Even if you haven’t heard of the J-electro unit CAPSULE, it’s likely you’ve heard the works of their producer, Yasutaka Nakata. That is, if you listen to J-Pop (he is behind the music of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Perfume—yes, he’s responsible for the annoyingly catchy PONPONPON and the crazy colliding rhythmic patterns in Polyrhythm), or watch Japanese television (he produced the soundtrack of Liar Game, and his songs are featured in a plethora of commercials) or if you’ve taken the Shinkansen from his hometown, Kanazawa (he composed its 10-second long departure melody). This was also where he and fellow Kanazawa native, vocalist Toshiko Koshijima teamed up to form CAPSULE when they were both 17.
This February, the long-time collaborators released Wave Runner (their 15th album!), which incorporates EDM sounds in Nakata’s unique style, brought to life with Koshijima’s singular voice. It debuted at fifth spot of the Oricon Weekly Albums chart.
We caught up with CAPSULE at a round table interview before their live at the MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON FESTIVAL in SINGAPORE!
How has your impression of each other changed over the years? Koshijima: It hasn’t changed, has it. Nakata: It hasn’t. (everyone laughs) Nakata: At the time when we first met, many people from our generation were into rock music and formed rock cover bands in high school. But we were different; we weren’t the type to be very flashy on stage. We wanted to make music that didn’t involve singing in a loud voice that would probably make your throat wither (laughs).
What’s your favourite track on Wave Runner?
Nakata: (to Koshijima) What do you think? Koshijima: I like all of them but I would probably pick Another World. It was one of the first tracks we recorded, and it was while singing Another World that I started to see the total concept of the album. I really like it.
Capsule’s music is growing popularity overseas. What do you think of that?
Nakata: When I perform and meet other musicians who have been listening to CAPSULE’s songs, I wonder, ‘how did you get to know my music in the first place?’ But of course, because of the Internet, access to music has become easier and a lot faster. You can find music as and when you want to, and you can even get access to music that has not been released on a CD; lots of people just make music and post it online, and you can listen to it on the spot. We have definitely benefited from this, and it is part of the reason why our music can become more popular around the world; which is a good thing, because this is the way music should be enjoyed. I feel blessed for the advancement of the Internet.
How would you introduce CAPSULE to overseas listeners who may have first come into contact with your music through Liar Game, for example?
Nakata: ‘Please search “CAPSULE” on YouTube right now!’ (laughs) In the past, for example, if you wanted to look for music you would have to actively make time to enter a CD shop, visit a corner with CDs that you may potentially like and listen to music there. Now, ironically, because you can easily find anything you search for, a ‘trigger’ has become very important. Different reasons may have attracted you to watch the drama, and from there, you may be spurred to research it online and find out more [about the music]. That’s when I feel the importance of a trigger.
Most of the music you make is for female vocalists. What do you like about the female voice, or Koshijima-san’s voice in particular?
Nakata: Yes, I do work with female vocalists often, but I would like to work with male vocalists too (laughs). Koshijima-san sounds good when she stretches vowels, so when making music for CAPSULE I naturally tend to elongate the sounds. This is especially true with syllables that begin with ‘f’ or ‘h’, like ‘ha’ or ‘fu’. Her voice is a bit husky, so when she lengthens these syllables it sounds good. That’s the charm of her vocals.
What challenges do you face in bringing your music to the live stage?
Nakata: I don’t feel like I face any big challenges, but I don’t really want to stand out on stage. I love making music and performing music, but I’m not the kind of person who wants to be under the spotlight. But I want to make my music look cool to the audience, so I design the lights and other effects so as to bring the music to life onstage. Koshijima: We don't prepare a set list; we would just go out on stage, look at each other and decide on the spot which song to play next. I have become very good at intro-quizzes! (laughs)