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Kishi Bashi Inspired By Lou Reed and Phoenix

05/30/2014
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(Radio.com) Kaoru Ishibashi is huge in Japan right now. The pop violinist behind the one-man project, Kishi Bashi, currently holds a spot in the Top 50 songs on Japan's Billboard Hot 100 chart with his single, "The Ballad of Mr. Steak," off his new album, Lightght.

The song - inspired by the band Phoenix and a short story by David Sedaris about the use of gender pronouns in French - also happens to be one of his young daughter's favorites, thanks to a line about booty shaking. Though he's not sure she fully understands the story he's trying to tell. "It's a ballad, a sad story," he explained. "He dies at the end. I don't think she gets that."

After years of playing in touring bands with Regina Spektor and of Montreal, Ishibashi decided to head off on his own in 2011. Like many other musicians trying to launch a successful solo career, Ishibashi knew he needed to stand out and his ability to speak fluent Japanese seemed like a good place to start.

"Originally the project was violin and voice and I thought I could sing in Japanese," he told Radio.com over the phone. "It's a percussive language and would add a second meaning. It would be interesting for Japanese listeners. And hipsters would think it's exotic even if they couldn't understand it." Unfortunately, his Japanese was a little awkward. "My wife is Japanese and she was like, 'That's really weird Japanese,'" he said laughing. "But in Japan right now, they're really excited about me and what I'm doing."

He became popular there accidentally nearly a year ago, thanks to a commercial jingle for a Japanese company. "I just had some time and they were like, 'Want to do this 30-second commercial?'" he says of the original idea behind the ditty. "I was like, 'I'll give it a try!' I just made that and forgot about it, but they loved it and put my name on it, and all these people were asking, 'Who is this Kishi Bashi?'"

Fans over there liked the jingle so much they demanded a full-length song. Ishibashi eventually gave them "Philosophize In It! Chemicalize In It!," the three-and-a-half minute track that takes the essence of the original jingle and makes it something real.

The song also inspired Ishibashi to start working on the follow-up to his 2012 debut, 151a. "I'm kind of like not good with deadlines. I'm a total procrastinator," he said. "But last spring, people were just like, 'When is your next album coming out?' I had no idea so I kind of just kicked myself into gear." The classically trained artist wanted to feature more of his musicianship on his latest album, which took him over six months to finish, and incorporate his favorite styles of music, from free-form jazz to prog rock to classical. The song "Genesis Him and Her," was even inspired by Lou Reed's signature speak-sing delivery.

Read about that here.

Radio.com is an official news provider for antiMusic.com.
Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.

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