2009-02-03 - "Utada sits down with Ningin and says ?This Is The One?" - Ningin.com
"Utada sits down with Ningin and says ?This Is The One?"
by David Hou on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 9:05PM
"Utada sits down with Ningin and says ?This Is The One? - Part 1/2"
Utada was back in New York City this past week and somehow found the time to meet with Ningin ningens David, Hoc and Megu. No Ningin camera crew this time. Just a casual interview 27 floors up on the West side of Manhattan with Utada and her father. Utada was lounging out like it was a lazy Sunday with just a T-shirt, jeans and an ear flapped knit cap - except it was Monday. Her upcoming English language album, This Is The One, is set for a March debut and will be released in America and Japan. In this first of two parts, Utada talked about record label politics and writing her new album.
David: The first single that?s out right now has a very American R&B sound to it, will the album have that same sound? Your other Japanese albums have more of an electronic sound to them.
Utada: Compared to the Japanese stuff, yes, there is a bit more of a very American sound I guess. I think the R&B-ness of it is because of the fact that I wanted to make an album that would be mainstream and good pop. At this point, R&B, it?s just that it?s mainstream.
David: and pop?
Utada: Right. But then there are many different styles in the album. Like the songs, they?re all very? some of them are more European sounding or Japanese influenced, it?s many different forms, but overall I would say there?s that mainstream feeling.
David: The first single ?Come Back to Me? isn?t necessarily an indication of the entire sound of the album?
Utada: It?s hard. In some ways it is, and in some ways it isn?t.
David: People who already know your stuff will find something familiar?
Utada: Yeh, I think so. There should be something familiar with ?Come Back to Me? as well. It?s just what aspect or how much you?re talking about? just the essence as an artist or the nature of the genre or nature of the track. It?s the same voice.
David: ?Come Back to Me? personally I think it goes a little bit back towards your older stuff.
Utada: Yeh, it?s true. To the very beginning. [laughs]
David: It seems to ride more on your actual voice.
Utada: Yeh, I intended to be more of a singer, which is where I started out anyways. I feel very comfortable, like at home with the new song.
David: I assume you?re very confident about the new album because you?re going to release the American version in Japan.
Utada: That?s a sign of confidence? [surprised]
David: Well, it?s not like your Japanese releases. So you must be confident that even tho your Japanese fans are used to listening to something else from you?
Utada: Oh, it?s not a choice that I?m releasing in Japan. It?s more record company politics. It?s like in the contract. It?s not like ?I?m going to put this out in Japan because I?m confident.? That kind of thing? Nada!
Utada: It?s politics. No choice.
David: Is it EMI that?s releasing in Japan?
David: Oh, well that?s a little surprising.
Utada: Really? I don?t think any artist has that choice to put it out and in what country. That?s not up to the artist. It?s completely up to the record company.
David: I guess I?m surprised [because] I thought you would have a little more say in it.
Utada: No. [laughs]
David: The first single is ?Come Back to Me? which a lot of people have heard already. It?s on your MySpace and on your website, and that comes out February 9. And the new album will be called?
Utada: ?This Is The One?
David: For ?Come Back to Me? you worked with the Stargate producers. Did you work on any other tracks with them?
Utada: More than half the songs. There?s ten songs on the album and six of them were done with Stargate. And the other four with Tricky.
David: Did you have a say in songwriting for all the tracks?
Utada: Yeh, I wrote the songs. Wouldn?t have it any other way. [laughs]
David: You also worked with Timbaland?
Utada: For the last album.
David: Are there any other American producers or artists that you want to collaborate with?
Utada: Not really. When the time comes I will think about who, but not really. [laughs]
David: You prefer being a solo performer?
Utada: This time the reason why I decided to work with Stargate and Tricky was because I didn?t want to have any big producers on the album like Timbaland-type producers that have their own color coming out, like their character is strong, like Timbaland-esque.
David: It sounds like Timbaland.
Utada: Right, where as I wanted it to be just me. To have track makers instead of producers. Stargate and Tricky are more like track makers. They?re producers but compared to Timbaland-type producers, they?re better at bringing out the quality and characteristics of a particular artist. They can take one step behind, sort of, into the background a bit. They know how to do that. That?s how they work. It was a very interesting collaboration in terms of music as well. I said ?I?m going to write all the songs. That?s how it is.? I also collaborated on the tracks as well. I added some tracks, I changed the chords, had a part in the arranging? so I think a lot of me comes out in the whole album? which is good. [smiles]
David: I think a lot of you comes out in the single that?s out now. Like I said, it definitely reminds me of some of your older material.
Utada: Yeh, like the ?First Love?-ish thing. Yes.
David: But contemporary.
Utada: But the 2009 version. [laughs]
"Utada sits down with Ningin and says ?This Is The One? - Part 2/2"
So you?ve probably heard by now. Utada sat down with Ningin ningens David, Hoc and Megu for a casual interview 27 floors up on the West side of Manhattan. Her upcoming English language album, This Is The One, is set for a March debut and will be released in America and Japan. The second of two parts, Utada talked about how she ?ought to? plan a tour, video games, and being thankful for every moment.
David: You?ve sold millions of albums in Japan, but your music? doesn?t fit a typical Japanese pop model, and now your American release is going to be more an R&B American mainstream sound? your previous and very successful [music] doesn?t fit either one.
Utada: That?s true.
David: So would you consider trying some of your other styles for the US market?
Utada: I really don?t think ahead. I?m not thinking about the next style. I don?t even think about style really too much. I just finished making the current one. I have no thoughts on future styles. [laughs]
David: One album at a time?
Utada: Yes. Day by day. Hour by hour. [Everyone in room laughs]
David: Are you going to be releasing a video?
Utada: Yes. We?re editing right now. The video for ?Come Back to Me? and I think it?s gonna be really cool.
David: Can you give us any hints about it?
Utada: I posted a message on my YouTube music website and on MySpace. Just a brief message that I just finished shooting my video. That?s about it. That?s all I can say but it?ll be finished shortly.
David: Is [the album] mastered?
Utada: They?re mastering in a few days.
David: Definitely day by day, hour by hour. [laughs] Any US performances to support the new album?
Utada: We?re working on some, in talks here and there. But I don?t plan for a tour yet. Well, I say in all these interviews that ?I ought to? [laughs] I haven?t planned for a tour yet, but I really ought to!
David: Yeh, it would be nice. [laughs]
Utada: Maybe if there?s a big demand for a tour, it would become more of a possibility.
David: So it?s to be continued! [laughs]
Utada: Petitions! [Everyone in room laughs] I should stand around all the major cities of the U.S. with a big signing petition. Just sign your name if you want a performance by me! If you want a tour by Utada! Please! Please!
Hoc: We could do that.
David: We could probably organize the fans to do that. You don?t have to do that yourself! Cause you haven?t even finished mastering the album yet so?[laughs]
Utada: But ideally, I would not have to do it myself. [laughs]
David: Yeh, you?ve got to finish the album first.
Utada: Yeh, oh it?s almost done. Right now, at the moment, we?re deciding the timing, the number of seconds between each song. [pinches the air] Like the last thing to do! Cause depending on each song, you have to put different? each pause? specify like 1.5 seconds or just a little shorter, 1.2 seconds, or 2 seconds.
David: What kind of breath between each song?
Utada: Right. Depending on how the next one starts. That?s the process we?re in right now.
David: Well we could make a plea now for your fans to start.
Utada: [laughs loudly] just to start out!
David: Contact their local radio stations, call up MTV.
Utada: Wow. That?d be cool.
David: They don?t have TRL on any more.
David: That?s too bad. We could have had a TRL campaign? Two artist questions. Since you do mostly all of your own songwriting?
Utada: All my songwriting.
David: All your songwriting?
David: You have written up a lot of songs?
Utada: True. It?s true. Yeh.
David: So you?re actually quite prolific as a songwriter.
Utada: I am?
David: Yeh, you are! So with that in mind, do you have any particular creative inspirations to draw upon?
Utada: Everything. Every little thing becomes part of my songwriting. I was just looking at this bottle of water and I just noticed how cute this picture of a fish is. He?s got a snorkel on. This Evian bottle is stuck onto where the air is supposed to be coming out.
David: So he can live outside the water. [laughs]
Utada: Yes, yes, yes! [laughs] Oooh, that?s cute! [holds up bottle] Anything like that can come out in my songwriting, or just a nice day, nice sunset. That?s very typical? That and noticing things? if I put my elbows on this table and I notice that there?s a sticky spot. I?m like [disgusted sound] that probably effects my songwriting side as well. Just everything literally.
David: A song about sticky spots?
Utada: Yeh, there?s a nasty spot here! [laughs at points at nasty, sticky spot on table]
David: Some bands go like 4 or 5 years till they have an album come out, and then it?s just so-so. But you [have an album] come out like every two years?
Utada: Yes. Pretty constant pace.
David: Very fast pace. An album every two years for like 10 years. So looking back the 10 years, is there anything you would do differently?
Utada: No. [laughs] No. I don?t think ahead and I don?t look back really or regret? Just as a human being, I don?t regret anything at all. Wouldn?t change anything.
David: Not everybody knows this but you?re a competitive Tetris player?
Utada: Yes. [smiles] Very competitive. [laughs] Skilled as well. Highly skilled.
David: Have you ever thought of a special ?Utada? version of Tetris?
Utada: Actually I?m sure if I asked for it, they might make it. Because I?ve done events with them, and I worked with Nintendo for the DS stuff. Hmmm, well, then I probably wouldn?t play it myself. Maybe for my fans, but for me to see my own version of Tetris, I don?t think I would play it. It?s kind of gross. It?s like listening to your own songs constantly, putting up all my album artwork on my walls. [laughs] It?s a bit egotistical? I?m thinking of you know how you can do the wi-fi with Tetris, yeh?
Utada: I?m thinking about getting a user name, creating a name that people can tell is me like ?Utada? or ?Utada Hikaru? or something. Like my real name somehow. And to start playing Tetris over wifi with that name so people can actually end up battling me?
David: Find a worthy challenger?
Utada: Yeh. I?ve so far been using an anonymous name that doesn?t make any sense, no connection with me really, so people I?ve played against on wifi, they have no idea it?s me. And I have no idea who they are either. It?s very, very anonymous, right? I?ve been thinking maybe I should just start doing it publicly. Use my real name so that people know when they?re put up against me, they know that it?s me. If they know who I am?
David: They know who beat them. [laughs]
Utada: Right. [laughs] Yeh.
David: Are you competitive with any other games?
Utada: For a while I was doing a lot of the Fushigi no Dungeon series. I?m trying to think of the English translation of it? It?s an RPG, role playing game. The series is called? Mystery Dungeon Series! There?s Adventures of Torneko 1, 2, 3, The Traveling Shiren? they even have one with Pok?mon. I didn?t do that one, but those series I play a lot too. My roots from childhood are Tetris and Dr Mario. I?m insanely good at Dr Mario! [Everyone in room laughs]
Utada: Those same kind of puzzle games, I?m very good at them.
David: Maybe you could do a competition at one of your shows or something?
Utada: Yeh! Bring your DS, and we can all play. [Everyone in room laughs, Utada the loudest]
David: That would be crazy. [laughs] So in the US, you?re going by the name Utada?
David: but most of your fans already know you as Hikki. Why Utada instead of Hikki?
Utada: The nickname Hikki only worked for Japan. Because in English it means kiss mark, so that kind of connotation doesn?t work for America at all. [Everyone in room laughs] I don?t think it reflects me as an artist at this point. Well, it?s a a bit more like a nickname that you can use to feel familiar, feel intimate, like a friend kind of feeling, but it?s not an artist name, i don?t think so.
David: Fair enough. Well, thank you?
Utada: By the way, I?d like to add that the reason why I said I don?t regret anything in the past is because I appreciate everything single thing that has happened? That?s the kind of stuff I think about all the time. Yes. That is the reason why. [Utada lets out a deep breath]
And with that we stopped the tape, and like Hoc mentioned, we can?t really say any more. Well, maybe just a little? Turns out Utada and Megu were only one degree of separation apart growing up. Both of them talked some super serious Dr Mario. Hoc and I realized that we were way out of our videogaming league, way way out.
A big thanks to Utada for letting us drop by. Her and her father are good company with a sense of humor and appreciation for where life has taken them. As father Teruzane Utada said to us, ?That?s how we roll.?
Utada?s new single ?Come Back to Me? goes on sale on iTunes on February 9, and the new album ?This Is The One? comes out March 24. Listen to the new single and keep up with Utada at utada.com.