Special Interview: redjuice & kz (livetune) on First Collaboration in Five Years - The Future of Science & Creativity [1/2]

On the right is redjuice and on the left is kz (livetune).

The BEATLESS project has unfurled through various media, including figures, novels and manga. The novel, written by sci-fi author Satoshi Hase, has been selected as a finalist in the 2014 Nihon SF Taishō Award.

Capturing all of the appeal of the project, “BEATLESS: Tool for the Outsourcers,” a limited edition set including an artbook and CD, has been released, and to commemorate that, we conducted an interview. Joining were BEATLESS illustrator redjuice and kz (livetune), who produced the limited edition compilation CD BEATLESS - Give Me the Beat.

Having worked together previously when redjuice did the cover art for livetune’s Re:Package and Re:MIKUS, the two close allies redjuice and kz have collaborated again five years later, and they spoke about their past, present and future as top creators blazing a trail through BEATLESS and beyond.

^*^ All BEATLESS images: © Satoshi Hase / monochrom

The first redjuice and livetune collaboration in five years! livetune’s first joint production with NIRGILIS

A remix album by livetune called Re:MIKUS for which redjuice illustrated.

──It’s been five years since the two of you collaborated on a project, right?

kz: Re:MIKUS was in April 2009, so it’s been exactly five years.

redjuice: It’s been since you had me draw the cover art for Re:MIKUS, hasn’t it? Then with the release of this BEATLESS limited edition set, it was decided that kz would produce the image album, and so we got to collaborate for the first time in awhile.

kz: Because of that I tried my hardest and brought together the most talented artists I could think of!

redjuice: It was really awesome. It’s different from a soundtrack. It has a level of music that makes the CD stand on its own. How did you have the songs made?

kz: I was somehow able to visualize what various roles everyone would be able to fill for me. It’s basically always like this, but if I tell someone, “Make a song like this,” I think it defeats the purpose of calling on other people, so I asked them to make something on their own with a BEATLESS sci-fi theme, but without specifying any special scene, and I left it to them more than telling them to do this or that. In the end, there were both mellow songs and danceable songs, and I think it struck a good balance.

redjuice: The names of the songs are all proper names from BEATLESS, aren’t they?

kz: They are. Everyone came in contact with BEATLESS in some way and wanted to find a way to show it in their music, and that’s how they came up with their sound.

──This was also your first time collaborating with NIRGILIS, kz. How did that go about?

kz: I once did a remix of NIRGILIS’ “Shiny Shiny” and my image of that time was quite strong, so I didn’t want to ruin that.

From the beginning, NIRGILIS was involved in the series Eureka Seven and there was a sci-fi element to that, as well as Acchu [Iwata]’s lyrics, so they were perfect for BEATLESS.

With the song “Dreaming Shout” on this album, I first created a simple instrumental of piano, bass and drums, and then asked them to build on that. We both worked on the melody and then I brought it all together at the end. We met pretty closely seven or eight times just for the melody alone. We were able to get it done because we both get along well, but it did take some time. [laughs]

redjuice: I always say this it seems, but I listen to a lot of livetune’s music, and there were definitely parts where I thought the chord progression was different than usual.

kz: I kept NIRGILIS’ sound in mind, and even the phrases had some that were mine and some that were Acchu’s, so there are parts that sound different than usual. I think that made it more interesting.

BEATLESS depicts a future that could exist.

Rough sketch of Lacia in 2009.

──*BEATLESS* extends through various media, with figures, novels, manga and now music, but in the beginning, it started with character designs, correct?

redjuice: Yes. At the very beginning with the original version of BEATLESS, in around 2009, the project also involved Masamune Shirow. The character designs themselves have been around since then.

After that, it was resumed as BEATLESS in 2011, starting with a female hIE (humanoid robots/interfaces that appear in the series) Lacia figure released by Good Smile Company. Then Hase joined and made the overall plot, as well as the specific personalities and backgrounds of the main characters, and then the visuals were completed.

I worked in close communication with Hase regarding the novel and it kept moving along from there. There are currently three spin-off comic versions, but I haven’t touched them, and I have an image of them each as being compilations.

A Lacia figure that was released as part of a special BEATLESS guidebook set in 2011.

──You said you worked in close communication with Hase. Do you remember your impressions of when you read the first completed story?

redjuice: There are various kinds of sci-fi, but there is a particular kind of sci-fi feel that I like, and I felt that BEATLESS was filled with that. For example, there are sci-fi works where the technical background of an idea isn’t explained or determined, but I like sci-fi where there’s a pre-existing theory and the technical elements build on that.

──You mean that you like sci-fi that has the so-called “sci-fi authenticity” then?

redjuice: Right. BEATLESS builds on contemporary science and technology and even cuts into the problems that come with those.

──Even with the hIE, this world where humanoid clones are the norm is depicted in a logical way. In the shadow of people appreciating the hIE, the story also includes people crying and people who are irate.

redjuice: What we imagined back when we were kids was a very futuristic picture of the 21st century, with strange clothes and buildings and cars traveling through tubes in the sky, but now everyone’s sense of sci-fi has shifted, I think. Or rather, that dream was destroyed. Since that dream of ours didn’t become a reality.

kz: It’s the 21st century, but we don’t have any flying cars or anything, so of course, everyone feels some sense of defeat with that. But, though it doesn’t look like the future people envisioned, our lives may be much more futuristic even than having flying cars would be. It doesn’t feel that way, but if you were to take something like an iPhone to the distant past, there would be a major panic. [laughs] In that sense, if that technology continues to progress, a future where interfaces are anthropomorphized may be possible.

An official illustration by redjuice.

redjuice: BEATLESS has a sci-fi universe that’s within reach with technology that seems possible in the near future──for example, things that will come about in the next fifty years, like augmented reality or cloud computing. It also has entertainment value and a light novel type of theme of boy meets girl. After all, BEATLESS is a “girl falls out of the sky” type of story. [laughs]

Will the “singularity” come?

The 5 hIE (human Interface Elements) from the series that are the key to the story.

──In the scientific world, the moment when computers surpass human intelligence is called the “singularity,” and there are arguments that we’re approaching that moment in the near future. How do the two of you see that kind of future?

kz: I vividly remember Doraemon: Nobita and the Tin Labyrinth, which I saw when I was a kid. The story of a planet where people’s lives had become too easy as a result of scientific advancement is imprinted in my mind.

In BEATLESS, the interfaces have even taken responsibility of service jobs, and I felt like that much I couldn’t quite agree with. For example, I think it’s a good idea to leave fields like medicine that require precise movements that a human hand can’t master to machines, but people are already out of work, so is it necessary to have them do things that people can do and reduce employment?

redjuice: But, it’s that you don’t have to work. [laughs] It’s about what things are left for people to do at that time. If you talk about whether the things people do will disappear as more and more things are mechanized, I think that they won’t. People are ultimately living beings who work, so work won’t go away. Or to put the opposite, if it did go away, human civilization would be over.

──In the story, there’s a line that goes something like, “Soon there will be nothing left to do but to mess around with the opposite sex.”

kz: If that kind of future comes to be, I’ll be horrified. That would almost be the same as being controlled by a computer, wouldn’t it?

──Except in BEATLESS, even the humanoid hIE robots don’t have autonomous artificial intelligence, but are just interfaces connected to an outside cloud network. They’re consistently depicted as serving the role of automating human will and desire, and are not defined as being an external force.

kz: But, I think there is some cynicism to only seeing even the desires you’re not aware of being automated as ultimately being controlled.

redjuice: BEATLESS depicts the relationship between human and objects, but it hasn’t given an answer to it. While people continue to debate about it endlessly, I have a feeling the answer won’t be revealed until that time comes.

But, something sci-fi author Taiyo Fujii said was that Google Chrome’s source code employs a so-called “optimum genetic algorithm,” and people apparently already can’t decipher it. It automatically evolves by repeating a process where it runs countless simulations and sifts through the results. The idea that the singularity has already actually come to the world of programming struck me.

Continued in Part 2.

Related Sites
“BEATLESS: Tools for the Outsourcers” Special Site
BEATLESS Official Site

Source: KAI-YOU
Source article written by Nao Niimi

BEATLESS - Give Me the Beat Produced by kz (livetune)
*BEATLESS - Give Me the Beat* Produced by kz (livetune)
On the right is redjuice and on the left is kz (livetune).
On the right is redjuice and on the left is kz (livetune).
Rough sketch of Lacia
Rough sketch of Lacia
Lacia figure
Lacia figure
BEATLESS artwork by redjuice
*BEATLESS* artwork by redjuice

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