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Interview with Emori Takeaki


English /日本語

Emori Takeaki is a Japanese indie-pop legend — a graphic designer, music writer, head of record label tone twilight, and most importantly, leader of iconic bands Citrus and yoga’n’ants. Yet, there is so little written about the man and his work (especially in English) that we had to go to him ourselves to get the full story.

For a primer on Emori, please listen to our previous Podcast on Citrus and Emori Takeaki.

Are you originally from Tokyo?

Yes. Do you know where Shakujii Park is — in Nerima? The station area is very developed, but there are vegetable fields if you go out just a bit.

At what age did you first get interested in music

I think around middle-school. My mother played mandolin, and she even played it on the yoga’n’ants album, but my parents wouldn’t buy me any records. So I had to use my own money to be able to listen to anything. This was during the decline of records and the dawn of CDs.

Were you listening to foreign music?

Yes, always foreign music, even now.

And that was indie bands?

At first I was listening to stuff like Dream Academy and The Blow Monkeys.

Not particularly mainstream.

Definitely not mainstream, but not that minor either.

When did you start making your own music?

Maybe when I was still a student. I had friends who played in bands for our school’s bunkasai (culture festival). There was also this group of guys who were about ten years older than me who let me play bass in their band. They were very a big influence on me. These guys were all out of school, so they knew so much more about music than I did. And everyone would come to rehearsal with original songs [instead of just playing covers like many young Japanese bands]… so that was a very influential environment.

What year was this?

I was about 19 or 20, so this was around 1990.

People often say that before Flipper’s Guitar in the early 1990s, the number of Japanese kids listening to foreign indie music was very small. Do you think this was true?

Yes. I think there were a lot of people in my generation who first realized that indie music existed overseas when Flipper’s Guitar came out. Until that time, everyone found out about foreign music from [the popular radio show] Best Hits USA and (DJ) Kobayashi Katsuya, and people would see Duran Duran and Culture Club videos on TV. They’d end up thinking that these bands were “the whole scene,” and so no one was able to get any information beyond that.

I was always working in jobs related to music, so I absorbed a relatively diverse amount of music. But if I was in an environment where I had to depend on my own pocket money to buy a few albums a month, I probably would have been like “So, Bobby Brown or Rick Astley?” (laughs).

But it’s not like people overseas know anything about Japanese indie music, so maybe it was the same with Japan at the time. Obviously you guys are an exception. (laughs)

So getting to your band Citrus, the first Citrus EP Citrus EP from 1994 was basically lo-fi pop, put out on a small indie label. What drew you to making that kind of music?

I think it was probably the influence of Citrus’ vocalist Endo Michiko. She liked indie and garage stuff a lot more than me, and she was originally planning on forming an indie band with a girl from my neighborhood. She came to me to get advice on a band name, and then the other girl ended up getting married and had to work at her husband’s family’s kimono shop out in the countryside. (laughs). So at first I just kept continuing to help Endo out, and that’s how we started being a band.

When I first met (Citrus vocalist) Endo, we were talking about music, and she talked about how she was really into American R&B like R. Kelly, which I didn’t quite expect.

Well, I am not so up on what she is into these days, but everyone involved in Citrus listened to a lot of really different kinds of music. At the time, I loved stuff like Pavement, but before bed, I would only listen to AOR or jazz. There was that kind of thing at work for everyone too. So R. Kelly is not that far out.

But when it came to the music that Citrus made, we had so many rules. There were a lot of land mines — you can’t do this, you can’t do that. You couldn’t do something in Citrus just because you personally liked it.

The next indie-label EP Citrus Plant for Kids uses a lot of TV samples mixed in with the songs. Were you suddenly interested in sampling at the time?

That was a long time ago, so I don’t really remember, but maybe, I had just bought a sampler. And since I bought it, I thought I should use it. And when I used it, it turned into that kind of sound, maybe.

We were really lucky that a friend of mine — out of that group ten years older than me — worked at a recording studio where announcers record their voice for TV shows. So Citrus, without really practicing or working hard as a struggling band, was able to record in a pro studio at the very beginning, and I think the actual equipment of that studio influenced us. We would sneak in there late at night with our gear, and we’d all record until morning before everyone showed up for work.

How did Citrus end up signing to Oyamada Keigo’s (Cornelius) Trattoria Records?

Oyamada came to see Citrus play live, and he asked us to do something.

Citrus came out late into Trattoria’s releases. At first, the label was more sophisticated sounds, but slowly Oyamada’s tastes started to change. He was looking for something that sounded nothing like what he had put out before, and we had good luck that he discovered us right at that time.

When you got onto Trattoria did you start going into real recording studios?

No. (laughs) I thought it was a nuisance to try out a new studio, but more than that, since we had received some money to record from Trattoria, we decided to give it to the people who had recorded us for free in the past. Although on our break time, we started to be able go eat eel or sushi. That was the degree of how much things changed. (laughs)

From the first Trattoria EP Boat, Drive In, I think you pretty much solidified the “Citrus sound.” And even today, no one really sounds like what you did with those four Trattoria EPs — using indie-pop guitar, horns, and dance music drums, for example. Where did that sound come from?

First of all, I thought it would be really funny to be a “ragged lo-fi band on an indie label that suddenly goes really slick and pro after joining a major label.” (laughs) But I had a lot of conflict about that, and I worried about the songs with programmed drums up until the very end (“should I be really doing this?”). When we were listening to the playback at the studio one day, the keyboard player Masada Kei said to me, “Is this Saint Etienne covering the Field Mice? We’re supposed to be doing the reverse!” That instantly freed me from any worry. (laughs)

So based on that concept I had, I thought that if you were on a major label, guys shouldn’t sing anymore — only the girl should sing. [Ed.: Early Citrus includes Emori’s own vocals as well as the female vocalist Endo.] Or if you were on a major label, the rhythm should be stable and programmed. I wanted to consciously include elements that I thought would normally be cheesy. Anyway, basically, we just thought it’d be really funny to instantly change once getting on a major label.

Can you tell me about your off-kilter drum playing on the Citrus tracks?

The studio we used was mainly for announcers to do narration, so you couldn’t set up an entire drum set, because a set was too big for the space. So when we recorded the drums, we had to do it piecemeal. We’d set up the hi-hat and just record the hi-hat. (laughs) That helped create a very ragged rhythm. But I was never very good at drums anyway. Really, I’m an amateur, so it should not be a big surprise that I am bad.

But I don’t think it’s just “bad drumming.” There is an artistry to its badness.

Well… I agree that you can draw a line between “this amount of being off is OK / this amount of being off is lame,” but I don’t think it’s that fine of a line. I think I just have a relatively poor sense of rhythm. For example, I played some piano for Yoga’n’ants, but since the back musicians were so good, you couldn’t listen to it. (laughs)

For Citrus, as long as the “spirit” was good, it was okay. If someone randomly did a really great take, we’d throw it out. We intentionally used the bad takes. That was the nature of it.

You played drums on the Yukari Rotten single for “C.L.I.J.S.T.E.R.S.” Were they fans of your style?

I played for them recently too, for the new Yukari Fresh thing. Yeah, they just called me up one day out of the blue.

Is it fair to say you are famous in Japan for that drum sound?

No way. Yukari Fresh’s producer (and husband) Katayama just really likes my drum sound. So it’s just him.

The last Citrus EP Wispy, No Mercy would probably top any list of the best Japanese music of the 1990s. Did you get a sense that you were onto something big with that?

Well, at the time, I thought it was the best thing we had made up until that point, but actually, when we had finished the previous EP Splash!, we decided we would break up after the next release. So Splash! has a kind of melancholy sound to it. The songs are a bit underwhelming, but hard to forget.

But then it slipped our minds that we were supposed to break up and we started to record again, but we thought that we had reached our peak musically with Splash!. We could not find a reason to make something new. So Masada and I were discussing this problem, and he had the idea that we “go back to the very beginning of Citrus.” (laughs). So we brought back the programming and consciously packed the EP full of fast songs. Emotionally, we approached the whole project with much more composure than usual. Like, we knew that it was “over.”

Was there a specific reason for breaking up?

We just got sick of it. But at the same time, I felt like it wouldn’t be Citrus unless we kept doing the same thing the whole time. I believed that if I wanted to challenge myself with something new, we should just break up.

I have a vivid memory of telling what I said just now to Takemi (Kenji) from Crue-L Records, and he said, “Ah, you never even put out an album.” But with that, I felt a major sense of achievement. (laughs). I remember feeling like we had accomplished something very big by breaking up without putting out an album.

Speaking of, how did the song “Colo Colo Meets the Stripes” end up on a seven-inch single from Crue-L instead of on Trattoria?

That’s a pretty nerdy question. (laughs)

Originally that was a song we did for the Trattoria soccer compilation Bend It! Japan ’98, but since it turned out so well, I wanted to make it into a seven-inch. I decided totally by myself that the seven-inch had to be released on Crue-L. So I threw together something for the B-side, mastered it to DAT, and I went to Crue-L to turn it in. “Please put this out.” (laughs)

A few young Japanese indie bands like Plus-Tech Squeeze Box have cited Citrus as an influence, especially the smash of different genres in the song “Colo Colo Meets the Stripes.” Was that song structure an accident you stumbled upon?

That song wasn’t an accident. We just simply made the song by trying to make a pop song. Citrus’ chord changes and songwriting are pretty straightforward pop. We decided that we could never use academic chords or stylish structural changes. In the future those things exploded with yoga’n’ants though…

So you played around with the production instead of the chords?


And that must have been much harder before Pro Tools.

Not really. If you could write a song like that, you could make it, so it wasn’t that much trouble. The places where it sounds flashy would sound the same if it was just one guitar on the recording.

Did becoming a four-piece instead of just two change the Citrus sound? Why did you decide to add more people in the first place?

We doubled the members just because we thought it would be funny if we doubled the members when we moved to Trattoria. And then we thought, once we put out our first release on Trattoria, we’ll have to go to eight people. (laughs) The bass player (Watanabe) Nana was supposed to bring her bass to play, but she never really did anything, so it ended up being just like when we started the band. But [keyboardist] Masada (Kei)’s presence was really important. Once we started putting things out on Trattoria, Masada and I would basically make all the music, we’d all write the lyrics, and Endo would sing. Nana would go to the convenience store and buy us sweets.

Didn’t Nana do vocals once in a while?

Once in a while. But I mean, she probably has the worst voice of all the female voices I have ever heard. When she would be dubbing her vocals on the chorus, the other members would be outside the booth, falling over laughing. (laughs).

Why did Citrus never release an album?

Most of it was that I thought it wasn’t very punk to release albums. I thought the best thing would be to only do singles, break up, and be totally forgotten. I liked a lot of bands that ended after just singles. At the time, I was listening to a lot of really minor indie bands. We started Citrus with the idea of doing that and decided that we had to do it until the very end.

When you were doing Citrus, did you get a sense that the Shibuya-kei group was a “scene”?

I don’t have the slightest idea. We were never a band that would show up with our instruments and jam. We never played live that much, so I have no real feeling of having been in a scene. But what I can say is that if we didn’t come out on Trattoria, no one would have listened to us. I am in deep gratitude to Oyamada’s ears.

How did you feel about the other Trattoria bands?

Hmm. I just don’t really listen to much Japanese music.

You never listen to bands you are friendly with?

No. I am not friendly with any bands! (laughs)

Was everyone else at Trattoria like that too?

I don’t even know enough to say whether that’s true. (laughs) Nakahara Masaya (from Violent Onsen Geisha) and I would sometimes get a meal. I’d call him over to eat nabe. I’ve never been friendly enough with Oyamada to just call him up to hang out, so there wasn’t anyone I was super good friends with.

Basically, there was a band called Citrus, and our label Trattoria was in Ebisu. They’d tell us, “Make the record under this budget,” and by the deadline, we’d finish recording and send it in. Whether I was friends with people on staff is a totally different conversation. Otherwise what I described is about all I did.

The only Citrus remix ever was your remix of Cornelius from 96/69, right?

Yes, I think so.

Did you personally make that? It doesn’t sound very “Citrus-y.”

That’s because that song was also tied to a concept. So our little band made its major label debut and instantly became really polished. We got nervous about what to do for remixing, so we planned to just do a normal R&B thing. (laughs) Almost like we were defeated by the sound of the word “remix.” (laughs)

Sorry that there’s no real “drama” to the stories about Citrus. There are no punchlines that you can use to write the interview…

Well that gets back to the fact that music is best listened to rather than talked about. I generally dislike doing interviews with musicians because all of the “ideas” are in the music, and no one wants to go and verbalize them. But when I listen to Citrus, I have always wanted to know more about the logic behind how the music was made. Nothing has really been written about Citrus, has there?

No. (laughs)


After Citrus disbanded, you immediately started your own record label Tone Twilight?

Yes, it was at a point when the music industry was dying and the future looked dark, but I love music and I feel like I will still be doing something with music when I am 40 or 50. So I started the label on the idea that I wanted some sort of base where I could quickly do a release if I ever wanted to make something new. At that time, I was asked to do a remix for Kahimi Karie. I had the new freedom of not having to do something that sounded like Citrus. So I did that remix with a lot of elements of “free jazz” and ethnic music that I was listening to at the time, and I turned it in to the Kahimi people. The response was really good, so they let me make a seven-inch of that for tone twilight’s first release.

Do you run everything yourself?

Yes, and I also have a design office under the same name. Having that “name” is a good thing. Very convenient.

When did you start working on yoga’n’ants?

I started on that about five or six years ago. Not that we did any releases until last year, but the engineer Watanabe and I bought some gear and constantly recorded at our space in Yoyogi.

So you’d work on bit by bit?

Yes, we’d meet just three times a month. Recording is Watanabe’s actual job, so he’d have to go work with other artists. And editing and design are my real job, so we couldn’t work on everything full time, but there wasn’t anything we could do about that.

Since we only met up three times a month, we’d forget how far we got the last time, and we’d often just go out to eat and get drunk and wouldn’t make it back to the studio. (laughs) But the finished album has a lot of weight to it, and there’s a lot of information on there. I think that you can almost instantly understand albums that were recorded all together in six months, so I am glad it didn’t turn out that way.

Where did the band name yoga’n’ants come from?

If you pronounce “yoga’n’ants” as one word, you can’t tell what language it is from the sound of it. And if you imagine a visual from the written name, it’s an odd image of ants gathering on a woman’s thighs while she does yoga on a lake shore during a moonlit night. (laughs) Just like with Citrus, it is an ideal image of something pretty, but with something scary at its heart. I would like people to take away that kind of feeling.

All the lyrics are French. Is the vocalist Japanese?

She’s French. She is named Sublime and does a lot of work in the commercial music, jazz, and chanson field. She also writes excellent lyrics, so I had her do both words and vocals. Sublime worked with us over a long five years. I had continuously called her up once in a while to sing for us, and I was worried about what kind of album it would turn out to be, but I am very satisfied with the final result. I’d love to ask her to sing for us again if I could.

Due to the French lyrics and high production value, I feel like it’s a record meant to be enjoyed worldwide.

Please write that I am looking for a distributor. Also, we will start taking PayPal orders on MySpace very soon.

If you casually listen to the record, it just sounds like somewhat standard bossa-jazz, which most people have now heard too much of. But on deeper inspection, it has an very interesting avant-garde, atmospheric noise layer. It could be the background music of a trendy café, but it has much more depth than other albums like that.

Well, there aren’t really that many bossa-jazz tracks on it, actually. I think it should be appreciated more as jazz rock or chamber music. But I think you can still appreciate it without paying attention to the avant-garde parts. I am fine with calling it “Trendy Café Bossa Club Jazz.” (laughs). I have no problem with that.

What instruments are you actually playing on the album?

Basically nothing. (laughs) I would play piano or guitar for the demo but then people way better than me would come in and replace the parts. Besides phrases that were sampled, almost nothing lived on from my original recordings by the mastering process.

So you were the just “producer?”

Yes, maybe. Probably closer to song-writer and arranger. I have no confidence about the “managing money” part of production.

Did you write the songs on guitar?

Yes. On on song, though, I started from a sample loop and then found the chords of that original song, and I added guitar to the loop.

But when you hear the record, you don’t get a sense of it being composed on guitar. It’s very hard to tell how the record was made.

That is all courtesy of the engineer Watanabe. I wasn’t going to be satisfied with normal sounds or arrangements. I think he did a very delicate and three-dimensional mix. I was looking for a new direction almost every week. Watanabe is very different from me in tastes and personality, so sometimes there was a clash, but I think we were able to turn those differences into a good balance and direction. The final sound really came together as an album. I had no interest myself in making a bossa jazz album, but the more I heard what we were doing, the more I realized that it wasn’t just that. For most so-called “club jazz,” you hear the intro and you instantly get what it will sound like up to the chorus. There’s a ton of that stuff, and it’s very low on ideas.

I agree with you there.

For example, the “clean” music that plays at cafés, you can listen to that anywhere without having to spend any money. You can just go to someone’s room or watch it on YouTube. The full CDs will be all songs that have that sound, so listening to it in other places is quite enough for me. I don’t see any reason to spend money on that kind of music.

Let’s say that there was a cute little three year-old girl walking over there. We would be like, “Oh, how cute.” But if you looked at her for five minutes straight, you’d get sick of it, right? But let’s say she was walking around with a metal yakitori skewer in her mouth. You would watch in a state of panic, for much longer than just five minutes. So I always emphasize the “danger” in whatever I make. It’s the same with Citrus, yoga’n’ants or my graphic design. Cute and pretty things have a surprisingly short lifespan. Without something dangerous or scary, I don’t think you can really hook anybody in.

ジャパニーズインディーズポップの神的存在・江森丈晃はデザイナーであり音楽ライター、レーベルtone twilightのオーナー、そして伝説のバンドCitrusyoga’n’antsのリーダーでもある。しかし、そんな彼に関して存在する記述はあまりにも少ない。彼とその周辺にある謎を解き明かす為、我々は直接取材に踏み切ったのである。


そう。石神井公園……ってわかるかな? 練馬のほうで、駅の周りはわりと開けているけど、ちょっと行くとまだ畑があったりするようなところ。






最初はDream AcademyとかThe Blow Monkeysとか、ああいう感じの……








そうだったと思う。自分らの世代だと、たぶんフリッパーズ・ギターが出てきてから、「海外にもインディ―ズがある」っていうこと自体を知った人も多いはずだしね。それまでは小林克也さんの『Best Hits USA』なんかでDuran DuranだとかCulture Clubのビデオを観て、そういうのが「シーンのすべて」だと信じちゃうっていうか、それ以上の情報にまで頭が回らないというかね。僕はずっと音楽と仕事が近くにあったから、比較的いろんなものを吸収できていたと思うけど、もし自分の小遣いの範囲で月に1~2枚のアルバムしか聴けない環境であれば、「Bobby BrownとRick Astley、どっちにする?」って時代だから(笑)。……でも、海外の人だって日本のインディのことなんて全然知らなかったでしょ? それといっしょだよね。Néojaponismeのスタッフは特殊だとしてもさ(笑)。



以前、遠藤さんに初めて会ったときに、いまはどんな音楽を聴いているかと訊ねたら、「R. Kellyなんかのブラック・ミュージックが好きになった」と言われてビックリした記憶があります。ずいぶん趣味が変わったんですね。

まぁ、彼女の趣味に関しては詳しくないんだけど(笑)、Citrusのみんなは本当にいろんな音楽を聴いてたからね。僕も当時はPavementみたいのがいちばん好きなラインだったんだけど、寝る前はAORとかジャズばっかり聴いてたし、みんなにそういう面があったんだと思う。だから、R. Kellyもそんなに意外じゃないかな。ただ、あのバンドは自分たちが作る音楽に対しての決まりごとがすごくあったから、そういう趣味の部分は表面には出なかった。いくら好きでも、好きなだけじゃやっちゃいけないという「地雷」を、自分たちで山ほど置いていたからね。

つぎのEP(Citrus Plant for Kids)ではテレビ番組のサンプルを多用して、ちょっとどういう方向に向かっているのかわからない……というか、なにがしたいかわからないシングルもありましたね。サンプラーなどの機材に対しては、すごく興味があったんですか?







あれはまず、「インディーズのときはああいうガチャガチャした音で、それがメジャーになった途端にすごくキラキラし始める」という図式自体をおもしろがっていたんだよね(笑)。ただ、自分としてはそこにとても葛藤があって、打ち込みが入る曲に関しては、最後まで「こんなのやっちゃっていいのかなぁ」って悩んでいたんだけど、スタジオでプレイバックを聴いているときに、鍵盤の正田(圭)くんが、「Saint EtienneがField Miceをカヴァーしてるじゃん? うちらはそれの逆みたいなもんだよ」って言ってくれて、それで一気に吹っ切れたという(笑)。そういう感じで、「メジャーになったら男が歌わなくなってる」とかさ、「メジャーになったら打ち込み主体でリズムが安定してる」とかさ、ふつうは「腐った」とされるようなことを意識的に盛り込むというか、ともかくは「メジャーになったら急に変わっている」というのが僕たちにはすごくおもしろかったんですよ。





ドラムはYukari Rottenのシングル「C.L.I.J.S.T.E.R.S.」でも叩いていましたね?

あ、ついこないだも叩いてきましたよ。今度出るYukari Freshの新しいやつ。当日、いきなり呼ばれて。


まさか。Yukari Freshのプロデューサーの片山くん(Yugostar)という人だけが過剰反応しているだけ。その人だけだよ。

「Wispy, No Mercy」は、この10年の日本の音楽のなかでも名作に入ると思います。本当に最高の10分間だと思うんですけど、あれを作ったときの気持ちはどんなものでしたか?





クルーエルといえば、「Colo Colo Meets the Stripes」の7インチを出していますよね? あれはなぜトラットリアではなくクルーエルからリリースされたんですか?


「Colo Colo Meets the Stripes」は、Aメロとサビの展開が画期的ですよね。それはたとえばPlus-Tech Squeeze Boxなども影響を受けている部分だと思うんですけど、あれはどういう発想なんですか?




でも、Pro Tools以前の環境では、それは決して簡単なことではないですよね? いまみたいにどんどん編集できるわけではないし。










じゃあ、「渋谷系」ではなく、トラットリアに関してはどうですか? いま考えてもかなり画期的なリリースが多いと思うのですが、レーベルの存在に対しては、どう感じていましたか?













それではCitrus解散後のことについて訊きます。まずは自分のレーベル、tone twilightを立ち上げて?

























だってさ、たとえばカフェで聴けるような「クリーン」な音楽はさ、べつにお金を出さなくたって誰かの部屋とかYou Tubeで聴けるじゃん。どうせそのCDに入ってるのは「それっぽい雰囲気」だけなんだからさ、それでも充分だと思うんだよね。お金を出す価値なんて全然ないと思う。

たとえばね、このテーブルの向こうを、すごくかわいい3歳くらいの女の子が遊んでいたとしたら、僕もDavidさんも、「わぁ、かわいいね」って思うでしょ? でも、その子がどんなにかわいくったって、5分も続けて見ていればさ、だんだんと飽きてきちゃうでしょ? でも、もしその子が、口にバーベキューの鉄串かなにかをくわえていてさ、そのままピョンピョン走り回っていたら、僕たちはずっとハラハラさせられたまま、5分を超えても見続けてしまうと思うんですよ。……なんかね……やっぱりそういうことだと思う。自分の作るものに関しては、そういう「危うさ」の部分をとても大事にしているし、それはCitrusでもyoga’n’antsでも、デザインでも、全部そう。ただかわいいもの、ただキレイなものの寿命って、意外に短いんですよ、どこか危うかったり、怖い部分がないと、そこまで人を惹きつけるものにはならないと思いますね。

Related Articles:
Martians Go Home (Flipper’s Guitar radio show)
The Legacy of Shibuya-kei Part Three (information about Trattoria records)

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

Marie Iida is a freelance translator living in Yokohama. Her work has appeared in Studio Voice, Esquire Japan, and Vogue Japan. She blogs at

5 Responses

  1. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    Thanks for this–nice work!

  2. Geoff L Says:

    great interview.
    I thought the piecemeal drumset recording he mentioned was hilarious. It Explains a lot about the sound. He certainly had a different view of his band in terms of expectations, but their output was quite good.

    I hadn’t heard much Citrus before but I’m definitely interested in hearing more of their stuff after listening to the podcast. Yoga’n’ants I really like too, although totally different.

  3. W. David MARX Says:

    The four trattoria EPs Boat, Drive In, Jazz the Poops, Splash!, and Wispy No Mercy are all great, and each about 10 minutes. I recommend them to everyone.

  4. lee Says:

    nice interview, especially so long after citrus ended.
    is that really true about nana? i had no idea…

  5. Anonymous Says: