For over 30 years, under his own name or as his alias MONDO GROSSO, Japanese musician Shinichi Osawa has stretched his artistry across the length and breadth of electronic music. Whether R&B-infused acid jazz (his early MONDO GROSSO album ‘Closer’), electro house (‘The One’), house (‘Next Wave’) or techno (Lumines), Osawa’s hand seems to turn effortlessly from one genre to the next, delicate and deft in equal measure.
Earlier this year, Osawa returned to the MONDO GROSSO project with his first major work of 2022, the sublime long player ‘Big World’. The album featured key collaborations with some of Japan’s most electrifying musicians, none more so than legendary producer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Globally revered as one of the world’s most influential musicians, his body of work spans the worlds of classical, deep electronica with band Yellow Music Orchestra, synthpop, cyberpunk, electropop and acid house, to scores for films including Last Emperor, The Revenant and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.
On ‘Big World’, these two icons of Japanese music finally came together for the beautiful single ‘IN THIS WORLD’. An instant hit, the original single released in January has already clocked up almost 2.5 million views on YouTube alone, it’s emotional layering of orchestral and electronic elements deceptively simple as they wash across the listener’s consciousness like some kind of luxurious swaddling for the mind, body and soul. Then in March, Sakamoto and Osawa delivered a refreshed version of the single, ‘IN THIS WORLD (Piano Mix). Stripped back even further and as the name suggests, the new edit allows Sakamoto’s gently caressing piano line to float unfettered in the spotlight. For fans of both artists, this is possibly as pure as it gets.
EDM Nations was lucky enough to sit down for a few moments with Shinichi Osawa between projects, to find out more…
1.What was the experience like working with Ryuichi Sakamoto on ‘IN THIS WORLD’?
We had no choice but to record remotely by sending data back and forth because he was recuperating, but the result was a satisfying session.
‘IN THIS WORLD’ is taken from your new album ‘Big World’. The irony is not lost on us that you were of course writing about a ‘Big World’ when so many of us were locked down in what felt like claustrophobic little worlds. How much of an influence did the Covid pandemic have in the writing of the album and on the themes of the album?
It is really ironic (laughs). Strangely enough, this pandemic has made me think about many things that I never thought about before. What is the meaning of music in a world that has been transformed by the pandemic, and in a social climate that continues to change even today, is a question that remains unanswered.
2. Sakamoto-san was not the only artist that you collaborated with, but all the artists were Japanese. Was it a conscious intention to work with only Japanese collaborators, and if so, why?
There’s no big reason, but it’s kind of mood from the previous album. Basically MG is open for any artist or producer.
3. You are of course a legendary musician in your own right. Do you feel yourself to be more of a ‘legacy’ artist now, concerned with bringing the next generation of creators through, or is there still more new innovation to come from you?
I’m not particularly interested in discovering new talent, but I will work with talented young people who naturally connect. And after all, I can’t stop innovate.
4. You’ve worked across a huge range of different musical genres, from jazz to pop to techno to electro house. Which genre is your favorite and why?
As you can see from that question, I am not good at staying with particular genre. This is probably due to the mindset I learned from NEW WAVE, POST PUNK and Counter Culture .
5. On ‘Big World’ the last single, also called ‘Big World’, has RHYME on vocals. Are you still collaborating with RHYME on the RHYME SO project?
Yes, RHYME SO is currently preparing to release an album, which you will listen somewhere in 2022.
6. Tell us about your other project with RHYME, The Nuts Exchange. Have you always been into food, or veganism? What prompted you both to open the restaurant?
NUTS EXCHANGE is a cafe that specializes in VEGAN and ZERO WASTE, but we are game to expand our diversity. For example, recommending switching to plant-based foods 4 out of 7 days a week, or using macadamia nut milk instead of milk.
In a world where nothing is ever 100% right, not just environmental issues and global warming, what we want to do is to challenge ourselves to expand our choices and increase our spiritual satisfaction.
7. Now that the world is starting to open up again, can we expect to see you back on the road, touring the album live?
Of course. I can’t wait to back on the road.
Thank you so much for your time Osawa-san.
Thank you so much!