From the start that the multi-instrumentalist Velladon started producing music under his own name, he has been putting out many intriguing sound sources, without sticking to one specific musical genre. While already having a long career in music, since 16th of May 2019, Velladon has been active as a solo musician. Now he can be seen as the creator of atmospheric soundscapes, surrounding himself with other creative souls to produce new works and sharing information around that shows the fascinating character of the musician.
Currently working on the next release(s), Velladon seems to be already something ready to share around something else. There is no time to laze around, not if you are Velladon. Time to talk with this interesting musician and let’s find out more about Velladon!
AVO Magazine: We know that you are a multi-instrumentalist, from playing the piano to the guitar and many instruments in between, it is interesting to know where it all started for you in music. What was the trigger for you to start working in the music industry?
Velladon: I wanted to learn the piano, but I was born with the aesthetic tragedy of having weak fingers… To explain: So having my fingers break, causing my blood to come out when I hit the keyboard, which was the reason why I couldn’t be educated in music. When I became a junior high school student, I started composing with guitar and mobile phone ringtones.
Around 2008, I produced a collaborative work with the poet Mizuki Misumi (Nakahara Chuya Award, Hagiwara Sakutaro Award, etc.), introduced by famous Japanese singer Kazuki Tomokawa. This was exhibited at the Aomori Museum of Art along with works of Akihiro Miwa, Tadanori Yokoo and some famous artists. After being exhibited at the Terayama Shuji Theater Museum, the idea of solo activities began to take shape within me. It was finally started in 2019.
But I didn’t like most kinds of music that got played on TV shows and radio programmes when I was in junior high school. I could not accept it at all. After that, I started to listen to Kurt Cobain and William Burroughs’ noise EP, Captain Beefhart, Django Reinhardt, APHEX TWIN, and PIXIES…I realised the freedom, fun, and coolness of music.
I think that making and playing music is like any other of art expression, it must be an explosion of life energy and an uncontrollable manifestation of emotions.
AVO Magazine: Who is your biggest inspiration?
Velladon: When I was a kid, I loved classical music, video game music, and music from SFX films and live-action TV dramas (Godzilla, Ultra man, Kamen Rider and other maniac series). Especially, I recorded background music of the games Castlevania and Actraiser on the cassette deck while playing the games. I also listened to Shunsuke Kikuchi and Akira Ifukube’s music enthusiastically.
AVO Magazine: You have been active as a solo musician from 2019 and with that official start, you directly delivered a full album, titled Forbidden Colors, that received a lot of praise. How did it feel to do everything on your own and receive positive reactions on your first release?
Velladon: Until last year, I was forbidden to make my name public in connection with the works I had composed. This was because bad people want to rip me off, so I’ve been kept in positions which involved no responsibility. I had to underestimate my ability. With Forbidden Colors, I came out of the mental prison of underestimation and I noticed that I can create everything!
AVO Magazine: What you would expect from other musicians, is that they will take the time to promote the new release before working on a new CD. But soon after you released the first album you came with new releases or as you call them ‘elements’ in between the release of the second album, titled Wisdom Truth, earlier this year. Where do you get the inspiration and motivation to keep on creating new music?
Velladon: I think that making and playing music is like any other of art expression, it must be an explosion of life energy and an uncontrollable manifestation of emotions. My motivation is to reveal the indomitable fighting spirit. Never stop!
AVO Magazine: Since you have released many tracks, EPs and albums in a short span of time, it is maybe overwhelming for new listeners of Velladon. How do you advice new fans to navigate through your music?
Velladon: At first, I want the new fans to listen to Forbidden Colors. And after that, if you like
…piano songs, listen to kiss xxxxxxxx (you can find this on Bandcamp) would be a good next step.
…orchestral strings and avant-garde electronic music, then I think the Universe album and Love Letter CD releases would make you satisfied.
…more darkness, then the Timelessly and Calmly EP would be good. Jarboe (of SWANS) and Blixa Bargeld (of Einstürzende Neubauten) did join on this release.
And after all of this, then please listening to the music from Wisdom Truth, my second album.
AVO Magazine: Can you explain your creative process in making new music? How do you construct your music and do you create 1 song or more on a day?
Velladon: New music is playing in my head for various reasons and most of the time I realise it. For example, when I see a beautiful person in the city, when I meet a cute dog, when I see an angry person, when I get touched by a wonderful movie or poem, when I have a good meal, when I meet an old friend, when I see old nightmare, and when I cannot forgive that evil person….
After that realisation, I go into the studio with a solid image and pick up the first instrument. “I see, and the main instrument of this song is the piano!” After I decided, I start writing songs. It’s also common for me that when I buy new instruments, gadgets and types of equipment, I get to form new ideas from the sound and start writing songs. In any case, there is no change in continuing to work with the instrument or computer and immersing myself in the tone and harmony. I create songs every day.
AVO Magazine: Since you have expressed yourself in several ways, elements from black metal, industrial, noise, techno and more can be found back in your music. What is the best way to describe the music you produce as Velladon? Can you be put in a certain box for genres or do you prefer to be the maker of unique music that you have to experience without thinking?
Velladon: That is a really good question. I think my music is “Alternative”. (but it is not grunge, haha)
Also, some of the music genres you mentioned were that I had been forced making anonymously in the past 15 years. I have released some music which is reminiscent of my old works before 2019, because I had to perfect my own parody. It’s an important ritual to put an end of old myself and not to be tied to the past anymore. I can put these self-parodies in a certain box for genres.
AVO Magazine: In addition to your own solo project where you have worked together with a long list with vocalists and other guest musicians, you are also active in the band When with Kengo Matsumoto (THE NOVEMBERS) and Yui Kimijima. But you also have been active with Cazqui’s Brutal Orchestra, worked together with Chuck Bettis, Mizuki Misumi and in exhibitions, films and more. It is easy to notice that you have a taste for collaborations, where does this urge of collaborations come from?
Velladon: Perhaps everyone wants a fateful encounter that will change everything. Sessions and collaborations with different musicians and artists allow me to discover my own endless possibilities. The reasoning isn’t everything and unexpected things can happen out of the blue. I really need this dramatic story. By collaborating with friends with high artistship, my metabolism as an artist was promoted. They exist like the matryoshka dolls in me.
AVO Magazine: How and when did these collaborations start?
Velladon: Most collaborations started the moment I met the person in question. It means that they hit it off with me right away. Also, good friendships make good music.
AVO Magazine: Who is currently high on your wishlist for a future collaboration?
Velladon: Aphex Twin, AURORA and John Frusciante (of Red Hot Chili Peppers).
AVO Magazine: You have been making music for longer than your solo project, so you have quite some experience in the music industry. What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work? And why is that?
Velladon: I can see many people being moved and excited by the products of my imagination. If I hadn’t been in the music industry, I wouldn’t have had such an experience. But the music industry often keeps killing musicians slowly and taunting their lives. It is like a musical chairs game, they just take all the credit for it. My pride doesn’t allow it.
AVO Magazine: Now we are becoming more and more aware that COVID-19 pandemic currently affects a lot of people all over the world. These effects are felt in a lot of ways across all sectors of life, including those working in the cultural sector, such as musicians. How is this for you as a musician and how do you deal with it?
Velladon: We are faced with a redefinition of the entire art industry, including music. This just highlights a long-standing problem, but as it stands, the economic stagnation, fear of viruses, and the resulting social and cultural conditions have made art taper off. Art and music just will only be allowed to exist as a product traded and sold. So, in order to move forward, artists must now ask themselves and what they think critically, what they make and what they express for. Every musician needs to think uncompromisingly about making music that breaks away from the business model, that sucks. All of us should throw away type beats, ordinary chord progression and cheap melodies. My music is looking for someone who is dissatisfied with this decadent world. It is a very sad reality that there are only a lot of non-original copies. The fad, craze and epidemic of those musical elements may build some culture or era, but they no longer represent the musicians themselves. Making something other than themselves the core of expression is synonymous with abandoning their life.
AVO Magazine: Do you mean that artists should ask themselves and think critically why they are making music?
Velladon: In the scourge of coronavirus, we rethink various things. Our thoughts deepened and we began to think about the relationship between society and ourselves. The tentacles of people’s thoughts have grown to we never thought of before. In a sense, this may be a catalyst for human evolution. On the other hand, there are many people whose thoughts have begun to short-circuit and became animals as the Internet became like a god. Even if humankind overcomes the coronavirus in the future, society must not retreat…
And since all sorts of art, including music, is being at the forefront of people’s spirits and thoughts, artists must take a dignified attitude without stopping our thoughts. In my opinion, artists should not be under the majority or consumption control. Especially now, almost musicians cannot play live shows, so the editors of Spotify playlists have full control for the future of musicians. And the artists under the control mass-produce songs that the editors like. It is like that. The intro part is as short as 10 seconds or less, and the chorus is sung within 50 seconds. The song length of it is less than 3 minutes. I see this as a bad thing. This is not art, not music. This is a new kind of social pathological phenomenon like McDonald’s. There is no dream and hope. Frighteningly, now many artists are unknowingly in this state because they have to earn money under this pandemic situation, a nightmare. That’s why artists have to ask themselves what they’re doing now.
AVO Magazine: So that is why artists should break away from the business model and become free?
Velladon: In general, when people feel anxious, they behave in the same way as other people. They like and consume the same things, the same kind of music. And in many cases, the music business panders to them and become as conservative as a blind antique dealer. This is the opposite of the expression of art. Artists don’t have to get on their business games. Music that breaks through people’s anxieties is an explosion of extreme heat and unexplained energy. Lukewarm, conservative music may wrap people in a fake happiness, but it will gradually rot. Especially, in Japan, there’s a lot of pressure to conform, so people rarely say how they truly feel, and create real music but I don’t like that.
AVO Magazine: How do you remain focused on making music with so much uncertainty around the world?
Velladon: Musicians shouldn’t try to curry favour with anyone or lie to themselves. Especially since it is a terrible time now, I would like to say loudly how deceptive and meaningless the act of making music with a cheap service spirit and common sense is. I’m not going to stop pursuing what I want to do (obviously, I have to be my best fan, haha), so even if I’m the last one, I’ll continue to express music.
AVO Magazine: Currently you are working on a remix album where musicians will remix your music. Can you tell us a bit about who you are working with on this album release?
Velladon: That is top secret, haha.
AVO Magazine: What are the plans for your other projects?
Velladon: I will form a band. Yes, a rock band.
AVO Magazine: What are the best ways to support your solo project and other projects?
Velladon: The best way is…
1. Buy a CD on Bandcamp
2. Listen to the songs via Apple Music or Spotify every day (playing while you sleep, also)
3. Recommend to friends (via social network service, maybe)
AVO Magazine: Finally, do you have anything you want to say to the readers of AVO Magazine?
Velladon: An unbreakable heart makes up for bad luck. I luv u!
Many thanks to Velladon for his time and effort to answer all the questions for this very interesting interview. Follow Velladon on Twitter and Facebook, get more updates on his official website, buy his music on Bandcamp and show him your support! If you have paid close attention to this interview, you know where to start with listening. Let us know which release you enjoy the most of Velladon.