Ryuichi Sakamoto



Yamaha Art Studio in Shibuya, Tokyo

We interviewed Ryuichi Sakamoto, one of Japan's top music artists and asked him what he thought about Yamaha's AW4416 professional audio workstation and S80 and S30 synthesizers as well as talked about the direction he is taking his music.
"When I was trying out the Yamaha AW4416, S80 and S30, I kept thinking to myself, "Wow, musical equipment has sure come a long way in the last 10 years". But when you stop and think about it, you realize that it's not only the equipment that has changed, but also the environment surrounding the music. For example, we've entered an age where we not only can make a demo tape or CD when we want our original music to be heard by others, but can also distribute it on the Internet. With demo tapes and CDs, you have to physically give them out to people, but through the Internet you can instantly debut your music to the entire world. There are no differences between professionals and amateurs on the Internet, so I believe the boarder between the two is also disappearing in terms of how an artist's original music is heard. If you create original music with the
AW4416, S80, and S30, and put it on the Internet, people from all over the world can instantly listen to it. Until recently, what defined a professional musician was having a CD put out by a major record company. In other words, it was the record company that decided who would become a professional musician and who would stay an amateur. But with the Internet becoming more widespread, amateur musicians can overcome these barriers by distributing their music over the Net. And when that happens, it will be the listeners who decide the popularity of the music; a song's popularity will be judged by how many people download it. When we reach that age, we will see the advent of many different kinds of music far more interesting than what's available today.
The amount of features for this price is amazing. I feel as though the recording studio I was using during my days with YMO is packed inside here. The sound quality is just like that of the O2R digital mixing console definitely a high-quality piece of gear. I used a Yamaha O2R as my main front console on my world tour, but it looks like even the AW4416 will do the job for the piano-based music of my next tour. It might be interesting to record my concert on hard disk using the AW4416, burn a CD right on stage, and then throw it into the audience.
I use the S80 everyday. One of the best things about this synthesizer is its sound quality. The piano sound, in particular, is much better than those on previous synthesizers. The strings sound is also really good. The chorus sound has a good feel to it, too. I used it on the demo production of my opera last year, "Life." I'm around synthesizers almost every day, as if they were my own children. Because of this, I don't readily notice their technological advancements; but I do think that it's wonderful how the prices of synthesizers have come down to the point where even amateurs can afford to buy them. An amateur can now buy the same synthesizer that I use as a professional musician. We have entered an age where there are no longer distinctions in equipment between pros and amateurs.
I think the S80, S30, and AW4416 are great products, all having fantastic sound quality and advanced features. The difference between professional and amateur musicians has definitely disappeared overthese last ten years not only in terms of the instruments and equipment used, but also in terms of performing and programming techniques. For example, I believe that the techno music that came out of Europe in the 90's was born as a result of the drop in prices of electronic musical instruments and related equipment. In recording studios limited to use by professionals, it probably wouldn't have been possible to create that kind of music, which is so free and unconstrained by conventional musical boundaries. Not too long ago it cost a lot of money just for pre-production. But now that the equipment has become cheaper, anyone can easily make great-sounding music, and I think that's why this type of music came about. You could say that the only differences between professional and amateur musicians today is their musical talent and the musical quality of their songs. Amateur musicians are lucky to have such opportunities available to them today, and I hope they use them to the ullest.
One of the things I would like to try working on is my Neo Geo concept, which is a fusion of traditional music from around the world and musical genres from pop music to classical. My "Neo Geo" album in 1987 represented the musical approach I was taking in the 80's. World music and folk music have become quite common, but now that we've entered the 21st century, there are many artists around the world who are using folk music as backbone for making contemporary music, and I would like to collaborate with these artists to make a new form of Neo Geo. By mixing the musical styles of Asia with those of Ireland and Africa, and even adding some classical influence, I think one could come up with some very interesting results.
As for my own music, I had my BTTB (Back to the Basics) world tour this year a piano-based concert held in Europe, America, and Korea. When playing certain songs (especially when I was performing in Europe) I felt like "this is definitely MY music," while for other songs I thought, "it doesn't have to be me, a Japanese, playing this song." Europe was home to such great composers as Mozart and Bach, and that perhaps is why European audiences question the identity of music more strictly than audiences in other parts of the world. This was an invaluable experience for me. The reaction of the audience in Italy was very forthright. I think that from now on I'll begin all performances of my new music in Italy. My musical background is in classical music, and I would like to try mixing that with various kinds of traditional music and pop music to create a new "Sakamoto" music style".

Excerpt from interview by Yamaha (at the Yamaha Art Studio in Shibuya, Tokyo, June '00)

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