Last month, Arama! Japan ventured to Los Angeles to attend the music events “OTAQUEST LIVE” and “OTAQUEST KICKOFF.” The day before the events, a series of interviews took place at EXPG STUDIO LA BY LDH. The first of these interviews was with Yasutaka Nakata, followed by a joint interview with Sandaime J Soul Brothers members CrazyBoy and Hiroomi Tosaka. The final interview was with the recently reunited m-flo. Check out Arama! Japan’s interview with them below!
m-flo is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. What have you learned over the past 20 years?
VERBAL: That’s a big question.
I go for big questions.
Taku: What have you learned over the past 20 years?
Taku: It’s really hard. I think what we learned is… We started this group for the love of music. We just kept on doing it. At some point, you realize it’s hard to go for 20 years, especially with the stuff we try to do. Let’s say we have a hit, we don’t try to make that over and over again. We keep on experimenting. We keep doing what we love to do. We get positive feedback, we get negative feedback. We just keep on. We’ve been able to do this for 20 years. That’s a gift from God. We’re very grateful. I honestly don’t know what we’ve learned. I think it’s irrelevant. The more important thing is what we need to learn now, instead of looking back. I mean it’s ok to look back. That’s just how I feel.
How has the industry changed?
VERBAL: Well we went from cassette tapes to CDs. MDs (mini discs) came out and that was a blip. And now Japan is pretty much the only country that sells CDs now. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy; when we first came out with our album in 2000, we had these skits, these interludes, and we would talk about how in 2012 all of this would be gone. It would just be music that we transfer. That’s exactly what we do now. We were just making that up as a skit. All this technology became reality. We were just being creative. We’ve experienced this over the past 20 years as m-flo. It’s serendipitous. And for LISA to leave and go solo and then come back, it feels like anything can happen in life.
LISA, what did you learn while being a soloist?
LISA: It was what I was. I was doing that before being in the group. So being a soloist again was going back to what I used to do and what I had to do. Being in the group was more of a lesson than being on my own because I had been on my own since I was a teenager. I had my own debut, so going into a group was a lesson, something very different for me. I never thought I’d be in a rap group. I’m just a singer.
Taku: You rap, too.
LISA: I was making music on my own, but now everything is going to have to change. I have him (VERBAL) writing raps for me, so now I’m not just singing, I’m rapping, too! Being with two men was a lesson too because they are built different. They’re not women, so they don’t understand women. Being with a different sex, bringing music to them, and rapping? Very different, very new! Sometimes they like what I bring, and sometimes they don’t, and that’s a lesson as well. We all learn from each other. So rather than being alone, me being with more people was more of a lesson.
Side note, “GOD SISTA” was amazing!
LISA: Thank you very much!
Can I ask what inspired that?
LISA: It was you (VERBAL) that named me “god sista.” When I was making that album, we were touring. And one night he called me out on stage and he was like, “Let’s welcome our god sista!” and I was like, “What?!” But yeah, I took it from that. And I thought, “I’m going to take that name and go strictly R&B with it. Very sexual, very sexy, very true to me.” To me, all that fit together. In Japan, we don’t really have singers that sing about sex. I don’t know. They don’t want to let everyone know about their sexuality, they want to keep it very secret, they want to keep it on the down low. But to me it’s like, “So what?” And R&B here (in the US) is mostly like that, so why I can’t I do that in Japanese? What’s wrong with you guys? I wanted to bring something really raw and real there using that name. So for me it all came together. I’m really happy that you said you like that album.
When that album came out, me and my friends were listening to it and we said, “Did she really just say ‘wet pussylectric’?!”
LISA: Ohh, yeah! They don’t have that parental advisory label in Japan, so I asked, “Are you sure I can say this?”, and they said it was ok. And I thought that was good because this is what Japan needs. We lack that, but we love R&B, so what are we listening to if we can’t have that? The message is true to me as a woman in my 30s, all about sex. What’s wrong with being real about that? So thank you for asking me about that album.
I was a bit afraid to ask you about it at first.
LISA: Ohh, please! It has to be real! I think it’s still the realest R&B album in Japan. You can’t find other females singing like that.
Yeah, I think the closest was DOUBLE.
LISA: Yeah, DOUBLE. But I went rawer than that! We’ll see if I get in trouble later!
What was it like with LISA gone? What is it like having her back?
Taku: When LISA left, we were bummed. That’s the best way I can express it. Before she joined m-flo, she had her solo career. We were bummed, but it was expected. With LISA, it’s 100% or 0%. She had to quit. There was no way we could stop her. We respected that. But she was in the “Loves” series as well. But her being in the group permanently and in “Loves” is kinda different, but not really honestly.
LISA: We just click.
Taku: Yeah, if we click, we click.
LISA: And on stage it wasn’t even weird that I left. It was like we were still together. There was a bunch of young people around us, but we felt like we were still together.
Taku: The most important thing is that we don’t do this to keep the group together, we do this because we like music. We like creating music that is fun.