I know you are reading “No Longer Human” right now. For those unfamiliar -this book is broken into three distinct parts, I am wondering what exact phase of the book are you finding your headspace in?
I’ve only begun my second reading of No Longer Human, but I find myself in parallel to Yozo’s sense of having to constantly falsify himself. Throughout the beginning of the novel, this is often referred to as putting on an act of “buffoonery.” My childhood was much similar, except for humorous antics I often used kindness as a way to subvert the reality of who I was. In the namesake of my project, I chose the word “smile” for these reasons. My natural reaction towards my peers and adults was to always feign pleasantries for the sake of masking my own insecurities and depression.
How does this relate to your music, is Meishi Smile also a “facade” or does it have many functions?
Much like the aforementioned work of Dazai, “Meishi Smile” is an interjection of my own personal experiences done to a fantastical degree, in an exchange that is often non-linear and dictates past, present and future points of my life. It is not as much of a facade as it is a struggle to come to terms with my own contradictory nature. The process of recording under “Meishi Smile” is therapy to that.
Can you expand on what personal experience you use as source material and what fantasies you tend to draw from and use in your own work?
Thematically, LUST was much about my desire to feel something real in myself by way of projecting an idealism onto others. The “lust” of the album is not necessarily synonymous with any sort of sexuality or romanticism, moreso this false notion that others can save you from yourself. The inevitable disintegration of a temporary high, which becomes repetitive in nature due to its lack of introspection or self-awareness.
When I wrote …Belong, I wanted to detail the pain of acceptance in self, death and betrayal. During that time I realized I had empowered many people who were everything I was against, so I began to make a conscious decision to disrupt that or remove myself from certain associations completely. The album is essentially about realizing the importance and responsibility of doing what you can to try and love yourself more.
The project as a whole is much more political in a sense and I think any fantastical elements within it are simply dictated as a means to formulate an idealized reality. For marginalized groups of people especially, art is like a form of guerilla warfare that can disrupt thoughts of conservatism and assimilation when done in bold, or even subtle honesty. Live performance especially is a political process for me and it’s one of the reasons why they differ so much from my albums and I play so little “DJ” sets.
Tell us more about your live performance and what makes it politicized.
Being born is in itself a political struggle. For myself, the aspect of emasculation of Asian men in Western society has often come into conflict with my identification of being non-binary and the need to display aggression on stage in a non-heteronormative fashion. This emasculation also effects the women in our community as well, and often leads to varying degrees of misogyny and entitlement. We are often pitted against ourselves and our own so we can never progress, and it is important that we turn that anger towards the ideas ingrained in us by society – not each other. Art can have a strong way to express that need for change. The music itself becomes politicized when you have these sects of electronic music who wholly promote a veil of positivity and social awareness, yet in action fail to live up to those standards – eventually it becomes a monopolization and commodification of youth culture. I refuse to accept the supposed “sincerity” of these certain groups. When you come on stage and play out certain music, I believe you are consciously associating yourself with a certain movement. By playing out your own music, I feel the only thing you associate with is yourself. I think that in itself is a statement, not just for myself, but for anyone who does. It’s not about entertainment for me.
How do you distinguish art and entertainment?
The way people can project whatever it is they’re going through onto a piece of work made by someone else is a beautiful thing. We can choose to take that positively or negatively, but the discussion should be alive. Art and entertainment will always be synonymous in some way, but what’s most important is allowing the room for expression. I’ve had people try to claim some sort of ownership of my artistic choices and tell me that once my art exists for others to hear, I am no longer just making it for myself. That’s when people subject you as just an entertainer and not a person, and I believe it to be highly reductive of the hurdles gone through of the creator. Ultimately, I’m making music for myself first and for those who can relate to the meaning I have, or that which they can find to change their lives in a positive manner.
Do you think trends are accelerating faster than ever?
The growing ease to articulate ideas and to have the access to those tools is breaking down the intersection of art and social class. We are no longer reserving art for the elite. That is why people are upset. However, we will always have the cultural gatekeepers, who we mistakingly place validation on. They give us the presence of indie credibility while giving us Uber ads and 4 articles on Drake per day. We already know those things exist. What we don’t know exists are the people who aren’t given a platform. Those people are angry and deserve to be. The acceleration of trends has increased, but so has the co-option. We’re only validated when it’s timely for them, not for us.
The faster the trends, the faster the deception. For that, we must be aware of who is behind the movement and for what reasons. Feigning self-awareness and exploiting vulnerability is the strongest marketing tactic. Every social media expert knows what the latest meme is, even before you do. They know how to feed off your emotions because we’ve made the mistake that the Internet is our safe haven from the outside world, but it does not matter if the lies are told to your face or through a screen. The greatest deception is that we think we have a choice about anything. So make your own choices through the face of your experiences.
What defines consciousness and what defines humanity?
A state of consciousness is being aware of our capabilities outside of the finite. Humanity is when we surpass that within ourselves and find the empathy to group the other conscious and help the unconscious.
What projects are you working on with your label Zooms Lens and as Meishi Smile?
For Zoom Lens, the next release will be an EP by Xyloid coming June 10th. I’m also in the process of releasing more music by Yoshino Yoshikawa, yeule, Thought Tempo, yasumiyasumi and LLLL to name a few. We have a very solid roster at the moment, and I don’t think we’re currently looking to expand too much. I enjoy working alongside these people and having watched them develop from the beginning.
Meishi Smile, I plan on releasing a small collection of ambient works entitled (reclamation) on May 27th. Lately, I’ve been relating to the mental state of earlier material I had worked on and never released. (reclamation) is very brief and moreso just a simple statement of wanting to remember who I was during a certain time and finding purity and enjoyment of the creative process again. Due to this nature, it will be released on Zoom Lens. Although I play on consistently releasing my thoughts more often now. I’ve also been finishing other material, which I haven’t the intention to disclose much of yet. I’ve been getting increasingly more dysphoric in my approach, and my shows will be the best indicator of that. They’re either purely sweet or aggressive. I just put work into various “albums” depending on my mood at the moment.