Dec. 14, 2020

Takahara Suiko — Processing The Rage is Tiring

Takahara Suiko — Processing The Rage is Tiring

Takahara Suiko is the brainchild behind The Venopian Solitude, the genre-defying experimental electro-pop-nusantara indie band. In this episode, she reflects on the concept of “Hō-ren-sō” (報・連・相) from her time in Japan; how she brings that to the dynamics of being in a band and her personal relationships. What distinguishes the person and persona that is Takahara Suiko? The singer-songwriter spells out the cost of fame, the price it puts on expression and what we can make of ourselves.

Bio

Bandleader, singer-songwriter, actor, writer (and now podcaster!) Takahara Suiko is the brainchild behind The Venopian Solitude, an experimental electro-pop-nusantara indie band. In 2014, their album, Hikayat Perawan Majnun (Tales of a Lunatic Damsel), was nominated for three categories in the prestigious Anugerah Industri Muzik 2014 (). In 2016, she became the first 1st ever Malaysian alumnus of The Red Bull Music Academy. When uploading quick, electronica-tinged songs, she also publishes under the moniker, Viona. In 2016, she also won Best Hip-Hop Song for the song 'Janji' with Altimet at as the singer and co-lyricist. She also co-hosts Buah Mulut — a podcast of conversations with her husband, Anwar Hadi. Best Engineered Album, Best Arrangement in Song, Best Music VideoAIM 2016

Episode Structure 

  • 0:00 - Language Disclaimer 
  • 1:02 - "It's okay to be unapologetically yourself" 
  • 2:00 - Introducing Takahara Suiko; her musical personas 
  • 2:58 - Writing a song a day during lockdown 
  • 6:00 - The meaning of “Hō-ren-sō” (報・連・相) 
  • 8:40 - Irreconcilable differences - why people get kicked out of bands 
  • 15:50 - Maintaining anonymity behind the persona 
  • 22:02 - What Takahara wants to put out into the world 
  • 26:27 - What's Takahara up to now? 
  • 27:20 - Credits 

Book Recommendation

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe

 

More information can be found about The Venopian Solitude — their music can be discovered on Spotify.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Transcript

Note: The Ezra Zaid Project is proudly produced by a crack team of audiophiles and the best way to enjoy it is to listen to it. This allows for greater nuance and emphasis that sometimes may not translate as well to the written transcripts that are available to download for each episode. It would be best to cross check the corresponding audio, before quoting us in print.

Hey there, Ezra here. Couple of quick notes before we start the show: this episode contains some profane, and explicit language. If you’re listening to it in the car where kids are around, now’s probably the time to click pause.
Also, a huge part of this conversation is in English. For moments of emphasis, it does include sprinkles of Malay. It shouldn’t detract you from the overall context, but if it does, head to our episode transcript at ezrazaid.com
Okay, that’s it? Here we go. 

 

TAKA 

As of right now, I'm just going to be that one single being that is defying everything else. I'm going to be that person where you see macam (like), she doesn't give a shit about her outfit, she doesn't wear makeup, she doesn't do whatever everyone else is doing. And I guess because she exists, it's possible for me to be myself as well. Macam, I happen to exist and you happen to notice my existence. And it's okay to also be unapologetically yourself without having to conform to the ideals of society. Wow, words, okay, yeah.

 

EZRA

Just dropped it, just there. I don't know what to do. I think we need to meet there, right there. 

 

TAKA

Yes. Yes.

 

On the Ezra Zaid Project, we present stories, moments and anecdotes of individuals navigating the prospect of discovery and adversity.


I’m Ezra Zaid.

On today’s programme, Takahara Suiko.

(music: Pelacur Muzik by The Venopian Solitude)

 

When Malaysia went into lockdown early on this 2020, the multi-talented musician Takahara Suiko found herself writing, producing and publishing a song a day, under her moniker, Viona.

 

(music: Idris' Silhouette by Viona)

 

There’s being prolific, but there’s also variety. Taka is comfortable, switching from an ode to the mysterious prophet Idris to reprimanding residents of an affluent neighbourhood who fail to abide by lockdown orders.

 

(music: Mont Kiara by Viona)

 

TAKA

Another thing is, what made me write a song everyday, I saw Noh Salleh. His approach was like lyrik dia mengarut (nonsensical) or dia like merapu (ranting) and repeat like other themes throughout the PKP (Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan/ MCO Movement Control Order). Tapi what he does is every song has different genres. And I was like, “Ah, shit, I cannot do that. Aah geramnya.” So what I did was instead, just like, okay, I'm gonna write one song a day. Let's go to Twitter punya trending macam tengok (Look at Twitter’s trending) what are people mad about today? Because it changes every day. So it was easy getting inspiration from people macam okay, hari ‘ni dia marah pasal ‘ni, esok marah pasal ‘ni (today they’re mad at this, tomorrow they’re mad at that). And it's tiring. Processing the rage is very, very tiring. But it's-

 

EZRA 

Processing the rage is very, very tiring. 

 

(Shared laughter)

 

TAKA

Yeah, that's my tagline. Takahara Suiko processing rage is tiring. 

 

(music: Layar by The Venopian Solitude)

 

That’s her seven member band, The Venopian Solitude (TVS). Though before she finds herself in music, that enthusiasm is channelled towards academia, maybe even a PhD… and everything connected to Japan.

 

TAKA

I was up for it. And I-you know, ever since I was in Form 1, or when I was 12, I wanted to go to Japan. 

 

(Music)

 

As soon as I realized-as soon as I landed in Japan, I realized that fuck this is not what I want to do in order to indah kabar dari rupa. This is just something that is a nice place to visit but not for me to stay in, or, you know, go to school in. I don't know if it's bad or what. But it's just like, during my time in Japan, I'm just like, depressed all the time. 

 

EZRA

But so, in that sort of three years, did that leave any trace on you? On whether that sort of changed the way you created things, or decided on things, or shortcutting stuff?

 

TAKA

There are a few things that I still remember, macam, that had lasting effect until now. One is, I wouldn't say it's Japanese culture, but it was the culture of my research lab. My teacher, he always-every time he talks to us or to me, macam, he says you're hō-ren-sō, hō-ren-sō. Which is hōkoku, renraku, sōdan? Hōkoku is announce or macam inform like, whatever you want to do, whatever you don't like, just say it. Renraku is communications. So you have to communicate clearly. And sōdan is discussion. So macam, whenever they talk to me I’m just so quiet and it was so-it was so wasteful.

 

(music)

 

EZRA   

I think you've probably translated a lot of that stuff to your life here now.

 

TAKA 

Yeah, but it happens after. Tu macam, sayangnya (That’s like a shame). I could have been like a rich PhD researcher now, but I'm a broke musician instead. After that I realized that yeah, I think I should be more open. You know, I have to be more open in my communications, be more clear, be more honest. And that's-and I bring that ideology to the band lah or in my relationships with my friends and with my partner. And also to some extent with my family. I tried to be clear with them. Macam, I don't like this, I'm gonna let you know, I don't like this. I know you don't like me doing this, but I'm gonna let you know.

 

(music)

 

EZRA 

I also like the folklore of bands, like, yeah, you know, Dave Mustaine got kicked out of Metallica before he makes Megadeth. Or like, all of these great stories of like, oh, that band came from this band. So, it’s funny because band dynamics is so fragile, yet so fundamental-

 

TAKA

Yeah. Yeah.

 

EZRA

-to making that thing happen. And-and it's just hard to find those people. And when you find those people that you can actually resonate with creatively and musically, then the next thing comes up which, can you actually get along with them? And then it's this whole relationship thing [and] is like, oh, wow, this is the same dynamic of dealing with my mom and dynamic of dealing with my friends or my office space. But this one is much more fragile and crumbly because you're on the precipice of greatness if you can hold it together.

 

TAKA 

I think, before I forget this, I think why our relationship works, and why some people get kicked out of bands is because-most of the reason is because the- macam (like) irreconcilable differences. Okay, I want to do this style, but you want to do this style, and you guys won't merge. So I'm going to leave the band or you kick me out of the band. And in TVS (The Venopian Solitude), there's no such thing as irreconcilable differences, because macam everything goes. Whatever style you have, whatever style you want to put letaklah dangdut (Indonesian folk music) ke, rock kapak (Malaysian rock) ke, hip hop ke, it will merge into one thing and, you know, basically letting them know that it is okay for them to bring anything and everything into this mix. I guess macam, helps them take off one burden off their shoulder, which is to not think about whether or not I fit the band... musically, you know what I mean.

 

There's only one time that I had to really take a very difficult step in having to kick out one band member-letting go, I don't want to say kick out, it's so horrible. It's um, because it's leceh (finicky) in the long run, it takes more time for that person to change musically. I thought she would understand. I think it’s either you practice guitar every day, or take macam undur diri (resign). And I was like, sort of hoping- macam, I want her to practice guitar lah. Because this next project demands a lot of technicalities. But, I know she's busy and there's no way to force her into doing something that she doesn't have time for. And I don't force my bandmates to work on TVS. Because I feel like TVS is your second thing. Your main thing is whatever you do, whatever you do outside TVS. And [at] that time it was really difficult because we formed that bond. It's uh, I don't know if it's a messy breakup or what, but macam, we-you know, we were close-we were-we had a bond for five years, and then having to end that work relationship. It's-it's difficult. I think it's affecting our personal communications as well. But-

 

EZRA 

Do you remember what it was like having that conversation with her? Do you remember how it went and whether it was as difficult as you remember?

 

TAKA 

It was-it was swift. Tapi macam (but like)-the lasting effect, was like, I couldn't continue being friends with them. That's the lasting effect, because I want to, but I know why you don’t-you know, macam like, you just broke up with a person, you kind of don't want the dumper to contact you, right, I don't want to hear from you, I don't want to see you, I don’t want to talk with you, you know, ever again. So, I tried to not do that. No matter how much guilt I carry, it-it still doesn't compensate for the pain, that the dumpee is going through. Tapi (but) just to, just to put it out there, I really love her... as a person, she's great. But when it comes to, like, TVS, during the second album punya phase, it's holding everyone back. And it's harmful to the work lah. So that's why I feel like, this should be you know, in the realm of working.That this thing is not-like, our relationship is not working, but it can't help but spill over into our personal life as well.

 

EZRA

I mean, my question was, really to ask, what do you think your role is in the band? As in, it looks or sounds like, you're the main filter? And you've got a lot of other sub filters going through it. Would that be something along those lines? Do you think as to what your role is?

 

TAKA

Yeah, I think you saying that immediately clicks with what I've been trying to describe what my role is in the band. All these years macam, aku buat apa sebenar ini ()? I usually come up with a-with melodies and composition. So I would do a demo, complete [the] demo from start to finish. And then I just pass it to Kemat or Ruvi for them to arrange the instruments, like add instruments, or macam replace this with that. And then we bring it to the band, and the bandakan macam tambah (will like add) their own elements and their own instrumentation to it. And then, yeah, I guess I am a filter, in that sense. I just realized that thank you for making me notice it.

EZRA

You know, that's what this podcast is for-it’s for discovery- 

 

TAKA

Hey! It’s therapy!

 

EZRA

Exactly-well, you know, depending on the advertising rates of this [inaudible].

 

(laugh) (music)



(music: Dust by The Venopian Solitude)

 

The persona of Takahara Suiko, was not really meant for the public sphere. It started as a personal space: not for friends and family, but just for herself.



TAKA

Back then, when I was making music, I had a LiveJournal blog just to upload music, nobody knew who I was. And people just stumbled upon my blog and stumbled upon my music. And, you know, over time it grew and then I cannot hide this anymore. So that's-that's how they found out I think... I think.

 

EZRA

Are you aware of the construct of Takahara? Are you aware of that, or do you just-because-you know, the separation of-every interview you share this, that Taka is this beast or being and it insulates you from the complexities of sharing that public and private life. Are you aware… and was it a conscious decision for you to do. Does it make things easier for you?

 

TAKA

When I was signed to the label, they called me with my fake name. But also macam okay, I want to maintain my anonyminun-anonym-

 

EZRA

Anonymity.

 

TAKA

Anonymity! 

 

(laughter)

 

Anonymity. And then it sort of carried forward because they start calling me Taka, Taka, Takahara, instead of my name. And also, I already had a YouTube channel when I was in Japan anyway, so people knew me as this budak yang study kat Jepun and namanya Takahara Suiko (kid that studied at Japan and her name is Takahara Suiko) it carries forward lah. But when I came back to Malaysia, and people start calling me Takahara and I was like, “Oh, shit, this is real, this is happening.” And then over the years, when people ask me, why don't you want to reveal my real name, I learned that I want to separate my personal and public life because fame and the whatever will get to my head and I don't want that to be brought back to my mother's home; to my to my friends that I knew from school. And that's what I think is important for me. I don't want my family to be burdened by whatever shit that I got myself into.

 

EZRA

I think I share exactly your same lens of the separation. I've been asking myself why that's important to me, and I'm not quite sure if that's super, super clear, but it's very natural for me to want to have that separation even though I don't have a pseudonym, so to say, but in this world we live in, it is almost impossible now to have that distinction. I don't know what the distinctions are, but I was conscious of creating that separation. Do you know why you think that's important to you?

 

TAKA 

I think it’s important for me, because having putting myself out there as a hard-headed-not-giving-a-fuck kind of person helped me in maintaining my openness and my honesty up to this day. Because I noticed there was a time, I see this, I stalk Yuna almost every day. I see this change-

 

EZRA

Are you a big fan of her? 

 

TAKA

I have a love hate relationship with her.

 

(music) (laugh)

 

And just so everyone’s reading from the same pop-culture page:  this is before she’s appearing on billboards in Times Square, New York. This is before she’s making hits with the likes of Usher and Pharell. Yuna.... is our very own singer-songwriter sensation: the voice that lives next door, the one that stepped out into the big world and got good.

 

TAKA 

The love is, I know she is a great songwriter. With the songs that she wrote back then-the English songs, not just not just the Malay songs, but also the English songs. But she's doing great things right now, not just musically but also other things. So not many people know this, she had a blog-I forgot the name of the blog. I think it was Juna Journal? So macam Yuna, but with the J. This was the macam tu dia orang baru masuk mainstream tau (This was the like, person who’s brand new to the mainstream, ya know). So she was being very honest in that blog post. So she said something like “I wanted to be honest, but because my manager says I have to filter things whenever I talk to journalists, so I have to behave.” So from that point on-which she has since deleted the post and the blog. And since then, I saw how she moved forward. Maksudnya (meaning) how she presents herself to the public. It's more reclused-

 

EZRA

More manicured. 

 

TAKA

Ah, it's more manicured! That’s the word. And boleh nampak lah (it’s obvious).

 

EZRA

It was just this eventual progression of what was the cost and return of quote-unquote success and what was required in that realm, right. And where do you negotiate expression? And doesn't it suit quite conveniently to the Takahara Suiko kind of thing, right? That it doesn't need to be the personal you? Like, all of that can be enveloped into this Takahara alter ego. And a lot of people don't even want to get anywhere near that space of being that expressive and that vocal. And so I don't know whether you feel that you've insulated yourself in such a way that you feel comfortable or it just is, I guess.

 

TAKA

I think it just is comfortable. I found out quite early on when I was around 18 that people don't give a shit about what you think. You think that people give a shit. But they actually don't-they probably care about you for like, maximum five minutes, right? And then after that they forget. Macam (like) why do I worry ‘bout what people [are] gonna think of me for like 10 seconds, maximum one minute, because they're gonna move on with their lives anyway. So I carry that spirit of, you know, not giving a fuck in anything and everything I do. So if I get more famous... if I get more attention, I'm going to have to deal with probably doing what Yuna did back then. Which is macam, stop being more frank and start being more diplomatic. And I'm afraid of being more diplomatic because that means I'm shushing myself. And I don't think that's healthy in the long run.

 

EZRA

But to the extent that people acknowledge you and people are like, geeking out in the corners of wanting to say hi. This notion that the stuff that you make in your laptop has this huge impact on young girls who watch you perform, and like, just go apeshit on-stage and express yourself. I mean, you have this impact. That kind of acknowledgement, how does that sit with you?

 

TAKA

I think what I try to put out in the world, which I think is not being received, as planned-as I planned it to be is, things -I want to put out to the world that even though you don't know music theory, even though you're, you know, [a] tudung-wearing, practicing Muslim-or not practicing, it doesn't matter-you can do music on your own; you don't need bandmates, because if you wait for your bandmates to come, then it will never happen; you can play your own instruments, you don't even need an instrument to write a song. So I try to put all those things out in the world. And I don't know which one people take from it. I don't know which ones people take from it. And I do hope that putting myself out in the world, there will be more female producers, but it's still-we're still lacking. I still don't see a surge of female producers, which I think is unfortunate. Because my power is not as strong as Yuna. Or as strong as any other Malaysian celebrities where they rely more on their singing, instead of doing the behind-the-scenes work, you know what I mean? You can do these things on your own, you don't have to wait for a producer to come, you know jatuh dari langit (fall from the sky). You can learn all these things on your own. Tapi macam (but like), there's no icon for them to look up to-

 

EZRA

A role model? 

 

TAKA

Yeah, like a role model-that’s the word-for them to macam, okay, this person also produces her own music, macam, hey, I can do that too. None of them did that. And it frustrates me that that's what I said lah, my message is not being successfully deciphered by them. 

 

EZRA 

Like, do you actually believe that it's not being received?

 

TAKA

Yes. Because it all boils down to them seeing me as the exception and not the rule. Because their role models don't do that. And I don't think I'm anybody's role model. Macam, buat apa nak ikut dia, dia bukan role model aku (So like, why should I follow her, she’s not not my role model). That kind of thing-ah.

 

EZRA 

I mean, I think well, that's not true. I think you're definitely a lot of young people's role model. But I'm not sure if it's not necessarily been deciphered. I think it's being received. But I think the impact or effect of it-I think it's going to take a lot longer than you’d prefer.

 

TAKA 

Yes. Yes.

 

EZRA  

And that’s frustrating.

 

TAKA  

Yeah. Because it's already 10 years later, still the same. So macam, “Guys! Get my hint” But yeah, I feel I'm putting too much unnecessary responsibility on my head, like, they're gonna do whatever they want. And they're gonna not listen to me, cuz who am I? And I need to start letting go of this... this feeling of-I want to say uselessness, but there's a better word-this feeling of not being able to make change.

 

(music)

 

EZRA

If you could visit a younger version of you, what would you like to tell her of what you know now?

 

TAKA

I'm gonna go back to the 2010 Taka and tell her that please don't give up. You will find your circle or your friends, the people that you can talk to one day-it’s going to be next year. So we just have to hold on just a little bit longer.

 

(music)

 

Takahara Suiko works and lives here in the Klang Valley. She’s currently focused on her solo project, Viona. As for the band, The Venopian Solitude, they have tentative plans for a conceptual EP in the pipeline. Work on that begins in early 2021.

 

At the time of our recording, I asked her for a book recommendation. She suggested:

How To by Randall Munroe — Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. If Taka were to give the publishers a blurb for the book, she would describe it as “hilariously ridiculous”.

 

The Venopian Solitude and Taka’s solo project, Viona can be discovered on Spotify.  Check out the show notes to find out more.


The Ezra Zaid Project is made by me, Ezra Zaid. I host, produce and edit the show. 

This episode was co-produced by Rahmah Pauzi.

 

Our team includes

  • Chun Saw
  • Sabrina Yusof
  • Raissa Nadine
  • Asper Goh
  • Melati Kamaruddin

 

This episode was mixed and mastered by Meelz. 

 

Music by The Venopian Solitude featured on this episode is courtesy of 

Kasi Gegar Entertainment as well as Busy Publishing.

 

Music by Viona is courtesy of Venopia Enterprise.

 

Additional music for this episode is provided by Blue Dot Sessions. 

 

Oh by the way, if you are listening to this episode before or on the 18th of December, 2020 -- there’s still time to get involved in our Holiday Giveaway. Head to ezrazaid.com for more details. 

 

Drop us a note on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our handle is @projectezrazaid.