A New Era for Cro-Magnon

Cro-Magnon is hungry. After a long hiatus from the live circuit on which they thrive, the trio is back together. And probably better.

Drummer Otake Shigekazu uses the phrase “new discoveries” to describe the impetus for their newfound motivation and focus, noting that these discoveries have come from playing with many other artists. He cites guitar banshee Koshino Ryuta as an example. “We’ve been very busy with this outside work.”

Bassist-guitarist Kosuga Tsuyoshi comments, “We know what kind of music we’d like to pursue for the next several years,” and adds, “how we want to live, too.”

Cro-Magnon keyboardist Kaneko Takumi and Otake had briefly formed the duo unit Rebel 7 for gigs last year, but if playing with others had been so valuable to them, why not continue doing the same as a reunited trio? They don’t discount the idea—Kaneko says, “well, if we have some fortuitous encounter, maybe”—but they seem content to embark anew together.

Their outlook may have changed, but not their songwriting. Cro-Magnon’s members typically session together, make adjustments, and session again, gradually refining and tightening their songs. The trio claims that they might make some additional changes to a song depending on audience reaction during a live performance. Although their music closely resembles house and underground dance music, they do not live in the studio mixing and remixing. Says Otake, “we’re predominantly live sound.”

Cro-Magnon’s closely woven sound owes something to their musical roots at Berklee College of Music, where they all met in the late 90s—they call it fate. Kosuga relates, “We were good friends at Berklee and used to play a lot: sessions, street performances, whatever.” It was a time when Soil & “Pimp” Sessions’ Motoharu and prolific bassist Toshizo Shiraishi were also there. Kaneko and Kosuga mostly studied jazz; Otake, Latin percussion, which in part explains his snazzy beats. After returning to Japan in 1999, they quickly got together again.

Life was not easy in the beginning—Kaneko laughs that it still isn’t. They relate that they worked various day-labor construction jobs, sometimes digging holes as a part of work. Otake exclaims, “I even saw Motoharu at a site where I was working!”—Motoharu, too, having to take a manual labor job before Soil became popular.

Cro-Magnon attributes some of their success to wide listening habits. DJ music is a large part of their musical diet, but music from all over the world interests them. As we speak, Okinawan music plays in the background of their home studio. Kosuga says, “I want to play even more widely.”

I ask about “Triplesteal,” an uncharacteristic rock song vaguely reminiscent of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” that suddenly appears right in the middle of their album “4U.” They laugh, as if pleased this anomaly has attracted attention. “DJ Harvey was spinning a lot of rock while we were recording that.” I then mention that I don’t detect much blues influence in their music, to which Kaneko says, somewhat thoughtfully, “Maybe everything is blues.”

They’re quick to name artists they admire: Otake, Miles Davis; Kosuga, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder; Kaneko, old Blue Note jazz tunes. I get the feeling, however, that I’d get different answers on different days, depending on what DJs they’re listening to. Otake bemoans that many young listeners don’t even know who James Brown is, before asserting “Music education is important.”

His words are almost a mantra for the band itself. It’s exciting to ponder how Cro-Magnon might reinterpret new traditions they discover via DJs or their own explorations. Like any good scholar, however, they seem to recognize now that they should take their time. “We’re going to explore,” says Kosuga, “but slowly.”

Ry Beville



ベース/ギター担当のコスガ ツヨシは「これからどんなことをやればいいのか、僕たちにはそれが見えています」とコメントしてくれた。

キーボード担当の金子巧と大竹の二人は昨年、Rebel 7というユニットを結成して何度かライブを行ったりしたが、他のアーティストとプレイすることがそんなに大事なら、再結成してトリオとして他のアーティストとプレイすればいいのではないか、と考えるようになったという。「そうですね。もし何か出会いがあったら」と金子は言うが、再結成して良かったと彼ら自身感じているようだ。





彼らのアルバム「4U」に入っている”Triplesteal”というハードな感じの曲について聞いてみた。この曲はエドガー・ウィンターの”Frankenstein”を思わせるアレンジになっている。すると彼らは僕がこの異色作ともいえる曲に反応したことが面白いとでもいうように笑いながら「僕らがこの曲をレコーディングしていた時、DJ Harveyがロックをガンガン流していたんです」と説明してくれた。ブルースの影響をほとんど感じない点を指摘すると「何でもブルースかも」と金子がちょっと考え込んだ様子でコメントしてくれた。




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