Thai Hitmaker Stamp & Hiroshi from FIVE NEW OLD talk about Asian music trends: Interview
Billboard Japan: When did you first meet?
Stamp: Two years ago.
Hiroshi: Law. We asked him to sing on our song “Good Life” from 2018. I saw him perform at a club in Tokyo and was drawn to how he took his alternate Beck influences from the ground up. of his music and turned them into highly entertaining pop songs. I asked him right after the gig if he’d be willing to work on a song together, and he kindly agreed immediately.
Did you compare notes between yourselves on your musical influences before going to the studio?
Hiroshi: Yes. He and I both love video games, and we had fun talking about it. We also talked about hip-hop today, like the episode of Logic in the Netflix documentary Rapture, and also on rock in the UK like Blur and Radiohead. Stamp went to see Tyler, The Creator, and Beck when they played in Japan, and I think it’s great how he’s always on the move like that.
Stamp, did you know Japanese pop culture from an early age?
Stamp: Yes. Japanese pop culture was everywhere in Thailand about 30 years ago, and I’ve loved it since I was a kid. Not just music, but also games, manga, cartoons, TV shows, and novels. Taking novels for example, there was a time when all hipsters adored Haruki Murakami, and I was also drawn to his distinctively Japanese way of making beauty and compassion coexist in his literary style. As for manga, I liked Dragon ball, Rokudenashi blues, Slam dunk, and JoJo’s bizarre adventure.
These are all from Weekly Shonen Jump magazine.
Stamp: On the music side, I have listened to a lot of Japanese rock groups called “visual-kei”, like X JAPAN, L’Arc-en-Ciel, and LUNA SEA. I played in a cover band of L’Arc-en-Ciel in high school.
Hiroshi: Now, that I would like to hear. [Laughs]
FIVE NEW OLD has performed several times in Thailand after you met Stamp. What is your impression of the Thai music scene, Hiroshi?
Hiroshi: The feeling I got from playing alongside local bands in clubs and music festivals is that Thailand is also up to date with current global music trends. Stamp tells me that hip-hop is also very common in his country, and I noticed that many bands at festivals were playing music that would be categorized as “city pop” in Japan. Another thing I have noticed is that listeners in Thailand want music they can sing along to. The local audience really sings a lot. They even sing when they move from stage to stage at a festival.
Stamp, how do you see the music scene in your country?
Stamp: In terms of the listening environment, streaming is also becoming the mainstream in Thailand. About a month or two ago I felt like hip-hop was all the rage, but now that’s already changing a bit. So much new music is born every day that people listen to, and it’s impossible to think of it all in terms of a specific genre. People listen to music of various genres which is curated by the streaming platforms individually on their smartphones. So 10 years ago there were hit songs that everyone knew, but things are different now.
The same can be said of Japan. In this context, Japanese groups and hip-hop groups have entered Asian markets in recent years. Politically, the tensions between Japan and South Korea have intensified even more lately and there are other countries which do not necessarily get along, but the cultural exchange in music among the younger generation is definitely encouraging.
Hiroshi: I think the world has become more and more divided since Trump became President of the United States With issues like Brexit, the trade wars between the United States and China and the current tensions between Japan and Korea. South, the role of the arts, music and entertainment is to overcome these barriers to connect with each other. For example, as a fellow Asian, I’m really proud of how K-pop has become so popular around the world, and we should also strive to bring more Asian culture and music to American and European audiences.
Stamp: It is also my goal, to deliver my music to a universal audience, but not in a calculated way. I’m going to release my latest album in Japan first, but I’ll be really happy if it’s well received in other countries.
The songs from your new album, EKAMAI DREAM 1, displays a wide variety of sounds, with tracks containing elements of alternative house, emo and tropical, as well as modern boogie acts and pop ballads. The diversity of your musical influences and the way you cross genres in your expression is showcased on a great basis called pop.
Stamp: Thank you. I always tried to keep a balance between alternative and pop when making my previous albums. This time, I wanted new elements on top of that, so I asked Hiroshi to contribute beats that don’t exist in me in “Die Twice”.
Christopher Chu of POP ETC also plays an important role as a producer on your album.
Stamp: I met him in Japan too. I saw POP ETC play Summer Sonic three years ago. We took a backstage photo together, which I uploaded to my Instagram. He texted me when I was on my way home and we’ve been in touch ever since.
It would be interesting to hear what you, Hiroshi and Christopher might find together in the studio one day.
Stamp: It’s a good idea. I’m ready to do my next album in Tokyo together.
Are there any projects you would like to work on together?
Hiroshi: If Stamp and FIVE NEW OLD and other Asian bands could tour North America and Europe together, that would be really encouraging.
Stamp: I would like to incorporate more Japanese sounds into my music. I think it might be interesting to ask FIVE NEW OLD bassist Shun to produce on my next album. I can’t wait to work with you guys again.