Shall not Kill Ape!
By: W. Dire Wolff
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.
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
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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"
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.
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.
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
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.
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.