Interview Kiyoshi: Heavy and Funky

Bassist Kiyoshi is the only Japanese musician on ‘Tokyo Jukebox 3’, the third collection of new interpretations of former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman’s favorite J-pop songs. She toured the world with Friedman, but also makes her own music. Plenty of reason to have a chat with the bass virtuoso from Osaka.

Friedman moved to Tokyo around the turn of the century to become a part of the music scene he so admited. In 2015 werd, Kiyoshi was introduced to him by drummer Chargeeeee…, who had been playing in Friedman’s band for a few years at the time. “Marty had his first North American tour scheduled for the autumn of that year and he was looking for a bassist in Japan to join it“, Kiyoshi explains. “I had worked with Chargeeeeee before and I think he thought I would be a good fit for Marty’s band. Marty got in touch with me and sent me some of his songs, then I met him and played them right in front of him. That was our first meeting. You know, his songs are super difficult. I was super nervous! But he really liked my performance and was sure that I was the one.

The recordings of ‘Tokyo Jukebox’ were also cause for concern. Although the songs are covers of songs made famous by artists like LiSA, Momoiro Clover Z and Sekai no Owari, Friedman has a tendency to frequently alter the arrangements. And then there was the lockdown. “I recorded the bass at my home in the spring of 2020“, Kiyoshi says. “At that time, Japan was in a state of emergency due to covid, so I couldn’t go to the studio. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to respond well to his requests only through online communication instead of face-to-face, because recording is very delicate work and Marty is a perfectionist. Of course, I wanted it to be perfect too.

Coolest part

“Heavy and funky” is in deed the perfect way to describe Kiyoshi’s style. Her virtuosity on the bass is all the more surprising due to the fact that she did not pick up the bass until age 15. Listening to western artists lead her to her signature style. “I was learning piano when I was little and I thought I would be a pianist“, she recalls. “I played classical music of course, and also played J-Pop piano arrangements.

As I grew up, I became more attracted to rock music. At first, I used to listen to J-Rock bands like L’Arc-en-Ciel and Lune Sea. I felt that the bass was the coolest part of the band, so I started playing bass. From there, I became interested in foreign rock bands and fell in love with bands with great bass players, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus and more. As a beginner, I was incredibly shocked by the performances of Flea and Les Claypool. I wanted to be just like them.

I had my first band in 2004 in Osaka, my birthplace, and played in several bands without interruption from then until 2008. I moved to Tokyo in 2009, and my career as a bassist began earnestly.

Help

Kiyoshi’s career has been busy and varied. She played bass on albums by the popular rock band Ziggy, their singer Juichi Morishige and, of course, Marty Friedman. Besides that, she was a part of the bands Mega High Ball, The Madcap Laughs en Inside Me. In 2016, she started her solo career. “I think it was simply good timing“, Kiyoshi summarizes. “At that time, I had been busy for years working with many artists and had met many great people in the music industry. I was in a situation where I could get help from the people around me. I had always wanted to release my solo album someday, and I was always writing songs, so I was ready. It just felt like the time had come.

This also means that her other projects are currently inactive. “If I had several Kiyoshi bodies, I could be active in all of those bands“, Kiyoshi admits. “I produce everything myself, so I have a lot to do. Not only songwriting, but also thinking about artwork, videos, merchandise, et cetera. It’s tough, but now I’m really into it and having a lot of fun with it.

Room

By now, Kiyoshi has released five solo albums, the most recent of which, ‘Kiyoshi5’, was released in October last year. Her albums are notable, because they feature no guitar, keyboards or other additional instruments. Every sound on the albums is made by Kiyoshi and drummer Eiji Mitsuzono, who played with the likes of SADS and the highly influential hard rock band Bow Wow. Remarkably enough, the songs never end up sounding empty or dull.

Bass line, rhythm track and vocal melody; each part should be super impressive“, Kiyoshi explains. “Apart from that, creating powerful and solid basic tracks that leave no room for other instruments is the most important things. I often use an octaver to compensate for the higher frequencies.

Also worth noting is the fact that Kiyoshi sings on her own albums. When asked for her lyrical inspiration, she is brief: “Anger. Many of my songs are about frustration and irritation against the world. I also like to write positive lyrics that can cheer someone up. I’m so glad that many people say they like my lyrics. I’d like to make more songs in English so that more people can understand the meaning of the songs.

International

While the corona pandemic makes the future plans of all musicians uncertain, Kiyoshi is resolute: “I’m planning to do a couple of shows before the summer. And I hope to release my new album by the end of this year, so now I’m working hard on that.

Anyone who wants to listen to Kiyoshi’s solo albums outside of Japan can use Spotify, iTunes and other big streaming services to do so. Since all of Kiyoshi’s albums were self-released, physical cd’s are only available through her web shop. The good news is that her web shop offers international shipping. “We’ve shipped to many countries even last year when Covid started to spread“, Kiyoshi explains. “And everything has arrived safely. If you buy something from my web shop, you’ll get a lot of extras, like signed stickers and postcards. Please check it out.

More information (in Japanese and English) can be found at Kiyoshi’s web shop.

  1. April 25th, 2021

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