Before their show at De Dordtse Matsuri on August 31st, 2019 I managed to sit down with vocalist Remy and guitarist Tone for a quick interview. For this interview (and all the others, of course) I always do research beforehand to come up with the questions, but in this case… The only thing I can say is that the information and material of this project that you can find online doesn’t do them any justice whatsoever. If you really want to experience the works of High Tech Low Life, the absolute best way is to do so LIVE.
01. Of course I can introduce you guys, but I personally think it’s way more fun if you introduce yourselves. Assume you have to explain High Tech Low Life to someone who has never heard of you. How would you introduce yourselves as a band?
Remy: We are a cyberpunk band, we are a group of time travelers who met in 2069, and we came back to the time we are in now, to send a message about our future. Your future.
02. High Tech Low Life started in July of 2017, while Tone and Remy were still in another band. But what exactly was the reason for you guys to start working on this project? Was it intended to do two projects at the same time, or not at all?
Tone: We knew the other band was on it’s way down, and we were talking about the next project. Writing songs together and thinking of a concept for a band together that was very flexible, initially intended to be only Remy and me. Maybe with a DJ live, but as we wrote the songs we started dreaming of a full band. We ended up meeting the other members along the way as we were getting the songs prepared, and it turned into the best case scenario of a full band.
03. When the previous act started to wind down you really got the opportunity to push this project forward, but did you have a proper idea of what you wanted High Tech Low Life to be musically from the very start? Or did events back then change your ideas?
Remy: We spent a lot of time talking what kind of music we wanted to do, showing different songs and sounds to each other, and we put a lot of effort in putting together what we had in mind, and we actually didn’t end up drifting from our initial concept.
04. At the moment you have a total of 5 out of 6 members providing different kinds of vocals to the sound of the band. How does this work in the writing process though? Since everyone has a different tone and skill. Is there one vocalist you use as a starting point and compose the others around that? Or do you start with the instrumentals first?
Tone: We just write everything.
Remy: We write the songs first, like the instrumental tracks, and then we add the vocals. Only then we start to think about who will sing what and set it up from there.
05. You are based in Okinawa in Japan, but you’re currently here in Europe doing some shows, of which some were together with FAKE ISLAND. In Japan the crowd is familiar with your work, but what did you think of the audience in Europe? Did they receive you and your music the way you hoped?
Remy: Yeah absolutely.
Tone: They were into the shows from the very beginning.
Remy: We had no idea how they would react, but we just came out here and started playing and they were into it immediately.
Tone: Actually, last night might have been our toughest crowd. We started playing and they were a little older than our average crowd, but the longer we played the more they got into it.
Remy: And they were very enthousiastic after the show too! Sometimes we have a crowd that’s into it, but they’re not jumping along or moving with the music, they’re just watching us and absorbing everything, you know. Even back home in Okinawa, when they first saw us play they were standing there like “we’re good”, you know? No feedback from them, no input. But after they saw us a second time or a third time they got very into it, jumping along and stuff.
Stephany: I actually heard that especially with Japanese audiences, when they see something that’s new to them they just stand there mesmerized, does this sound familiar to you as well?
Tone: Oh yes, definitely.
Remy: Absolutely, we’ve seen this multiple times back home.
06. Today you’re playing at another convention in The Netherlands. Last week it was Abunai and today you’re at the Dordtse Matsuri. Would you have preferred to have your own solo-show (or with another band of course), or play at a convention? And why this option over the other?
Tone: I like the convention…
Remy: I like the convention too. It would be nice to have our own fanbase during our own shows of course, but I don’t think we’re at that stage yet. So this is really fun.
Tone: It’s fun meeting other people and other performers. The festival shows are great, because there are artists to meet.
Remy: You can make so many connections through festivals like this. During a solo show it’s just that.
Stephany: I actually expected this exact answer…. (Laughs.)
Tone & Remy: (Both laughing.)
07. Since your project is quite international with native Japanese speakers and English speakers, does this cause any problems for you behind the scenes? Is there ever a misunderstanding about something, or do you think it’s a positive thing because you can reach a wider audience due to the multiple spoken languages?
Tone: I’m pretty sure they’re constantly plotting against me in Japanese… (Laughs.)
Remy: There’s always misunderstandings between languages, but it is what it is. We just fix that.
08. Probably the most unique addition to the lineup is Deathco, who despite her looks produces a sound like you wouldn’t expect to come out of her. Did you ever consider the option of bringing a female vocalist (let alone two) into the project, or did this idea only start to form when Misako was brought into the picture? Like, were you specifically looking for a female member, or was Misako a lucky coincidence?
Remy: No, from the start we have been talking about female vocals joining in on the project. We were talking about what kind of lineup we wanted to have.
Tone: Yeah, exactly. Because we knew people who we liked to have already.
Remy: There were a couple of other people, we were scouting out, and Misako joined first, then Maiki and Deathco joined at the same time.
Tone: I’d say we didn’t expect the female death vocals, especially from the writing side, but it worked out really well.
09. Even though you are technically from the future… Let’s look at the future for a bit anyway. What are the future plans for High Tech Low Life that fans can look forward to?
Tone: We will keep coming back to this time… Over, over and over…
Stephany: Don’t do that on this same day, it might get a bit… Complicated…
Remy: (Laughs) Different time, different place! Over and over…
Tone: It will be right now, it will always be right now… (Laughs.)
10. And for a final question from me… Is there anything you would like to share as a message to the readers of this interview?
Tone: Tend to the part of the garden that you can reach… That’s really our message.
Remy: Yeah. Everyone can change the future by chanting yourself now.
Stephany: With the amazon forest being on fire right now, this is actually a very on-point theme for you…
Remy: Yes, absolutely! There’s really a lot happening right now.
Tone: If you start with this base, you’re not going to change anything.
Remy: Everyone can change everything about themselves.
Tone: And it inspires everyone around you.
Remy: Yeah, everyone just starts moving and changing and that’s how everything happens.
Tone: We saw with Iwao and Deathco. They saw our first performances and were instantly fired up to join the band. Inspire others by just being you.
Remy: Inspire change.
As some fun information after their final message… Okinawa is an island off the coast of Tokyo, and is quite international because of the military personnel from all over the world being stationed there. But it’s also an island that’s very influenced by the weather. The band actually had to cancel their very first show due to a tsunami, one of which they themselves describe as the worst one they’ve ever witnessed, raging over the island. Vocalist Remy also runs his own bar/club named Remy’s on the island and is no stranger to power outages either. So their message about the future seems to have quite some daily life influences here!