Jesushairdo: Yusuke Horiuchi, Japanese Pop Master

Yusuke Horiuchi, known to Macjammers as Jesushairdo, is a 33 year old Japanese pop rocker living in Tokyo. He’s been churning out cross-cultural hits for the last 4 years on MJ. I first noticed his talent with acoustic demos like Green, Pearl and The Youngest and The Brightest, his first submissions back in 2004, all great songs. Through the years, I’ve heard him master recording and mixing techniques, grow as a writer, and branch out into jazz influences. I can’t say enough good things about his music.

Jesushairdo’s music is always entertaining, containing an element of fun that is often lacking in today’s offerings. Plus, his lyrics include quirky, unique phrases, partly due to the language divide, but mostly due to his wit and honest observational skills as a pop poet. Without questions, he is one of my favorite singer-songwriters I’ve discovered.

This is one of the reasons I tapped into his talent when the Macjams Podcast project first started in 2007. Jesushairdo DJs the World Music: JAPAN Podcast. Thanks for putting that together, Yusuke.

Do you see yourself more of a songwriter, as opposed to a performer/musicians?

“I am a songwriter. Definitely. I am not much of a singer or guitar/keyboard player, I know. But I think I am a decent songwriter.”

I love your lyrics, your character story songs. Please discuss your philosophy of lyrics writing, song content, etc.

“Thank you very much. My songs are portraits of ordinary guys you see in your everyday life. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not a professional full-time musician. To make the best of it, I always try to write something full-time musicians cannot write. So my songs are the sketches of my everyday life as an ordinary office worker. (Basically, I just keep whining about my job, my single life and me becoming middle-aged. I know, not very interesting. lol) If I wanted to become a pro, I should probably write more love songs, but that’s not what I want to do. (And probably people wouldn’t want to hear me singing out love anyway!)”

How much time a week do you spend playing music? Writing music?

“I used to record a song every weekend. But since my work got busier, I probably record one song in 3-4 months now. I play guitars and keyboard 2-3 days a week for a little bit. And I also think about my music all the time. In a commuting train, in the office (I probably shouldn’t say this!), in the gym, etc. In a sense, I write music 24 hours a day! Just don’t have time to record it now. (Sigh)”

What do you do for a “living”?

“Movie buyer.”

What do you do exactly?

“Well, I import mostly Hollywood movies to Japan. I’ve imported movies like Rush Hour 3 and Apocalypto in the recent past. The Ed Zwick movie, Defiance, would be our next release.”

Do you have plans to ever go into film, or do music videos?

“It will be awesome if I would have a chance to make a movie in the future, and maybe compose some scores or theme songs for it. That would be my dream. But again, I know nothing about filmmaking.”

How long does it take to write a song?

“It depends. Sometimes I finish a song in one day. Sometimes, it can take months to complete. To me, it’s pretty easy to complete a song when I have a clear concept of what this song is about. Once in a while, I start writing a song without having a clear concept. That’s when I hit the wall and struggle my way out to complete it. I write melodies and lyrics at the same time while singing along to my guitar or keyboard. So, when I have a concept, it’s pretty easy and quick to put melodies, chords and lyrics all in place. Very handy.”

Do you recall the first song you every wrote? Can you still play it?

“I think I wrote my first song when I was 14 or 15 years old. It was a pure hard rock! Would not want to play it now.”

How old were you when you got into playing music?

“Well, I was only 5 years old or so when my mother took me to the piano lesson for the first time. I gave up piano when I was 10, because it was not so cool for a boy to play piano back then.

Do you recall an early influential experience that led you to want to make music?

“My mother bought me KORG M1 keyboard after much much persuasion. I learned how to program MIDI and create my own demo tracks since then. As a keyboard player, I got inspired by Asia, Pet Shop Boys, Night Ranger, Bon Jovi, Europe and Brian Adams. Also, as a guitar player, my guitar heros were Brad Gills (Night Ranger), Reb Beach (Winger), and Paul Gilbert.

“I started writing my own songs in my university days. Back then (and still), my biggest musical influence came from U2. I left behind all these long-haired heavy metal stuff, and started listening more various music since then. My favourite so far is still U2. I love other artists like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Pearl Jam, Counting Crows, Jon McLaughlin, Coldplay, Simple Plan, etc.”

Have you ever been in a band?

“I belonged to several bands before I went solo as Jesushairdo in 2004, but my music really started blossoming ever since I bought Apple Powerbook G4 in 2004. Garageband really changed the way I make music and I think the quality of my songs got significantly improved. Together with my side project, Sumo Sisters, my songs won several local musical contests. But my highlight came when Sumo Sisters got picked one of the four finalists in EMI Japan‘s audition, and also we performed live in front of 2,000 people at the firework festival last year. That was fun!”

How/why did you start the Sumo Sisters project?

“First of all, everyone involved in Sumo Sisters are in this circle of close friends, and we hang out together all the time. It was our friend’s birthday party, and we were soaked with lots of beer as usual. We were all talking dumb and doing something stupid. Aya and Kyoko were the centre of the stupidity, again, as usual. Then, someone suddenly said something like Aya and Kyoko are like sisters, and because of their rather large forms, they are Sumo Sisters, etc. This stuck to my mind and I took it very seriously. I always thought I wanted to make something together with my friends, because it was always just me performing (as Jesushairdo) and them listening and watching. I wanted my friends to experience all the good things about making music. A few months later, very good friends of ours got married. We wrote ‘Everyday With You‘ to celebrate their wedding and that was the very first song of Sumo Sisters. ‘I Wanna Wrestle You‘ was recorded after it, but we felt ‘Wrestle You‘ is more suitable as a debut song and as Sumo Sisters’ signature song. So, we decided to hold ‘Everyday With You’ to release a bit and we rolled out with ‘Wrestle You’ first.”

What are the goals for the Sumo Sisters project?

“The goals of Sumo Sisters project is to achieve something together with all of us in the team Sumo Sisters. In the last couple of years, we have made 5 songs and 4 music videos. I guess this is something that we feel really proud of. Kyoko has now become a mother of a son. In a few years time, he will be singing and dancing with us! So, the real goal for us is to relay this baton of friendship to our next generation. Until then, we shall keep on talking dumb, acting silly, getting drunk and making great music.”

Examples of Sumo Sister videos:

Everyday With You
Girls Do It Better
Making of Always Low (in Jesushairdo’s bedroom!)

Why did you join Macjams?

“As I sing most my songs in Japanese (and when I sing English songs I have terrible accents that no one would understand), it could be a bit difficult to reach listeners overseas, but Macjams has been really helpful. So, thanks!”

How did Macjams impact your career goals, self-esteem, etc.?

“Macjams opened the door to the fellow self-recording musicians overseas. When you make a song with your Mac in your bedroom, it’s a very lonely work. (lol) Sometimes, I would go like ‘What the hell am I doing? I should go out more before I get too old to do it!’ But after I realized that there are so many of us out there and I don’t have to do it alone all the time, I wouldn’t mind locking myself in for 48 hours to record a song. (lol) It’s a lot of fun to make something together with someone overseas who you haven’t met. You connect with them through music purely. I think it’s amazing.”

Which other MJ members joined becuz of you?

Sumo Sisters, of course. And, another Japanese pop-duo, ‘nj‘.

What other Internet sites are you active on?

GBUC, which is a Japanese equivalent of Macjams.”

Is there anything MJ could do to help bring in more Japanese members?

“It definitely has to have Japanese translation. (lol) ”

You are friends with kcsaito. Please tell me how you record together – Waltz For Jodie, for example.

“I knew him through GBUC, and we did one collaboration where I sang for him. A few months later, I met him for real and we started performing on stage together as a unit with other fellow GBUC musicians. kcsaito is a great jazz pianist. On the other hand, I know nothing about jazz. But when my pop/rock spirits meet his jazz spirits, something different seems to be forming. Waltz For Jody and Jody Poster are twins. When I wrote this song, I thought I couldn’t play piano for it the way I wanted it to sound. So I asked kcsaito to come in and bring in whatever he wanted to. He did and it became Waltz For Jodie. I liked it a lot but I also wanted it to have more rock spirits in it. So I asked him to play a little bit harder and Jodie, Poster came out. Both songs have the same lyrics and same melodies. But different arrangement. Since my work got busier, I kinda stopped performing on stage. But I am always looking for an opportunity to perform with him in the future.”

Have you ever met or worked with Tadashi Togawa?

“Not yet.”

Please list your favorite MJ submissions. Explain why each is a favorite, what you are proud of in each.

“It must be ‘Hanging Out With The White Boys‘ and ‘Minority Minority.’ (lol) Sadly, since it’s English, most Japanese friends don’t get the jokes of the songs. But here, people get it. (In spite of my bad English.)”

What is something about your life no one at MJ knows?

“I am an avid snowboarder and bodyboarder and volleyball player. I suck at bodyboarding, but I think I am an okay snowboarder. We go snowboarding (including the team Sumo Sisters) probably around 6-8 times a year. Girls have started getting the taste of kickers recently, but sadly Aya broke her waist bone when she fell from the bottom onto the icy snow in last March. I guess we are losing our reflex as we grow older!

“Very very sadly, we have recently lost a very good snowboard buddy in an unfortunate accident. We will miss him so much next time we go snowboarding. I wrote a few songs about snowboarding. One is Pearl and the other is called Anthem of the Aging Boarders. I think Pearl is a decent song but my performance was terrible. (lol) So, if you are interested, please go check out Anthem of the Aging Boarders.

“I love sports. I am pretty active with weight training. Also, as I am working in a movie industry, I am a bit of a film buff, too.”

Where is your favorite place to snowboard?

“Of ski resorts in Japan, Niseko Hokkaido is our favourite place to snowboard. The mountain is big and snow there is dope! I’ve been to Whistler/Blackcomb and I know that there are bigger mountains out there, but snow in Hokkaido is ‘the best’, I tell you!!”

What obstacles have you overcome in your musical endeavors?

“My English sucks. So, whenever I sing in English songs, no one understands. However, because I grew up
listening to English songs mostly, it is actually easier for me to write lyrics in English.”

You have improved your recording skills a great deal. Tell me what you think you’ve improved the most, and give tips on how others can do the same. What did you do wrong that you do better now, etc.

“I think it’s the mixing and arrangement skills that got improved a great deal in the course of time. Here’s my tip to beginner Macjammers. When you record your song, always arrange instruments visualizing how your band would be performing it on a live stage. Is your lead guitarist on the left side of the stage? Do you have a keyboarding playing, and where would he be? Does your bassist do a back vocal too? Fundamentally, whether it’s a rock band or an orchestra, the sound is coming from where the instrument is played. Therefore, how you put your band members should determine how your song would sound. By visualizing it, you are automatically mixing your song at the same time. (Of course, in a real world and in a live house, your band’s sound is coming from the big speakers and the sound is completely mixed at the PA deck. So you know it is hyper-theoretical.)”

What is your recording gear/process?

KORG M1 (but I only use it as MIDI keyboard to play Garageband sounds). Yamaha acoustic guitar. Epiphone semi acoustic guitar. Takamine acoustic guitar.

“Here are the gadgets I use in my bedroom studio: MacBook Pro. Garageband. Guitar Rig 2. EZ drummer.”

How do you mix/master?

“I mix/master all tracks with Garageband in my bedroom. No fancy stuff. I don’t even have a proper monitor speaker. When I mix my songs, I have to play them millions times repeatedly. So, my neighbor must have memorized all my songs by now.”

What is your strongest point, musically?

“Um… My melodies are really catchy?”

Weakest?

“Not a great singer. But DTM can fix that, if you know what I mean.”

Any more tips?

“Listen to as much music as possible.”

What is the best part of your Macjams experience?

“Collaboration! And with people overseas! It was a great experience.

What is your favorite Macjams collaboration?

Afterglow. Leon sang it really beautifully.”

What are your personal musical aspirations?

“It would be sweeeeeeeeeet if someone big would sing my songs.”

LINKS:
Official Website: http://www.jesushairdo.orimen.com
MacJams Profile page (“Don’t listen to my early stuff unless you want to feel confident about your own work!”)
Sumo Sisters

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19 Responses to “Jesushairdo: Yusuke Horiuchi, Japanese Pop Master”

  1. Vic Holman Says:

    I’ve been a fan of Yusuke’s music for quite some time. So, it’s cool to get to know him a bit better through the story. I know I can relate to his story here. I find it intriquing when he sings in his native language and he really is a pop-meister with his music.

    To bad we don’t hear more from him. But, life gets in the way at times from what we would really like to do.

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    This was a perfect example of the value of your dedication, Tobin. Here I was wandering around without to much knowledge about Yusuke, now I get to dive into his music tonite. Thanks.

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