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Interview: RADWIMPS, The Beloved Musicians Behind Makoto Shinkai's Blockbuster Works

by Zac Bertschy,

For nearly 20 years now, the rock band RADWIMPS has been capturing hearts with their uniquely sentimental, deeply meaningful and pop-friendly artistic style - they've sold millions of albums in Japan and around the globe. This didn't escape the notice of world-famous anime auteur Makoto Shinkai, who chose them to score his megahit (and still the highest grossing animated film in Japan) your name. - and their presence in the film's soundtrack is credited with creating an undeniable aesthetic atmosphere that elevated the movie to new heights, enabling it to connect with audiences worldwide. Shinkai's new film, Weathering With You, is out this week in the US - and we got the chance to speak with RADWIMPS about their career, their influences, and how they feel about being associated so directly with one of the most successful anime creators of all time.

ANN: You've been successful musicians for quite a long time - how would you describe your creative process?

Kuwahara: We always continued with the mindset that this could be our last time, that we can end this anytime. When we realized it, we came this far.

Is there a difference between that and your process for creating music for a Makoto Shinkai film, like Weathering With You?

NODA: A film score has to embody a specific world, which makes it a slightly different experience from producing an original album because we have to challenge ourselves to come up with music that best matches that specific scene. Also, when making music for film, we can use any instruments we like, and it's our job to choose the most appropriate ones to make the most suitable music. That completely removes the “band” framework and allows us to create music in a much more open field.

Standing out isn't always the most crucial thing when it comes to movie music. In fact, the ideal might be for the music to melt together seamlessly with the scene's characters, lines, and scenery and reach the audience as a single experience.

When writing music as a band, the equivalent of a movie's scenery and characters and lines are all part of the music itself, so the creative process naturally differs. It shows more of the creator's ego.

Kuwahara: We can put sounds together as we please when creating an original album, but when writing a film score, we can't just push our own preferences. There's something novel and interesting about that. We have to match the music to the timing and the images, meaning it's not just music you experience with your ears. That's the biggest difference.

Although you've been famous globally for a long time, your fame has exploded with people who might not have heard you before Makoto Shinkai's films. How does that make you feel, creatively?

Takeda: It is an honor. As an anime fan myself, I am proud that I was able to be a part of the production of this wonderful film.

Can you tell us the story of how you became involved with Makoto Shinkai for his films? Were you fans of his work beforehand?

Kuwahara & Takeda: Director Shinkai has initially been a fan of RADWIMPS, and when your name. was greenlit, he suggested us to compose the music. Producer Kawamura contacted Yojiro, and we got the offer.

Were you eager to work with him again after the success of your name.?

NODA: To be honest, I wasn't expecting to get an offer to compose the score again, so I was surprised. I received the script about a year after your name. was released. I was asked, “After reading the script, did you think of any music?” A few months later, I handed the director two of the main songs.

For Weathering With You, what were your chief inspirations for your music? Did you draw from any unexpected sources, or was the story itself all it took?

NODA” I received the Weathering With You script from Mr. Shinkai about a year after your name. was released, in the August of 2017. After reading the script, the first song I composed was “Is There Still Anything That Love Can Do?” and “Daijobu.” These two songs became the beacon in working on this film for the next two years.

The other three songs came about by lengthy discussions with the director in addition to understanding the story better. Two of the songs were composed to match the scenes, so I prioritized expressing the psychology of the characters.

I completed all five songs at the end of 2018. I then shifted to working on the OST of the film. I worked so hard every day, talking with the director and stayed in the studio, that I almost forgot that my main job is the band.

Do you see this creative partnership continuing?

NODA: No one knows what the future holds. But in case we do get chosen to work on the next film, I would want to improve and hone my musical skills until then. Because if we do get the offer, I want to be even better than I am today to create something that meets the director's expectations.

Over your career, do you each personally have a favorite song from your catalog?

Kuwahara: I like the song "Moshimo." Yojiro wrote it when he was in high school. I was in awe that someone the same age as me could write such a song. Takeda: I like the song "me me she." I had just broken up with a girlfriend when I heard the song, and the lyrics were very relatable.

Aside from your own music, as talented musicians, what do you recommend right now, music-wise? What's in your headphones?

NODA: If I had to give one, it would be the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

A while ago, we had the opportunity to perform before the Red Hot Chili Peppers at a Japanese music festival called Summer Sonic, and seeing them on stage again reminded us of how important an influence they've been for our band.

Kuwahara: As for bands, I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Oasis. I'm also a fan of the Japanese bands GLAY and L'Arc~en~ciel. I used to listen to and copy their music all the time. There are times when I realize how much they've influenced my own playing.

Takeda: The bassist Marcus Miller. I like the base technique known as “slapping” the bass, and I learned a lot of that from watching his performances.

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