Miyagi dispenses sage wisdom on Bowie, Beefheart

Voices interviews singer and guitarist David Best, stage name Miyagi, who shares his thoughts about the perils of heavy metal and the trouble with dirty socks.

By Nora Sorena Casey

Words can be deceiving, and rarely is this more true than for Fujiya & Miyagi, a four-man British band from Brighton, whose misleading name has its origins in the film The Karate Kid and a type of record player. Their musical style tends towards a fusion of electronica and rock, and their lyrics often amuse. By the fourth iteration of “vanilla, strawberry, knickerboxer glory!” fans have probably stopped worrying and started dancing. To promote the release of their latest album Lightbulbs, Fujiya & Miyagi are heading to Chicago on Feburary 12. In an e-mail interview, singer and guitarist David Best, stage name Miyagi, shared his thoughts about David Bowie’s greatest albums, the perils of heavy metal, and the trouble with dirty socks.

Nora Sorena Casey: I’ve heard a lot about your electronica influences. (Aphex Twins comes up the most often.) What are some sources of lyrical inspiration?

David Best: I like Captain Beefheart’s lyrics a lot, and Mark E. Smith from The Fall, too. I’ve been listening to a lot of old soul music, and they often use idioms which I’m really interested in. I think if you use phrases that everybody knows it grounds the lyrics and gives you more freedom to put whatever words you want to around it. We often get accused of not making sense, but I think it’s more interesting if initially you aren’t sure exactly what the songs are about, and hopefully that makes them more interesting in the long run. Using phrases like “sticks out like a sore thumb” may be a concession from me to be a bit more lyrically obvious, but as I said before, it gives me freedom to say exactly what I want to around it.

NC: You said last year that you “might have been listening to too much electronica and not enough Bowie” regarding your first album Electro Karaoke in the Negative Style. Would you say there is balance now with the latest album Lightbulbs? Which Bowie albums have motivated you the most?

DB: I think we should probably have been listening to a bit more electronic stuff on Lightbulbs, as I am very fond of it, but I think it’s maybe too sparse in places. My favorite Bowie records are Low and Station to Station. Iggy Pop’s The Idiot is a really important record to me, too. I’ve been listening to a lot of T. Rex at the moment. Maybe that will come out in the next record.

NC: When people are talking about you guys, the question of what genre of music you’re in and what style has influenced you the most always arises. Are there any styles of music you simply aren’t interested in?

DB: I’ve never been that into heavy metal. It seems a bit ridiculous, but maybe that’s the point. I’ve never liked house music either, although I’m sure Steve would disagree with me on that one. But, having said that, there are always songs which can transcend their genre and be great, so it’s best not to write anything off completely.

NC: You seem to be getting only more and more popular with time. How have things changed for you since the band began? Do you ever feel like a rock star?

DB: The main difference between when we started and now is that we don’t have day jobs, which means we can spend all the time on the group. I’m also considerably more well-traveled than I was when we began. It’s hard for us to gauge if we are getting more popular or not. There are more people coming to the shows, which is probably the best barometer to use. I don’t think of us as rock stars; in fact, I know we are definitely not.

NC: What’s the worst thing about being on tour?

DB: Obviously being away from your girlfriend and home comforts takes a little getting used to. Other than that the worst thing is deciding how many pairs of socks to take because you never know when you will be able to do your washing, and there’s nothing worse than a dirty pair of socks. Being in the company of the same people can get a little tiresome as well.

NC: What’s different about touring America as opposed to Britain? Any thoughts on Chicago?

DB: The main difference is the distance you have to travel between each show. Before I went to the states I considered a two-hour car journey to be quite a long time.

I like Chicago. It seems to be a music town if that makes sense. It’s not swarming with hipsters unlike a lot of major cities. The crowds seem to be interested because of the music. I like the look of it as well. It’s a very handsome city.

NC: Your songs have been featured on several TV shows and have made some pretty sweet music videos. What is it like having your music translated into an audio/visual media?

DB: With the videos we were lucky enough to meet Wade Shotter who directed “Ankle Injuries,” “Knickerbocker,” and “Sore Thumb.” With someone like that who has their own ideas you have to trust them and go with what they think. We’ve been on a few adverts and things like that, but as I don’t watch too much TV I’m sort of oblivious to it. I like our music popping up in TV shows and the like because it’s in a different context than when we wrote/recorded them.

NC: There is a rather fragmented sense to the videos for both “Knickerbocker Glory” and “Ankle Injuries.” How did that come about?

DB: With both songs Wade took stuff from the lyrics, specifically on “Knickerbocker,” as well as the music in general. Our songs are quite fragmented inasmuch as they seldom have a narrative, and maybe that’s why the videos reflect this. “Ankle Injuries” has an ’80s feel to it, which is the time that the song is set in.

NC: If you guys’ life as a band were a TV show, what would viewers expect to see?

DB: There would be a lot of sitting around and moments of inactivity followed by short and medium-sized bursts of whirlwind trips around the world. There would be lots of childish arguing about nothing. On the whole I think it wouldn’t make a great TV show. We are about as far as you can get from Mötley Crüe.

NC: I heard that you and Steve met playing soccer, or football if you will. Is this true? Who’s better?

DB: Yes, it is true, and if you are talking about talent, I am obviously the better football player. I was very similar to Dennis Bergkamp in my style of play. It really was quite something to see. Steve, on the other hand, tries really hard and has a good engine but just wasn’t blessed with the skills in the same way as me. I’m sure he’d agree with you if you asked him.

NC: Now that you have a new drummer, there are four of you, but the names Fujiya, Miyagi, and Ampersand have all been taken. What is your drummer thinking of doing for a stage name?

DB: We might put a “the” before Fujiya so that could be his stage name. Cheers.