Music Interview: Dugo (Takahiro Izutani)

04/19/2017 06:00 pm ET
Dugo/IMP

Recently, I had the sublime opportunity to review Dugo’s album – Lingua Franca. In my humble opinion, the album is a masterful work of art because of its creativity and originality.

Dugo is the alias of Takahiro Izutani, a well-known name in the gaming world, where he composes soundtracks for video games, as well as television. I thought it would be interesting to interview him and find out more about him. As suspected, I found him to be fascinating. I believe you will, too.

Read and enjoy.

What is the greatest disappointment you’ve experienced?

Dugo’s first album was supposed to be released from Pooled Music about ten years ago. But the distribution company that was the biggest in EU then was bankrupted at the last minute. So, the album release was stranded, because Pooled Music was working with that distribution company. And it was very difficult to make a new contract with another distribution company for a new unknown artist in such a confused situation of the music industry in Europe.

As a result, I had to give up on releasing the album. But some famous Japanese video game composer happened to listen to my songs. He liked them very much and invited me to join his composer’s team. That was the beginning of my career as a video game composer.

What are the five things you can’t live without?

There is no such a thing for me materially speaking, but I have mental things I cannot live without. For example, confidence in my ability to make music, a goal or hope in the future, health, aesthetics, and a competitive spirit. If I lost them, I would be all but dead as a musician.

What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

“Bitter Sweet Symphony” / The Verve.

What musicians influenced you the most?

Vicente Amigo, Keith Jarrett, and Gustavo Santaolalla (composer of Amores Perros, Brokeback Mountain) exercised a big influence on me. Vicente Amigo is one of the greatest flamenco guitarists of our age. I’ve struggled to establish the hybrid musical style between guitar music and electronic music for a long time. His modernized and sophisticated style of flamenco music gave me the inspiration to come up with the present musical style of Dugo. Since then I’ve been really into Flamenco music.

Regarding Keith Jarrett, I’ve learned a lot about storytelling in composition from his solo improvisational performance. His solo performance expresses a different story each time.

Gustavo Santaolalla is an Argentinian musician and film composer who has won two Academy Awards for Best Original Score in two consecutive years. His approach to making main themes with quite simple guitar phrases was the biggest influence for me to create the concept of Dugo’s music. I’m still a big fan of his music. Dugo’s songs might be an extended interpretation of his music in a way.

In my review of Lingua Franca I described your musical style as “electronica.” How would you describe it?

I describe my musical style the same as you, because it is simple and easy to understand for listeners. But if I can label it more appropriately, “cinematic electronic guitar music influenced by flamenco” could be better. Is it too long? Ha, ha, ha.

Where do you find inspiration for your songs?

I don’t have any specific place to get inspiration. It always comes suddenly no matter where I am. So I have to be prepared any time.

What is your songwriting process?

I take notes all the time to memorize my tiny idea of music. Those ideas come suddenly and unexpectedly. When I come up with some idea, I sing it on, or write it down on my iPhone. And then I accumulate them and consider making up a good combination of them until I can view some beautiful perspective.

So far, has Lingua Franca been well-received by the critics? By listeners?

To be honest, I totally don’t care about criticism and listeners’ reviews as well, because I think I am the most severe critic of my music. I don’t have any regret with the songs on the album, as I have spent my time and effort as much as possible. That being said, many people are giving me positive impressions.

Will you be touring in the near future? If so, where?

I don’t have any plans for touring at the moment. Right now, I’m focusing my attention on working in the studio, but I already have some interesting ideas for live performances.

Are you working on any new songs? And when might your fans expect another album?

Currently I’m working with the Italian musicians who collaborated with me on the Lingua Franca album. This is a sort of composition by way of remixing. I’m making new songs, remixing the material that the Italian musicians recorded in studio sessions. Those new songs will be published by RAI. RAI is Italy's national public broadcasting company. Some executive producer of RAI is supporting this collaborative project. So you might be able to listen to those songs in movies or TV dramas from RAI in the future. On the other hand, I haven’t decided on anything with my next album yet. But I intend to release my new songs as an EP (a few songs with remix). It is quite tough to release albums at short intervals. I think it is better to release an EP every so often. The next album should be selections from the various EPs.

Have any major labels expressed an interest in your music?

Unfortunately, not yet. But I hope.

Did you study music in a formal setting, or pick it up on your own?

I’m almost entirely a self-educated musician. I used to feel inferior that I wasn’t properly educated, but after I got the computer as a tool for making music, I came to think that it was not a defect because I can control all notes and sounds on the PC during the process of composition and mixing. That was the biggest turning point for me to try to become a composer.

The production values on Lingua Franca were superb. Who produced it?

Regarding specific sound production of the album, I completed it almost all by myself. I composed, played, mixed and produced. But Mohammed Taher (the director of Brave Wave Productions) has supported me very much. He strongly encouraged me to complete the album. And sometimes he advised me how to establish my own musical direction in a proper way. He was the only person I consulted with about musical direction and the quality of the songs on the album. In addition, the front cover and all photos included in the album are the result of his skill as a photographer.

I have to ask: what is the meaning of the name Dugo?

Dugo is a word from the Tagalog language that is the national language of the Philippines. It means “blood.” When I came up with this project, I planned to make a concept album that is a combination of programmed electronic sounds and real guitar performances. Dugo symbolizes the real human performance. I didn’t want it to be a musical project with only computer sounds. Dugo is a musical project with interaction between computer sounds and real human performances. On the other hand, Dugo connotes a nuance of family or strong connection with family.

In my opinion, many of the songs on Lingua Franca would be wonderful in movies. Have you had any interest from television or Hollywood in this regard?

Yes, of course. I’m always exploring the opportunity to work in movies. I hope this album will provide me with the opportunity to be involved in the movie industry in international markets.

Find out more about Dugo here.

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