Interview with Hisokana Pianisuto – The Secret Pianist Behind Amazing Piano Covers

We’ve recently seen a number of fantastic piano covers of songs from Mike Patton projects. We’ve interviewed Hisokana Pianisuto about these covers.

Hisokana Pianisuto is a pseudonym for a talented pianist who only recently started publishing his songs on YouTube.  We’ve covered all of the Mike Patton related covers here on Patton Fanatic, so we reached out to Hisokana to understand why and how he does what he does.

Interview with Hisokana Pianisuto

The online avatar used by Hisokana Pianisuto

Hisokana Pianisuto

To get us started, we’re obviously huge Patton Fanatics, how would you rate your fanaticism on a scale of 1 – 818?

I’ve been an avid follower of Patton’s work since the mid-90’s after coming across Mr Bungle’s debut album (due to my interest in the work and associated projects of John Zorn), and I’ve probably heard everything that Mike, Trey and Trevor have been involved with since!

So, I guess I’m up there in the higher echelons of fanaticism! Let’s say, a healthy, not-quite-obsessive 733 🙂

Can you let us in on your name, Hisokana Pianisuto?  Does it have any special significance?

Its roughly Japanese for ‘Secret Pianist’ – I originally only intended to make some clandestine videos on YouTube for my partner (who lives in Portland, Oregon), but things seem to have unexpectedly bloomed from there 🙂 My real name is John-Paul Gandy.

How far away are you from Portland?

I’m in London, United Kingdom, but I will be moving to Portland around the end of Summer in 2017!

How long have you been playing piano for?

I had some rudimentary lessons just before my 7th birthday, but I didn’t really start practicing until I was 9. All up, that’s 35 years now.

What was the inspiration for creating your videos of piano covers?

My partner is a huge Radiohead/Thom Yorke fan, so I originally just made them for her, not really caring how many other people might find them.

Well, we can say that we’re very thankful that you have created and then published them. Can you describe the process that you go through to prepare for a recording?

The first part is the most laborious part – I make my own arrangements, so I have to painstakingly transcribe the tracks first since even if there is any official sheet music available, it’s always a very simplified transcript and very often littered with errors. Transcribing a track can take the best part of a day.

Then I’ll sit down and start working out how to play as much detail as I can with just two hands, and start making it more pianistic – sometimes adding subtle elements & harmonies not in the original too if I feel it lacks something. I intend for the songs to be unique and far more creative and detailed than any ‘usual’ YouTube rendition, if such a rendition exists at all! It seems that I’m steadily going off piste into realms that no other pianist on YouTube has really attempted up until now!

This actually doesn’t usually take me too long.

So what happens next?

I then throw myself straight away into making a video performance of the arrangement since I like setting myself the extra challenge of transcribing, arranging and recording each track in a single day without taking extra time to have to practice them.

Some of the simpler songs, like Radiohead’s “Like Spinning Plates”, were completed in just a few takes.

The more complex and technically demanding tracks, such as Dillinger Escape Plan’s “43% Burnt”, can take more like 10 attempts before I’m satisfied with them.

Do you have any interesting mistakes in your videos?

There are numerous mistakes in pretty much all the videos I’ve posted thus far. I’ve notated down so much detail that quite honestly, without actually spending time to properly learn them, I’m bound to miss intended stuff as I furiously grab at what is in front of me! But on the whole, I’d rather go for the energy of grappling with this stuff in-the-moment rather than spending the time needed to actually get it all perfectly under my fingers. I’m lazy 🙂

How do you choose the songs that you’ll play?

I started working on tracks that my partner likes (the Yann Tierson, Muse, Enya and Radiohead covers), but since some interest was shown by other YouTube users I’ve started making arrangements of stuff that I really enjoy too – and the more experimental it is, the better, I say!

What’s your favorite Mr. Bungle or Mike Patton song?

My absolute favorite Mr. Bungle tracks are on Disco Volante – I absolutely love most of that album, and I intend to make piano solo versions of at least Chemical Marriage, Sleep (Part II & III), Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz & Platypus at some point in the future.

As for other Patton-related favorites, I’d say most of the Fantômas stuff (although I’m not sure a lot of it would be possible in piano renditions…. we’ll see!), Tomahawk’s ‘Point and Click’, and plenty of other stuff on California.

There’s a lot of Radiohead songs already, are there any other musicians that you’re interested in recording?

Absolutely! I’d actually like to cover the bulk of Radiohead’s discography over time, but I also intend to make arrangements of many of my favorite artists such as Captain Beefheart, 5uu’s, Rustic Hinge, Deerhoof, Kayo Dot, Secret Chiefs 3, Frank Zappa, Koenjihyakkei, Ahleuchatistas, Haisuinonasa, Altered States, Time of Orchids, Arto Lindsay, Coil, Elysian Fields, eX-Girl, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Ještě Jsme Se Nedohodli, Sajjanu, Sonic Youth, Tera Melos, and This Heat (and that’s just for starters!)

Will we have anymore Mr. Bungle or Mike Patton related songs in the future?

Oh yes! I intend to cover loads more Mr. Bungle in the future, as well as other tracks by Tomahawk and hopefully whatever Fantômas I deem to be possible…. I’m sure I’ll probably do some Faith No More at some juncture too….

I guess any track is a possibility as long as I think it’ll work on piano alone, and if I feel I can bear transcribing the damn thing in the first place!

Thanks to John-Paul and his partner across the Atlantic in Portland, Oregon for making these songs and videos possible.

You can subscribe to all of John-Paul’s videos (present and future) on YouTube here.

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