High Tech Low Life is an international unit that formed in Okinawa, Japan. The lineup exists out of a mixture of American, Canadian and Japanese members, and together they have some unique features. For example, they have not one main vocalist, but three of them. Of which one happens to be the producer of “death vocals”… They combine a futuristic concept of high technology (and “low human life”) in a more cyberpunk/industrial/technical jacket to deliver their warnings for our future, all the way from the year 2069.
I managed to catch two of these time travelers and pull them to the side for a quick interview, because who doesn’t want to know about the future, right? So…
Of course I can introduce your guys, but I think it would be way more fun if you did so yourselves… Can you please introduce High Tech Low Life in your own words?
Remy: We are a cyberpunk band, but we’re also a group of time travelers who have met in the year 2069. We traveled back to this point in time to bring you a message about our future, which is also your future.
I know you all come from the year 2069, but the first time we saw High Tech Low Life here in our time was in 2017. Remy and Tone even were in a different band at that time. Was it intentional to work on both projects at the same time?
Tone: We knew that the other band was on it’s way down, and we started talking about the next project. We wrote songs together and thought about a concept for a band together. We wanted the concept to be very flexible, as this band was actually intended to only have two members: Remy and myself. Maybe with a DJ that we would only have with us for live performances. But as we started writing the songs we also started dreaming of a full band. We ended up meeting the other members along the way as we were preparing the songs, and it turned into the best scenario for a full band.
When your previous project started to wind down it really gave you the opportunity to push this one forward, but did you have a concrete idea of what you wanted High Tech Low Life to be from the very start, or did it evolve the more you worked on it?
Remy: We spent a lot of time talking about what kind of music we wanted to do, showing different songs and sounds to each other and putting a lot of effort into putting together what we had in mind. We didn’t drift from our original concept actually.
At the moment the band has six members, and five of them are providing vocals in some way or another. Since everyone has a different tone and skill, do you start your writing process from one vocalist and compose the others around that, or do you start with the instrumentals first?
Tone: Oh, we just write everything. (laughs)
Remy: We write the songs first, like, the instrumental tracks. Then we add the vocals. At that point we start to think about who will sing what, and set it up from there.
You’re based in Okinawa, but you’re currently here in Europe to do some shows, some of which were together with FAKE ISLAND. In Japan you have a crowd that is familiar with your work, but what about the audience in Europe? Was their response one that you actually hoped for, or not at all?
Remy: Yeah! Absolutely!
Tone: They were very into the shows from the second we started playing.
Remy: We came here without a single clue of how the audience might react to us, but like Tone already said, we came here, we started playing and the audience was into it immediately.
Tone: Actually, last night might have been our toughest crowd so far. Maybe because they were a little older than our usual crowd, but the longer we played the more they started to get into it.
Remy: And they were very enthusiastic after the show too! Sometimes we have a crowd that’s into it, but they’re not jumping along or moving along with the music. They’re just watching and absorbing everything, I’m sure you know the type. We have these people in the crowd in Okinawa too, who came to see us the first time and just stood there. By doing that they’re not giving us any feedback, so we have no idea what they’re thinking of our show. But when they came a second or third time they got very into it, jumping along and stuff.
Stephany: You’re both the “international” part of the band here, at least to the Japanese people. So I think this is something you’ve definitely seen before, especially compared with the audiences in Canada and the US. But don’t the Japanese stand there, frozen, completely mesmerized until they have taken in everything and processed it before they actually start to jump along and participate?
Tone: Oh yes, this is definitely true.
Remy: Absolutely, indeed. We’ve seen this multiple times back home in Okinawa.
Today is actually your second performance in The Netherlands. Last week you’ve already played at Abunai!, and today you’re at De Dordtse Matsuri. But wouldn’t you have preferred your own “oneman” show over a second convention?
Tone: I like the convention…
Remy: I like the convention too. It would be nice to have our own fanbase during one of our “oneman” shows of course, but I don’t think we’re at that stage here in Europe just yet. So this is really fun.
Tone: It’s also fun to meet other people and other performers. The festival shows are great, because there are artists for us to meet!
Remy: You can make so many connections through festivals like this. If we would be doing a show by ourselves it would just be… Us…
Stephany: I actually expected this exact answer coming from you guys, you know that? (laughs)
Remy & Tone: (both start laughing just as hard) Oh, did you really?!
Since your project is rather international, in the sense of multiple nationalities and languages being a part of it, how does this work behind the scenes? Are there ever any cultural clashes or other misunderstandings?
Tone: (jokingly) I’m pretty sure the Japanese ones are constantly plotting against me in Japanese… (laughs)
Remy: There are always misunderstandings between our languages, but it is what it is. If it happens, we just fix that.
The power of motivation
The most unique addition to your lineup is miss DEATHCO, who despite her cute looks produces a sound you’d never expect to come from her. Did you ever consider bringing in a female vocalist to the group (let alone two), or did this idea only come to the table when Misako joined the group?
Remy: From the very start we were talking about the possibility of adding a female voice to our project. We were constantly talking about what kind of lineup we wanted to have.
Tone: Exactly. We knew which members we wanted to add to our group beforehand already.
Remy: There were a couple of other people, since we were scouting. Misako joined first, and then Maiki and DEATHCO joined at the same time.
Tone: I have to say we didn’t expect the female death vocals, especially from the writing side of the project, but it worked out really well for us.
Even though you are from the future and you of course can’t tell me much for timeline reasons, can you tell me a bit about the future plans for High Tech Low Life?
Tone: We will keep coming back to this time… Over and over again…
Stephany: On the same day? That’s not going to get complicated at all, shouldn’t you not run into other versions of yourselves for the stability of time-reasons?
Remy: (laughs) No, no, we’ll come to a different time and a different place! Over and over again.
Tone: Actually, it will be right now. It will always be right now! (laughs)
I only have one final question for you this time around… Is there anything you would like to share with the readers as a message to close off this interview with?
Tone: Tend to the part of the garden that you can reach… That’s really our message.
Remy: Yeah. Everyone can change the future by chanting yourself now.
Stephany: As you know the amazon forest is on fire this very second, so High Tech Low Life actually comes at a really, really good time.
Remy: Yes! Absolutely! There is a lot going on the world right now.
Tone: If you start with this as a base, you’re not going to change anything for the future.
Remy: Everyone can change everything about themselves.
Tone: And it inspires the ones around you.
Remy: Exactly. If everyone just starts moving and changing it will create a chain effect, and that’s how everything happens.
Tone: We saw with Iwao and DEATHCO. They saw our very first performances and they were instantly fired up and motivated to join the band. Inspire others by just being you.
Remy: Inspire change.
Admittedly, I had to do this interview with minimal information. Which is why the guys couldn’t really talk to me “in character” like some of the other artists I’ve done interviews with over the years have been able to do. The online presence of High Tech Low Life is very minimal, and even their concept is quite hard to find.
You can however find some of their music online, but based on that and their live performance at De Dordtse Matsuri I can tell you that this is a band you should see for yourself, rather than judge based on the minimal work you can find online. Their live performance really shows what they’re all about, plus it shows the ability of each member a lot better too.
Aside from the band vocalist Remy and guitarist Tone are quite involved in the entertainment industry. Remy actually owns a bar in Okinawa, fittingly named “Remy’s”, while Tone actually owns a record label.
Okinawa has the biggest military base in Japan, and has quite a large American community because of soldiers from the US being stationed there. But it’s also an island off the coast of Tokyo, which very influenced by the weather. In a strange form of irony, the band had to cancel their very first live show due to a tsunami raging over the area. One that was, in their own words, one of the worst they have ever seen.
So you can see a little bit where their inspiration for the “your actions influence the future”-message actually comes from!
We also took photos of their performance at Popcentrale (Dordrecht, The Netherlands). You can find these photos on our photography portfolio, Arlequin Photography, by clicking the image below!
(In 2021 Arlequin Photography was officially changed into a full photography portfolio, while all interviews and news were moved to a new domain called Arlequin Magazine. At this time High Tech Low Life were no longer active on social media. This is why there is no social media section for this article.)
雪 (Yuki) is the owner and driving force behind both Arlequin Magazine and Arlequin Photography.
She started in 2009 as a photographer with Arlequin Photography, but due to a growing interest in journalism, translation and behind-the-scenes work in general the project burst out of it's seams in 2021 and expanded through the addition of Arlequin Magazine.
雪 (Yuki) is a native Dutch speaker and maintains both the English and Dutch sections of both Magazine and Photography with original content, translations and photography as well as all the behind-the-scenes work for both websites.
She speaks Dutch, English, Japanese and German.