Interviews

Veröffentlicht am 4.06.2021 | von Dominik

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JAPANESE BREAKFAST – Glück im Unglück

Foto-© Peter Ash Lee

Lange Zeit schien die amerikanische Songwriterin Michelle Zauner vom Unglück verfolgt: als sie alles auf die Karte Musik setzen und mit einer Band durchstarten wollte, gelang es ihr nicht, als sie dann aufgrund der Krebs-Krankheit ihrer Mutter zu ihr zurück zog, um sie zu pflegen, schrieb sie darüber und veröffentlichte als Japanese Breakfast solo ein Album, das ihr schnell einiges an Aufmerksamkeit einbrachte. Ihr 2017er Album Soft Sounds from Another Planet schloss sich dem inhaltlich direkt an und verarbeitet den Tod der Mutter – ihr großer Durchbruch, nachdem sie zuvor eigentlich schon die Musik an den Nagel hängen wollte und sich einen Marketing-Job gesucht hatte. Und nun mit einem neuen Album im Gepäck, das dieses dunkle Kapitel ihres Lebens abgeschlossen hat und sich fröhlicheren Themen zuwendet, also eine weltweite Pandemie, die sich Zauner und ihrem Erfolg in den Weg stellt.

Man könnte meinen, dass man da schnell verzweifelt und sich zurück ins Marketing stürzt – Michelle lacht kurz vor Ostern in unserem Zoom-Gespräch, bevor sie noch mal einen Job in der Marketing-Branche suchen würde, würde sie eher Teller waschen gehen, sagt sie. Gleichzeitig erinnert sie sich aber auch an schwere Zeiten im letzten Jahr, als sie mit einem fertigen Buch und einem Album, die sie beide davor lange Zeit in eine Art selbstverordnete Quarantäne gezwungen hatten, da stand und die Veröffentlichungen beider kurzerhand auf unbestimmte Zeit verschoben wurde: “Then when march came around, I was ready to go and live my life…and I was like, I worked so hard on these projects and am finally ready to enjoy myself and then it was like: lockdown! So that was really tough! I always enjoyed working, when I’m feeling restless or depressed or frustrated and it felt impossible to work on a new project during this time, because I was sitting on an album and a book. I felt these things needed to come out for me to feel ready to work on something else. So I felt very restless in the beginning, but the world opened itself up to me in such a huge way, like that’s stupid, like you’re healthy and financially you’re ok. I also became very appreciative of the things that I did have and tried to keep quiet, because what I was going through was not so bad in the grand scheme of things.“

Also alles halb so schlimm und jetzt sieht die Welt auch eh schon wieder besser aus für Zauner, die für ihr Buch Crying in H Mart: A Memoir („I wouldn’t say it’s a memoir in the traditional sense, it’s not a book of how I had became Japanese Breakfast or so, it’s a coming-of-age story about a mother and daughter relationship“), das übrigens auch im Oktober als Tränen im Asia-Markt: Eine Geschichte von Trauer, Liebe und koreanischem Essen auch auf Deutsch erscheinen soll, genauso gefeiert wird, wie für ihr neues Album Jubilee, in dem sich sich nun völlig den positiven Lebensaspekten zuwendet – also eigentlich perfektes Timing, brauchen wir doch alle vielleicht genau das, inmitten der 3. Phase der Pandemie: „Yeah, I think it’s an album about joy and I think it’s also an album about release, like the year of Jubilee biblical is a year of release. It’s like when the slaves were freed, when the debts are paid off, when people are released into the world – I would like to believe that we see that happen in the upcoming months, but I might just be overly optimistic. This is like how I cope with things…“, sagt sie und lacht wieder ein herzliches und lautes Lachen. „I think it was a gradual process, I mean it’s been six years at this point since my mom passed, you know, it’s something you will live with forever, but it gets easier over time. I wrote two albums that were very much about grief, one after the other and then an entire book about that experience. I think especially after writing the book, I felt like I said everything I wanted to say about that part of my life, I was definitely aware about this narrative around me as an artist and it was like, what is on the opposite spectrum that people would expect of me. And I feel like joy is not like a common theme in music. I think especially in the indie music scene, people have this expectation that musicians are super depressed, like all the time and have to really suffer to make interesting art. And I feel like I have suffered plenty and have written about it extensively and there is this other part of my life, I’m a multidimensional human being, so I wanted to write about this experiences.“

Doch keine Angst – Zauner wird nicht auf einmal eine musikalische Gute-Laune-Box, die sich in Trivialitäten suhlt: „Not all songs are about, „I feel joy, I am happy“. There are also songs that are like „I’m struggling to feel joy, I want to feel joy, but there is a block or this person is taking away my joy and I need to protect myself and walk away from it“. I want to remind myself that music and my job is such a joy. And there are some of the saddest songs I’ve ever written on this album…“ Womit wir doch irgendwie auch wieder bei der Trauer und dem Tod ihrer Mutter wären: „I can experience a lot of joy now, because all that I survived. I feel like that way all the time, I feel a much bigger understanding of the world and what it has in it, because I’ve been very close to death.“

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Gleichzeitig stürzt sich Zauner auf Jubilee aber auch in andere Persönlichkeiten und erforscht andere Problematiken, wie in Kokomo, In, in dem ein Junge sich von seiner High-School-Flamme trennt und der daraus entstand, dass die Songwriterin wieder Gitarrenstunden nahm und Beatles Song übte. Daraus entstand eine Leidenschaft für eine bestimmte Tonlage – und diese verlangte eben nach einer einfachen und reinen Teenager-Love-Story. Etwas schwerer geht es da schon in Savage Good Boy zu: „For Savage Good Boy I read some news article about billionaires buying bunkers and I thought that this was something so sickening and interesting and I think that something like this is a very interesting entry point to songwriting. Like how do this people think, how do they forgive themselves every day, how do they rationalize to themselves, that this amount of wealth is ok on such a high level. Because as a human being, everyone has some streak of like creed or you know, like this feeling, I need to do this, just in order to survive. Like I have enough exposable income to live with a less higher quality of life or whatever and could be more generous to other people. Everyone could in a way, or most people could. And there is this rationalization of why you can’t do that – and I was just curious of when you are a billionaire, how do you do that on such a high level. Obviously if I had so much wealth, I would just be disgusted of myself all the time.“

Alles andere als eklig war da die Zusammenarbeit mit Jack Tatum, alias Wild Nothing, mit dem Zauner zusammen die Single Be Sweet schrieb. Dadurch, dass beide den selben Verlag haben, landeten sie zusammen in einer Schreib-Session und wollten eigentlich einen großen Pop-Song schreiben: „So I was like in LA and the two of us got together and originally we were like: Let’s write a song for someone else. Because we weren’t working on records at the time. So we were just like: let’s just write a fun pop song, for just like Rihanna or so. You know, it wasn’t like she was actual interested or so, but we were just like, we could sell this to someone…defiantly not Rihanna, but maybe just like someone like Dua Lipa or so“, es sollte aber anders kommen: „And then, when we were starting to put it together, I just really liked it. And a big part of it was, that I came up with the synth line, like the main lead synth line, and he built a beat around it and came up with this monster bass line – I mean, that guy can write a bass-line! He also has such a deep understanding of tone, he is like the real tinkerer of sounds and spends like hours and hours to find the right tone and the sonic balance, that I defiantly don’t have the patience for. So I feel like, I was able to bring this very sassy, diva vocal line and lyrics and some synth parts and then he filled it out in such a beautiful way. It was a real wonderful collaborative process. He is so different to me and this is what I think like made it such a fruitful collaboration.“

Das dazugehörige Video in Akte X-Style entstand nur aufgrund von Pandemie-Einwirkungen – denn eigentlich hatte Zauner einen ganz anderen, aufwendigeren Plan für den Song: „I have a longtime collaborator, Adam Kolodny, who is the cinematographer on all the music videos that we’ve done together. And he came over and we were watching the Spike Jonze DVD to get some kind of ideas. And one of the videos on the DVD is the Beastie Boys Sabotage video. And we were like: Oh, this is so low budget looking, but it’s so much fun, it’s just like a bunch of guys rolling around on the floor and kicking doors and having a good time – we just should do that! But we didn’t want to be cops, so we started brainstorming, what we could be. So we could be agents and from agents we thought of x-files and I started to watch a lot of x-files episodes to try to get some ideas and I remembered, like in the chorus I sing like „I want to believe“ – and that’s like this ongoing sentiment in the series. It’s basically such a perfect structure, like you have two characters, their personality are very apparent and easy to get across in a non speaking narrative, which you have to do in a music video. So basically I just wrote a fan fiction – and it was just so fun.“ Und das sieht man dem Ergebnis auch an!

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Zauner führt auch schon seit längerem regelmäßig bei ihren eigenen, sowie teilweise auch für andere Künstler Regie bei Musikvideos – da verwundert es nicht, dass auch schon gemunkelt wird, dass das kreative Energiebündel nach gefierten Alben und einem ebenso hochgelobten Buch, vielleicht als nächstes die Regie für einen Film übernehmen könnte: „I don’t know, I haven’t thought too much about it. I like the idea of just tackling difficult, big projects. I think as soon as you realize you’re capable of it, you just want to climb the mountain – and I feel like directing a feature movie is like the ultimate mountain to climb. But I have no real plans. A part of me is enticed but simultaneously repulsed to direct the adaption of the book. But I don’t know if that’s something that realistically will happen. I would like to try directing a short before jumping directly into a feature.“ Aber vielleicht sieht sich Zauner auch einfach eher als Autorin, als als Regisseurin, wie sie bezüglich ihres Romans sagt: „I started creative writing in college and I have always identified myself with being a writer. I think that’s my strongest quality as a musician, honestly. So it came from a very similar place, I think. Like a lot of my songwriting developed in college through my creative writing curses and I kind of drew a lot of this same education to write this book. But it was also very hard. There is only like 500 words or so on a song, this one was like 80.000… (laughs) Now I feel like I can take on everything.“

Dieses Talent wollte sie ursprünglich auch eher dafür nutzen um für große Pop-Stars Songs zu schreiben, was sie dann aber schnell wieder verwarf (bis auf die Entstehungsgeschichte von Be Sweet anscheinend) – als Grund dafür führte sie in einem älteren Interview an, dass sie zum Beispiel am Taylor Swift Song Me! gemerkt hätte, dass diese Art Musik einfach nicht zu ihr passt. Angesprochen auf deren neue Alben, bei der sich die Pop Ikone zusammen mit unter anderen Aaron Dessner von The National in folkige Gefilde wagte, sagt Zauner: „I haven’t spend a lot of time with those records, but I think it’s really cool. Pop artists like her and Billie Eilish express that they are real human beings, that have interests in different ways and wanting to express that – and it can also have mass appeal and can hugely be popular. I think that’s really cool and I hope that the music industry pays attention to that and realizes that you can’t just trust an algorithm to determine how successful something can be in the mass appeal. And that’s a perfect example that two of the biggest pop stars in the world essentially made like advanced bedroom records and they both won Grammys and are hugely successful. Putting your trust in people and artists – I think that’s a really important thing for the industry to take note of. Especially someone like that, who probably at a very young age had to listen to a bunch of old white guys go about what was cool and what she was allowed to do. And for her to take back the power and make two records on her own terms and do what she is interested in and be able to do that, then put it out and be hugely successful – good for her, I think that’s awesome!“

Da kann man nur hoffen, dass Zauner zumindest im Kleinen ein ähnlicher Erfolg mit Jubilee ins Haus steht – die Zeichen stehen gut! Und auch Zauner fühlt sich ihren neuen Songs mehr verbunden als je zuvor, auch wenn sie über ein Jahr auf die Veröffentlichung warten musste: „I actually love them more then I’ve ever have – and that’s exciting for me, as I feel it really stood the test of time. When I first turned it in, I was so unsure and now it feels like a very well loved album to me. And I listened to it several times, especially in the last month and I’m really proud of it, I love what I made and I think it’s my best work. And the more I’d listen to it and the more I started to talk about it to other people, the more I was save in that feeling. But it feels like the right time for it to come out, I was devastated when it couldn’t come out, as I didn’t want this four-year-gap in my discography…but that seems so silly now.“

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Über den Autor

Bedroomdisco-Gründer, Redaktions-Chef, Hans in allen Gassen, Golden Leaves Festival Booker, Sammler, Fanboy, Exil-Darmstädter Wahl-Hamburger & happy kid, stuck with the heart of a sad punk - spreading love for great music since '08!



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