Often served up with a touch of groove Hunting Pigeons‘ is a straightforward indie rock four-piece from Kobe, Japan. Along with bass player and former bandmate Kuniaki Kakusei (25m Floater), guitarist Noriaki Takagi, and drummer Kozo Nakamura (X-Discos , Overcoats) — Hunting Pigeons is the latest offering from former 25m Floater frontman Isseki Shirai.
Hunting Pigeons will be releasing their self-produced debut album Honeycomb Jukebox on July 6, 2011. While, Isseki Shirai’s label will release an EP by Sentinels, and his solo album later this year. I talked to Isseki about the new album and the history of the band.
Please introduce yourself. Who are the members of Hunting Pigeons and what instruments and brands of instruments do you play?
My name is Isseki Shirai. I am SSW for Hunting Pigeons, and am a very sloppy guitar player who has an unceasing love for creating music. FENDER has always had a special spot in my heart – Particularly ’73 Telecaster Thinline. I will always love telecasters.
Noriaki Takagi is the band’s lead guitar player and is actually a badass bassist playing in several other bands. He and I went to the same junior high, though we’ve never played together in a band until a year or so ago.
Kuniaki Kakusei is my home boy. We played together in a band called 25m Floater for 10 years. At one point in the band he was a drummer, later he was guitar player, and then he joined Hunting Pigeons as a bass player. Both guys have a great musical vocabulary and know me really well.
Kozo Nakamura is our drummer who also plays in a punk band called X-Discos. He used to play guitar in a pop band called the Overcoats – – Whom I’d envied for long time for having this really good drummer. I feel extremely creative and comfortable working with these guys.
Could you tell me a little history of the band, and Hunting Pigeons member’s musical backgrounds?
Isseki Shirai: It started as my rehab solo project (after hibernation) following the somewhat heartbreaking disbanding of 25m floater. I called it I.S.E.X. – then I thought I want to play with fixed members and that the name was just too silly. I stole the whole rhythm section from a friend’s then-falling-apart band, and we called ourselves Hunting Pigeons.
By then, the thing I wanted to pursue with the new band was taking shape. I set my personal goal; that is to create music in an environment totally free from all the stress and turmoil generated from going to a commercial studio. While loosing big money on half-assed, heartless pieces of music. We started to record on our own – It sounded shitty for the first couple sessions, then I kind of figured out what to do in the studio and things got really fun. I then started my own label Home Recording is Killing Music. After, there was a tension between the band members and somehow we found we weren’t on the same page anymore, and the old rhythm section quit after the recording of Honeycomb Jukebox. Then people joined the band that know who they are.
As for musical backgrounds, when I first formed a band it was the early 90’s so I was naturally influenced by the sound of that era, and it still haunts me. Noriaki used to play punk rock as teenager, and then more groovy, funky stuff as he switched to bass. Kakusei is a pop music connoisseur and loves all kind of music. Kozo loves soul music.
How does music affect you and the world around you?
Isseki Shirai: When I am working on new songs or recording – I daydream like I am on LSD and at the same time it keeps me up like double espresso. It won’t let me be until I nail it. My wife and 2 year old daughter are great music lovers – there always is music in my house. My daughter’s all time favorite song is Paul Westerberg’s “Dyslexic Heart.” She naturally gets music. It’s pretty amazing.
What brought you to your instrument of choice and what made you say; “I want to do that?”
Isseki Shirai: I just thought guitar was the coolest instrument. When I got my first one, I got too bored of the lecture book and gave up. The next time around I’d discovered punk rock and believed that you didn’t have to be a technical player to make cool music. So, I thought I would give it a shot but soon realized I was not tough enough to be a punk rocker – as I’d seen those days in the local scene. I shelved the equipment once again. Then 90’s grunge broke, and I was finally convinced that I want to make my own music. Now, I play guitar mainly because I love my guitars. It also comes in handy when I write a song at home, and it keeps me from dancing poorly on the stage.
As Hunting Pigeons music has evolved, what do you think has been the most significant change and do you consider it a positive or a negative?
Isseki Shirai: We try to establish our own way to create/record our music. It’s obsessively DIY (do it yourself)- Some may think annoyingly DIY. The process made us freer and more matured. But being on your own might make people feel that we are distant, not approachable and perhaps selfish? And maybe we are. So, that might be negative. But, we just wanted to keep our comfort zone to create music, that is all.
Who or what non-musical influences have shaped you and your music? And continue to do so?
Isseki Shirai: As many times as I tell my name is Isseki (for 30 something years) – People have to ask me this one question. “If I am really 100% Japanese- from how I look.” I always say; “I am. And NO I am not HALF or Gaijin.” That kind of redundancy makes me want to be a different individual, maybe? “You say I look different.” Yes. I am different.
Remembering back to your first time in front of a live audience, what comes to mind?
Isseki Shirai: Pure embarrassment. I smashed the guitar on the floor like whomever-you-name and it was not even mine.
What has been your biggest triumph as Hunting Pigeons? Hunting Pigeons’ Greatest challenge?
Isseki Shirai: A couple months ago, Toddle brought us to their packed show in Shimokitazawa. It tasted too sweet, especially after the old bandmates left and I just started to play with the new guys. The bass player of Toddle, he had faith in us – That we-the-totally-unknown-band would rock the audience and convinced the other band members to make it happen. The last thing we wanted was to let him down – The audience was nice and eager. We went out and did what we do and did it BEST. I wish every show was like that, or even once a year would be good enough. We want more of that.
Let’s hear a little about your tastes not related to music – Could you name some of your favorite books or movies?
Books- Diaspora by Greg Egan, Stories of your life by Ted Chiang, Parallelworlds by Michio Kaku.
Hunting Pigeons 1st album Honeycomb Jukebox will be released in July 2011 – what are fans going to hear?
Isseki Shirai: Some good melodies and bad English on the sleeve – What we can do with great effort and our own budget.
This is your chance to promote your CDs, bands, tours, websites & gear – what should fans be looking for from Hunting Pigeons in 2011?
Isseki Shirai: Our self financed/recorded first album Honeycomb Jukebox will be out on July 6th, and I think we’ll make a CD w/outtakes and a live DVD to promote it. So check your local shop for it. We also have a couple of EP’s out too. Also, my label will release an EP by Sentinels, and my solo album later this year.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans all over the world?
Isseki Shirai: We didn’t do many shows this year. So if you find one, be there. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for booking, merchandise, and anything else.
I would like to thank Hunting Pigeons and Isseki Shirai for his participation in this interview.
~Denise Smith (interview 2011.05.15)