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Kazumasa Tanaka × Isao Takano: The Aesthetics of GRAPEVINE’s Enduring Alternativity



GRAPEVINE has released their 18th album, “Almost There.” This latest release amplifies the band’s distinct alternative style, crafting an imaginative blend of programming and distorted guitars, interwoven with powerful lyrics delivered in the Kansai dialect, notably exemplified in tracks like “Little Sparrow.” Steering the creative helm of this album is the band’s keyboardist, Isao Takano, a seasoned member whose journey began as a supporting player in 2001, alongside bassist Satoru Kanedo. In various interviews, vocalist Kazumasa Tanaka has emphasized the quintet’s core, including Takano and Kanedo. This interview marks their inaugural “dialogue,” promising an insightful exploration of GRAPEVINE’s distinctive essence, a band renowned for its exceptional musicality.

Takano: GRAPEVINE Remains its Core Regardless. The Band Should Fearlessly Experiment on Any Ideas

-Takano, you’ve been involved with GRAPEVINE and supported and produced various other bands like Sunny Day Service and Yogee New Waves. How would you describe the significance of GRAPEVINE in your musical journey?”

Takano:After working together for this long, we are comrades. The staff around us hasn’t changed that much since then, including the production staff for live performances and the recording staff.

Isao Takano
He began his career as a keyboardist in the early 1990s, performing in sessions and producing. He has produced, arranged, recorded, and performed as a live support musician for numerous artists, both male and female, including Sunny Day Service, GRAPEVINE, Kashitani Kaoru, Kazuyoshi Saito, GLIM SPANKY, and other bands and solo singers.

-How did you come to be the producer for the new album “Almost There”?

Tanaka: Whenever we make an album, we always talk about having a producer as we can have a third opinion, objective viewpoint, and various ideas.

GRAPEVINE “Almost there” ( view in online store )

Tanaka: But I always have a hard time deciding. We are a band that works from the idea of “what to do with the songs that come up” rather than having a blueprint, like “I want this album to sound like this, so I’ll ask this person to do it.” So, we had some potential producers for this project as well, but it’s hard to imagine what they would be like, because we don’t have anything to present yet. So we thought Takano, who is well versed in our style and groove, would be a great fit for the producer. He has been playing the role of a leader in the band for a long time.

-It’s quite surprising that he hasn’t done it before.

Tanaka: Thanks to him, this project went very smoothly. Fortunately, we had time, or rather, there was a gap between the previous album and this one, so we were able to save a lot of songs to some extent. Usually, it takes time to arrange a song without a plan, thinking about how it should be done, but this time, Takano always prepared two or three samples, saying, “How about doing this song like this?

Kazumasa Tanaka (Vo/Gt), Hirotake Nishikawa (Gt), Toru Kamei (Dr)
The band started its activities in Osaka in 1993. The band was named after Marvin Gaye’s “I heard it through the grapevine. Moved to Tokyo and made their debut in September 1997 with the mini-album “Kakusei” from Pony Canyon. In 2014, he moved to Speedster Records, where he has consistently released five full-length albums. Their 2021 album “New Fruits,” which includes the songs “Gifted,” “Nezumi Jodo,” and “Awake Mashi wa Itsumo Narimasenai,” debuted at No. 8 on the Oricon Weekly Ranking. The current lineup is Kazumasa Tanaka (Vo/Gt), Hirotake Nishikawa (Gt), Toru Kamei (Dr), Isao Takano (Key), and Satoru Kindo (Ba). 3 years after the release of their first new album on September 27, the band will launch a nationwide tour “GRAPEVINE TOUR2023” in October.

-What did you have in mind when producing the album?

Takano: They may not realize it, but in the end, no matter what they do, GRAPEVINE will still be GRAPEVINE. No matter who produced the album, it would end up being GRAPEVINE, so I wanted them to do whatever they wanted. I wanted them to do whatever came to mind and throw away a lot.

In the past, when we made 10 songs, we often thought, “we might as well use them all to make the most of what we made,” or “Let’s keep at least 3 of the 10 songs,” and then we would get lost in the process.



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