Birthday: January 5th
Birthplace: Tochigi Prefecture
Grew up in Ibaraki (Mito City)
Eternity song sample
1. Midnight Rhapsody
3. Bitter Side of Sweet
4. Crystal Stream
5. Nostalgic for You
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On October 11, 2008 Masamune was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World.
You are one of the co-founders of a new Indie label called Win Win Records that debuted this May. How did that come about?
When I met my business partner and now co-owner of Win Win Records, we decided it was time to do things our own way for once. I thought it was a good chance to finally make the kind of music I wanted to make instead of what the industry dictates to artists.
In September the label released its first maxi single called Soar by the American singer Jeffrey Trambley. How did you and Trambley meet?
I met Jeffrey through a mutual friend who is also in the music business here in Tokyo. When we started talking, it became obvious that we were a good match since he was thinking of making a CD, although he had no clear ideas about it, and I was interested in trying out things as a producer for the first time.
What about Trambley made you want to work with him?
His voice and his talent! I was thinking that I wanted to break the rules a bit. Jeffrey is an opera singer and I'm a J-Pop and rock singer so I wanted to try and put the two together. I thought it would be possible to make a sort of new face for Jeffrey through this fusion of styles.
Tell us about the single.
Each track has a completely different mood to it. The title track, Soar, is a gentle and warm ballad and highlights Jeffrey's sensitive vocal abilities. The second track, Detour, is a song you could imagine listening to while driving across the open country on a sunny day. It's got some tones of R and B in it but is still pretty poppy sounding.
The last track has more of a rocky feeling to it, like something you might hear as a theme song to some action movie. All of them are about some aspect of love--searching for it, love beginning again and love lost.
How different is it to produce and compose music for other artists versus music you sing yourself?
It's not that different. It was fun to try and imagine another artist's voice fitting into my melody line. When writing the songs for Soar, I was composing like I always do, but the voice I heard in my head was that of Jeffrey's instead of mine.
How would you describe your musical style or philosophy of music?
I think you would call my style alternative pop-rock. Music affects people's lives. I know this because it has affected mine a lot. Every time I touched some good songs, it pushed me to some further development as an artist. My philosophy is much like this I guess. If my music can touch people in some way, or can make people feel something that I felt once, that's what creating music should be about.
Your first noted breakthrough came in 2004 when you won the BE!ON! Music Entertainment's Vocalist Competition. Can you tell us your memories of the event?
At the BE!ON! Entertainment Competition I sang a song of mine called Nostalgic for You. I took a lot of time thinking about what to wear that day--I went out and bought some things from my favorite brand, Morgan de Toi. When I got to the competition I felt a little nervous but I thought I had to win this thing. I sang and played the guitar by myself and after singing one of the female judges commented that my pronunciation in Japanese of the vowel "a" sounded very American!
Right after the competition I moved back to my hometown of Mito, about 2 hours north of Tokyo, so when I won the competition I didn't actually know it. BE!ON! searched for me for about 2 months and finally found me. It was such a shock to hear the news.
You first mini-album, EVERLASTING, debuted in September of 2005. Tell us a little about writing and recording the songs.
I wrote all the songs for the mini album during 2004 and was mentored by my director and producer, Ujigami Ichiban (Kabuki-Rocks lead vocalist). Recording finished over the summer of 2005. I was really glad to be working with some up and coming talent on the arrangements for the songs, Nackey&Cazzy.
Tell us a little bit more about the song Eternity. What is its main message? What inspired the music?
Eternity is a song about long distance relationships. The message is that with love, it's possible to overcome anything that may have happened before and move forward to a place of happiness. When I wrote the melody line for Eternity, I was living at home with my parents and they really liked the sound of it so I decided to work on a story for the lyrics. At about the same time there was a big boom in Japan over the Korean drama, Winter Sonata. The story was a real tear-jerker and showed how people in love who might hurt each other can still get through things and move on.
You plan to release your first full album sometime in 2009. What can listeners expect to hear?
I think my music has matured a lot since EVERLASTING. My voice has changed as well as I'm a bit older now too. In general, there's a more adult tone to the songs. I'm including some songs that I wrote while on an extended stay in Hawaii so my fans can feel what I experienced there. A few songs I am planning on including are also all in English so I can appeal to wider audiences around the world.
You've attended the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California. Was this your first stay in the US?
Yes, indeed. I was so young then--just 18 at the time I went to the US.
What about the US surprised you the most?
I thought that the policemen wearing roller blades on Hollywood Boulevard was so amazing!
What do you think of the US and Japanese music industry nowadays?
I think they influence each other more and more. Recently, I listened to Hillary Duff's album and I could hear a lot of techniques used in Japanese music today. When I checked the album info, I saw it was an AVEX production.
I think the line between J-pop and mainstream American pop music is disappearing. More artists both in Japan and America are self-producing instead of working under a major label. I think this is the direction things are heading as the power of the big labels gets less and less.
Do you think digital downloading of music has been a good or bad thing for the industry and musicians?
Of course, I'd love more people to buy my CDs but downloading is something that is here to stay. I like the fact that more and more people have easier access to my music, but there are issues copying etc. This is something that I think the industry needs to put more effort into--protecting the rights of musicians.
When you were a child did you always think you'd grow up to be a musician?
No! I actually wanted to work at a fish market! After I turned 7, I developed a love for singing and did it everywhere--in restaurants etc. Then I started singing karaoke at home and in junior high school I made a band with a few friends singing covers of bands like XJapan and Guns and Roses.
What kind of student were you in grade school? What were your favorite classes?
I liked science, music and physical education. My parents were both PE teachers at HS so my father especially pushed me to run in marathons and play baseball. I think he wanted me to be an athlete!
Who were your favorite artists growing up?
I was into Jun Skywalkers (Japanese punk band) and XJapan, Guns and Roses and Metallica.
How about now?
Now I get into stuff like Daughtry and Goo Goo Dolls.
Did your family have a musical background?
My mom was always in chorus groups, still is. My father collected a lot of percussion instruments and played guitar. I remember once when my older sister got mad at me and took one of my father's guitars and used it to hit me. It broke into two pieces and I thought my father was going to kill us!
Tell us a little about your romantic life. Are you dating? Married?
I'm single, but dating now.
What would going on a date with Masamune be like?
Romantic is the key word here! While having dinner in one of my favorite Italian restaurants, we chat about lots of things, laugh.
Outside of music, what do you do for fun?
Love going to movies or renting DVDs. Driving and going on day trips.
Do you have a favorite sports team?
I'm a big fan of the Japanese women's volleyball team.
What's something about yourself your fans might not know about?
I've moved 7 times in the last 7 years! Don't ask me why!
Do you have a final message to all your fans?
Thanks for supporting me. I'm thankful that I have such great fans both here in Japan and around the world. Keep it real!
For more info about Masamune checkout his official site and MySpace page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments