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Ape Shall not Kill Ape!
Cornelius

Japanese Music Review
By: W. Dire Wolff

Matador Records

Have you ever accidentally traveled in your space ship faster than the speed of light, and discovered that Einstein's theorys were all true. If so, you probably already know what a hassle it is when you realize that your space craft was not properly designed for such speeds and you have to pull it over on the curb with a flat tire. If of course you find that the spare tire is flat or some technician forgot to pack the jack, then you'll just have to start walking across some barren wind swept desert looking for help. Of course, as we all know, in the future the Apes (monkeys) will take over the planet. Humans will be reduced to living in the forest like the barbaric creatures we are, and will lose our ability to make use of current forms of written and verbal communication. With any luck you will be befriended by the good natured monkey named, "Cornelius".

When the acclaimed French author Pierre Boulle, wrote the book, "Planet of the Apes", he considered it be a work of no consequence with no potential for a use as a movie screenplay. Boulle is best known as the author of the book, "Bridge Over the River Kwai", which became an American blockbuster movie hit in the 1960's. Yet, the series of movies that evolved from Boulle's book, "Planet of the Apes", became one of the most well known science fiction movie productions of the 20th Century. The story was based on an astronaut's crash landing in the planet Earth's future, and the second astronaut that travels into the future to rescue him. The original film, "Planet of the Apes" was released in 1968 and four sequel movies were made there after. During the course of the movies, "Cornelius" is the human friendly monkey that through his efforts and those of his child is able to rewrite the history of planet Earth.

CorneliusAs planet Earth moves toward the new millennium, a different sort of hero has risen from the Japanese music scene who bears the name of the good natured hero of the "Planet of the Apes". Our current day hero, "Cornelius", was born in 1969 in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan. He is one of the new masters of modern production of musical experiences. His influence has traveled around the globe and he is noted for his work as a musician, multimedia artist, producer, and founder of the "Trattoria Records" record label. "Cornelius" is a man of vision that has stayed true to his artistic beliefs over seeking greater short term popularity and financial gain.

Although "Cornelius" only began his more widespread notoriety with his first major release outside Japan in 1998, it was actually his third album. He had already played and recorded music with other Japanese musicians before undertaking his solo career in 1993.

Like many modern day musicians, Cornelius began playing rock guitar music as a teenager. He was a popular and versatile guitarist that lent his talent to several bands at his high school. By the time of his senior year he was playing with a variety of bands that played covers from such bands as The Cramps, The Misfits, The Smiths, and Jesus and Mary Chain (to name a few influences). Besides playing in bands performing covers of Western Rock Music, he also enjoyed playing in bands that did covers of J-POP music. It is common for schools in Japan to hold a festival at the end of the year. Students from different clubs and study groups might perform magic tricks, put on small plays, present short movies they made, or play music at the "School Festival". Since he was one of the few students that could actually play the guitar, Cornelius helped as many as ten different bands perform in his school's senior year festival in celebration of their graduation.

CorneliusCornelius appeared in the public eye while playing for a successful band in Japanese Indie circles know as "Flipper's Guitar". In addition, Flipper's Guitar met some minor success with album releases outside of Japan. Flipper's Guitar released three albums before Cornelius took on his solo career. The success of Flipper's Guitar in Japan and abroad set the stage for Cornelius to launch a successful solo career.

Cornelius' timing of launching his solo career was appropriate, as it occurred at a time that further international attention was being drawn to Tokyo's "Shibuya-kei" music scene. While some people associated the "Shibuya-kei" sound to a particular set of artists, the true boundaries of the scene were not limited to a particular musical style or group of artists. The Japanese duo "Pizzicato Five" has for many people defined the musical formula of the Shibuya-kei sound. In fact, the club scene and music shops in Tokyo's Shibuya area has continued to produce and promote a variety of original artists with their own unique styles. The bridging of western musical ideas of Japanese musical artists with the international cultural scene of Tokyo's Shibuya district is what has actually sustained Shibuya-kei as a musical genre.

In the early stages of his musical career, Cornelius managed to start his own recording label known as "Trattoria". Recording on his own label, Cornelius used a similar formula as the "Smashing Pumpkins" used to catapult their early career by recording as an alternative Indie band and then signing with a major label. While possibility not by design, Cornelius' Trattoria records had a similar effect on his career with a new twist. Since he continues running his own smaller label, many see Cornelius as an Indie artist. It is understated that Trattoria is now affiliated with a major label, "Matador Records". This in fact has given Cornelius and the acts he has signed to Trattoria the best of both worlds. On one hand they can find in roads to more open minded alternative listeners, while making use of the distribution and production savvy of a larger label. His label not only serves as a vehicle for innovative Japanese musical acts, but has taken on other projects like the release of the "Planet of the Apes" soundtracks.

In Japan, presentation is always very important. From the way food is arranged on a plate, to the way a business card is offered at a first meeting, presentation is always of great cultural importance. Artists in Japan, often spend a great deal more money on the production of CD and record packaging than do their western counterparts. When it comes to packaging, Cornelius is a true mastermind of the art. His attention to artwork, credits, inventing unusual slogans, including a set of headphones, or even a record player that came with a Cornelius single, have all proved to be successful marketing gimmicks. But all people are similar in that presentation and packaging can only hold the public's attention for a short time, there needs to be substance inside the package to achieve any real staying power.

Real Audio and VideoCornelius goes beyond modern musical exploration, by building a multimedia presentation of his works. When he started to work on his solo adventures, Cornelius purchased a sampler and began working on building musical collages. He took his techniques of sound "collaging" one step further by incorporating video into his musical ideas. He began his experimentation with video production by copying images between two VCRs. Over time, computer imaging and additional technical experts have been incorporated into the multimedia production of Cornelius' ideas. Despite making use of expert multimedia production teams and techniques, Cornelius remains close to the work and creates much of the artistic concepts manually.

His first two releases on the Trattoria label titled "The First Question Award" and "69/96" were ambitious projects that brought Cornelius to the top of the Shibuya-kei scene. He has released a hand full of singles and remixes. But the crown jewel of Cornelius collection is his release on Matador records named, "Fantasma". His music moves from light and airy lounge music to multiple arrays of guitar styles, and includes a suitcase full of special effects that may have escaped from turn of the century radio broadcasts. Listening to the collection of work in Cornelius portfolio easily demonstrates the artist's talents and his ability to write and play in a wide variety of musical styles. Musically, Cornelius is able to draw on a wide variety ideas without prejudice. His enjoys listening to the heavy metal of Black Sabbath's song "Iron Man" and marvels over "Beatles" Muzak being piped into a hotel elevator. He is not afraid to move from a drum and bass dance format to a Beach Boys soundscape. He respects the work of Japan's most renowned producer, "Tetsuya Komuro" and also listens to noise fusion bands like "My Bloody Valentine". His music is at the front of the new genre shape shifters that have evolved from the Tokyo music scene, and seem to be perched and ready to swoop down on more widespread international acclaim.

In 1998, Cornelius embarked on a successful tour in support of the release of "Fantasma". The tour ended with a sold out concert in Tokyo's famous Budokan Stadium. He spared no expense in the concert's production and overshadowed everything he had done musically up to that point in time. The concert was a visual and musical presentation that served to tastefully return to the gonzo stage antics of bands from the 1970's. Concert attendees received well designed printed programs (which included buttons for playing song samples) and two pair of 3D glasses while entering the stadium. The show included costumed martial arts acrobats dressed in ape suits, giant video projection screens, a merging of multimedia and state of the art light shows, as well as a night of Cornelius doing what he does best, "Playing Music!" The show included an extra drum track that was broadcast by a local radio station, so concert attendees were encouraged to bring their walkmans. The attention to the details in his music and the presentation of his ideas has set Cornelius into a class unto himself.

Real Audio and VideoWith his boyish good looks and low key public personage, Cornelius easily plays into a rock star profile that draws a young teenage audience in Japan. The complexity of his musical ideas combined with the sincerity of his artistic expression is drawing interest from more mature listeners and industry critics. Having built a loyal fan base in Japan, Cornelius has now begun to also build a larger international audience. He has toured successfully in Japan, the United States, and Europe. His success is beginning to cross over into western markets and may be followed by more widespread international attention in the new millennium. Whatever the new century may have in store for the music industry, Cornelius will probably be finding a place in it.


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