5 QUESTIONS WITH YUKARI FUJIU
Yukari Fujiu is a singer songwriter / guitarist. She began her musical career as the lead singer of an all-girl Tokyo band called The Groopies and went on to release two solo albums on Pony Canyon Records. She also wrote million-seller hits for several Japanese artists. Later, she worked in London with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, and with Gota Yashiki of Simply Red. While living in the UK she formed the group called Cribabi with Andy Cox, ex the Beat and Fine Young Cannibals. They released the album “Volume” which was selected for The Best of British by Virgin Megastores USA. Eventually she moved her base to Los Angeles, California and reformed Cribabi. They have just released the new single “Flight 49”. Her performances, including the music video of “Flight 49”, are online at www.cribabi.com. The audio single is available on iTunes and Amazon.com.
We recently caught up with Yukari after the premiere of the video at the Unexpected Film Festival and had a chance to discuss her transition from Tokyo to Los Angeles.
1. Your new video for your band Cribabi (“Flight 49”) just premiered at the Unexpected Film Festival. What’s next for Cribabi and more generally, what does 2013 have in store?
We’re going to release more singles this year. We have just published Flight 49 video on YouTube, and are encouraged that the video is drawing a swift reaction from everyone. So I’m going to talk a bit more about the video later, but you can check it out HERE to keep up with this 5 Questions With… page and share it with your friends if you fancy it.
Also, my aspiration for this year is to produce a music event for Asian American musicians and fans, let’s call it the Asian American Music Festival. You know, Asians can/should unite and support each other like other communities do to gain more power or share our abilities, talents, whatsoever. I mean, where the hell are Asian American artists in the Billboard top 10? Where are Asian US president candidates? When it comes to supporting each other, it seems that we’re not quite good at it. But I believe we can make it happen by using the power of music.
It may be a tiny little step, but I hope it will eventually instigate us Asians to become one when needed, and boost our diligent, caring and fun-loving nature. The event is also simply to enjoy great Asian musicians’ performances. It should be in the summer of 2013 in Los Angeles, and I intend to make it a regular event with the view of holding it in NY and other cities in the future. If you’d like to be a part of it whether to come and enjoy the event or to sponsor it, please email us at: email@example.com with the subject AA Music Festival. We’ll send you more information.
2. You’ve lived in Tokyo, London, New York City, and now Los Angeles (which technically is one more city than the Fast & Furious franchise).
How has this influenced your songwriting? Will you continue to travel?
Hmm, I will travel anywhere if needed or when I want to, but I’m pretty happy now settling my arse here in Los Angeles. I’ve found my favorite sound guy, guitar technician, and good music clubs. And the beach is fifteen minutes away for this ex-surfer musician. What could I ask for more? But yes, living in the different cities definitely influenced my music because song writing and singing is all about your experience. To be honest with you, I didn’t even want to talk about Japan when I started working in England. I used to say “Hey, I’m not carrying the Japanese flag on my shoulder, I’m just me”. Although I basically still feel so, I was so young at the time, wasn’t I? lol Anyway, through the experience of living in the different places, I’ve learned about who I really am and what I am, and what I can return to the world – me but no one else can. And I’m still learning it. It’s a lifelong project, you know.
3. As a Japanese female artist, what advantages and disadvantages have you seen in your career? What advice would you give to aspiring rock musicians starting out?
I’ve never felt any disadvantages in the UK and US but in Japan, funnily. I dunno what’s the current music scene like in Japan, but it was extremely conservative when I was there. People expected female singers just to be cute and bubbly. A girl playing the rock guitar wearing the fishnet tights that were supposed to be holed everywhere must have been fairly dangerous to the majority people, or clearly to the industry. Yeah, I feel sorry that I actually did that lol – my managers literally begged me not to hole my tights so I gave that up though. That just reminded me of this incident about one of my singles I made on Pony Canyon called Shoot My Rose. The management was not happy about the title and suggested to me that I should change Rose to Sunflower or something else. They thought Shoot My Rose (followed by “with your gun” in the song) sounded too “erotic”. Hello!? Yes I meant it and thus it had to be Rose! Shoot My Sunflower? You must be joking!
Just so you know, the song is about a pure agony of being in love and that’s all (One of my devoted fans uploaded the song on YouTube if you want to check it out). Oh well. As to advantages as a female Japanese artist, maybe my Japanese looks help me a bit get people’s attentions or help them remember me. It’s nothing to do with the music itself though. My advice to aspiring rock musicians? I’d say “Fugetaboutit.” You have to be extraordinary and extremely lucky to make your living as a musician, you also need an ear to hear your music totally objectively – no room for wankers. Moreover, the music industry isn’t doing good at all as we all know. If you still think you want to be one, I’d say you should appreciate everything that comes into your life. Say you don’t like it after trying it. Don’t get scared away from new things or changes. Your experience reflects your sound’s depth and originality.
4. Who are your idols and how have they influenced you?
Oh, I have loads. Pete Townshend, Joan Jett, John Lydon, Steve Jones, etc. As for non-musicians, the genius Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, who died at the race in 1994, always keeps my spirits high especially when I’m struggling in the LA traffic. Wong Kar Wai, the film director, inspires my music too. The unique, insightful dialogues he creates and the colour of the pictures are absolutely superb. Flight 49 video is in fact influenced by one of his films called Fallen Angels in many ways. If you’ve seen the film, you must know what I mean. Now the video has already become controversial because of my masturbation scene (Holy mackerel, I’ve got a question about it at the Unexpected Film Festival Q&A session too), but it’s there because it’s essential for a distant love, the motif of the song.
You know, I’m just being realistic. I want to deliver true “reality” as oppose to well-made “virtual reality”. That’s what rock n’ roll is all about. And all my idols are so strong they are (were) not afraid to express realities of life.
5. You’ve just recently begun taking up the sport of sailing. How did this come about? Where did you go? And have you ever thought about doing a cover of Christopher Cross’ “Sailing”?
(By the way, this was not how I imagined Christopher Cross to look like. But he’s rockin’ a double neck guitar!)
Every year when my birthday comes around, I start something new as a birthday gift for myself. In 2012 I started sailing and got my Basic Coastal Cruising certificate from ASA (American Sailing Association). I also raced a couple of times for Sunset Cup at my home port Marina Del Ray, California, with my club Blue Pacific. Sailing is a natural art. Conversations with the wind. And importantly, teamwork, especially when racing. I guess I’m pretty good at it because it’s similar to playing music in a band: you have to do your job and communicate with your members well in order to keep the boat going and make the best out of it. But yeah, Christopher Cross rocks… (I’m loving this interview.) To me, I Am Sailing by Rod Stewart appeals slightly stronger (Hey, the video takes place in Hudson River along Manhattan, doesn’t it? I’ve sailed there with my friend in NY in the summer of 2012. Wow, the skyline looks so modest compared to what we have today).
But you know, I’m very much into the aggressive side of sailing like in this video with POD’s music.
Well, maybe I should write a song about sailing as a nautical rocker. Something you bang your head to. And cute and bubbly.