Koichi Shimizu: Sound master

Koichi Shimizu: Sound master

When I discovered Desktop Error, the great indie band that we are presenting this month on Noise Artists, one thing is obvious: the sound on their recordings is excellent.

Several videos of their work show actual live recording sessions, in location as diverse as hotel rooms or in a forest. Having listened to the songs without prior knowledge of the circumstances of their recording, it was hard to believe that the sound takes were done in such conditions … impressive.

The man behind this, is Koichi Shimizu, a Noise Artist, master of sound in its many forms, and a really nice guy to top it all.

He is currently working, among other things, with film Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose movie, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”, won the 2010 Cannes Festival Palme d’or … nothing less. Koichi was part of the artists that did the Cannes winner’s soundtrack.  He is part of the movie’s credits. He is mentioned by the movie’s sound designer, Akritchalerm Kalayanmitr, in a good interview that you can read here: 

http://www.soundandmusic.org/features/sound-film/mix-uncle-boonmee

Apart from his current work, Koichi was for more than 10 years the man behind the main Thai indie record label, SO::ON Dry FLOWER, and as the sound man for all its bands’ recording. It is therefore only fair, prior to his interview, to give a quick of Koichi’s work with his record label “SO::ON Dry FLOWER”.

In any case, a really big thank you to Koichi, who has been a delight to work with, and very kind to take some time out of his rich schedule for a newcomer, Noise Artists.

1- SO::ON dry FLOWER record label

Koichi, a music and sound lover, also setup with like-minded people an indie record label, SO::ON Dry FLOWER. Their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/soondryflower/) gives the following presentation:

“SO::ON Dry FLOWER (SODF) is an alternative music collective based in Bangkok Thailand, born out of the shared interests and passion of like-minded musicians and friend, which started off in June 2003 hosting experimental and electronic music gigs in Bangkok. This was at a time when there was an upsurge of new musicians in the underground music scene, raring to go with their experimental music and yet with no established party to showcase their work, so we decided to start our own.

For 8 years, we have organized more than 40 variety scale concerts inviting artists from Japan, USA, Norway, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Korea among with many local unique artists to introduce a unique and new style of music to Thai people. SODF now become longest run independent live music event in Thailand, has been establishing strong fan-base by serious music listeners.

SO::ON Dry FLOWER is also an independent record label. Been constantly releasing CDs since 2003, including artists such as Goose, Desktop Error, Jean Mahasmut, AssajanJakgawan, Talkless, PLOT, Napat Snidvongs, Atit Sornsongkram.”

The label has a great Youtube channel with many videos of their artists. It is worth visiting to discover its music:

https://www.youtube.com/user/SODFBKK/videos

Among other videos visible on SO::ON Dry FLOWER Youtube channel, there are some of Koichi himself, and his own music work:

Other great Thai artists feature on this label such as:

  • Desktop Error
  • Goose
  • Koichi Shimizu (himself)
  • Napat Snidvongs
  • Cliquetpar
  • Atit Sornsongkram
  • Assajan Jakgawan
  • Talkless
  • Little Fox
  • Plot 
  • Gad
  • Into the Air
  • Two Million Thanks
  • HIGHLAG

You can find, when looking on the net, many praise on the man and his work. Also you can find some in Desktop Error’s interview, released on Noise Artists this month.

Unfortunately SO::ON Dry FLOWER stopped its activity in December 2016. You will find some related information in the interview below.

2-   Koichi Shimizu’ interview

If you are lucky enough to understand Thai, you can find a live interview of Koichi at:

If not, Koichi was very kind to give the following interview to Noise Artists.

The man

Noise Artists (NA): Where are you from in Japan?

I was born in small town called Kofu, Yamanashi and grew up there until I left for the United States when I was 18.

(NA) When did you move to Thailand?

I first visited Thailand in 1993 and lived there for a few years. I came back here again in 2003 and have been living here since.

(NA) Why did you stay?

The reason I moved here was very personal, nothing relates to music. But I liked the vibes of the city and decided to settle down.

(NA) What did you study did?

I studied very basic sound engineering in NY when I was young, But I wasn't a good student J

(NA) What is your day job at present if any?

I'm running a music & sound production company in Bangkok. We have been doing lots of music score and sound design for Film, TV commercial etc.
Since last year, I've been touring with theater performance work by Thai film Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul called "Fever Room' as a sound designer and engineer.

(NA) Do you dream to live from your music or is it a passion you do not want to spend your full time on?

Yes, when I was younger, I wanted to live by doing my own music but, as I get older, I enjoy being a part of different type of projects.

(NA) You created a label with many good bands. How did this project take form?

It started as a live music event in 2003, we tried to explore unique music for Thai music lovers. After constantly organising it for few years, we decided to release CDs of interesting bands we've met through the events.

(NA) How did you find the bands?

At that time, we often checked the band on Myspace and, if we liked them, then we invited them to play at our event.

(NA) The label adventure is now over. What is the reason behind this decision?

(NA) What type of music do you favour?

I grew up listening to 80's & 90's rock, Hip Hop, Electronic music and those are my roots.
I start listening classical music a few years ago and when I stay in a studio, I listen to them often. I also listen to cheesy pop music when I'm driving.

The Sound master

(NA) The sound on the recordings of your label is excellent. I understand from Desktop Error that you were the driving force behind it. Was it the same for all the bands?

It really depends, but yes, for most of the release.

(NA) How did you learn sound engineering and producing?

I learnt by experience, lots of try and error. That was the reason I convinced the band that I will be the mixing engineer because I also wanted to learn more.

(NA) Does the methodology change a lot depending on what type of band you are recording (ie indie, electric, electronic, …)

Yes, especially on recordings. But even for the same genre of the music, I tried to seek the different way of recording which I thought will be suitable for each band.

(NA) How did your recording work evolve over time, and if yes could you tell us more?

When it comes to the studio recordings, we've been using the same studio for over the 10 years with the same recording engineer. So we've developed trust and skills together with him. It was mostly about the mixing.

(NA) What equipment do you work with? Do you have any favourite piece(s)

When the mix down, I do mostly with a computer. I have some hardware equipment but mostly using software plugins. And I use very few selected plugins.

(NA) Is there any tricks or advice you can give to musicians for their recordings?

Nowadays, lots of bands are recording and mixing their music in a bedroom or private studio.
I have often been asked which speaker, pre amp, EQ etc should I buy, and I suggest them to spend more money on room acoustic tuning.
In a well-tuned room, budget monitor can sound greater than you imagine, at the same time if the room has bad acoustic, very expensive speaker can sound like shit.

(NA) Was it a community work to try to have the best sounding music possible or mainly driven by yourself or by the band?

First of all, to get the best result, the band must do their best performance at the recordings. What I do is to capture when the magical moment happens and deliver it to the listeners.

(NA) Any interesting anecdotes on some recording session you would like to share?

When we shot Desktop Error's live music video in a forest, we captured a very good session, so during recording their last album, we decided to go to a mountain resort with lots of microphones and did live recordings there. The result was more than we expected and it was really fun.

The Thai Scene

(NA) I have read that Bangkok has a great music scene but I don’t know much about post-rock or indie-rock music in Thailand. Could you tell me more on the Thai music scene.

Well, post rock was very popular few years ago. There were many bands playing instrumental rock at that time. Nowadays trend shifted to something else which I don't really follow so I have no idea, sorry.
But I can say, when it comes to Indie music, Thailand has the biggest scene in South East Asia. We have a great audience who support local music, which is pretty rare in South East Asia, I think.

(NA) I have listened to artists like Goose, Inspirative, Yellow Fang. They seem to be mainly famous in Thailand. Is there any Thai artists indie/shoegaze/post rock that is famous on the world scene?

Worldwide, I don't know any. But during the last few years, Thai bands have started to make a good connection with the Japanese indie music scene. There is a good relations between Thai bands and Japanese bands
More and more Thai bands are touring Japan nowadays and also Thai kids have more chance to see Japanese bands live in Thailand.

(NA) Has the scene changed since you began, and if so how?

Yes, I think so, I don't know if it has become bigger or smaller, but attitude and lifestyle of the kids have changed a lot and the music and scene has changed.

(NA) Apart from Bangkok, is there any other cities with a strong indie scene?

Singapore, Malaysia has also good scene and, personally, I'm very interested in Indonesian underground music scene.

(NA) Are there any Thai bands you want to recommend in the indie/shoegaze/post-rock genres?

This band called Crub: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SDtHbciEhA
They released only one album during 90's and disband. They are an original shoegazer, dream pop band who have influenced lots of young Thai bands.

(NA) Some of these artists’ music (ie Goose) is very hard to find. Any tip that can help us?

Indeed very difficult, ahaha. The CD shop called Nong (https://www.facebook.com/nongtaprachan1) has very good local indies CD selection and sometimes you can find some rare items.
So if you visit Bangkok, I recommend you to visit there.

The Future

(NA) Do you plan to continue music for a long time or are you tired of it?

Of course I will.

3- Thanks & resource

Many thanks to Koichi for taking the time for this interview and many other advice

The Picture is courtesy of Constant Value

 

Desktop Error (Thailand): The interview

Desktop Error (Thailand): The interview

Alpha du Centaure (France) : Lunar Post Rock

Alpha du Centaure (France) : Lunar Post Rock