Hi Yuki, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Great! In isolation, spending a lot of time planning this album, but other than that just creating new music, listening to a lot of new music too!
How were you initially drawn into the world of music?
I was at a music festival in New Zealand when I was super young, and I asked my Dad to buy me this ukulele on sale there. I’d never played an instrument, but I just thought it looked really cool. From there my parents got me ukulele lessons, then guitar lessons, and to be honest I hated it! But I kept pushing for 6-7 years in high school and then eventually wanted to stop playing Jimi Hendrix covers, and make my own songs! *laughs*
Did you always intend to become a producer or it sort of happened?
I think it just happened. I started off very shy and didn’t want to sing, or rap, or even write vocal ideas, so I just tried to do what I could with the technical side. I think when I started getting more confident producing, the drive to put ideas on my own production became bigger.
What did you learn from your experience working as a producer for the likes of Jaden Smith?
To trust your ideas and not sacrifice what you think is special about yourself. I was pretty intimidated going into the studio for the first few sessions and I thought I’d have to make beats like everyone else did. I think the reason I ended up with so many songs on ERYS was because I trusted myself and my ability, and created music I believed in rather than music I thought would hit.
Was it easy for you to transition from working for others to writing your own work?
At first, no, because I was used to feeling confident in my role and letting others do their own thing! But with solo music, at first I felt very alone and vulnerable. I think over a few years, and trial and error, I’ve finally found my voice.
What’s the story behind Be Free?
This is a tricky question. When coming up with ideas on how to present this album, I found it really difficult. Be Free to me isn’t about being free or finding freedom, it’s more just a brand name or stamp that I can attach to the music, and most importantly the memories I made while making it too. It’s about the motivation to grow up, move on, and talk about things that trouble you, in hopes that you can be comfortable with yourself.
How was the writing and recording process?
It started out very routine: I made the main ideas for most of the songs in my bedroom in my parents’ house, but then I moved out for a little bit and it became very all over the place. I became much more collaborative with my friends – the ideas were more fun and moved around a lot. I started the album with a very different theme in mind and then it became apparent a quarter way through making it that the music wasn’t reflecting that theme. A lot of the stylistic vocal production came from the fact that my mic at the time was pretty terrible and I wanted to mask it *laughs*.
Was it any different to your other collaborations?
Massively different. Usually when I work for other people it feels like I’m showing up to provide my services and perform my best, and with Jaden it was non-stop crazy work. Whereas with Be Free, for the first time it felt like I had my own team. There was no pressure to perform or to impress. It was truly a blessing to have supportive friends that made me feel comfortable sharing the process.
Speaking of which, do you tend to take a different approach when working with someone else rather than your own?
Somewhat yes. When I work with others I usually like to only present 1 or 2 ideas. I’ve never really been a “beat maker” who can pump out 10 beats every day. I like to sit with the ideas and see where the artists will take them. For my solo music I’m pretty quick making ideas and I make a lot them, a lot of terrible demos. But once I create something I love, I’ll refine it over a long time until it works for me.
I am guessing the expectations were rather high?
Yes and no. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to be better at my craft after a long hiatus, but I don’t feel any huge expectation from anyone else. A lot of people who are new from the ERYS era probably don’t know what my own music sounds like, so it feels good presenting something so ambitious to a group of people who aren’t really expecting anything.
What role does New Zealand play in your music?
I sometimes feel very disconnected with my home country because I’m always online I guess; a lot of my close friends aren’t physically near me so I’m always on Face Time. But New Zealand has definitely influenced who I am, the way I grew up, the people I’ve met, and how different it is compared to somewhere like Los Angeles. It’s always going to be home and I’m proud to be from here.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
A lot of the writing was done after visiting Los Angeles, and after working on ERYS. I had been through a lot of new and overwhelming experiences, and I felt quite distant from myself, like I was playing a character. I wanted to get back in touch with who I was and sort of feel comfortable in my own skin again.
What else is happening next in Yuki’s world?
In the later stages of finishing Be Free; I started a project to accompany the album.
The way I see it is if Be Free is sonic overload, then this new project is like a pallet cleanser!
So I aim to finish that ASAP, as well as getting out there more on the producer side and see who I can work with.