Sunday, January 9th, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

For the maiden voyage I talk to Hirotaka Inuzuka of the LA-based progressive rock/jazz band ODDISEA.

Ben Sommer: Hello, this is the first interview for the site, BandsLikeZappa.com. I am here with Hiro Inuzuka from the band Oddisea, a West Coast-based prog rock band. So welcome Hiro. Won’t you tell you us a little bit about the band, where you’ve been and kind of what you are all about?

Hiro Inuzuka: I play guitar in the band called Oddisea and we are from South California in LA.

Ben: So I’m reading your home page and it’s calling out an interesting history. It says you started in 2004 and have been in and out of pop music and experimental music. What do you mean by that?

Hiro: We kind of started out as plain kind of alternative rock music. So in structure, it’s basically a lot simpler than prog music. But as we practiced and wrote more songs we kind of ended up being thoroughly more complex than we started.

Ben: Right, right. So where do you feel you are now? From pop music to experimental music, where along that spectrum is Oddisea right now?

Hiro: It’s pretty experimental, not in a harsh-sounding way, but with just the way we think about music is more open to a lot of stuff. We do a lot of wild music now and it has been changing a lot.

Ben: Right, you mentioned jazz influences, gamelan music you called out in your bio. There is one track that I first heard on Rhapsody. I forgot the name of it. It had a repetitive guitar element which made me think of minimalism, but now that you mentioned in your bio gamelan music, then that fits perfectly.

Hiro: Right. I was trying to create the same feeling that’s presented in the gamelan music, especially in the Bali gamelan music.

Ben: That’s interesting, and of course, then you’ve got the horns around you. So you have four players in your band or are there more?

Hiro: Just four.

Ben: Who plays the horns?

Hiro: Friends of ours. I met them through school or through friend of friends and we asked them to play the parts that we wrote out.

Ben:  Your music seems kind of complex to be done ad hoc or improv. Do you or any band mates compose or write down on your music?

Hiro: For the last record, the Tyranny of Distance, I mostly did the composing.

Ben: Cool. Do you actually compose on paper or do you sketch things out roughly?

Hiro: Both. Yeah, I use notes or some kind of gesture kind of thing.

Ben: Right, right.  Now, I’m composer too. It’s unusual to meet another kind of pop/rock/prog musician who composes his music. You, me, Zappa and I think that’s probably it.

Hiro: Yeah.

Ben: So what’s the plan for the band? Do you still have your day jobs?

Hiro: Yeah, I’ve been teaching gamelan music. The other guys have different day jobs, with some of them in school. We’ve been stopping giggings in the last two years. We’ve been like really busy to get together. And now we have different ideas of music and it’s been like a little bit hard to put it into one shape, so we’ve been struggling to do that.

Ben: So do you guys still a band, or just on a hiatus?

Hiro: We are kind of on a break, but I like to get that back.

Ben: Yeah, you should. I mean, it is interesting music. Are you playing in any other bands right now that you want to promote or mention right now?

Hiro: Well, I’m in the gamelan group right now and that’s my project at this point.

Ben: Where is that?

Hiro: Well, that’s based at California Institute of the Arts. Its a community/professional gamelan group. That plays like traditional gamelan music from Bali. So that’s giving me a lot of good influences and I’ve composed in the gamelan music too and I learned so much from doing that. I like to bring that experience to band music and I try to write more interesting stuff.

Ben: Right. What’s the essence of the gamelan style? Is it rhythm? Is it harmony? What is it?

Hiro: It’s a lot of rhythm played by feelings, so every time we play a song, it’s different every time and the music, in general, is like hard-sounding music.

Ben: Right, percussive bells.

Hiro: It’s really loud. It’s really fast. We call it like Krishna or heavy metal.

Ben: Are there bells metal?

Hiro: Yeah, it has a lot of bronze keys, instruments, gongs, and two headed drums. And the music is really interesting. It kind of interlocks, so one player plays off beat and the other plays on beat.

Ben: Do you ever bang your head when you are playing gamelan?

Hiro: Yeah, all the time. The essence of the music is really similar to me and the way that music makes me feel is just same as playing in the rock band or in the gamelan group. On the last recording we tried to gamelan bells, so the first song I think you mentioned it has that sound. So we recorded individual keys of the gamelan instruments and those are tuned differently to Western pitches. So we have to shift the pitch to fit in the Western scale.

Ben: Right. Yeah, that’s true. It’s interesting you mentioned that. You have to make it fit to 12-tone scale that we all know, the black and white keys of the piano.

Hiro: Right.

Ben: It’s so easy these days, with at least with certain instruments maybe even, not so much guitar, but to tune the Western instruments according to these other non-Western scales. Have you ever done that?

Hiro: Yeah, we took a long gamelan song, played it on the guitar, which is tuned differently and we used the double bass…

Ben: To do the bass?

Hiro: To do the bass and then there was the drum set.

Ben: Right. How did you tune the guitar? Was it effortless?

Hiro: I used the regular guitar and then the mechanics of the gamelan music is like the two instruments are tuned slightly different so it creates the tremolo sound.

Ben: I see.

Hiro: So…

Ben: You played one mode and the bass played another one?

Hiro: Uh-huh. So one guitar plays pretty standard tuning, although it wasn’t standard. We used the same regular guitar, but tuned the strings differently so it fits.

Ben: Oh, I see. So there are two guitars tuned with different scales playing at once.

Hiro: Right, but different guitar had different adjusted threaded guitar.

Ben: Oh wow! Cool. That’s interesting. Yeah, I went through a period in my own music where I was all interested in the non-Western scales, with microtones, but mostly justly-tuned scales, which are always interesting. In fact, even when I’m recording straight up rock or guitar, those big metal power cords that you play with tones of distortion, they sound so much better if you tune the third which is the note that gives the chord its characteristic major or minor, if you turn and tune it justly so.

Hiro: Right.

Ben: I think there is a place to do that with rock music as well.

Hiro: I know some guys that do Balkan music and then they tune the fifth to a perfect and the ninth to a perfect, so it sounds out of it, but it’s sounds perfect.

Ben: Yeah, I know what you mean. They say that we’ve been tuned to be comfortable with the piano tuning, which is every step, half step and each step in the scale is equidistant. But most of the intervals are slightly imperfect and you don’t notice it until you hear a perfectly tuned chord that really sound odd at first, but once you’ve listened for a while, it sounds odder to go back to listening to the “piano” tuning

Hiro: Exactly.

Ben: Yeah, I take it then you don’t have anything to promote or any gigs for Oddisea, or do you?

Hiro: Well, I just like to promote the CD, I guess.

Ben: Where can people find it online?

Hiro: Online, CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes, a lot of MP3s are available through online. It’s at any MP3 site and hard copies at CD Baby’s or it can be purchased on Oddisea’s website.

Ben: Awesome, well, this has been great. Thanks for your time, Hiro, and good talking to you.

Hiro: Thank you so much.

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