My Hero: Mac DeMarco on Ryuichi Sakamoto

British Columbia’s resident slacker waxes lyrical about his obsession with the Japanese composer.
By Phil HarrisonPublished on
Mac Demarco at Red Bull Sound Select
Mac Demarco at Red Bull Sound Select
For the latest instalment in this series on our heroes’ heroes, lo-fi singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco tells us about his infatuation with Japanese musical legend Ryuichi Sakamoto. As a composer, pianist, singer and synth-pop pioneer (and that’s just the start), Sakamoto’s gargantuan discography makes it unlikely that Mac will ever run out of ludicrously rare and expensive albums to search for.
“I’ve been really into Ryuichi Sakamoto for a while. He played in a band called Yellow Magic Orchestra – Ryuichi was kind of like the frontman, I guess. It took me a little while to get into them but now I’m completely obsessed and buying all of these ridiculously expensive records. There’s something about it that I just can’t get enough of.”
“Their catalogue of music is so extensive and some of it’s so strange. And he’s still touring and playing even though he’s won Oscars. If you got into him now you’d just think he was some Japanese composer of film scores. But if you go back 25 years, he was wearing all this f*cked up make-up and was like some crazy pop star.
“YMO were like The Beatles in Japan – they were the biggest band there for a long time. Their stuff starts off as very, very weird synth-pop. And that was the most popular thing in the whole country. I feel like it probably wouldn’t have happened anywhere else but it kind of makes sense.
“To start with, I’d probably recommend the self-titled YMO album from 1978. Also BGM is very cool. Also Ryuichi’s first solo album Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto. Although the thing that first really got me into him was the Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence soundtrack with David Bowie.”
Mac Demarco rips it up for Red Bull Sound Select
Mac Demarco rips it up for Red Bull Sound Select
“It’s funny for me because I’m used to listening to pop music and The Beatles and so forth but now I’m obsessed with tracking down all of Ryuichi's music because, you know, one of them might have a really f*cked-up bell sound or something.
“There’s tons of weird stuff on YouTube if anyone’s curious. Because he was so, so famous over there, there’s a bunch of his live performances, but nothing’s translated into English. I have no clue what any of it’s actually about, which is weird having got so involved with it. He lives half in Japan and half in New York I think. I was thinking of hitting him up and asking him for piano lessons, but I’m sure he’d be too busy.”