At the first glance, this is a strange liaison: a Japanese artist, living in Paris and a French singer living in Tokyo working together for an album. But that's exactly what happended in the case of Sublime and Jun Miyake: Both of them are strangers in the country of their musical partner. But they both also succeeded in developing a mutial understanding of cultures and turning this into a fruitful collaboration.
On their album "Ludic'" Sublime's talent for lyrics and vocals meets Miyakes gift for composing. The result of this "menage a deux" is as chansonesque as it is intriguinget pourquoi pas?
Carina Prange talked to Sublime for Jazzdimensions
Carina: "Ludic" is an album that contains primarily French chansons. You are of French origin but are living in Tokyo since several years. Living abroad in Japan, does singing chansons feel like home? Is it maybe also a remedy against home sickness?
Sublime: Actually, I discovered the chanson repertory while I was in Japan. When I was young, my tastes for music were very far from chanson. Except for a few adventurers like Jacques Higelin, Les Rita Mitsuko or Alain Bashung, I was mainly listening to jazz, jazz rock, blues, reggae, Afro-Cuban, African or experimental music.
The first time I listened right through an entire album of Edith Piaf was during my first trip in Japan and Philippines. Her voice, the stories told in her songs seemed so exotic to me in that Asian tropical summer! At the same time, I could feel their universal dimension. I ended up listening to that album constantly during my travel.
I don't feel much home sick anymore nowadays. But indeed, during my first years in Japan, I often needed to escape in a French and French- speaking imaginative world. At that time, I was listening a lot to "chanson française".
Carina: How did it come that you began to sing and in the end made it your profession? How did that develop?
Sublime: Before being a singer I was a dancer, but not a very good one. I didn't have enough technique, and I hate suffering... which is not very compatible with a dancer's training! Someday in Japan I met an agent who had barrel organ, a few French old songs, and who was looking for the French performer to fit the post card. I took the job, and I discovered that singing is much less painful than dancing ... on top of it I had potential!
I sung French standards for years and I deeply rooted myself in it without even knowing it. In the same time, I met two of the most audacious and avant-garde Japanese musicians of my generation: Coba and Jun Miyake. In this permanent splits between tradition and modernity, I wrote songs, searched my way through it, finally dared producing an album myself, and here we are with "Ludic'" ... and time passed like a rocket!
Carina: You are active in various kinds of arts and collaborate with diverse artists like musicians, photographers, painters... Do you regard your voice as an instrument that can be used variably and integrated into a number of different contexts?
Sublime: The size and structure of a song is usually short and quite set up already. By joining other art disciplines in performances, I can explore possibilities out of that structure and experience some freedom that feed my work when I come back to the songs.
I don't have much ideas about my voice as when I listen to it, it is basically to hear what should I correct, strengthen, refine etc. All I know is that my experience of street performance made me a "cross country" singer. I've learned how to feel and catch the atmosphere very quickly, and how to adjust to it immediately.
I trust that very much. It allows me to really have fun when I perform with other artists. And if we enjoy, people in the audience enjoy too!
Carina: If you'd think of your voice as a color on the palette of a painter, which hue would it represent?
Sublime: I don't knowwhat do you think? From the "transmitter" point of view, I would say: Soft, warm red, orange and yellow ockers... But, it might feel totally different from the "receiver" point of view!
Carina: In the past you have already worked with Jun Miyake for a number of times.When did you both have the idea to extend the collaboration to record a complete album together based on your lyrics and Miyake's music?
Sublime: It is the other way: it is based on Jun Miyake's music with my lyrics and singing. In our collaboration, music always comes first, as an architecture on which the lyrics and the singing are resting. I'm the cherry on the cake; the most stable, beautiful and delicious the case is, the most precious the cherry looks. And Jun Miyake's music is the greatest cake ever!
In 2002 I decided to self produce an album. I didn't want just to write songs. I wanted it to be a real collaboration between music, words and singing. I had already written several songs with Jun Miyake and I knew that together we would do something beautiful. So, I got over my shyness, went to his place and proposed him to collaborate on that project.
It took us six years to accomplish this album, and we got over strong adversity. I see it like a well rooted vine that could grow in spite of bad weather, or like a good wine that took time to mature and develop all its flavors!
Carina: The cover artwork accentuates your red-dyed hairthe way you regularly wear it. Do you look at yourself and your outfit as an "iridescent work of art" in some way, too?
Sublime: Hum... I'm not dandy enough for that, but it's a good idea I should reflect on! I take a great care of my hair because red is much more joyful than grey! I have a great hair dresser in Tokyo, her name is Miho Matsuura, I entirely trust her, and my red hair is her monthly play ground!
I'm not a young woman anymore, I'm very far from size 0, since a traffic accident a few years ago my left leg looks like a kind of Picasso, ... and I feel very sad nowadays when I see the images of woman that are given in magazines. From obscene thinness to morbid esthetic surgery... What are we doing ?
So, I'm always thinking about how to counterbalance this. Which kind of artistic suggestion I can give with who I am, that brings foreground the qualities of being, of heart, of our humanity, the strength and beauty of our vulnerability. I feel very inspired by old singers like those of the Buena Vista Social Club, Edith Piaf at the end of her carreer, and nowadays, Juliette Greco or Yoko Ono.
I also remember the great inspiration I received from the butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno. I went to his workshop for two years when he was still an 80 years old young man!
Carina: Did it occur to you that it is rather strange that Jun, as a Japanese, lives in France, whereas you, as a French woman, live in Japan?
Sublime: Yes, it's funny! But it is just a matter of circumstances. When we met, about 20 years ago, we were both living in Tokyo. Then I went to Paris while he was still in Japan, and now, it is the other way around.
Carina: What consequences does this have on your collaboration? Do you understand each other better?
Sublime: Nowadays thanks to new technology, distances don't matter anymore. Anyway, our relationship is artistic. In that regard, it is beyond time, beyond geography. And on that field, I think we have always understood each other very well.
Carina: How different are French an Japanese ways of life really? "Day and night" in some way?
Sublime: Being in France or in Japan make indeed a very different daily life. Everything is lighter in Japan. Food, the nature of chats, the delicacy of feminine body movements, the fluidity of social relationships...
In France, everything is more tasty: food, the way people talk to you and hold themselves as a statement, more clarity in the expression of one's thoughts...
Day and night indeed, different and complementary. I often thought that if we could pick up the best out of a Japanese person and the best out of a French person, it could make an almost perfect human being!
Carina: One question about Tokyo and Japanwhat fascinates you about Japan and especially about the culture scene in Tokyo? Are there things that still seem strange to you after all these years?
Sublime: The cherry blossoms! Every year it is the same very fresh wonder. And the stranger thing is probably the crowd of people underneath, picnicking and getting drunk while the breeze poetically blows the flower petals like a spring snow ...!
What I like on the cultural scene here is the number of small confidential stages where you can see all kind of "work in process" performances from the most sophisticated to the most ... I don't know what! But to tell you the truth I don't go out much.
CD: Sublime & Jun Miyake- "Ludic" (Yellowbird/Enja YEB 7712 2)
Yellowbird Records im Internet: www.jazzrecords.com/enja
Fotos: Pressefotos (Philippe P. Peletier)
Mehr bei Jazzdimensions:
Sublime & Jun Miyake - "Ludic`" - Review (erschienen: 4.5.2010)