Chihei Hatakeyama

Japanese musician Chihei Hatakeyama’s new album ‘Late Spring’ on Gearbox Records gently unfolds as a shared journeying experience through a series of rich and outstanding encounters. A masterpiece of dense and beatific melodies, the record draws from evolving synthesised sounds and shimmering slow motion guitars.


Hello Chihei, thanks for speaking with us. For anyone not familiar with you, please introduce yourself and what you do.

Hey DMCWORLD! Well I was born in 1978 and grew up in Fujisawa city, Kanagawa prefecture, which is about an hour and a half train ride from Tokyo. I started listening to music in junior high but never was into performing until high school when I picked up electric guitar. I was the typical high school kid that started off copying Japanese rock bands and then shifted to copying slash metal bands. After going to college, I started listening to club music and experimental music, and that’s also when I was first introduced to ambient music. In college I participated in a post rock taste jam band, however there was conflict amongst the members and eventually I decided to leave the band. In the early 2000 in Japan, artists such as Fennesz and Boards of Canada were introduced as “electronica” and I was inspired by them to create my own music. Then I met Tomoyoshi Date who is the second half of opitope, and we started working together, which still continues. After a few years of creating music, my style (“ambient” or “quiet music”) was established. And in 2006, I was able to release an album on <kranky>. That is my story up until now.

How would you describe your music? What are the elements that you feel make it distinctive?

I would describe it as “quiet and melodious music”. I hope to not be carried away by terms such as “ambient” or “drone”. It’s not easy to make something distinctive. I try to listen to all kinds of music and then mix them up with my own style. It is important to think through each and every step carefully, but sometimes it is best when you don’t think at all and just play as you feel. Creating an environment where you can focus on your performance without having to think about what’s happening in your everyday life, away from all of your issues such as income, is the key. However, sometimes your body is not feeling well, or you had a little too much to drink and you won’t be able to focus as much as you wish. But that is what I call life.

Chihei Hatakeyama - Sound of Air

Please talk us through your new album ‘Late Spring’? What inspired you to create the album?

I got inspiration from things I feel in my everyday life, as well as films. David Lynch and Yasujiro Ozu to be specific. David Lynch’s Twin Peaks actually has its influence from Eastern thoughts (Buddhism), and it sometimes overlaps with the world of Yasujiro Ozu. The two seem so different, yet share a common ground which is the Eastern belief of “reincarnation”, or “life cycle”. And I wanted to express that in this album. The meaning behind the title “Late Spring” is that “no matter whatever season, it always comes back to spring”. In other words, “the world goes around”.

Album link…

If money was no object, what item of studio equipment would you get?

I would like to add another compressor, Neve 33609. Also some of the Music Easel synthesizers of Buchla. There’s also a vintage sampler SP1200 that I have my eye on.

What have been the biggest influences in your music career so far?

In my early 20s, I used to hang out a lot in clubs and live houses. The passion I had back then made me want to get up on stage. The fact that that urge continued formed the person I’ve become today. I’m sure there are other elements but things that I have experienced in my younger age have a very big influence on me. Looking back now, it seems like a gloomy vague world. Those clubs and places I used to go to have now changed or are gone completely but I still sometimes visit there anyways to clear my mind.

What are three new tracks/albums you’d recommend someone to listen to?

Ulla – Tumbling Towards a Wall

Sean McCann – Puck

Kali Malone – The Sacrificial Code

And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Just like miners, once you’ve decided to dig a certain area, artists must keep digging until you find the mineral vein”. In other words, “once you decide your own style, you shouldn’t change and keep going through with it”.