In addition to organizing ATAK, his own record label, Keichiro Shibuya has found himself taking on a widening range of musical work. His activities include giving performances, creating musical installations, composing film soundtracks and even delving into production. Though he previously shared his home with his cat Shige, who will turn 21 this year, they are currently ‘living apart’ due to his extremely busy schedule. Shige is being looked after in Shibuya’s hometown by his mother. However, when his mother has to go away on a trip, Shige returns home. Acting much younger than he is, Shige bounds around the room and lets off some hearty ‘meows’.
A cat as a replacement for his father!?
– How did you first encounter Shige?
“Soon after I graduated from high school, my father passed away. To keep from getting lonely, we talked about getting a cat. My girlfriend at that time had an acquaintance whose family was looking to give away some kittens, so we went over and looked at them. Because my father had just died, we thought a lively cat would be good. Because of his strong body and hearty meow, we chose Shige. Though it didn’t matter to us whether we got a boy or a girl, I had heard that male cats live longer. That was our reasoning when we first took him in – and now he will turn 21 this year. As for his name, that comes from my father’s name – ‘Shigemitsu’. When he first start living with us, my mother would loudly call out his name when she was feeding him, “Shige!, Shige!”. It seems the people in our neighborhood thought, ‘Poor woman, she’s still calling out for her dead husband’. (laughs)”
– Have you always been together since?
“No. It’s been a while since Shige came over here. When I was married, the house was very lively. My wife, Maria, was also a cat lover. However, since she passed away, I have become bombarded with work. Because I can’t look after him well enough, Shige stays in my hometown with my mother. Because my mom is away on a trip, I’m taking care of Shige for the first time in a very long while. (laughs) Yet, when he came over yesterday, he pounced up to the front door without being led. So it sure seems that he remembers that this is his home.”
– Though 21 is a pretty old age for a cat, he seems so lively.
“When he was young, he weighed about 5 kilos, but now he is really getting old. He can’t see very well and he has to eat just a bite at a time because he doesn’t have teeth. After eating, he has to take thyroid medicine, nausea reducing medicine and stomach medicine. However, he truly was a lively cat when we first took him in. My impression isn’t mistaken. Even now, his bones are really strong. And even though his eyes are bad, Shige has great ears. That’s something he has in common with me. (laughs) Because I really do have bad vision. Even though he can’t eat much at one time, Shige will eat a number of times throughout the day. It sometimes seems that he is living just to eat. Cats are known for being instinctual animals, but Shige takes it to a new level… He really is rather decisive (laughs).”
Cats and Music
– When you are living together, what kind of cat owner are you?
“It can be said that rather than being a gentle doting cat owner, I definitely lean towards the strict side. Shige’s the type of cat who will come up to me and beg for attention. However, when I am composing music and he starts noisily meowing, I won’t hesitate to shove him away… I wouldn’t call it abuse, it’s a form of training! (laughs) Yet, when I’m having trouble coming up with a song, I will let him walk on top of the piano keys. Because the width of a cat’s steps are completely different from the width separating human fingers, I wonder if he might not make some interesting chords. Shige actually sounds pretty good. I have made a good number of songs while we have lived together. Because it seems that Shige basically likes the sound of the piano, he will sit and listen to it quietly. On the other hand, he absolutely hates the sound of sine waves. Shige will go up to the speakers and rather than meow, kind of howl at them. Because I don’t like making music that is offensive to cats, I quit using sine waves. (laughs)”
– Does Shige get into much mischief?
“He is generally well-behaved, though he once got into a clothing drawer and wouldn’t come out. He also peed on my New Balance sneakers. Once he’s peed somewhere, the smell will never go away, so I had to throw them away. That really pissed me off.”
– Does he have any preferences when it comes to food?
“Because he can’t eat so much these days, I feed him canned ‘Gin Spoon‘ brand mixed with rice. Though it’s a canned food, it has a lot of nutrition. When he was a little more active, I would feed him the crunchy type of Royal Canin for older cats. At one point, I decided not to give him any human food at all. It seems that this is better for a cat’s health.”
No toys or cat-related goods. Simply ‘life with a cat’.
– What kind of litter box and toys does he prefer?
“Instead of a special litter box made for cats, I simply buy a plastic case and fill it with sand. It’s the same thing we have at my mother’s house. I buy the sand online and have it sent to my mother. (laughs) Litter boxes become dirty and smelly, so I think it’s better to just buy plastic cases and throw them out as opposed to getting a fancy box designed specifically for cats. For a bed, I put a towel inside of a cardboard box. I buy absolutely no toys. Instead, Shige will play with belts or run around the garage with me. Looking back on it now, I think a big reason for his health and longevity has been how much I have made him exercise.”
– Do you have any cat-related goods?
“Do I look like the type of person who does? As you can probably tell, I don’t. Aren’t cat goods just for the happiness of people? I simply like cats, so I’m not interested in such items. Generally, I don’t even care about what kind of machines I use to make music – let alone things like cars and watches. People take dogs for walks and dress them up in order to show them off. However, cats are private animals. This matches my personality. Instead of collecting cat goods and buying things like toys and expensive litter boxes, I choose a more simple life. My cat and I just kind of live together. Because I’m living at my office from just after noon until 3:00 in the morning these days, I think it’s not really a good time for me to be worrying about things like pets and what’s going on at home.”
– What do you personally find attractive about cats?
“I feel that musicians and cats make a good match. Compared to dogs, cats are quiet. Moreover, even if a person has an irregular schedule, it’s no problem to keep a cat because they can take care of themselves. Some people say ‘dogs are like Windows and cats are like Apple products’, but I don’t know if this is true. Dogs have good ‘cost performance’ – kind of like a hardworking wife or mother. On the other hand, cats are kind of like the girls you want to take out and show off even though you’ll end up spending money (laugh). However, I don’t have any desire whatsoever to show off Shige. But I really do think that cats are perfectly formed – to put it simply. Cats are gorgeous – nothing is wasted in their form. Of all cats, I prefer ones that are a mix of more than one breed – they are so tough.”
Are ‘cat-like’ women attractive?
– So what is attractive about women who resemble cats?
“I thought you would ask me a question like that (laughs). Women that are like cats… I used to like women like that. However, not so much anymore. They are whimsical and hard to catch. After all is said and done, they don’t give me their attention. I don’t have the time to chase after women like that (laughs). So I’m finished with women who are naturally cat-like. However, maybe it’s good when adopt a ‘cat-like’ technique. And women who keep cats are lonely and easy to get along with… Now I’m talking about things we probably shouldn’t get into… (laughs).”
– Do you and Shige sleep in the same bed?
“No, he has his own place to sleep. However, it seems that he does sleep in my mother’s bed. The only time he comes into my bed is in the morning when he needs to wake me up. Always having the same bed to sleep in makes him more admirable than male humans. Why is does this happen to be where we choose to end our discussion?” (laughs)