Hinako Omori made her name touring as a session musician playing synth for artists such as KT Tunstall, Kae Tempest, Ed O'Brien and James Bay to name a few. She is now a producer in her own right, with her first EP ‘Auraelia' on Injazero Records.
I met Hinako a few years back in Hackney where she was recording with KT Tunstall for her new album. Since then, Hinako’s name seemed to pop up all over the place where ever I went - I was even getting some stills processed the other day and someone at the lab went ‘Oh my god you know Hinako! I love Hinako!’ As Hinako says 'the music industry is a small world’ but it also helps that she’s a truly talented musician and an all round top human too.
I got in touch with Hinako some time ago - we previously had agreed to shoot an awesome Out + About feature of Hinako in Bath where she was recording a project for WOMAD Festival at Real World Studios. It would have been an epic feature with Hinako out in nature making field recordings and then putting them together in a world famous studio, but unfortunately Covid put a spanner in the works. I got some sniffles and freaked out, and locked myself indoors for a week. Turns out it wasn’t covid and it was just a common cold, who da guessed it? Anyway, after kicking myself massively we arranged to try again and Hinako invited me down to her studio in Tottenham and we headed out for a wander in Hackney Marshes.
I've lived in East London for 10 years and have never been to Hackney Marshes. It was beautiful; there were fields with cows and the end of the summer sun set perfectly behind the trains tracks. Thanks Hinako for the experience.
Tell us about your journey to where you are now...
I was born in Yokohama, which is about half an hour south of Tokyo – maybe a bit more. I was there until I was 3 years old and then I moved to the UK, and I’ve been here ever since. I started playing piano when I was young – about 5, and mainly studied classical piano. I became really interested in music technology around college and wanted to be a sound engineer, so I went to Uni to study sound engineering. After I graduated, I started session playing with a friend’s band.
I feel like the music industry in London is a really tight knit community – like a family – so I’ve been really lucky that the artists I’ve played with have introduced me to the next artist that I’ve toured with. For example, Georgia was one of the first artists I started touring with, and through her I met Kae Tempest who Georgia was drumming for, so that was a really lovely connection. Through my friend Seye, who I also started playing with, I met KT Tunstall. KT then introduced me to James Bay and then Ed O’Brien, both of which I am still touring with now – so luckily everything came through lots of friendly connections, which is really important, I think.
Producing is a fairly new thing for me I guess – it’s maybe been 2-3 years or so that I’ve been chipping away at my own music, and my first release came out last year.
Describe your sound...
I think I would describe my sound (although it’s really difficult to describe music) – but I think I would describe my music as mainly ambient and synthesiser based, so maybe ambient electronic music!
Who are your musical influences?
One huge inspiration for me is a band called The Knife, a Swedish band, and ever since I heard their music at college I just thought “I would love to make music like them”. Karin from The Knife also has a side project called Fever Ray which I’m obsessed with; it’s very ambient and beautiful, and their synth soundscapes are just incredibly stunning.
Would you say London as a whole has an influence on your music? Where would you say you draw your inspirations from?
I think living in London has been very inspiring – there are so many different cultures and so many different people that you meet. When you could go to shows pre-lockdown there was a lot of music you could absorb, so that was very eye opening for me.
Being on tour really does inspire me musically and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to visit many different cities and places I would never get to go to ordinarily. Having a Zoom recorder meant I could capture and remember those sounds and take them with me, and incorporate them in my music somehow. That’s definitely been a big inspiration for the work I’ve been doing recently.
Using field recordings has definitely become more and more a practice that I do now – it’s just nice to be able to wander around and get lost in the natural sounds that are occurring, so I try and take a recorder around with me wherever I go. I don’t set out with an idea in mind, but after I come back and go through the recordings something might come from that, so I guess it feeds the inspiration somehow.
As a musician how has lockdown affected you? Has there been any positives you can draw out?
I guess lockdown has been a really difficult time for everyone – in terms of the touring industry there has had to be a big stop, and everyone’s had to take a break. Because there’s been a lot of time where we’ve all been literally locked inside our houses, I think it’s felt like there’s been a real pressure to make things creatively, as we’ve found ourselves with all of this ‘extra' time. I initially found it quite tricky to get my head into that space for a while - I felt like I couldn’t be very creative, yet was putting pressure on myself to be. With a really lucky turn of events, my friend Oli who works at a beautiful studio called Real World got in touch and asked me to participate in a live event that WOMAD were putting on (live in virtual terms), which actually gave me a deadline to work towards. Having that sort of timeframe and knowing I had a project to complete gave me a big boost and a push to finish something, so I’m really grateful for that. Having that time to create was incredibly helpful – I really enjoyed working on that project.
For the ‘WOMAD at Home’ project there were eight artists with their performances being streamed over eight consecutive weeks, and everyone had forty minutes to present a piece of work. I had a few demos I’d started working on during touring, so I decided to finish them off and create a sort of journey - if you will! The idea for the festival is an immersive experience using binaural audio, so I wanted to make a forty minute continuous memory journey and incorporate field recordings that I’d taken from around Bath and Real World Studios. We took a car to Mendip Hills and recorded the bird calls, the dawn chorus, sounds of water and superimposed them together with the music that I’d finished.
I recently collaborated with the wonderful Cécile B. Evans and Paul Purgas on some music for Cécile’s latest visual media/performance installation project, premiering at the Pompidou. I’ve also really been enjoying writing for picture, so I’ve been doing some composition work for animation projects.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I could do 30 years? I have a retirement plan! Haha!In the future, I would love to retire in this lovely tropical island called Okinawa in the South of Japan. I recently did an ancestry test and I found out that my ancestors largely came from Okinawa, which is really interesting as when I last visited I felt a really strong tie to the place. It has a very slow pace of life - everyone is really happy and peaceful - and they have beautiful traditional music and amazing food. I think I’d love to have a little studio in the mountains, and just continue making music.