The rendition arrives in celebration of Netflix’s live-adaptation of Cowboy Bebop, and is billed as a remix that “exemplifies that music is universal, timeless, and transcends across countries while paying homage to the Japanese roots of the series.” Speaking to HYPEBEAST, Aoki touched on the cultural impact of “Tank!,” Cowboy Bebop and Yoko Kanno, and what being a part of the anime’s history means to him as a Japanese-American.
What is it about “Tank!” that makes it such an iconic opening?
Steve Aoki: Tank has got to be one of the most unique musical openings of not just anime, but of all episodic television series and shows. Yoko Kanno is a genius. Period. Hands down. And what she’s done with jazz and with rock and with angst and with energy and with the feeling that she created with “Tank!” is art. It’s remarkable. It’s now one of the most iconic openings, period. I mean, every time I listen to it, I’m just blown away by the masterfulness of your Yoko Kanno, which is absolutely genius.
What was the inspiration behind the remix?
The inspiration behind the remix was to really make a record that I know would make people groove and dance. And you know, it’s difficult, to be honest with you, going from something so important and integral in anime culture, but I love that pressure. And I was taking certain elements from the record that are signature to Yoko Kanno, signature to “Tank!” But then of course, Aoki-fing it and turning it into something that I know on the drop, I’m going to get people moving, grooving, dancing and having a good time. And it’s all about that sample: let’s jam. You know, once you hear that, and I played that in the studio so many times to the point where I’m like, “Okay, I use that as an acapella as my inspiration to start into the actual melody of the drop.” And then when I got the melody down, I started working on the soundm and I just knew from there at that moment that the track was going to get done pretty quickly.
How do you find the balance between staying true to the original theme song and putting yourself in the music?
That balance is very careful, it’s a tightrope. And it’s really important to have distinguishable sounds of the original that people love, that people recognise, so that’s what I did. It’s like in many ways, the analogy is like taking apart an old car with new parts… Keeping the sanctity of some of the most important elements of that, so that people remember the classic-ness of it. But of course, you know, supercharging it for 2021, making it drive down a different lane, if you will. This is a different version, and it’s a version that’s meant to do something different than what the original does. It’s a different kind of purpose, and the purpose here is to make people dance.
What does Cowboy Bebop mean to you as a Japanese-American?
It’s a tremendous influence to culture, and I love the fact that it’s from Japan. In the end, as a Japanese-American, I’m always looking towards Japanese IPs and Japanese lightning rods that are bringing attention to our culture. I love seeing Japanese culture being heralded and being championed. anime in general is something that’s such a big part of culture and has been a disruptor in Netflix. It’s been a disruptor in streaming services and what people want to watch. I love that it originated and that the majority of it is coming from, or came from Japan. Cowboy Bebop is one of the most iconic anime IPs of all time. It’s so important and influential for Japanese and Japanese-Americans like myself.
This remix might be someone’s first introduction to “Tank” and Cowboy Bebop; how does that make you feel?
I didn’t really think of it like that but you’re right. Just watching this series may be the first way that the new generations digest or become a fan of the Cowboy Bebop franchise and the remix also follows that. I’m really excited to part of holding the torch and moving it forward in culture, and being part of a magnificent history of Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop will see John Cho as Spike Spiegel, Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black and Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine:
“COWBOY BEBOP is an action-packed space Western about three bounty hunters, aka “cowboys,” all trying to outrun the past. As different as they are deadly, Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) form a scrappy, snarky crew ready to hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals — for the right price. But they can only kick and quip their way out of so many scuffles before their pasts finally catch up with them.”
Listen to Steve Aoki’s remix of “Tank!” above. Cowboy Bebop premieres November 19 on Netflix.
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