Interview with C.Y.T. + “You and I” Video Premiere

by | indieBerlin

Japanese/US American music producer  Chris Yohei Tokunaga aka C.Y.T. is a new musical voice on the scene, blending refined song structures with electro music in a uniquely enticing way. His EP „“Nights for Days“ is coming out on December 4th and you’ll be able to see him play his tracks at his record release party at Pfeiffers Cafe on Oranienstr. 17.

Indieberlin is also debuting his video for the song  “You and I“ off the EP!

I sat down and chatted with my friend Chris about his music, Berlin’s sonic landscape, and the exciting plans he has for the future.

EL: What was the process of making your EP like?

C.Y.T.: It’s been a very long process actually. I wrote the songs more than 2 years ago and I was going through the process of learning about music production and mixing and different things, preparing myself. I got producer Jon Dark (from Evvol) to help me with the mixing. So it’s been a long time coming but it’s going to come out next Friday, the 4th of December, and I’m very happy. It’s called “Nights for Days,” it’s actually the name of a track that’s not on the EP, and I chose the name because I wrote the songs during the middle of the night a lot of the time and so the night was kinda my day time. There’s also a lot of darkness during the winter so it also sounds like it’s been night FOR DAYS. I liked the two meanings behind it.

EL: Why did you work more at night?

C.Y.T.: Well, it had to do with the fact that I wrote all these songs during the winter, except for You and I, that was in the spring. It’s a time where you’re not too bothered with things that you care about in your day to day, you can really focus on writing.

EL: You’ve been living in Berlin for 20 years now. Do you feel like a Berliner?

C.Y.T.: Berlin has definitely become my home. I feel more connected to this city than to any other place on the planet. I do feel connected to Japan and  to the States somewhat too though I only lived there for 9 months. My identity is of sort of an outsider and an ex-pat. But that identity is  very solid. I feel on the outside very solidly.

EL:  So you know the Berlin music scene quite well then. What do you think about it?

C.Y.T.: Berlin has a lot to offer musically. It’s allowed me to go through liking a lot of genres and to see all kinds of shows. It’s a hotbed for experimentation and all kinds of music. I’ve liked everything from hip hop to rock music and jazz and electro. It’s a good place to realize who you are, {to build} your musical identity. You get to test everything out. Berlin has it’s own way of molding people musically.

EL: Your first single “You and I“ melds darker emotions with energetic upbeat music. Would you say that’s your trademark?

C.Y.T.: No, it’s not. It’s actually quite unusual for the music I write. I took little bits of samples of a different song of mine and switched them around and made melodies out of them.

EL: But in terms of the tone?

C.Y.T.: The moods? Yeah. I always like contrast in my music. For example, electronic beats with melancholy melodies, music that seems less uniform.

EL: What is it about this contrast?

C.Y.T.: As a kid I was quite impressed by people mixing different kinds of music, using different kinds of music. It creates a mood that is definitely less explored, a route less taken.

EL: So you want to break new ground?

C.Y.T.: No, not really, it’s just about what I like.

EL: You make music that you like to hear.

C.Y.T.: Yeah, exactly.  Absolutely. That’s why it’s been a long process because I still have to find out what I like exactly. You don‘t really come up with anything totally new these days. The way to create your own sonic identity is to get inspired by different kinds of music in a way that resonates with you and to get that as accurate as possible.

EL: You also have a video for “You and I.“ What was the concept behind the video? It’s quite elaborate.

C.Y.T.: The director Mikael Schallock, a good friend of mine, came up with the concept of having green neon masks so it kind of looks like a green screen so you can project images onto it. We shot everything backwards except for one scene in a tunnel in Berlin. The focus is mainly on the mask, the movements are somewhat odd because it‘s going backwards. Really its about projecting a person‘s inner state on their face. It’s about something seeming very enticing that you want to experience more of, going down that path, and realizing that you‘re stuck, you‘re lost.

EL: When I first met you in high school you were into guitar and rock music and then you suddenly went in the electronic direction. How come?

C.Y.T.: There‘s just such a vast amount of electronic music here. They‘re kind of polar opposites. I wanted to explore and find different kinds of sounds. I was always impressed by different music and I got into guitars because it was accessible. Its easy to get a guitar and play some power chords.

EL: You’re also great at the guitar.

C.Y.T.: Oh, thanks. I like very colorful music.  Thats why I got into jazz. I kind of play jazz material in my own way, I‘m not really a jazz guitarist so much. {But} I never said goodbye to rock. I think it was just the visceral power that impressed me, experimenting with different types of timbres is very interesting to me.

EL: Who are your musical inspirations?

C.Y.T.: I have lots. On the guitar Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Jimmi Hendrix. Django Reinhardt, that guy is amazing. I like a lot of 90’s electro, The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Massive Attack, Portishead, Lamb, Tricky, Aphex Twin. I like some post-dubstep groups from around 2010 like Mount Kimbie or James Blake. I don’t shy away from new music even if its quite trendy if it has something offer. I kind of gather little bits of things from different people.

EL: What else can we expect from C.Y.T. moving forward?

C.Y.T.: I’m going to try and play as many gigs as I can in Berlin and the surrounding areas, go as far as possible. I’m also playing with the idea of becoming a music therapist as a day job. I like the idea of connecting with people while playing something tailored to them. For example I could play jazz standards that people remember if theyre in the geriatric demographic but reinterpret it in a modern way. I feel like it would be a very rewarding job. I‘m definitely thinking of incorporating a drum machine, right now I use midi controllers and Ableton Live but I‘m going to incorporate a drum machine and a guitar to midi. Potentially look for a singer, I do already work with singers but somebody to perform with me. A lot of options are open. It sounds like  fun to me. It‘s what I like to do and who I am so regardless of how much commercial success there is I feel very comfortable in my skin as a musician. I‘d like to make pieces that are sort of extensions of my identity and I would like to provide the music in a context where it can resonate with other people too.

EL: Is there anything you want to say to people listening to your music for the first time?

C.Y.T.: Expect the visceral elements of electronic music with the melodic elements of pop and jazz. That sounds potentially cheesy but it’s not. I would hope.


Follow C.Y.T on facebook, twitter, and soundcloud


Interview by: Eli Lewy

Image Source: Mario Dollinger

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