Hi Mieko, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hi, Thank you for inviting me to VENTS! It’s been great since I have finished my album, I’ve started performing live with a Koto Player (Japanese Harp) which is incredible fun.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Lazy Light”?
“Lazy Light” is a collaboration work with William D Drake. I met him when I was performing at an event called “Soif Soirée” in Clerkenwell – an extremely magical event involving not only musicians but poets, actors, dancers….all sorts of art forms. I saw William singing and playing piano there then I thought “ WHAT IS HE?!?!”. His songs had very strange chord structures with Grimm’s Fairy Tales like enigmatic lyrics. His singing was emotional but funny and sad at the same time. I straightaway approached him if he wanted to collaborate with me. “Lazy Light “is the song we wrote together first time. I didn’t know he was ex-member of Cardiacs till much later but it didn’t really matter as I didn’t know about Cardiacs anyway. I just instinctively thought he would bring me a new ray of inspiration.
This song is a collaboration work with another writer William D Drake. Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Initially I chose to work on piano in my living room rather than getting into my recording studio straightaway. As soon as we sat down in front of my piano together, everything was so fast. William first started playing some beautiful melody and chord then those sounds reminded me one particular person who passed away two years ago. His name was Teitur. It’s an Icelandic name. He was very close family friend and also working partner for 10 years. He was full of life and loved music, sports, art, almost everything. He had very busy mind. He was only 33 and suddenly his heart stopped and he disappeared from all of us. Life is so fragile. I talked about him to William and William wanted to see his picture. I explained how strange one person exists for a while and he or she can suddenly disappear. But a very strange thing is even after they go away, somehow you still feel the person around you. I definitely didn’t want to write about death or sadness. I wanted to somehow express the mystery of life based on his sudden disappearance.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
The video was directed by Barry Murphy. He made last few videos for me and he was definitely my first choice of directors. We shot inside a big warehouse in Tottenham Hale. It was a coldest day of the year. We had a low budget so most of the budget went to the lighting, special lenses and smoke machine to create the special lighting effect. Barry had a very specific image he wanted to create and I loved it and I wanted to make it happen. On the other hand we had to cut down other items like heating, food etc. We had only one heater in the coldest day of February so the shooting condition was pretty hard. I was wearing very light costume so while William and I weren’t in the shoot, we were escaping in a car that I drove into the corner of the warehouse. I really thank to all the crew from the bottom of my heart.
The single comes off your new album I Bloom – why taking so long on releasing this material?What’s the story behind the title?
It took 5 years as I had two major operations. I basically nearly died twice. After these operations I was on a wheel chair. Finishing the album seemed impossible sometimes and I have to admit that I nearly gave up at some point. One day a junky woman was carried into next my bed. She was constantly screaming and making a huge fuss in our room. All nurses had to look after her or calm her down. Other patients had to put up with the uproar. Then from time to time I heard someone singing the other side. It was an old Scottish lady. I’ve noticed actually she was singing for the junky woman. When she sang, the junky woman started sleeping like a baby. I was really touched by it. I thought maybe I can do something as well. I might still have something to offer to the outside world. I felt quite a lot of energy in spite of my poorly condition. Then the word “I Bloom” came into my head.
How was the recording and writing process?
I re-wrote, re-sang, re-played all the songs millions of times. Because the time span for 5 years, I myself has changed inside and the all the songs had to make a change along me. Expression of singing, some words, timing of piano…nuance of every note and word. Luckily this time I had an amazing mixing engineer, David McEawan. I normally mix everything by my self but this time I wanted someone to go beyond the level I felt I could take it.
What was it like to work with William D Drake and what did he brought up to the table?
‘Lazy Light’ came within a day. I don’t know why but I kind of knew it would be like this with William. It’s a bit like working with siblings …that is the closest way of describing us working together. Even though we don’t agree on everything, somehow we don’t mind so much and move on like skating on ice. We even make fun of each other then move on till eventually something positive comes out. I like his eccentric – English-man sensibility. It gave some kind of spice to my wandering foreign soul, which is always searching for an answer to our existence..
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than on your own?
Having another fantastic artists is like opening a window in a stuffy room. Literally they are fresh air to me. So I embrace the fresh air as much as I can. Sometimes fresh air could turn to a headwind. Then I have to close a window or open another window to let it blow through.
What role does London play in your music?
I love being in London for freedom of the mind. Individuality is in everybody’s DNA. That gives me strength on keep going.
How your Japanese background does influences your writing?
I think of my body and mind as a filter. My filter contains some Japanese granules as well as other elements. When I put my new idea through the filter, my music comes out probably with a Japanesque element. I don’t think about it at all when I create and I don’t emphasize or minimize it. It’s just in there with all other elements and actually I don’t even notice.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I was brought up in a countryside where I can see Mt Fuji everywhere. I was always surrounded by nature so I always knew the fact that humans just co-exist with other living things. Humans always seem to forget about that. All my songs are constructed from fragmented images of nature, human behavior and thoughts for other creatures.
Any plans to hit the road?
I have recently played some gigs around London performing live with Kieko Kitamura a Koto Player, a kind of Japanese Harp. We put her Koto through FX pedals to create a beautiful cascading sound. I sing, play Moog synthesizer and keyboards with no computers or sequencers, which gives our live performance a real feeling of ancient and modern. We are currently making plans to take it out on the road. Watch my website for details coming soon.
What else is happening next in Mieko Shimizu’s world?
At the moment, I am fully concentrating on sending my new album “I Bloom” out into the world and looking forward to playing live and communicating my vision with people who care about this earth and all living things, like a big gong echoing from my soul.