With his name stolen from Planet Of The Apes , and a reputation for boundless innovation, Cornelius has somehow managed to break down the language and distance barriers to build himself a bulging British fanbase. On a brief trip to Europe to drop off the finished copies of his new album, Point, Cornelius summoned Michael Gently to his west London hotel suite for the Japanese superstar’s only online interview in the UK.
Amidst clouds of sweet smoke, the talk turns to the colour orange… Photos of Cornelius’s own studio do the rounds and everything within this studio is orange. Everything. The amps, the mixing desk, the decks, the guitars. You mean to say this perfect menagerie of beats, bleeps, guitar licks and retro grooves is concocted in a room that is orange? Hell, things are getting strange already and the man himself isn’t even in the room.
Salvation. Keigo Oyamada [Cornelius’s real name] enters with a scarf covering half his face leaving only his eyes peeking out over the top. The man looks like a crab. An amiable crab. He ain’t fooling me none though with this charade of mystery – I know he’s just come from the bathroom… and, admit it, aeroplane food has affected us all at some point.
Point now there’s a word. Gently! Let’s get to work!
The following interview is conducted through an interpreter…
PIXELSURGEON: Can you tell us what to expect musically from you on this new album?
CORNELIUS: This album is much more natural. It’s a lot less sample-based and the sound is more organic. It’s a step on from Fantasma .
And, of the samples you have used, are there any surprises?
Unlike Fantasma, there are hardly any samples on Point. It’s all played by me. The only sample I used is the vocal line, “This is called the déjà vu experience,” on Another View Point. It’s taken from a hypnosis record.
Why have you chosen to call the album Point?
The word point has more than one meaning and is many layered. It’s to do with the album’s artwork. The point is made up of many other points and depending on how you look at it, it can be different – just like the record. There are many different points of view.
For those of you out there who had your heads in the sand for the last howeverlong, Cornelius’s live shows are a must-see. Although, admittedly, toned down for his international tours, the experience has been known to include synchronised robots and the tour programmes to include headphones, radio and 3-D glasses. The idea was for the punters to tune into a custom-made parallel radio broadcast at the same time as watching the live show. A kind of DIY surround sound multi-media experience.
Any plans for live shows in the UK in the near future and what can we expect?
I will be touring this record in the UK – we’re currently working out the tour dates now. I’m happy with the venues I play in England. Last time we were here, we played The Scala and that was the perfect size.
How important is the Japanese market to you compared with the international market?
I haven’t got one big aim, final goal or a game plan to conquer certain areas. If people from anywhere in the world – Japan, America, Europe, Britain – want to listen to my music then that makes me happy, that’s what I want.
Any plans to extend your clothing line outside Japan?
Bathing Ape is not actually my label. It’s owned by two of my buddies from high school and I just really like their work.
Other than coming from Japan, what makes you a Japanese artist?
I don’t think of myself being a Japanese artist making Japanese music. I just make my own music but happen to be Japanese. Japan’s made up of many cultures – Brazilian, American, Latin – and it’s all represented in my music. I don’t use traditional Japanese instruments though.
How important was coming from Shibuya in shaping your musical tastes?
Shibuya is a massive record buying district where you can get records from all around the world. I grew up there as a kid and it gave me access to so much different music.
You’re often being compared to so many artists because people have so much trouble describing your music. Do comparisons annoy you or do you find them flattering?
People comparing me to the likes of Beastie Boys or Beck happened with the Fantasma record but it doesn’t annoy me at all. It’s great to be compared to artists like them.
What can you tell us about a proposed collaboration with Kings Of Convenience?
I’ve never actually met them but I’m a big fan of their music. They’ve done a remix of Drop for me. It’ll be on the next UK single and the first from the new album.
What did you think of last year’s Planet Of The Apes movie?
I still haven’t seen it. It was playing on my flight to London but I fell asleep. I’ll see it soon though.
And the soundtrack?
No, I haven’t heard that yet either.
What do you have as your ringtone?
I have the sound of birds – not the band – but real birds.
In your live shows and your music, you’re the king of innovation – what do you have planned for Cornelius on the Internet?
I’m really quite new to working on the Internet but I am building my own website at the moment. It’s gonna have games, flash movies, videos and music on it. There’ll also be this one piece of music that everyone can contribute to. It’ll just be one continuously growing piece of music.
Are you much of surfer? Any sites you can recommend?
I usually sit down a few times a week and have a look around. There’s one site in Japan that’s causing real chaos. It’s an open forum where people can really talk about anything they like. Music, manga, film, politics, anything. Any little subject. It’s all to do with freedom of speech. But the other month this guy had been on the site talking about how he was going to do a bus-jacking at knifepoint – and the next day he did it.