Despite being from halfway around the world from Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto, and actively promoting one of the best records to come out this year, jazz/post-rock quartet Jizue took the time to grant us their first-ever interview with an American publication. They discuss the difference between Kyoto’s music scene and Japan’s poppier sound, their forage into jazz-driven music, and what influence French soccer player Zinedine Zidane had on the group.
MEB: First off, if you could introduce yourselves and your role in Jizue.
Jizue: We are composed of Noriyuki Inoue on guitar, Go Yamada on bass, Shin Kokawa on drums, and Kie Katagi on piano.
Since there aren’t too many people who have heard your music here in America, how would you describe your sound?
It’s visual music. We want the listeners to visually interpret what they hear.
How long has it been since Jizue first formed?
It has been five years already since Kie joined the band.
Who were the founders of the band?
Noriyuki and Go were the ones who started the project.
What does Jizue mean? Does it translate to anything in English?
“Zizou” is the nickname for the French soccer player Zinedine Zidane. We changed the spelling for it a bit. We just love playing soccer as well as watching it, and Zidane.
For those who aren’t aware, what is the main kind of sound coming out of Kyoto these days?
Kyoto has a very unique scene in terms of Japan. We have several underground artists who play very original pieces.
What were the differences between putting out Novel on Bud Music and putting out Bookshelf on Neutralnine Records?
From the start our contract with Neutralnine was for only one album. Since we saw that bands had a pleasant time on Bud Music we decided to go to them. Plus Bud Music is located in our hometown.
Did you record Novel all by yourself or did you have a producer with you?
Noriyuki is a recording engineer so [we] were able to do mixing and mastering by ourselves the way [we] wanted to. So that was an advantage.
What were the differences between recording Novel and recording Bookshelf?
We had the same process. We tried to approach [Novel] with more of a jazz sound by using different materials, like jazz kits drum set, 5-string bass, semi-acoustic guitar, and so on. And we’ve also gotten better skills as musicians than before.
Bookshelf and Novel both have different styles. Was the change in direction something you intended to do? Or did it just happen as you were writing?
We didn’t really change anything. We just got deeper into the playing of the music.
The new record also uses a lot of electronic programming, something jazz groups don’t regularly do. Where did the idea for using this come about?
Those come from techno, electronic music. We love to listen to that kind of music.
Who are some of the musicians who have inspired your sound?
Mainly Mogwai, envy, Strike Anywhere, Brian Blade, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, The Mars Volta, Incubus, Robert Glasper, Radiohead, Shingo02, and so on.
The kind of music Jizue plays obviously takes a high level of skill. Did any of the members take lessons for their instruments? Or are they all self-taught?
We have all taken lessons, mainly for jazz.
I saw a couple of videos of Jizue playing live, and every performance shows you guys having a great time, full of energy. Do you enjoy playing live more than writing in the studio?
For sure! We always play live and try to get everybody moving, including ourselves.
I noticed you are currently doing a tour of Japan. How has the tour been so far?
We’ve really enjoyed playing because we get to feel the energies all these places have.
What are the differences between playing to a crowd in Kyoto and one in Tokyo?
Tokyo has more people who are into music, so we get a bigger response. Kyoto also has a large amount of people who like music, but they don’t give us too much of a response.
Naming instrumental songs must be somewhat hard. How do you come up with the names for your songs?
Whatever is felt at the moment is made into music. So we make sure to transform the experience into a title.
What are some ways that American fans can support Jizue?
Please invite us to the United States!! It has been a dream of ours to play there, ever since we started making music.
What are some bands that Jizue enjoys that you feel other people should listen to?
Nabowa and Soft who belong to the same label as us, and Psature is a great band we’ve known.
Before we finish up this interview, is there anything you’d like to add?
We are very glad to have this kind of opportunity. We look forward to doing live shows in the U.S. and meeting people. Thank you.