Lets start at the beginning.
In a hospital in Yokohama Japan, a young woman’s water broke. The blanket covering her legs was lifted, and there was blood everywhere. Her child had choked on his umbilical cord and bled out. An emergency C-section was performed, that totaled four and a half minutes. That’s how long the baby was dead. But they were spared the permanence of death. The doctors said there was a 65% chance of the baby dying, and a 75% chance of the mother dying. The baby had already been dead for four and a half minutes and around five minutes the brain starts to sustain serious damage. The hospital they were in was small and didn’t have the tools and physicians to be able to tell how damaged their new born son was. And so it was that the new father took the child and climbed into a military chopper, and flew to the nearest large industrial hospital.
The mother didn’t see her child for a full week. The post mortem depression started to sink in, and she recuperated. Her baby, who had died and come back to life within it’s first few moments in our world, was gone from her. She didn’t know how tall he would be able to grow, how athletic he would be, how strong his heart would be, how much mental damage his brain would have. But all of the fears, all of the statistics were defied by nature, faith, and granted a little help from modern medicine. She grew healthy, and strong, and so did the child and soon the time came for them to be reunited.
The father took the infant, put him in a car seat, and began driving him back to Yokohama. He turned on the stereo for the ride and Led Zeppelin was the first music the baby ever heard. Soon the family was reunited and as the child grew his mother would always tell him, that there was a reason that god gave them both a second chance. And with this weight on his shoulders, Joji, the boy who died, began to live his life.
With the full understanding that every breath he took since birth was essentially a divine gift, Joji felt like destiny had something planned for him. Some trick up it’s sleeve, and some mission for him to complete for the betterment of humanity. And even as a little boy he began searching for it, all be it sometimes in the wrong the place.
Joji’s family moved to Tacoma from Japan when he was 2 maybe 3 years old, and he still vividly remembers it. His mom worked very hard to educate him, and help him grow up with a generally straight moral compass. But Joji had trouble finding friends and the majority of children he hung out with were of the delinquent variety. Who’s hobbies included vandalizing, vandalizing…and acting like vandals. He didn’t speak any english and the bad kids would let him hang out, as long as he helped them vandalize local business’s and homes. He had no comprehension at the time of the separation of the local and corporate business’s only of rebellion. He used to lay up at night, unable to sleep, and he would hear a women’s voice speaking to him. In the moment he could hear every word she said but after the fact the memory would disappear as soon as it came. He has synesthesia, so sounds appear as colors to him, and this spirit voice in the night had a wispy blue color to it. It seemed on a spiritual level to reinforce what his mother had told him about there being a reason he had been spared death.
Joji didn’t actually end up feeling comfortable speaking english at all until around 4th grade when his family moved to a slightly higher end community that they couldn’t afford. It was near the financial crisis, and beginning to become increasingly difficult for his father to find work. Joji went back to Japan every summer and it was kind of a bummer to have spent the whole school year cultivating friends and then leaving when school was over, but it gave him a sense of pride in his heritage. When you move to another country and travel back and forth so frequently you can’t help but analyze things a little bit more, and there was a lot to analyze. He more of less grew up in a series of military complexes and communities, and it classism became grotesquely obvious. It seemed to him that much of America operated in the same segregated ways the military structure did. The lower level was scum, racist and uneducated. The higher levels were better educated and treated fairly in most circumstances. This led to him wanting to participate in delinquent activities as a youth. It seemed as though the government was hell bent on controlling everything, and the more they told the people what to do, the more the people wanted to contradict and rebel against them. From the small scale of the classroom, and biking around with friends, to the large scale of political action and social justice. The United States was a country that glorified freedom, and his mother felt like in moving there, they were less free then they’d ever been in their entire lives. And it did really feel way. In Japan the laws were strict put more in service of safety, then in the constriction of thought.
As he traveled back to Japan in the summers. He was able to see much of Japan development as well as his development and personal growth in America. His sense of Japanese pride strengthened with these visits back home. A lot of the craziness and fear that he felt surrounding the United State’s laws and legal system started to be adopted more frequently in Japan, and it was sad to see the mimicking of these “Western Policies”. He still had the ambition and weight of a survivor and spent a lot of time struggling between the life that his parents wanted for him, and the life that he felt destined to live.
In 5th grade he got the opportunity to be in a “master music class” The actual drum kit with all five pieces, is an instrument which does not exist in the classic 5th grade band, in which you learn hot cross buns, and eventually, god willing move on to the glorious Mos Eisley cantina theme song. But in this master class he got to see his teacher play a drum kit, and the moment he sat down at one he fell deeply and passionately in love. The low frequencies of the kick drum coursed through his veins like they had been there all along, the high frequencies of snare seemed to complete a song that lived inside his heartbeat. Upon entering his house after school that day he immediately declared to his parents that he wished to play the drums. As you can imagine this was greeted with some hesitation. As a parent, the drums are perhaps the loudest, most expensive and obtrusive instrument your child can take up, and their declaration of their love for it, is not unlike a promise that you will never really have peace and quiet in your home. His mother was already a gifted classical pianist and had hopes that Joji would enter the arena of music with a saxophone or a trumpet, but he convinced them he was committed. When he was very little, almost so young that he doesn’t remember his parents had gotten him a Mickey mouse drum with a shoulder strap that he apparently carried around for a full year and was constantly beating to make rhythms. You see the seed had been planted long ago.
His parents found him super cheap lessons once a week. After that he started taking lessons from different people all around the city, just so he could learn as much as possible. It was huge passion. He started playing in rock bands before he was even ready too. He was obsessed with fills and had an inability to stop laying down fills. This got him shunned out of many bands, and lost him some friends in music circles. He was criticized heavily for this, but he didn’t care. He thought most of those people just took themselves to seriously. When he got a little bit a older and little more level headed he started to reign the fills back, and found that there was always these sweet little pockets within all compositions that fills fit snuggly.
The first song he ever wrote on and instrument other then drums was on the guitar. He had a crush on a girl at age 16 and he decided to ask her out, he would write her a song. He started saving money to buy a guitar, and his parents found out and purchased him a guitar from a local wal-mart. He learned a few basic chords, wrote some cheesy lyrics and serenaded here. It worked. But more importantly it was through this that he discovered that the drums were there to embellish what was happening with the words and progressions of the other instruments.
He started teaching himself more guitar and more piano. He even learned some Beethoven etudes. And just like any teenager who takes it upon themselves to learn a Beethoven etudes, teenage rebellion ensued with a fury. His rebellion included but was not limited too, stealing from coffee shops, and slashing some tires. At the time he has little comprehension that his behavior was most likely affecting some one close to him instead of the country as a whole. He began only speaking English, in hopes of making more friends. He wanted to be more white, he though people would accept him more. He started dating, looking for love. He ended up getting hurt a lot, because no one in high school knows what they want, even if they claim that they do. He started drinking and experimenting with drugs. When all the self destructiveness came to head, and all the of his rebellious statements were seen to only affect those in his community it all became depressing. The music his was making at the time was largely influenced by hate not by love, and he knew that all had to change, and that change had to start with him.
This is when he met the girl, the infamous inevitable first muse of every hopeless romantic. She was a pianist and a athlete. Joji consider athletics to be less superior then music, This was a notion he promptly made up, upon their coupling in order to in sense direct her towards his ambitions. It was a selfish act, because she loved athletics, but music was easier for him. His expectations of her ultimately led to a distance between them, metaphorically at first and eventually physically. He tried to change her for three solid years, as they fell in and out of love countless times. Her name was Allison.
High school ended. Maybe it was their parents expectations, or perhaps the excitement of leaving your childhood home, hopefully for bigger and better things, but they moved apart. Joji went up to Bellingham Washington to Western Washington University in pursuit of a business degree. He’ll confess nowadays, that the degree choice was more to appease his folks, who he loves dearly, and that he dropped the business part after about a year. He would frequently go home, but not to his childhood home. Just to his hometown to see his girl. He’d shell out bones to stay in hotels, he’d stay at friends houses or in his car. The whole scenario and the extremes he would go to be with her, seemed unequal, or one-sided but it’s what you do for love.
You see he always had this problem, of wanting things he can’t have. He remembers confessing this his mother. She said she was already aware of this conundrum. Then the day came when she told of him of a Buddhist scripture that translates to the impermanence of life. His mother is not actually Buddhist but her philosophy and ideals have often echoed the practice. In the scripture, you learn of the five sufferings of life. I you are aware that you want things, but cannot in fact have them, you will be content in life. It is natural to want everything in your life to be permanent, to earn them to have them forever. You want your accolades, your skills, your reputation to be forever. To reflect the type of person you are, your status, and the decisions you’ve made if your life. Most of all you want love to be forever. So if you can remember the five suffering of life, you are always aware, of all the things you want. You can find them engraved in Joji’s skin to this day, as a sigil reminded us why we suffer.
Throughout college his on again off again relationship with Allison, contributed to his cannon of songs as well his outlook in general. He wrote numerous songs about her, and for her, and he started taking the lyrical constructs of these song to and even grander scale. Love is a feeling that is applicable to almost anything in life. If you write about it from your own stand point it will be applicable to all of society, for we all earn for, and give it constantly. When the relationship between them would get shitty, as all things do from time to time, he could listen to his compositions and learn a lesson.
Joji started using hallucinogens on semi regular basis, including research chemicals that were not yet even in the eyes of the DEA. He would start tripping and hit record on the popular macbook app garage band, and sometimes emerge with 6 hours of nonsense and sometimes there would be a song in there. Upon one of these occasion the trip started to overtake him, the air became colors, one second he would be on a forrest floor and then the landscape would flash to a bustling city. As the world visually moved around him, and his connection with reality was lost. He came to the absolute conclusion, that he must be dead. His immediate concerns upon arriving at this verdict, was who would comfort the grieving woman in his life. So in this altered state, acting under the assumption that he in fact was dead, he composed a song called “For Ghost” which he wrote to comfort his girlfriend from beyond the grave. Upon sobering up, and he had no recollection of even writing the song. But when he went through the audio log he found it, the gem in a stream of chaos. He listened to it, and it was the very first time he fell unabashedly proud of something.
The Tibetan book of dead says that when one dies, you essentially have the greatest hallucination of your entire life. In western civilization we associate this moment as your whole life flashing before your eyes. It is heavily recorded by near death survivors. Theres a sense of irony in the concept that when you die you experience your whole life, on every level, the atomic, the personal, the physical, from every aspect from the molecular to the grandest scale. So what does it mean to be a man who died before he ever lived?
The drug inspired writing process became a habit. A hidden, secret habit, but practiced non the less. The garage band audio recording became standard. Sometimes the whole endeavor proved to be unfruitful, and sometimes he would strike gold. Psychedelics continued to influence his music and he emerged from this process with about seven songs. There were many songs he didn’t keep. The final time that he did this “trip heavily and write” process, he was singing his heart out with his eyes firmly closed, upon opening them he saw a huge dark figure looming over him and then it disappeared. After a few more strange and horrifying hallucinations he slowed his roll down a bit.
The seven songs he had, he workshopped and reconstructed, making them stronger, and then posted them on sound-cloud. This peaked the interest of lot’s of i-phone carrying hipsters in the music department. A friend of his who had acted with his as a rhythm section in a Seattle based band, listened to them frequently and started writing bass progressions to go with the songs. This guy, Cory, he helped the compositions become strong in was huge in forming the trio that would known as “Joji”. These sound-cloud recordings were the genesis of what would become their first LP “Mügenhan.”
The records opens strong, with a smooth reggae influenced ode to the personal insecurity one feels from a one sided devotion to true love. Theres a rule in theatre that you decide all the rules of what you can do with the first ten minutes of a play. This song really does this, it gives you both the content, vocal ranges and instrumentation that will carry you through the rest of this journey. The whole album is layed out in chronological order. This gives it the vibe of a concept album, as you walk in the footsteps of a young man who is desperately in love, and feels often that his feelings are unrequited, or taken for granted. They reference the constant flux of his relationship. There are soaring moments of pure joy, and equally tragic ones. The whole plot leads us to a pivotal song on the album, which is the “queen” break up song. It’s on piano with big strong chords. It’s called “Short Message Service” and opens with the lyrics “From the valley you should’ve came all the way, just to tell me, that your gone.” It embodies the pain in a lack of closure. Joji sings “One second it’s the rest of our lives, the next you spending all your time, fighting me.” You can tell he no longer yearns for this unrequited love, be he does want an explanation, or even a theory. It still bears the grind your teeth mentality, of if you don’t want me, I’ll be gone faster then you can blink The album was produced by Josh Saul. The album name actually stems from the late night recording process, which was fueled heavily by coffee, and Cory came up the idea of calling it “mug in hand” which then became one word, and they made up a description of said word for the release.
Their second recording is titled “Pray” it’s a slighter shorter album and features some songs that didn’t make it on the previous album as well as some new ones. Theres drugs, love, and anarchy. There’s a hope for his homeland, and wake up call for his other homeland. Political action is another theme, including unjust killings, and the myth of the American dream. He writes like a soothsayer who is literally laying down the events of the armed forces and police reacting violently against the people and their rights to assembly and free speech before it happened.
To Joji the basic concept of magic is making someone look one way while you do something in the other direction. The Kansas City Shuffle. This is repeated in American politics frequently. The language which this events are presented with matter as well. You can always trick some one into thinking you said something when you really didn’t say that at all, which makes you defendable and able to cause a ruckus. We in the United states look up to that, we idolize it, the blinding effects of word play. The more one is aware of it, the easier existence seems to be. Joji says through his music that the separation of all topics into little categories of things like politics, love, war, in is a distraction by itself, and if you look hard enough you can relate all of those things. Everything is connected.
All of the universe has a fabric running through it.
Today Joji is not the heartbroken misanthrope he previously was, although he wouldn’t trade his mistakes of his past for anything, it made him who he is. He is with a women who loves him with same burning passion that he loves her. When she speaks he see’s the same blue wispy colors he say when he was a child when he would hear that women’s voice before he fell asleep. The future holds writing more music with her. He loves her more then he has ever loved anyone or anything. She is a very talented opera singer, and with the two of them, their respect for each other, and some help from some friends, they could most likely hammer out something that would both push the limits of pop music, and be emotionally complex.