Photo by Brian Vu
The internet is where we share and listen to all music now, but some music could only have come from minds fed by a diet of uniquely 'Net culture. Such is the case with LA-based producer and artist May Yim, who runs the netlabel Zoom Lens and creates solo electronic music as Meishi Smile. Yim's work as Meishi combines elements of 90s trance, dance-pop, and J-pop and filters it through noise of varying harshness. Their new video for "Belong", taken from their excellent album of the same name, is a nightmarish vision of warped anime characters, fetal pigs, blood, and static, which is probably the only logical visual accompaniment to the song's shrieking drum 'n' bass maelstrom. Watch the "Belong" video below and read on for our Q&A with Yim.
Noisey: How does this video relate to Music Anime Dougas (MADs) and what can you tell me about those?
Meishi Smile: To preface, a MAD is a popular form of fan made media on Japan’s Nico Nico Douga video site. Think the Japanese equivalent to YouTube. The “Belong” video is metaphysically MAD. The role of Yuka Maeda, the video's director, was assumed as a creator and deconstructionist. The visuals used are referential and dictate the duality of the Meishi Smile project. The use of animated characters throughout the creative process is an “idealized expression,” as asserted once by Hideaki Anno. This symbology is otherwise made unrealistic when expressed by a human who is acting.
To summarize, “fuck real life, anime is real life."
A lot of people would probably refer to this as another weird anime video. Do you feel anime being regarded as "weird" by Western audiences is due to the sometimes out-there content or a deeper other-ing that's taking place?
The word “weird” has much connotation. “Weird” is often fear. “Fear" often leads the way to ignorance. “Ignorance” often manifests as hatred. Western audiences are generally conditioned to have a close-minded view of anything beyond their comfort. This extends far beyond popular media, and we find cultural mannerisms and traditions mocked, belittled and stereotyped quite frequently. The word “weird” unsettles me.
Why do you think people react so viscerally to cartoons being distorted or messed with in some way like they are in this video?
If you look into a mirror without shutting your eyes for five minutes you will find your face morphing into a demon. I think we don’t like being reminded of that.
What role does distortion play in your music?
The distortion is for who and who isn’t allowed. I put noise into my music to tell them to fuck off.
What's the influence of nu-metal on Meishi Smile?
We need to treat anger as an emotion that can be expressed in a healthy manner, or justified in the myst of political fervor. Too often do we suppress those thoughts or trivialize certain actions. Nu-metal taught me to be comfortable and normalized those emotions.
Phil Witmer is a Noisey Canada staff writer and nu-metal apologist. Follow him on Twitter.