Asia Pacific Arts calls up Jin Akanishi for a quick chat as he prepares to drop his debut album Japonicana and to embark on his second US tour in March.
APA: Now that you're working up to your debut album, how has your American career been so far?
Jin Akanishi: I'm just excited to have more people to share my music with and to connect with a lot of talented people. I'm working with good people and learning a lot of things from American artists.
APA: What's the main difference working as an artist in Japan vs. America?
JA: I know I'm a completely new artist here in America, but I've been doing it for a long time in Japan. It's kind of weird, but refreshing to try something new.
For audiences, American fans are really energetic and like to dance at my concerts. Japanese fans are more like -- they just stare at me. [laughs] Well, they dance too, but they're just so much more focused on listening to my music, so I guess they don't move as much.
APA: So far, you've released two singles, "Test Drive" and "Sun Burns Down." They're distinctly different from your Japanese work as you mentioned you wanted to produce more dance genre music. Are you looking to try other musical styles?
JA: I don't want to categorize or limit myself to one genre, so I'd like to try all kinds of music. Anything. I wanna try country music. I wanna practice the guitar and the piano too. But, I really need a lot of practice… [laughs]
APA: Your debut album Japonicana is going to drop in March. Why'd you pick this title, and what does it mean?
JA: I… just made that up. I just mixed words up like Japan, America and you know how Latin people use the “a” sound for female? And “o” is for male, right? So, like, my album's a girl. [laugh]
Basically, my album has 8 songs in total, and most of them are dance tracks. I produced half of them myself, and the other half are collaborations with producers like Stereotypes.
APA: Any memorable incidents while recording the album?
JA: Well, there's a song called “California Rock,” I was working on that track, and I needed a rapper, so I asked Warner Bros. to find one for me, but it didn't work out. One day I met up with a guy, Prophet, and we became friends. I just called him the day I was recording, and I was like “Hey, are you free now? You think you can rap?” [laughs] He was like "Okay" and rapped on the spot for the track. So that was kinda cool.
APA: Along with the release of your brand new album, you have plans to embark on another US tour, following your Yellow Gold tour last year. What do you have in store for this one?
JA: Actually, I'm working on it right now. [laughs] For the first tour, I didn't have an album out at the time, but for this tour, I'll have Japonicana, so I'm expecting --hoping? -- that people will sing and jam with me. It'll be fun, I think.
APA: Moving from music, how has your film 47 Ronin been coming along?
JA: Well, we've wrapped up filming, and it's in post-production now. It's going to release in November later this year.
It's the first time I filmed and actually had a trailer. [laughs] It was pretty cool. We don't have trailers in Japan! It depends on who it is and where it is, but we usually share a bus or take our own cars with our managers.
APA: I hear that you had to do a lot of training and preparation for filming -- like horseback riding.
JA: Oh yeah horseback riding, it was like really hard. [sigh] I think it was like for 1.5 months. I had to learn sword fighting too. There are certain ways to kill people. [laughs]
APA: Now that you're knowledgeable about it, do you think it might have any real life uses?
JA: Oh, nope! [laughs] I'm not that kind of person. But when I was learning, there's a particular style -- the way you hold the sword. There are these techniques. It'd be better if I could show you. Yeah, I'd have to show you my skills. [laughs] Well, just watch the movie!
APA: Any interesting stories while filming?
JA: Hm, I taught Keanu [Reeves] how to play Japanese chess. Well, it was like only for a minute. But, I taught him. I did. [laughs]
APA: For your fans and unfamiliar readers, how about sharing three random facts about yourself?
JA: Me? 3 random facts about me?
APA: Yes, you!
JA: Well… I'm Asian. [laughs] Okay, okay…
1) I read manga. I really like One Piece.
2) I drink coffee every morning, a latte with an extra shot.
3) I love food. I just love food. Well, of course Japanese food is my favorite. I love sushi and soba.
APA: Valentine's Day wasn't too long ago. Did you do anything special?
AJ: Just lots of work and rehearsals. [laughs] I did get a chance to send flowers to my wife though.
APA: Fans have been asking me nonstop about your hat and shades, since you always are covering up your face! Should we expect you to continue dressing like this for the rest of eternity?
JA: Okay, hat and shades. To me, they're like… bras for you guys. [laughs] By wearing it, I feel comfortable. ‘Cause you know I'm shy. [laughs]
APA: All the time?
JA: Uh, yeah! It's just like do you need to wear a bra? Do you need to wear a bra?
APA: Well no, not all the time…
APA: I heard the fans mentioning they want to throw their bras at you during the concert tour to prove you don't need to wear [your hat and shades] all the time.
JA: Nope! Nope! Keeping them on! [pause] Well… maybe… I don't know. We'll see. [laughs]