Interview: Shigeo Tamaru of NaNa
Guitarist/composer Shigeo Tamaru is one-half of the Japanese duo NaNa. Signed to Warner Music Japan, NaNa distinguished by Tamaru’s melodic jangling pop and the sweet, ethereal singing of Chikako Watanabe. Their latest EP, Remember Me, continues their passion for dreamlike indie rock.
Q:Who else is in NaNa and how did you meet?
A: NaNa is a duo that includes a female, Chikako Watanabe, besides myself. Chikako is the singer. The playing of guitar and other instruments, and doing programming, are my work. I first met Chikako at a recording studio. I’d been looking for a female singer before the debut but I couldn’t easily find one. Then I’d kept recording tracks of many songs without vocal tracks at the studio. One day, through a friend’s introduction, she came there. We recorded a track called “Song5” on that day we first met, and everything went well. The demo ended up the trigger of our debut.
Q: What artists influenced you the most growing up?
A: I think the Police and Steely Dan held a lot of influence on me, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin did too. In players, Dean Parks, Andy Summers, Pat Metheny, and Jeff Beck.
Q: What was your introduction to music? How old were you, and how did it affect you?
A: I guess I was three-years-old. My parents bought me many kind of classical music records from orchestra to opera, Chopin, traditional Japanese music, stuff like that. I’d only listened to the music, though. I think such experiences became my cornerstone. Listening to the records, I imagined a lot of things by looking at the pictures or portraits of the composers in the liner notes.
Q: Did you grow up in a musical environment?
A: No, I didn’t. My music class was nothing special; I never learnt music from anyone. There were many classical music or film scores records in my house and the latest audio equipments at that time. My father loved that kind of stuff like audiovisual equipment. And my mother liked drawing pictures, so she used to teach me the painting. My friend got me into guitar when I was in high school.
Q: What styles of music had the greatest impact on you creatively?
A: Basically, rock music – having vocal tracks – impacted me, and also jazz and film scores did as well. Also, I think I was influenced by ’80s pop music, too.
Q: What instruments do you play, and how did you learn?
A: I’m a guitar player, but to my production, I make all the tracks by myself, play bass and drums. The drum tracks are varied depending on what the song is though, like using sampling or computer programing. Anyway, those things are basically self-taught. When I found my favorite track, I picked up the chord and copied it and did sessions in the studio sometimes.
Q: What was the first song you ever wrote?
A: The track is called “Song1.” It’s a pop music that sounds like progressive rock.
Q: How would you describe your music?
A: If I describe my music as something, it seems like ‘myself’. That is because I make the music I really want to listen to, just as I feel, as I like. It’s a sort of self-introduction, like expressing what I’m thinking, since solo sections are a lot, too. I think it’s ‘visual music’ if I say it from the sound production side. That means visual images come up to mind when you listen to the sound.
Q: How have you evolved creatively?
A: I’ve actually not been much conscious of the creativity but I think making music as I like creates the right inspiration that goes to the next production. I think it’s also important to keep being influenced by my own productions.