When I harbored aspirations to be a filmmaker during my college days, I immodestly swore that when I won my eventual Oscar, I would not use my acceptance speech to thank the usual litany of agents, managers and hangers-on, but the artists and performers that inspired me to become an artist. Close to the top of that list, which included Stanley Kubrick, Isaac Hayes, and Steve McQueen among others, was Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose score for 'The Last Emperor' sort of shocked me into a more sophisticated awareness of the power of film music, and whose career provided a source of entertainment and influence as I explored both music and movies. For those unfamiliar with his work outside of 'Emperor' or his other mainstream efforts, Sakamoto has explored a virtual cacophony of musical subgenres and worked with an eclectic roster of collaborators throughout his more than 30-year career, and it was this fearlessness and passion that kept me interested in him, at least as much of the material that came out of it.
Sakamoto embarked on a rare North American tour earlier this year in support of his new double-album release 'Playing the Piano'/ 'Out of Noise,' and the final date was at Los Angeles' storied El Rey Theatre. Cinematical enjoyed the rare opportunity to sit down with Sakamoto on the day before his Los Angeles appearance to talk about the tour, his new album, and his career in general. In addition to talking about selecting songs for both the retrospective disc, 'Playing the Piano,' and for his latest series of live performances, Sakamoto offered a wealth of insights into the process of creating and collaborating on different kinds of music, and reflected on his eclectic and accomplished career as a film composer, pop musician, and avante-garde artist.