Haru Nemuri recently dropped a new single called “Déconstruction,” the latest in her string of releases this year following “Bang,” Inori Dake Ga Aru” (“There’s Nothing But Prayer”), “Seventh Heaven” and “Old Fashioned.”
The new track was co-produced by MyRiot, the production duo who have collaborated with such global acts as Aurora and London Grammar. “Déconstruction” leaves a strong impression, with the track’s solid beat and screaming vocals combined with biting lyrics that quote the phrase “project mayhem” from the movie Fight Club. In an interview for Billboard Japan, writer Tomonori Shiba spoke with the alternative singer-songwriter about the inspiration behind her latest offering, her thoughts on performing live, her views on society and more in this brand-new interview.
The title of your new single, “Déconstruction,” is a word that you’ve used for a long time as the title of your independent events and as a guideline for your activities. Could you tell us how you came across this word and how it became important to you?
I think I first learned about the existence of the term in a philosophy class in college. “Deconstruction” is a way of thinking that says, “We should destroy that structure,” as a way of overturning the dichotomous way of thinking that had been prevalent in Western philosophy up to that point.
I felt that this was what our world needs right now. Many people tend to discuss the problems in this world in terms of either A or B. We’re living in a world that has sort of hit a dead-end because of that. People are becoming divided in various ways, and I also think that capitalist society is up against a wall as well. There are people gaining power and wealth through the current system, and I don’t think we can start over unless we destroy the structure itself.
That’s why I think that the concept of “deconstruction” is useful, both when you’re dealing with something personal or when you’re thinking about the problems of society. I didn’t see the term being used very often outside of the philosophical context, so I decided to use it in my music, since I’m a musician.
I see. “Deconstruction” is a philosophical term, but in the field of music, what you just said can be linked to the values and way of thinking in the punk movement.
That’s how I see it. I suppose everyone has their own definition of “punk,” but it’s rather consistent in my view. For me, punk is about being kind to the most vulnerable.
There’s an anecdote about Joe Strummer of the Clash that I really like. When the band was really popular, a young kid from a poor family was listening to their music outside the venue, and Strummer supposedly quietly let them in through the back door.
I also like the fact that Ian MacKaye of Fugazi tries to keep the cost of tickets to the band’s live shows as low as possible. I think there’s a huge gap between the rich and the poor in Japan these days, but the gap is probably even bigger in the U.S. and the U.K. Live music is something that’s hard to access, so I think it’s great and “punk” that the band values things like that.
You introduce yourself as “RIOT GRRRL” in your Twitter profile. Could you elaborate on that?
I don’t really like people much. But I do think that things that benefit the public should be laid out, and that they should be built around the vulnerable. And while solidarity inevitably becomes necessary in that process, I don’t think it’s very healthy to live together for the purpose of solidarity. “You and I exist in our respective corners,” feels like the right balance.
The only way I can connect with people is through my work. I’m not very knowledgeable about the riot grrrl movement because I didn’t experience it myself, but I really like the way they formed solidarity through the things they created. I suppose if you were in a band during that era, maybe some just got along with each other because they were women in punk bands, but I get the sense that it was more about the work. So that’s what I mean by that.
“Déconstruction” was co-produced by MyRiot. How did that come about?
I really like Aurora. My manager and I were talking about how we wanted this song to have an earthy, Aurora-like feel to it. So we looked up the producer and contacted them via DM. I didn’t expect to receive a reply, but they listened to my song and said they’d do it. I was like, “The Internet rocks!” We used a web service called Audiomovers to share the Logic screen via Zoom, and had real-time arrangement sessions for three days to complete the track.
So you actually made the track together online instead of sending data back and forth?
That’s right. It was my first time using Zoom to do a session. MyRiot are really very kind and gracious people, and they told me, “You’re the one who made it, so you should do what satisfies you.” But they were also willing to do things [musically] that went beyond my comfort zone, and I think that’s what gives the sound image its breadth and strong impact. I still can’t believe we haven’t met face to face. We can do things now that we couldn’t do before without traveling, and I’m grateful for that.
You use the phrase “project mayhem” in the song’s lyrics. You pulled this quote from the movie Fight Club, right? Could you tell us why?
I love Fight Club. Tyler Durden is often talked about as a radical minimalist, but I see the movie as a narrative that tries to destroy the structure itself. So I thought it’d be acceptable to quote the phrase when writing about this theme. While I was at it, I also decided to quote the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” in the B melody.
I see. That’s the ending theme of Fight Club.
I think those kinds of values from that era were more about showing the fierceness of power rather than about giving people the power to change the world. But as someone living in current times, I’ve received something like the power to change things from those values, so I want to add that meaning to them. The kind of power that can change the world, the kind of bloody-mindedness that turns people into terrorists… I don’t want to just accept them as violence. I want to utilize them in the most peaceful way I can think of, which is music. That kind of violence is very much a part of me too, but I’m able to keep it at bay thanks to music.
Since you released your album Lovetheism, your concert tours outside of Japan have been postponed, while opportunities to livestream shows online have increased. Looking back over the past year or two, how do you feel about this?
I basically like being at home, so for me there were a lot of good aspects as well, like how I didn’t have to see as many people. But it’s still really hard not to be able to do concerts. I usually go about my days conserving my own energy, but I feel like I can give more than 100 percent of what I have when performing live, which makes me feel alive. So it hurts to have lost those moments that I feel alive. I’ve also done concerts without an audience, but it’s completely different when there are no people. My impression of livestreaming is “the production of video content where no mistakes are allowed.” While there are still restrictions, audiences are slowing being allowed back recently [in Japan], and I’ve realized that I really love doing live shows.
What are some of the major differences between having an audience or not?
I think it’s fair to say that everything is different. When there are no people around, it’s like you’re constantly knocking on nothing. When I’m performing really well, it feels like I’m floating away from myself. I’m singing, of course, but I feel like I’m also being showered by the music. I’m protected when I’m in there, and when I’m completely in that state, it feels like I’m not doing the music, but that I’m just allowed to exist in the music. So I can allow other people to be there, and I’m also allowed to be there. I’ve only experienced such a state in concerts with an audience. I think the way it feels like it’s okay to exist because I exist is probably connected to that feeling of being alive.
You had to postpone your U.S. tour four times.
I was really going to go this time until right before it was postponed again, so the shock was great and I was really disappointed. The tickets were sold out in New York. The venues would have allowed full capacity and everyone could have enjoyed the show however they wanted. It would have been the first time in a while that I could do the kind of show I used to do before the pandemic, so I was really looking forward to it. It looks like I’ll be able to go before my visa expires, though, so I’m hoping it works out.
By the way, the “fans also follow” section of Haru Nemuri’s page at bandsisintown.com, where your tour schedule was posted, is very interesting. JPEGMAFIA, Rina Sawayama, iglooghost, and black midi are all listed. This means that in North America and Europe, fans of these artists are looking forward to seeing you perform live. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
It makes me really happy. I love them all. I’ve always wondered why so many of my listeners also like JPEGMAFIA. I like his music a lot, but I thought his was the type of music that required a musical background to understand. But then I saw the video of his live performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival, where he came out from the side of the stage with a backpack, opened it and pulled out a MacBook that he set up, and then sang into a mic while head-banging the whole time. So I figured maybe people who like that kind of intense music also like mine. Also, when I performed at Primavera Sound, our dressing rooms were nearby, and I thought, “Oh, it’s JPEGMAFIA!” but couldn’t go say hi because I’m shy around people that I really admire.
Are there other artists you’d like to do concerts with?
So many. I’d love to be invited to tour with Pussy Riot and Aurora. I’d also love to perform with Bjork, though I don’t think she ever does shows with other acts. Recently I’ve been listening to Susumu Hirasawa the most, so I’d love to play with him, too, though he doesn’t appear to do shows with other acts, either. I’d also love to perform with Lil Nas X, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs… There are so many, too many, really.
This interview by Tomonori Shiba first appeared on Billboard Japan.