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Out of the Woods    

c ith lyrics like “a horse’s ass is better than yours” and “shut up and eat,” Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori made a splash in the early ’90s as Cibo Matto. Sex- and food-obsessed, the duo gained critical acclaim for their fusion of pop, jazz, funk, punk, and hip-hop. After two albums, Honda and Hatori went their separate ways; Hatori recorded two EPs of Brazilian covers with former Beck guitarist Smokey Hormel, while Honda released two highly praised solo albums.

With her latest LP, Eucademix, Honda has fine-tuned her cut-and-paste technique: disjointed beats and multi-layered effects make Eucademix playful, haunting and beautiful. Here, she comes clean with Nerve about taming dragons and sexual gray areas. — Nic Sheff

The track “I Dream About You” on Eucademix marks the first collaboration between you and Miho Hatori since the break up of Cibo Matto. Did you just get totally sick of fans clamoring for a reunion of the band?
I’m happy to know that people love Cibo Matto so much. I feel guilty because, well, it’s like I love my children and I know they wish I would get back with my ex-husband.

So is this a remarriage? Are you getting back together?
I would if I could, but it is impossible for us to have an equal collaborative situation together. We do miss working with each other, though. We found that it’s easier when we work on each other’s projects. I started to produce and arrange some of the music that she’s working on and I asked her to sing on my tracks.

On the track “I Dream About You,” you are singing a love song to another woman, but the song is no lesbian love anthem. One detects a subtle irony in the lyrics. Is it a challenge to society’s perception of gender roles and sexuality?
I don’t like this line that people seem to love to draw about gender roles and sexuality. I don’t think you can distinguish them so clearly. I think there is a gray area and it’s my favorite area, in general — not just with sexuality but also with genres of music, race problems, religion etc…

In exactly how gray of an area is your sexuality?
If the word “sexuality” only meant the actual act of sex, then I am definitely straight. But I feel attraction to a lot of girls, too. It’s not in the way that I want to have sex with them, but the attraction is somewhat sexual. It’s just a little more innocent than the sexuality I feel towards men.

Many of the titles on Eucademix are intriguing: “Why Are You Lying to Your Therapist?” “Spooning Jacknife” and “How Many Times Can We Burn This Bridge?” Where do you come up with this stuff?
Mostly I just love words and the unlimited options of expressions you can come up with. I often think of these interesting phrases while I’m having conversations with my friends, or reflecting on something that is happening in my life. I write them down and I use them in the music when I think they fit.

So how many times can you burn a bridge with someone? It’s a provocative idea.
I particularly love “How Many Times Can We Burn This Bridge?” because it symbolizes the strong friendships I have. Even though we burned the bridge because we were so angry with each other, we rebuilt our friendship because we still loved each other and needed each other. You do that a few times with someone and you know for real how important they are to you. They are more important than your pride.

Ever since Cibo Matto there has been a lot of press surrounding the fact that you are a woman working in production in the music industry. Do you experience a lot of resistance in this field because of your gender?
Sure, but I don’t think this is a problem only in the world of the music industry. If you want to be a girl boss, you have to be like Oprah, who is gentle, caring, and motherly — not like Martha, who is tough, perfect, and assertive like a captain. I’m definitely not like Martha, but I am somebody who knows what I want clearly.

I caught a show of yours a few months after the release of your first solo album, Memories are My Only Witness, and your music had picked up a hard edge. What was going on at that time in your life?
I always loved hard, punk rock music. Originally, Miho and I were in a punk rock band. But what was happening around that time (2002) was that I decided to pick up the bass, and also do some lead vocals. I was sick of standing in one place with my stationary keyboards. I wanted to move with the music, be more physically in touch with the sound I play. But I was terrified standing in the center. I felt like it made the dragons ooze out of my subconsciousness. Then I knew I had to keep going, break some inhibition and kill those dragons.

What kind of dragons?
My insecurities, my inability to think that I’m okay. I thought that I was a tough cookie — but I had all these fears inside of me. Standing in the midst of people’s attention was so scary. I couldn’t hide behind the singer any more. I felt like people could see all of my faults. But I so wanted to come through for myself. Sometimes I would freak out and scream nonsense — flying in the air, not knowing where I was going to land. But after a few shows, I slowly started getting used to it. I learned to let go of a lot of my fears and insecurities. I still like hiding a little bit in the shadow, but it’s not because i’m scared. I just like discreetness, and the shadow of darkness. It’s more of my style.”

Do we hear evidence of your re-emergence on Eucademix?
I was still living with a lot of sadness while I was making Eucademix. My mother was badly ill. It overcast my emotions every second to think that she was suffering. I couldn’t believe that she was dying, leaving me behind, leaving all of our unresolved issues behind. It’s really difficult to accept that some one you care about and love and battle with is going to leave your life permanently. Life is filled with all these emotions that are so complex and chaotic — all this pain and joy. Eucademix was the word I came up with to express how all those elements get mixed together and make up who I am. I’m still learning to love my imperfect self, but I’m getting better at it. It’s more fun everyday to be me.
 

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© 2005 Nic Sheff and Nerve.com.