Better after all these years

Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino on making music and what it’s like hearing it on TV and in the movies

Fuenfzehn Luftballons: The members of Blonde Redhead are ready to party. Jazz Winnipeg

After eight albums and performing together for over 18 years, Blonde Redhead’s lead vocalist Kazu Makino describes the progression to what the band is now in one word:


The Japanese songstress first met Italian-born twins Amedeo and Simone Pace in New York in 1993 and after losing, regaining and losing a fourth band member, the three have remained together for almost two decades.

The trio are currently on a break from their world tour promoting their latest album, last year’s Penny Sparkle. They perform Monday, June 20 at the Pyramid Cabaret as part of the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

The music produced by the band is often described as innovative with every album, bringing together uncommon instruments with alternate tunings and soft lyrics.

During a recent email interview, Makino said that she is not the right person to describe Blonde Redhead’s music.

I always hope the audience to be open minded. Playing the new songs live is a good way to test the songs – [to] find out what they are made of.

Kazu Makino, Blonde Redhead

“I always hope the audience to be open minded,” she says. “Playing the new songs live is a good way to test the songs – [to] find out what they are made of. I’m enjoying playing the songs from Penny Sparkle.”

Since signing with independent British record label 4AD in 2004, the band has seen more success.

“You know when it is time to change,” Makino says about making the switch from Touch and Go to 4AD.

All three albums released on 4AD have placed on the US Billboard 200 charts, with 2007’s 23 and Penny Sparkle ranking in the top 100.

Music from the last three albums has gained attention from the audiences of television, film and commercials after being used in network television shows Numb3rs and Grey’s Anatomy, the David Slade film Hard Candy, and a commercial for Pontiac.

“I like the concept very much,” Makino says about Blonde Redhead’s music being used, “but in fact, I have never actually seen any of these shows or films. I have been wanting to see Hard Candy. I think I will be very excited if our music gets used in something I watch or like.”

The world tour for Penny Sparkle was Blonde Redhead’s first time performing through Asia. Makino says the experience was exciting.

“Traveling comes with our territory. No matter where we go, we look for power and we play our music. It is not exactly like we go sightseeing, but it can be quite memorable when you go to places that are hard to get to.”

The North American portion of the tour concludes in Chicago, Illinois on July 19. Afterwards, the only immediate plan in the band’s future is to go to Europe.

Published in Volume 65, Number 26 of The Uniter (June 2, 2011)

Related Reads