Interviews

Hopefully Not Lost in Translation: A Brief Chat with Cornelius

Photo: Masayoshi Sukita

The Grammy-nominated soundscaper Cornelius is back with his first new non-soundtrack solo record in over a decade, and has stories of crazy fans and Spotifying with kids to go with it.


Cornelius

Mellow Waves

Label: Rostrum
US Release Date: 2017-07-21
Amazon
iTunes

Cornelius -- the Japanese electronic, shibuya-key, and acclaimed progressive pop songwriter -- is back with his first non-soundtrack solo record in 11 years. Coming off a tour of his fantastic 1997 record Fantasma, Cornelius is doing anything but looking back, adding more complexity and nuance to his latest work, Mellow Waves.

His age has pushed his music towards indie-tronica and ambient pop, mixing Japanese and English for his most catchy tunes. He has traded a bit of experimentation for listenability over the long process of making his new record. His embrace of the complexities of the studio is apparent on Mellow Wave, as after securing a Grammy nomination in 2009 for Best Surround Sound Album, he's showing no signs of holding back his perfectionist instinct.

PopMatters caught up with Cornelius over Skype (we both had coffees and he had a translator) to talk about the new album, his iconic remixes, and, of course, his craziest fan. During the whole conversation, his demeanor was calm, reserved and witty. He has a sweet spirit and clearly has decades of creativity ahead.

* * *

Your records are very sonically complex, how does it feel knowing many people listen out of built in speakers on their phone or laptop?

I listen to music with my son. He is 16, he loves music and works at a record store. We listen on vinyl and Spotify, but not usually on CD.

How do you decide whether or not to accept a soundtrack job when you can't see the finished product before accepting the work?

They show me storyboards and different things that represent what the finished work will be.

I love your Avalanches "Since I Left You" remix. Did their reunion inspire you to make a new record?

I saw the Avalanches at the Fuji Rock Festival, they were on the roster, and we laughed and exchanged stories backstage. I hadn't seen them since their last record came out.

When I first heard the Avalanches remix, I wondered if you have synesthesia: seeing music in colors. Have you heard of that before?

I think everyone who makes music of some kind sees things in colors. Hard, rigid tones are usually blue.

I wasn't able to see your Fantasma tour, I wanted to, how does nostalgia help or hinder music in 2017?

It wasn't nostalgia that really informed the tour, life happens so fast, you might be too young yet to know, but it was surprising that the record was 20 years old already.

What's the strangest display of affection you have ever received from a fan?

More of a funny story, I met a fan outside of a club smoking, and he quoted to me the lyrics from "Kaze Wo Atsumete" and told me he heard it in the film Lost in Translation. He didn't know that Brian from Red Kross put together that soundtrack and asked me to recommend a song to him, and I told him to use that specific song from the band Happy End.

How long have you been working on Mellow Waves?

One of the songs was written seven years ago. Most of it was done more recently though.

How did you feel when David Bowie and Prince died?

When I was in middle school, I listened to Purple Rain and Let's Dance. They were big songs, and had a large influence on me.

If you could re-soundtrack one classic with your own music which one would you re-soundtrack?

Koyaanisqatsi. The original soundtrack is by Philip Glass and it is something that has influenced me heavily.

If you could do a collaborative record with another electronic artist -- who would you make one for?

All time hero: Brian Eno. But another would be Oneohtrix Point Never

What's next?

For now: Japan touring, really have to start figuring out the world tour for 2018.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.