"He's the most elusive being to me" answers san (Satomi Hashimoto) when asked to describe her musical partner Nerve (Manabu Ito). Yet, they work so very well together. When they do, they form the trip-hop/dub act antennasia. "We have no intention to make trip hop/dub, although we are influenced by that kind of music, but we are just making 'antennasian' music.", Nerve jumps in when confronted with that label. When asked further about those influences he comes up with a wide variety of names: "Too many artists. But directly, most influenced by King Tubby, club jazz, (There are many quality club jazz artists in Germany or Norway. Bugge Wesseltoft, Nils Petter Molvaer, Jazzanova etc.), 'pure' jazz like John Coltrane or Miles Davis, Detroit house (Moodymann, Theo Parrish etc.). Oh, we got many inspirations from dub compilations ("King Size Dub", "Hi-Fidelity Dub Sessions" etc.), and the Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson or Peter Gabriel... It's no joke. We like well written songs with verse, chorus, bridge or middle eight...
We want to play well written songs in a club oriented arrangement."
Combine that with the silky and jazzy vocals of san and you get 'antennasian' music. "No way! I am not a jazz singer.", san corrects me: "I only do jazz infuenced singing sometimes. I change the way of singing depending on the atmosphere of each tracks. I do improvisation sometimes. It's fun."
Antennasia formed in 1999 in Tokyo. "This is a joining of 2 words (antenna + asia) done by san. antennasia means a radio station that transmits music from Asia." Nerve informs me about the name of the group.
Their music is rooted in Jamaican reggae/dub decorated with trippy electronic beats and effects we've come to know from Bristol based artists like Massive Attack, Portishead, Lamb etc.
So far the band has released 3 albums, with their third album "Phased" being their first international release.
"The Beatles made me wanna play music myself when I was thirteen years old, but I wasn't good at playing guitar, so naturally I started to compose myself. I had to write the music that I could play myself. Basically the way I make music hasn't changed. Only I use a Mac instead of a guitar." Nerve emphasized that antennasia is not just another producer/disposable vocalist duo: "We write all songs together. Sometimes I make a back-track at first, and san sings composing melodies for it, and then I adjust the track as it fits to her melody. Sometimes san composes and I only arrange and program the back-track; san is a marvelous composer." San fills in: "I create melody or lyrics when an inspiration or a story comes [when] listening to a track. Sometimes, melody or words come first."
Many outsiders look upon the Japanese music industry as a shallow image-over-quality money making machine. Nerve doesn't agree with that: "Too many people judge a book by its cover. I think you have to do effort to find good music sometimes. I feel that many people spend money for a surface image, not music itself. Of course, there are some good artists from major labels though", he continues: "There are more interesting artists from independent club music labels. You can find real exciting stuff in an underground club scene. In my personal opinion, a ticket system that almost all clubs or live houses adopt is killing possibilities for upcoming artists. So they often do rave."
It's live when antennasia comes to it's own. No two performances are alike. Sometimes the atmosphere is grand, other times very intimid and this also reflects back onto their music: "san always has the room for improvisation during concerts. Live versions differ substantially from the CD versions. She changes melody very often [and] I do dub mix impromptu."
Antennasia are currently in the studio working on their fourth album, which currently goes by the working title of 'Cinemice'. Nerve proudly states: "It will be more jazzy and dubby. You will hear the ever best stuff of antennasia. Perhaps this may sounds strangely, but our third album "Phased" was 'Nerve's album', but the next album will be 'san's album'. San told me earlier on that she's musically influenced by Horace Andy, Jill Scott, Jimmy Scott, Bjork, Michael Jackson (when he was a member of Jackson Five), so that should give us some idea where it will go.
A full European tour is being planned for spring 2004. Keep reading the Zenlog for exact dates and locations.
For residents of the Benelux, France and Germany, the album "Phased" is available at Shuffle.be