Hamish Downie’s Five Questions With Deron Reynolds
Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…
Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?
Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.
Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.
TGG: This week, I am happy to be able to interview Deron Reynolds, who did the music for my film “Matcha & Vanilla”. Without further ado, could you please introduce yourself and how you came to Japan and began writing for J-Pop stars?
DR: I grew up in neighborhoods full of lots of Asian families, mostly Vietnamese, Filipino, Indian… But there is a huge population of Japanese-Americans on the west coast.
I grew up in Olympia, WA, then moved to Bainbridge Island and eventually went to school
In Seattle at the University of Washington. My dad worked in the International District of Seattle so I had a lot of early exposure to Japanese food, manga (they have a Kinokuniya book store there), karaoke and other things.
I was lucky to study Japanese in high school and continued to study at the UW. It ended up a major.
Music I have played since I was very young. Always drawn to the piano. In college I joined my first real band, a blues band. When I came to Japan on the JET program I continued playing blues in the Kobe blues scene. I was learning recording techniques and how to use computers to program music.
I also studied my ass off to read, write and speak Japanese fluently and it paid off, landing me a job with ＧＩＺＡ Music. That’s where I got my chance to write music for, play sessions with and direct several J-Pop stars, most famous of which were Mai Kuraki, Aika Ohno and Rina Aiuchi.
TGG: Could you tell us about your latest project, the “Matcha & Vanilla” soundtrack and your work on the film?
DR: I played a small part in the film during shooting that was ultimately cut, but I was able to leave an impression on Director Hamish Downie and had work done on two other films, Last Message and Kyodai, to show off my music and composition skills.
Watch “Last Message”: https://youtu.be/MbtO79YlzWw
Watch “Kyodai” Trailer: https://youtu.be/3WjxWoUDLGA
So I got the job to compose and be musical director of the film.
At first, we wanted at least a few original pop songs in the film, but with the Corona pandemic we got enough extra time to comb through my songs and find some gems to polish for a full on original song soundtrack. It includes a few songs by other artists but for the most part I got to record songs and use LGBTQ artists that were either friends of mine or the director’s.
It took some time and innovation to get stuff recorded in different countries and be done safely in the pandemic but we managed to get a lot of polished tracks for the film. And once I was able to get the final edit I scored strings, piano, Andes pan flute, and mixed it all together into what I think is a phenomenal soundtrack to the film.
TGG: What was the biggest thing you learned while working on the film?
DR: To communicate constantly. It’s so easy for small mistakes to pop up, but more than that frustration or dashed hopes when artists came and went. You have to concentrate on what you have and actually finish the music and songs and be ready for setbacks. Expect them to happen, and improvise and always remember, YOU are trying to make the FILM better, a perfect vision of whatever the director wanted whenever possible.
TGG: I heard that you were a part of the Seattle grunge scene. Could you tell us about what it was like to be a part of that?
DR: Ha! Well, I was in a blues band with some semi-famous grunge band members in it. From high school to college I got to see all of the best artists first hand, live in the exciting spotlight on Seattle grunge music. Bands I saw live in very small venues included Alice In Chains, Mudhoney, Crackerbash, Treepeople, Soundgarden, The Screaming Trees, Sweetwater, Tad… and I hung out backstage with The Hungry Crocodiles pretty regularly (the drummer was in the blues band).
The music scene was so damn hot. People don’t understand that it wasn’t just punk or grunge… it was all styles of music in every club downtown. I loved the blues bands a lot at the time. I was a huge hip hop fan so I loved Sir Mixalot.
TGG: Finally, how can we best support you?
Please check out this link to buy or stream the album on all kinds of platforms: https://matchaandvanilla.hearnow.com/matcha-vanilla-original-motion-picture-soundtrack
Check out my label, Blue Orb Productions, Youtube channel: (link)
And of course Gagaoolala is the streaming service showing the film: https://www.gagaoolala.com/en/videos/2470/matcha-and-vanilla-2021
And the music video for my song “The Path”: