We had the honour of holding a joint interview with Sawano’s vocalists and lyricists, Benjamin Anderson and mpi! Once again thank you to all the fans that submitted questions. Unfortunately we couldn’t hold a video interview as mpi’s identity is to remain a mystery.
For the benefit of new fans, please could you both introduce yourself?
Benjamin: Hello,My name is Benjamin Anderson.
I’m a singer songwriter who is currently writing lyrics and providing vocals for the composer Hiroyuki Sawano.
Mpi: Hi,call me mpi. I work for Sawano-San. I write lyrics and provide vocals for his anime music.
1. How did you both come to work with Sawano-san?
Benjamin: Extremely lucky.
Mpi had been working for Sawano-San for a while and asked me to collaborate with him on some lyrics for a track. Things grew from there.
I and mpi met through Canadian musician Chris Catalano. He brought us together in his band Trans-pacifica.
Mpi: I knew the owner of Legendoor. He gave me a chance to work with Sawano-san.
2. What are you general thoughts on Sawano-san?
Benjamin: He’s got that gift.
I might not be humming his new track the day I hear it but I will be in weeks to come. He’s serious and concise in the studio but bubbly, funny and loquacious on stage (while MCing) which I think is a great balance. These sides of his personality fit their contexts well.
Mpi: He’s a genius but considerate of other people. He’s very generous.
3. Where do your inspiration come from for the lyrics?
Benjamin: The anime, personal experience: love and loss etc, movies and books (recently my mother’s novels).
Mpi: I’m very influenced by the monologues and dialogues from the original manga much of the anime is based on. The characters in the stories influence me the most but I also get inspired by people I meet.
4. Out of the tracks you have worked on for Sawano-san (lyrics or vocal) which is your favourite and why? Which one are you most proud of?
Probably ‘I want to know’.
I was going through such rough times; my father had very recently died in an accident.I felt like I had an out of body experience writing those lyrics.I was, of course, trying to speak from the character’s point of view in Kill la kill but things get mixed up. Fantasy and fiction.
When it comes to writing my mother always told me ‘people will always recognize/relate to real things. Don’t try and make everything up’. My mother writes science fiction fantasy.
When everything seems to be destroyed, despite everything, we can still be creative. All that phoenix out of the ashes stuff can be true. It’s marvelous. Not death, but I mean that despair needn’t bring life to a halt, it can feed you. On this occasion, at least, it did.
Mpi: The Reluctant Heroes.
When writing the lyrics of the song I channeled one of the characters. I became that person.
I felt so immersed in that person’s world. Singing the song transported me the rest of the way.
5. Which one of the vocalists do you most like working with?
All the vocalists Sawano-san chooses are very charming and easy to work with.
I got to chat with Aimer quite a bit because we recorded several songs back to back and that was a lot of fun. Smart lady. Aimee was also great to record with. She’s direct and professional and I like that.
MPI. Well we’re old friends so we always manage to share a few jokes while recording. I’ll get to other vocalists (like the aspiring and amazing Mizuki) next time.
Mpi: KAKA. She was an absolute blast to work with. Great singer. I worked with her on the soundtrack to BOSS
6. Are you of english origins? If not how did you learn the language?
Benjamin: I’m English. Born in Ealing, London.
Mpi: I’m Japanese.
Well, I remember wanting to learn to speak English and so I took a job in a popular nightclub in Roppongi (Tokyo) where I knew many foreigners worked and hung out. Trouble was, the music was so loud we couldn’t talk much ha ha. Couldn’t hear ourselves think!
I then decided to head to Manhattan, New York for adventure.
There was this pawn shop which I and some friends used to hang out at. We’d sit on the benches outside talking to the hobos and drunks. I picked up English quickly from then on.
7. Does Sawano-san have any habits he always has to do when recording?
Benjamin: He’s always patient but doesn’t mess around. He’s concentrating. Listening intently. Everything he does has a purpose.
Mpi: He always makes sure to relax everyone in the study.A little light joking here and there. He’s extremely patient. Singer’s quickly relax.
8. Benjamin: We heard that you teach english in your spare time, what was the hardest thing you had to teach them? and did you have an famous students?
In Japan it’s probably teaching how to use articles ‘a’ and ‘the’ correctly.
9. How long does it usually take you to write and teach the lyrics for the vocalists?
Benjamin: Between a week and three weeks at a guess, depending on how busy with other projects we are.
Mpi: About a month
10. Beside Sawano-san which other composers would you love to work with?
Benjamin: Joe Hisaishi. I got into his music very late.
I remember watching Spirited Away and being amazed at how much the music was doing to get me into the movie considering how mesmerizing the visuals already were.
I think It made me take anime music seriously.
Mpi: That’s a the toughest question you’ve asked. I have no idea. I’m so focussed on Sawano’s work right now.
11. Have you ever thought of taking part in live events, such as Sawano’s solo lives or anime concerts? How about performing behind the shadows?
Benjamin: I have thought about it a lot recently with regards to Sawano’s music. I’ve heard whispers of it happening.
Fingers crossed. Ask him (points to mpi with a hint of the green-eyed monster)
Mpi: I’m thinking about getting on stage next year!
12. Do you prefer live or studio music?
Benjamin: I used to like studio music more because of how perfect it sounded.
Now I appreciate good live music because it has a different magic. Anything can happen on stage.For better or for worse that’s exciting for everyone.In answer to your question though I don’t favor one over the other.
Mpi: Live music.
Because a real live performance is at the core of great music. It’s the heart and soul.
13. What type of music do you most like listening to? Who are some of your favourite artists?
Benjamin: Listening to music, as pleasurable as that is, feels like research most of the time so different music is chosen depending on what influences I’m looking for or what skills I want to learn.
I totally agree with my peers that I should chill out and enjoy just listening more often.
Mpi: Right now? Reggae. In particular my friend Yasto’s guitar playing
14. Which celebrity would you most like to write lyrics for?
Benjamin:Exile (or one of their factions).They use a lot of Japanglish. I’d like them to take the plunge and go Total Eigo!
Mpi: I’m not interested in writing for celebrities right at this moment.
15. If you weren’t musicians, what career do you think you would have chosen?
Benjamin: Quantum theory interests me. I believe there’s a dimension out there with a Benjamin actor and a Benjamin * garbage truck driver (a childhood dream of mine) doing terribly well for themselves or just…terrible. Who knows?
* dustbin lorry (for British readers)
Mpi: A chef.
and to finish, what would you like to tell your fans from across the world?
Benjamin: Fans? (pinches himself) I am truly grateful for all their kind support.Their positive words got me through some hard times.
Mpi: Thank you for everything. You guys make my life even better! I hope I can meet you all somewhere, someday on a future tour.