Carving out a niche of their own in a genre filled with Meshuggah clones, London based experi-metal group Cyclamen is making a name for themselves with a fanbase growing by the day. Cyclamen boasts a repertoire featuring both mathcore chaos and technical aggression to the seemingly polar opposite with post-rock atmospheres and calming beauty in a genre I like to call post-djent.
I swapped emails with Cyclamen mastermind Hayato Imanishi for Heavy Blog Is Heavy’s first ever interview to gain some insight to the world of Cyclamen.
A quick Google search for Cyclamen leads one to find out that a Cyclamen is a flower. What inspired you to name your project after a flower?
Cyclamen is pronounced “Shikuramen” in Japanese, and since “Shi” means death and “Ku” means suffer in Japanese, so even though it’s a pretty flower it’s a taboo to give it in some occasion, like to people who are in a hospital. Also its “Hanakotoba” (translates to “flower word” – In Japanese culture, pretty much every flower has some sort of meaning and it’s important to know the meaning when you are giving flowers to someone) changes according to its colour. Red means “Envy”, white means “Innocence”, for instance.
I thought Cyclamen was fitting name because my music isn’t restricted in one genre – it could be aggressive (e.g. Revenge of the Geeks) or beautiful (e.g. Senjyu) or both in one song (e.g. Never Ending Dream) depending on what songs need to express certain emotion I am aiming to translate via music.
I remember reading on the Cyclamen MySpace a while back that Cyclamen basically started out because you missed your favorite band, Sikth, and wanted to write music in the same vein as them. In light of this, getting the attention of [Sikth vocalist] Mikee Goodman must have been a surreal experience for you, to say the least. How did this collaboration come about and how did it go down?
It was very valuable experience to work with such an awesome and creative vocalist, but since we both are perfectionists we ended up exchanging mails for about 3 months until the final version was made! He was very open to my opinion and understood what I wanted – Awesome guy all around and was real pleasure to work with him. Everyone should check out his new band The Painted Smile, it’s very different from SikTh but still very exciting : )
As time moved on, Cyclamen started to sound less like Sikth and started sounding more like its own thing. Was this a conscious decision or was it just an organic change that happened as writing progressed?
It may sound selfish, but I always write music just for myself. At that time I really needed SikTh-esque tech metal, but right now I am enjoying more post-rock (MONO, This Will Destroy You) and pop (The Ting Tings, B’z (Japanese rock duo)) so that probably reflects to what I write. I am sure once I get enough of these music I will write songs with different influences. But I think there is always certain Cyclamen sound that stays in every song I write – And I always make sure they are good songs obviously haha
Cyclamen originally started out as a one man project. What made you decide to recruit other people into the fold?
There were some people who wanted to see this happening live, and there were some seriously good musicians around who liked my music – I thought with a bit of effort I can put people together to make a band that only cares about the quality of music (We call it “Music for musicians”), and be a band that’s worth going out to see. I personally think the quality of music has gone down a lot recently and I’m hoping Cyclamen to be a band where people come and see and think “This is what we were missing for years!” It’s easy for people to say “The scene is dead, and there is no good music” – But what are they doing about it? If you are going to complain about it, at least make effort yourself to make the change, you know? So that’s what I am doing.
Are the new songs written by you or are they a team effort with the new members?
The majority of the songs are still written by me, but there are few bits that are collaborative effort. Olly [Steele – guitar] can claim full credit for guitar solo though – That’s not my specialty. It’s nice to have some input from other people – As long as you maintain your strict quality control (i.e. be honest and say it is shit if the idea is bad) it is always nice to have other people’s ideas.
What have the other guys brought to the table, as far as different influences and styles go?
Olly playing the guitar has definitely made a big difference. It definitely doesn’t sound like me playing the guitar haha – He loves his metal and it is reflected on his playing. Also having real drummers to bounce ideas has been a real benefit to make the songs sound more organic. I don’t think I know enough about drums to program it convincingly still. It’s still too soon to tell how other guys will influence Cyclamen’s writing…I am looking forward to see what will happen though!
What music out there plays as an influence to Cyclamen, as far as you’re concerned? What truly moves you?
Pretty much any music that translates an emotion well is my influence. I tend to like melody driven music but that all depends – If it is the pure anger you are expressing, I have no problem is screaming vocal all the way through. I just find it impossible to listen to music that I can’t find any emotion to relate to. And it’s getting much harder these days to find music that are driven by strong emotions…We are in this society where we are so overly protected that it’s hard to have a moment where you feel something that’s really worth expressing. Quite depressing really – Music becomes pointless when you actually don’t have anything to say.
Sadly, being a musician doesn’t pay the bills. Outside of Cyclamen, what do you do for a living?
I work as full-time web developer. So I work on Cyclamen in the evenings and weekends, pretty much every minute I can find. I don’t watch tv or wake up late on weekends, I just simply don’t have time to do both my work and Cyclamen to the standard I am achieving now if I give myself time to rest. Yes I am workaholic haha.
What was it like to finally get into the recording studio? Any plans on going back soon for a full length?
I love being in the studio, working full time makes it even more special experience. It’s like going on beach side holiday in Spain for me haha. I am completely self-financed so I need to ask my bank account whether I can afford to be in the studio soon again or not. Cyclamen makes almost no money at all so it’s really tough. I have to constantly think real hard and worry about money and make sacrifices to keep it going. Sure, it is my own choice to do it – but sometimes I wish people realized that making good music really isn’t something musicians can do without sacrificing a lot from their lives (Money, time & effort) and without listeners supporting the artist both mentally and financially, all the good artists will die out and you will be left with horribly generic shit that is X-factor.
The quality of the tracks previously released sound great. It’s amazing how anyone with passion and drive can record a professional sounding album these days without a real studio. What kind of set up did you have starting out and how did the recording process work for you?
It all started with MiniDisk player connected to a microphone! It sounded terrible! Then someone gave me hacked Sonar, which was my first DAW – It took me years to work out what the hell was going on haha. After that I spent months reading SoundOnSound magazine and that really helped me to learn basics. After that is just trial and error. More you do it, more you learn about it. I record music almost every weekend, and that slowly but surely makes recording better each time : )
Finally, is there any advice that you could give to young musicians out there wanting to start a music project or band?
If you are going to be serious about it, be prepared to work harder than anyone in the world. Even if you are not the most talented musician in the world, effort can take you very long way (But obviously, there are talented hard working musicians too – So you need to work even harder). I know I work at least twice as hard on music than anyone I know and that definitely gives me confidence. And don’t worry about what people say about your music, but be extremely self-critical. If you have done good job being critical to yourself, you know your music is good – and it makes it easier to accept the fact that everyone has their own taste in music and it’s ok if some people don’t like your music. Bad comments only gets to you if you haven’t worked hard enough to be proud of your own work.
The year holds live shows and new releases for Cyclamen, including an upcoming split EP with Haunted Shores. Make sure to check out Cyclamen on Myspace for more music, links to free downloads, and further updates.