Chanting the guardian mantra in the midst of a pandemic
VROCK HK Vol.13
Interview with vocalist Sakurai Atsushi and guitarist Imai Hisashi
Riding on the wave of their 33rd anniversary this year, BUCK-TICK has released their 22nd album, “ABRACADABRA”, offering protection to people’s hearts and minds in the midst of the global pandemic with a musical spell that has traveled through one third of a century. After a year of trouble in the music industry, the band is finally coming back to the Nippon Budokan for their end-of-year performance. On the eve of this event, vocalist Sakurai Atsushi and guitarist Imai Hisashi were interviewed for the first time by Hong Kong media from across the ocean, communicating their message on the new album and their thoughts on the current moment.
―― BUCK-TICK is releasing a new album this year on the 33rd anniversary of your debut. The title of the new album is “ABRACADABRA”, which seems to have a deep meaning in this age. Could you tell us about the meaning behind this title?
Imai Hisashi (I): In the lyrics that Sakurai wrote for the song “Eureka”, there is the word “ABRACADABRA”, which I found very memorable. It also has the meaning of being a talisman in the pandemic disaster.
Sakurai Atsushi (S): There is nothing we can do except for chanting spells with music. It would be a blessing if this incantation could make someone somewhere smile.
―― During the process of making this new work, have you been affected or inspired in some ways by the pandemic?
S: In terms of the work itself, we did not want to be influenced by the pandemic , but just wanted to simply depict a story. Only “Eureka” sings of the mantra of love.
―― In the late 1980s and 1990s, BUCK-TICK’s works were released on cassette tapes and vinyl, and now, after a long gap, ABRACADABRA is released on vinyl LP and cassette tapes, as well as on CD, digital music, and streaming, which are music formats that span multiple eras. For BUCK-TICK, having witnessed the development of music technology at various stages, how does it feel to see the rise of cassette tapes and vinyl again?
S: When I was a child, I felt the moment of putting the needle down on a record player was like some kind of ritual. Each era has its own music, and there are different ways to appreciate them, so music will never disappear, which I find to be something wonderful.
I: Cassette tapes and LPs, etc., are all very interesting objects. LPs have huge covers, which is something that I really like.
―― Different media have their own different textures, so among the various formats released this time, which one has the sound that you like the most?
I: When I compared the sound in the studio, Hi-Res audio had the better sound, but in my heart I wanted to listen to it on LP. Since it’s not easy to skip tracks on LPs, it makes you feel you can listen very carefully.
―― This year, music performances are difficult to carry out, and it has become popular to perform with no live audience. In fact, as early as 1991, BUCK-TICK had its first-ever performance without a live audience titled “SATELLITE CIRCUIT” (a commemorative show for the opening of WOWOW TV). This year, BUCK-TICK also held a live, no-audience show called “ABRACADABRA LIVE ON THE NET”. After almost 30 years, how did you feel when you stepped on the stage without a live audience again?
I: Although there was no audience in the venue, I could sincerely feel that “people are watching” and played accordingly.
S: Even when I had entered my own world, I was also conscious that someone was watching from the other side of the camera. We also took challenges with things like the AR technology that could only be used in recorded footage.
―― The band also held a screening of “TOUR2020 ABRACADABRA ON SCREEN” this year, and even though it was also a performance strategy under the pandemic, the idea was very innovative!
S: It’s great to have a concert tour for fans all over the country to see. Although the members were really upset that they couldn’t play and the vocalist couldn’t sing, we’re really grateful to the performance and event staff who helped tour the country despite the danger of infection. Also, we’re grateful for all the fans who came to the venues.
―― The first and last performance of the year will be the end-of-year Budokan performance, which will also be broadcast live on the Internet. How does the band think of a performance via a livestream format as opposed to a regular performance?
I: There is no limit to the number of people who can watch the performance via livestream, and people can watch it overseas too, so I think it’s interesting as an approach.
S: It would be the best time to sing and dance together with the audience, but the most important thing now is to prevent infections, so I believe it is the best possible method. For those who want to go to the concert but can’t make it, especially for the medical practitioners who work hard every day, I hope everyone will have a chance to enjoy it. Please pre-record if possible, and in order to not forget, I will also record mine.
―― The livestream is also a way to give more overseas fans the opportunity to participate. In fact, many overseas fans have been coming to Japan to see BUCK-TICK every year. Has BUCK-TICK, one of Japan’s top bands, had any plans to go overseas?
I: I hope that we can be heard and seen by people all over the world.
S: Actually, I traveled privately to Hong Kong about 30 years ago. It was a very exciting city, and it would be great to have a chance to perform in Hong Kong in the future.
―― The band has already launched collaboration products such as headphones and embroidered jackets. Do you have any future collabs in mind outside of music?
S: Hong Kong Disneyland?
―― BUCK-TICK’s music has continued going on for over 33 years, and the band has strived tirelessly to release new works. Where are the motivation and the inspiration coming from?
I: Naturally out of living and experiencing daily life.
S: Anyways regardless of genre, loving music, loving singing, exposure to art such as novels and movies, and feeling the joy, sadness, and love of seemingly ordinary everyday life, can all give rise to various passions.
―― BUCK-TICK’s music has inspired many people over the years. Can you tell us what genres or musicians the band members have been listening to recently?
S: The young generation of Japanese musicians. “King Gnu” and “Fujii Kaze”.
I: I tend to listen to Ambient Music more often. Also Raymond Watts’ post-industrial project “Pig”.
―― What are your goals for the coming year?
I: To create cool songs.
S: In a word, “ABRACADABRA”, we will continue to move forward even while coexisting with the pandemic. I would like to sing, and I would like to hold concerts if possible. It would be nice to meet with everyone in Hong Kong and the rest of the world again through livestream or YouTube. I am grateful for the opportunity to be interviewed this time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Best wishes to Hong Kong.