Creative collaborations

A few days ago my nakama Megan Valentine released her debut EP Wrong Side of the  Road! It’s fantastic. You should click on that link and listen to it now, especially if you like anime, pop, punk or anime pop punk (which is what it is). Seeing as Meg is one of the main people I collab with, I thought I would discuss the importance of creative collaborations.

Julia Mascetti Megan Valentine
Me and Megan Valentine in London

For the first 20 years of my life I was terrified of showing people my songs. Too personal, too weird, not good enough. I also don’t think I had met the right people to work with yet. When I did start creating with other people, it changed my life. I think art is (almost always) meant to be social. Stories round the campfire and all that jazz. So without further ado, here is why you should do creative collaborations:

1) You get shit finished
So many artists are chronic un-finishers. Perfectionism, procrastination, fear of not being good enough… Honestly I think doing a collab with a friend is the best way to get out of the ‘I can’t finish a song’ rut. Because the fear of letting your friend down because you haven’t written your part on time outweighs the fear of never starting because you are scared you will be shit. Once you’re done, you will be braver about sharing you collaborative work then anything you made on your own because your confidence in your friend becomes confidence in yourself. Neat huh?

2) You grow musically
Although I had got my ABRSM Grade 8 and a place on a BA Music course, until I was 18 I had no idea how to count or play in time. Violinists grow up in out of tune youth orchestras, guitarists in bands but harpists… honestly before I left home I could probably count the times I had performed with actual other people on one hand. There was not a Youth Orchestra that was big enough to want a pedal harp in my neighbourhood. When I got to university I made principal harpist in the uni orchestra because the audition was, again, solo. When I started playing in orchestras I got a rude awakening. Turns out technical ability wasn’t much use without the knack of actually playing in time. It was a steep learning curve but but after two years of being looked at weirdly when I came in 8 bars early and one year of slowly starting to get it, I was five times the musician I was before. I will never say timing is my strong point but at least now I can count rests and play to a click track. Even when I play by myself, everything sounds so much tighter and slicker. I could never have got this ability alone in a practice room.

3) You support each other
If you are a soloist, creating can be very lonely. Sometimes you really just need to talk to someone who gets it, bounce off ideas, get feed back on a draft, share your insecurities and get some sympathy and encouragement. From a practical point of view you can also gain exposure through each other; your collaborator’s fans can become your fans, they can introduce you to venues, people and experiences you wouldn’t get otherwise.

4) You get inspired
In general I like to be around awesome people who do awesome things. Though I am proud of my friends who are a great data analysts, unfortunately you can’t put their work up in a gallery. Two of my besties work for the British military. An exhibition of their work would compromise national security. No such problem with my artist friends! Not only can I feel proud of them and warm and fuzzy, they hold awesome events for their work where I can go home feeling inspired and moved.

5) They make your art better
I am just so hugely lucky to know Isabel Galwey and Oliver Wood. Whenever someone gets a physical copy of my EP they always comment on how beautiful the artwork is. It’s the first thing people see, it’s what they remember and what they hold in their hands to take home once they put their money down. And without Olly, well it would be me recording with a USB mic in my drafty flat. There would be no high quality harp tracks, no beautiful string arrangements, no flutes, no violins… well no EP at all. Both of them not only did what I needed them to do, they understood my creative vision entirely and finished my thoughts, creating something bigger than just me.
Two (or more) heads are usually better than one. 

If you’re an artist go and find your people. You with enrich each other’s art and each other’s lives and have a blast doing it!

My first time on Japanese TV

You’ll always remember your first time.

My maiden voyage into the world of Japanese TV was almost a year ago now and it was as exciting as it was random. I’ve been on TV several times since then but this appearance is still probably the most fun (so far!). A lot of people have asked me about it and I even got recognized by strangers a few times afterwards but for some reason I never got around to writing about it until now.

It was October 2016 and my good friends and long term collaborators Megan Valentine and Tomas Eduardo had come to Tokyo for a mini tour and had kindly invited me to perform with them. I think it was only their second day in Tokyo when Meg and Tom were in Shibuya for some sightseeing. As there often are there were some camera crews hanging around picking out interesting looking foreigners to interview. As luck would have it, the topic of the day was Japanese music! They asked Meg to sing a bit from her favorite Japanese song and they were super impressed (of course, she’s pretty great). Meg being Meg, she went straight into PR mode and started promoting our first gig of the mini tour at Shimokitazawa Waver. To our amazement the film crew said they would come and film the performance!

Turns out the film crew were from Zip! TV, a popular breakfast show (for my UK peeps, similar kind of deal to Channel 4). We had only been rehearsing together a few days so the prospect of playing my harp on Japanese TV was… a little bit daunting.

Julia Mascetti Japanese TV Zip! harp
Screenshot of the Zip! program that featured us. They filmed our performance of Moonlight Densetsu at Shimokitazawa Waver

I was happy with our performance though. Honestly it was a great experience. Waver is a really friendly venue and the vibe gave me confidence to keep my nerves under control despite a camera man being 3ft from my harp. It was nearly Halloween, there was a good turnout and the decorations were on point.

We were playing a mix of covers and originals but of course this is Japanese TV and so they were most interested in the song we were singing in Japanese – Moonlight Densetsu, the opening from Sailor Moon. As well as filming us they interviewed us backstage on why we liked Japanese music and what had brought us to where we were tonight.

I love crazy coincidences and that was one night where things just fell into place. My old friends had come to London and obviously a lot of my Japan friends had come to the gig when they heard that it would be on TV…
After our set the camera crew left and we all danced like crazy to the final band of the evening. I will treasure that memory.

I cropped the most harp intensive segment and stuck it on my Instagram:

Or if you’re interested in a better quality recording of the performance (taken by our photographer, not the film crew) and Meg’s commentary, check out her video blog:

Adventures at London Anime Gaming Con

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I grew up going to cons. My parents are old school sci-fi nerds and convention organisers (my Mum was organising a con in the USA when she was pregnant with me, so I never really had a chance at a normal life).

Pre-gig selfie with Megan Valentine
Pre-gig selfie with Megan Valentine

Saving up my pocket money to take the train down to London with my nerdy friends for MCM Expo and buy some pocky and an Edward Elric plushie was a defining aspect of my teenage years. So when I was asked to perform at London Anime Con, the answer was a resounding yes! I had never been to the convention before but I knew several regulars and I had done an interview with the convention’s sister publication, The League of Extraordinary Cosplayers, after my performance at the lolita event Enchanted six months previously.

I was also really pleased to be performing right before Heroine Syndrome, an anime pop punk band who I met when we were both performing at Enchanted. I really like their music, we’ve become good friends and have collaborated on a number of occasions. Arthur Rei was kind enough to play tenor guitar from me so we drove down from Leeds in my Vauxhall Vectra and had a great time enjoying the con and hanging out with Heroine Syndrome before it was our turn to go on.

IMG_7773For my set, I played a combination of original songs and anime, gaming IMG_7766soundtracks on the main stage. I performed my cover of Itsumo Nando Demo from the Spirited Away soundtrack, To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy and Hikoukigumo from The Wind is Rises. The latter two I had never performed before and I hope to record them as they’re both fun pieces. I had a lot of fun and the audience seemed to really lovely people, thank you to everyone who came up to me afterwards!

IMG_7777

Afterwards we had great fun dancing to Heroine Syndrome’s set. They played a lot of songs from their upcoming EP ‘The Wrong Side of the Road’ as well as some covers of anime soundtracks from Naruto and Digimon. I particularly enjoyed their catchy original ‘Songfic,’ which also seemed to go down particularly well with the crowd. And lead singer Megan Valentine looked awesome in her Sailor Neptune cosplay!

If all goes to plan I’ll return to London Anime Gaming Con in July. I hope to see you there!

Photo credit: Briarley Van Zyl
Photo credit: Briarley Van Zyl

Check out this awesome video of Heroine Syndrome’s performance, with hitherto unreleased audio from their upcoming EP. Also features exclusive footage of me dancing over-enthusiastically 😉