MMW Interview Part II

Medeski, Martin and Wood talk Tokyo

MMW Interview Part II

Medeski, Martin and Wood hit up Tokyo last week for the Organic Groove event, and Time Out Tokyo was able to catch up with them for a chat. In the first part of the interview MMW talked with us about their nearly 20 year history making music, touring, Organic Groove and their latest 4 CD boxed set, ‘Radiolarians: The Evolutionary Set’ (Indirecto Records).

This time around, the almost telepathically calibrated trio go off the beaten path. John Medeski (keyboards), Billy Martin (percussion) and Chris Wood (bass) talk with us about being in Japan, food, and Hayao Miyazaki.

Where did you go shopping yesterday?
BM: I went to Tokyu Hands. I didn’t have much time… Today or tomorrow I’ll go for my kids or my wife.

Did you go to Kiddy Land?
JM: My wife and my daughter are here, so yesterday they went to Kiddy Land and Shibuya 109. And wow. We were here for one day in Tokyo when we arrived, and I went in there 109, and really felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. [Laughs] It was so weird – I was like ‘I shouldn’t be in here!’ But we went… went all the way up. And she wanted to go back. She’s 10 years old, so she got a haircut and those little stockings, and I was like ‘Oh my God, help us.’ [Laughs]
CW: It’s pretty funny. My son all of a sudden was into Pokémon, out of nowhere. So I’ve been instructed to go find something.
BM: My son, Sawyer is into it too. He’s got the cards.
JW: It’s amazing Kiddy Land. It’s five floors, thousands of little things. Just like the Miyazaki section is like, every possible little thing – from really cheap stuff to nicer stuff.
CW: Where is it?
JM: By Harajuku. We can go. It’s out by Omotesando. [To BM] Oh, you can’t. [To CW] We’ll go.

So you like Miyazaki films?
JM, CW, BM: Yeah. I know they’re for kids, but I like them.
BM: Oh I love them, they’re great.

Any film in particular?
BM: ‘Totoro’ [‘My Neighbour Totoro’].
JM: ‘Spirited Away’
CW, BM: Oh yeah! ‘Spirited Away’ is amazing.
BM: That’s the more grownup one.

That one can be a little bit scary.
BM: The parents turn into pigs! That’s deep for a little kid.

Did you see ‘Ponyo on the Cliff’?
BM: We saw it in the theatre the week it came out.
JM: [Starts singing the theme song]
CW: We play that song.

CW: No.

After ‘Let’s Go Everywhere’, I’d believe it.
JM: I think there was a big hole in there somewhere story-wise. It just made a giant leap… I guess it was for really little kids, that one.
BM: It was still beautiful.
JM: Oh, the floating castle one!
BM: ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’.
JM: I went to Yakushima Island, and I’m sure that that must have been his [Miyazaki’s] inspiration for ‘Princess Mononoke’, and it was unbelievable. That place… you could see the… [Starts making a clicking noise like the spirits in the film]
BM: The spirits…

When did you go?
JM: We went to Jomo[n]sugi… we came a week early, then a Tokyo day, to Kyoto for a day, which was amazing because the cherry blossoms were incredible, then we went down to Yakushima for two days and just hiked around, stayed in a ryokan [a Japanese traditional inn], and went to Kyushu, Oita, Yufuin, and Beppu for a day.

Wow, you went everywhere.
JM: Yeah, saw a bunch of shrines, some onsens, a lot of good food. The food at Yufuin is incredible. It was unbelievable – oh my God. That is probably the best restaurant I went to in my life, for sure.

What it is about Japanese food that you guys like?
JM: There are so many things, you know. I tend to like a lot of the sansai [traditional mountain vegetables] things, and it’s hard to say…
CW: Fish, obviously…
JM: Tokyo is a little harder because of the chemicals. I like the real traditional, well, I guess it’s almost like health food now. You know, like Kyoto-style, or even this place Yufuin, what’s her name? Katsumi? You know, the dashi lady? She’s an old lady on TV…she’s known for being, like, the dashi Nazi.
BM: The dashi whisperer.
JM: The dashi whisperer! Well, this restaurant, Yufuin, she’s the overseer of it. The problem is that it can be expensive, and sometimes the food is too… fancy.
BM: The simple, soulful country style, and there is the inventive style too.
JM: Oh yeah… in Beppu, I had the best fish I ever had. You know… fugu [blowfish].
BM: I never had fugu.
JM: It was out of control. Oh and then there was this flounder, but the other eye is up… the ‘other’ flounder...and then this special aji [horse mackerel]. It’s just right there, from Beppu, and it was amazing.
CW: The first night we got here we were in Fukuoka and there was sake that you can’t get anywhere in the States, and then the tofu is completely different than anything we could get at home…
BM: Kind of gooey…
CW: It was incredible. The closest thing I could compare it to was panna cotta.
BM: But there was something more to it.
CW: Incredible. Something magical about it. And the first thing they put in front of us were these live shrimp, you know, like moving – still. The freshness of things here is like nowhere else, to the point where it’s live in front of you, cooking.
BM: I don’t really get off on that.
CW: It was still shocking, but I have to say it was one of the best tasting shrimp I’ve ever had.
JM: Or how about if you go down to Tsukiji Market in the morning and you have the live shrimp or squid on the rice and it’s still kind of moving?
BM: Yeah, I remember that... that was good.
JM: [To TOT] Do you like that?

It’s good when you can get it, but you have to go to the right places.
CW: Yeah, I mean, it can get expensive, but we are lucky because we know people who are into it and we don’t even need to think. The place in Fukuoka was the promoter’s idea, and when I asked him, ‘Did Taichi tell you a place to go?’ the promoter said, ‘No, we’re going to place I know. I’m local!’ And I was like, ‘Man, you’re right!’ But you know, soba, udon, tororo [grated yam]…
JM: Yummy, yummy.
BM: Mochi [sticky rice dough]. Love the mochi.
JM: Soba.

You can’t always get that in New York.
JM: There used to be Honmura-an, but it’s only a certain kind. It wasn’t classic.
CW: It’s nice how you can go to a cheap but really good place. It’s fast, but not in the sense of low quality. And Honmura-an was a fancy restaurant. But you can go to these very low key places and eat.
BM: We could talk about food all day; I’m hungry.

So what’s inspiring you now?
BM: Sake. Being here. [Laughs]
CW: Consuming good food.
JM: Shrines and onsens – right now.

Interviewed on Sun Apr 11, 2010.

Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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