With a new EP examining the ill effects of social media, virtual Japanese duo Dawnrazer breaks down the facts and the fiction of cyberpunk life.
An InterView with L and K of Dawnrazer
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Numerous bands and virtual projects emerged due to the imperative of musicians to create in opposition to the despair and isolation of the pandemic. Enter the duo known as Dawnrazer, who since emerging from the technological metropolitan sprawl of Tokyo has garnered acclaim for a decidedly synth-heavy blend of varying genres, creating a sound that presents a distinct cyberpunk vibe. Across the Credo! and Crisis EPs, the Tokyo Dark full-length record, and now the Internet Famous EP, the band has shown an interest and focus not just on the future fetish many employ, but also on the mental and emotional effects of the cyberpunk aesthetic, examining humanity’s relationship with technology in all its glory and ugliness… but hey, you can rock out or dance to it too! Speaking with ReGen Magazine, the duo of L and K collectively elaborate on their perceptions of cyberpunk as an artistic and musical genre, touching on the deleterious effects of social media, the cultural outlook of cyberpunk between the East and West, and more.
First, let me ask how are you? How is your health?
Dawnrazer: We are fine, thank you. Last year, we both had Covid, and it suuuuucked! But there were no long-lasting effects, fortunately.
Dawnrazer’s first release seems to be the Credo! EP in March of 2020, and you’ve since released the Crisis EP, the Tokyo Dark LP, and now the Internet Famous EP. Would you be so kind as to give us some info about your background? Tell us please about how the band got started.
As you have developed the band’s sound and music, how do you feel the original conception or intention has evolved or changed into what it is now?
Dawnrazer: Originally, I think we both expected to stay slightly closer to ‘cyberpunk soundtrack’ and ‘synth’ music, whatever that means. But naturally, we both started bringing in elements of our own sounds, more organic things from our production styles, but filtered through the Dawnrazer concept.
Let’s talk about the new EP, Internet Famous, which you have ‘Dedicated to a friend who hurt herself for likes.’ What can you tell us about this friend and the specific circumstances behind it?
Dawnrazer: We won’t say anything about the private details, but someone we both know went down a self-destructive path because of the influence of social media. Trying to find validation from strangers can really harm people. That’s how we came up with the title and lyrics.
In a way, many bands have fallen into similar patterns of releasing songs and shorter EPs for quicker engagement on social media – i.e. Tik-Tok and Spotify shares/likes, etc.
Firstly, what are your thoughts on the album format as it pertains to your music and in terms of the way people consume and experience music today?
Dawnrazer: This has been a debate forever. Even in the ’60s, some producers like Phil Spector thought that albums were worthless because there was only one or two good singles, and the rest was filler. We don’t agree that it has to be that way, and we think Tokyo Dark is an example of a good album. But also, we think shorter releases like EPs can be solid and punchy. We want to do both.
Secondly, how do you feel that social media and the internet have affected how people communicate and interact, both positively and negatively? What do you think should, or at least could, be done to counteract the negative effects?
Dawnrazer: Get off Tik-Tok because, holy fuck, that place is pure cancer. Be really careful about who you follow. Be bold with blocks and mutes. Spend more time face-to-face with humans. But the Pandora’s Box is open… too late to stop now.
You have defined Dawnrazer’s music as ‘hard and dark synth for cyberpunks,’ and Tokyo is often thought of here in the West as an ultimate cyberpunk metropolis.
Obviously, much of the genre has taken an influence from the city – the people, the ambience – as part of the aesthetic, but living in the midst of it, what do you find to be the truth behind the fiction? In what ways does a city like Tokyo live up to the collective vision of what cyberpunk is or could be? In what ways do you feel it either falls short or misses the mark?
Forgive me if this sounds like an ignorant question. Cyberpunk in many ways has dealt with the effects of technology on the human body, and vice versa. With the exception of a director like David Cronenberg, much of Western cyberpunk seems to focus on the idea of cybernetic and prosthetic enhancement, while there is an added element of body horror in Eastern iterations like in the films of Shinya Tsukamoto, Gakuryū Ishii, or Shozin Fukui.
Regarding the perception and depiction of these effects, what do you feel are the primary differences between the Japanese and Eastern cyberpunk vs. the Western?
Dawnrazer: It’s interesting you picked up on that – there is something more biological and organic about Japanese cyberpunk. It has more horror elements maybe. There is also a long tradition of thinking about the relationship of robots and humans – Ghost in the Shell is an obvious example. But even those robots are often semi-organic.
Cyberpunk as a genre also often deals with the growing influence of corporatism, which is something we have seen come to pass, especially in big metropolises like Tokyo, New York City, Taipei, Dubai, etc. To what degree does this aspect of corporate control and proliferation play a part in Dawnrazer’s music and vision?
Dawnrazer: This relates to the social media problem also – everything is a commodity. Your entire private life is marketing data to be sold. Nothing means anything unless it can be monetized. As good cyberpunks, we should resist corporatization and support the underground whenever possible.
Being primarily instrumental, with lyrics often appearing by way of samples and vocals being more a textural accompaniment (like in ‘Death or Glory’ on Credo!), what do you feel is the relationship between visual presentation and how it complements or strengthens Dawnrazer’s sound?
Dawnrazer: We’d disagree ‘Death or Glory”s vocal is textural – it makes the whole track! (Laughter) But certainly, our music is often called dramatic, visual, cinematic, etc., so we definitely want to integrate more visuals in future.
Has there ever been a consideration to incorporate lyrics/vocals?
Dawnrazer: Yes. There will be more vocal elements, more actual lyrics in future releases, but we won’t turn into a regular pop band any time soon.
I’m not sure how it is in Japan, but we in the West are going through waves of nostalgia, with older styles of music from the ’80s and ’90s becoming popular again. As well, vinyl albums and cassettes have had a major resurgence, and even before the pandemic, livestreaming was becoming part of the paradigm. What do you see as the next necessary step in the development of technologies geared toward the experience of music?
Although the internet has provided avenues for exposure across nations, it still seems that few bands from Japan have found some success in the West – Dir En Grey, Babymetal, and Mono being a few that I can think of, while I’ve also become familiar with bands like Harshrealm, Buck-Tick, Boom Boom Satellites (I know they’re no longer around), and now Dawnrazer. What is the imperative or desire for Dawnrazer to attain recognition outside of Japan?
Dawnrazer: We are lucky enough that people send us messages saying Tokyo Dark is their favorite album, or that ‘Internet Famous’ is the best hard dance track they’ve heard for ages. They tell us they were happy to discover our music. We just want to spread that feeling.
Outside of music, what are you most enjoying right now? Watching movies? Reading? Hiking? What gives you the most joy?
K: Uh… staying in my home in my bed watching movies.
L: working on various music and artistic projects, that’s honestly what I like the most.
What more can we expect from Dawnrazer? Obviously, more music, but will we soon be seeing music videos or live performances?
Dawnrazer: The first thing we want to do is get a club event up and running, now that the restrictions are being relaxed. Work with vocalists. Live gigs. But at heart, Dawnrazer is a recording project, so that will continue to be the main focus.
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