"People always expect you to choose sides between digital or analog, old school or new school, even between Chinese or Italian food," jokes Miho. "Well, we eat everything." Cibo Matto's musical cuisine is a blend of many different styles, with elements of jazz, hip-hop and pop intertwined into a sound entirely their own. From the breakbeat onslaught and Farfisa organ stabs that kickstart the buoyant "Working For Vacation," to the killer groove of "Spoon" and the undulating r&b of "Moonchild," Stereotype A is, at its core, a pop album. "Today kids don't like just one thing!" declares Miho. "That's the new style for the 21st century." Songs like "The Lint of Love," where jazz horns meet funky fuzz bass meet heavy metal guitars, and "Sunday," with its elaborate structure and waltz-time coda, are mini-albums unto themselves. As producer, Yuka envisioned stereo drums, five-part harmonies, and previously unimagined combinations of rhythm sequences and "live" playing.
Another stereotype the band has encountered is that composing with samplers isn't accepted by some as a valid art form. "People are mistaken if they think sampling is just patching together some cool old music." explains Yuka. "I am not interested in re-playing someone else's music." The reality is that making creative music with samples requires heavy musical skills. "On this album, people will hear that we can write in a more traditional form as well." She's not kidding. Working with artists as diverse as Brazil's Caetano Veloso, jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas and no-waver Arto Lindsay, Yuka's musical vocabulary is immense. Combined with Miho's dead-on lyrical gift, Cibo Matto emerge on Stereotype A as gifted musicians with fantastically imaginative songs. Stereotype A is focused and refined, while still wildly diverse and creative. Yuka explains the band's growth: "Our first songs were written to be played live in tiny places like CBGB's Gallery, and what's on our first record is pretty much what we did live at our first shows. We were kind of test-driving and we didn't know shit. We've learned and evolved. On Stereotype A, we spent time experimenting, taking chances, to think about the album as a whole I try to achieve our potential. We set much bigger goals."
Meanwhile, Miho has come into her own as a singer. "She's a really talented musician," says Yuka, "She was able to do amazing things from day one." Now, after several years on the road and recording, Miho can effortlessly take a song like "Flowers" into the stratosphere, then turn around and deliver a crazy rap on "Sci-Fi Wasabi." She's taught herself to play guitar and drums and she's now contributing musical ideas (even complex chords inspired by her beloved Brazilian record collection). While Yuka's been busy producing and touring with Sean Lennon, Miho's been guesting with a wide range of artists, including Mitchell Froom, the Automator, Arto Lindsay, Kat Bjelland and the Beastie Boys (singing on their recent album Hello Nasty and two EPs).
"What I'm proudest of on Stereotype A is the collaboration," says Miho. "It's the product of four people listening all the time." The other two, Sean Lennon and Timo Ellis, were picked up as the band starting heavy-duty touring, and have become invaluable hands in all Cibo Matto endeavors. "Sean and Timo can play any instrument and they can sing," praises Miho. "They were there everyday helping out. This is like a family." Also contributing are longtime Cibo Matto friends like guitarist Marc Ribot, John Medeski and Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin & Wood, Soul Coughing's Sebastian Steinberg and Buffalo Daughter's Zak and Yumiko Ohno.
Stereotype A is a broadly ambitious pop album. "You can take a hardcore Indian phrase, set it to a hip-hop beat, have country guitar in the back, and make it work," says Yuka. "I really think that technology, if we think about it positively, can give us a brighter future. One where stereotypes will be obsolete."
THE NAME Cibo Matto. Chee-bo Mott-o. Italian for "crazy food" or something like that... The name comes from a '70s Italian grade-B erotic comedy, Seso Matto (Sex Madness).
THE RECIPE Viva! La Woman mixes a surreal m�lange from a supermarket of samples (bossa nova, '40s swing and steel drums are a few favorites) which are looped, juxtaposed in odd combinations, and even scratched hip-hop style. These delicious layers are topped with sugary-sweet bilingual pop melodies, melt-in-your-mouth torch-singing, nutty broken-English rapping, absurd stories, and occasional screams that will curdle milk. The songs, all centered around the themes of "food and love," are a delightful mix of strangely ridiculous and provocatively sensual; some of the wittiest puns are at the same time quite sad and poetic ("My heart is like an artichoke... I eat the petals... myself...one by one"). Cibo Matto's music is immediately accessible and provocatively entertaining, but they've got a creative appetite for experimentation-they're not afraid of throwing atonal curveballs or crafting wicked parodies of pop culture.
THE MENU Dreamy pop songs ("Sugar Water"), wild riot girl raps ("Birthday Cake"), bittersweet ballads ("Artichoke" and the sweet and spicy "White Pepper Ice Cream"), European cinematic sophistication ("Theme"), mutated jazz ("Le Pain Perdu"), oddball cover transformations (Sammy Davis Jr.'s "The Candy Man"), bestiality punk ("Beef Jerky")-are you paying attention? "Know Your Chicken" and "Theme" are over-stuffed with musical ingredients (funky beats, dubgrooves, off-kilter loops, strange riffs, found sounds) but baked into delectable songs which are as catchy as they are bizarre.
THE HISTORY Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda are two crazy chicks from New York's Lower East Side who've quickly become the hottest dish in town. Walk around their neighborhood and you'll hear punk rock colliding with salsa tripping over hip-hop on top of African drums and avant garde jazz saxophone. Cibo Matto could only be cooked up in a'hood where you can eat latkes, sushi, pozole, kimchi, curry and jerk chicken all on the same block.
In 1994, through their mutual friend Shayla, the two found themselves in a punk band together: the sugar-fueled, Boredoms-inspired Leitoh Lychee (translation: frozen lychee nut). The group was awesome-Yuka learned a few guitar chords, Miho perfected her scream- but it was after the rehearsals, when the two went out to eat, that the real magic happened. A mutual love of (make that obsession with) food and music soon led to Cibo Matto... Before long, they were playing tiny clubs, tinier art galleries, and underground radio stations. People heard them and went crazy...
They went to Europe and played at festivals. They ate like pigs and gained ten pounds. Europeans heard them and went crazy...
THE WOMEN: MIHO HATORI Aries. She's the singer. Lives in New York City. Grew up in Tokyo suburbs. Born on the planet Venus-claims to be the illegitimate daughter of Sun Ra. She worked in a funky record store, sang in a Japanese hip hop band (Kimidori), unsuccessfully took opera lessons, and devoured Japanese cartoons. She became a club DJ and developed her free-form sensibility, segue-ing Curtis Mayfield, ABBA, the Slits, Jimi Hendrix, Butter, Beastie Boys, Serge Gainsborg and especially the Boredoms ("They make me sick."). Look up the word 'cool' in a Japanese/English dictionary and you'll see a picture of Miho.
"It's a spaceship, and I am stewardess of this spaceship."
THE WOMEN: YUKA HONDA Sagittarius. She plays the keyboards and the sampler. She's lived in New York for eight years and, like most NYC musicians, she's played in a lot of bands; but from the diversity of these groups, she brings expertise in eclectic styles to Cibo Matto. Her wild background includes: twisted rock (with Arto Lindsay), avant jazz (with Dave Douglas), insane punk (Leitoh Lychee), hip hop (with Sha-Key), soul (Hope Is A Muscle), acid jazz (Brooklyn Funk Essentials), improvisation (John Zorn's Cobra) and Brazilian pop (with Caetano Veloso). She'll have a solo album out next year on John Zorn's Tzadik label. Loves: Ellington, Miles, Marvin Gaye, Caetano, Nino Rota, Stooges, Public Enemy, Gael Greene, Martha Stewart, mango sorbet...
"I didn't have to get a life when I was a kid. Soul Train was the big event of my week."
THE SAMPLER Probably the most misunderstood of instruments, the sampler is revolutionizing music, widening the composer's palette from notes and instruments to very specific sound samples that couldn't otherwise be recreated. Just as the editing capabilities of the word processor changed the process of writing, not just the speed, the sampler brings new ways of blending, fusing, looping and shaping musical sounds. Instead of refining songs through jams and rehearsals, Yuka labors over a song for days or weeks in her living room, then performs the samples live without a sequencer. Cibo Matto can easily jump in a cab, sampler in tow, and be on stage anywhere in fifteen minutes!
THE PRODUCERS Viva La Woman was lovingly produced and engineered by Mitchell Froom & Tchad Blake (Los Lobos, Latin Playboys, Tom Waits, Suzanne Vega). Mitchell caught one of the very early Cibo Matto performances and immediately began begging to produce the group. Miho, not knowing who he was, assumed he was trying to pull a scam and blew him off. He kept coming back to see them...
THE GUEST STARS Dougie Bowne (Lounge Lizards), Dave Douglas (Masada), Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic), Rick Lee (Skeleton Key), Marc Anthony Thompson (Hope Is A Muscle), Josh Roseman and Jay Rodriguez (Groove Collective)... a pretty hot line-up!
THE BAND MOTTO "No reason."
THE FUTURE Be on the lookout for an upcoming 12" version of "SugarWater" remixed by Mike D. (Beastie Boys), Mario Caldato Jr. (Beastie Boys producer) and Russell Simmons (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), an extra-crispy fuzz-bass version of "Know Your Chicken" with Russell on drums (on the second Cibo Matto 7" on El Diablo Records), and a Cibo Matto remix of a song off the new Yoko Ono album! Watch for the Cibo Matto Saturday morning cartoon series, Cibo Matto dolls, Cibo Matto gourmet TV dinners, Ben & Jerry's Cibo Matto sorbet (lime,jalape�o, bitter chocolate, coconut milk, biscotti crunch)...
Bon Appetit / Shut up and eat!