Uploaded February 3, 2020
DISKURSO'S SINGER-SONGWRITER TIER
More leftfield than Ely Buendia can ever be:
Yari Kagami. (Photo by N.E.C. Studios)
an interview with Z's Yari Kagami
Late last year, diskurso.com launched the e-magazine's first coverage of a singer-songwriter for a new series surveying musicians who also write, compose, and then perform their own material and are currently working the Manila bar stages, alone or with a band. We're following that first article early this year with an interview with another young singing-songwriting voice, Z's Yari Kagami. Though Z's drummer recently took temporary time off the band (except for recording sessions) to concentrate on his studies, at least for the coming school semester, the band won't be putting on the brakes and shall soon hire a session drummer for the duration.
Like we did with our first Singer-Songwriter Tier interview, we threw our current article's interviewee the same Proust Questionnaire, and then some. Here's that conversation:
The other members of Z, clockwise from top left: Raiki (keyboard), Dawi (keyboard), Chance (bass), and Popo (drums). Photos by Kagami.
YARI Kagami, leader of that new band called Z as its chief songwriter, lead vocalist and rhythm and lead guitarist, is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman with a degree in literature.
Kagami's Japanese stage name literally means "sword mirror," a play on his Filipino name by free translation. A prolific songwriter with a load of unpublished material, he reminds us of Eraserheads' Ely Buendia, although he's probably more leftfield than Buendia could ever be.
As in our first salvo for this section, our publisher emulated anew Vanity Fair's accommodation of the Proust Questionnaire for this, our next target young personality's homework interview. After that bunch of hard questions, our editor sent in his own, questions you could say were more pointed and nosy.
Accompanying this interview is a link to a video on Facebook of Z's performance of the Kagami-penned "Wala Kang Pera" at the Music Museum last October when the band opened for Parokya ni Edgar's Alumni Homecoming. See below.
So, okay, let's get seryoso na:
Diskurso.com: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
YK: Being able to pursue my interests at my own pace and have my needs met, without being compelled to do otherwise by economic reasons.
D: What is your greatest fear?
YK: 1) Dying not having done what I set out to do. 2) Being known for my mistakes and incompetence rather than for what I did to get past them.
D: Which historical figure do you most identify with?
YK: John Lennon.
D: Which living person do you most admire?
YK: I admire a lot of people for different reasons.
D: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
YK: Being impulsive and aggressive, overbearing at times.
D: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
YK: That trait that creates stubborn know-it-alls who don't really know.
D: What is your greatest extravagance?
YK: Hm. Generally I don't spend as much on things I don't really need. When I do, it's more of . . . spending a lot on things that either I didn't need as much yet, like a certain book or writing tools like notebooks and pens, or on things that I do need but aren't cheap because there are cheaper options, like not-so-cheap food!
I generally only spend on food, transportation (sometimes I walk when I want to think), books, things for my musical endeavors, like instruments and stuff for their maintenance. Then, of course, things like school expenses, and, when I would still be regularly driving a car, gas expense. The rest would just really be for having good people around me.
D: What is your favorite journey?
YK: Journey. The band.
D: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
YK: Punctuality. I think in a time where we're constantly needed to do something, or are being bombarded with lots of information, our bodies are taking a toll, and it's not fair for us to have to wake up early just to adjust to ungodly traffic.
D: On what occasion do you lie?
YK: When I think people wouldn't understand what's happening to me, or if unpacking everything at once will be too much of a bother.
D: What do you dislike the most about your appearance?
YK: My cheeks.
D: Which living person do you most despise?
YK: Despise is a strong word; I don't hate for long. I tend to just cancel people out in my mind and become indifferent, depending on the situation.
D: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
YK: "Theory and practice."
D: What is your greatest regret?
YK: Not having been productive (a while ago/yesterday/last week/etc.).
D: What or who is the greatest love of your life?
YK: Queen's. :D
D: When and where were you happiest?
YK: In an air-conditioned bedroom, wrapped in a blanket, food on the desk, working on some files, listening to music, guitar at bed side.
D: Which talent would you most like to have?
YK: To play on any instrument what I hear in my head, and to write what I see in my head.
D: What is your current state of mind?
YK: Quite content, but eager to get somewhere better.
D: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
YK: That thing about me that's not so consistent about its work on my craft/skills.
D: If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
YK: That thing about them that's not so politically involved.
D: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
YK: Never thought of anything I've done so far as my "greatest"; always saw the good things I've done as just pretty-good stepping stones to something better.
D: If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think that would be?
YK: Never believed in reincarnation, so I've never thought about anything like that. But now that you've asked the question, . . . jokingly—a cockroach, so that when humanity gets extinct my kind will inherit the earth.
D: What is your most treasured possession?
YK: My guitars, my laptop, my books (digital and hard copy).
D: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
YK: From what I've seen in others, it's the feeling of helplessness and either just really wanting to give up living or getting stuck in a loop of all those things we've been wanting to get out of.
D: Where would you like to live?
YK: Anywhere I can meet with the important people in my life with relative ease. But projecting ideals, a place where the divide between commercial-industrial-agricultural sites have been done away with.
D: What is your favorite occupation?
YK: The occupation of Berlin in World War II, signaling the end of fascist Germany. :)
D: What is your most marked characteristic?
YK: Usually people would say either my intellect or my hair.
D: What is the quality you most like in a man?
YK: Confidence that would not always subscribe to what society would dictate as "masculine" when what that really means is "macho."
D: What is the quality you most like in a woman?
YK: Confidence that not always subscribes to what society dictates as "feminine."
D: What do you most value in your friends?
D: Who are your favorite writers?
YK: Daniil Kharms, J. R. R. Tolkien, Franz Kafka, and Norman Wilwayco for the strong impression their works made on me; my literature professors and writer friends whose readings and works show me the many ways my writing could take; and the small publications of students, workers, and farmers who show me that there are still many untold stories in this country.
D: Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
YK: Josef K. (from The Trial).
D: Who are your heroes in real life?
YK: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong.
D: What are your favorite names?
YK: John, Paul, George, Ringo.
D: What is it that you most dislike?
YK: Fascists of all shapes and sizes.
D: How would you like to die?
YK: Any which way, as long as I get remembered.
D: What is your favorite motto?
YK: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."
D: What’s on your bucket list?
YK: Headline a night at UP Fair.
D: Can we move to more nosy questions? Such as, Why’d you take the stage name Yari Kagami?
YK: It isn't necessarily a stage name. Just a rough Japanized translation of my given name for social media purposes. I like how it sounds, especially how it plays with the Filipino meanings for "yari," and I like that it sounds ambiguous.
D: Why is your band called Z?
YK: Because we didn't want a typical band name (inside jokes, puns, well-designed meanings, etc). We tried changing it, but it just kind of stuck. Plus, it fits with the whole general "principle" of the band being "everything but nothing in particular."
D: You're a literature major, right? Has your education background influenced your songwriting in any way?
YK: Yes, it has somewhat affected me. I was a Malikhaing Pagsulat major; but, mind you, I am less confident in poetry than prose. I look at my songwriting as a gray area between writing poetry and just talking to an audience.
D: Finally, to your song "Wala Kang Pera." Is the song based on a true story?
YK: Yes and no. The chorus lines and a few verses were based off our experience with one of our keyboardists, Raiki, who, as a dormer, didn't really have much money. From there I just drew bits from real (personal or not) experiences and opinions on the matter, and a tinge of absurd lines at the last part: "Kung lahat na lang dinadaan sa perang di rin naman abot ng kinikita, / subukan nating nakawin ang araw; tumakas sa isang bulalakaw. / Habulin man ng mundo, sino ba sila para husgahan tayo?"
D: What other Z song would you recommend a first-time Z listener to listen to?
YK: That's hard. There's a distinct feel to each of the songs we're putting out right now. You might get a different response from any of the band members at any given time. "Wala Kang Pera" seems to be popular, so that one's nice. But "Bonzai" also had heart-warming reactions from people who approached us. We'll be releasing more material soon, so the "path" really should be left to the listeners. Our song releases aren't done chronologically; we release songs that are freshly-made alongside ones that have been written years ago.
D: What are most of your songs about?
YK: I try to make it a point to talk about experiences or sentiments that are "popular," while at the same time not covered as much by what's on mainstream music.
D: If we are to go through all of your songs, would you say that most of them are sad, or are they mostly happy?
YK: The music generally sounds hyped or light, but the lyrics come from a tragicomic sentiment. It's a strange feeling to dance and move to relatively darker lyrics.
D: What could be your angriest song so far?
YK: Even if I've written songs for the band that don't necessarily deal with the "lightest" of subjects, I generally don't want to write a lyrically angry song. Maybe heavy music, but not an angry song, lyrically. Our band is generally just chill and eclectic, not a bunch of angst-filled kids, although we do have our own personal problems.
D: What would you consider as your most esoteric song?
YK: Ironically perhaps for a band that tries to fuse different genre styles, I haven't written much for it that would be considered esoteric per se. There is one song where the lyrics aren't as direct (which hasn't been recorded yet, but it's one of our oldest songs)—"The Gospel of Lucy Fernandez." Maybe, in the future, I might get better at songwriting and go back to writing material that . . . I'd call it absurdist rather than esoteric. The point for me is not to make the words get mysterious but . . . to make the words suggest feelings rather than make the listener operate on a mode of looking for meaning. [d]
Z - "Wala Kang Pera," live at Music Museum, 22 October 2019. [Uploaded to Facebook Watch 26 October 2019 by This is Z]
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diskurso is an independent, Philippines-based online magazine on art aiming to veer away from a present mental landscape replete with the customary peacock and weasel words that continue to service the art industry.