Birthday: July 13
Birthplace: Yaizu Shizuoka, JP
Blood type: B
Current address: Los Angeles
Pom song sample
Nowhere Man Cover
No More Teaser
Pom works every day
9 to 2 in the morning
for people who need him
Unconditional love even for
the stinky friends
Should it be a movie,
it would have a happy end
Pom treated Betty well,
treated like family but
she beat the love out of him
She would never come and visit
when his blood was gone
Not a letter or a phone call,
little bit sad
The world spins round and round
but we're upside down
Pom thinks everyone
working for him is high
and always on some drugs
And his sister hides a
little bit of Mary Jane
Though he knows it he pretends
as if he never really knew
Pom hopes everyone
will be happy
and live without too much pain
Although people make use of him
for being nice
Is this right????
© Words and Music by Heday
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"Though I enjoy classical music, I understand that it sometimes requires some training and knowledge to enjoy. To me, what the Beatles did was to digest complicated music into the simplest form, whether it was intentional or not. And that is what I'm trying to achieve." - Heday
Trained in classical music, it was really the classic rock of groups like the Beatles that first formed the musical passions of the Japanese singer/songwriter Heday. From Shizuoka, Japan, Heday (aka Hidehito Ikumo) took the path of many hopeful Japanese musicians and journeyed to the far away shores of the US to pursue his musical dreams.
Heday has recently joined forces with the beautiful songbird Valerie Stern to form the group Layla Lane. Come take a listen to the music of this promising duo and learn the story of their upcoming debut album, how Heday ended up in Los Angeles and how he finally got to jam with the great Ringo Starr.
On September 4, 2009 Heday was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. All photos courtesy of Heday of Layla Lane with credits to Teru Haruta, Sophia Casanova and Sachi.
Let's start with your latest musical project, Layla Lane. Can you tell us about Valerie Stern and how the two of you formed the group?
I was always looking for band members whom I can really work with. I had many bands in the past but it was always like "Heday and the friends"... and I never felt that was a "band." Now I'm working with Valerie, and I don't feel that way anymore. Instead I feel like we are creating something together. I can respect her ideas and we can musically communicate well because we're both classically trained musicians. With Valerie, I feel one plus one is more than two.
How did the two of you meet?
I met her about a year or so ago at my musician friend's party. She told me she was a classical pianist. At that time, I needed someone to play the piano part for The Beginning, which I couldn't play, so I asked her. She was amazing. Sometimes I do things with my instinct, and this was one of those moments. I just knew I needed her.
Pom is one of our favorite songs of yours. Can you tell us the story behind it?
Pom is about a guy who is so nice that people take advantage of him. When I write lyrics, I like to put my thoughts and philosophy into a short story, rather than poem. And most of my lyrics are like this.
In most of the cultures and religions, I believe that people are taught to be nice. However, real nice people can be stepped on by mean and greedy people. I'm afraid people will just learn by the fact that being mean and greedy and stepping on others is the way to succeed… then the world can be a mess. I hope we're not going into that direction... In anything, what's very important is to be aware of something, I believe. If we are aware of something wrong, we can fix or try not to do the wrong thing. However, if we aren't aware of it, there is no way of preventing it.
Valerie sings on the song No More. Can you tell us more about this song?
I wrote this song and I sang it originally but it needed something else. When Valerie and I were recording a cover of Poupee de cire, poupee de son by France Gall, I thought "mmm maybe Valerie should sing this song."
The biggest influence for this song was from Django Reinhardt. My violinist Luanne Homzy introduced me to his music, and I thought it would be nice if I could mix that Gypsy Jazz feeling into my pop/rock style. And there it is. I tell people, "Imagine Django and France Gall join the Beatles."
The Beginning is a song that we think shows the influence the Beatles have had on your musical style, while still keeping your own sound and feel. How big of an impact do you feel the Beatles have been on your musical tastes?
I studied classical music. Though I enjoy classical music, I understand that it sometimes requires some training and knowledge to enjoy. To me, what the Beatles did was to digest complicated music into the simplest form, whether it was intentional or not. And that is what I'm trying to achieve. I am a lot influenced by the classical music as well as the Beatles.
Aside from the three songs we've mentioned, what would you pick for a forth song to illustrate what Layla Lane is all about?
I really love C'est la vie. I'm in love with France Gall. Her songs are so well written and well arranged. And this C'est la vie is my French vibe song, though none of my band member thinks so… I just love European vibe in general, not only music.
Tell us how your songs were recorded. What was a typical day like?
I go to Studio City Sound to record all my stuff. I can't just start recording without any ideas, so when I start recording, I pretty much know what I want. The music is playing in my head, so my work is just to realize the sound. I usually play bass and guitar, and sometimes percussions and keyboards. When I have other players like Valerie and Luanne, I have the music written out for them. To me, all the instruments have to be working right to each other. I'm not a big believer of improvisations, at least for my kind of music. I like to arrange and have control over my songs. When I concentrate, I go pretty crazy. I have stayed overnight at the studio many times.
Although the music for your first album is done, you are still looking for a label to release through?
Yes. I believe my music will do no harm to the world. So, come on, let's do this.
Let's take a trip back into time and learn how your love of music got started. First, tell us about the hometown you grew up in.
I grew up in a town called Yaizu in Shizuoka-Ken, a small town with mountains, ocean, and rivers. My song She is OK is entitled after Shizuoka.
How did you first get into music?
I started playing guitar when I was 13. I was into a Japanese band Southern All Stars, and had a cover band with my friends. One day, I was reading a book by Keisuke Kuwata, the vocalist from Southern All Stars. He mentioned "The Beatles" so many times in his book, and that made me listen to the Beatles. Then within a few weeks, my Southern All Stars cover band turned into the Beatles cover band.
How did you end up in Montana during high school?
When I was in Jr. High School, I just couldn't stand the teachers and school. Nothing made sense to me. They never let us perform my band because they thought rock'n'roll was a symbol of badness. So I just wanted to get the hell out of it. I was always attracted to America, where Julia Roberts lives... Anyway, I decided to study abroad. I had no choice as to where. My host family picked me and they happened to be in Montana. And I loved it!!! That is one of the reasons I wanted to come back to America for college because Montana was so cool.
So you returned to the US to attend Santa Monica City College and later UCLA. Can you tell us more about that time in your life?
That is when I started to study classical music and classical guitar. I was just a rock'n'roll kid, but knowing that classically trained George Martin had so much impact on the Beatles' music, I wanted to study classical music. During my college years, I almost only did classical music. Not that I have a "life" now, all I pretty much did was practicing. I was feeling behind because I wasn't a classical player, so I felt I had to practice twice as much as the other students who had been playing classical music since they were young.
What were your thoughts on a future career while you were a student?
I just knew I wanted to be a musician. I wasn't sure what kind of musician, but I just wanted to do music. It was that unclear when I was a student.
What did you learn most about music and yourself as you started to perform around the Los Angeles area?
Being Japanese can be an advantage because people recognize me wherever I go.
Tell us about meeting Doctor Osamu Kitajima and the project you worked on with him?
After graduating from UCLA, there came the time when we all feel "what can I do? I don't have school any more!" I wanted to get into the music industry so bad, so I recorded some songs and was trying to shop them. However, I pretty much knew no one! I looked up on the Japanese Yellow Pages, and looked for music production companies. Then I found the phone number of Doctor Osamu Kitajima's studio.
To be honest, I had no idea who he was. I didn't know he was such a legendary musician. Doctor now says that it was good for him that I didn't know him. He doesn't like when people recognize him and treat him differently. Anyway, so I called him up many times till he picked up his phone, and asked him if I could come over and show my songs. It was my first time visiting his studio and meeting him but he listened to my songs and talked with me for hours! Doctor was like the first musician to accept the Beatles to Japanese pop music and built the Japanese music scene… no wonder I felt so comfortable.
It was his idea to do a complete cover of Nowhere Man.
And that cover of Nowhere Man is very impressive. Can you tell us about the recording session and shooting the video.
The idea is to create the recording that is as close as possible to the original. We made it in English and Japanese. However, the Beatles don't allow any of their songs to be translated into other languages, so the Japanese version isn't around yet.
For the session, to get the right sound, we used a tape machine instead of computers. Also my dearest friend Jason Sinay let me use his '65 Stratocaster to get that guitar sound. And Jason introduced me to a legendary drummer, Jim Keltner, who played for John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and everyone. When Jim came to the studio, I played him the original "Nowhere Man." Then I played my version without drums. When he heard my version, he turned to me and said "what do you mean this is you?" I thought he didn't like it, but it was completely opposite. He was amazed how close it sounded and he thought I sounded just like John and George. It gave me goose bumps.
How often have you been back to Japan since you graduated from UCLA?
Many times. I go back to Japan pretty often, like once a year.
Are there any current Japanese groups or artists that inspire you, or are most of your favorites from the US and Europe?
Most of my favorites are old European musicians. But I do like Keisuke Kuwata.
You wrote in your MySpace blog that: "Most of us (Japanese) are not religious at all even though we have titles such as "Buddism," "Shintoism" etc... What I mean by that is we don't really believe in it nor practice it. It's like marrying someone for a green card. They are legally married but they don't do it." Can you tell us more about that?
Hahahahahaha, I can't believe you picked this one out. In Japan any kind of religion sounds like a cult. If I say I'm Christian, my friends would think I'm brainwashed. Practicing religion is that rare, though we do religious events as a custom or tradition. And marrying for a green card part is a random joke that I like to make. I was comparing religious title to marriage title, and practicing religion to having sex. So if you have a religious title such as "Shintoism," which I am, but never practice it, it is like "I'm married to this girl but we never have sex." No offense here, people. It's just my sense of humor, so accept it.
Do you find yourself getting into American politics much, or do you try to stay neutral on the subject?
No. I believe I can change the society through music, so there is no need for me to get into politics.
As you look back over your musical journey, can you tell us what performances or moments stand out in your mind as the most meaningful to you?
Last summer, one of my dreams came true. I played with RINGO STARR!!!! Yes, he is the BEATLE!! It feels as if it was a dream. God, I played with the Beatle...
Also, when Valerie shows me a happy smile, it's very meaningful to me.
In addition to music you also do a bit of drawing. Was this always something you enjoyed doing?
Hehe, yes I do enjoy drawing, and I wanted to be a manga artist when I was 9 years old. I like to draw my imaginations.
Outside of music and art, what else do you like to do for fun and relaxation?
I enjoy reading manga and watching Japanese comedy. As for manga, I love works by Osamu Tezuka. If you haven't read "Buddha," "Phoenix," and "Adolf" you've got to go get them right now! As for Japanese comedy, I love Hitoshi Matsumoto from Down Town. One thing they have in common is that they both express their philosophy through what they do, which I'm doing with my music. Those artists sometimes inspire me more than musicians.
Are you a romantic type? What is you idea of a romantic date?
Very much so. You know, I enjoy answering these non-music questions more. A romantic date is to make "one night in Paris vol.2" with Miss Hilton... just kidding. I'd like to get a hooker who tells me "I do everything but I don't kiss on the mouth"... no no no I'm kidding again. I don't know, I'm too shy to tell you the truth.
What are your thoughts on marriage and children?
I'd like to get married and have some kids at some point. I hope my children will be more like my wife than me. I will freak out to see a being just like me... too scary.
We find it very common for our Japanese interviewees to view marriage as something to be put off into the future. Do you think that and the low birth rate in Japan is something to be concerned about for Japan's future?
Maybe there are too many people already, so we may unconsciously be reducing the population in this way. In general, when there are more, usually the quality goes lower... so maybe it's even a good thing, who knows.
Do you think you will become a permanent resident of the US, or will you be an international traveler?
I want to go to Europe!
Are there any misconceptions about Los Angeles that Japanese people tend to have, or misconceptions about Japan that people in Los Angeles tend to have?
Japanese people expect to see celebrities on Hollywood Blvd every day, or at least that's what I expected.
American people think Japanese guys have a smaller penis but according to statistics, we have an average of 5.1 inch when Americans have 5.0. If you don't believe me, go look it up!
Lol. So... if you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you were still a kid, what would you say?
After practice, go meet people!
Do you have anything else you want to bring up or comment on?
I feel like you know me more than anyone else on the earth by now.
Do you have a final message to all your fans?
Please feel free to send me fan letters, cash, gifts and things like that! Thank you for all your support.
For more info checkout Heday's official site and the official site for Layla Lane. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments