You may know Matt Bennett as Robbie from “Victorious,” a Nickelodeon show he starred in that aired from 2010-2013. What you may not know is that Matt Bennett is a huge fan of Japan and is in possession of an encyclopaedic knowledge on Japanese music that would easily surpass one of a J-music aficionado brought up in Japan. I meet him for the first time at our office, where he quickly stands up and bows at us, introducing himself in Japanese. While this may be familiar in Japan, you don’t quite expect it from a foreigner, which leaves you at awe of how much he’s absorbed the culture (as well as how eager he is to take up on it) despite the short period he has stayed here for.
Right off the bat, you can tell he’s sweet and friendly with his welcoming smile, and his eyes gleam with curiosity as we walk into the building next door where we’re about to hold the interview, where he excitedly examines the posters and the interior. With his first album “Terminal Cases” coming out on June 10th (purchase here!) (he’s also got a track where he sings just in Japanese, read on to learn more), he’s come to speak with us on his musical influences, how Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s “PONPONPON” opened doors for him to a whole new world of Japanese artists, and his uncontainable love and hopes for living in Japan!
Getting to know Matt Bennett…
Tell us a little bit about yourself to people who are new to you on MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON!
Hi MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON, this is Matt Bennett. I’m an actor based off of Los Angeles California, and I also play music. One of the things I’m here in Japan to do right now is promote this album that I’ve recorded called “Terminal Cases.” It’s a new album that’s coming out, and on one track I sing all in Japanese and I’m very excited to have people in Japan hear it. In my spare time, I play guitar and I study Japanese, those are the two things I’m really passionate about.
If you were to describe yourself in three adjectives what would it be?
If I had to come up with three adjectives to describe myself, I’m pretty adventurous, I’m funny for the most part, some people find me funny, and uh, I like to explore. I’m an explorer.
You’re a huge fan of Japan. How many times have you been in Japan?
This is my third time in Japan. I’ve been here twice before. First time I was here for a week and a half, second time for three weeks. I wanted to stay for three months, but I had to go back because I was working on a movie back in America. So I’m making up for loss time! (laughs) I’m back and having a great time.
When was the first time you came here?
I came here in February of 2012 so it was freezing cold. I stayed in Roppongi which was frightening. Slightly frightening. Everywhere else in Japan is wonderful, but Roppongi is a little bit dangerous.
It is a bit dodgy.
It is! But in Los Angeles, every street’s kind of dodgy, so I felt right at home. (laughs)
Were you mainly in Tokyo for all three times?
For the most part. I spent time briefly in Osaka, Kyoto, I went there for a little bit, but there’s something about Tokyo that just appeals to me. The action’s here. Everybody’s here. It’s wonderful. Every little city or suburbs is just so different, so you can get lost in Harajuku for a day, you can get lost in Ginza for a day. I find that my trip ends quickly every single time! Although I’ve been everywhere, I’m always left with a feeling that I definitely haven’t seen everything in Shimokitazawa, or I haven’t had time to see a specific place yet.
Rewinding back — what got you into Japan?
I always loved Japanese culture, ever since I was a kid. I guess it started with Pokemon. I’m not a huge anime fan, but I started reading books by Japanese authors, like Haruki Murakami, Kobo Abe and Shusaku Endo, and I really started getting into the culture of it. And then I got into the music. The music just blew my mind. Older bands like RC SUCCESSION or BLUE HEARTS or Sadistic Mika Band…
I’m a historian at heart. I’m conscious of what’s going on right now and the times but I like to dig back and find old stuff. Some of the stuff that happened in Japan are more relevant now than when it happened. Some of the noise acts like MERZBOW and Boris, they’re so much more important than anything else going on in the world. I think the music scene here in Japan is vital. And then there’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Yasutaka Nakata — whatever he touches, I just think that guy is a genius. So every time I find a new song that’s Japanese, I have to dig in more. I have to find out more about it.
The Kiyoshiro Imawano-fronted RC SUCCESSION
Sadistic Mika Band, that came out in the 70s was the first band that Yukihiro Takahashi, widely known as the drummer for techno-pop-trio YMO, played drums for.
Collaboration of two definitive J-noise acts, “Huge” by Boris x Merzbow
You obviously listen to a variety of different music. How did you feel when you first heard Kyary Pamyu Pamyu?
Finding out about Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was eye-opening. My friend sent me a link to a video. He said “I’m going to this concert tonight” and it was a video to “PONPONPON.”
She was doing a show in a tiny back room, in a maid cafe in Culver City which is far away from anywhere in Los Angeles, and I watched it and I realized that there were things going on outside of America that were interesting and important. And I thought it was the most now thing I had ever seen. It could only exist in 2011. With the internet and everything. It wasn’t necessarily a video that would get played on TV because it’s so out there and so confusing. We don’t have an MTV anymore. So seeing “PONPONPON” and “Tsukema Tsukeru” it made me realize that the world had turned, things were different. In America, we get stuck in the same ideas. We’re recycling the 80s in America. It’s very boring. Or rap songs, they all sound the same. The idea that Yasutaka Nakata does Perfume, Capsule and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. You could always tell that it’s Yasutaka Nakata, but every act sounds so different. It’s fascinating because the more I listen to it, the more I understand this Japanese rhythm. And then I start researching the roots, like how he was influenced by this and that…it’s a whole world to unravel, it’s fascinating.