the underlying philosophy, is something that the core members need to have in common. Which is why I wanted to gather producers and directors who are like-minded. After all, once a project kicks off, there’s only so much you can do on your own. It’s essential to have people I trust. And it’s finally all coming together now.
---The single “Fly with me” includes a DVD of a talk session with the directors of the music video and Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 directors - Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki. Can you tell us any memorable topics from the session?
Like I mentioned earlier, we have been influenced by the Ghost in the Shell series, so it was great to learn from both directors about the concepts behind it, what they were trying to portray, and the process through which they created it. I learned a lot. We created this music video as a kind of ‘answer’ to the Ghost in the Shell series which has influenced each of us so much in the past. To tell you the truth, the underlying theme for the “Fly with me” video was “to create something more awesome than Ghost in the Shell” [laughs].
--- The single “Fly with me” includes a remix version by Steve Aoki. How did that come together?
I knew Steve was a fan of Ghost in the Shell too, so we asked if he would be interested, and he kindly accepted. The remix showcases Steve’s great musical sensibilities in a way that only he can. And Steve himself is such an interesting guy. He was originally from the hardcore music scene and everything he has experienced is probably what led to his present style of music. But the way he builds excitement and the way he creates music is, in some ways, hardcore, right?
--- Now that “Fly with me” has been released, are there any new challenges or projects that you’re currently working on?
The production time, scale, quality, and our devotion and enthusiasm for “Fly with me” was so extreme that all of us, including myself, are probably a little burnt out [laughs]. We gave it all we got. But of course, there is still so much we want to accomplish which is something we always talk about. We have plans to perform with a large orchestra.
---As millennium parade, you have collaborated with DIOR and as a solo artist, you oversaw the music for N.Hoolywood’s NY collection, so I get the impression that you have a strong connection with fashion. There was also an interview of you saying, “Just like how Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons shocked the world with black, I want to do the same in the music scene”. So, are you aiming to make music from Japan that fits a global standard?
Yes. Unfortunately, this is unprecedented. There currently aren’t any world-renowned Japanese musicians active on a global scale. Of course, there’s Ryuichi Sakamoto and Joe Hisaishi but I think they are acclaimed and known mainly for their film scores . We want our music to have an impact on people around the world, just as Japanese fashion brands such as Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto did in the 80’s.
---In the fashion industry, the value and recognition of “archive”, such as the 80’s Comme des Garcons items, has caught on. What do you think is an “archive” in the music industry?
What we’d call a “classic” in music right? I always aim to create a “classic”. There’s a reason that certain songs remain relevant throughout generations. Every day I think about how to create that kind of music. And I think contemporaneity is necessary, at least. If you don’t accurately portray the era you are living in, it will not become a work that will be passed down through the generations.
--- You are constantly creating something as King Gnu, millennium parade or through your many other activities. Do you ever get worried or impatient that one day the source of your creativity will diminish and become empty?
Not at all. But I do feel discomfort and anxiety when trying to create something “totally different from the past” to make an impact. To be honest, it is not difficult to make high quality music. However, it is difficult to make music that will have a fresh impact on people. To do that, the creator needs to step up further with a new mindset, or needs some other extreme ability (power?).
--- Last question. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the world. Has it changed your attitude or will it affect your music?
All the musicians are in a rough situation and are starting to take action. But it also seems like they are becoming restless. My shows have also been cancelled and postponed like many others, so I feel a little unsure, but I am still moving forward with the same vision I’ve always had. Regardless of the times, we just have to keep doing what we love.
millennium parade『Fly with me』
01 Fly with me
02 Fly with me – Live
(Sony music labels)
millennium parade × ghost in the shell: SAC_2045 『Fly with me』
01 Fly with me
02 Fly with me – Steve Aoki Neon Future Remix