Birthday: June 8th, 1984
Birthplace: Ashikaga, Japan
Blood type: A
Current residence: Los Angeles
Airport song sample
A Midsummer Day's Dream
The Inheritance (trailer)
A Midsummer Day's Dream (2009)
Planetarium Bar (2007)
Cask of Amontillado (2009)
The Inheritance (2009)
Springs Eternal (2008)
The Damned Thing (2008)
Bipolar Bear Mania
Night's light #2
Love Story -chapter 1-
Cartoon / Animation theme
Romantic Comedy theme
Drama theme: "Airport"
Suspense / Thriller theme
AND MUCH MORE...
See her official site and MySpace page for more song samples and info.
Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link:
yoko Honda Interview
"It's my life. I am so grateful that I met music when I was a small kid, and it feels as if I was born for it." - yoko Honda
The world of music for yoko Honda was destined to be a world journey. A desire on her part to study both performing arts and sound technology/engineering would take her from Japan to Liverpool, England at the age of 19. In 2007 she would sojourn to the US to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts to expand her composing and arranging abilities.
Her musical creations display the wide range of styles she has been exposed to, as she says herself: "I enjoy writing in so many different styles that I have no idea which genre my music belongs to." But one thing her songs all share is the depth of training and passion she brings to her life's work.
So if you're in the mood for some elegant classical music, some atmospheric sci-fi theme sounds or something that you could picture being in an animation score, come take a listen to the works of this Japanese international traveler who does admit to one regret: "…my favorite flower, Sakura (cherry blossom) in the spring. I actually haven't seen them in full bloom in Japan since I left, and still miss it very much."
On September 27, 2009 yoko Honda was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. All photos courtesy of yoko Honda with credits to Frank Rooney.
Let's start at the beginning. Can you tell us about the hometown where you grew up?
Well, I was born in a city called Ashikaga in Japan. But because of my father's job, my family moved around every few years and so I grew up in many different places in Japan -- mostly countryside areas from what I can remember!
How did you first get into music?
My parents realized that I have natural perfect pitch when I was 2 years old, and then I started piano lessons. When I realized, I was already so into music.
What type of musical instruction did you get in Japan?
Personally, I went to a music school and learnt Solfege and classical piano until I was 11 or so. I learnt a bit about the instrumentation and orchestration of big band music when I belonged to a wind orchestra at my junior high school. I was a flutist at that time, and played flute with them for about three years. When I was at high school, I started vocal training and learnt basic rock and jazz piano. But to be honest, I had never studied composition or songwriting until I left Japan.
Outside of music, what type of a kid and teen were you?
Haha, I was such a curious kid – and I still am. I started learning English when I was four, and I still love studying other languages. I was also into video games like other kids, and later on I got interested in Karaoke, fashion, dance etc. I got interested in Japanese traditional culture as well, and I joined the Japanese flower arrangement (Ikebana) club at high school. Oh and I also belonged to a modern dance club at the same time – it has been always wonderful for me to experience new things.
What type of career did you imagine you'd have when you were still in high school?
To be honest by that point, I had already decided that I wanted a career in music, but I was not sure what it would be. I was so interested in sound technology and engineering at that time, so I vaguely imagined that I might work for a recording studio or recording company.
What musicians inspired you the most while growing up?
I grew up listening to classical music, pop music, rock music and Soul/R&B, so I guess many musicians from these genres inspired me while growing up.
Who are some of your newer favorites now?
Hmm... I could tell you my all-time favorite artists immediately, but this is really difficult. Is it supposed to be Japanese artists? Well, the last few years I've started listening to smooth and contemporary Jazz, house music and, of course film music (soundtracks). Some Japanese artists I'm digging at the moment are: Chieko Kinbara, Tempei Nakamura, hiromi, Daishi Dance, Kenji Kawai, Ryo Yoshimata, capsule.
At 19 you made the decision to move to England to attend the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. How did that come about?
I was interested in sound technology and sound engineering, but unfortunately there are only a few schools in Japan where you can study those. Also I wanted to study performing arts at the same time, and so the school I graduated from in England was the perfect one for me. I think LIPA is one of the rare and unique schools in the world where students can study music technology and performing arts at the same time.
What was the most challenging thing about your first year there?
It is English I guess. As I had only studied English with native Canadian and American teachers while I was in Japan, I didn't use to listen to British English at all. It was a little hard to get used to.
What did your family think about your decision to attend school overseas?
My parents didn't agree with my decision at first, and it was so hard to persuade them. But once I got their permission, they were both so supportive until I graduated from the school overseas, and ever since as well.
What did they think about your desire to make music your career?
They knew that I wanted to make music my career since I was a kid, and they always tell me that they were happy if only I was happy with my career. They also told me that they never thought I would start my career overseas though... Ha ha ha.
Your international education continued in 2007 when you attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. How different did the American South seem to you compared to England and Japan?
Of course it was different, but I really liked the Southern American life – I especially enjoyed the 'nice and warm weather' and beautiful blue sky, after spending such a long time watching grey sky in England!
During these years how often did you travel back to Japan? What about Japan did you miss most while you were away?
I went back to Japan every summer, and sometimes I managed to go back in the winter too. What I missed most is Japanese food (of course!), and my favorite flower, Sakura (cherry blossom) in the spring. I actually haven't seen them in full bloom in Japan since I left, and still miss it very much.
What city is your current residence now? Where do you expect you will be living in ten and twenty years from now?
I just moved to Los Angeles at the end of July, and I'm still very new here. I have no idea where I will be in ten or twenty years though. To be honest I miss England so much… we will have to see in twenty years I guess. :)
Let's learn more about your music. First, how would you describe your musical style?
That's a very good question. To be honest, I enjoy writing in so many different styles that I have no idea which genre my music belongs to. But I think I would describe it as 'dramatic' and 'melodious' as often people tell me so.
Which musical instrument would you say is your favorite to play or create music with?
That is definitely piano, because I love playing the piano and I've been playing the piano for such a long time that it's a source of inspiration for me. Jamming and improvising sometimes informs my composition.
Tell us a little about how you create music. Do you have a process you go through, or is each song unique?
Well, I don't really have a process as such, but most of the time I "hear" complete music in my head. So what I have to do from there, is really just trying to transfer it from my brain to the computer. Of course, sometimes I don't "hear" anything though, even if someone tells me the detailed concept of the song or the story of the film I am writing for. In that case, I have to struggle with my reference library or with my keyboard for so long until I get some ideas.
Your song Timeless was a finalist in the "Inspire! UK Audition." Tell us the story behind the song.
The song is about our 'home': I met another Japanese international student in Liverpool, and it is based on his experience. This song is kind of co-written, as he composed a two bar riff on his acoustic guitar that I used and extended as the piano part later on. When he played that short riff for me with his guitar, I really liked that nostalgic feeling and thought of speeding it up and make it into an R&B song featuring a strings orchestra. He told me that he's got homesick when he got a cold in England on his first year, and thought that it's nice that we have a place to go back -- 'home.' When I heard this story, I wrote the melody and completed the song.
Your instrumental song Airport conveys a wonderfully majestic emotion. Can you tell us about its inspiration?
Ha ha, thank you so much! Actually, I "heard" this music in my head when I saw some precious friends off at the airport -- and it didn't take very long to finish writing this piece: I finished programming it two days later. Maybe most of my music is automatically connected to the emotions I get.
Overture is another delightful instrumental that demonstrates your ability to evoke emotion. Can you tell us how this particular song was created?
Thank you again. Well, when I wrote this piece, I wanted to write something like the music played at a theme park or on a parade. At the same time, I was supposed to write a piece that could be theme music for a cartoon and I thought, "Why not write some cheerful and playful music then?" And this piece was born.
Tell us about "Planetarium Bar."
This was my very first installation, and it was a planetarium show that has a concept: 'Let the audience sleep in our show'. I worked for this show as a music director and as a member of a production team. We created a small tent in a bar (LIPA bar at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) and projected stars onto its ceiling. We also put down many cozy pillows and cushions inside the tent for the proper "sleep." To write fifteen minutes of music that constantly goes on during this show, I researched healing music and music therapy beforehand, and aimed to compose 'easy listening' music to make for the most comfortable experience possible.
Some of your music has been featured in films?
Yes, well I'm not sure if it's appropriate to say 'featured,' but I do score films and I occasionally write a piece of music or song that is featured in the film along with the soundtrack.
How much harder is it to write a piece of music for a specific subject?
It depends -- to me, the more specific the subject is, the better I get the idea as I get inspired by those subjects or stories. But even then I get stuck sometimes. It really depends, that's all I can say I think. Ha ha!
You spent some time in 2008 in Venice?
Yes, fortunately I was there for the Venice International Film Festival for two weeks, taking part in a student filmmaker project hosted by American Pavilion. It was a great time, and I really loved Venice too.
How different do you think you'd be if you had never gone overseas to get your education?
I would assume it would have been completely different. If I did not get in to the school in Liverpool, I was supposed to go to a private university in Japan as an information, music and media technology student. I wouldn't have met so many people from all over the world, I probably wouldn't have got interested in composition and I wouldn't have been able to develop my English skill enough to conduct this interview!
Like many Japanese artists you do something specific with the lower/uppercase of your professional name, in your case keeping "yoko" in lowercase. Can you explain this for anyone who might be wondering?
Ha ha! Well, mine is not a big deal really (it is rather silly actually): I just don't like the appearance of a capital "Y" for some reason. Don't you think it looks unbalanced and un-cute if I write my artist name as "Yoko Honda"? I don't know, maybe it's just me. See, I told you it was silly!
Can we get a peak into the romantic life of yoko Honda? Can you describe your concept of a romantic date?
Concept of a romantic date... hmm... I'm not the sort of girl who wants bunches of roses or diamonds or those kind of sweet things to be honest. I just want to spend a good, nice and fun time with someone special -- and that would be a very romantic date for me. Oh yeah, I think it'd be great if we could see a wonderful landscape together.
What type of traits do you look for in someone you would date?
I usually date someone who was originally a good friend of mine, so I guess "someone I can spend a long time without getting bored like your best friend" would be the answer.
Any thoughts on marriage and kids in the future?
I love kids a lot, so maybe in the future, when the time comes.
Outside of music, what type of things do you do for fun and relaxation?
Getting together with friends, watching movies, and cooking. It might sound funny, but cooking is my favorite method of releasing my work-related stresses.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
As for music, I just want to keep fulfilling my New Year's resolution: try to be productive as much as I can I guess. I'm working on a wonderful short film at the moment, which should be done by the end of this year. Oh yes, I'm also writing a song featuring a male vocalist for the first time in my life. And personally I want to explore LA more with my car, but I have to pass my driving test first (which is coming very soon actually, so wish me luck please!!).
Let's end with the big question. What does music mean to you?
It's my life. I am so grateful that I met music when I was a small kid, and it feels as if I was born for it.
Do you have anything else you want to bring up or comment on?
Please 'stay tuned' and keep your eyes on my website and Myspace! Also, if you are Japanese speaker/reader, please check out this site: LAparty.jp. I recently started writing for this site as one of the bloggers, and my article will be updated every Monday, so keep your eyes peeled! :)
Do you have a final message to all your fans?
I want to thank all the people who listen to my music. My music will be always there for them. My ultimate goal is to give people hope or to make them happy through my music, and so I'm happy if you enjoy my music, or if my work makes you happy.
For more info checkout yoko Honda'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