There's no doubt you've heard of Cyberpunk 2077, the game that sold approximately 8 million copies just during its pre-sale, but have you heard the addictive track “PONPON SHIT” gaining traction within the game?
The "PONPON SHIT" producer, along with 2 other tracks in the game, is legendary lyricist and producer as well as block.fm radio host Yuki Kawamura. The track is sung by idol group Namakopuri and can be heard in the game's Night City performed by in-game character and popular idol group US CRACKS.
Producer Yuki Kawamura shared with us what it was like contributing tracks to the worldwide hit game Cyberpunk 2077 and what went behind the production.
- Cyberpunk 2077’s production started in 2012, but when did you start producing this track?
Yuki Kawamura: Around 2 years ago.
- How did you and Namakopuri come to producing the track?
Yuki Kawamura: I got a message with an offer from CD PROJEKT RED. The production of this track overlapped the death of my father, so it’s a project I’ll never forget.
- All of the artists who contributed music on the game have their own characters within the game. Namakopuri appear as the unit US CRACKS. Was becoming a character in the game a part of the offer or was it something that came around after accepting it?
Yuki Kawamura: When we got an offer to make the track, we were told to make a track based off of the characters US CRACKS. We were asked to put in 3 different voices on the track, so we had artist Minami Taga join in on the chorus. I also joined in, making it the first time I ever sang a chorus (laughs).
- Being asked to produce a track based off of a character, what was something interesting about the offer and did you face any challenges with this?
Yuki Kawamura: There’s a famous Rockerboy singer and guitarist character in the game called Johnny Silverhand which happens to be played by Keanu Reeves! The two other songs I produced, "User Friendly" and "Off The Leash”, have a lot to do with Kelly, the guitarist of the band SAMURAI to which Johnny belongs to.
It’s an over the the top track that sounds like poorly made but really good metal and punk from New York. The sessions from these tracks where I spent chatting about Kim Gordon, John Zorn, Dinosaur Jr., Plastics, QUEENSRYCHE, Motley Crue, Metallica while drinking beer and hi-balls until 4am in Shimokitazawa with Kaito Sakuma, who helped co-write and played on the track, and the members of AMERICAN DREAM EXPRESS were really fun.
In the 90’s, I lived on techno and Shibuya-esque things, but I was also wearing the tiny X-girl t-shirts from the Sofia Coppola era and Hysteric Glamour denim and liked Kim Gordon’s Free Kitten and Manchester, so I was able to go back to my childhood and produce the track quite easily.
- What concept did you have in mind when producing “PONPON SHIT”?
Yuki Kawamura: Though it’s a popular track in Night City, it’s a track that makes a rock musician want to turn it off. For the lyrics, I borrowed the technique that Gainsbourg and France Gall used and tried to make it so that the lyrics had multiple meanings to it and used words that people who don’t understand Japanese well can understand too. I focused on making something complicated seem simple.
The sound at the beginning is a melody and tone similar to one that might be played at a soba restaurant in Narita Airport (laughs).
- In the BTS video for the music in Cyberpunk 2077, it was mentioned that almost 100% of the soundtrack is electronic music to fit the storyline, heavily using analog synths to give it a warm feel. Did CD PROJEKT RED give you any specific requests on what they wanted visualized in the track?
Yuki Kawamura: There was a request for US CRACKS to sound incoherent with a dangerously high pitch. I asked impossible favors to Ichi Takiguchi, who put the track together, to make it sound hollow while asking Hideo Kobayashi, who mixed the track, to arrange it beautifully yet as if it weren’t complete.
They also requested that the English was incoherent, but after sending in the first draft, they came back to me saying it was “too incoherent and to make it a bit better”. I couldn’t help but laugh at that.
- Most of the music from Cyberpunk 2077 has elements of music from the 90s in it, but what caught my eye was that a lot of people on the internet have reacted to “PONPON SHIT” as having a more 2010s flavor to it. With the themes “Cyberpunk” and “2077” in mind, what other elements did you put thought into?
Yuki Kawamura: I left the house I grew up in the 90s and spent the 2010s hanging out around Shibuya Oiran, so I thought I should just make something that showed those ideas.
The lyrics are inspired from the movie Tokyo Decadence and the track is some sort of Vaporwave, so I tried making the track while keeping those aspects and language structure. But I felt like I couldn't send it in as is, so I arranged it into something really easy to understand.
- The line “YES NO YES NO 枕 NO (YES NO YES NO PILLOW NO)” is also in the track “SUSHI PARTY feat. Masayoshi Iimori”. Why did you decide to include this in “PONPON SHIT”?
Yuki Kawamura: It’s also a line that’s in their debut track “ナマコプリのトラップ (Namakopuri’s Trap)”. At the time, we wanted those listening to Namakopuri to think “I’m back home” and the “枕がYESかNOか(PILLOW IS A YES OR NO)” line, for me, is a line that takes a lot to understand, and I thought, “Why not release it to the world as is?”
☆Taku Takahashi (m-flo) seemed to also be a fan of this line and I have this memory of him of having fun to it in a taxi ride, so I decided to use it again.
- What are the other 2 tracks “Off The Leash” and “User Friendly” like?
Yuki Kawamura: Honestly, the only games I’ve played are 忍者くん(Ninja-Kid) as a kid and Dance Dance Revolution when you could still dance to the track "ロンドンは夜8時(LON 8PM - TYO 4AM)". I’ve only played about an hour of Cyberpunk so I don’t know too much about it, but “User Friendly” is probably the popular track in the US CRACKS live scenes and “Off The Leash” is the duet track with Kerry Eurodyne.
The Japanese lines and mixing of “User Friendly” is fun and I sing it a lot too (laughs). The odd guitar solo in “Off The Leash” by AMERICAN DREAM EXPRESS’ Ichiwa is amazing and I hope others enjoy it too.
- What are your thoughts on participating in this project?
Yuki Kawamura: I met Namakopuri’s Namakolove and Mako Principal on June 9th, 2013 and never imagined making rock with them in 7 years. I think "PONPON SHIT" is a song that makes you feel light in a really heavy world, so please get high or chill out when listening to it.
- Lastly, what’s another track of Namakopuri’s that you’d recommend to people who loved "PONPON SHIT"?
Yuki Kawamura: For side A, I’d recommend "君とRAVE (Raving with you)" and for side B, "アートの神様（COLDFEET Remix）(Art God)".
“Cyberpunk 2077: Radio, Vol. 2 (Original Soundtrack)” including “PONPON SHIT” by Namakopuri / US CRACKS was released on December 18, 2020.
For those who have been enjoying “PONPON SHIT”, check out Yuki Kawamura’s weekly radio show “Shibuya OIRAN warm up Radio”!
Shibuya OIRAN warm up Radio
Every Friday from 8PM to 9PM JST
written by Moemi
translate by amy