Julia: You are musician, a visual artist, a musician, sometimes a fashion designer. Is there a hierarchy for all these aspects of your practice, or do you try not to distinguish between them?
Hisham: I grew up experimenting with all of these media, so that’s how I ended up becoming a professional musician, artist and designer. I’ve tried to get edit down these pursuits in the past, but I end up coming back to them all.
Playing music comes most easily to me, but making a living from music is difficult (considering the kind of music I make). But it’s important for me to keep doing it. In terms of things that come naturally to me, visual art comes next, and this is how I make most of my income. I am genuinely interested in design, but mostly, I do it because it is how I pay the bills. Creative production is not a luxury for me, but necessary for my mental sanity, as well as my financial survival. That’s just my reality.
Julia: You brought a pretty wild pair of Puma sneakers to the rooftop with you, a collaboration you did with Solange Knowles? Tell me about those.
Hisham: Solange is a cultural ambassador for Puma and she is art directing a collection for them. She asked me to design a shoe alongside designers William Okpo and Gerlan Jeans. I love these two designers, they are so special. Solange has amazing taste and she keeps it a family affair; I love that approach to her work. We each designed our own shoes for a collection called “Girls of Blaze”. We have a new collection coming out this fall which should be rad.
Julia: You are a member of the legendary Japanese band, Boredoms. I saw the 88 Boadrum concert at the La Brea Tar Pits, and it was one of the best shows I have ever seen. It was an experience more than a show, in my mind. Tell me about how this project came about?
Hisham: Before I joined Boredoms as a touring band, I helped them to organize organize a large scale drum performance called 77 Boadrum. This performance occurred in Dumbo, Brooklyn on July 7th, 2007, and began at 7pm. This was the most special performance I have organized and played in my entire life. Boredoms had the concept to have the band perform with 77 drummers on trap kits, on a day that all the number would align (07/07/07). The number 7 comes up a lot in Japanese history so this was an important number for them as a band based in Japan.
That lead us to organize 88 Boadrum the next year, which took place simultaneously in L.A. and NYC (88 kit drummers playing on 08/08/08 at 8pm). Boredoms and I led the performance in L.A., and we asked our friends Gang Gang Dance to lead the performance in NYC. I wish I could have been at both performances at once.
Julia: You taught me a few things about Japanese food culture as we ate salad. What is the phrase that you say before you eat?
Hisham: When you begin a meal in Japan the person receiving the food says, “Itadakimasu,” which is both, “Bon appetit!” and “thank you, I am now receiving this food.” This is a secular blessing of sorts, and it is said by everyone. When I am in America, I say, “Itadakimasu” under my breath; it feels wrong not to say it, as it’s our way of saying, “thank you for creating this meal for me.” At the end of your meal you say “Gochisousamadeshita.” Gotchso means feast of delicious meal, so when you combine it with samadeshita it means, “I enjoyed the delicious meal you presented us with.”
Julia: What is the etymology of the word “shishito?”
Hisham: Shishi means Lion and to is a foreshortened way to say Togarashi, which means hot pepper. The pepper is named as such because it resembles a lion’s head? To me, the pepper looks more like a lions tail than head, but go figure…Lions are not native to Japan.
Julia: Where do you go in NYC to buy japanese groceries? everyone always says Sunrise Mart, but I just can’t believe that SoHo is really the best destination for this…
Hisham: Sunrise Mart is actually really good for this stuff. In Williamsburg you can go to Midoriya. You can find everything you need to make Japanese food at these little markets.
Julia: What is the best/most memorable salad you have had while traveling? I know this is tough, you have been practically everywhere in the world, so just pick one that stands out.
Hisham: Easy! There is an amazing Japanese coleslaw at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Tokyo called Teppen in the Nakameguro neighborhood. I also love Japanese potato salad which, when made right, has all the best textures. If you go to a really fresh Izakaya in Japan you’ll often find a Mizuna salad and I love it when they put fresh tofu on top, with all the toppings I used on my udon salad. Home cooking style in Japan is the best.