A roundtable published on ele-king on April 10, 2019, in commemoration of the first episode premiere of the TV anime Carole & Tuesday.
Interview & Text: Takune Kobayashi
Interpreter: Miho Haraguchi
Photographer: Yasuhiro Ohara
The [enveloping sounds/noise] of the keyboard and the creaking sounds of the guitar – that’s what surprised me the most in the first episode of this show. Of course, the animation by Studio Bones was also fantastic, but what hooked me were the boisterously dancing sounds that floated out of those visuals into my living room from beginning to end. Had I ever heard such lively and tangible notes coming from a TV anime before? Then came the second episode, where the BGM created by Mocky was simply overflowing with a sense of adventure. Make no mistake about it. This is Shinichiro Watanabe, no holds barred.
The name Mocky is known to anyone familiar with the ‘Canadian Crew’, a loose collective of artists that emerged from Toronto’s Underground music scene, including individuals such as Peaches, Chilly Gonzales, and Feist (see Shut Up and Play the Piano, a documentary released last year). Frequently working with Jamie Lidell, with his collaboration with Kelela also making the airwaves last year, Mocky is an immensely talented musician whose experimental proclivities and humour easily complement each other. And I was able to confirm that exquisite sense of balance for myself during his Japan concerts in back in March. Just how was it that he came to be the composer for Shinichiro Watanabe’s new anime?
Carole & Tuesday, an original TV anime premiering tonight on Fuji TV’s +Ultra channel and accessible elsewhere on broadcast and streaming. To celebrate our embarkation on this new journey, we bring you this invaluable roundtable between Supervising Director Shinichiro Watanabe and the man in charge of the music, Mocky.
‘We live in an age where everyone ought to be interested in AI. Even in music. That’s where my battle is right now, a battle to find some kind of balance. And that’s why the core theme of Carole & Tuesday is something very close to my heart’ – Mocky
Director Watanabe, why did you decide to engage Mocky to compose the background music for Carole & Tuesday?
Watanabe: I’ve long been a fan of Mocky and often listened to his music, but the time I saw him perform here in Japan was probably what got the ball rolling. The concert he gave the last time he was in Japan – with every single one of his songs, it was like images would just float up into my mind. I thought that his music would work incredibly well as a soundtrack. On top of that, every single person in the band seemed to be really enjoying the music they were performing, and that carried over to me in the audience. It was right around the time that I was coming up with Carole & Tuesday, so the notion of “what does it mean to be happy to just be doing music?” was something on my mind. We live in a world where there are artists that give off these really unhappy vibes even after releasing a platinum hit, so just what is this sense of euphoria…? That concert also got me thinking about this.
[To Mocky] And what were your first thoughts when you received this offer from the director?
Mocky: Receiving an offer from someone that’s such a big name, and who has so much talent – it sure is something to write home about.
Watanabe: hahahaha (laughs).
Mocky: I feel that the director’s shows are deeply entwined with music. The visuals that he comes up with are really quite musically evocative. So when I received the offer, I just happily jumped at the chance to work with him. I was really serious about accepting the offer and working to create music that would be suitable for one of Director Watanabe’s shows.
What would you say your experiences with the director’s work had been like until that point?
Mocky: Well, I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a lot of contact with his work, but I’ve seen enough of his shows to know some of his distinctive traits. I’m no anime expert, but I felt that his shows were incredible.
And how was it when you actually met him?
Mocky: He came across to me as an artist that I could connect with immediately. We obviously speak different languages, but it felt like we were connected by and conversing in the same language, if that makes sense. We were connecting through something other than words.
Watanabe: It was a very short meeting, wasn’t it?
Mocky: Because there was trust between us. Whether you trust each other or not is incredibly important – it’s the same with a concert. Basically, you have a feeling that no matter what happens, you’ll be able to cooperate with this person to get over the problem somehow. That’s how I felt at our very first meeting, and so I was able to go into it with no worries whatsoever.
Watanabe: We talked about the project very briefly – after that, it was pretty much just idle chit-chat (laughs). All the other staff around us were like “shouldn’t you explain it in a little more detail?” (laughs). But in my experience, if you get through to each other, you just get through – it don’t matter that you’re from different countries and whatnot. So I figured we’d be fine.
And what were your thoughts the first time you met Mocky?
Watanabe: Hm…well, he’s so friendly and jovial that I found myself wondering “Just how in the world does he write such lonely, heart-rending songs?” (laughs)
Mocky: That’s something of a puzzle to me as well. I think that applies to Watanabe-san’s work too, but there’s always some kind of balance in all creative works – like, something happy might be a part of the background that has given rise to a really sad song. You can also find songs that sound sad but which have happy lyrics, and vice versa. This time, Watanabe-san is handling the theme of AI, artificial intelligence. But it’s not as if that’s all Carole & Tuesday deals with – it’s precisely because there are many other motifs that this particular idea was born. And another hugely important factor in the director’s case is his sense of humour. I would say that’s probably the reason we felt a connection between us [right from that first meeting].
Watanabe: That reminds me, you also told me back then that you were interested in AI, right? You mentioned that you’d worked on a PV about a world ruled by AI – you even showed it to me right there and then.
Mocky: We live in an age where everyone ought to be interested in AI. Even in music. We’ve got computers and robots/automatons and stuff. Unlike the 80s and 90s, we live in an age where you don’t need a drummer, where you can even get Auto-Tune to sing for you – music is increasingly coming under the control of machines. That’s where my battle is right now, a battle to find some kind of balance. And that’s why the core theme of Carole & Tuesday is something very close to my heart.
Watanabe: That really caught me off guard – I was surprised that you were interested in this kind of thing.
“You know what the trick is for getting a good soundtrack? Entrust it to someone who’s never done a soundtrack before. Call it beginner’s luck or what have you, but there’s a kind of magic that first-timers have that is crucial.” – Watanabe
In the world of Carole & Tuesday, 99% of all music is created by AI. [To Mocky] If we lived in such a world, what would your stance be as you went about creating music?
Mocky: I think we already live in such a world. Humans aren’t perfect – for example, we make mistakes when we perform live. But that’s precisely what it means to create art. It’s the same with film-making. It’s no fun if you know from the start what’s going to happen, or that you are going to create something that’s perfect. To me, even the best techno music is created because someone makes a mistake – I want to capture the fun things that are born in precisely that kind of moment.
Based on the fact that 99% of all music in the world of Carole & Tuesday is created by AI, we can surmise that the majority of people are satisfied with such music. But what do you think is the difference between something that is created by AI and something that is created by a living, breathing human? Is it something that listeners would be able to pick up on?
Mocky: I don’t think younger people would be able to. Because they haven’t had enough life experiences yet. (Upon saying that, Mocky suddenly smacks the table hard. Everyone in the room freezes.) – sorry for surprising you all like that. But smacking the table like this made everyone jump, right? I think that’s because you can all feel something through the vibration, the vibration created when someone hits a table like that. But you can’t get that kind of vibration from the sounds that come out of the speaker on a mobile phone. Only people are able to create sounds like that. I’m not saying that music created using computers and other similar technologies isn’t any good. With technological advancement, music has steadily evolved and gotten better, and I’m making electronic music myself. But I think it’s important that we keep some kind of balance so that our music maintains something of the human element.
Actually, there’s a reason behind that last question. You’ve actually performed in front of non-human listeners, haven’t you? Monkeys, to be precise.
Mocky: When I was younger, yeah. I was going around to a fair number of cities on tour, and before a concert one day, I headed to the zoo and set myself up in the monkey area and played a few songs. And the monkeys all started jumping around really energetically. I thought that they were happy with the performance, but one of the zookeepers told me that it was quite the opposite – that far from being happy, they hated it (laughs). And so I played a sad song, something quiet instead. I’d needed to become more sensitive. That’s how I built up my style, performing for the monkeys, and then performing for people once night came along. That’s how I found my own sound.
(The interview continues in the next page. You can find the page numbers below the ‘related articles’ section.)