AJ UNITY’S MULTI-CULTURAL
STYLE DRIVEN BY THE SEDUCTIVE SCENT
OF ‘SWEET ROSES’
JAPANESE VOCALIST NAOMI SUZUKI AND
AUSTRIAN-BORN PRODUCER PHILIPP MOLL
JOIN FORCES IN LONDON TO CREATE THEIR
HYPNOTIC TRANCE-POP-ELECTRONICA DEBUT
The Multi-Talented Duo’s Debut U.S. Single “Jupiter,” Based
on a Classical Piece by British Composer Gustav Holst, is
Rising Towards the Top 20 on the FMQB AC Chart
Many artists and bands tout the idea that their music is multi-cultural and promotes the spirit of global cooperation, but Naomi Suzuki and Philipp Moll—the multi-talented duo collectively known as AJ Unity (www.ajunity.com) take that concept to joyful extremes with their pop, trance, alternative and electronica driven full-length debut album Sweet Roses.
Suzuki, a model, actress, singer, presenter, producer and songwriter who recently reached #12 on the UK Club charts with a solo recording, is from Japan. While music fans know her voice from her dance music or the theme songs she sings for Japanese anime shows, film buffs may recognize her from her for her memorable nude scene as Hugh Grant’s girlfriend in 2001’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary!”
Moll, a renowned bassist and producer who has toured worldwide and supported artists like Jamie Cullum, Simply Red and k.d. lang, is originally from Austria and studied music in Munich and at Paul McCartney’s Institute for Performing Arts in Liverpool. He currently lives in Bern, Switzerland.
Suzuki and Moll discovered an immediate creative chemistry based on honesty, trust and shared musical vision when they met at an industry event in London in 2007. They were quickly commissioned to write a piece to accompany a photo and fashion exhibit based on the life of Princess Diana in Japan. Upon the overwhelmingly positive reception given to “Rose,” their wistful and ambient first composition, the Japanese production company that hired them to compose for the exhibition sponsored the immediate recording of a full album.
Dubbing themselves AJ Unity (A for Austria, J for Japan), the duo created the multi-faceted Sweet Roses in only six weeks using Moll’s home studio setup in London. A true 21st century production involving numerous intercontinental file transfers, the nine tracks were co-produced by renowned Norwegian producer Rune Langhelle from his studio in Bergen, Norway. Adding to the cool international flair is the elegant, soaring “Jupiter,” which offers a variation to the classical tune “Thaxted,” a hymn by early 20th Century British composer Gustav Holst. The piano part of the song was played by famous pianist Jun Fukamachi in Japan; he coincidentally passed away the day “Jupiter” was released as AJ Unity’s international debut single.
“Jupiter” is currently being spun on numerous U.S. radio stations and is at #29 on the FMQB AC Chart. The track also spent numerous weeks at #1 on the Top 20 chart of Kings of Spins (www.kingsofspins.com), a popular tastemaker website that tracks and markets dance, urban, rock, acid jazz and other related genres. Kings of Spins markets its artists to more than 1600 radio DJs and 1,400 stations worldwide.
Howard Rosen of Howard Rosen Promotion Inc. (www.howiewood.com) is very proud to be working with Naomi Suzuki and Philipp Moll of AJ Unity. Rosen says, “Naomi and Philipp are using their artistic abilities to send a message to the world that the survivors of the tsunami in Japan are still in need of help.”
While AJ Unity has various material and career goals that may soon include more recording and creating a music video, there is also a powerful spiritual component to their music and a desire to help and inspire people in need. Chief among their current goals is to use their music to help spread the word about the needs and struggles of the survivors of the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami—and to encourage people to continue to donate to the aid funds.
“For me, it’s a small way to support my people,” says Suzuki, who grew up in Fukuoka, currently the seventh largest city in Japan. “There is a power in music, and all I can do is sing to help cheer them up and assure them that somehow, everything will be okay. I want to use songs to make people happy.”
Offering a glimpse into AJ Unity’s process in the studio, Moll says, “Fukamachi did wonderful piano parts that really captured the drama of ‘Jupiter’. He recorded his piano part once and I wondered if one take would be enough. We convinced him to do it again and we compromised, using one part of the first take and one part of the next. Naomi and I both brought a lot to the table. She had some wonderful melodies and I made suggestions about the kinds of grooves we would venture into. Before we put anything down we thought about the music we both liked and how we would create a sound and build it. Tempo was a key element. I think what we have ultimately made with Sweet Roses is an album that’s peaceful, more ambient than edgy, a combination of the styles we both love. It evolved into a merger between electronic and acoustic instruments.
“Often, Naomi brought in a melody from a piece she had written previously, and I would arrange certain instruments around it like the harp or guitar, to complement that,” he adds. “We toyed around with harmonies and progressions and grooves from there, but the core of everything and the starting point for each track was the melody. I also wanted to make use of orchestral sounds and instruments to help express things in a grand way, such as on ‘Jupiter,’ which has its original classical source mirrored in a stretched out pop song. We rearranged the Gustav Holt piece and put in different time signatures. I experimented with 3/4 and 5/8 before settling on 4/4.”
Suzuki, who has worked over the years with producers Brian Rollins (Kylie Minogue, Tina Turner, Cher) and Gota Yashiki (Simply Red) and many music personalities including James Taylor (JTQ), adjusted her typical vocal style to fit the unique hybrid vibe of AJ Unity: “In my other music, I have a Mariah Carey style of singing, but Philipp and I agreed that it wasn’t appropriate for the style that we were going for. So he worked with me to find out what the best range was for my voice.”
Suzuki began her career as a vocalist in Japan more than ten years ago and moved to the UK when a producer invited her to London to continue recording and performing there. A documentary film about her life and multiple artistic pursuits was broadcast on BBC-TV. She is also a well known presenter in Europe, which includes a role as emcee of the “Japan Festival in the UK,” which had 35,000 visitors; Suzuki also works for a Japanese FM radio station as a presenter.
One of the UK’s top up and coming young music entrepreneurs, Moll has worked as a producer for various artists and companies, including Astronaut Films, Ministry of Sound, Swarovski, Modem Media, Bottlefed Physical Theatre and the band Killerfernandez. Killerfernandez’s debut Feitaboogie enjoyed significant airplay, rave reviews and interviews on BBC3 (“Live in the Pool” with Dave Monks), BBC6 (“Fresh on the Net” with Tom Robinson) as well as on Austrian National Radio (OE1, “Spielraeume”) and in the U.S. (“The Upper Room” with Joe Kelly). In addition to touring as bassist throughout the U.S. and Europe, Iceland and Venezuela, Moll’s session career has included work with Manu Delago, John Gibbons, Morcheeba, Paddy Miner, John Butler, Adam Holzman and many others. Studio credits include Sir George Martin Studio Liverpool, Parr Street Liverpool, The Chapel Lincolnshire and Propagation House Studios, with producers Steven Harris (Kaiser Chiefs, Dave Matthews Band) and Ian Grimble (Travis, Morcheeba, Beth Orton).
“Despite our very different backgrounds, we have so much fun working together and creating a whole new sound with AJ Unity,” says Suzuki. “You meet so many people in this business that talk a lot but don’t mean what they say, and it’s very rare to meet someone you can trust and with whom you can share a similar vision.” Moll adds, “With Naomi, I felt straightaway that I had an artistic connection. We are always open to the other’s suggestions, whether I’m thinking she should take a different vocal approach or she has a great idea for a different arrangement. Because we had so little time to write and record Sweet Roses, it was a great first test of what we believed we had together. It’s exciting to think about the ways our very special partnership may evolve in the future.”