Kodomo, or Chris Child is an electronic artist and composer based out of New York City. Places, experiences, images, and objects are the blueprint to Chris’s music, which he describes as “Moody Electronic.” His albums aren’t so much a collection of songs as they are a patchwork of impressionist soundscapes sewn together to create an ambient stream of consciousness. Chris has performed in New York, Montreal, Barcelona, Paris, and Tokyo. Along with his Kodomo project, he also composes music for films, television, and commercials.
We spoke with Chris to find out a little more about himself and his music
Can you tell us a little about your background and how Kodomo got started?
The name: I grew up in Japan and kodomo was a nickname I had as a kid; assigned to me appropriately since my last name is Child and kodomo means “child” in Japanese.
I’ve been involved in music from an early age; 4 I think, studying classical piano. I played till I was about 14 and it was around then I started discovering “non” classical music that I liked: Kraftwerk, Nine Inch Nails, Front 242, Skinny Puppy; I was drawn to all these industrial electronic classics; particularly the non-vocal tracks. I loved the sounds and the moods they evoked, and at the time, I’d never heard anything like it.
After two years of begging my parents for a synthesizer, I started experimenting with a sampler and a synth. I’d record sounds from all over onto tape, and then play *very* short clips of those recordings into the sampler. So the sonic result was terrible, but I’d run the recordings through all sorts of things to mangle it up. I made an album which I cringe at if I listen to now; but definitely learned the basics of programming synths and recording my ideas. The musical result sounded something like early aphex twin and the instrumental tracks by skinny puppy.
How would you describe your music? What are some of your inspirations?
Moody Electro with a dose of glitchy beats, 80’s nostalgia and classical piano.
My first album “Still Life” took a downtempo/IDM direction, similar in style to Boards Of Canada along with some electro and hip hop influences. “Frozen In Motion” takes on a harder electronic sound; a mix of experimental IDM music such as Aphex Twin / Plaid and some of the current crossover German electronic artists like Modeselektor and Apparat.
In general, I’m interested in non-specific styles of electronic music; drawing from influences in techno, hip hop, experimental, classical, and other forms. The lack of a specific genre has always appealed to me when creating music.
Some current and classic inspirations include J.S. Bach, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Franz Schubert, Kraftwerk, Modeselektor, Aphex Twin, Alan Wilder, Plaid, Boards Of Canada, Vangelis, Doubting Thomas, Orbital, and Underworld.
On your first album “Still Life” the track names are all labeled “Concept” followed by a number, while on your second album “Frozen In Motion” the tracks are given names. What’s the main distinction between the two albums and how does the difference in titling the songs reflect that?
The main distinction between the two albums is that the the ones on Still Life were all inspired by individual photos. The idea was to explore how images of spaces can give rise to various musical ideas; a rhythm, melody, or sound texture, and then use those ideas as the building blocks for the songs. So rather than name them, an image is associated to each track.
The tracks on Frozen In Motion were inspired by field recordings made in and around New York City. The idea was to start each track with a short field recording; be it something rhythmic, textural, or melodic and explore how a song can start to form out of these short sonic moments. In some cases, the recordings are featured; in others, they are combined with synths and instruments in subtler way. Since the songs weren’t necessarily tied to the recording, I chose to name each track accordingly. Its also a lot harder to come up with names!
We’ve read you lived in four different countries and spoke three languages by the time you were 18. How has your exposure to distinct cultures, languages and places influenced your music?
I grew up moving around a lot due to my father’s work. I never really thought about it, but I do think I was exposed to a lot growing up that informs the music I make. I’ve always been inspired by visual images and landscapes; riding the trains in Japan and Korea and noticing the surroundings. I’m also inspired by sounds and I remember bringing a recorder with me everywhere I went picking up bits of conversations, city ambiences and giant Buddhist bells!
You’ve performed in New York, Paris, and Tokyo, just to name a few. What are some of the differences between Kodomo in the studio versus live?
Well, the music I create all happens in my studio using a variety of software, analog synths, and various vintage effects. I accumulated quite a bit of gear over the years (even though I’m constantly *trying* to reduce) and it would be quite difficult to move any of it around. For practical purposes, my live show uses a pretty simple setup; a Macbook running Ableton Live, the Novation Twitch controller which I use to trigger effects and clips in Ableton, a KORG KAOSS pad which I use for live effects, and a MIID keyboard I use to trigger various lead melody lines over. I came up with a method that allows me to load up my laptop with all the songs in one session, chopped up into four bar sections. Without going into too much detail, this allows me to play with the arrangement of the songs on the fly, process the various parts with live effects, as well as add new parts and sounds that aren’t in the originals. Its kind of like a live “remix” of my songs. Generally they take on a heavier and more energetic direction from the originals.
You’ve also composed music for a wide range of media including television, film and video games. Do you have a favorite or do they all have their own appeal?
I think they all have their own appeal in various ways; I would say that film is probably my favorite medium since it involves a real collaboration between the composer and director. The commercial/TV work is usually more about crafting music to serve a commercial purpose rather than involving an artistic collaboration. It does pay the bills though, so I’m not complaining!
What’s next for Kodomo and where can we keep up with your music?
This is going to be a busy year for me. I’m finishing up my third album which I hope to be done with by early summer and shooting for a fall release. I’ll be releasing a few singles before then along with some remixes, and I’ll be playing more live sets in and around New York City. You can find all updates on my website: kodomomusic.com and Facebook: facebook.com/kodomoremix.