Monkey Majik

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MONKEY MAJIK
Monkey Majik at Webster Hall, in November 2012 (by May S. Young).jpg
Monkey Majik at Webster Hall, New York City, in November 2012
Background information
Origin Japan
Genres Pop rock, Alternative rock, Rap
Years active 2000–present
Labels Under Horse Records (2000 - 2005)
Binyl Records (2006 - present)
Associated acts blanc., The Alphabet Project, Chemistry, m-flo, Anna Tsuchiya
Website http://www.monkeymajik.com/
Members Maynard Plant
Blaise Plant
tax
DICK
Past members Misao Urushikaka
Chad Ivany
Jan Kuypers
Tom Prichard

Monkey Majik (stylised as MONKEY MAJIK) is a Japanese-Canadian pop rock band formed in 2000 in Sendai. The band consists of Canadian brothers, Maynard Plant and Blaise Plant, each acting as lead vocalists and guitarists, and two Japanese members: Tax on drums, and Dick on bass. Monkey Majik is signed to Binyl Records, a subsidiary of Avex Records, and are managed by Edwards Entertainment Group. Due to the blend of Eastern and Western pop rock influences, Monkey Majik has often been referred to as a "hybrid band".[1] Much of the band's music has been cross-promoted via television programs, commercials, and movies. They have also been chosen as “Goodwill Ambassadors” for the 80th anniversary of Japanese-Canadian relations.[2]

The band rose to mainstream success after the 2006 success of their singles, "Fly", and "Around the World", off of the album Thank You, eventually reaching the top Oricon charts and collaborating with major Japanese sensations such as m-flo and SEAMO. As of 2012, they have released seven studio albums, four EP's, three physical live albums, three digital live albums, and three compilation albums, and have certified five singles through the Recording Industry Association of Japan. Since the debut of Monkey Majik, Maynard and Blaise have both simultaneously worked solo ventures into the music industry to much acclaim: Maynard with blanc. and Blaise with The Alphabet Project, of which they have each released two studio albums thus far.

They received much acclaim across Japan after their assisting hands-on with clean-up and rescue during the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which was later documented and broadcast by MTV Japan on a TV special surrounding their work. Since then, Monkey Majik has gained the attention of American rapper and musical entrepreneur, will.i.am,[3] during his world travels sponsored by Intel. Blaise and will.i.am performed a special version of the Monkey Majik song, "Watching You", live in Sendai during a private event, during which performance, will.i.am incorporated a freestyle rap.

As "Goodwill Ambassadors", the band often visits and tours throughout Canada, having performed a special acoustic session in Toronto under this title on February 19, 2012.,[4] Blaise has also performed special acoustic live sessions at the Ottawa Japanese "natsu matsuri", or summer festival.

The band, even after mainstream success, is still based in Sendai, located roughly 350 km from Tokyo. This is contrary to the majority of musicians in Japan, who often move to Tokyo after mainstream success.

History[edit]

Formation (2000 - 2002)[edit]

Monkey Majik was formed by Maynard Plant, Tom Pritchard, Chad Ivany, and Misao Urushikaka as a way to pass the times with friends in Ottawa, Canada, before Maynard's move to Japan to become an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on the JET Programme in 1997.[5] They were named by Pritchard, an English drummer, in tribute to the song "Monkey Magic" performed by Godiego (later recorded and performed by the band as a tribute single, Monkey Majik x Monkey Magic, in 2007), which was the theme song to Saiyūki, which was dubbed into English for broadcast in Great Britain as Monkey. The former drummer had watched the series as a child growing up in Britain and was a fan of the show and its theme song.

During his work as an ALT, Maynard learned Japanese quickly through memorizing and studying the words of Japanese songs. Shortly thereafter, he decided to invite his younger brother, Blaise Plant, a Canadian singer-songwriter, to join the band. Before their official debut, Pritchard and Ivany decided to leave the band, while Jan Kuypers was brought on to take his place as percussionist.

Debut: Tired, Spade, and Eastview (2002 - 2005)[edit]

With a line-up consisting of Urushikaka, Kuypers, and the Plant brothers, Monkey Majik released 1000 copies of their first EP, Tired, through Tower Records in Sendai in a personally-financed venture. Tired became the best-selling release at Tower Records for six consecutive weeks, cuing Monkey Majik to record their first full-length album.

The result of their work on a full-length debut album was Spade, released through Tower Records in 2004. After impressive sales numbers, staying at the number 1 position on Tower’s sales charts for 13 weeks straight, the album was released nation-wide in 2004. Shortly thereafter, Kuyper and Urushikaka both left the group, and were replaced by current band members, ex-dental technician and salaryman, drummer Tax (Takuya Kikuchi) and rising Sendai bassist, Dick (Hideki Mori), of Soul Addiction'-based local fame.

In 2005, their second full-length studio album, Eastview (typeset as eastview), depicting a life in Japan from a westerner’s view, was released. Eastview bowed out of its initial sales run with an impressive 14,000 units sold for an independent record—more than double the amount of SPADE. The group was then picked up by avex in the latter half of that same year, propped up for a mainstream debut.

Mainstream success: Thank You, Sora wa Maru de.., and Time (2006 - 2010)[edit]

In 2006, Monkey Majik’s first major label album, Thank You was released, with two leading singles paving the way to success: “Fly” (typeset as “fly”), and smash hit “Around the World”. The album hit gold standards with 97,000 albums sold during its initial run. “Around the World” reached No. 4 on the Oricon charts and became the theme song to the Japanese television drama, Seiyūki, or Journey to the West. It sold a total of 164,299 copies in Japan, becoming the 62nd most-purchased single of 2006 in the country.

The following year in 2007, Monkey Majik were propped up to become true Japanese icons with the release of their fourth studio album, Sora wa Maru de.., featuring a slickly-produced pop-rock which they are now most-known for in best-selling tracks "Picture Perfect" and "Sotsugyou, Soshite Mirai e", featuring popular hip-hop artists m-flo and SEAMO, respectively. On top of all of this, Sora wa Maru de..’s titular track quickly became a double-platinum download track. During this time, Monkey Majik also took part in m-flo's 2007 promotional tour for their album, COSMICOLOR, at Yokohama Arena, performing a live version of the official m-flo mix of "Picture Perfect", entitled "Picture Perfect Love", which was a hit summer single.[6]

In 2008, the band followed up to their highly successful album with Time, featuring the hit single, "Tada, Arigatou". Featuring an evolved sound with more electrical bass and guitar, Time did not quite hit the same sales numbers as with Sora wa Maru de.., but it went gold, selling 116,000 units nation-wide during its initial sales push. Later, in 2009, the band members were ushered in as Canadian-Japanese Kizuna, or Goodwill, Ambassadors in honor of the 80th Anniversary of Friendship between Canada and Japan, and had the honor of joining Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, Stephen Harper, and Laureen Teskey at the Lester B. Pearson Building in Ottawa.

Finally, in 2010, the band released their second compilation album, Monkey Majik Best ~10 Years & Forever~, to commemorate their 10th anniversary. One of the few new songs off of the album, "Forever", gained national respect through its music video, in which mentally inhibited children were given the chance to sing the song themselves. An independent single, "Aishiteru", also rose to popularity during this time, reaching No. 12 on the Oricon charts, and reaching No. 7 on Japan’s Billboard Hot 100.

Westview, the Tōhoku earthquake, and Somewhere Out There (2010 - present)[edit]

In 2010, Monkey Majik produced and in 2011 released their sixth studio album, "Westview" (typeset as westview), a spiritual counterpart to "Eastview" reflecting the views of a Japanese in western society. The majority of the album was produced in Greece, where the band also had all promo pictures for the album taken. The lead single, "Sunshine",[7] was used as the opening theme of Weekly Shōnen Jump's anime adaptation of its popular manga, Nurarihyon no Mago.

In 2011, during the recording process of their seventh studio album, the Tōhoku earthquakes and tsunamis made their first, history-making strike, devastating Sendai, where the band still took residence. In response to this disaster, Maynard, Blaise, tax, and DICK regrouped, and then went to help their people with clean-up, restoration, and rescue. Their kind actions were documented by MTV Japan and later broadcast as a part of the band's "Send愛" ("Send Ai, Send Love") movement. Later, a concert was held in Sendai under the Send愛 label, benefiting those affected by the Tōhoku disasters, featuring Monkey Majik, and opening acts Gagle, SOUL ADDICTION, and Rake.[8] This marked the first time that Gagle and Monkey Majik's collaborative single, "Soreizen", was performed live. All proceeds were sent live to Tōhoku charity organizations.

On February 19, the band, as Kizuna ambassadors, held a special live acoustic session in Toronto at Kobayashi Hall.

The creative choices that went into producing their seventh album evolved greatly during this time, eventually producing a darker, more slickly-crafted final work, in the form of Somewhere Out There, released on March 7, 2012. Both the leading singles from off of the album, Headlight and HERO, inspired by the Tōhoku disasters, each hold some sort of deeper meaning than what is usually seen out of Monkey Majik's albums.[9] On March 26, 2012, the band's official MTV Unplugged concert aired on television for the first time.

During his time as a "director of creative innovation", traveling the world and recording twelve tracks representative of each country he visited, will.i.am stopped in Sendai, where he met Blaise. The two were pressured by fans into performing an impromptu acoustic session featuring the Monkey Majik song, "Watching You", mixed with one of the rapper and music entrepreneur's own freestyles, thus solidifying a link between the band and the United States music industry.

A second set of Send愛 concerts are scheduled to be held by the end of 2012.[10]

Monkey Majik is working on an English BEST compilation album, featuring several English adaptations of songs voted for inclusion by the fans, after much fan response over Maynard and Blaise's Twitter accounts, which was set for a November 7, 2012 release date. They are also aiming to release a new single album, featuring three new songs. One of the songs is slated to be a Christmas single.[11]

In February 2013, Monkey Majik released a new Single called "If".[12]

Band members[edit]

Current members[edit]

  • Maynard Plant (2000–present) [born August 6, 1975 from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada]: Vocals and guitar. Monkey Majik Founder. Graduated from Queen's University. Fluent in English, French, and Japanese, also able to speak in the nanbu dialect (なんぶべん). While living in Canada, Maynard wrote songs as a hobby, but only performed privately. When Pritchard and Ivany quit the band, Maynard decided to invite his younger brother to join the band. He has high respects for Godiego, the band whose song "Monkey Magic" became the inspiration for the band's name, and even goes so far as to refer to them as "gods". Other Japanese musicians which he mentions in high regard include UA, Oda Kazumaza, and Spitz. Maynard's solo project blanc., which started as far back as 2003, has gained recognition across Asia. blanc.'s collaborations with freeTEMPO and other Japanese underground artists have given him particular recognition in Korea and China. His and Blaise's father is also a professional musician who has played with Paul Anka. Under the blanc. title, Maynard has released two full-length albums, 2008's New World, and 2009's Canvas.
  • Blaise Plant (2001–present) [born March 18, 1980 from Vanier, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada]: Songwriter, Singer, Lead guitar, and Producer. Younger brother of Maynard. Speaks English, French, and Japanese. While in Canada he studied Visual and Performing Arts at The University of Lethbridge. Performed at clubs while also pursuing an acting career. Blaise continued the band in 2001. The band released their first EP "Tired". In 2007 Blaise began his own production company "daydream PRODUCTIONS", and started his official blog On March 3, 2008 he launched his solo project "The Alphabet Project" where every song released hit Number 1 on the Syncl Download chart. Singing in English, Japanese, and French, "The Alphabet Project" has built a reputation across Asia, North America and Europe. Blaise has worked and performed with a variety of Artist from around the world, including SMAP, Will.I.Am, and Seo Taiji. His first solo album "Painting Music" was released in 2010, and its follow-up, "Motion Picture" (typeset as "MOTION PICTURE"), in early 2012 to much acclaim.
  • Tax (Takuya Kikuchi, 菊池拓哉) [2004–present] [born August 31, 1975 from Sendai, Miyagi, Japan]: drums. Tax partakes in the majority of songwriting. He had worked as a dental technician for five years, after which he switched to becoming a salaryman. He was introduced to Maynard and Blaise through a friend. Before becoming Monkey Majik's full-time drummer his drumming experience only consisted of two years spent drumming during junior high school.
  • Dick (2004–present) [born March 10, 1978 from Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Japan]: bass. Has previously been part of a funk soul band called Soul Addiction under the name Hideki Dick Mori. Also was a member of a jazz band called Private Kitchen. The three members invited Dick, who had become a well-known bassist in Sendai, out to a bar in Kokubun Cho "The Party District of Sendai" and forced him to drink until he agreed to join Monkey Majik. Joined the band to switch in with Urushizaka with the release of the band's second indie album "eastview".

Past members[edit]

  • Misao Urushikaka (漆坂ミサオ) [2000 - 2004], bassist: Left the band with the release of the second independent label album, "eastview". Songs which credit Urushikaka with songwriting have been released even after his departure.
  • Jan Kuypers (2001–2004), drummer: A British exchange student at Prof. Masayoshi Esashi's lab who was part of the original band in 2001 and recorded the first album "Tired" sold by Tower Records. He is now a leading researcher in MEMS/nanotechnology and working at a small start-up company (Sand9) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Tom Prichard (2000), drummer: An Englishman responsible for the naming the band Monkey Majik. Still known to visit Japan on occasion and meets with the members when doing so.

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]