Con­nan mock­asin: “A lot of mys­te­ri­ous stuff goes on that I don’t un­der­stand”


ow are you find­ing Tokyo? I just moved here a month ago with my girl­friend, Hiromi. I haven’t been here for about five and a half years or more, but noth­ing’s changed. The at­mos­phere’s what I re­ally like here, and the food, and the peo­ple are re­ally po­lite. It’s re­ally nice. You recorded with a band for the first time, live in a stu­dio. How was that? I wanted to do it with Caramel, but it didn’t pan out so that one I ended up mak­ing alone again. So I def­i­nitely wanted to make a band record­ing. Ev­ery­thing was live; I ad-libbed vo­cals with lyrics made up on the spot. I like cap­tur­ing the ‘first idea’ feel­ing. That’s pretty brave to trust your ini­tial in­stinct so much. Well, this is the first time I’ve stuck with the same band for a long time. I used to jump be­tween try­ing out dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of peo­ple, and it took a long time to meet three peo­ple that I click with. So I’ve al­ways been want­ing to do some­thing like this. Com­pared to your other al­bums, the in­stru­men­ta­tion is very sim­ple, kind of ho­moge­nous. It’s very sim­ple, yeah. Go­ing with the story, the con­cept was for it to be made by a band of mu­sic teach­ers. The kind of records they would make to­gether would of­ten be quite sim­ple – clas­sic in­stru­ments, gui­tar, bass, drums. And I also wanted it to be mu­sic that would be nice to lis­ten to, noth­ing at­ten­tion­seek­ing or in your face, not com­pet­ing with any­thing. Be­cause there’s a lot go­ing on out there al­ready, so I wanted some­thing that would be nice to lis­ten to, if that makes sense.

How did you come up with these pieces?

When I’m do­ing the most mun­dane thing, they come into my head. It’s as sim­ple as that. If I’m ex­cited by one enough I will try to re­mem­ber it with a Dic­ta­phone, but some of them stay there any­way. So it doesn’t re­ally feel like work at all; it’s just some­thing that pops in. If I try to sit down and write, it doesn’t hap­pen, so it’s kind of out of my hands. All my mu­sic has been like that.

Your gui­tar sounds amaz­ing, more like an Asian in­stru­ment than a gui­tar – was that in­ten­tional?

No, but I know what you mean. I al­ways have my gui­tar tuned down a lit­tle bit, be­cause it’s a more re­laxed feel and eas­ier on my fingers. Maybe it’s an in­flu­ence from my girl­friend, who’s Ja­panese? A lot of the record­ings are ad-libbed and all live, so just what­ever was around that week that we were record­ing, that’s what hap­pened. That’s what I was try­ing to cap­ture – a mo­ment, with­out think­ing about things or hav­ing time to change things or over­dub. There’s a rea­son why you did it the first time. I think there’s a lot of mys­te­ri­ous stuff that goes on that I don’t un­der­stand, so I’ll just leave it to that. Be­ing able to have an in­fi­nite num­ber of takes must be tough. Tor­ture!

You en­listed James Blake for “Momo’s”…

He’s got a beau­ti­ful voice. He sang very quickly, in a cou­ple of short takes – it was the first thing he heard off the record and it was an in­stru­men­tal. So he got ex­cited by that and wanted to try some­thing over the top. That was re­ally nice. I orig­i­nally was think­ing of him be­ing in the film as the prin­ci­pal – he’s got qual­i­ties, he’s au­thor­i­ta­tive – so it made sense.

The idea of Bostyn and Dob­syn has been around for years, right?

We’ve been mak­ing short films and comics about them for more than 20 years now. It has be­come an ob­ses­sion, es­pe­cially for me and Blake – he’s my neigh­bour that I grew up with. It’s just been on­go­ing. It never died.

What’s the rough story of the se­ries?

I won’t tell you how it ends or any­thing, but it’s just about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Bostyn, the teacher, and Dob­syn the stu­dent – his grades are not good and he’s gotta do any­thing to get good grades. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily ‘stranger dan­ger’, but again it’s more of an at­mos­phere thing. You can read a lot of things into it, but that’s the ba­sic story. For me, it’s more about the at­mos­phere.

It sounds a lit­tle creepy, to be hon­est.

Yeah, you could def­i­nitely take it that way. But it’s also not what it seems at first glance… It’s not gonna be for ev­ery­one, but I hope some peo­ple can re­ally en­joy the at­mos­phere.

You’ve never made a film be­fore – how did you cope?

I’ve re­ally en­joyed it. I rented this space for a few weeks in LA, a dis­used hair salon. We made all the sets and painted them, and I bought a cou­ple of old broad­cast tape cam­eras. We had sound prob­lems with street noise, so it had to be filmed from about nine at night to five in the morn­ing. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence. Then I went to Paris to record the al­bum, and then af­ter that we went to [gui­tarist] Rory’s stu­dio, and we recorded five tracks live again, but this time filmed, for the ends of each episode. So in a way it’s two live records, but one’s filmed.

“When I’m do­ing the most mun­dane thing, songs come into my head. If I try to write, it doesn’t hap­pen”

Con­nan Mock­asin: “I was try­ing to cap­ture a mo­ment”

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