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Unshin Vital Stats

Running Short song sample

Unshin Live at The Cut, UK
"Artificial Pleasures"

Unshin live at The Cut, UK


Waltz for Broken Dolls
1. Since When (Intro)
2. Drug
3. Memories and Tears
4. Water knife
5. Artificial Pleasures
6. Forgotten Sky
7. Doll
8. Running
9. Love Song
10. Evidence
11. For My Friend
12. The Face
13. Waltz for Broken Dolls (Outro)

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Unshin Interview

Unshin - click for full size So what do you get when you take a talented singer/songwriter from Japan and match her with two musicians from the UK, two from Taiwan and another from Korea? You get the UK based group Unshin. While their music certainly has a Japanese spirit to it, Megumi Miyoshi, Henry Readhead, Thijs Hendricks, Sing Yeh, Yupo Chen and Tobee Paik each bring their own background and musical style to this highly unique musical ensemble.

They are currently finishing recording their debut album Waltz for Broken Dolls, which tells the story of a young girl growing up under the strict pressures of Japanese society while trying to stay on her own path and find herself as an individual.

On August 26, 2008 the members of Unshin were kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World.

Megumi Miyoshi - click for full size Tell us how Unshin became a group.

Henry: It all started one day when Meg brought some lyrics over to the studio that she had been writing called Drug that she wanted me to hear. She had also constructed a verse and chorus vocal melody. I had to get her to translate them for me because they were in Japanese but whilst she was telling me the rough translation I realized her amazing ability to truthfully capture atmosphere and feeling with her lyrics.

I connected with them straight away and we got together with Thijs and had a "Creation Session." Thijs got on the bass and I started sequencing and within 2 hours we had the first rough idea of our first track, Drug, together. The first thing I notice in the early stage of creating with Thijs and Meg was that we worked together very well and we had a really interesting twist of musical styles and influences that very quickly started to blend and form into something very exciting.

How old was Megumi at the time?

Henry: At the time she was only 14 so we set up a small "Creation Session" once a week and started slowly developing the track Drug. As the producer, the first thing about the track that struck me was the atmosphere of the room she was describing. It was so intense that I had to make sure it was captured and expressed by the music otherwise it would never do the lyrics credit. This was the first step into the idea of a concept album.

So, we spent the rest of the year creating Drug which Megumi performed live at her school's summer end of term music event at the age of 14.

Unshin - click for full size How did things progress from there?

Henry: The year after, we wrote 2 more songs, they were Water Knife and The Face. Meg had also written a beautiful piano track which she Called Waltz for Broken Dolls, which later became the album name. Meg performed all these tracks for the next Summerhill summer music event. Again Meg had done an amazing job on the lyrics and it was these tracks and Drug that inspired the original idea of creating a concept album.

The idea was Drug was going to be the beginning of the story and The Face was going to be the end. Meg brought out a 200 sheet binder full of other lyric ideas she had been writing over the years. So we sat down with someone to translate and started gathering lyrics and ideas for the story.

Over the next few years we created Since When, Forgotten Sky, Memories and Tears and For My Friend and Running. And we had also created the final idea for the story and the names of the tracks, so the track line up for Waltz for Broken Dolls was:

1. Since When (Intro)
2. Drug
3. Memories and Tears
4. Water knife
5. Artificial Pleasures (Unfinished)
6. Forgotten Sky
7. Doll (Unfinished)
8. Running
9. Love Song (Unfinished)
10. Evidence (Unfinished)
11. For My Friend
12. The Face
13. Waltz for Broken Dolls (Outro)

In 2006 Megumi had to leave school. How did that change things?

Henry: By that time we hadn't finished the album but we didn't want to rush it! The great thing about this album was we had had the time to create and focus on it to get it exactly how we wanted it and we weren't going to start rushing it there.

Meg was still quite young at the time and still had a lot to learn, so she moved to London to focus on music and singing at L.M.S. and was regularly traveling to Suffolk to carry on with the creation of the album.

Was Unshin Megumi's first band?

Henry: In the past when Megumi performed her music live she had different musicians playing with her from friends at school to teachers to professional musicians outside the school but she never really had a set band. As the album was coming closer to completion we started forming a band to perform the album live. As me and Thijs had been creators of the album from the start it seemed a good idea to have us as members as we knew the album inside out.

We even did a gig in Sendai, Japan on the 22nd of February 2007 with just the 3 of us. I played Drums for Forgotten Sky and Running and bass for For My Friend. Meg sang and played bass and Thijs played guitar. If you're familiar with these tracks you'll understand why it was such a hard gig, but great fun!

Through musicians we had already worked with we put together the first Unshin Band consisting of:

Megumi Miyoshi: Vocals/Koto
Thijs Hendricks: Lead Guitar
Henry Readhead: Bass
Sing Yeh: Piano/Keyboards and Backing Vocals
Beth Ramm: Rhythm Guitar/Additional Keys
Jesse Barrett: Drums

Beth Ramm had worked with us all on previous projects and she was quite an accomplished guitarist and pianist who at the time was studying in Norwich.

Jesse Barrett is a fantastic local based Drummer who had mastered the art of playing Tabla and had moved this amazing skill over to his drumming to create an exciting new drumming style.

What happened after that?

Henry: We then planned a small album tour in the U.K. for the end of 2007, starting with the Norwich playhouse on the 8th of September followed by, The Cut art centre in Halesworth, Suffolk on the 2nd of October. We were also invited to do a live acoustic performance on prime time BBC Radio Norfolk with Roy Waller and did a performance at the Salsbury art center at the UEA in Norwich leading up to the tour. This was all to fit in with Meg finishing her course in London so she could focus again on the album and get the rest of the tracks written.

By this time she had added Doll and Love Song, and we also had most of the musical ideas for Artificial Pleasures. This is where the writing of a concept album took its toll on Meg when she had to write two songs that were to fit very closely within a story. It became very evident that this was not going to be an easy job. But what also became very apparent was that Meg writes very well under pressure.

We had planned to have a booklet of the translated lyrics for the whole album printed up to handout to the audience on entering the playhouse. The deadline for the text was 10 days before the gig and Meg finished the lyrics for the last track Evidence on that very last night. We then spent the next week writing the rest of the music for Artificial Pleasures and Thijs worked his wizardry on the final track Evidence.

To go along with the tour we got an Animator to create short animations for each of the tracks off the album which we projected above the band whilst performing to help the audience follow the story. We were lucky enough to get Mai Yoshida that had just finished her MA in Communication art and design at the Royal College of Arts, London who has done an amazing job on creating 13 short animations to capture the story.

Unshin - click for full size How did it all turn out?

Henry: The gigs were a great success and were very well received and the first thing that became very apparent was that we needed to finish the album and get it printed up. Unfortunately we also lost 2 band members, Beth and Jesse due to other commitments.

This meant that the tour had to be cut short which was a shame but at the same time helped us find the time to get back into the Studio and start re-recording the album. This has turned out to be the best thing as some of the tracks were recorded a long time ago and sounded very dated.

Also in this time we found the new band members Yupo and Tobee that have both been involved with the recording process and Tobee's Lead solos have added a great new dynamic to the album that it didn't have before. So the line up for the present Unshin band is:

Megumi Miyoshi: Vocal/Koto
Tobee Paik: Lead Guitar
Sing Yeh: Piano/Keyboards and Backing Vocals
Yupo Chen: Rhythm Guitar/Additional Keys
Henry Readhead: Bass
Thijs Hendricks : Drums

We performed for the first time as this formation at a Charity event in London at the famous Conway Hall venue on the 19th of March 2008 and was also perform at this year's Schoolwaves festival in Athens, Greece on Friday the 4th of July and was also invited as special Guests to attend Ordre De Ciel at the Kabatza venue in Athens later that same night. our last gig was at Xtremefest 08 in Felixstowe on the 27th of July along side the great "Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds".

Lets learn a little more about each band member. Megumi, when you were 12 years old you moved from Japan to the United Kingdom to attend a school called "Summerhill." Tell us about that time and how you were chosen.

Megumi: I wasn't chosen I chose the school! My mum was listening to a radio program that was reading a book about Summerhill School. The book was written by a Japanese ex- pupil's mother Setsu Matsunaga, my mum thought it would be a great school for me, so she asked if I wanted to attend a school in England where I don't have to go to lessons or do homework if I don't want to. I thought it'll never happen, because I mean, England was very far away to me then! So I just told her I don't mind. One day there was a plane ticket for me to go and visit. After I visited I knew I was going to attend.

Did you have a career in mind while attending school?

Megumi: We did a lot of choir at my primary school in Japan, and I decided that I wanted to be a singer when I was 11 or so. After I left primary school I attended Summerhill where I started learning drums with Thijs. When the studio was built in 2002, one of my friends introduced me to Henry, I then learnt a bit of Sound Engineering, Computer Music, and some more singing, I also learnt how to play guitar and bass too. I was in quite a few bands whilst I was at Summerhill and we did a lot of recording. I learnt a lot about how to be recorded which I consider as one of the most important parts of my musical development.

What did you miss most from Japan?

Megumi: My family including my dog, I also really missed the food and all the useful Japanese technology!!

What about the UK surprised you the most?

Megumi: I can't think of what surprised me the most, but I remember being surprised by the size of the average house's garden, they are very big compared to Japan. Also the way melons are so cheap. In Japan they are classed as posh food!

You are also an accomplished Koto player. Tell us a little about that instrument and what drew you to it.

Megumi Miyoshi - click for full size Megumi: Koto is a traditional Japanese instrument that is about 2 meters long and has 13 strings, you play it with specially designed nails that you put on your right hand's thumb, forefinger and middle finger. It's often accompanied by Shamisen and Shakuhachi which are also both Japanese instruments. It's also sometimes played with violin, flute and many other "non-Japanese" instruments. There are also bass Kotos which have 17 strings and produce a much lower sound.

My mum used to play Koto when she was young, and it was left in the corner of the room I lived in from the age of 5 till 10. I used to always make sounds with it, but never knew how to play it properly or even what it was. One day when I was 6 or so I asked my mum what this long funny looking thing was, and she told me that it's called Koto and asked me if I want to learn how to play it. So I said yes, and she found me a teacher who I still go to and have lessons with now.

Tell us about the name Unshin.

Megumi: It's my professional Koto name. When you've been playing for many years and are ready, your teacher gives you a certificate and you also get a professional name. 'Unshin' is in two parts: 'un' is the 2nd part of my Koto teacher's professional name, which as her student I have to take and 'shin' came from a fortuneteller. She said if I had the name Unshin, the bad things I have to go through in life would turn good in the end. I liked that meaning. No pain no gain, you know? Translated 'Un' means cloud, and 'shin' means heart, the heart of the cloud.

Thijs Hendricks, you've been playing drums since you were a teen. What do you think the key is to being a good drummer?

Thijs: Listening to and playing as many drumming styles as possible. Checking out drum clinics/workshops. Learning to sing and play other instruments as an aid to further expand upon song arrangements. Good groove, playing for the song and constant inspiration from a good drumming magazine such as Rhythm.

Thijs Hendricks - click for full size How many different instruments can you play?

Thijs: Percussion, Piano, Bass, Rhythm and Lead Guitar, Harmonica, Banjo and Vocals.

Who were some of your favorite musical groups growing up?

Thijs: The Moody Blues, The Beatles, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, Electric Light Orchestra, Mike Oldfield, Renaissance, The Move, The Who, Genesis and anything from Tamela Motown.

How has your musical tastes changed overtime?

Thijs: I listen to more classical music, e.g. Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Grieg and Benjamin Britten.

Sing Yeh, you are originally from Taiwan. Tell us what brought you to the UK.

Sing: I decided to come to England when I was 10 years old with my sister after she graduated primary school, it was simply that my parents asked whether I want to go to Summerhill with her, and I said yes.

What was your greatest challenge in living in a different country?

Sing: Communicating in and getting used to a different culture.

When did you and Megumi first meet?

Sing: I met Meg when I moved my education to England, although we did not speak much for the first couple of years because my English was very poor.

You are attending classes and studying music at the Colchester Institute. How are you able to handle so many demands on your time?

Sing: In order to make sure that my classes, college work and Unshin don't clash, organization is most important to me, I have to write everything down that I need to do in my schedule book in advance, therefore Henry and I would get in contact about the next practices, recordings or gigs weeks before.

How has your outlook on life changed with your experiences?

Sing: It was not easy leaving my hometown in Taiwan, and having to deal with most things myself in a new country really changed my attitude about living, deciding what I need to do or learn and making sure that I keep myself alive - I now really appreciate how I've become independent.

Unshin - click for full size Yupo Chen you are also from Taiwan. Can you tell us what brought you to the UK and how you meet the group?

Yupo: I was already in a democratic school in Taiwan before coming to the UK. And since my mother decided to come to Europe, I attended Summerhill, and met the members from Unshin.

What were your dreams as a child?

Yupo: Too many! I'm a total dreamer. Every time I find new things, I just want to get into them.

Aside from music, what other artistic outlets do you enjoy?

Yupo: I enjoy reading a lot (light novels, you know?). And I also like playing games.

What do you think or hope you will be doing ten years from now?

Yupo: Well, to be honest, I haven't planed much yet. But I'm sure I'll still be around in the UK.

Tobee Paik, tell us a little about your life back in Korea before you moved to the UK.

Tobee: I always had an interest in music until I met my music teacher at middle school in Korea, it was all about what he liked and how he understood music. I wasn't very happy with that school, but at the time I think I was just thinking things would get better and I would fit in. Apart from that I was just an ordinary student really.

Of all the places in the world to live, how and why did you decide to come to the UK?

Tobee: My Dad studied in London and when I was young I lived in the UK for 3 years and that's where I started my primary school, I felt much more comfortable with the environment and I preferred the teaching style in England. After primary school I went back to Korea to attend Middle School (Bad Music Teacher) for a while but wasn't getting on so I spoke to my parents about it and they fully understood and agreed to look for a school back in England again. That's when we found Summerhill.

What do you miss most about Korea?

Tobee: I really miss the spicy hot Korean soup in the winter.

Did you ever expect to be a member of such a diverse group of musicians?

Tobee: I had thoughts that I might end up in a multi-national band because Summerhill School is very multi-national but I really didn't know I would meet up with such weird people like me and do music together. haha

Henry, after studying Sound Engineering in London you created your own recording studio called "Summerhill Studios." Tell us about that time in your life.

Henry Readhead - click for full size Henry: Shortly after finishing my Sound Engineering course at SAE London I moved to Brighton UK to help a friend set up a Music School. Whilst in Brighton I got together with a friend Toshi Matsunaga and we started creating some tracks under the name Autoship and Fadeal.

Whilst working with Toshi I met a Producer called Rob Rah of Ra productions at a MusicExpo event in London, he was working with some girl groups and was looking for a scratch DJ and a guitarist. So, Toshi and I had a few sessions with him in a Studio in Doncaster, UK. The equipment they were using in the studio I knew very well so whilst I was there my engineering head ended up being used much more then my scratching head.

Anyway the chemistry between us worked really well, me as the engineer, Rob as the producer and Toshi as the musician. The problem was, at the time we were using a studio in Doncaster which was a long way away for all of us. This was what got me thinking about setting up my own recording studio.

My first thought was to set up a studio in Brighton but finding the premises and the cost was going to make it a very difficult adventure to start of with so I presented the idea of doing a joint adventure with Summerhill School in Suffolk. I would teach at the school and the studio would be accessible by the kids but I would also be able to do my own professional work there as well.

My first professional job in the studio was a band called SoulCyde. I was very privileged to record their debut album Inclusive. This led on to me recording and producing Colin K's (Unfortunately unreleased) album Fearless. This project was a fantastic learning curve for me especially as a producer and I had the pleasure of working with some wonderful musician. It was pretty much just after this that we started the Unshin project.

What first attracted you to playing the bass?

Henry: I've always been a low-end man! Going back to my Drum and Bass day's in good old 94, and I guess I've always had a real love for those super funky bass grooves, people like, Bootsy Colins, Larry Graham, Marcus Miller and of course the might Victor Wooten. But the final push for me was when I brought a Fretless Bass (which I named Rhonda after Rhonda Smith) for the track Water Knife off the album. I fell in love with it so much that I had to learn how to play. P.S. I can't talk about bass without mentioning the amazing Seiji Kameda.

What do you think of the music industry today, compared to say 15 years ago?

Henry: I think it's at a very interesting stage at the moment. Because of the development in technology mean's the small band in the basement can record, promote, press up and distribute their music to the worldwide audience nearly off their own backs. This has forced the record companies to step out of their normal routines and re-think. A lot more people are making a living out of their music now then they were 15 years ago. My worry as a sound engineer is, the quality of the audio files/mp3 people are listening to today are getting worse and worse and everyone's getting used to and accepting them as the standard which I think is a real shame.

How would you all describe your philosophy of music?

Yupo: I don't think I want to make it so complicated. I love music, listen to music, play music, and that's simply me.

Megumi: I don't really have a philosophy. I write music when I feel like it and how I feel at the time. Maybe I have a style of writing but I don't know it myself.

Henry: Stay open minded.

Tobee: Like a market place, you don't know what you will find.

Sing: Music is an unforgivable addiction!

Thijs: The road to happiness and contentment.

What inspires you all most in writing new music or lyrics?

Yupo: My inspiration comes when it comes really. I get most of my ideas when I'm doing nothing just thinking, but that's usually when I'm in bed trying to go to sleep.

Megumi: I get inspiration when I listen to other people's music. But normally I write lyrics to a theme. Like the Waltz for Broken Dolls album, I look for words and sentences that fits to each song.

Henry: Generally the world around me, I like to create with other people and throw idea's around, I'm not a "hear the whole track in my head" type person.

Tobee: The crowd.

Sing: At about 3:30am, sitting down in front of a piano and think, "I need to go to sleep" but the more you think about it the more you cannot sleep, so by 5am, new songs and ideas are there!

Thijs: Nature, life experiences and collaborations with different musicians.

With such a diverse group of people in your group, what types of meals do you eat together? What types of drinks do you all enjoy?

Unshin - click for full size Yupo: Fizzy drinks.

Megumi: We have kebabs together after practice. Me and Sing share one together! I like to drink Ginger Ale, it's refreshing.

Tobee: Anything the others get; coke, ginger ale or Guinness.

Sing: The only meal I can think of is kebab... (It isn't really a meal, is it!?)

Henry: We do have such diverse band members so we should be eating lots of different wonderful foods but it is true that whilst practice we eat Kebabs. Haha

Who drinks the most? The least?

Yupo: Tobee!

Megumi: Henry drinks the most, but somehow he doesn't get drunk.

Henry: The girls! They always say their drinking ginger ale but I think it's just a mixer!

Does anyone have a favorite television show they watch?

Megumi: As a band, we watch Takeshi's Castle on SKY in between and after the practice.

Tobee: Takeshi Castle (Henry's fault)

Henry: Takeshi's Castle. In fact I'm a bit worried that the next album is going to be called Takeshi's Castle!

Do you play any types of games together?

Yupo: I'm a lonely gamer.

Megumi: Yeah Yupo is a serious gamer. I like Mario Kart, the original one but not much of a gamer. Tobee and Henry completed HAZE on PS3.

Henry: We all play a bit of games but Yupo is the gaming pro, in fact we call him Yupro! When we were practicing for Greece, we would go into the rehearsal space and he would be sitting waiting for us with his laptop gaming hard. haha

Tobee: Star Wars Lego on PS3, Spoons.

Sing: We played 'spoons'!

Thank you all for the interview and best of luck in the future.

For more info checkout Unshin's official site and MySpace page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments