Brain supernova – an interview with Otsuki from Smallspeaker

smallspeaker with bigspeaker

smallspeaker with bigspeaker

Here’s a short interview with Smallspeaker from Follow Up. I wanted to get this one out before I start rassling with a huger and more complex interview full of slang, idioms and other Japanese language shit Greg doesn’t know. We’re (Supersnazz) opening for ‘speaker on Nov. 28 at Shindaita Fever by the way, for the release party of their 94th album (or thereabouts). This interview and the next one were both conducted in 2012 methinks, around the time of their 2nd release, “Rock ‘N Roll Days,” which is apparently the only press they’ve ever gotten for some reason. Oh yeah, people don’t know what good music is. I Forgot.

—So this is your second album and the first came out about a year ago?

Otsuki: Yeah. On this one we’re actually a band.

—How did the current band come together?

Otsuki: Matsuoka (drummer of Keen Monkey Work) wanted to play together since the Registrators days and once he approached me about that, we started playing right away. We got Abe (bass, Back To Basics) and then played as a three piece for half year or so. Then, Tamura (bass, Neon Group / Bed Sounds) took over on bass.

—I was surprised when I heard it was Tamura.

Otsuki: Yeah? Tamura likes lots of different styles of music so he has a really broad range. The other thing that sealed the deal is that we both like Koji Kikkawa (laughs). Then Johnny (ex-Hong Kong Knife guitarist) was introduced me by a friend. We communicated by email for a while and then he came on board.


Otsuki: Playing as a band is fun. Every time we go into the studio it’s like a party. I dunno, it feels like we’re a bunch of kids with instruments starting our first band. Except that we know how to play our instruments.

—This recording sounds like it was recorded in one shot.

Otsuki: We tried to do that but mixing is more than just lining up knobs. It’s more work than you think. Plus, we fucked up a lot.

—Tamura said, “Even if I blatantly fuck up, I’m not gonna fix it.”

Otsuki: Well, little fuck-ups are the fun part of doing a one-take recording. Sometimes it’s good to leave them in, or a little noise. Of course, if it’s really bad, you take it out.

—How long did it take to mix?

Otsuki: It’s not so much how long did it take, but how long did it have to take. Onuma (engineer) was busy so we had to work whenever he could do it, so that made it drag on.

—How do you write songs? Do you bring in the basic parts and let the whole band arrange it?

Otsuki: I bring it in to rehearsal and then just let everybody arrange it however they like. The best way is for me to say this is how the rhythm is or the guitar should go, just explain the nuances a little, and then let everybody else pitch in their ideas. Tamura always has a lot of ideas, Matsuoka does his thing with it on his 3-piece kit (snare, hi-hate and bass drum only) and Johnny pitches in some guitar ideas.

—So it really is a whole band effort.

Otsuki: Yeah, the way we’re playing now with shows and recordings, it’s much more of a band thing. But the thing is, I don’t give the other members a hard time about anything. Everybody has another band which is their main band. So for them, it’s really relaxed. Maybe for them, it’s just something a little different that brings a fresh perspective to their main bands.

—You guys don’t play live so often.

Otsuki: That’s because everybody’s busy. We’d like to play live more if everybody could arrange their schedules accordingly. We don’t rehearse for live shows. I guess if we played live more, we’d have to do that. But that’d be boring.

What makes rehearsing fun is working on new songs. When we have a recording in the works, everybody is really motivated. I don’t have to say, “Okay, next let’s do this.” Everybody comes up with their own ideas and is really enthusiastic. Really, that’s a huge difference. That’s why I think everybody should record more often.

—Speaking of live shows, how did you end up playing with the Rip-Offs last year?

Otsuki: Greg said we sounded like Joy Division (laughs).He really liked Registrators so I think he understands that Smallspeaker is something different. He’s an old friend who lives far away so I don’t get to see him often, but whenever we meet it’s like no time has passed at all.

—Are a lot of the songs on the album ones you’ve played live before?

Otsuki: From the second to sixth song they’re all ones we’ve played live before. We don’t play live that much and if we don’t have that long of a set, we don’t play some of the mid-tempo ones. For example, the first song, “Brain Supernova” is one we got together right before recording….. The intro riff just appeared out of nowhere during rehearsal and I think that comes across in the recording. There are some songs that are still at the concept stage and will probably change.

—It’s also the title of the release, but what’s with you re-recording the song “Rock N’ Roll Days?”

Otsuki: For personal reasons after Brightliner broke up I wanted to play this song my own way and, even more, I wanted to record it again with the current band.

—With Smallspeaker, you have a title with the words “rock n’ roll” in it. I dunno but that doesn’t jibe with my image of the Otsuki of the old days.

Otsuki: Before, I definitely never would’ve used it (laughs). It’s somehow corny in my opinion, but the record has a song called “Rock N’ Roll Days,” so I thought that’d be a good title. But it probably won’t happen again (laughs).

—This release has 16 songs. That’s a lot. Do you still have some stock left?

Otsuki: More than 30 songs.

—With so many songs, can you remember the chords and lyrics?

Otsuki: Yeah, because my lyrics are simple. Sometimes I fuck up the phrases but the other members always point it out to me (laughs). But I can remember it again quickly. It’s not good form to forget your own songs.

—Okay, so what’s next?

Otsuki: Pretty soon I’ll roll out the songs for the next release with the band. The next one will have 12-13 songs.

—I heard that the day after the (album release) in-store you’re heading into the studio to work on new songs.

Otsuki: That’s right (laughs). I dunno, I just like to do new things. We plan to make the next one a one-take recording as well. I’ve got a lot of different ideas.

—It must’ve been tough to put out the first release yourself.

Otsuki: Yeah, it was. It seems like things have changed a lot since then. But anyway, it’s better to put something out than to not put it out.

When we’re working on a release, the whole attitude of the band changes, including me of course. It’s cool to see this change.

—Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Otsuki: Well, we’re actually not a band but just one person, so we’ll never split up. I think that I’m not going to change my name to something else, so as long as I continue playing music, it’ll probably be Smallspeaker. And I don’t care if people borrow our records or buy them used, I just hope people listen.

otsuki rockin

rock n roll days

Here’s the original version…


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