DER ZIBET

Pati-Pati Rock ‘n’ Roll
October 1987

 

 

DER ZIBET’s concerts blow you away. They understand what it means to entertain the audience. Through repeated experimentation and destruction, they crept ever closer to their true form. —— But first impressions are important. They’ve been too straightforward with expressing their superabundance of energy that they’re being heavily misunderstood. Will this 3rd album that they’re working on be the answer? We’ll find out in this interview with Issei¹ and Hikaru¹.

 

 

DER ZIBET, also known as Derujibe (デルジべ). I think they’re a band dogged by the problem of having an awfully vague image. The kind that has you thinking you know them but at the same time, you don’t. Sandwiched between misconceptions and being misunderstood, they look out of place for some reason. Perhaps they have truly arrived in a situation where they have to be serious about their image and the preconceived notions that are at the forefront of what creates a fair representation of themselves.

“I’m confident that if they listen to our music, if they watch our concerts, people will understand who we are, but I’m not sure how to make them listen to us. Like those people who don’t know anything about us at all, those whose idea of us is still that same image of decadence, all of them.”

“Besides, it’s not as if we’re a closed-in band, you know?”

Hikaru and Issei are a bit irritated.

But that is, I dare say, a positive frustration.  Because they’re so strongly confident of who they are as a band, they exceedingly detest the idea of being classified by their image. On one hand, it’s been said that their music had changed a lot between the 1st and the 2nd album, but at the same time, there are few who understand the current DER ZIBET.

Keeping that in mind, they are now as good as a new band who just made their debut. That much makes sense when we consider that in the three years since the formation of this band, the number of concerts they have played is the most concentrated in the past year.

The progression of this band that seems to be riding the wave of their “Alright, here we go” momentum is undoubtedly fast. Now that they have finally started their engines, where could they possibly be headed?

That being said.

I’ve never heard their 1st album and I’m a typical human being who judges based on first impressions. When you mention DZ, Issay² immediately comes to mind, and when you mention Issay², I’d immediately associate him with being the pantomiming oniisan…… I am ignorant to the point of having such an impressively simple thought process, if I do say so myself. That’s why I was thrown off when I saw the Baby, I Want You music video. It was a form of culture shock. It was a lively song of the sort that gets you dancing up a sweat. But it was such a big change that I definitely wondered, “What happened?   Who are these people?” Sometimes, equating a band’s evolution with growth confuses people. This is especially so for a band like theirs where there is an extreme “suddenness” in their transition “from stillness into motion”.

“I don’t have a problem with it, but I don’t get it.”

Without quite knowing what to think of it all, I hesitantly went ahead with the interview.

 

―― What do you think about how you used to be?

Hikaru (H): I think we didn’t have as much power as we do now, but it’s basically no different than what we’re doing now.

Issei (I): Yeah. I don’t think the essence of it has changed, but the musical style and the appearances of what we put out have certainly changed.

―― You’ve probably been asked before, but how did this happen?

H: Things just naturally turned out like this while we were going around on tour, though.

I: I guess you could say, it was since about the time of the Revenge of Electric Moon tour that we turned our focus to dance, or rather, made [our music] easier to grasp.

H: Because we enjoyed it when we actually got down to doing it, you know?

I: Something about it just makes your body move on its own, right? I guess it’s that sensation that makes a seated audience get up and start dancing.

―― So, recently, dance beat bands have been garnering a lot of attention…… Is that why you’re…?

I: But we’re not making disco music. You see, we’re making dance music that falls in the genre of rock. Besides, I think even punk music can become dance music, so I think we can make dance music that comes from such a stance. But there aren’t any such bands in Japan, so I guess that’s where it’s easy for people to get misconceptions of us. If we’re talking about dance bands in Japan, I suppose it’d just be TM³, right?

H: They’re not a rock band, though. That’s why I feel that it’s hard to label us as a dance band.

―― But I listened to your 2nd album and as far as that is concerned, I thought it wouldn’t have been odd to call you a dance band, or rather, in a way, that’s how it turned out……

I: Yeah, I suppose it might seem complete if you’re looking at it from a dance perspective, but we wanted to become more powerful. More rock-sounding, or rather, more wild, I suppose. Also, there are some parts in our second album that seem sophisticated, so instead of that, we wanted to make music that’s more stripped-down, the kind that’s fierce and comes right at you.

H: Besides, there’s no point in making rock music sophisticated.

I: Exactly. You might as well do something else.

―― There’s also the way you all look. Like, Issei’s silhouette looks very thin compared to the other 3 members. And no matter how much you try, that just doesn’t tie in with rock music terms like ‘wild’, does it? So even if I do know what ‘wild & danceable’ is in my head, you won’t come across as a clear definition of it.

H: And that’s what we call a weapon. I believe there are a lot of rock bands that are made up of 4 big-boned members who 4 charge right into you. We may be slight, but you could say that we’re leaning towards being on the fine-edged side of things. In that sense, we’re not just a band that plays 8-beat music, but also 16-beat.
Besides, performing live is what we’re most confident in right now, so I think the impression that we give now is might be a far more brazen one that before. What’s rock-like about us is the parts of our performance that aren’t decided; the improvisation that we do so in any case, I’d like people to come and watch us play.

―― Another thing about DER ZIBET that hampers is the lyrics that Issei writes. It’s pretty much abstract poetry, isn’t it?

I: Basically, I think it’s straightforward, but I realise that what feels like everyday life to me is far removed from what everyday life generally is. Like when there’s a lot of imaginary elements, I’ve been told that it’s cold. That’s why I figured that I need to come up with things that are more relatable to everyday life. I think it might be a good idea for me to a little further forward too. With lyrics where you can see that there’s a second party, where you can tell there’s a “you” involved. And writing write lyrics that are obviously being sung to a particular someone. I think that’s how we’re going to do our 3rd album.

―― Why?

I: I suppose that’s what you’d call broadening our horizons, right? Because no matter how simple we make our rock and roll music, if no one understands the lyrics, then it gets us nowhere, right? So that’s why we have, or rather, want to diversify.

H: That’s why I think our 3rd album will bring across an even clearer message that “This is DER ZIBET.”

―― Finally, please share what’s the outlook for your 3rd album.

H: We plan to release it next year; either in January or February, and the concept for it is pop. What we intend to do is to make rock music that encompasses what we think is pop and those danceable elements as well. In short, we want to make use of our band members’ experimental spirit and expand our horizons so we don’t want to make things too rigid. And this time, it’ll be almost as if we’re working on 2 projects because we’ve asked Okano-san⁴ from Pink⁵ and Kisaki-san⁶ to produce for us.

I: We’re really taking on this challenge, you know. For people like Okano-san and Kisaki-san, if we don’t get involved, [the music] will definitely end up getting steeped in their signature styles, right? So we’re going to get into this like we would a fight. We have to drink without getting drunk. The outcome of this fight will probably be in our 3rd album.

H: In that sense, it feels like we’re bringing in new blood. Really, I can’t understand Kisaski-san. I do get the musicians he brought up (Sawada Kenji, Kikkawa, etc.) though. I’m looking forward to this.

I: It’s more distinct with bands, isn’t it? Because I think [their sounds] aren’t really audible among the music that the 4 band members are already making. Although I suppose they’d add depth to our sound by adding a horn section or keyboardist, right?

H: I get a dilemma, you know. When I have to express sounds using words. But you see, it’s because we don’t pander to everything. We make the music we want to make and  we want them to understand that we want to be accepted for that.

I: Depending on the band, I suppose there are those whose style is to stick to one thing and go all the way with it, but that’s not the kind of band we are. I think we’re a band who changes as we go along, and I think we’re capable of making all kinds of music too.

H: That said, it’s not like we’re throwing away our past. It’ll always be kept somewhere in the back of our minds so we can bring it back out whenever we want. And right now, I guess you could say that we have confidence in ourselves when it comes to rock music for a number of reasons.

I: I guess we’ve been tumbling around, and we’ve finally learnt how to roll so that’s why we’re so confident in that.

H: When we were doing negatively, we didn’t know what to do if accidents were to happen, but now, we’ll be okay no matter what happens. We’d think that we can probably pull it off. That is something that each one of us can confirm, and it really feels like we’ve got our groundwork laid. Because of that, we’re also attracting attention in the streets now…… This is still the starting line. And we’re always in search of words and themes.

 

Contrary to their appearance and their image, there was a blunt and rugged rock band under the surface. What on earth had I been baffled and confused by…… In one sitting, I felt like an idiot. “I’m happiest when our fans happily come back and say that they enjoyed it even if they don’t really understand it,” said Issei. “It’s the same as making a woman climax. Captivate [them] in that moment (lol),” said Hikaru.

Those blatantly rocker statements blow away all the silly prejudices. What the hell, they’re a rock band, that’s all — This is no longer a question of “know, or don’t know”. DER ZIBET is DER ZIBET, and that is self-explanatory enough.

 

 

 

 

Notes:

¹ The interviewer wrote their names in Katakana as イッセイ (issei) and ヒカル (hikaru). I’ll be spelling their names as written.

² Yet here the interviewer chose to use “Issay”. I suppose this is a deliberate distinguisher between the person and the stage persona.

³ Referring to TM Network, a Japanese rock/new wave/pop band that formed in 1983 and made their major debut in 1984.

⁴ Okano Hajime was a bassist in the band Pink. He is also a keyboardist, composer, arranger & producer working with Japanese rock bands like 44 Magnum, D, Asagi, Dead End, L’Arc~en~Ciel and many more. View his credits here.

⁵ Pink was a late 1980s new wave band from Japan. They formed in 1983 as a collaboration between Vibratones member Fukuoka Yutaka and Hero member Kamiyama Hoppy. Each member of the band was an established musician in their own right and they continued to work on solo projects while involved with Pink until they finally disbanded in 1989, ending the production of new material.

⁶ Kisaki Kenji (木崎賢治) is a Japanese record producer.

 

 

Translation: Yoshiyuki
Scans: morgianasama on LJ

Outpouring from the heart

Pati-Pati Rock ‘n’ Roll
July 1995

photography Hitoshi Iwakiri (岩切等)
hair & makeup Takayuki Tanizaki (谷崎隆幸)
styling Tomoharu Yagi (八木智晴)

 

The last issue featured a special segment for BUCK-TICK’s latest album Six/Niɴe, but due to space constraints, we could only publish half of the interview with Atsushi Sakurai, even though he made the effort to share his true feelings with us. And so, this time around, it’s the continuation. Through this interview, I hope you’d uncover the key to the change they displayed in the contentious Six/Niɴe.

 

Read part 1 here

 

 

And so, here is the second half of Atsushi Sakurai’s interview. It’s a continuation from last month’s issue, so please give that a read too.

 

In the end, (music) is just entertainment, isn’t it?
I’m just very happy that I can simply entertain.

 

S (Sakurai): It’s all sorts of things. Like…… Hmm…… Someone who says they like me? For example…… It’s like…… In the end, it’s entertainment, isn’t it? Like, I’m just very happy that I can simply entertain, and things like that.

―― So, even if you’re not doing anything that doesn’t satisfy the world, you’d be happy as long as you can feed yourself.

S: Yes.

―― I suppose that’s for sure. I guess you could also say that it doesn’t matter at all whether everyone here (the artists, the manager, the journalist, the writers, etc.) are here or not.……

S: I wouldn’t go as far as to say that, though (lol). Well, I guess you could say that it’s the first time I felt like this.

―― Feeling grateful for that kind of happiness?

S: That…… what do you call it? You know how people often say, “First of all, I want to thank God,” or something like that when they receive some sort of an award? That sounds textbook, but there are times when you feel like that’s all just a lie. Somehow, the more someone says it, the more fake it sounds.

―― You mentioned someone who said they like you. Do you mean like a girlfriend or something?

S: Could be a girlfriend, or, well, fans or siblings, yeah. Someone important. Well, it could be people you work with, or you date. It’s just the people you’re together with, like, close friends and the like.

―― Hm. But that’s a very big change of heart, isn’t it?

S: That’s true.

―― In the past, you definitely gave off a stronger sense of “I’m alone”, right?

S: Well, that I’m alone, I think that was how I presented myself.

―― How you presented yourself.

S: Like, drawing sympathy [to myself], like begging for it.

―― So, that’s what you called theatrics earlier on, like a false pretense.

S: And all that other…… My apologies to others who are doing similar things, please don’t misunderstand, but if I was begging [for it], then I must be thankful, or rather, I want to be grateful [for what I received]. Or something like that.

―― And that state of mind has influenced your lyrics?

S: I suppose that’s where it seems to have started for me, personally.

―― But considering all those feelings, that actually makes it feel heavy on the whole, doesn’t it?

S: The sound?

―― Sound, lyrics. They certainly don’t have that bright, letting-go feeling.

S: I guess, isn’t that some sort of simplicity? Living and dying, likes and hates.

―― What artists have you been listening to lately?

S: All kinds of things inspire me. Records do, and movies, and manga, and so on. In this album, ISSAY-san (DER ZIBET) participated as a guest vocalist and I got to have a nice chat with him about his approach, the way he works and all that. So, you could say that I was influenced in that manner too. Having read the books and manga that were recommended to me, those he said he liked quite a lot, that also really influenced me significantly. It’s like that with movies too. Just, anything. Like a snatch thief, because I’m hungry [for more]. Even people watching in a place like this (the pub where this interview is being held) can inspire me.

―― And doing this makes you come out of your shell more and more until those false pretenses fade away along with the negative parts of you. So, do you get the desire to try and create something where you’re in complete control of everything just so that you can show 100% of who you are as you gradually revert to being your natural self?

S: That’s plain troublesome.

―― (Lol) That’s the only thing that doesn’t change, is it? For you. Since the beginning.

S: That sort of thing, working the musical instruments, it’s such a pain that I just can’t.

―― But you don’t have to play the instruments. You can just give instructions, right?

S: Mmm…… But I don’t think I can convey [my ideas]. Because I don’t know them. The technical terms. Not one bit. I don’t even know the processing for voice effects and all that. But I want to change that. A bunch of things.

―― Like?

S: Limitations like being required to finish producing an album by a particular date, things like that. Like, promotional strategies. If these things can be changed, I’d like to do it myself. For about a year or so.

―― Album production. Well, certainly it’s probably good if you could spend more on it.

S: We can’t do that.

―― But with BUCK-TICK’s present position, the mixed-media portion of your promotional strategy has grown to comprise quite a large percentage of it, right?

S: Yes.

―― Do you understand those things?

S: Yeah, I do.

―― It makes me wonder if you truly feel that it doesn’t matter whether or not your album sells. Even if you do say that, wouldn’t you still question in the back of your mind whether it’s good or not if it won’t sell?

S: No, I don’t really feel that way. It’s just that, even if it’s unpopular, we won’t have the time [to dwell on it] anyway.

―― I spoke to Imai-kun just now, and he said that it’s ultimately the buyers who judge your releases. So, this can only mean that the indication of their verdict will depend on how well your records sell. That is what was said, but does Sakurai-kun really feel that way?

S: But even if you like a particular song a lot, doesn’t the opinion change from person to person? Even if you’ve made a very good something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be popular. For me, I really love ambient music that doesn’t have singing voices. But even though they make me think, “This is so good!”, it doesn’t sell very well.

―― Ah, that’s about music other than your own, though.

S: You’re talking about my own music? Ahh. I’m not particularly interested in those kinds of things. This’ll probably make me sound like I’m just being cool but the number one thing [for me] is to like what I make. Well, it’s even better if it sells well too. I’d think everyone feels the same way.

―― But frankly speaking, BUCK-TICK does sell. If you’re someone who’s living from hand to mouth, you’d probably have a desperate desire for [your music] to sell. Depending on the person.

S: Right. I suppose so.

―― For a musician, I’d assume that you’d keenly hope that if you release a record, you’d want to sell enough to at least fund your next work, or enough that you don’t have to work extra jobs. So, saying that you’re not concerned [with sales numbers] is.

S: Mm, the privilege of those who do sell well.

―― But there’s also the fact that because you’re someone whose records sell well, you must produce things that you like.

S: I think we’re doing that.

―― Right. Listening to this album, I felt that it’s an album that makes you want to listen to the next one as soon as possible.

S: Ah, really?

―― Somehow, this one gives me the feeling that you’ve yet to decide on what you’re going to do next.

S: I suppose that’s because it’s volatile, this album.

―― Probably, yes.

S: So, you want to listen to something stable?

―― Rather, your last album and even the one before made me want to take a careful good look at this world, but this time, in comparison, left me restless instead.

S: Oh, yes. I get it. But I think Imai wanted to demolish that expectation that you can listen and feel at ease.

―― Ah, there’s that too.

S: Whatever we’ve done so far has always been for ourselves.

―― Yes. But this changing direction somehow feels like a result of all the members going down different routes. That’s why I’d find myself wanting to listen to the next release as soon as possible where, hopefully, all the members would have settled on one direction and gone with it.

S: I don’t know whether we can (lol). I’d expect that we wouldn’t communicate enough again anyway.

―― But haven’t you learnt your lesson?

S: Buーut, I don’t think we ever will.

―― Hmm, based on my earlier conversation with Imai-kun, it’s not very……

S: He hasn’t leant, has he?

―― But it’s not right for me to be the one telling him that it’s not good for him to be slow with the song composition.

S: But you should’ve said it.

―― No way (lol).

S: Please tell him, it’s not fair (lol).

 

Aesthetics of Invariance

Ongaku to Hito #087
April 2001

Text: Kanemitsu Hirofumi
Photos: Ogishima Minoru (荻島稔)
Hair & Makeup: Tanizaki Takayuki, Yamaji Chihiro (Fats Berry)

 

Last year, BUCK-TICK went on a hall tour, then a livehouse tour, and finally an auditorium¹ tour following the release of their first album in two and a half years. It was a sprightly burst of activity that is very much like them (lol) but who could complain about that. The 21st century has turned out to be a little bit different for these guys who would’ve normally gone back underground after all that activity.

On 28 March, the band will be releasing ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH CUT UP, the live CD, VHS, and DVD of the performance that they gave at Nippon Budokan. In addition to that, Schwein, the Japanese-German-British coalition that Sakurai and Imai have joined will soon commence with a tour also in the works. So this month, we’ll be talking about Schwein…… or so I hoped, but they haven’t made their music yet (lol). Hence, we’ll be talking about Sakurai Atsushi’s year 2000 and his band philosophy. And then, it’ll be Schwein in the next issue…… probably.

 

 

What is it…… This wasn’t our aim, but I guess we’ve succeeded in achieving versatility

 

―― This issue is going to be published in March so it might be a little late for this, but what do you think about your tour?

Sakurai (S): Mm…… It was the first time that we divided our shows between the hall venues and the livehouses but having tried it out, I came to realise the benefits and enjoyment of performing in the two different types of venues. It was especially so with the livehouses, though. I’ve never really given it much thought until now, but I think we are more suited to [livehouses] after all. Because we’ve never really made that kind of a distinction between the two until [last year].

―― Of course, because you’re closer to the audience. There’s a sort of unity, an atmosphere about it, or something.

S: You’re right…… Mm… This is something I only realised after we’ve split our shows into these two styles, but you could say our audience hold themselves back or something when they stick exactly to where their designated seats are…… It’s like they sit and stay still (dry laugh). And that’s certainly quite, well, I don’t need to say it again, but being able to move and act however they wish…… When I get to see that from the stage, I’d sincerely feel that it was a good thing that we decided to do this. Part of it is because we’re closer, yes, and us as performers also get to feel the liberation from a regulated world that live concerts are too. Also, for us, we won’t feel like we’re putting on a performance with a formal sense of “showing” something but rather, we can leave it as unpolished.

―― So, let’s look back at your activities in 2000 again.

S: Of course, broadly speaking we changed record labels and all that, and thinking about the time when we were recording, we’ve started working on our music so we didn’t really have much time to spare, but I could definitely sense that everyone was feeling positive with the fresh start.

―― And that wasn’t like, a sense of urgency or anything like that.

S: It sure wasn’t. If we did feel anything like that, it’d be more likely that 2 or 3 years ago, we’d already be feeling, “So, anyway, we’ve released a single,” then started to wonder, “Which company should we go to?”.

―― How did the band fare during those uncertain times?

S: Mm, the pace and stance of the band itself didn’t really change from our usual, but as you’d expect, if you’re asking about things that aren’t related to music, we can’t really…… How should I put this…… We can’t really do anything on our own. I guess I can’t help saying childish things like that (dry laugh), but in the end, I’d rather leave those things to people I trust to handle, so.

―― It could be said that the band still stands in that unstable situation, or rather, you don’t even budge an inch, right?

S: That’s definitely because it’s me and the other 4…… For example, I’ve often been asked whether I’d like to go solo or anything like that, but there are a lot of good and bad points to consider and all that…… But anyway, it’s definitely because when I look around me, I see the same faces I’ve always known and they’re all feigning ignorance as if they don’t know anything.

―― Fufufu, feigning ignorance (lol).

S: Well, it’s me wondering whether they know that I’m getting offers or not (lol). Then, I’d suddenly feel at home, in a way. I can’t do anything even if they felt bothered by it, but I don’t really worry or feel negatively about it. It’s not some kind of weird confidence or anything like that but it’s just, I feel that whether they cut our contract or whatever they do to us, whatever happens we’ll somehow make things work, or rather, no matter what happens, it’ll turn out alright. My thoughts don’t really go in a negative direction. But…… Well, there are times when I’d feel uneasy, just personally speaking. Like when I’m working on the singing, or the lyrics, or the staging, or I get stuck while working on an album and I’m feeling like, “I have nothing more to offer!!”…… Those insecurities sometimes come out of nowhere, but when it really comes down to it, I can visualise in my head what I’d do for that piece of music, or the staging and all of those things on my own. As a result, I’d get so absorbed in it that I’d get into a bit of a high. You could say, that’s why my frustration disappears completely.

―― So you’ve just about never given any conscious thought to the possibility of the band breaking up?

S: …… Conscious thought…… Mm… Well, I’ve thought about those types of situations to kill time (lol).

―― And?

S: I think it sounds like a pain in the ass (lol). No matter what happens, there’s no chance we’ll ever talk about “divorce”! (Emphasis added)

―― Ahahahaha! Sounds just like what a woman would say.

S: Yeaah, I got reminded of a bunch of past experiences (dry laugh).

―― I see (lol). But, say, for example, if you wanted to “depict life and death”,  or “sing love songs”, if you had themes like that, you don’t necessarily have to stick to being in a band to do that, right? I just wonder where your motivation to make music in a band comes from.

S: Mm………… I guess it might be because it’s easy (lol). Working hard, words like, “You can’t buy hard work,” and all that, I absolutely haaate those, you know (dry laugh). And…… Mmm…… This is a band that we’ve built together from scratch after all. People keep telling me, “Go solo,” but, mm…… It’s troublesome, and I don’t really like leaving my house empty, you know?

―― What fatherly comments (lol). I guess you want to protect your family.

S: Noo, I don’t like that sort of clinginess (dry laugh). I don’t like being cheated on too though, but…… I’m happy that I’m being asked (to go solo and things like that), but I suppose, in the end, essentially, what I want to be is the vocalist of a band, you know. Besides, there’s also the fact that the other members will possess whatever I’m lacking in. And if we’re talking about someone who was a solo artist to begin with and then later decided to start a band, they’d already know the lightness of moving along freely too. I might be saying too much, but lots of bands change their lineups, and there are those who had members go solo, or start other bands, but…… the original is still the best, or something (dry laugh). There are certainly cases where things are different, and there are lots of people who do great as solo artists, but somehow that power is…… With the focus on their personal power, even if they’re performing in the form of a band, in the end, they’re still not a band, are they? It’d just look like that [solo artist] person is the only one giving his all (dry laugh).

―― Speaking of which, you’ve recently started a unit in the form of Schwein. I was hoping you could tell us more about how it came to be.

S: Hmmm…… I really don’t know! (Squarely)

―― Hahahahaha! It happened before you realised it? (Lol)

S: No, it’s not quite that but…… I think it was last year, around the time when we were doing our recording? That this topic came up. It’s not the kind of thing that just comes to mind, you know? I’m not agile, and if I’m giving my all working on one thing, anything else turns into a pain in the ass. So, I think Raymond (Watts / PIG) had given it a lot of thought, but it was only around the end of last year when things finally became reality in the form of a “unit”…… Although, even now, I still don’t know what it’ll be like (lol). Of course, as you already know, it started from SCHAFT and we did gigs together two years ago, went on tour together too. We’ve also contributed music to each others’ CDs and took part as guests too. We’ve always had that kind of relationship. Although somehow, I don’t really know why he’s so interested in us (lol), but he’d call us whenever something comes up. For Raymond, he’s got PIG to work on and perform in America too, so he didn’t actually have to go through all that trouble to deliberately invite Asians to do this (dry laugh). That was the very first thing I thought, anyway. I don’t think we’ve talked about it before. That’s why I can’t really go into detail. We don’t even have songs yet (dry laugh).

―― Ahaha. Then, is there anything that Sakurai-san personally keeps in mind for what you’ll do in Schwein? Perhaps, like wanting to do something different here, as compared to what you usually do in BUCK-TICK.

S: Mm… Personally, I’d say it’s basically the same, I think. But, although I’m doing this with Imai, both the music and environment will change completely, so I think that would change me too. That’s something to look forward to as well.

―― When we look at this combination of Raymond of PIG, Sascha of MDFMK, and Imai Hisashi, you can’t help but get the feeling that sound will be prioritised over words, so what is it that Sakurai-san thinks should be expressed in that?

S: Well, you know, as a Japanese…… Fufufu. The, what do you call it, the feeling that there’s no difference between a British and a German, I get that feeling, but there’s a nuance that only the Japanese have when it comes to song and…… I guess that’s pretty much it, though. I’m just thinking that I should just do what I need to do. My best, or maybe, un-best (lol).

―― Fuhahaha! So, I guess we’ll talk more about Schwein next month.

S: Please contact Raymond for a proper story (lol). Work on the tracking for our video(s) and all that are still going on, right, so I can’t quite transition away from BUCK-TICK.

―― Is there a need for you to switchover?

S: Yeah. Although, I don’t really think it’s particularly necessary for me to switch from the BUCK-TICK version of me to the Schwein version or something. This is more about switching from the work of “making it even better” during the tracking to the creative work in composing. Because I always start from the surface of it (dry laugh). I would want to set up my own world nicely and do things properly inside of it (lol). When it comes to composing, I would want to get into that mode and work on it all in one go, but I can’t really do that well.

―― Like thinking about things while listening to PHYSICAL NEUROSE or what (lol).

S: Fuhahahaha.

―― But anyway, why did you decide to perform that song live?

S: Ah, well, Imai was…… Initially, well, it’s how we’ve always done things but we’d brainstorm about which songs from the album and our back catalogue would be good to perform. I’d often mull over the setlist and things like that, but everyone leaves it to me, so. At that point, I’d say, “Everyone disregard the line-up and structure and tell me what songs you want to play.” Then Imai slides in and mentions that song. Although, it was a great help to me that he said it without thinking too much about it, you know. Everyone’s restraint…… Well, by now there’s no such thing as holding back or mincing our words, though (lol). They’d just tell me things like, “I’ll leave it to you.” Then, when it’s all up to me, I’d be stuck in a dilemma (dry laugh).

ーー Ahaha! I guess they just want you to decide.

S: But I’m biased, you see. I’d end up picking all the daa~rk and gloomy songs (dry laugh). We also performed LOVE ME, SPEED, and ICONOCLASM, right? Just when I was wondering what should we do with those 3 songs towards the end, that song was raised. It was actually brought up during our first tour, the hall tour, but I wasn’t quite convinced. It made me think, “It’s kind oーf, mm, I don’t know if it’ll workー?” So, it was only after we were pretty much done with the hall and livehouse shows that…… this inconceivable song came around so I’m really relieved that it did, like, “Ahh, thank goodness.”

―― Your “ultimate weapon” (lol).

S: Mhahaha! Although, I think there are quite a number of people who don’t know that song.

―― Right? But when it comes to performing such an old song, won’t you somehow…… get that sense of “incompatibility”? Looking at it now.

S: I do. Especially when I start singing, I feel it very strongly. I don’t think [the others] would get much of a sense of that since [they’re] playing instruments, though. I even found myself thinking, “Ah, how embarrassing… These words, I don’t really want to say them now.” (Dry laugh).

―― Although, it really felt like a breakthrough for you to suddenly do PHYSICAL NEUROSE right there and then, didn’t it?

S: That’s true. It would’ve never been a thing before, but what is it…… this wasn’t our aim, but I guess we’ve succeeded in achieving that sort of versatility. It’s not like we can rely on hit songs forever (lol)…… It’s probably phrased badly, but it’s something that makes me feel, “If we play this song, it’ll probably make things interesting.”

―― Like a breaking ball²?

S: Right, something like that. If we played JUST ONE MORE KISS or something at that point of the show, you can already guess that the audience will probably get all hyped but (visualising)…… Mmー I guess it’s a good thing sometimes, though (bright smile).

―― Oh! (Lol) Well, I suppose I can expect a little more from your next tour (lol).

S: Mmmー (lol).

―― Mhahaha! So, you might’ve been asked about this before, but does BUCK-TICK have a strong desire to constantly stay up to date as a band?

S: Nope, we don’t. There are probably people who like doing that, but we don’t want to burden ourselves with that kind of weight and force ourselves to carry it. I think we’re capable of accepting anything and everything if the time is right for us, but since the very beginning, we never wanted to be at the forefront of that.

―― What about when it comes to language?

S: It’s the same with language too. As long as they are words and phrases that I understand well and are fresh to me [I’d use them]. Whether they’re outdated or recent slangs, I don’t know. But if they’re fresh and I can grasp it, then anything goes.

―― I can’t really imagine Sakurai-san using words like “you’re bugging me [uzaa~i³]” anyway (lol).

S: Ahh, I hate that kind of language (dry laugh). Like, “for sure [zettee⁴]” and those kinds, right?

―― Ahaha. Chew on those words and digest them properly. 

S: If I can digest them…… I still don’t think I can make use of them after all (lol).

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

¹ This “auditorium” actually refers to the venues of TOUR ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH which was held in large convention centre venues, namely Orix Theatre in Osaka, Nagoya Congress Center, and Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan.

² In baseball, a breaking ball is a pitch that does not travel straight as it approaches the batter. It isn’t a specific pitch by that name, but is any pitch that “breaks”, such as a curveball, slider, or screwball.

³ ウザイ (uzai) is basically the Japanese slang version of describing something as annoying or irritating. It’s a very casual/informal form.

⁴ ぜってぇ (zettee) is very casual/informal kind of slang-ish version of 絶対 (zettai). It means the same thing, which is “definitely/for sure”, or something along those lines.

 

 

 

Translation: Yoshiyuki
Scans:  tigerpal from LJ

 

 

Double-Edged BUCK-TICK

An Intense Hunger For Life

Pati-Pati Rock ‘n’ Roll
June 1995

photography Hitoshi Iwakiri (岩切等)
hair & makeup Takayuki Tanizaki (谷崎隆幸)
styling Tomoharu Yagi (八木智晴)

 

It’s been 2 years since their last album, darker than darkness.
Following the release of their 2 singles, Uta and Kodou, BUCK-TICK’s new album,
Six/Niɴe will arrive on May 15.
That special withdrawn decadence which was brought to fruition in darker~
has been eclipsed by the intense hunger for life portrayed in this album.
But what does it all mean?
From demise to rebirth…… The key to this are the north and south poles of a magnet or in other words,
hidden in the album title which implies the concept of opposites.
In this issue, we’ll close in on them with a double feature of personal interviews with the members of the band
and the direct confrontation between Onojima and Imai over the single Uta!!

 

 

 

 

Individual Interviews

_______________________

Atsushi Sakurai

Interview by: Onojima Dai

This interview was held right after the conversation with Imai that comes later.
Here, there are quite a lot of differences in the nuances of what they say. And this is the first time that Sakurai so blatantly shared his opinions about his fellow band members. Although it is of course that these opinions are, ultimately, based on the fact that the members have a close relationship with each other, like family.

I do sense the mismatch between the singing and the music, and I get what you mean by that.
But the main reason behind this is really because that guy was too tardy with the songwriting.

―― What did you have in mind when you were in the process of producing this album?

Sakurai (S): It was definitely…… to stop using words that I didn’t know. Even with the applications of words and phrases, I decided that I’d stop using things I don’t know. It probably sounds weird, but I guess it feels as if doing that reveals my own stupidity to a certain extent, whether in the music or the lyrics. Things like vocabulary, it shows everyone your ability, like how you would with your musical instruments and your technique. So, it’s already become difficult for me to do that, things like trying to make myself seem like a bigger deal than I really am.

―― Why did you need to make yourself look like a big deal?

S: (Long silence) I don’t know. I don’t even know if I could make that last either.

―― Maybe you didn’t want to be looked down upon?

S: That might be the reason. But we can’t bluff, can we? Humans. Especially when it comes to this sort of…… Well, maybe that’s not true for everyone. …… Because, me, I’m no actor. Neither am I a poet, right? I’m just a member of a band, anyway.

―― Do you have some sort of complex around being a band member?

S: (Silence) No, no. I don’t.

―― For you, do you feel that you don’t want to fit into the role of the band’s vocalist or that you can’t?

S: Mmn…… (Long silence) …… I don’t know (lol). Do you think so?

―― Don’t ask me.

S: Hahahah. Well, even I don’t know myself.

―― Don’t you think that people in general all get the feeling that their present state of self isn’t their true self, or that “This isn’t who I am.”?

S: I think that might’ve gradually gone away. This might sound contradictory but I’m usually thinking, “Ah~ So this is the kind of person I am.”

―― How did you come to think like that?

S: It’s self-defense, isn’t it? It’s easier like this. To me, at least. It’s like, if I’m at ease, I can deal with anything that comes my way, I suppose.

―― Looking at the lyrics in this album, there are a lot of times when expressions like “I want proof of my life” seem to come up out of nowhere. Does this have some sort of relation to this change that youspoke of?

S: Yeah. Yeah…… But poetry, it’s nothing more than theatrics after all. If I didn’t feel that I had to write, then I wouldn’t. Ah, I might’ve written poetry but I don’t know about song lyrics.

―― Is poetry different from song lyrics?

S: I think it’s different. To me.

―― Is putting music to words itself something that feels unnatural to you?

S: There’s some part of turning my words into lyrics that feels quite unnatural. Because I have to write according to Imai’s or Hide’s music. Even for a phrase like “そうですか [I see] (so-u-de-su-ka)]”, if Imai gives me tan-tan-tan, three beats, it would turn into “そ・う・か [I see] (so-u-ka)”. I noticed that this time, because of that, I had to, as much as possible, do my best to not deviate. From what I’ve written and what I had in mind.

―― So, this album, I thought that the balance between the music and the singing was exceptionally off. That was particularly so in Uta. It’s as if the singing is losing out to the music, or they just don’t match up or something. Though, Imai-kun made it sound as if that was, to some extent, intentional.

S: I can’t, I’m not capable of production like that, of myself. That guy…… Calling him “that guy” sounds terrible. He’s capable of doing that kind of production, you see. I don’t think about those things or go that far. Although, I do sense that mismatch and I do get what you mean by that……

―― Hmmm…… I don’t know if I should say it……

S: Please say anything you want.

―― I got the feeling that there wasn’t enough communication between Sakurai-kun and Imai-kun prior to writing a song and all that, though…… Or am I wrong?

S: No, there was barely anything lacking. That more or less happened when we got to the later half of our work, but there wasn’t anything like that in beginning. Then, after it starts to take some shape, we’d decide that we like this, we don’t like this, things like that…… There’s no planning on the whole, yeah. There are positives to that but there are also things that just don’t work. I don’t think we ever said it was a good thing, though.

―― Even compared to before?

S: No, but we’ve never done that before either…… Because the songs that we wrote earlier on… Like Uta… I guess it’s just Uta. There’s nothing with that song. I didn’t want to say anything, and I was frustrated too…… Because, you see, both him and I, we hate giving in. We also hate making others bend over for us.

―― But weren’t you in perfect agreement for your previous albums and releases?

S: Were we?

―― (Lol) Well, that’s just what it sounded like to me based on what I heard. That both of your goals were aligned and the band came together to move towards the one same direction. Not that it’s in monotony, you know.

S: Mm…………

―― Though, I suppose it just so happened that the result was unanimous.

S:  Yeah. I guess you can say that. Which is why this time, I really couldn’t…… grasp it. Because even after we’ve started recording, Imai hadn’t written the songs yet. Then it was a rush, recording the rhythm section, I didn’t even know anything about the other band members’ work too, yeah. It’s too late to blame anyone for anything, but I won’t blame anyone so I’ll just blame myself (lol).

―― I thought BUCK-TICK achieved a point of perfection with darker than darkness. Then, both Imai-kun and Sakurai-kun decided to change things this time around.

S: Yes.

―― But even if you chose to change, won’t you end up looking at the disparate parts? That’s why you’d get the feeling it doesn’t come together as an album.

S: Do you feel that way?

―― Yes. Frankly speaking.

S: On the whole?

―― There are, of course, good songs but if we’re talking about the power of everything coming together to become one, as the album’s appeal as one work, I think it’s definitely your previous work that has it.

S: But, you know, the main reason for this is definitely because that guy was really too late.

―― But it’s not the first time, is it?

S: No, he really was too tardy this time (lol). We couldn’t really do much about it, you know, with the songs that came last.

―― You’ve got a schedule planned out this time around, though. With the film concert and all that, so I guess you were also in a situation where you absolutely had to stick to the predetermined release date.

S: It’s not great, is it? I especially hated that. But, you see, even though I didn’t say anything, my voice was crushed. We had no choice but to do it. Well, even if I said this, it wouldn’t have changed anything. Rather than having no release at all, we decided to bring it as close to 100% and release it, though. I think that’s the kind of mismatch problem that Onojima -san sensed. Be it between the vocals and the instruments or between different instruments. Although, there’s really nothing that can be done even if I complain about it. But although there are parts that you can’t digest, I think it’s fine as long as people still feel that it’s good. Because I feel that it’s very much a case where if you think it’s good, it’s good.

―― Do you think that the misalignment that you felt with Uta has been solved by the second half of the album’s production?

S: Mm…… Rather than solved, we just stopped caring about it.

―― Gave up?

S: It’s not that we gave up…… We thought that it sounded convincing, that it’s good like this.

―― Didn’t you wonder why you had to persuade yourself into believing that it sounds convincing? 

S: (Lol) Convincing myself…… I think it’s definitely because…… How do I put this…… It stinks but having formed such a band, I guess we’re just happy that we can do what we like, so it’s simply because of that…… Is this a boring answer?

―― No, not at all. Because it means that you’ve still got that fresh feeling.

S: No, rather than saying it’s still here, I think it’s more like I’ve been taking it for granted until now.

―― Oh? Did you have some sort of change of heart?

 

…… And that’s unfortunately where we’ll stop because we’ve run out of printing space. The latter half of this interview will be published in the next issue of this magazine. Look forward to it.

 

 

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_______________________

Hisashi imai

Interviewer: Oshibe Keiko

It might be contradictory to the work I do, but I’m fascinated by this breakthrough album that turns “genre” into a mere empty word, so much so that it makes me abandon the thought of critiquing or analysing it. That is usually a direct reflection of an artist’s views and instincts, and yet, although it’s convincing, it doesn’t tend towards logic. That is simply an abstrusity that comes from the fact that the album is not bound by the logic of genres. That said, this new album by BUCK-TICK might just be an abstrusity  in itself. Even if we tried to make sense of it with logic, it is an album that immediately turns the pleasant feeling of sensual enjoyment into something profound. In that sense, we could probably say that this work is an album in which Imai was given the ability to tackle his instinctive urges as a composer in a more direct manner than usual.

If we’re talking about nerve-wracking, I guess it’s my bad for being tardy with the composing (lol).
I did have the intention of finishing things up early, but somehow…… I wonder what happened (lol).

―― Well, anyway. In terms of creative inspiration, what’s it like? This time around.

Imai (I): Nothing particularly new. I don’t think it’s any different than before.

―― I heard that you were still coming with new songs even after all the rhythm sections were recorded, though.

I: Because I just kept thinking that there was not enough, and just continued composing.

―― What’s “not enough”?

I: A bunch (lol). Same with the overall balance too. But what I was really worried about were the songs which came first. They were really just vague…… They had this feeling that they were somehow lacking one other thing. Because I wanted to do that. In the latter half, the songs, it was just…… we were late with those because of small details like drum patterns and bass riffs, guitar riffs, these things.

―― Were there any instances where the final product turned out to be a whole other song, or you had new techniques you wanted to try out, or anything like that?

I: In terms of techniques…… There were songs that were made with programming too, so that’s about it. There wasn’t really anything special in the way we did things. But also because it feels like somehow, we haven’t really found our way out of it.

―― Did you have some kind of vision for this album on the whole?

I: Mmm…… I can’t quite put it into words.

―― Say, for example, the title. Did you have a specific idea in mind?

I: The complete opposites of North and South…… The North and South poles. I had that sort of two-sides-of-the-same-coin idea. I kept thinking about that for some reason. Then I figured that indicating it with 6 and 9 might be the easiest way to get the message across.

―― As something which symbolises the aspect of opposites coexisting.

I: That’s right. Not that it’s a good or a bad thing. Aside from that…… I’m not too sure.

―― So it doesn’t particularly hold any deeper meaning. It’s just a symbol for what you had in mind.

I: Yeah. It’s just because I had that North, South idea in the beginning.

―― I see. So earlier, we talked about your vision for this album, but what about for the previous album? Personally, it gives me the sense of being run through. In terms of imagery, it’s like a futuristic yet decadent landscape at the end of the road.

I: In a way…… I suppose I wanted to do songs that are more stripped down, noisier, those types.

―― I think that gives this album a sense of speed that isn’t just about being fast and also a kind of exceptionally weighty feeling, but did you deliberately intend to enhance those elements for this album?

I: Those aspects of weight and speed naturally occurred without any deliberate effort this time around. So for that…… It was just a matter of letting it grow.

―― I wondered if perhaps those elements were increased as a result of taking that image which inspired you and transferring it into the music at a higher level of concentration.

I: Meaning?

―― Like, maybe you had less doubt than before when you’re putting the song together. For example, the kind of hesitancy where the idea comes to you and then you think, “Maybe it’s better not to do this.”

I: Ahh. Well, that it’s good to speed things up and just do it once I get an idea was…… something I only realised in the later half of my composition work (lol). Because before, I’ve only always been…… aware of it.

―― That said, I felt that this album turned out to be rather frank, though.

I: Well, that’s the idea (lol). But I know that it definitely feels best when the groove really comes out strong like that. It’s just that I ended up taking a whole day to think about how the intro should go, about the rhythm patterns, and things like that. And it was hard to expand from there.

―― When did you start composing for this album?

I: Around December…… I think it was around then. Probably.

―― So at what point did things start to stagnate after you started composing?

I: The first song was done quickly. Then I redid the second song about 4 times at home. That’s why I have quite a number of different tunes that no one has ever heard before, though. …… At that point…… was when I ran quite far behind.

―― No one’s ever heard them before…… What kind of music is it? Those you’ve rejected on your own.

I: No, well. It’s just kind of music that we’ve never ever done before. I thought it might feel a bit wrong if we were to go with those.

―― That it’s not quite the type for BUCK-TICK to play?

I: Nah. It’s the songs themselves.

―― Ahh. …… So, there were quite a number of songs, weren’t there?

I: There were. That’s why I think we might’ve been able to wrap things up a little earlier if we just did the songs in the order that they came to me, though.

―― You mean, like the song you’re most interested in or whichever song you’re having the most trouble with at the moment?

I: The song that I was troubling with on my own was Kodou. Because its a song that’s easy to misunderstand. Depending on the way it’s captured

―― Specifically speaking?

I: It can be poppy and melodious and cute and pretty and all that. For BUCK-TICK to do that…… I was worried about whether the band could pull it off or not. …… But I figured that if I leave it up to Acchan, he’d get it. That’s why I handed the song over as it was.

―― Ah, so it’s not from the perspective of the listener. But rather, the song could end up with a completely different impression depending on your band members’ interpretations. So, do you think that it turned out well in the end?

I: Yeah. I think so.

―― By the way, earlier, Yagami-san said that the recording atmosphere had improved a lot compared to what it was before. Does Imai-san personally also think that such a…… change has happened?

I: Because it felt like a chore during our first album, second, and until our third album. The recording. We had no time, we had to do one song a day, we’d go into the studio and when everyone’s there, we’d start. It was…… a chore (lol).

―― (Lol) So, were you simply able to enjoy the recording work itself this time around?

I: …… Although, there were times when it felt like something wasn’t quite right (lol). But I think we were able to go through with it very very well this time around.

―― It’s just that in reality, I assume it’d often be nerve-wracking.

I: If we’re talking about nerve-wracking…… I guess it’s my bad for being tardy with the composing (lol) and that was really what made it nerve-wracking. Although, it wasn’t all that stressful once we got to the recording stage.

―― But because it was so nerve-wracking, wouldn’t you think, “I am definitely going to make sure that I’ll finish this up early next time” (lol).

I: If I did things with that intention…… If I did that, we’d probably end up in a position where we’d be saying there’s no way we can be any more polished than we’d ever been (lol). But really, I did have the intention to do that, you know? It’s just that somehow…… I wonder what happened (lol).

―― (Lol) Soー. How much time do you think is enough time to compose an album’s worth of songs?

I: ………… Until I’m done.

―― Until you’re done. That sounds like you’re going to take forever, though.

I: Nah. …… Nothing like that (lol).

 

 

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_______________________

Hidehiko Hoshino

Interview by: Sasaki Mika

There’s always an air of calm around Hide, reminiscent of his beautiful melodies. In this album, he has recorded 4 songs and he appears to have become more aware of his position. Is it almost time for the taciturn backseat rider’s counter attack!?

I thought it’d be great if every song would have its own strong character
and we’d be able to play around with the sound to turn it all into one album.

―― Did you expect this album to end up this lengthy?

Hoshino (H): Nope, I didn’t think that there would be so many songs. Because I thought the most we would have would be 12 or 13.

―― I wonder why it turned out like this.

H: Imai-kun is why (lol).

―― How did you feel before you started composing?

H: Personally, I didn’t feel all that…… How do I say this. I felt that I couldn’t see the entirety of it at all and that I’d just write the songs I wanted to write. We compiled it later anyway.

―― Without any discussion to say, like, let’s do something like this?

H: Yeah, we didn’t do that. Then again, in the end, even if I did discuss things with Imai-kun, the differences in our sensibilities and things like that will definitely come to the fore, so you could say that it’s absolutely impossible for any one of us to be the same as the other. Such conversations didn’t happen precisely because we did our own thing. We previously did have discussions about what kind of album we wanted to make on the whole, but this time was special; we didn’t have that.

―― So, what did Hide-kun personally hope for it to be like?

H: I imagined that every song would have its own strong character and we’d be able to play around with the sound to turn it all into one album.

―― Was this 2 year gap between your previous album and the current one planned?

H: Mmm…… I wonder. I wonder if it is (lol).

―― (Lol) What did you do last year?

H: Relaxed so much that I got tired of it.

―― You’re tired of it?

H: Tired of it (lol).

―― Did you write anything during that period of time?

H: Nope, not at all. I started composing when we started talking about releasing the first single, which was around the end of last year, I think. Around November or December. 

―― How many songs did you finish by then?

H: 2 songs. Uta’s b-side, Kimi e and one more. We dropped that one, and I originally composed Kimi e for the album but it didn’t feel quite right either so we used it as a b-side instead.

―― If Kimi e was included in the album, you’d have 5 songs in there, but this 5 was picked out of how many?

H: Around 8, I think. 3 were dropped.

―― But, by the time Hide-kun had already presented all your songs, Imai-kun’s songs had yet to be done, right?

H: Yeah. At all (lol).

―― In that situation, didn’t you think of adding more of your songs into the roster?

H: Nope, not really. (Lol) I did think of putting them in if we could, but in the end, if I wasn’t satisfied with the music as a demo tape, I wouldn’t release it anyway.

―― It appears that no matter what, it’s Imai-kun’s songs that determine the album’s direction.

H: Yeah, they do.

―― If that’s the case, then it feels like Hide-kun is always just sitting in the backseat along for the ride. Do you like being in that sort of a position?

H: Mmm…… Rather than saying I like it (lol), well, it’s the natural flow of things.

―― You can tune into what Imai-kun composes because you’d feel that it’s good enough for you too?

H: Ahh, that, I do.

―― Well then, please comment on Imai-kun’s music in this album.

H: There are a lot of cool songs. The songs in the latter half were made in a hurry but they’re really cool. Like love letter. I think this one was probably composed last.

―― But do I wonder why that person took so long.

H: Don’t you think that it’s simply because of the way he thinks? I guess he probably started late too, but it’s most likely because he works things out down to the details.

―― Does no one push him about it?

H: We do. We do, but it’s completely useless (lol).

―― What’s it like recording again after 2 years?

H: It was tiring. The hours were long this time, and there were a lot of songs too. The recording itself was very…… How should I put this? In the first half of our progress, I would go into the studio on my own and work alone and that was nice. Since there wasn’t anyone else around me, I could relax and take my time with it.

―― Do you like that kind of solitary work?

H: When it comes to recording, I prefer that. Because, after all, people sitting behind me in the studio will become a distraction. Especially when it comes to my own songs. It’s better for me to mess around however I want. Although this time, it took a long time to get to business after I was done with that.

―― Waiting around drains your motivation more (lol). That’s why it doesn’t feel like you made [this album] together.

H: Because there was a lot of solo work. Like doing things in different studios and all that.

―― Are you responsible for your own songs?

H: There is that, yes, but even Imai-kun’s songs are done by him going into a different studio to work on it on his own. We were being pressed for time so if we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have made it in time.

―― Without thinking about how the 2 guitars would play together and things like that?

H: That was done to some extent in the demos so we just listened to that and played accordingly. We did discuss it, though.

―― And this Rakuen was a different version than the b-side to Kodou.

H: We did think of putting the single version into the album, but I got a bit selfish and asked for a version that removed the drums and bass and all that and only featured the tabla, and that was what we put into the album. Part of the reason was because I just wanted to try using the tabla as an instrument.

―― When did you decide on the album title?

H: Just recently. Around the time we were done with tracking.

―― How do you interpret this title?

H: I guess you could say it’s interesting. Deep.

―― I was hoping you’d explain this “depth”.

H: I’m also not that…… (Lol) I wasn’t the one who came up with it so I don’t really know but…… I think it’s got something to do with symmetrical opposites, like the north and south pole.

―― Maybe 9 songs are the key to the album?

H: …… Could it be? (Lol)

―― I’m asking you! (Lol)

H: Hahhahhah. Maybe not?

―― There are people saying things like, “It’s the BUCK-TICK revival!”

H: (Lol) That’s not our intention. Well, it’s true that it’s been a long while though…… Hasn’t it?

―― And there are a lot of new bands who people are labelling as post-BUCK-TICK too.

H: Really? Well, I’m not familiar with that so I’ve got no idea.

―― Aren’t you worried that you might’ve lost fans to other bands?

H: No, not really. No such thing.

―― No interest in the Japanese music scene at all?

H: None at all. Because I don’t listen to them, nor do I read the magazines.

―― So you separate yourself from the trends of the general public to create your own world?

H: Yeah, that’s probably it. Don’t you think that’s better? Besides, I think it’s good for people to respectively make the music they want to make.

―― Then, what kind of reaction to the album are you hoping for from your listeners?

H: It’d be nice if they like it.

―― That’s itー?

H: Yeah. Hahhahhah. No, really.

―― Did you think about including the general public with your core fans when you release an album?

H: Sometimes I do, in the end…… While it’s true that if we made pop music…… I don’t know if you’d call it a boundary, but there are times when I get very concerned about it, though……

―― Are you no longer bothered now?

H: Rather than now, it’s like, turning down the noise distortion on the guitar alone would give it a completely different sound. I’m doing all the things that I think are good, so I don’t really think about such things.

―― So, it’s good enough for you if you win over the undecided by doing whatever you want to do?

H: Yeah, that’s right.

―― I suppose you can only think like that if you have the confidence that you’ve made something good, right.

H: Yeah. I especially feel that this time around.

 

 

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yutaka Higuchi

Interview by: Sasaki Mika

We meet every month, but there’s no one who stays the same as much as Yuta. I think it’s a welcome addition to the band to have such a person as their bassist. Although, I would’ve liked it if he would write songs like before, if possible.

That Imai-san sure is a genius. That’s something I’ve reaffirmed when we started recording again after this break.
Because listening to the 1st and 14th songs, you wouldn’t have thought that both were from the same band, right? That’s why it’s fun.

―― What do you think of the final product?

Yuta (Y): There were so many songs that I wondered how it would turn out when we put it all together, but once we put the 1st song, the 15th and this one right in the middle (the 8th) between them when we were finishing things up, everything changed. Rather than the songs just playing one after another, they really brought about a clear image of the whole album.

―― Were these 3 songs an idea that came up at the end to bring some sort of completeness to the album?

Y: There weren’t really any songs that sounded similar or were of the same genre, so we thought they’d be good for that purpose. We’ve never made an album which started with speech either so I thought it could be interesting.

―― Is there anything in the way you produced this album that was different from what you’ve been doing thus far?

Y: Most of it stayed the same but because the songs were composed late, we were recording the rhythm parts until quite late in our schedule. At least, that’s the impression I have. But the way we did things was the same.

―― Was this the latest ever?

Y: Look, we haven’t even started recording the rhythm parts for other songs when we were already working on the tracking (lol).

 

―― Is that undesirable?

Y: It’s not that, but I was hoping that I’d have a little more time to rehearse my part.

―― Wouldn’t you feel uneasy when you can barely see the big picture for this album?

Y: I was more or less uneasy, yeah. But there wasn’t really anything like changes in the organisation [of work] or anything like that [so it wasn’t too bad].

―― You’ve said before that it’s easy to see what Imai-kun wants to do with his songs, so it’s easy when it comes to figuring out the arrangement too, right?

Y: Yeah.

―― Considering that, would you say that there’s likely a clear picture of the kind of album you’d be making in Imai-kun’s head?

Y: Hmm…… Probably.

―― Did he put that picture into words and share it with the band?

Y: Mmm…… There is a certain extent of communication with us when he’s done with a song so…… Yeah.

―― I wonder how he intended to bring out that sense of completeness.

Y: Mm…… I don’t know that much about it. About what’s in Imai-san’s mind.

―― Then, what does Yuta-kun think about it? As a member of the band.

Y: Like the vibe of the music. Since we had so many songs, I personally thought of suggesting to get rid of some if it so happened that things didn’t sound good together or anything like that. But it turned out nice when we tried lining them up anyway [so we kept them all]. It’s somehow like an atypical 2-CD set, isn’t it? The album’s got that kind of image.

―― What kind of role do you think this album will play in BUCK-TICK’s career?

Y: While we’re doing new things, this new album’s also still got the good parts of what we’ve done before. I personally don’t feel like we’ve used a different approach than our usual, so, yeah, we’re trying new things while taking all the good aspects that we’ve got since our very first album. That’s why I think it’ll be a very easy album to digest for those who have always been listening to our music.

―― So, you’re saying that’s what the album resulted in?

Y: Yeah. I think that’s unintentional.

―― When you say you’re doing something new, which songs are most representative of that?

Y: Probably these few, for sure (points at 9th, 14th, and 15th song). It feels like we’ve increased the number of different sides we have to us again. Compared to our previous album, we’ve completely switched up the atmosphere in this album, haven’t we? It feels like you can clearly see the vibe of each individual song.

―― I guess that might also be the result of the songs being worked on in batches rather than all together.

Y: I think that’s another big reason for it. We’re always working on one song at a time, but in the end, the totality of it, I suppose, turned out to be slightly different than our previous album. And this time around, the vibe of our previous album still remains in a good way. That’s why it wasn’t like we got rid of everything and started back from square one again. I guess you could say that it’s like our standard work but not quite.

―― A transitional album?

Y: …… I don’t know about that. Not yet.

―― How do you feel about making music with everyone again after 2 years?

Y: We make all sorts of remarks here and there so it was fun. I don’t quite remember exactly what they were if you want examples, though (lol).

―― Was it fun while playing too?

Y: It was. It’s just that there are too many one chord songs (lol). That’s why it can get a little bit boring playing bass, but on the contrary, I thought that made it more interesting too. Because then I could play it very thoroughly. I mostly played with my fingers this time around. I guess that was fundamentally different. I basically changed my play style. Deciding between my fingers and the pick is usually dependent on the vibe of the song, but this time, I felt that there were more songs that would be better played with my fingers so I naturally chose to go with that.

―― Which songs do you particularly like how you played?

Y: I suppose it’s these (points at 2nd, 14th, and 15th song). Ah, but I like all of them~.

―― No regrets?

Y: None.

―― You’ve done everything that you’re capable of at this point in time?

Y: I guess I feel that way too. But this time, I really felt, “Ahh, we’ve really made something great.” With the songs arranged in this order, it’s of course, don’t you think?

―― What do you think about the album title?

Y: It’s sleazy…… Actually, no (lol). What was it, something like, they’re actually the same even though they appear to be opposites. Like a sort of cycle.

―― Like a pattern?

Y: That can be rolled anyway you like. Like, something that has the same shape but turns into a completely different meaning once you roll it around. As to what it means…… I don’t know (lol).

―― Was there anything you’ve reaffirmed when you started recording again after that break?

Y: That Imai-san sure is a genius. That’s what came to mind. Because, although you’d get a particular vibe when you listen to this part (14th and 15th song), when you listen to the other songs, it’s a whole other feeling again. They bring something different that doesn’t exist in everything else you’ve heard. For example, if we look at Uta, it’s got a sound that’s unique to only Uta, right? That’s why I thought he’s really amazing.

―― So even if it takes time, it can’t be helped?

Y: Yeah (lol). Because listening to the 1st and 14th songs, you wouldn’t have thought that both were from the same band, right? It’s probably the same when we listen to the 2nd song too, though. That’s why it’s so much fun.

―― To me, I think that among the members, Yuta-kun is the one who is most aware of how people perceive you.

Y: Is that soー. I guess I am the type to care about how people see us.

―― Is it the one thing you think about the most?

Y: I wonder. But I think everyone wonders about how others perceive them, so I don’t think I’m all that conscious of it all the time, though……

―― You’re most in touch with the general public, right?

Y: But Imai-san’s the most popular, though?

―― Huuhー!?

Y: He’s popular. And he’s a people pleaser too. For me, it’s just because I talk a lot, right? The other members don’t talk at all but. Imai-san is a person who can explain things in 1 sentence where I’d take 10.

―― I see. Do you think that these 2 years were a needed break for the band to make this album?

Y: It was a good period of time for the band, wasn’t it? Not specifically because it enabled us to make this album. Well, I guess it plays a part, but I think it’s been a good 2 years. Besides, if we keep releasing things one after another, we’d look cheap. Although, if we really thought that it was good for us to release something every 3 months, then I think it’s fine, though.

―― As the big-name BUCK-TICK.

Y: We’re not big at all. We’re still rookies (lol).

―― But you’ve got tons of followers.

Y: I can’t say that. That’s for others to say. We’ve got our own hands full…… But that’s good, isn’t it? As long as everyone works hard.

―― As the headliners.

Y: I suppose so. Although we’re probably only ranked like maegashira-13¹ (lol). But I think it’s good enough if we feel that we really made a good album. Besides, this one’s got weight in it, doesn’t it? It’s over 70 minutes long. Quite something, isn’t it?

―― If you were to take a 70-minute train ride, you’d travel really far too.

Y: You’ll arrive at our hometown (lol).

 

 

Notes:

¹ In sumo, maegashira is the lowest of five ranks in the top makuuchi division. All the makuuchi wrestlers who are not ranked in san’yaku are ranked as maegashira, numbered from one at the top downwards. 13 is just one rank under the rank (14) that allows a wrestler to be promoted.

 

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Toll yagami

Interview by: Oshibe Keiko

“This is how it’s always been, but we don’t really keep to what we’ve grasped in our previous release. We do things as if we’re starting from scratch again,” said Yagami Toll. More importantly, it appears that new elements that are created through the band members interacting and influencing each other on stage will naturally tie into the next album. How has his own style evolved in that flow? That’s another part of the process we’ll find out as we talk about the album.

Even if Imai wrote JUST ONE MORE KISS for this album, we’d probably have tossed it out.
Because we prioritised our desire to do things that we’ve never done before for this album.

―― So, this album. Was there anything from your previous tour that you personally wanted to bring into it? Like something related to your drumming, or sensibilities.

Toll (T): Personally, there wasn’t anything in particular but…… Although there’s always been that wild aspect and things like that, I wanted to bring out more natural-sounding drums. That’s why I think most listeners might probably think that the drums sound muddy when they listen to it this time around. But I guess you could say that’s exactly what makes it a truly rare sound coming from the drums. When you hear most drums in the flesh, their sound would be muddy. But when it gets picked up by the mic, it’d turn into a really clean and beautiful sound, right? But that’s not reality, so there’s a part of me that feels that this muddy sound is contrarily better.

―― It seemed especially so in the intro of Kimi no Vanilla.

T: Yeah (lol). That was recorded with something like this (tape recorder for interviews). Because doing that created a really great effect.

―― That’s pretty extreme, but this kind of sound that seems as if you just walked into the studio and recorded on a whim is rather fresh, isn’t it? Gives it a unique vibe too.

T: I guess it’s because the muddiness of the drums itself makes it more real. We just did it with a simple, “How’s this?”, “Sounds good.” But it came together very well, didn’t it? That’s why I’ve had enough of processed, clear sound qualities…… then again, anything goes in these times, so I guess I just want to do things that other people don’t do. Which is why I told my friend’s kid who plays the drums, “Don’t copy me.” But the kid retorted, “There’s no way I can copy such a sound.” (Lol).

―― (Lol) On the other hand, was there ever a period of time when you sought to drum with precision for a clear sound?

T: Rather than seeking it, it naturally turned out that way. Probably like our 3rd album TABOO. I guess you could say it’s because we had a producer (Owen Paul) so I simply had to be precise. But that was also a lesson in a good way, and I get the feeling that it also led into the albums that followed.

―― Would you say that if not for that experience, it would only be much later on that you’d go in the direction that you’ve chosen for this album?

T: Yeah. It might probably only happen much later.

―― But in the past, I used to have the impression that you’d go all out drumming the 8-beat pattern, yet recently, it’s like you’re more toned down or something. For example, I noticed that you’ve shifted towards the idea that drums are supposed to be an instrument played by humans and that’s what they should be.

T: I’m not all that conscious of it, though. It’s just the way it is now. That’s why I’d say that if we’re talking half a year ago or half a year later, I might feel differently too. But, you know, our recording sessions used to be very tense, but now, I can even think about how roughly or relaxed I want to drum. In the past, I wouldn’t say that it was autonomic dysfunction but there was turmoil similar to that. It’s as if your head’s always spinning (lol).

―― Was it really that bad (lol).

T: Yeah. But I won’t be able to drum well if I get too excited either. Because that happens, I decided to get very relaxed for in darker~. Up until then, I had been drumming at full power like crazy but once I decided to do that, I somehow started to feel the groove in chunks. But I wanted to produce a rounded sound, you know. It was completely different once I started drumming with leeway to spare. It’s definitely because I could move freely when I did that. …… But for this album, I didn’t really think about that. I just wanted to drum so…… It might spell trouble for me to say this, but I don’t really know whether I did well or not yet (lol). Although, there’s a strong sense of accomplishment. But, simply put, I lose interest quickly in things that are immediately obvious. There were aspects in darker~ like that, but comparing that album to our current one, I think that album might still be easier to comprehend than this.

―― Could that partly be also due to the idea of making music with the listeners in mind having faded off?

T: But for us, we’ve never done that since the very beginning (lol).

―― Since the beginning (lol). Ever since you debuted?

T: Yeah. We’ve really been doing whatever we like. That’s why, I’m grateful that we do get sales to a certain extent, though (lol). But if we do something badly, it’s just for our own satisfaction anyway, right?

―― Then, do you get the sense that having made it this far, you can now do something like this too?

T: I don’t, not really. It’s just how things turned out when we gave it a go. We don’t even consider things like, “Shall we go with an easy to remember melody?” (Lol). Because we decide whether something is cool or not based on our own standards. Like, if one of us said, “Isn’t this tacky?”, that thing would get tossed out.

―― This perspective on how good something is, are the members of the band always in agreement over it?

T: …… Before, oftentimes Imai would say, “This will definitely be a good song so let’s do this,” and I’d retort, “This isn’t ever gonna work.” (Lol). But that doesn’t happen so much any more. In any case. We have to respect the other’s feelings (lol).

―― So, if there’s even the slightest disagreement, you’d have to put in the effort to understand each person’s opinion on what’s cool (lol).

T: Because we’re a democracy (lol). Majority wins. Whenever we have to decide on something. …… But the songs that Hide wrote in the beginning were very pop. I thought that was incredible. But Acchan said, “It’s not the kind of music we’re doing now.” And Imai’s one word of, “Old-fashioned.” (Lol).

―― (Lol) Did you decide to deliberately eliminate pop music or something like that? For this album.

T: Mm~n. That’s why I think if Imai wrote JUST ONE MORE KISS for this album, we’d probably have tossed it out. It’s not that we’re intentionally eliminating anything pop, but more than that, it’s because we prioritised our desire to do things that we’ve never done before for this album. And when I think of totality, that song comes to mind, so that’s just it.

―― Ahh, I see. By the way, how did the recording work itself go? The sense of fulfillment after completion seems to be quite high, though.

T: But it was tiring (lol). Because, so far, the rhythm portion has always been the very first thing to be recorded, right? But this time, even though we’ve started tracking the music, we were still recording the rhythms (lol).

―― That’s because there were songs that were handed in quite late, right (lol).

T: Because Imai is a slow starter (lol).

―― How was it compared to the last time?

T: It’s the first time that things dragged on so long.

―― Won’t it mess up the pace? Your own too.

T: Even if it would, there’s nothing we could do about it, right? Besides, we’ve even posted the ads (lol). When I saw it, I thought, “It’s going on sale sometime in May. Can we make it?” (lol). At first, when we finished recording 11 or 12 songs, I thought, “Ah, I guess that’s all of it.” But then, Imai said something like, “I’m working on 2 songs.” But I guess he wanted to keep working on it until he was satisfied. You know…… It happens all the time, but we were told that the manufacturer was waiting for us. They stopped production.

―― (Lol) Amazing. A band that stops even the factories.

T: Hahahaha.

―― But is this recent pace of releases ideal for BUCK-TICK? For Japan, it’s come to a point where the average is to release one album a year. Compared to that, you’re taking a little bit more time, though.

T: But that, you know, is because it’s business, right? Releasing something every year. So, thanks to this, my annual income has been cut in half (lol). Because we didn’t release anything last year too. …… Kukukuk. We’re poor (lol). I was shocked when I filed my tax return. Like, “I can only save this little.” (Lol). That’s why, from a business point of view, I’d like to push something out every half a year or so (lol). But, you know…… In the end, it’s unrelated, isn’t it? [Music and] whether it makes business sense or not.

 

 

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Direct Dialogue — Hisashi Imai vs Dai Onojima

The controversy over Uta finally comes to an end!!

Mr Onojima’s criticism of Uta from 2 issues ago caused quite a stir, prompting Mr Okamoto and Mr Ohno to bring a re-examination of the song in the last issue, but I believe, in the end, to truly settle this controversy, we had to wait for composer Hisashi Imai to make an appearance after all.
In this article, Imai shows up to answer Mr Onojima’s questions about Uta and Six/Niɴe as well.

How will he counter Mr Onojima’s scathing comments?

Uta was written in the spur of a moment. It’s only natural that there would be split opinions, but that’s fine.
I’ve come to feel a lack of freedom with the format that we’ve done our songs in thus far, because you can see already where we’re heading with it.

Back in the March issue, I wrote a rather critical review of BUCK-TICK’s single Uta/Kimi e. There were a lot of responses to it including those from the band members, so this article was written to ask them, especially Hisashi Imai, the one who leads the band in their sound direction, for their counterarguments and their creative intentions.

However, since that article was written back when I had only listened to the single, the criticism I wrote was only focused on that song in the single, so now that the album is complete and Uta has now taken its rightful place in it as one of the tracks, it doesn’t make sense for us to continue discussing just that one song. And so here, we will be looking at the overall album concept and flow, which includes Uta.

The very first thing I can conclude is, Hisashi Imai is Hisashi Imai after all. “No matter what critics may say, I will do what I want to do and when it results in something that I’m proud of, I don’t particularly care about criticism or anything like that.” That is what Imai said in a nutshell. He truly is a man who goes his own way. And that’s fine. He makes music. I talk about music. Those are the things we have to do in our respective professions.

First, we started talking about the production concept of the single Uta.

“With that guitar riff, the song was quickly finished. I wrote it without thinking too hard. We chose to feature this song as the single because it’s been quite a while [since our last release], and we thought that it would perplex listeners especially because it’s a song that sounded like a chorus without a chorus, something unlike anything we had ever done before. I think it’s only natural that there would be split opinions about this song. Like some may get surprised or wonder, ‘Uhー what’s this?’. But that’s fine, I don’t really care.”

In other words, not only did he, to a certain extent, expect criticism like mine, he is also saying that he made a controversial piece of work that was bound to stir up discussions. Regarding my comments about how the imbalance between the singing and the music was a problem, this was what he said.

“Even now, we’ve got heavy-sounding songs like Deep Slow and Ao no Sekai anyway. So I don’t like it when people tell me that. Because we’ve put in the effort to make sure that these songs won’t sound like that too. But, well, I guess what will be will be. It’s just the kind of song it is anyway.”

That is to say Imai means that he doesn’t want the verdict of whether his music is good or not to come from people who received a sample CD for free, people like me. He clearly states that the only people who are qualified to judge his music are “those who spent their own money to buy the CDs”.  Then, I asked whether he meant that his music should only be judged by record sales, he answered, “Well, yes. Because all kinds of people will be listening to it.” It appears that his reasoning is that the assessment of music is based on personal subjectivity, and the only objective standard is record sales. But it doesn’t mean that good music will definitely sell, nor does sellable music necessarily equate to good music.

Next, the production concept of the album.

“So far, we have had concepts that could be described as ‘heavy’ or ‘dark’ and so on, but I didn’t want to make something around those concepts this time. I wanted [the album] to give the feeling that something else had escaped, like an additional something to the music that BUCK-TICK has been making thus far or something. The feeling that you can see where we’re heading with the style that we’ve had until now. In other words, I’ve come to feel a lack of freedom with the standard format of songs which start with an introduction, followed by the verse, then the chorus, and a guitar solo, and so on.”

I suppose this means that the BUCK-TICK sound that they have established thus far has turned into something that is no longer inspiring to Imai. That’s why their new album is actually a collection of different types of songs with a variety of arrangements. There are songs like Uta too, which are heavy yet are in no way one-dimensional. It’s a good thing, but rather than giving me the impression that [the album] “holds a rich variety”, it feels more like an album that shows the difficulties of using trial and error instead. To that extent, I don’t get the same power of completeness that darker than darkness has from this album, neither do I sense anything close to a deep conviction. Instead, all I get is the feeling that it is still on the way to completion, with songs that sound like ambient techno that, depending on how you listen to them, feel diffusive and out of focus.

“I wonder. I wanted to include a variety of songs, and I sure did include them. But I didn’t want [the album] to feel frivolous, like we simply tried to put different songs together. Yet, on the other hand, I thought it’d be very risky for us to fill up the album purely with songs like Uta.”

Following his experience with Shaft and other external projects, I think the horizons of Imai’s own creative appetite has grown all of a sudden. Imai, who had only known nothing but the band that is BUCK-TICK until recently, has started to possess an urge to express music beyond the category of BUCK-TICK. And as a result, perhaps a gap has appeared between the things he wanted to express and the band’s range of allowance. To put it differently, therein lies the question of how he can turn what he wants to do into reality with the present band. These troubles are now more clearly visible than ever before.

“Right. So how are we going to execute what we want to do together as a band of 5? But it’s also not as if it’s impossible to perform this song without being in a band.”

However, there is one thing I’m uncertain about regarding his reason for being so particular about doing things in a band and as a band. Let’s say, even if drums and bass guitar were excluded depending on the song, while guitars and vocals were taken depending on the occasion, BUCK-TICK is still BUCK-TICK and this doesn’t diminish the importance of each member or their unity. Somehow, although the things he wants to do have long since gone beyond the restrictive category of bands, he’s giving me the impression that deliberately forcing himself to squeeze into that small frame.

Imai himself says that he believes that his band mates understands his intentions. 100%. But I’m under the impression that apparently, communication with his bandmates wasn’t always smooth this time around. It feels to me that as a result, this shows in the vocals-music balance in Uta, in the album’s overall unfocused ambiguity, in how conspicuous it is that the album is the aftermath of ups and downs, and all these things. I do wonder whether Imai had no choice but to stick to his insistence of the “format” of a band because there wasn’t enough mutual communication involved. Or perhaps, this opinion is just a little too farfetched.

After I wrote my review of Uta, I had hoped that I would change my assessment of it after listening to the album. But honestly speaking, even after I’ve now heard what Imai had to say, the murky feeling I’ve got hasn’t disappeared. I think there’s no one who praised Kurutta Taiyou, Koroshi no Shirabe, and darker~ more than me. However, when I listened to this new release, it did not hit me with an impact that got me feeling, “Amazing! They’ve won me over!” or a freshness that made my heart throb like those albums did. Those albums had a monstrous power, asense of unity that forcefully pins the listener into a corner without leaving room for negotiation. I suppose it can be said that I was overwhelmed by the immensity of their talent which grew with every new album they released.

However, even if this time’s BUCK-TICK release was “hard work”, I cannot say that it was their “best work”. Perhaps, BUCK-TICK are now at a critical juncture in their career. At least, that’s how I feel.

 

 

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Translation: Yoshiyuki
Scans: Endless Dei (@DeiEndless on Twitter)

 

Related articles:

[Apr 1995] Pati-Pati Rock ‘n’ Roll: Review of BUCK-TICK’s Uta/Kimi e Single

[Jul 1995] Pati-Pati Rock ‘n’ Roll: Part 2 of Atsushi Sakurai’s interview

The origin of “ISSAY”

Thank you for All -vol.004-
July 2012

Interview text by Masubuchi Kimiko (増渕公子)
Photography by Saori Tsuji [Blue Ash]

 

 

Profile

ISSAY (Issei): Born on the 6th of July in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. A vocalist. After working on the band ISSAY and SUICIDES and his own solo projects, DER ZIBET was formed in 1984. It was around the same time when he appeared in the movie The Legend of the Stardust Brothers and got acquainted with mastermind and showrunner Chikada Haruo. This meeting led to DER ZIBET’s major debut in 1985 with the single Matsu Uta under the label SIXTY RECORDS. Between switching labels to COLUMBIA TRIAD and then BMG Victor ariola later on, the band released a dozen albums before eventually going on an indefinite hiatus in 1996. In that same period, electronic music group HAMLET MACHINE was formed in 1991 and remained active alongside ISSAY’s DER ZIBET activities. He then formed ϕ (Phi) in 1998 with guitarist Hirose “JIMMY” Satoshi (ex. 44MAGNUM) and a few others but it was later disbanded in the year 2000. ISSAY meets DOLLY was then formed in 2002 (active irregularly), along with Lynx in 2005 with HEATH (X JAPAN). His musical career continued through these bands alone until 2006, when DER ZIBET came together again with all 5 original members of the band following the catalyst of HAL’s accident (although it was around 2007 when the band officially regrouped). 2009 saw the release of their first album since reformation, PRIMITIVE and their solo liveshow celebrating their 25th anniversary. They have remained very active since and in 2012, they have announced the release of two full albums, ROMANOID Ⅰ and ROMANOID Ⅱ and will be performing solo live shows in Tokyo and Osaka too. All while racing on towards their 30th anniversary.

 

 

There was no doubt that both my father and mother doted on me.
It’s just that…… I think my father was bad at showing love.

ーー This photoshoot and setting were selected based on ISSAY-san’s image. That said, ISSAY-san, do you often visit the rose garden?

ISSAY (I): During this season (May), I really do feel like going to the rose garden but the moment I thought about how crowded it would get, I had to give up on that idea for this shoot (lol).

ーー Would you visit every year?

 I: More or less every year in this past decade. If I don’t go in May or June, I’d go in October, during the autumn rose season. Y’know, some years ago, I’d even go with our drummer MAYUMI too. And this old Western-style building we had our shoot in, I love those types of buildings. I’d love to live in one (lol).

ーー (Lol). So, to start, I’d like to ask about your childhood. You were born in Shizuoka?

I: Right, Numazu City in Shizuoka Prefecture. Although it’s a coastal town, there are mountains too. It’s a place that’s sandwiched between both the mountains and the sea, but I’m better acquainted with the sea.

ーー Was the sea within walking distance?

I: I kept moving around Numazu City from time to time so it depended on where I lived at that period, y’know? From where the present house is, it’s not impossible to walk [to the sea] if I wanted to, I think.

ーー What do you mean by ‘moving around Numazu City’?

I: My parents were divorced. When I finished kindergarten, my younger brother and I, us two were taken in by our mother, but after that, I was then taken in by my father when I started 4th grade in elementary school. I started living with my father’s new wife, my present mother. And shortly after that, my present mother had a child with my father so I have a brother who’s 10 years younger than me.

ーー How did young ISSAY-san take such a situation?

I: Simply speaking, I hated it. I was a momma’s boy, so since I was being separated from my mother, it’s obvious that I would hate it.

ーー And it was right at the time when you’d miss your mother.

I: Exactly.

ーー I do wonder, what type of child were you when you were young?

I: What type… I’d be a whole other person from one period to the next, but I think I generally tended towards the quiet category. Like, I don’t think I was the type who would create that big a fuss over things. I was certainly often alone. But that’s also because my schooling district changed when I was taken into my father’s house. I went to school in a different district from where I lived, so I didn’t have a single friend near home. That is to say, because of that, I played alone at home. My younger brother was still a baby anyway, and besides, even if I went somewhere nearby to play, I won’t find any friends who went to the same school as I did. Whether I stayed at home or went outside, I was always playing with my own imagination. Like if I went to the river near my house, I’d try walking along the banks while imagining things like, “This river might be a river that leads to 〇〇”. Even when I played at home, in my head, the house would become a jungle or a secret base in space, yeah. Speaking of secret bases, I often dug holes in the garden when I still lived with my birth mother, you know. Using a shovel. Because it was my dream to build an underground kingdom (lol). But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t dig any deeper than my knees, because the ground gets so hard (lol).

ーー (Lol). Did she get angry with you for digging a huge hole?

I: In the beginning, when I dug out a big hole, my mother said, “Perfect, let’s throw our rubbish in this hole.” Then, when I started digging the next hole, she got angry with me and said, “It’s still too early.” What’s too early?    I had no idea what she meant (lol).

ーー That it was still too early to dig the next hole for trash (lol). Actually, I imagined ISSAY-san to be the quiet type at home.

I: I was like that too. When I was in kindergarten, I wrote letters to the Hakata dolls¹ at home.

ーー Were you in love with the Hakata dolls?

I: No, it’s nothing like that. Day after day, I’d write letters about what happened today and things like that and then put them into the glass display with the Hakata dolls. But since they were words written by a kindergartner, even if my parents did see them, they were indecipherable (lol).

ーー (Lol). It sounded like you were lonely… Did you spend time with your [birth] mother?

I: The family ran a business right next to the family home, so my mother often worked there, but whenever I missed her, I’d go to where my mother was in the company and draw or something so that I wouldn’t get in the way of her work. That’s why, at the time, I didn’t feel lonely, though. I understood that my father and my mother weren’t getting along.

ーー You could hear their marital discord.

I: That, and my father was an eccentric person. There was a bit of a violent side to him too so I was afraid [of him]. Despite that, I think there was no doubt that such a father of mine, and of course, my mother too, doted on me. It’s just that… I think my father was bad at showing love, now that I think about it (wry smile). I’ve only come to think so after growing up, but when I was a child, I couldn’t understand him at all. That’s why, when it was just the three of us; me, my mother, and my younger brother living together, it was a very carefree time for me. Sometimes, my father would get drunk and come to where the three of us lived… There were also times when he scared me very badly, though.

ーー I see…

I: My mother spoiled me, so I do also think that perhaps my father might’ve had his reservations about her parenting style².

ーー That the eldest son and successor has to be brought up strong.

I: I guess that was it.   So, although that was the kind of father he was, he doted on me anyway. You know~ One thing that I remember really well even now is, since both of my parents worked and neither of them would be at home, at the time, my father would buy me open reel tapes~~

ーー Open reel tapes!

I: Because that was a time before cassettes existed (lol). On those tapes, he would record himself reading picture books for me and I, as a kindergartner, would work the open reel tapes on my own and read my picture books while listening to them.

ーー I think the only ones who are capable of doing that now are radio station directors (lol).

I: You won’t get to touch those any more these days, though (lol). I’m grateful for that. Book after book, he made recordings for all of the books we had at home… Maybe he recorded them for me after he came home from work and had dinner or something. He loved alcohol, but it wasn’t as if he drank all the time either. I guess in that sense, he loved me.

ーー Contrary to his scary side, he has a gentle side too, doesn’t he?

I: To say that he was gentle, he wasn’t all that gentle a person, though. But that man’s moods, they’re far too intense. He’s a hundred times more of a rocker than I am (lol).

ーー Speaking of rockers, what kind of exposure to music did you have when you were young?

I: Just a bit of piano, the organ. Now I can’t play them at all (lol). If only I took it a little bit more seriously…

ーー Was it because piano is a girls’ thing?

I: I don’t have such impressions. It’s simply because I didn’t think it was fun. When it comes to music, I just watched those singing programs that they used to broadcast a lot on TV back then. So, you could say that it wasn’t as if I was all that into music. Ah, but I liked him, Ozaki Kiyohiko-san³. And because I liked him, my mother bought the EP⁴ of Mata Au Hi Made for my younger brother and I, and we listened to it on a portable player. That’s why, I was kind of happy when I got to act alongside Ozaki Kiyohiko-san in the movie, The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (lol).

ーー It’s unfortunate that he passed away just recently… But he was a wonderful person, wasn’t he?

I: He was wonderful, he was superb at singing since way back, and when I actually got to meet him, he was a person with an amazing aura about him. Also… I guess that’s pretty much what I liked. It wasn’t as if I was particularly into music anyway.

ーー Nothing about enjoying singing and things like that?

I: I hated it.

ーー Huh!?   Why?

I: Because it’s embarrassing. Standing in front of people to sing and all that, I get too embarrassed to do it. When I attended my father’s company dinners with him, I wouldn’t sing even if everyone was singing. He’d tell me, “Sing!” and I’d say, “No way, I don’t wanna sing,” and I’d end up getting beaten by him, though (lol). Even then, I wouldn’t sing.

ーー Basically, you’d absolutely never do something you didn’t want to do.

I: If I don’t like it, I don’t like it. But, you see, I didn’t understand what was the point of singing anyway.

ーー Mm… Why are you a vocalist now…

I: We’ll get to that afterwards (lol).

ーー It sounds like you often ended up joining your father for events where adults were gathered for drinks because he was running the business.

I: There were year-end parties, new year parties, company recreational trips, and all that. He ran an architecture and design firm, so there were designers, architects, site supervisors, and when there were banquets, the subcontractor carpenters and construction workers and painters would attend too. A lot of adults were nice to me, since, you know, I’m the CEO’s son (lol). But despite what it may sound like, it wasn’t as if we were super duper rich. In my opinion, it’s just that we weren’t poor.

 

I’d keep staring out the window during class while listening to the teacher teach.
Even such a school life was more peaceful than staying at home.

ーー Based on what you’ve told me so far, it sounds like you’ve always been the type to be picky about things since young?   Like when it comes to the clothes you wear, or food, or something.

I: I don’t think I was all that… Ah, I was (lol). I said it to my mother before, things like, “I won’t wear it unless my clothes are of this colour.” The things I was particular about would change from time to time, though. For example, there’d be a period when I’d say, “I don’t want to wear pants that aren’t black,” or, “I don’t want to wear any vest that isn’t burgundy in colour.” I think I used to say such things. But that was also something that only went on until I was about 9 years old; during the time when it was just me, my [biological] mother and my younger brother living together.

ーー Like, if you wore what you liked, you’d look better, or feel better.

I: Yeah, I think that’s what I had in mind. Because I wouldn’t wear clothes⁵ that I didn’t like (lol).

ーー (Lol) You were a fashionista, weren’t you? So, you know how boys, when they’re growing up, tend to have this period in their childhood when they develop an interest towards makeup? Did ISSAY-san have that phase?

I: I did. That was exactly what my interest towards my mother’s makeup products was. For each item, I’d ask, “What does this do?” I think she probably applied lipstick or something on me before. And she’d sometimes tie my hair up for me too (lol).

ーー Was this interest because of the feeling of becoming another you when she ties your hair up or something?

I: What I felt wasn’t that either, but I had fun doing it.

ーー What were you like in school?   Personally, I’ve got this impression that you were a clever child, though.

I: Nah, I wasn’t like that. I was a very very ordinary and quiet student. I think I became part of the class committee because of that, but I tried it, and thought, “Ah, I don’t like this,” and I never did it again, or something (lol). Besides,  I’m not particularly good at things which require me to put myself in the spotlight (lol). My switching between times when I wanted to put myself out there and times when I didn’t was wild, probably. For example, I’d be full of motivation in the first semester of fourth grade in elementary school, but by the second semester, I don’t want to do it anymore. If you looked at my report cards from back then, you’d see me being described as “restless” in the first semester, yet in the second semester, “too quiet, keeps looking outside during class” would be written (lol). The ups and downs were probably extreme.

ーー Were you aware of it?

I: Not at all. It’s only when people tell me about it that I realise it does seem that way. It’s just that there are things I’d be thinking about from one period to the next, and if I’m troubled by something, I’d end up becoming quiet. My personality would change. That’s why, my teacher would get worried and say things like, “You’ve suddenly turned quiet since the start of the 2nd semester, did something happen over summer break?” (lol). I didn’t think that I changed, though. But on the whole, what I’ve often heard them say was that I was often staring out the window while listening to the teacher teach.

ーー Because classes were boring?

I: I enjoyed them when they were about things I was interested in. I’d get very motivated about the things I was interested in, but when I have no interest in it, there’s none of that at all (lol). In terms of subjects, I hated Kanji in Japanese language classes. I didn’t see the point in memorising. If anything, I preferred science and mathematics related subjects. For social sciences, I liked history but I didn’t understand a lick of geography. When it was the term when we studied geography, my grades would be horrendous, but when it was history, I’d get very good grades.

ーー When you have an interest in it, you’d get increasingly absorbed in it.

I: And if I’m not interested in it, I wouldn’t have the slightest shred of interest at all.

ーー What about sports?

I: My motor skills were alright, so I’m usually fast at running. But I’m very bad at throwing balls (lol). I liked high jump, long jump, short distance sprints, but I’m extremely bad at middle-distance runs and throwing. For example, I didn’t like dodgeball because it hurts if you sprain your finger while playing it, but on the other hand, I liked basketball, things like that (lol).

ーー Huh, why is that? I don’t understand the determinant factor (lol).

 I: I guess, maybe I thought it was fun getting the ball into the net for basketball. I can get myself involved if it makes me think, “Ah, this seems like fun,” but otherwise, I wouldn’t want to do it at all. My report card was horrible too. While I’d get a 5⁶ sometimes, there are other times when I’d get 2⁶. That was something that changed between semesters (lol).

ーー How did your parents react when they looked at it?

I: My father was a person who was strict when it came to education so I got beaten to a pulp. He’d say, “It’s because you don’t concentrate!” (lol). My mother never really said much. My father was a noisy person anyway, so maybe that made my mother not want to say anything too harsh.

ーー It seems to me that you were very particular about things, but what was the criteria for these preferences?   Like, did you want to only do things that were cool to you, or something like that?

I: I care to consider whether something was cool or not, but if I was going to be late for school, I wouldn’t want to go. I’d just think, well, since I wouldn’t make it in time even if I went to school today, I want to rest. But this decision isn’t based on whether it’s a cool thing to do or not. School lunches were a pain too. I, basically, can’t eat much, so, why is everyone capable of eating so much? I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

ーー So your appetite has always been small.

I: Also, I’ve always had this thing where I can’t eat much if I’m eating in a place where lots of people are around. I think I didn’t like the idea of everyone being fed the same way. And it simply didn’t taste good either (lol).

ーー There were times when the school lunch menus were awful back in the day, weren’t there? (Lol). Considering this, I guess school wasn’t a very happy place for you, was it?

I: It was better than being at home. I didn’t want to stay at home. Because as a child, I hated my father.

ーー So, it was more peaceful in school.

I: That’s right, it was peaceful.

ーー I see… So, when did ISSAY-san start getting into music?

I: Since the end of elementary school or around the time when I was in junior high school, I was listening to movie soundtracks. I’d buy omnibus cassette tapes of old movie soundtracks of films like Purple Noon⁷. Speaking of which, I think it would be classified as a rock song in today’s terms but I liked Tubular Bells, the theme song of the movie Exorcist⁸ and similar music. I definitely did buy a radio-cassette player when I entered junior high school and listened to these in my own room. Although, there was a stereo at home but it was too old so it couldn’t be used. At the same time, I didn’t want to listen using it because that would mean that I’d have to listen in a place where the rest of my family was. In any case, I’ve always been the type who’d stay in my room and never leave (lol). So the music that I listened to on the cassette player in my own room was pretty much just movie soundtracks. I also more or less listened to the rock and pop music broadcast on radio, but I wasn’t really into it.

ーー What about borrowing from your friends?

I: Well, I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my friends. Because my home was far [away from school] so I didn’t normally have friends to hang out with. Things remained that way when I was in junior high school too.

I didn’t want to be controlled so I didn’t belong to any group. But for some reason, I was favoured by delinquents. They’d say to me, “I’ll treat you to coffee jelly.”

ーー After-school activities?

I: Kendo club. I joined because it seemed like fun, and I was even properly present for club activities. I reached first-dan⁹ in high school, so, I attended two different high schools, but in my second high school, they made it compulsory for me to join a club or something. That was when I joined the kendo club and achieved dan⁹ level.

ーー lSSAY-san practicing kendo… I didn’t expect that (lol).

I: And, you know, the armour was huge. Because when I first started junior high, I was so small that I was positioned second from the front¹⁰. Then, in those three years of junior high, I grew about 26cm taller and after that, I grew another 10cm taller.

ーー Did things change as a result of your growth spurt? Like suddenly becoming popular with the girls?   Or getting more chocolates on Valentines’ Day?

I: In those days, obligatory chocolates and all that didn’t exist which meant that you got anything, it was for real. So I remember receiving only one when I was a 6th grader in elementary school and feeling all troubled, like, “Ah, this is serious.” Though, I think that might’ve been a junior who was with me as part of the library committee.

ーー So, you were on the library committee.

I: Because I loved books. You see… If I’m alone in my room, the only thing I can do is read books, right?

ーー Ah, that’s true. Those were the days when the only TV in the house was in the living room too.

I: Yeah, and I hated going to the living room where my father was. So I’d just hole myself up in my room and read Edogawa Ranpo¹¹, mystery, fantasy, stories about ghouls and fairies. You could only borrow one book a day from the library, you see. Since that was the case, I decided that on weekdays, I’d borrow an easy book and finish it within the day. On Saturdays, I’d borrow a thick book and read it on Saturday and Sunday, over two days.

ーー So, 6 books a week.

I: Yeah.

ーー That’s a ton of reading!

I: But you see, that includes random books that I could finish in a day.

ーー What kind of student were you in junior high?

I: I might’ve been considered to be a bit of a delinquent (lol), but it wasn’t anything like doing this or that with my uniform. You know how there’d somehow always be those friends or seniors who are bad company?   I was favoured by those people, though I really don’t know why. So, I had to go through town to get home. And when I meet those slightly delinquent fellow classmates while walking down the shopping district, they’d call out to me saying things like, “I’ll treat you to coffee jelly at the coffee shop.”

ーー Were they looking for something in return?

I: Nope, not particularly. I wonder why. Maybe it’s because I was aimlessly wandering around.

ーー Were they thinking of getting ISSAY-san into their own group since you didn’t belong to any?

I: But even if they did invite me, I still won’t belong to any particular group anyway. Somehow, I don’t like the idea of my actions being controlled. But I was hiding in my room because of that, so there’s also the question of whether that’s freedom or not though.

ーー But there must’ve been a reason why they took such notice of you. Maybe it was something you weren’t aware of.

I: I guess… For example, wasn’t there a trend of piercing a hole in your ear with a safety pin?

ーー Ah, was there?

I: It was right around the time when punk appeared. So, I happened to be there right when the delinquents were going about whether to put a hole in their ear or not. And they asked me, “Hey, can you pierce a hole?” and I said, “I can,” and straight up stuck the safety pin in and pierced a hole myself. 

ーー Without numbing it with ice first?

I: Uhhuh. That hurt (lol). Contrarily, to pierce your ear, it wasn’t particularly realistic for students in the countryside to do, you know? And we didn’t have any concept of having piercings either. So that was just a matter of whether you can pierce a hole here or not (lol).

ーー Like, touch this thing to see whether it’s hot or not?

I: I wouldn’t have liked it hot, though (lol), but well, it was something like, I guess it’s fine to pierce a hole since it could turn into a fashion statement too? (lol).

ーー Because you had an interest in rock and punk fashion anyway?

I: I suppose, in a roundabout way, but I wasn’t all that interested in rock itself.

ーー So, when you did that, they just said, “Good on you”?

I: I don’t think there was anything like that either. Probably just a, “Huh, that guy really pierced his ear” (lol).

ーー So you made nothing but losses from piercing your ear (lol).

I: (Lol).

ーー Did you put a stud or something into that hole?

I: No, no, I didn’t. We only had safety pins there. So, I just made a hole and removed the pin… Wait, isn’t that self-harm! (Lol)

ーー Thank you for playing along (lol).

I: I didn’t even think of that. So, I didn’t do anything particularly bad in those days; that was the kind of junior high life I had.

 

 

At the boarding high school it was study, study, study everyday. It was so uncomfortable there that I couldn’t take it and snuck out of the dormitory every Saturday night. Right then, that incident happened……

ーー What about your high school entrance exams?

I: Well, I went to a preparatory school, but by that time, I had already lost interest in studying for school and my grades were steadily dropping, so I attended cram school for a time during summer break of my third year in junior high. Though, when I skipped those classes too and got caught for it, I was badly beaten for it. To a point where I felt like my life was in danger, really.

ーー From your father.

I: Yea. So, I decided that I’d just study anyway, and when I did, my grades came back, but you know… My transcripts¹² weren’t good, were they? Since they consisted of all 3 years starting from my first year in junior high. So I entered a barely-acceptable high school that didn’t really care about those things, but. That place was the worst.

ーー The worst?

I: It was a private boarding school where we were split into classes based on our grades. It was awful. Absolutely awful. Like after dinner, we weren’t allowed to go into other students’ rooms after 7 p.m., and we had to stay up until 11 p.m. at night to study. Then, we had 7 hours of classes in school which were then followed by another 2 hours of class in the prep school next to the dormitories which were run by the high school.

ーー Cram and cram and cram.

I: Yeah. It was extremely strict and they’ll post everyone’s grades up so there’s bullying in that sense too. Because I couldn’t tolerate that sort of thing.

ーー And there’s nowhere to escape to because it’s a boarding school…

I: But. It was better than going home. When I snuck out of the dormitory, I went drinking. We targeted Saturday nights when surveillance wasn’t as strict. Whenever I went to our usual bar, someone would always buy me a drink. So, I’d only drink there every week. Though, it wasn’t as if I understood or appreciated the taste of alcohol, it just looked cool, you know? Well, at a different place, an incident which involved more than half of the dormitory occurred when I was in my second year of high school. Juniors somehow got caught but all of the blame was placed on me.

ーー Because it involved alcohol?

I: Well, that’s what it was though. That incident, although there was no such thing as a mastermind or anything like that, all of it was blamed on me. I guess, maybe the school sort of knew about what I was doing and they were just looking for a chance. But even though this incident involved more than half the students in the dormitory, all of the blame was pinned on me and I was the only one who was made to drop out… Because of that, I became sick and tired of everything. I dropped out around autumn of my second year in high school, but since my father had some level of reputation, I couldn’t be at home, could I? Because other people would find out about this if I was in my hometown. And so, I was sent to Yotsuya¹³ where I was a live-in newspaper delivery boy.

ーー Huh, your parents made that decision?

I: Yeah. They say that newspaper delivery is tough, but once you’ve gotten used to it, it’s fine. To the high schooler that I was, that was better than being at home anyway. Actually, they also raised the possibility of transferring me into a high school in Tokyo, but no matter the school, they had no reason to take in a kid who wanted to transfer at such an awkward time in the school year for some unknown reason. I was also at the point when I didn’t want to go to school, so…… In any case, I was angry at the backstabbing by the juniors in that high school I was expelled from, at the school for trying to cover up the incident which involved more than half the dormitory by blaming it on me alone, and at all my classmates who said nothing against it. Because that happened, I believed that people couldn’t be trusted anymore.

ーー Not a single person told the truth… That must’ve been quite a blow.

I: Yeah. So while delivering newspapers in Yotsuya, I got acquainted with people from a particular left-wing group, and my parents caught wind of me hanging out there so I got taken back into their home (lol). In the end, I was only in Yotsuya for 2 or 3 months before they brought me back. And because they said, “You’re not allowed to go anywhere,” I was essentially under house arrest. I had no money at 17, so I couldn’t go out and have fun anyway, right? There was nowhere for me to go. At home, my parents would keep saying all sorts of things to me whenever we met. Also, I’d be subjected to forced labour at my father’s construction sites on occasion. He’d say, “Understand what it means to work!” Aside from that, I’d be in my room all the time, reading the books I have there. It was around that time when I started writing. Starting from a diary, and gradually into poetry. Every evening, I’d say I’m going out for a walk and go towards the sea to take a breather. I’d spend about an hour there by the seaside, passing time before going back into my room to listen to music. Actually, it was at my first high school where I first encountered rock music.

ーー What was rock at the time?

I: I think the very first one was David Bowie. A classmate had me listen to Station to Station¹⁴. When I heard it, I thought, “Ah, so rock can be expressed in this manner too.” I didn’t like rock at all at the time, but after that, I loved it. I think that one was released in 1976. When David Bowie slicked his hair back.

ーー Was it after you encountered David Bowie that you got inspired to start a band?

I: When you hear such complex music you won’t get the urge to do music, yeah. I just listened to it, thinking that it’s amazing. It was after that when I started to listen to rock and all sorts of music, though. At the time, Japan¹⁵ came about, so I listened to Japan. Then there was Gary Numan¹⁶ and Public Image¹⁷… That was the kind of music I was listening to. I even took my radio-cassette player with me when I was living in Yotsuya.

ーー So, for how long did that confinement in your parents’ home continue?

I: Around February of my supposed second year in high school, I thought, this is bad, I can’t keep going on like this. I wanted to talk to people in my age group. So, I said I wanted to go to school and got myself enrolled into my second high school. I had to drop a grade from high school year 2, which meant that while I should have been in year 3 [at my age], I transferred into year 2 at a high school with more freedom (lol). But as you’d expect, I couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone in the beginning. That untrusting period went on for quite a while. But with a change of environment, I, too, gained the ability to change myself. I doubted and suspected and couldn’t trust, didn’t trust, wouldn’t trust until at the very end, I ultimately decided to try and trust these people who made me feel like I could trust them. And so, during my time in my second high school, I managed to make friends with people who I could call my best friends¹⁸.

ーー Through rock?

I: We did talk about rock too. It was during that time, when I was borrowing all sorts of music from friends to listen to that I found T-REX¹⁹ and Sex Pistols²⁰. And it was then when I made the big mistake of thinking that I might be able to pull it off if I were to make music like theirs (lol). Like, I could probably do it if it was this sort of simple rock’n’roll. If it was that somewhat aloof sort of singing, rather than the high-toned shouting kind of music I hated, maybe I could do it too. You see, I thought that this was the fastest shortcut. Although I had started writing poetry, it wasn’t as if I did it because I thought I was talented anyway. I just did it by following the methodology without the idea that I had the talent for poetry. So, that’s how I felt, yeah. That, maybe I could do it, singing… Although I’ve never sung in front of anyone before (lol).

 

I have to drink, or I can’t sing!   I just get so incredibly embarrassed. Despite that, we believed that we’d go pro, even though we were such a fraud of a band (lol).

ーー Were you in an actual band even in high school?

I: Nope, because I haven’t decided to start a band at the time. When I became a year 3 student, among the graduating students; students the same age as me but one school year ahead of me, were those who I would eventually start a band with and some of them were headed towards Tokyo, so I sent them off with the words, “I’ll be heading there next year too, so if you’re going there and want to start a band, keep practicing, yeah?” And a year later, I went to Tokyo too.

ーー You studied crazy hard and took the university entrance exams.

I: Well, I didn’t study. Any university was fine. As long as I could get in.

ーー As long as you could get into university, you could live in Tokyo, away from your parents.

I: Exactly. And I got into the university’s economics faculty. I actually wanted to join the literature faculty but I got asked, “What’s the point of that?” I didn’t really want to argue about it so I just said, “I’ll go for economics then.”

ーー Was living in Tokyo like paradise, a fresh new start?

I: It wasn’t exactly paradise there. Anyway, the only thing I had decided on was what I was going to do. That I would, in any case, make music.

ーー So you started a band with those who came to Tokyo first?

I: The guitarist and bassist were my hometown friends, but we only lacked a drummer so I tricked a drummer at my university (lol) into joining the band and named it ISSAY and SUICIDES (SUICIDES). We already composed an original even before we had our first studio session. I went to the guitarist’s place, had him put chords to the melody I came up with and composed it together. I then wrote the lyrics later.

ーー What was your first studio session like?

I: I couldn’t do it unless I drank.

ーー Hah?

I: But, you see, I can’t sing in front of people when I’m sober. I just get so incredibly embarrassed. That’s why  I don’t even know whether what I did at the time can even be called singing though. But the fact that we thought that we’d go ahead and perform live with that, and that none of us thought that we couldn’t do a live show… Even though we were such a, fraud of a band (lol).

ーー Calling yourselves a fraud of a band (lol).

I: Really, now that I think about it, we were an awful band (lol). No matter how you look at it, we were such a hoax that I’m wondering how we ever thought that band could go pro.

ーー Where did you perform your show?

I: The first was at a tiny live house in Koenji. It’s not there anymore but, hm… I think it was called Red House²¹. It was a strange live house; there’s a bar counter, and a performance space in the back, and for some reason, there was a seating area floored with tatami mats next to it. That was where we performed live. I was 20 when I first took to the stage, you know. So, shortly after we started performing shows, our audience also gradually grew.

ーー Because you did some sort of advertising?

I: So, before we played our first show, at the time, an acquaintance made a recommendation for me to JUNE²² (ジュネ) and ALLAN²³ (アラン), which were what you’d now refer to as BL²⁴ magazines. They then published a few pages worth of photos of me so people who read those magazines were the ones who came to our performances. From the first or second show.

ーー So that’s how it happened. Um… Did you know what kind of magazines they were before you agreed to appear in them?

I: I did. They posted information for me numerous times after too, and I even had a feature in JUNE. Don’t misunderstand me, but ever since high school, I’ve been going to those establishments to drink.

ーー So you’re immune.

I: Not at all. Rather, I’m comfortable. It’s not… Anyway, it’s like, say, I thought it was fine either way (lol).

ーー Mm~ Freedom (lol). It appears that you were also modelling while being in a band?

I: Modelling, that just happened by chance.

ーー Ah, was it also around this period when you started pantomime?

I: Just before I turned 21, yes. So, there’s a beauty salon back in my hometown that I used to go to when I was a high schooler, and the people there took a liking to me so they asked me to be a hair model. It was there where I met my pantomime teacher, just by chance. At the time, we only greeted each other, but a year later, we happened to meet again at the same beauty salon. Because even after I turned 20 and moved to Tokyo, I still go to that beauty salon on occasion to cut or dye my hair.

ーー The both of you came from the same hometown?

I: Yeah, it just so happened. So, we exchanged greetings and my teacher left the beauty salon, but right after that, he made a phone call to the beauty salon. “It’s ISSAY-kun’s call,” the staff said, right before adding, “It’s the pantomime guy from earlier. He said that he’d be performing his next show in [unknown month], and asked if you’d perform?” He asked whether I would perform, but I’ve never done anything like that before, and besides, I didn’t know whether I was capable of it or not, so I said, “I don’t think I can,” and declined, but then, he said, “No, don’t worry, I’ll only let you do things within your ability.” I thought, if that’s the case, then it wouldn’t hurt to try. And after 2 months of special training, I performed in that show.

ーー Did you have fun?

I: I was nervous. But pantomime was interesting. Actually, rather than pantomime itself being interesting, it was the many things that my teacher taught me about, things which I never knew prior. The way we think about things, music, the arts… There was so much to know and learn from my teacher that it felt as if my world expanded all at once. That was really interesting, you know? And it’s still going on even now, though.

ーー The band and pantomime, you were absorbed in these two activities, so school…?

I: I barely went.

ーー Because you were engrossed in having fun.

I: Mm… Regarding the band, rather than it being something I did because I enjoyed it, to me, it was more of a thing that I felt I absolutely had to do. It’s definitely not something I was doing just because it’s fun. Because I felt that I couldn’t go without doing it.

ーー Because the version of you who writes lyrics and performs on stage is the real you?

I: Yeah, because I really strongly felt that I’d be nothing if I didn’t do this. You know, I’ve rarely ever thought that being in a band was fun.

ーー But were you happy when your audience grew?

I: Well, that. See, the magazines were posting news about our band as usual too. And because that was the new wave era, the ones with the ideas were the ones who would win. It was a time when it was fine for things like technique to come later. Generally speaking, whether you’re faking it musically or whatever, you’d come out on top as long as you could make the audience think what you wanted them to think. And for some reason, I had nothing but confidence for that, you know.

ーー You were particular with your image too, and even dyed your hair. 

I: Every month, my hair would turn a different colour. I’d go to an acquaintance’s beauty salon every month and change colours… Because I get tired of things easily (lol). I was blond before, made it resemble the colour of wakame²⁵ where it looks black at a glance but when the sun shines on my hair, it turns green (lol).

ーー Wakame-coloured (lol). So that you could attract people’s attention with your stage style.

I: Yeah, that was my intention. Although our audience grew bit by bit as we performed as a band, musically, we weren’t quite anywhere… So, I think it was either in 1982 or 1983, SUICIDES disbanded. Because I decided that I wanted things to be a little more solid musically. I started up my own solo project anew, and HAL, the bassist who I’m still performing with even now, was in it, you know. SUICIDES’ guitarist said he had a friend who was a great bassist, and introduced him to me. Also, by that time, it became absolutely essential to have a keyboardist in your band, so Morioka Ken-kun²⁶ (ex. SOFT BALLET²⁷) joined me for a time. Basically, the innocent high schooler Morioka Ken was tricked (lol) and pulled in. I actually think Morioka-kun’s very first time on stage was as a part of my band. So the guitarist and drummer positions were filled by the remnants of SUICIDES but once Morioka-kun quit, the band members kept getting replaced time and time again… You know, around 1984, we actually found ourselves in a situation where we didn’t know who was going to be part of the lineup for our next show. Besides, I don’t really listen to what people say (lol). After all, when it comes to working together, if it wasn’t with you clicked with, you’d definitely soon come to hate each other.

ーー Since you’re in a band with HAL-san even now, does it mean that you clicked?

I: We did. All the other band members came and went, but HAL had always been with me. So, since we had to look for new members again, we went everywhere approaching people and auditioning. And the members who we gathered back then are the present band members of DER ZIBET. When this current group of band members came together and made music together for the first time, I thought, it might be better if I didn’t do this under my solo project any more, we should start a band. We called it DER ZIBET.

 

DER ZIBET debuted one year after its formation. When I got to the point where I was going to put my all into music, my controlling father never said anything again.

ーー Wasn’t that right about the same time when you appeared in the movie, The Legend of the Stardust Brothers?

I: A little bit before that. At the end of my solo work.

ーー So, why were you in the movie?

I: This is a true story that sounds like a lie, but when I was looking for band members to join my solo project, there was someone who was bringing my profile around to do that for me. And it just so happened that this person was involved in that movie too. So, they were at a point where they couldn’t find someone they liked to play the role I was eventually given in The Legend of the Stardust Brothers, and what I heard was, they had a meeting to evaluate if there were any more candidates. During that meeting, the person who was helping me with the band member search said, “I’ve got something else to handle, so if you’ll excuse me,” and he was about to leave the room when my information slipped out. The others saw it and asked, “Who’s this?” That person had been caught with something unrelated to work, so he started panicking and said, “Please pretend that you didn’t see this,” but they decided, “It’s fine, call this kid over,” and that’s how I got the call.

ーー To think such a drama-like string of events actually happened.

I: Yeah. And from what they told me, although it was a movie, it was also a rock music, and Macoto Tezuka²⁸ was the director while Chikada Haruo²⁹ was the one behind the original idea and the mastermind of the production. I thought it all sounded like it could get very interesting.

ーー Chikada Haruo-san, as in, Vibrastone’s³⁰?

I: That’s right. At the time, I had a manager who was more of a theatre person than a music person so I took part without having much of a full picture of what was going on… Really, I’m so ashamed for doing that (wry smile).

ーー But your meeting Chikada Haruo-san had a lot to do with what was to come for DER ZIBET, right?

I: You’re right. I met Chikada-san, did the movie, and when the movie was done, my band became DER ZIBET. So, DER ZIBET was asked to perform at the live event before the movie preview. Other famous indie artists at the time, like Kubota Shingo³¹ and Takagi Kan³² and a bunch of others performed too. Chikada Haruo-san was watching that event and it was then when he took an interest in DER ZIBET. Soon after, he brought the president of an upcoming record label to our show and asked us if we were interested in being his label’s first artist. That label was Sixty Records.

ーー Didn’t things move extremely quickly? From the time of your formation to your debut?

I: It was. Besides, it was only about a year after DER ZIBET’s formation that we debuted.

ーー Fast (lol). Sounds exciting for the band members too.

I: We were aloofly excited, right.

ーー Aloofly excited (lol). Blood type doesn’t say everything, but I’m guessing that the number of blood type ABs in DER ZIBET must be high (lol).

I: HAL and HIKARU and I are blood type AB (lol).

ーー How unusual (lol). Were there a lot of different elements in your music from that time?

I: Yeah. Because we’re a gathering of musicians with different backgrounds. You know,  “french pop is interesting” and “movie soundtracks are interesting” were the only things that all of us agreed on (lol).

ーー Vague (lol).

I: See, MAHITO was originally a bassist but switched to being a keyboardist halfway through. I believe he’s been playing the keyboard since he was a child so he can even play classical music, but I think the genre he was into at the time was techno. I liked Roxy Music³³ so that was where we got along. MAYUMI was a mysterious guy who played unbelievable drums (lol). He’d have a ridiculous number of tom toms set up too. I think he probably liked the drummer Terry Bozzio³⁴ so he might’ve been influenced by him. So, you know, I think he probably listened to Frank Zappa³⁵, for sure, and Missing Persons³⁶ and the sort of pop genre music. Him and HAL, they liked progressive rock so they talked a lot in that area. And, then there’s HIKARU who listened to a wide range of music; anything from jazz to punk to hard rock and everything in between.

ーー Even your music preferences were all over the place; they don’t really come together (lol).

I: But you see, that’s because it was the new wave era; the time when techniques of combining musical genres were established. As my words suggest, we mix a bunch of things together to acquire new techniques which we then try to apply to old music to create something new altogether. From this perspective, I think that DER ZIBET’s experimental nature fit right into that era. That was the strategy of our record label back then; to put that sort of DER ZIBET out just as we were to make it look a little more upscale, y’know?

ーー Did you ever produce any demo tapes prior to your debut?

I: We did. We had actually been scouted by another record label and we worked with that label to the point of recording a demo tape, but for one reason or another, all of us, the band members felt that it would probably take us quite some time before we could actually debut if we stuck with that label. So we took the demo tape we recorded there and brought it to Sixty Records (lol). Aren’t we such an ungrateful bunch (lol).

ーー (Lol). Was the very first release of DER ZIBET’s debut like the culmination of everything you’ve been doing up till then?

I: Yeah.

ーー Did the relationship between ISSAY-san and your family change at that time?

I: Once I said, “Well, I’m going to have my debut,” they gave up, y’know. Up until that point, they kept saying all sorts of things like, “Music is just a thing you’re doing as a hobby,” or that they wouldn’t send me any allowance if I didn’t go back during the summer vacations, and all that. So that’s why no one had anything to say when I managed to make my debut in the middle of my university education.

ーー It’s great that your debut went without a hitch.

I: Or rather, it was probably more like a form of recognition that I’m finally making my move. Ever since that incident in high school, the way I looked at things had changed drastically, and that’s why I think that my life only truly started at age 17. The person I was prior to that and after that are… How should I put this…… I guess you could say that to me, there’s a severance between them. Everything changed when I was 17. How I thought about things, the way I looked at them, everything. At the same time, that was also when I established my own view of my life, things like my reason for living, you know. And that’s why, even now, the very first question I’d ask myself when considering something is, “What would I think about this if I were my 17-year-old self?” Because to me, that incident which happened when I was 17 was my personal test of faith³⁷.

 

My parents secretly came to watch my show. I think this father of mine who I so feared had been supporting me in the shadows until the end of his life.

ーー Hmn. So how were things after going pro?

I: It was uncharted grounds, but while we didn’t know anything, I think we had some sort of unfounded confidence (lol). Because I hadn’t really watched all that many people performing live before at the time. And besides, even music, I started doing it only because of my own wilful idea that it was something I could do if I did it that particular way. So it was only of course that prior to debuting, I didn’t even know what it entailed. Neither did I have any background knowledge at all. If, back then, I knew that this is the kind of music that would be popular in today’s world, that Japan’s music industry would end up in this state… If I knew these sorts of things, I would’ve probably chosen not to do music. You know, I think I could do it only because I didn’t know things.

ーー But even if you didn’t know, wasn’t it huge to ISSAY-san that you got to a place where you could make music you wanted to make?

I: Yeah. Because I thought I’d probably die if I couldn’t do music.

ーー Huh!?

I: Because even if I couldn’t make music for a living and had to earn money and feed myself with part-time jobs or whatever, it was fine with me. Above all, I felt that if I ever got myself into a situation where I couldn’t put all of myself into music, I’d be as good as gone.

ーー You believed so strongly that music was all you had.

I: Yeah.

ーー That you wanted to give your life to what you love.

I: Is it something I love? That’s something I ask myself even now… Although, there must be something about it that suits my personality if someone as fickle as I am has kept at it for as long as I have (lol). But have I been doing this because I love it?   On this point, I said that I didn’t particularly enjoy singing by nature. And that I absolutely hated singing in front of people.

ーー Mm… If that’s the case, then it makes me wonder all the more, why music?

I: I suppose, maybe it’s because the first time I stood on stage was the very first time in my life when I was called “cool” instead of “gross”.

ーー You were called words like gross?

I: Well, it’s gross, isn’t it, for a male to wear makeup on the regular. Back in those days.

ーー Huh, you wore makeup regularly?

I: Yeah, in high school. Although, as you might expect, I didn’t wear it all the time in my high school days. Since, you know, my parents could see me.

ーー What led to that?

I: It wasn’t that I wanted to be a woman, or that I wanted to be perceived as a woman so much that I started wearing makeup or anything like that. I forgot what started it, but I got into an argument with a friend when I was in junior high. And it was then when he said, “You queer bastard³⁸!” But I didn’t understand the reason behind why he called me that. Like, on what basis was he calling me that? So I asked him back, “What do you mean by that?” and he said, “You’re so much like a girl that it’s gross!” All I thought was, oh, I see. That turned into a preoccupation of mine for the longest time. So after that, sometime after I started high school, a thought crossed my mind, y’know, that, “If I really am that feminine, then I’d probably look good with makeup. And since that’s the case, then I should wear makeup. No one’s going to have anything to complain about if I wear makeup anyway.” And so, I started wearing makeup similar to how it is now. I have been ever since I was a high schooler.

ーー Even when you went to school?

I: That’s right. They thought I had mental problems at the time (lol), so my teachers didn’t say anything either. When we were doing push-ups during phys ed, the teacher saw my nails and asked, “What’s this?” so I answered, “Manicure,” and to that, he said, “You’re into that sort of thing?” It’d be too troublesome for me to explain properly right there and then, so I just replied with, “Yes.” And he said, “I see.” And that was it (lol).

ーー (Lol).

I: After that, the phys ed teacher called my friend, like, “Hey, come here,” and then asked him, “That kid’s a little different, isn’t he?   Doesn’t he seem a bit like That (gay)?” And I think my friend answered with, “Yeah, he does. He seems to be kind of That.” (Lol).

ーー You weren’t bothered by the reactions of the people around you?

I: People who walk past would often do a double-take, but (lol) I thought that compared to forcing myself to hunch and walk around like a guy in a sorry state, this was far better, wearing makeup and walking tall with my chest out.

ーー It’s cooler to wear makeup the way you like it and walk around proudly.

I: I didn’t exactly wear makeup because I liked it, though… Ah, I guess I did like it (lol).

ーー I don’t think you’d wear makeup you didn’t like (lol).

I: Yeah, I wouldn’t (lol). But really, getting called a queer bastard really shocked me.

ーー I wonder if it’s because you were mild-mannered?   Like sticking out your pinky finger?

I: No, no (lol). But, well, with the way my face looks and how my body is shaped like this.

ーー To ISSAY-san back then, wasn’t that the highest form of insult in the limited vocabulary of a junior high schooler?

I: Probably. Well, but when we look at the generations who came later, I think I’m the one who won, though (lol). Now, even if high school boys wear makeup, people would think that they’re trying to look cool and that’s the end of it, right? (Lol). 

ーー That’s true.

I: So, going back to the topic at hand, this me who seems to be like That (lol) was called cool for the first time when I stood on stage just the way I was, and that’s why I thought, music is what I should be doing. Things happened as usual in my daily life, though. During DER ZIBET’s Kyushu tour, I crashed³⁹ at a relative’s house for a night and went drinking with my uncle when his friends saw me looking the way I was. It turned out those people mistook me for my uncle’s paramour (lol). Because at the time, I was blond and the locks at my nape were long. That was a story I heard at my father’s funeral.

ーー Your father, he’d passed away?

I: Right around HOMO DEMENS (1990). He was a father I feared but he never said anything more after I made my debut, y’know, since I’m earning my own money and feeding myself. And it was only later on that I also heard that he apparently snuck over to watch my show (lol). They said he secretly came to my show at Shibuya Public Hall⁴⁰, him and my mother, together.

ーー I guess it’s because of your father’s pride that he did it in secret.

I: Perhaps…   Although, he did say, “That was amazing. It was so loud it felt like my insides were getting torn out.” (Lol). Then when I asked my mother, “Did you come and watch?”, she said, “I certainly did.” (Lol). Our family’s really quite formal and reserved with each other so that’s about it. I’m going a little off topic, but my alcohol-loving father got affected with liver disease so he stopped drinking ever since I was in high school. But we didn’t think he was going to die yet at the time, y’know. So, one day when I was in my final year of high school, my father called me to his room. I was apprehensive, thinking in the back of my mind, “What could it be?   Is he going to get angry and hit me again?” but instead, he said, “There’s a liquor called 〇〇〇〇 on the first floor. Bring it here.” After I went and brought it back, he said, “Fill this glass,” so I did, and then he said, “Drink,” so I drank. Then he said, “This is expensive stuff so taste it and drink,” so I drank it bit by bit, but then he said, “How would you know the taste of the liquor when you sip like that!!”, so I downed it all in one gulp and slammed the glass on the table. Then he said, “Good, you, me and your mother will finish this bottle today.” The bottle I just opened was brandy, so I drank, thinking I’ll be fine since both my parents will be drinking too, but before I knew it, my father was drinking shochu and my mother was drinking whiskey (lol). In the end, I emptied that bottle of brandy on my own, in one night (lol).

ーー Strong (lol). It sounded as if there was something your father wanted to say.

I: Maybe he wanted to drink with me at least once because he knew that he’d never be able to drink with me again for the rest of his life…… was what I only realised later. Because it never happened before and never happened again, so that was the one and only time…

ーー Ah…

I: Even after that, there were times when my father had to go to Tokyo for get-togethers⁴¹ because of work. On those occasions, he’d tell me, “Come pick me up,” and I would go and pick him up, though. Just so that he could use the excuse, “I have to go because my son has come to pick me up”. But it doesn’t make sense that someone looking like this picks him up, right? My father’s friends all made a huge fuss, y’know (lol). Like, “What’s up with you?” (lol).

ーー I’d expect that (lol). Could it be that he wanted to show off a little bit too?

I: Nah, there’s nothing to be proud of, is there? A guy like me.

ーー No way, you’ve made your debut, released CDs, performed live shows; even if he didn’t say it directly, I’m very sure he was proud of you.

I: Who knows, really?   Although, I do think that he was supportive of me. With those circumstances, I was prepared to watch this person who I so feared as a child grow weaker and weaker so…… I didn’t feel anything special but… Mmm…… I didn’t see him die, y’know. When I got home and turned on my answering machine, message after message after message was recorded from the moment he fell into critical condition until he passed and I rushed back to my parents’ home as fast as I could but…… I think there were 2 times when I cried. Once was when I visited him in the hospital and I saw him struggling desperately, trying to get up even though he couldn’t. I guess my father wanted to show his dignity… That manly spirit⁴² made me cry, and after that was when my father died, and I arrived at my parents’ home and saw my father’s corpse. When I went back into my room, the tears came. Why did I cry?   I have absolutely no clue, though. During the funeral, I had a lot of trouble because I had extensions in my hair which made it so long that it reached my ankles, y’know. Even though my mother was already peeved when I visited my father at the hospital with that hair, I still showed up at his funeral with it so she was half-mad with rage, scolding me, “I can’t believe you dare show up with that head.” She gave me the silent treatment for a good half year after that (lol). But it wasn’t as if I could do anything about it, you know? It took 2 people 20 hours a day over more than 3 days to do that, I couldn’t take it off just like that. My mother was angry at me the whole time, saying things like, “Look at you, coming home dressed like that altar⁴³,” but when my father’s magnificent-looking altar was brought to the house, she turned to the craftsman, pointed at my head and said, “My, that’s splendid. Gold leaf pasted on black lacquer, just the way my son likes it, don’t you think?   Look at this head of his.” (Lol). Though, as you’d expect, that struck a nerve at the time (lol).

ーー (Lol).

I: That’s how my mother was, but a year after my father passed away, I began sending my mother flowers every year on her birthday. It’s like, part of it is letting her know that I love her. Because, although she’s my stepmother, I’ve been with her longer than with my biological mother. I think that she really took care of me and brought me up well. So I really have to take my hat off to her for that, y’know.

ーー From a mother’s standpoint, I think you’d have been considered as a difficult child. You were sensitive and a bit of an oddball.

I: And to top it off, my feelings of being victimised were all out on full display (lol). I guess she probably had a really hard time. Furthermore, she hadn’t had any kids yet when she became my mother too. So considering that she suddenly had to become a mother to a 9 or 10 year-old boy, I think it’s understandable that she wouldn’t have any idea how to raise a child. There was once when she got mad angry at me when I went home after playing in mud near the house (lol). So, I thought, “Ah, I can’t play in the mud if I’m living with this person,” and since then, I never played with mud ever again.

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ーー You were thoughtful even as a child.

I: Well, that’s of course. Because, you see, she’s looking out for me too from her end. But, you know, we get along well now. Sometimes, when I take my mother out for a meal or something, the madam⁴⁴ there would even say, “Why, you look just like your mother.⁴⁵” It appears that somehow, we give off similar vibes.

ーー Do you look alike too?

I: Our facial features are similar too, in the sense that there’s this air of some unknown foreign ancestry or something like that (lol). I’ve been to that place together with my younger brother and my mother too, but on that occasion, the madam commented, “The younger brother looks like the father, but the older brother looks exactly like the mother, doesn’t he?” and both of us could only laugh helplessly  with troubled expressions (lol).

ーー Could it be that your mother’s facial features were your father’s type?

I: You know, that’s what I thought in the beginning too. But if my mother’s face was my father’s type, then it begs the most disturbing question of, “Does that mean my face, which resembles my mothers’, is also my father’s type?” (Lol). But after giving it a lot of thought, and comparing my biological mother and my stepmother, they don’t look much like each other though (lol).

 

I used to quarrel with HIKARU a lot, though, now we joke about it.
I guess we couldn’t understand or accept each other when we were young.

ーー (Lol). Going back to what you said, it sounds difficult to live with extensions so long that they reach your ankles.

I: It was super hard to deal with in daily life. I had to be extremely cautious because it’s dangerous when I board taxis or get on escalators and elevators. Because if my hair gets caught between the doors, it’s the end. You know, I’ve even been chased by elementary schoolers when I’m walking along the streets (lol). They’d be yelling, “What’s that?   Look at that guy!” and come running towards me from 20 meters away, and when I realise it and turn around, they’d all stop (lol). It’s like, are we playing “Red light, Green light⁴⁶”? (Lol). Also, when I went to a friend’s house, their kitten kept playing with it so excitedly, y’know. When I said, “Right, I’m going home,” and stood up to leave, there was this weight pulling at my head and when I turned to see what it was, I found the kitten dangling from my hair (lol).

ーー (Lol). Right at the time when you had those extensions for that album HOMO DEMENS, it caused quite a stir in the editorial department I worked in back then. That picture on the album cover where you looked like you were breaking out of a shell made a huge impression.

I: That husk of mine (lol) was made by pouring resin in a mould of me which took a day to make and cast from my head to my toes so it was a lot of work. You know, I think the person who made it didn’t think that they were doing something bizarre though. The idea got presented, and it sounded interesting so we just did it. Although, I wonder what the other band members thought of it…? (Lol).

ーー I suppose the members’ reactions were rather dry?

I: Yeah, quite. Logically they understand that this is how I naturally am, but… Maybe that’s precisely it? You know, I do think there are times when I don’t really feel like wearing makeup, things like that. Back then, if you look at us as a whole, everyone was absurdly dressed, so (lol).

 

ーー Absurdly dressed (lol). HOMO DEMENS was an album you released when you were still with Columbia, but you changed labels after that, right?

I: We debuted with Sixty in 1985, then moved to Columbia Triad, and then to BMG Victor over our 11 active years since debut.

ーー Ah, before that, MAHITO-san left the band right before your major debut, didn’t he? Did something happen?

I: Before we started recording prior to our debut, MAHITO said, “There’s a lot I want to do and it’d be tough for me to only focus on DER ZIBET. I want to do things from a position with more freedom,” and left the band. Although, that topic just came up recently and he teased with, “What a prick you were.” (Lol). Well, I understood how MAHITO felt, and besides, he continued to help out for quite a while after he quit, and even after that, he often came to watch our shows and showed up at our after-parties to drink with us anyway. We’ve always had a good relationship. Actually, he said the same thing as I thought; his leaving DER ZIBET was a good decision because of how he’s now turned out to be in really great form.  Because he got to see and experience all types of bands during that time, y’know. So after MAHITO stopped playing with us, there was a period of time when other supporting keyboardists joined us, and there was even a time when we had a horn section, but the band was mainly made up of the 4 of us.

ーー While the 4 of you continued to maintain a certain level of distance between each other.

I: That’s right. Even now, when HIKARU gets drunk, just for kicks, he’d often say, “Me and ISSAY were on bad terms, though.“ (Lol). Although, just recently, we spoke about that on an internet TV thing, and I said, “But you see, about that, it wasn’t that me and you were on bad terms, we just weren’t on good terms.” (Lol).

ーー You can joke about it now (lol). Were the 2 of you at loggerheads back then?

I: That, and we couldn’t accept each other; as you’d expect, we both had that “I am who I am” attitude when we were young. The biggest problem we had might’ve been that we couldn’t understand each other, I think. Like, when we spoke, I didn’t try to express myself properly and neither did he express himself properly, and that’s when our opinions would clash. And the one who would always get caught in the middle in distress was HAL-chan (lol). Because HAL’s like the one thing that kept the band together, yeah. Whether I quarreled with MAYUMI, or I quarreled with HIKARU, or HIKARU and MAYUMI quarreled, he was always the one coming between us. Because HAL-chan’s the mother figure of our band.

ーー That’s very typical of a bassist.

I: That’s really how it felt. Less of a jack-of-all-trades⁴⁷ than the glue that binds⁴⁷.  He’s the kind of person who brings together those who are far apart. Even if we’re all on different wavelengths and our rhythms don’t match, HAL-chan will make it work, something like that.

ーー For such an invaluable person to have met with an accident…

I: After DER ZIBET went on hiatus in 1996, HAL and I and guitarist Jimmy (Hirose Satoshi, ex. 44MAGNUM) and drummer MINORU started the band Φ (PhI) in 1997 or 1998. That band broke up after 2 or 3 years of activity, and after that, I called on HAL-chan to do ISSAY meets DOLLY with me. It was in the middle of that when he had an accident.

ーー I heard that it was quite a serious one.

I: So much so that I thought that was it for him. It was so bad that I wasn’t sure that he would survive, or even if they managed to save him, that he would probably become a vegetable. That’s why, at that time, I couldn’t even think about going up on stage or doing anything like that.

ーー I see…

I: I did visit him in the hospital every now and then, though. Even after he regained consciousness, he had a long period of hospitalisation, going through rehabilitation as he slowly recovered. Eventually he got discharged to recuperate at home, and not even six months after, he called me. He left a message on my answering machine: “It’s HAL. Call me.” So, wondering what happened, I called HAL’s parents’ home, and he said, “Well, I wanna play in a band. So, you know, I’d be really happy if ISSAY would sing for me.” And I was like, “Ooh, let’s do this. So, who are the other members?” I asked him that, and he said, “MAHITO.” So I said, “Then shall I come to HAL’s home with MAHITO next time? We’ll compose something and figure out who’ll make up the rest of the members.” And when I dropped by HAL’s place, he was already holding his bass guitar and playing it. Then, he said, “HIKARU will be the guitarist.” As for drums, he said MAYUMI got admitted into hospital because he wasn’t doing well, so shall we ask MINORU? But by the time all of us entered the studio, MAYUMI had been discharged, y’know. Knowing that, MINORU said, “MAYUMI-san can drum now, so I’ll step aside. Please go ahead and play as DER ZIBET.”

ーー In the end, DER ZIBET’s reunion was again the hard work of the glue that binds HAL-san.

I: It really was. That was probably around 2006. I was shocked when HAL came into the studio and played his bass because he did it so solidly, y’know. Like, I didn’t expect that humans really had such an amazing hidden recovery ability. At the same time, I also thought that the power of music was truly astounding. People often talk about music therapy, but HAL proved its effects to me with his own body, y’know.

ーー Truly. So after that, you started performing live too.

I: Yeah. It’s just that in the beginning, we’d be worried for HAL’s body, right? Say, for example, even if we were to do a show about 40 minutes long, we’d be worried about whether he’d be able to bear the whole 40 minutes too. There was a chance that we might have to cut the show short too and we felt that we shouldn’t say that it’s a DER ZIBET show because of that, so we decided to perform a live show under a band name that would only make people think of DER ZIBET when they looked at it. This name was “RED BITEZ”. It was advertised with the words, “ISSAY will be the vocalist of this band.” No matter how you looked at that name, it was obviously an anagram of DER ZlBET anyway, and people may not know who the other band members were going to be, but I suppose they’d have speculated that I’d probably sing at least a DER ZIBET song or two.

ーー I’d assume that the relationship between the members of DER ZIBET wasn’t great when the band first went on hiatus, but what was it like when all 5 of you gathered again after that much time had passed?

I: Though, y’know, there was one more cushion between that time and our reunion. I was in the band LYNX since 2005 with HEATH⁴⁸ (X JAPAN) on bass, SAY→ICHIRO on guitar, and Matarow (廣嶋-HIROSHIMA-) on drums, right?   So, during the period of that band’s activity, the other members proposed, “We want to celebrate ISSAY-san’s 20th debut anniversary, so let’s perform DER ZIBET songs.” I declined, saying I didn’t want to. But y’know, it was partly also because I was thinking, how was DER ZIBET going to sound like with HEATH playing bass?   Would it really be okay?   But they asked, “What if we did it in a livehouse in Numazu instead of Tokyo?” and I thought, maybe it would be alright if we were doing this somewhere outside of Tokyo. Because I didn’t like the idea of people coming to watch us just for fun on a whim⁴⁹, and I figured that if we held it in Numazu, only those who really wanted to come and watch us would make their way there. Then, they said, “Since we’re doing this, and it’s been such a long while, why not try asking HIKARU-san too,” and coincidentally, I met HIKARU at the wedding celebration of our manager’s at the time, so, y’know, I asked, “Actually, you know, it’s gonna be my 20th debut anniversary, and LYNX wants to hold a DER ZIBET songs-only show, so I was wondering if it’s a good idea?” He said, “Yeah.” So, going along with the flow of that conversation, I asked, “So, would HIKARU join too?” and to that, he said, “Tch… I suppose it’s ‘cuz DER ZIBET’s songs are tough.” His reaction wasn’t as bad as I thought, you know? So, in the end, he agreed to perform with us. I guess it was after that time when I started to think that maybe it would be possible for me and HIKARU to play together in a band again. It could also be that we became mellower too after HAL-chan’s accident happened. Because we understood HAL-chan’s desire to play in a band together again.

ーー In other words, the Numazu show brought about the resumption of DER ZIBET?

I: Mm… Well, I suppose one of the initiators, the fact that HIKARU and I were doing something together again. Because, you see, I think HIKARU didn’t say no when HAL-chan said he wanted us to play in a band together again because this had happened. Though, well, I suppose he mightn’t have turned HAL-chan down even if that Numazu show didn’t happen… Hm. That’s why, although people are calling this recent period a reunion boom, it wasn’t as if we came back together because we specifically wanted to, y’know? It’s just that we ended up coming back together before we knew it (lol). It just so happened that the members turned out to be DER ZIBET again when HAL gathered the people he most wanted to play in the band with. I guess that’s probably because in the end, what he wanted to do the most was play as DER ZIBET again.

ーー That does sound like it. It seems like a number of miracles happened behind the scenes to let DER ZIBET restart activities despite the uncertainties and now hold solo one-man concerts like its business as usual.

I: Right? Because no one would’ve imagined that [HAL] would recover like that.

 

We only reunited because we felt that we could do something new among the 5 of us. Besides, we’re living in the present.

ーー Did it feel different to stand on stage with all the original members of DER ZIBET?

I: No, actually, y’know, the moment that moved me the most was when all of us made music in the studio, more so than when we performed on stage. Watching a scene that I knew so very well unfolding before my eyes… It was moving. Besides, HAL-chan hadn’t yet fully recovered from his injuries and MAYUMI had been living a life away from music too, so we definitely weren’t at our best, but there was nothing more moving than having the 5 of us make music together, y’know.

ーー Then, in 2009, you held your 25th anniversary show, and still continued your activities after that. And now, this year, you’re releasing two original, full albums, ROMANOID Ⅰ and ROMANOID Ⅱ!   You sure are working tirelessly.

I: Ah, well, I don’t really know why we ended up working so hard this time (lol). Although, HIKARU’s laughing at this, like, “We’ve made a reckless plan, huh.” (Lol). But you know, I suppose it’s because our relationship is really at its best right now, between all of us in the band. Besides, it’s also fun to discover new things about each other being in a band together again after a little over 27 years. Like this time, it also just struck me that, “Ah, so HIKARU writes this type of songs too.” I do think HIKARU thinks the same of me in HIKARU’s own way, though.

ーー I wonder if that was how he felt when he received lyrics from you?

I: Perhaps. I can really feel the reflections of how each of us spent our time during those 11 years of inactivity.

ーー That all of you were definitely not the same person that you were at the start of your hiatus 11 years ago.

I: I think if we remained the same as we were back then, we definitely wouldn’t do this. Because, you see, there’s no point, is there? We only reunited because we felt that we could do something new among the 5 of us. It’s not that we don’t enjoy making our fans happy by playing old songs, but what’s more important than that is the possibility of doing something new again with these band members. Besides, DER ZIBET isn’t an oldies band. We’re living in the present.

ーー Do you feel that unlike before, you’re now doing music a little more comfortably?

I: I do think so, especially between me and HIKARU, we two who fought the most fiercely (lol). Well, the one who was most on edge was probably me, though (lol). Because in the later half of those years, for a good few years until we went on a break, music was the only reason we ever spoke to each other, y’know. That said, in the first place, DER ZIBET wasn’t a band that came about because a group of friends came together anyway. “If I work with this guy, we might be able to come up with something interesting.” That was what we thought of each other, and that was why we became a band. So, we weren’t friends or anything. Although, somehow, we’ve most definitely become friends now (lol).

ーー (Lol). In all your years being in bands, is this now the most enjoyable, or the best state things have ever been?

I: Yeah. It’d be even better if MAYUMI recovers⁵¹. I think he’s really eager to come back, and we’ll wait for him, no rush.

ーー And 2 years later, it’ll be the 30th anniversary of the band’s formation.

I: In 3 years, it’ll be our 30th debut anniversary. It’s soon, isn’t it? Since we’re releasing 2 albums this year, shall we not release anything until the anniversary? (Lol).

ーー Please don’t idle (lol).

I: For real (lol).

ーー Because there are lots of people, from your fans to the many musicians, who support DER ZIBET’s activities and admire the band and each individual member. This was before, but I started listening to DER ZIBET because BUCK-TICK’s Sakurai Atsushi-san took part in DER ZIBET and ISSAY-san’s album for duets and because he said that he was a fan of ISSAY-san.

I: It makes me so happy to hear that he said that. You know, in the very beginning, the first time we met was at the recording session for a live TV program. The broadcast was meant for another week, but the recordings were done all in one go, so we ended up backstage together at Meguro Rokumeikan where the recording was being done. That was where we spoke for the first time. He said, “I like DER ZIBET and I’ve been to see your show,” and I said, “Ahh, thank you!” (Lol). They’re very polite people, aren’t they? So, we continued to keep in touch even after that. There was also the time when it just so happened that BUCK-TICK and DER ZIBET went to London for recording in the same period. He told me that they were going to do a show in London, so I went to watch with HIKARU too. I was there for about a month, but you know, throughout that time, the only live performance that I watched in London was BUCK-TICK’s (lol).

ーー (Lol). But there are also many other people apart from the aforementioned Sakurai-san who admire both ISSAY-san and DER ZIBET so––.

I: Oh, is that so?   But I don’t do anything.

ーー Then what have you been doing for almost 30 years (lol). 

I: I’ve only been singing (lol).

ーー And that’s precisely what’s been drawing people in.

I: If that’s true then I’m glad. There’s a payoff to my efforts. But I think the biggest reason why we can continue like this is because we got the feeling that it’d be fun to work with each other. Take, for example, during the production of this ROMANOID Ⅰ and ROMANOID Ⅱ, we were just writing songs but we ended up coming up with lots of interesting compositions. Just when we decided, “Since we’ve come up with such an amount, we might as well release 2 mini albums,” the number of songs grew again and we ended up with 2 full albums, y’know.

ーー They were just overflowing and spilling over, these songs.

I: Because we kept making discovery after discovery, like, “We can do something like this,”, “We can do something like that too.” There are a lot of these cases, right? Where bands or groups form because they like The Rolling Stones⁵⁰ or something. In DER ZIBET’s case, we’re just a band of individuals with scattered influences who came together to make music, so we’re always experimenting, y’know. It gets really bad when things don’t work out well, but right now, we can really pull off a huge variety of things in interesting ways, so I think we’re in exceptional shape, y’know. All that’s left is for MAYUMI to come back.⁵¹

ーー That’s true. I think that’s what everyone is hoping for. Um–– This is a bit of a vague question, may I ask, what’s the most important aspect in ISSAY-san’s life thus far?

I: Well, y’know…… I think my life changed the moment I called myself “ISSAY”, probably. Or maybe, rather than ‘changed’, I let myself change. In my opinion, I believe my greatest creation to be this “ISSAY” who looks like this, sings songs about those things, sets up such a stage, and sings like that. Because I feel that the invention of “ISSAY” by Fujisaki Issei, who was so frightfully afraid of everything, who was so filled with feelings of having been victimised, was what liberated me from my life up until that point.

ーー When did this begin?   Your use of “ISSAY” as your name.

I: When I started to write a poem of sorts in high school, I signed that off with “ISSAY”. That was the first time. 

ーー Did you feel like you’ve turned into another you when you did that?

I: Nope, to me, that was the moment when I showed my core self to other people. So, I guess you could say that “ISSAY” is the transmission apparatus I use to show the essence of who I am. There’d most certainly be a lot of things in my regular life that aren’t “ISSAY”, right? But when I digest all of that and bring out the most important part of me which resides deep within myself, that, I feel, is when I become “ISSAY”. I can’t really explain it well, though. Basically, performing “ISSAY” is the heart of who I am. And that is why understanding the pain, the sorrow, and the sadness I felt when I was 17, and the question of whether these feelings still remain are the most important things to “ISSAY”. Because of this, I want to continue to protect and keep this perspective of, “How would ISSAY view this?”.

ーー Because that’s the very origin of ISSAY-san.

I: Yeah. That’s why, whenever I return to my parents’ home, I’d always, without fail, go to the beach that I used to visit when I was 17 and I’d ask “ISSAY”, y’know. “Do you, now, still understand the sadness and pain I felt back then?” The friction between my father and I as a child, the friction I had with my friends because of that incident… At the age of 17, I had to bid farewell to the person I had been up until then and take a look at all 17 years’ worth of events in retrospect. Because to me, to “ISSAY”, that incident in my adolescence which led to all of that is important. So much so that in 1991, it culminated in the release of the 2-part album Shishunki (思春期 / Adolescence) by DER ZIBET, y’know.

ーー Yeah.

I: For those same reasons, even now, I feel deeply indebted to my homeroom teacher from my 2nd high school who encouraged me to write. I actually made a promise with my father when I entered the second high school, that this time, if I messed up in any way, he’d withdraw me from school. One day, I got into a huge fight with my father and I ran away from home, y’know. Just like that, I didn’t go home for around two days and in that time, my father submitted a withdrawal letter to the school. Well, I made a promise so it couldn’t be helped, right? But my homeroom teacher stopped my withdrawal from school for me. They convinced my father for me, saying, “If you make him quit school here and now, it will spell the end for that child, so I can’t let you do this. Because his talent for writing compositions like these will play a part in his future in some form. And if you make him drop out from school now, he would definitely give up on writing. So please, don’t withdraw him from school.” Then, to me, he said, “If you want to run away from home, then please do it legally by going to university. Because then, you’ll be kept fed for a good while without trouble.” I wasn’t sure about going to university and furthering my studies, but with that, he talked me into it.

ーー Your teacher understood, down to ISSAY-san’s character.

I: They really understood me well.

ーー I’m sure that’s because you were especially outstanding in class?

I: I think I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was an especially problematic student, though (lol). I think it’s thanks to that teacher that I managed to graduate from my second high school without incident. When we met again after I graduated, he laughed and said, “The only withdrawal letter I’ve ever rejected before or since was yours.” (Lol).

ーー And you’re still grateful for that even now.

I: That’s the only teacher I feel deeply indebted to, even now. Of course, there’s a ton of other people I’d like to thank too. Because my life is built on all these numerous coincidences upon coincidences. And among them, I want to thank my mother who spent a longer time bringing me up and raising me than my biological mother. That, and… Now, at this point of time in my life, to the father I once so hated and feared, I can also genuinely say thank you. For the love and kindness he had for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

¹ Hakata dolls are traditional Japanese clay dolls that originated from Fukuoka. Read more here.

² The actual text said “教育方針” (kyouiku houshin) which directly translates into “educational policy”. I don’t think it fits quite well in the context so I changed it to “parenting style”.

³ Ozaki Kiyohiko was a Japanese singer from Kanagawa prefecture who released his greatest hit Mata Au Hi Made in 1971. It sold over a million copies and won the Japan Record Award at the 13th Japan Record Awards as well as the Japan Music Award. He passed away on 30 May 2012 at the age of 69.

⁴ He actually called the EP a “ドーナツ盤 (doonatsu ban)”, which literally translates into “doughnut disc”. In short, this was one of the many names that vinyl records were called.

⁵ I think it bears mentioning that he specifically said “洋服 (youfuku)”, which refers explicitly to Western-style clothing.

⁶ I looked up the academic grading system in Japan and there were a few, but the only one which fit into this context was the 5-scale grading system where a 5 is the equivalent of an ‘A’, and a 2 is the equivalent of a ‘D’. Reference

⁷ Purple Noon (French: Plein soleil; Italian: Delitto in pieno sole; Japanese: 太陽がいっぱい / Taiyou ga Ippai; also known as Full Sun, Blazing Sun, Lust for Evil, Talented Mr. Ripley) is a 1960 crime thriller film directed by René Clément, loosely based on the 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. 

⁸ The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin and produced and written for the screen by William Peter Blatty, based on the 1971 novel of the same name by Blatty. The film had famously courted controversy in the US where it had supposedly provoked fainting, vomiting and heart attacks in cinemas.

⁹ Technical achievement in kendo is measured by advancement in grade, rank or level. The kyū (級) and dan (段) grading system is used to indicate one’s proficiency in kendo. There are usually six grades below first-dan, known as kyu. The kyu numbering is in reverse order, with first kyu (一級, ikkyū) being the grade immediately below first dan, and sixth kyu (六級, rokkyū) being the lowest grade. In Japan, kyu ranks are generally held by children up to age 13. The exam for 1st kyu (ikkyū) is often their first exam and grade. Adults generally will do their 1st dan (shodan) as their first exam. In most other countries outside of Japan, kendoka go through every kyu rank before being eligible for dan ranks.

¹⁰ Just for clarity, students were arranged according to height.

 ¹¹ Taro Hirai was a well-known Japanese writer better known by his pen name, Edogawa Ranpo. His works played a huge role in developing mystery fiction in Japan and several of his novels include Kogoro Akechi, a character who was a detective. In later books, Akechi became the leader of the Shonen Tantei Dan, which translated to “Boy Detectives Club,” a group of boy detectives.

¹² Junior high school students in Japan are ranked by their school reports/transcripts which shows a student’s grades and includes comments on their conduct. This affects them when they go to high school.

¹³ Yotsuya is a neighborhood in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. It is a former ward in the now-defunct Tokyo City. In 1947, when the 35 wards of Tokyo were reorganized into 23, it was merged with Ushigome ward of Tokyo City and Yodobashi suburban ward of Tokyo-fu to form the modern Shinjuku ward.

¹⁴ Station to Station is the 10th studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 23 January 1976 by RCA Records. Commonly regarded as one of his most significant works, Station to Station was the vehicle for his performance persona, the Thin White Duke. Listen to the full album. 

¹⁵ That English new wave band with David Sylvian. The band achieved success in the late 1970s and early 1980s but split in December 1982, just as they were beginning to experience commercial success in the UK and abroad.

¹⁶ Gary Numan is an English musician, singer, songwriter, composer, and record producer. He entered the music industry as the frontman of the new wave band Tubeway Army. Numan is considered a pioneer of electronic music, with his signature sound consisting of heavy synthesiser hooks fed through guitar effects pedals. He is also known for his distinctive voice and androgynous “android” persona.

¹⁷ As in Public Image Ltd, the English post-punk band formed by singer John Lydon following his departure from the Sex Pistols in 1978.

¹⁸ Throughout this whole bit, he never specified if it was just one person or a group of people, but let’s just go with plurals.

¹⁹ T. Rex were an English rock band, formed in 1967 by singer-songwriter and guitarist Marc Bolan. The band was initially called Tyrannosaurus Rex, and released four psychedelic folk albums under this name.

²⁰ The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. Although their initial career lasted just two and a half years, they are regarded as one of the most groundbreaking acts in the history of popular music.

²¹ He’s right (of course). Although, I can only find one mention of it here. Must’ve been gone for a very long time already.

²² JUNE (ジュネ) was the earliest yaoi magazine, which began in 1978 as a response to the success of commercially published manga. Other factors that influenced the founding of June were the rising popularity of depictions of bishonen (pretty boys) in the dōjinshi (self-published print works, such as magazines, manga, and novels) market and ambiguous musicians such as David Bowie and Queen. JUNE was meant to have an underground, “cultish, guerilla-style” feeling – most of its manga artists were new talent.

²³ ALLAN (アラン, or 阿蘭) is the sister magazine of Gekkan OUT (月刊OUT; OUT Monthly — anime magazine). ALLAN was published by Minori Shobo and focused on the theme of shonen ai (questionable-age-gap relationships between men).

²⁴ BL, boys’ love a.k.a. Yaoi is a genre of fictional media originating in Japan that features homoerotic relationships between male characters. Of course, these days, it’s not just a genre in Japanese media anymore. The 2010s saw an increase in the popularity of BL-influenced media in China and Thailand in the form of web novels, live-action films, and live-action television dramas. The growth in streaming service providers in the 2010s is regarded as a driving force behind the production of BL dramas across Asia, as online distribution provides a platform for media containing LGBT material, which is frequently not permitted on broadcast television.

²⁵ Wakame is a species of kelp native to cold, temperate coasts of the northwest Pacific Ocean. As an edible seaweed, it has a subtly sweet, but distinctive and strong flavour and texture. It is most often served in soups and salads.

²⁶ Morioka Ken was an iconic electronic musician that first got his break as a member of the groundbreaking electro trio Soft Ballet. He was also particularly known for his flamboyant image and atmospheric musical style. He remained active in the Japanese electronic music scene, having also worked as a session musician and producer for Issay, Tomayasu Hotei, Mell, and Demon Kogure among others, and produced the soundtrack for the anime “KAIKAN Phrase”. His activities continued for over three decades until his untimely passing in 2016 from heart failure. He was only 49 years old. 

²⁷ Soft Ballet was a Japanese electronic group formed in 1986. The group consisted of three members, Maki Fujii, Ken Morioka, and Ryoichi Endo, though they employed extra support members for live shows. While Soft Ballet weren’t necessarily chart toppers, they had a strong cult following and were considered pioneers of modern electronic music in Japan in the 1990s. Soft Ballet released 6 studio albums before disbanding in 1995. The group briefly reunited from 2002 to 2003, releasing 2 more albums and touring extensively before splitting once more.

²⁸ Makoto Tezuka, officially romanized as Macoto Tezka, is a Japanese film and anime director, born in Tokyo. He fashions himself as a visualist and is involved in the creation of moving images beyond film and animation. He partially owns Tezuka Productions and helped in releasing the posthumous works of his father, Osamu Tezuka.

²⁹ Chikada Haruo is a Japanese musician, composer, music producer, music critic and TV personality. From the time he was a student at Keio University, he worked as a keyboard player in Yuya Uchida’s backing band, and in 1972 he formed “Haruo Chikada & Harwophone”. In parallel with his musical activities, he wrote the legendary column “THE Utagyoku” for the magazine “POPEYE” from 1978 to 1984. In 1979, he released a solo album, “Natural Beauty”, which featured the Yellow Magic Orchestra, which he had just formed, as arrangers and performers. In 1981 he formed “Haruo Chikada & The Vibratones” and released one album and one mini album. In 1985, he began to focus on funk and rap music, working under the name BPM. In 1987, he formed the Vibratones with the concept of “hip-hop in a band format”.

³⁰ VIBRASTONE was a Japanese hip hop band formed in 1987. The band was formed by Haruo Chikada, who had been pursuing the possibilities of hip-hop in Japanese, and initially performed under the name “Haruo Chikada & Vibrastone”. They released their first album “Vibra is Back” in December 1989, and made their major label debut with “ENTROPY PRODUCTIONS” in July 1991. They ceased activities in 1996.

³¹ Kubota Shingo is a Japanese vocalist active from 1978 to present. In 1985 he starred alongside Takagi Kan in Macoto Tezuka’s rock musical The Legend of the Stardust Brothers, and also appeared in the sequel film The New Legend of the Stardust Brothers, released in 2016. Since 2006, he has been working as an 11-member music group under the band name “Kousei to Gansaku”. As of 2015, they are working with a 10-piece band under the name “Sunny Kubota and the Old Lucky Boys”, and their first album was released on 15 November 2015, and their second album “One from Sunny’s Heart” on 1 June 2017.

³² Takagi Kan is a Japanese DJ and producer. Influenced by the London punk scene of the 1970s, he made his debut with the band Tokyo Bravo, and began his career as a DJ and writer in the 1980s.  After forming “Tiny Punks” with Hiroshi Fujiwara, he made a splash by sharing hip-hop with Seiko Ito and others. He also founded the club music label MAJOR FORCE, which produced artists such as SUCHADARAPER, and was active as a solo artist in the 1990s. He continues to be of great influence as a pioneer of hip-hop in Japan.

³³ Roxy Music were an English rock band formed in 1970 by Bryan Ferry, who became the band’s lead vocalist and chief songwriter, and bassist Graham Simpson. Although the band took a break from group activities in 1976 and again in 1983, they reunited for a concert tour in 2001, and toured together intermittently between that time and their break-up in 2011. Ferry frequently enlisted members of Roxy Music as session musicians for his solo releases.

³⁴ Terry John Bozzio is an American drummer best known for his work with Missing Persons and Frank Zappa. He has been featured on nine solo or collaborative albums, 26 albums with Zappa and seven albums with Missing Persons.

³⁵ Frank Zappa was an American singer-songwriter, innovative rock guitarist, modernist composer, multi-instrumentalist, satirist, film-maker, and bandleader. His work is characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity, and satire of American culture.

³⁶ Missing Persons is a Californian New Wave band, formed in 1980. They were known for songs such as Walking In L.A., Words & Destination Unknown.

³⁷ The word he used was 踏み絵 (fumi-e) which, back in the Edo period, was a tablet with the image of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Suspected Chiristians were ordered to tread on it to prove themselves non-Christians and it was carried out back then to discover hidden Christians in order to extinguish Christianity in Japan. This days, 踏み絵 alludes to a ‘test of loyalty or allegiance” and is used to describe a thing or situation. (E.g. how loyal an employee is to their company etc.)

³⁸ The actual phrase here is オカマ野郎 (okama yarou). I think with enough exposure to Japanese media, you’d have heard 野郎 being used a lot and it’s a general insult. Fucker, bastard, asshole, it all works. Attaching 野郎 to anything basically gives the thing a derogatory implication. オカマ generally means gay, as in gay person. But it is also often used on its own by straights in a derogatory manner. Context matters for this word. In this interview’s context though, it’s clear enough to deduce that Issay was essentially being called “f*ggot”.

³⁹ Where I said “crashed”, the word he used was 前乗り (zen nori) which was interesting to me because it appears to have originated from local surfer slang where 前乗り means to deliberately get in the way of someone riding a wave.

⁴⁰ Shibuya Public Hall (渋谷公会堂) is also known as 渋公 (shibu kou) for short. It is a theatre located in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. Completed in 1964 to host the weightlifting events in the 1964 Summer Olympics, the theatre was sponsored by Dentsu and Suntory, which paid ¥80 million to rename it C.C. Lemon Hall from 2006 to 2011. As of 2021, it is named LINE CUBE SHIBUYA.

⁴¹ To note, the get-togethers were 飲み会 (nomikai), i.e. drinking parties. The direct translation sounded decidedly unnatural (not something you’d say in regular English), so I went with “get-togethers”.

⁴² The phrase he actually used here was 男気 (otokogi), which directly translates into “manliness” or “manly spirit”. But it mostly encompasses the qualities of valour, chivalry, and dauntlessness, which is traditionally attributed to men.

⁴³ To be precise, its 仏壇 (butsudan), a Buddhist altar. Smaller ones are usually kept at home and meant for their deceased family members or ancestors.

⁴⁴ Madam here refers to the lady owner or boss of the establishment, which can either be a restaurant or a hotel. The word in Japanese is 女将, which can be read in a few ways; okami, nyoshou, joshou. Direct translations are “proprietress (of a traditional Japanese inn or restaurant); landlady; hostess; mistress”.

⁴⁵ The quote from the “madam” actually included her addressing ISSAY as お兄ちゃん (oniichan). It literally means big brother/elder brother/older brother, but it could also simply be a polite address, like “young man”. Note, calling someone brother or sister or even uncle or aunty in Asian culture is often merely a form of polite address, not a literal relation.

⁴⁶ That game where one person is the target who stands with their back to all the other players, while everyone tries to get to the target and tap them. If the target turns around everyone has to freeze. In Japan, it’s called だるまさんが転んだ (Daruma-sama ga Koronda), i.e. Mr. Daruma has fallen over.

⁴⁷ Original phrase was 三河屋さんならぬ膠屋さん (mikawa-ya san naranu nikawa-ya san). 三河屋 (mikawa-ya) is a trade name or shop name, often used as a slang term for a retail shop selling brewed foods such as sake, miso, soy sauce, vinegar, and related products and was used mainly from the Edo period to the Showa period. For this name, I turned it into the phrase, jack-of-all-trades to keep the implied meaning of “having” a bunch of generally useful things for sustenance because they used to be the grocery stores or convenience stores of that era.
The pun here is where ISSAY turns mi into ni, i.e. mikawa-ya becomes nikawa-ya. There’s actually no such thing as 膠屋 (nikawa-ya), or that I could find. On the other hand, 膠 (nikawa) means glue, which makes 膠屋 “glue shop”. 
屋 (ya) add to the back of a noun is like saying noun shop. But in reference to a person, it’s like saying this particular thing or trait is characteristic of the person. In other words, HAL is like the “glue which binds” the band. 

⁴⁸ Hiroshi Morie, known exclusively by his stage name Heath, is a Japanese musician and singer-songwriter. He is the bass guitarist of the rock band X Japan. He joined the group in 1992 a few months after the ex-bassist Taiji Sawada left the band.

⁴⁹ The phrase here was 物見遊山 (monomiyusan) which is directly translated as “a pleasure trip”. The implied meaning here is that someone is doing something or going somewhere just for fun.

⁵⁰ The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. Diverging from the pop rock of the early-1960s, the Rolling Stones pioneered the gritty, heavier-driven sound that came to define hard rock.

⁵¹ MAYUMI was away on a mental health break at the time of this interview as addressed here in this blog post: http://derzibet.com/blog/?p=799. He made his comeback soon after this interview was published.

 

 

 

Translation: Yoshiyuki
Scans: Text pages – Yoshiyuki / Pictures – Devalmy

 

 

The “Plague Repelling Spell” BUCK-TICK Speaks Of

BARKS.jp
18 September 2020

 

The latest issue of the “rock magazine to read”, ROCK AND READ #091 will hit the shelves on September 19. This issue’s front features Sakurai Atsushi and Imai Hisashi of BUCK-TICK who will be releasing their 22nd album, ABRACADABRA on the 33rd anniversary of their major debut, September 21.

Also joining Sakurai Atsushi and Imai Hisashi within the pages are Hoshino Hidehiko, Higuchi Yutaka, and Yagami Toll. All 5 members of the band will talk about the album ABRACADABRA and each track on it individually.

ABRACADABRA, their first original album to be released in 2 and a half years was finally completed after a brief pause in recording activities because of COVID-19, but at the same time, it has turned out to be an album which was aptly born out of such a production situation. Furthermore, the interviews are said to give a fulfilling glimpse to the behind-the-scenes of the album’s production with content like the messages which Sakurai conveys through his lyrics and why the album has been given the title of a plague repelling spell of Abracadabra.

In addition, the magazine includes an article which discusses the “Buck-Tick Phenomenon (Bakuchiku Genshou)” that occurred 33 years ago in 1987. It will re-examine all of this while looking back on the intent behind the stickers which were pasted everywhere to announce their 1 April 1987 concert at Toshima Public Hall, the significance of their major debut with their 21 September 1987 Buck-Tick Phenomenon at THE LIVE INN (Bakuchiku Genshou at THE LIVE INN) concert video, their Tokyo Dome performance in 1989, and their documentary movie Gekijouban BUCK-TICK ~Bakuchiku Genshou~ (The Buck-Tick Syndrome I).

 

■『ROCK AND READ 091』, releasing Saturday, 19 Sep 2020 

■ Related links
ROCK AND READ Official Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: https://www.barks.jp/news/?id=1000189036

“Kogoeru” to be Ending Theme of Yamishibai (Iki)

Natalie.mu
14 August 2020

 

It has been announced that BUCK-TICK’s new song, “Kogoeru”, will be the ending theme song of the TV Tokyo late-night drama Yamishibai (Iki) [Shadow Picture Show – Live] premiering on Wednesday, 9 September.

Adapted from the popular horror anime Yamishibai directed by Iguchi Noboru, Yamishibai (Iki) is a live-action drama produced by TV Tokyo and Dear Stage. The ending theme song “Kogoeru” is a striking new song with lyrics written by Sakurai Atsushi (vocals) and music composed by Hoshino Hidehiko (guitar), with chilling lines that serve to highlight the sense of dread present in the drama. This is one song where BUCK-TICK’s style of pop-sense and dark world view shine.

Sakurai shared a few comments in response to the band’s involvement with the provision of the ending theme song. With regards to the song itself, he explained, “This song is about a sorrowful soul who wanders between that world and this, and from this world to the next.”

“What a blessing it is that (this song) is to be the lullaby which draws everyone to the edge of darkness in the aftermath of Yamishibai. I will be waiting for you on Wednesday in September, before the dead of night at Yamishibai (Iki). Do your best to make sure you don’t forget.”

Comment from Sakurai Atsushi (BUCK-TICK)
It is a great honour that this time, BUCK-TICK’s Kogoeru
has been chosen to be the ending theme song for Yamishibai (Iki).
I hope that we can contribute some deadly flowers to the world of television drama, even if just a few.
This song is about a sorrowful soul who wanders between that world and this, and from this world to the next.
What a blessing it is that (this song) is to be the lullaby which draws¹ everyone to the edge of darkness in the aftermath of Yamishibai.
I will be waiting for you on a Wednesday in September², before the dead of night² at Yamishibai (Iki).
Do your best³ to make sure you don’t forget.”

 


Premiering: Wednesday, 9 September 2020 at 25:28~25:58*
(※25:28~25:58 on every Wednesday thereafter)

 

 

 

 

Notes:

¹ Instead of using the modern-day reading of 誘う, さそう (sasou), Sakurai has seemingly deliberately chosen to use いざなう (izanau), an archaic and more uncommon reading of it which is more exclusive to poetry or literary works these days. A notable instance where Sakurai chose to use the “izanau” reading that I can remember off the top of my head is in Ai no Souretsu (lyrics).

² Here, Sakurai used 長月 (nagatsuki) rather than the usual 九月 (kugatsu). Nagatsuki the name that was used for September in the old Japanese which was adapted from the Chinese lunar calendar. Nagatsuki literally means “the long month).
On the other hand, Sakurai used 丑三 (ushimitsu) to state the approximate time of the show’s broadcast. Under Japan’s ancient time-telling system, Ushimitsu is the period between 2:00 AM and 2:30 AM. Certain hours of the day such as Ushimitsu-doki (the dead of night) and Omaga-doki (twilight hour) were thought to serve as boundaries to the sacred area. Omega-doki is probably around 6 PM, dusk.

³ Sakurai used 努努 which reads “yume yume”. I’d bet my coin it’s a wordplay which, once again, revolves around 夢 (yume) – dream. Because, of course it is.

* Yet another interesting thing about Japan is that they denote hours past 24, as seen above (25:28). Basically it’s to state that a particular show starts after midnight or a place’s business hours extend beyond midnight. So in this case, 25:28 will be 1:28 AM. Just subtract 24 from the hour.

 

Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: https://natalie.mu/music/news/392069

BUCK-TICK comments for Forever Shinjuku Loft project

SHINJUKU LOFT
May 2020

 

 

As a brief introduction, Shinjuku Loft opened in Nishi-Shinjuku in October 1976, moved to Kabukicho in April 1999. It has a history of more than 40 years to date.

Since the end of February this year, many performances have been cancelled or postponed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and after the government declared a state of emergency, Shinjuku Loft has refrained from business activities. If the voluntary restraint on business continues, the survival and history of Shinjuku Loft, which has been in business for more than 40 years, will be in jeopardy.

“Forever Shinjuku Loft” was launched as a support project. The organising committee will be working on various support projects for the survival of the Shinjuku Loft, including the production and sale of distribution programs and donation goods.

More information can be found on their official website here: http://www.loft-prj.co.jp/LOFT/forever/

The members’ comments are as follows below:

 

 

The first time I went to Shinjuku Loft was for a BOΦWY show (30 Mar 1984). I remember going to a pub with the members after the live and getting to talk to them as if it was yesterday. BUCK-TICK’s first performance was at the “Taiyo Matsuri” [Sun Festival], an event held by Taiyo Records. I remember that it was a very happy occasion for us because this was the one live house that we wanted to perform at the most ever since we all moved to Tokyo. In recent years, they took care of us again when we shot a PV here. Personally, I come here every January for the annual drummers’ meet. I feel that Shinjuku Loft has been an asset to our musical cultural heritage ever since its founding in 1976. Right now, it’s facing a difficult situation but as a number one fan of Shinjuku Loft, I hope that it will be able to reopen again soon.
<Yagami Toll>

When I first moved from Gunma to Tokyo in 1985, Shinjuku Loft was already known as the source of rock music, and as the live house which has produced numerous wonderful artistes. And even now, I still remember that it was BUCK-TICK’s goal to perform on this stage and the excitement that I felt for our first stage performance. Now, because of global COVID-19 infections, we have entered tough times and Shinjuku Loft, too, is in crisis. Let us all cooperate and work together to overcome this crisis so that many more artistes may have the chance to perform on Loft’s stage in future.
<Higuchi Yutaka>

The checkerboard stage that is admired regardless of era! I hope that Shinjuku Loft will stay on forever! Let’s aim for it! I’m rooting for you!
<Hoshino Hidehiko>

✌️ PEACE! We are strong
<Imai Hisashi>

For now, let’s hold on together and endure through this. Spring will come. Stay strong until then.
<Sakurai Atsushi>

 

 

 

 

 

 

Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: http://www.loft-prj.co.jp/LOFT/forever/

Datenshi, PARADE Ⅲ Feature

PHY Vol. 15
February 2020

text by Ishli Eriko (imai, higuchi), Kanemitsu Hlrofumi (sakurai, hoshino, yagami)
photographs by CHITO
hair&make-up by Tanizaki Takayuki, Yamaji Chihiro (FAT’S BERRY)
styling by Shimizu Kenichi

costume by
kiryuyrik 03-5728-4048
DIET BUTCHER SLIM SKIN 03-5728-4765
原宿VILLAGE 03-3405-8528
UK EXTRA 03-3311-1992
JULIUS TOKYO STORE 03-5728-4900

 

I feel that the one who has to shoulder that burden is me
Because singing about it saves me

You’ll understand as soon as you listen to their new single, Datenshi; that BUCK-TICK has entered a new mode, and that unchanging strength and resolve of theirs. Two years ago, they released their album No.0 in which they incorporated their imagination and message to the fullest. It was a work they stuffed to the brim with the diversity of worldviews which the band possesses, but this single, which brings us a sign of what to expect from this band in 2020, has shown us the complete opposite; a powerful sound which is full of gaps. That makes it a simple yet distinctive sound. From this, originality which can only be produced by these 5 musicians can be heard. That is also the forte of a band which is heading towards their 35th anniversary, and, at the same time, it is also a resolve which stems from the unavoidable awareness that an end will come sometime.

In this special feature, we will explore the present and future BUCK-TICK from various perspectives. Through personal interviews with the members based on their new song, Datenshi, and, celebrating their tribute album PARADE III ~RESPECTIVE TRACKS OF BUCK-TICK~, which will be released at the same time as their single, there will also be a dialogue between Higuchi Yutaka and TOSHI-LOW (BRAHMAN), along with an interview with ISSAY (DER ZIBET) who will talk about the draw of BUCK-TICK and Sakurai Atsushi.

 

 

 

 

 

Individual Interviews

_______________________

Sakurai Atsushi

Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi

Knowing that everyone is watching us with all these thoughts and emotions
It makes me want to get my act together, like, I have to do my best

―― I’d like to hear about your thoughts regarding THE DAY IN QUESTION which concluded last year-end.

S: I’m relieved. Because although there was only one new song while the rest were familiar tunes, I’m constantly plagued by worries about my throat. But I somehow managed to do it.

―― It’s an annual affair on 29 December, but having had to perform at Yoyogi National Stadium First Gymnasium rather than at Nippon Budokan, how did you find it?

S: The first thing that came to mind when I entered the venue was, “The audience is rather far away…… I feel bad.” It was difficult for the audience in the back to see, wasn’t it? I hate to say it, but Budokan is where I find it easiest to get the audience into it and that makes it great, though.

―― Well, you’ll be back at Budokan on this year’s 29 December anyway.

S: I don’t think it’s all that great to perform in large venues, and I think for us, we don’t have to aim for that any more, do we? (Lol). Big venues, they’re not suitable for us. Not really.

―― No, no (lol). The last song, LOVE ME, was just wonderful.

S: That song, I think it was Yuta who said that he wanted to perform it. He felt that it might be nice if we shared a sense of unity with everyone at the end.

―― That’s true.

S: The lyrics are quite messed up, though (lol). But since these people have made it here to watch us perform, I’m happy that it can bring us all together and excite them (even if) that’s the kind of song it is.

―― That was a great end to the year, wasn’t it?

S: It was. Last year, I had quite a lot going on in my private life too and I was in the hospital again, and quite a few ups and downs…… It got me thinking, “Just get it over with!” (lol). (At the end of the year) I got that sense of “Is it finally over?”. Though, it’s not as if (going into the new year) changes anything in particular.

―― And among all of that, Datenshi was produced.

S: That’s right. There’s one other song which was a candidate too. That’s another really nice one. We more or less already decided that we’d go with that one, but then Imai Hisashi pulled out another song. Which was the one which turned into Datenshi. The other song which we had decided on was a very nice medium-tempo song, but we felt that (it would be better) if this could turn into something that was edgy and aggressive even to us…… So, we were able to really venture into Datenshi. 

―― Why did you want it to be aggressive?

S: The first two songs that we completed were very gentle songs. Unlike their finished version, Luna Park, too, initially had a very relaxed tempo. If we lined up those two songs together, (the single) will leave the impression that it’s like an extended version of Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete. Then, just as we were thinking, “Hm… I’m not sure if this is a good idea,” Datenshi came along, so, that was a lifesaver. (With the determination that) I’ll torment myself as badly as I can with this.

―― What do you mean by tormenting yourself?

S: To say,  “You’re no good guy, are you?” (Lol).

―― It’s okay to be a little nicer to yourself, though.

S: That may be true, but I end up feeling that if I torment myself, the real me will emerge from that, you know? It’s funny, but it was the first day of work at the office yesterday, and we (found out that we) received hundreds of mail from the fans since the end of last year (lol). As I read them one by one, I was once again reminded that I had to firmly stand true to what I really feel.

―― Meaning?

S: You see, everyone comes to our concerts with different emotions in them. There are those who are parent and child travelling from far away to come and watch us, and there are also those whose loved ones have passed away. Knowing everyone is watching us from the back of Yoyogi with all these thoughts and emotions, it makes me want to get my act together. Like, I have to do my best.

―― But on the other hand, I believe that there are those who also feel, “You don’t have to shoulder all that burden, though……”.

S: Rather than a burden, it’s an encouragement, you see. It’s the reason why I would want to stand (on stage). To exaggerate, it’s because to me, “to do my best” is as good as a battle with myself.

―― So, you’re saying that it’s necessary for Sakurai Atsushi to be like this and face himself.

S: But it’s just for those few hours. On stage, that would be 2 hours, and during recording, I won’t show my face (to an audience) but (the final product is) something that we’ve worked hard on and condensed into an album for people to hear, so if I do this right…… That’s really how it is, but I guess, maybe it helps a little. Because I usually am a really hopeless man. And today, I’ve made this much of a mess of my face too (lol).

―― (Lol) Haven’t you ever thought that it would be nice if you could get all of that done while being a little more relaxed?

S: As long as the fans enjoy it, I don’t care if people write or say bad things about me. I’m not bitter about it. But it’s not easy (for me) to deal with myself…… Well, I’ve said it hundreds of times, but it’s a matter of what’s learned in the cradle being carried to the grave. And now, I’m the same age as my father. It’s getting more and more ingrained in me, isn’t it?

―― This is something we’ve been talking about for decades now.

S: Yeah, having known Kanemitsu-san for decades, there were times when I wondered when I’ll ever feel better*, but it doesn’t look like that will ever happen (lol).

―― Is it the fear that you might be just like that father of yours?

S: After all, the same blood flows in my veins. The misery and the hate are always…… there, you know? Our blood types are the same, and even our birthdays are the same. That’s a 1 in 365 chance! Can you believe that?   Our faces are exactly the same too. And now, we’re the same age.

―― You definitely can’t help but feel something.

S: I get the feeling that something’s pulling me. Like, come here…… I’m just kidding, though (lol).

―― I don’t want to hear about it even if it’s a joke!

S: I guess so. My elder brother said to me, “Hang in there until you turn 54,” but…… We’re back on this topic again, huh (sigh). Let’s stop.

―― Well, because it’s like a routine (to talk about it)**, isn’t it?

S: Shall we talk about Valentines’ Day or something?

―― Wahahahaha, why so sudden!

S: Maybe we can make a guess of how much chocolate we’d receive or something (lol).

―― Why would I even enjoy competing with Sakurai Atsushi over how much chocolate I’d receive (lol).

S: No, no, no, I mean, a ton (of chocolate) would arrive in the editorial department, right?

―― They don’t (lol). But I have to give my age a little bit of consideration too.

S: Well, age is one thing, but this personality is really…… something that I’ve come to realise I can’t get run away from. I thought I was prepared (to do that), but I guess I really can’t escape from it, can I? I’ve also spoken about this numerous times, but in present-day terms, we’d say that my father committed DV***, right? Domestic violence. My father beat my mother on a daily basis. That memory has always stuck with me, always frightened…… Well, it’s the usual story, though.

―― Apart from that memory, have you ever wondered how far you can go from this point on?

S: I have. Although I’m aware that I have to take it easy and live life following my experiences of getting hospitalised and so on, at the same time, I also wonder how long I can keep doing that. I’m doing what I love so I can somehow discipline and inspire myself, but if I get sick, then, it’s as if my father’s calling me……

―― So we’re going back to that topic.

S: We are (lol). That’s why I want to turn 54 as soon as possible. But I’ve been blessed in the sense that I get to do what I want to do, and recently, I’ve been getting a really strong feeling that I’m doing it right, so when I can find it in myself to say that I’m happy, I am happy.

 

I may make people wonder, “Is he alright……”, but I’m happy. I am.

―― In what areas do you get the feeling that you’re doing things right?

S: When I’m satisfied with our own work. When we put out works that I feel good about. When there’s even a little bit of that although it may not be 100%. It’s because we have music and songs like that that I can say, “Ah, well, I suppose it’s alright.”

―― And also, because you have band members who understand such a Sakurai-san, right?

S: That’s the best part, isn’t it? Though, we don’t usually talk much anymore (lol).

―― Hahahahaha.

S: There are times when I’d spend a couple of days with Imai-san and Hide but we don’t talk at all. It’s just that when we finally realise, we didn’t talk about anything at all (lol). But they consider things from a vocalist’s perspective; there is this invisible care for me. Simply because we’ve known each other for 35 years now. We no longer have to say anything for us to fully understand the other party, and when I’m as tense as I am now, they’ll just let me be too.

―― Perhaps it’s because you’re working with these people that you can express yourself.

S: Perhaps. If we’re talking about the stage, though, Imai-san will come and interrupt my singing (lol). At points when I’m like, “But I wanted to sing it well here!” (Lol). But performing while having such thoughts is something else that is interesting in a band. Like, “Ah, just now, Anii made a mistake,” and so on (lol).

―― Ahahahahaha.

S: As long as I’m on stage, I’m enjoying myself even when I start thinking, “Ah, that just now was off. I definitely went out of tune…… Ah, I’m never getting over it.”  That’s why it’s fun to be in a band, isn’t it? It’s because the other members are around that I’m given the ability to do what I love.

―― Do you have aspirations of wanting to become a certain way or something like that now, at 54?

S: Uh, like perform at Tokyo Dome and the like? (Lol)

―― That’s what Anii spoke of when we went drinking (lol). He said, “I’ll play at Tokyo Dome for my 60th birthday!”

S: He says the complete opposite of what I say (lol).

―― Hahahahahaha, indeed.

S: Anywhere’s fine as long as we can hold a concert. Well, I’d love to if I could, though…… But first, the immediate future; I’d like to ask for our next song as soon as possible (lol).

―― Imai-sa~n, Imai Hisashi sa~n (lol).

S: Ahahahahaha. But the fact that he mentioned his “60th” with “Tokyo Dome”, I have to say Anii’s rough plan is really great (lol). I think that’s also something that has been helping me, you know? It encourages me and makes me aware of things I haven’t thought of, things that I couldn’t have done alone.

―― So, what kind of dreams does Sakurai-san personally have?

S: Ah, well…… I don’t have any. You know this very well, don’t you? (Lol) I’m incapable of doing anything if I’m left to my own devices, and I’d probably be a man who won’t even leave his bed (lol). Though, going to a snowy mountain and freezing to death without anyone finding out about it…… I think it’s just so beautiful, that’ll be nice, I guess.

―― Please stop that (lol). Didn’t you say before that you’d like to live deep in the mountains in the middle of nowhere and spend your life making pottery?

S: But now, I think it’ll be troublesome to learn how to make pottery or even spin the potter’s wheel (lol).

―― You’re getting worse!

S: Because I’m a klutz (lol). Before (this interview), I happened to catch a glimpse of the footage on WOWOW (note: 29 December’s performance at Yoyogi National Stadium First Gymnasium) and I thought,  “You’re an idiot, man.” (lol).

―― Ahahahahaha. Was it the MC?

S: Yes (lol).

―― When you tripped on your words, and then had your embarrassed face show up on all the screens (lol).

S: Don’t you think that’s so stupid?

―― Nope. It’s cute.

S: Hahahahahaha.

―― Don’t everyone in the audience love this Sakurai-san?

S: I’m grateful for it. Although, I feel like I have to do my best and become something like that rockstar who everyone admires……

―― No, I don’t believe that everyone expects Sakurai Atsushi to be cool all the time.

S: I’ll try my best.

―― So what do you hope for this year?

S: I don’t think there’s anything (going on this year) that will bring in interview requests. I’d like for myself to remain healthy, both physically and mentally. Since I’ll feel down when I get sick, I just want to stay healthy as much as possible (lol).

―― You’ve announced that you’ll be releasing a new album this summer. I’d expect that you don’t have all the songs yet, but what do you hope for this album to be?

S: Earlier, I mentioned Imai-san’s song which was a candidate for the single, which wasn’t Datenshi. That was a really great song. It’s Imai Hisashi and Sakurai Atsushi’s music, and lyrics, and song. This might just be the best we’ve ever had…… That said, if we raise the bar too high, that might just be terrible (for the future) (lol).

―― No, no, no, it’s good!

S: I feel that it’s turned out to be a really great song. I think that it was a good thing that Datenshi was made this single, but we really had problems with deciding to the point that we were debating until the very very last minute so…… That’s why I want people to listen to it first as soon as possible.

―― What are the lyrics like for that song?

S: Ahh. You’d probably think, “This again?” (Lol). But although I do feel that I’m talking about the same things, I think there’s nothing I can do about that anymore. Because even if I try to twist things, I’d end up feeling that it isn’t me. It’s not that big a deal, but I do feel that the one who has to shoulder that burden is me. Because singing about it saves me.

―― In other words, it’s something that will never change no matter what happens, like your earliest childhood memory, something you learnt as a child that you’ll bring to the grave.

S: That’s right. I can’t force it. Even if I borrow a concept from somewhere else and decide to perform that, all the things I like are going to be similar anyway, so I can’t run away from it. I can’t be a professional (if I do that). But that does, indeed, appear to be my place. On the contrary, I don’t really know where I belong in everyday life (lol).

―― What do you mean?

S: If I’m working, I know for sure that my dressing room, the centre stage mic, and standing on stage with the other members to sing is where I belong, but when we revert to our regular lives, there are times when I don’t really know where I should go…… I’m pretty sure I come across as a serious man like this.

―― I know (lol).

S: When it comes to work, too, I’ve been late, but I really give my all, you know? (Lol). That’s why it ends up taking a toll on other areas, like family^, and so on.

―― Ah, I see. You’re trying too hard to be BUCK-TICK’s Sakurai Atsushi. 

S: I’m normally as good as an invalid (lol).

―― Hahahahahaha. But it’d be distressing if it disappears, wouldn’t it? Your place of belonging.

S: That’s why I feel that I have to cherish it, whether I’m in my on- or off-mode. Because I’m thankful that there is a mic being placed centre stage for me, and that there’s even a light being shone on me.

―― For this person that you are (lol).

S: Yes. I’m happy.

―― And that is what everyone seeks. We feel that all is well if Sakurai-san is happy.

S: Thank you. I may make people wonder, “Is he alright……”, but I’m happy. I am.

 

Notes:

* The phrase used here was “晴れる (hareru)”, which is usually used to describe sunny weather.

** The original phrase is “業みたいなもの” but the problem here is, I can’t tell if “業” is being read as “gou” or “gyou”. If read as “gou”, then it would mean “Karma”. While as “gyou”, the more common reading, it would generally mean “work” along with all other similar connotations. I’ve gone with “gyou” to say that it’s “routine”, as in something that is done/brought up on a regular basis – like work. Because I honestly don’t think Sakurai is being plagued by this out of some Karmic reasoning.

*** That’s apparently the abbreviation used in Japan.

^ Family here doesn’t literally mean familial relationships. “家庭 (katei)” rather than “家族 (kazoku)” was used, which refers to general nuance of having/starting a family.

 

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Imai Hisashi

Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi

While I was figuring that out, somehow, what came out from inside of me was something that had been sort of sticking out like this which gave off a somewhat deviant feeling
Kind of like the enjoyment of things which fall outside of the rules. Somehow, that was the kind of image that came to mind

―― To start, how did you feel about the 5-show nationwide tour for THE DAY IN QUESTION?

I: Good. I thought it was good.

―― I got to watch your performance in Tokyo too. It felt strange seeing that it wasn’t in Budokan.

I: About that, since it was our first time performing there, I couldn’t really get a proper feel of the sound either. And I was performing without in-ear monitors.

―― Huh, you were?

I: Me and Hide, us two guitarists didn’t use them. That’s why I wondered how the sound would turn out in this case. Budokan is the venue that we’re most used to performing at after all, and while there’s a certain enjoyment in playing at Yoyogi, there was also a bit of unease. But after we gave it a shot, there was nothing to worry about, I guess.

―― Is there a reason why you performed without in-ear monitors? I’d assume that it’s more natural to use them when there’s that much noise being made and being played at the same time, though.

I: No, well, I’ve kind of always…… not used them (lol). I think it depends on the song, but if I’m wearing them, I feel that I can’t quite grasp the atmosphere around me, and I’d be hearing clicks in them…… Like, that’s not very fun is it?

―― Hahahaha!   So rather than (wearing the in-ear monitors), your synchrony with the band and feeling the atmosphere in the venue is more important.

I: Yeah. So, well, I’d just do as much as I can anyway, until I have to ad lib. But, well, then…… I’d start wondering about whether in-ear monitors are really that essential or not, though.

―― Because it seems like it isn’t since you can go that far (lol).

I: But during Locus Solus at Makuhari, there was a point when I went all the way to the front without wearing in-ear monitors. I had to play based on intuition then.

―― Intuition. It’s amazing that you didn’t play out of time.

I: Naaah, I think I did?   The others had quite a few things to say to me, though (wry smile).

―― Also, the setlist which you had for THE DAY IN QUESTION gave me the impression that it was the opposite of the setlist for Locus Solus.

I: Ahh, I guess you may be right. But it’s not as if we deliberately aimed to do that. THE DAY IN QUESTION doesn’t have any particular concept either. The closest (thing we have to a concept) is, “Let’s have fun every year.”

―― Or, “Let’s come together every year-end.”

I: Exactly. Although, that’s why there are also occasions when we’ll bring out lightly thematic stuff moment by moment. Also, we generally tend towards darker (themes) while at the same time leaning towards more upbeat (music). It feels as if we have everything, doesn’t it?

―― Yes. Well then, moving on to the topic of production, you’ve been composing since around last summer?

I: Yeah. Well, relatively early. I started composing at the stage when I started thinking that maybe it was about time for me to make preparations.

―― For Imai-san, do you compose only when you decide to? Or is it an accumulation (of compositions) regardless of when they come to you?

I: Nah, I don’t do accumulations. Although I do occasionally go into my workroom and write a memo or do something like that on a whim.

―― What kind of themes or hints came to mind when you decided to compose?

I: Mm…… There wasn’t really any in particular, but, well, I thought that as long as I started working on it, something might come up. So, while I was figuring that out, somehow, what came out from inside of me was something that had been sort of sticking out like this which gave off a somewhat deviant feeling. Kind of like the enjoyment of things which fall outside of the rules. Somehow, that was the kind of image that came to mind. Even now, I can’t quite put it into words though.

―― At the same time, “deviant” is, in other words, pretty much “the usual BUCK-TICK”, isn’t it?

I: That’s right. And that’s why the more I say it, the more I end up getting the feeling that we just keep going round and around the same things. When I talk about this feeling in this particular circumstance…… it feels like, “This isn’t all that much of a concept, though” (lol). That’s why I’d first start with an album that we had already made, and then take it somewhere different. To somewhere where (I can find) interesting elements.

―― So you’ll be taking No.0 somewhere different.

I: Yeah. I’ve been thinking that I want to do something interesting. We have 2 guitarists, a vocalist, and a drummer and a bassist. And I’m wondering if we can do something interesting with that structure, the way the sounds overlap and so on. Something like a slightly different kind of band sound than our usual. Whether or not that’s possible, I’m still figuring it out.

―― Are you talking about (looking for) something that is yet unknown from within your band’s style?

 

I: Yeah. Like, “is there still anything that’s kind of amazing, and intriguing (in here)?”

―― That’s a very interesting sense. And that’s despite that we’re in an era where bands as a structure is most certainly said to be, “Something old, a thing of the past”.

I: That’s true. But it’s also something that’s normally considered as cool; the sense that something which is cool, is cool. But if you’re too consumed by that and only that, then it’s like, getting your priorities wrong, like, you’d find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what the hell you’re doing (lol). That’s the feeling I have now. Maybe I’d go in a more electronic direction, or maybe I won’t even have guitars in (the music). Nothing has solidified yet, at all.

―― If we’re talking about Datenshi, it’s based on rock n’ roll, right?

I: Ahh. Well, because that very first riff is a riff that came from somewhere.

―― A riff from somewhere (lol).

I: You know, that’s a very simple riff, and it’s not as if I started composing the song because I thought, “Ah, this riff is cool.” It really is something that can already be found somewhere.

 

I think that if we do things in accordance to a demo, we won’t be able to go above and beyond. We can’t just follow what’s there
Instead, I think we need to break it down a little or take a little out and loosen up so that we will be able to do even bigger things

―― Though, it’s true that for a moment it sounded as if it bordered on becoming a parody. Like, (a parody of) T. Rex or something similar.

I: Exactly. It’s a very simple rock riff, like a representative of that. I’m really glad that it turned out like that. And from (that riff) came the image of (a song that’s) a slightly peculiar kind of pop which includes (elements which are) somewhat radical and cutting, and noisy and disquieting.

―― And that’s also a deviation from the image itself, isn’t it? This is a very extreme example, but Imai-san, have you ever thought of being in a band similar to Ramones?

I: Mm…… Well, I’ve released 2 albums with the band Lucy, though. For those, well, I ended up adding a variety of sounds into it once I started working on it, but it was originally a band which started out being tied to a simple rock n’ roll concept, you see. That’s why I got the idea that it might be interesting to go all out (with the concept). After all, there’s also beauty in being able to do nothing but that.

―― It’s the same with SCHAFT, too, right? It was tied to the industrial genre. Is no such thing in BUCK-TICK at all?

I: Yep. None. If anything, I guess you could say that these types of rock n’ roll and industrial genre music that you just mentioned, these old-school styles (of music) is not what (BUCK-TICK) goes for.

―― You don’t go for old-school styles (lol). To seriously and thoroughly pursue one particular genre is an engaging route to take too, but I suppose you’re not very interested in that?

I: Mm…………… Nah, I don’t really think about it.

―― Hahaha.

I: I just go for whatever happens to catch my interest at that point in time. Because I think that’s how it naturally works. And the whole band comes together for a meeting before we start recording, but we don’t talk about things like, “This time, we’re doing this and this with that concept,” y’know? Though we always do it here.

―― Ah, in this room in Victor Studio?

I: Yeah. We talk here, and if we happen to have demo songs on hand, we’d listen to it, then we’d go for dinner…… That’s when the conversation gets serious, though (lol).

―― Yuta-san said this previously, that Imai-san’s demos are quite vague or something.

I: Recently. It depends on the song, but if it’s, let’s say, a song with a four-on-the-floor dance beat, I’d usually play the bass (first) with the root note. (Then I’d tell Yuta) something like, “I probably don’t have to say this but you’ll play something that hits hard, right?”

―― So you leave that to the band members.

I: Yeah. I think it’d still turn out to be an okay song even if I don’t go that far. Because I suppose they can already do it without needing me to fill in every single detail.

―― So, it’ll always turn into something with a BUCK-TICK flavour no matter what you do. But is this something that’s only came about recently?

I: It’s recent. It was like this with Kemonotachi no Yoru, and also, this new single. Before these, I’d put in a lot of effort to elaborate on things down to rather minute details, but it’s not quite…… Even I started to get the feeling that (being so particular) makes things kind of boring. It’s like, there were moments when I thought that maybe things would be more interesting if they were not done exclusively to my preferences. That’s why, when Yuta asks me, “What do you think about this?” I’d say, “I don’t really like it but it’s fine.”

―― Must you say that (lol)? But it seems to me that people who don’t get those notions can’t be in a band. Since there are also people who will create entire tracks on their own and think, “If I can play everything on my own I’d be my own band, though.”

I: Such people definitely don’t (belong in a band) (lol). But really, in the beginning, I was that sort of person too. I’d start composing the demo, put everything together on the computer, decide on how every melody should sound and say, “This part must not, cannot be changed.” That’s all I was like. I was really like that even up to just a few compositions ago, but gradually, I started to get moments that made me think that perhaps it would be more interesting if I loosened up a bit on that area. Also, when, for example, Anii gets a drum phrase wrong, I’d be like, “Ah, maybe sounds better that way,” and so on.

―― So, the singing changes a lot too? Compared to the demos?

I: It happens. Because Sakurai-san would mostly change what was initially sung in English into Japanese. When he does that, the vibe would definitely change, and when Sakurai-san picks up the notes in his own unique way, when he covers it the way only a vocalist can, he gets me saying, “Ah, it’s better like this.” I think, after all, a demo tape is just a demo and if we really do things in accordance to it, we won’t be able to go above and beyond. I guess we can’t just follow what’s there. Instead, I think we need to break it down a little or take a little out and loosen up so that we will be able to do even bigger things.

―― That’s also a kind of deviation, isn’t it? This might sound like a simplistic question, but why does Imai-san hate rules and lines* so much?

I: Nah, I don’t hate them. It’s more that I prefer to remove them. Because I sometimes do think that it can be interesting to be tied down by those and go along with it. That’s why I think, in the end, I guess what I’ve decided to do is to just ignore the rules.

―― What’s the best part of that, I wonder? I suppose it might be an exaggeration to compare it with the discovery of a new world, but I guess it’s the feeling of wanting to find something that has not yet been found by anyone else?

I: Ah, that, there is.

―― Or is it that you have a spirit that simply hates following a format and just wants to destroy that?

I: Ah. …… Nah, I think it’s even simpler than that. It’s just the desire to create something good, something cool. But it includes a feeling just like that “discovery of a new world” you mentioned which gets me wondering about whether I will find anything interesting. It’s vague, but that’s a thought I have all the time.

―― Right.

I: So I guess I do actually get that feeling. Of excavating something that has always been there and feeling like, “Ahh, I’ve found it.” It won’t be anything that I’ve come up with on my own. Rather, it’ll be something that was originally already there, and I’d occasionally manage to excavate it. Something like that. There are times when it feels like that.

―― So, you don’t come up with (music) in your own head?

I: Ah, of course, there are songs like that too. Songs which are shaped through my messing about. But also I think that there is a method of song composition which isn’t done like that; which is (done by) finding something or occasionally excavating something.

―― That’s the continuing adventure that the 5 of you are on.

I: That’s right. Also, while there are, of course, things that we need to spit out, we’re all making things, aren’t we? As creators. I think that every one of us have the mindset that we’re creating music as composers. I believe we’d stop if the thought of, “Ahh, this is troublesome, I don’t want to do it anymore” wins, but generally, we’re consciously writing music and lyrics, you know?

―― Everyone?

I: I think so. The other band members too, and Sakurai-san too. Everyone’s composing. Not that it comes naturally or automatically.

―― Even for Yuta-san and Anii-san who don’t compose music?

I: Yeah. Those two would first listen to what we give them and then they’d go into the studio and practice. Then, after they’re able to play or drum (their parts), they’d say, “What do you think about this phrase?”. And that’s when they compose. That’s how I think they keep creating. I also get the feeling that this probably wouldn’t happen if I was in a band with other people instead.

―― It’s because it’s the 5 of you that things are like this.

I: Yeah. Exactly, that.

―― It’s amazing that even now, this creative drive hasn’t stopped. When I heard that the band was going to take some time off after Locus Solus, I thought for a moment that you might start some other project or maybe Lucy would make a comeback.

I: Ahー, I didn’t think about that. Or rather, I didn’t actually consider taking time off at all.

―― Ah, I see. I thought maybe you got yourself refreshed in some way.

I: Nope…… Not really. Not in particular.

―― It’s just that when I consider the simplicity of Datenshi’s riffs, I thought, maybe, at the very least, darkness and weightiness isn’t what you seek now, is it? Less is better.

I: Ah, yeah. That’s right. That isn’t rock or anything close to rock, but (if we were to classify it) it’s more towards pop. I think I paid more attention to music that classify as pop songs (when composing), and even the lyrics too, they have a lightness unique to Sakurai-san. In the sense that I think that’s the sort of thing that he managed to put into them.

―― By the way, I heard that Sakurai-san was pretty depressed last year, though.

I: Ahh. Well…… There was a period when I thought that he kept silent for the longest time, though. But, well, not particularly. Around him, we just…… let him be.

―― Right (lol). But it indeed does sound like there’s a strong pop flavour in the song too. Especially at parts like the “Ah ha”.

I: Yes. Exactly.

―― Considering the melody of Luna Park too, can we say that “pop” is a hint of what your next release will sound like?

I: Well, I suppose. Yes. I believe we can deliver something really interesting.

 

 

Notes:

* The loan word “レール” (rail) was used rather than line but I used line because it doesn’t quite make sense in English to say “rules and rails”.

 

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Hoshino Hidehiko

Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi

I guess, maybe I felt a sense of liberation within myself when I composed Luna Park?
It was a little before this, but I suppose I wanted to compose something that felt far out

―― Now, it’s just before the show at Yoyogi National Stadium First Gymnasium (note: this interview was held on 26 December), but to start, tell us about the response you’ve had so far for this THE DAY IN QUESTION tour.

H: It’s our year-end live show that we’ve consistently held for 20 years, even as a tour too. It’s something we’ve been doing consistently so I think we’ve been able to make it unique to this year too.

―― Rather than simply being chock full of nostalgic songs, I was left with a middle era impression. Or rather, that there were a lot of songs from your BMG Funhouse* days.

H: It wasn’t intentional but that’s certainly true. When we band members picked the songs, lined up our choices and then sorted them out, that’s how it turned out. In the beginning…… I think it was probably Yuta who suggested that we start with Muma-The Nightmare. He said, “We’ve never done that before so don’t you think it would be interesting?” We then made our selection based on that and this is sort of the kind of setlist we settled on.

―― What songs did Hoshino-san request for?

H: None in particular (lol). But Dokudanjou Beauty -R.I.P.- wasn’t part of the initial song selection, so I guess I suggested that. Also, I wanted to perform Snow white but Yuta also brought that up so it’s not as if I made any particular appeal for it (lol).

―― Even though it’s Hoshino-san’s song (lol). How was the year 2019 for you?

H: Well, it wasn’t a year when we were constantly on the move due to live shows, so it was sort of a year when our flow got switched up. In the first half, there were a few rescheduled shows we had to do, but after we were done with Locus Solus no Kemonotachi at Makuhari, it felt like a grand closure to the flow which we kept up until then. It had the impression of, “Alright, off to whatever’s next.” But, well, going on such a trajectory is something that we’ve imagined and scheduled since some years ago, right?

―― So, in other words, it was a year of actively working on production.

H: Well, I can’t really say that either (lol). 2 songs were presented for the single this time around, but both of them were songs which had been sleeping in my PC (lol). We decided for Datenshi to be the single so we were looking for a song which would couple well, and we thought that this one was suitable.

―― Do you have a lot of those stock music?

H: Nope (lol). Though I’ve got some riffs and bits and pieces of stuff in there.

―― Well, then what kind of impression did Datenshi leave on you?

H: I guess it gave off a bit of a new wave vibe. It’s not exactly pumping rock music but neither is it light. That part is what reminds me of new wave. Also, it doesn’t feel as if it’s being filled up (with sounds), but there’s a stronger nuance that (if there was just a little less) it would break apart.

―― Imai-san used the word “deviant” (to describe it). In the sense that this song excludes bass lines where one would expect it.

H: Yeah.

―― I suppose that means he’s looking for intrigue that cannot be found by following (music) theory but have you heard about anything like this prior to recording?

H: He didn’t say anything in particular when we were previewing the demos, but maybe that topic came up while we were having drinks after that?   In No.0, both the music and the worldview were built rigidly and it was a work that we can no longer add anything more to, so he wanted to do something a little more broken down next…… At least, I think that’s what he said. Probably. I can’t really remember (lol).

―― Why’s your memory fuzzy (lol).

H: Because we were drinking (lol). But because of that, this time around, we pulled back a little on the guitar bits too where we would normally go rugged on the riffs.

―― Meaning?

H: For example, during the interval, we raised the guitar bits up higher than usual around the middle to create a spaced out feeling and things like that. I think that these particularities which we applied in our production will only increase as we move towards the next album. Besides, Imai-san bought a weird effector and has been messing around with it too (lol).

―― Do you think that doing this will bring about something like a change within the band?

H: I do think so. I’m guessing that if we keep each of these areas in mind, we’ll be able to apply this to different songs so this might affect the album a lot. Whatever it is, we’re headed in that direction. I think it’s going to feel like everyone’s in step with each other.

―― But there’s also a completely unbreakable Hide melody in contrast to that, like in Luna Park.

H: You brought up the melody, but we didn’t have plans to include that song in the album, to begin with, because it was just a song that we thought would work well as a coupling. As something which matched Datenshi.   

―― Ah, so it was a song that you put out for the sake of balance.

H: Yeah. I guess, maybe I felt a sense of liberation within myself when I composed Luna Park?   It was a little before this, but I suppose I wanted to compose something that felt far out.

―― I see.

H: But before I put this song out, I had another that I had made a demo of up to its interlude, and I thought of going with that one but it felt too mid-tempo, you know? I figured that it wouldn’t match well as a coupling song so I pulled back on it and then brought Luna Park which had been sleeping in my PC.

―― Ah, you made that decision to reel it back yourself?

H: If I wasn’t told, I think it might’ve just gone out as it is (lol).

―― It’s just a balancer after all (lol).

H: But isn’t it of course that we want to do things well as a band?   Although, we do intend to release a bigger variety of songs on the album.

―― But it’s true that in BUCK-TICK, you don’t eliminate songs or remove (ideas) from your heads just because it’s “wrong”. You basically give it a try anyway.

H: You’re right. We don’t really…… do that, I think. Everyone thinks rather positively with the notion that it’ll probably get better when we try it out. So the responsibility placed on me is greater in that sense, but all I’ve ever experienced is the result of my songs turning out better than I expected. That’s why no one denies (any ideas). (There’s this sense that) if we do it as a band, it’ll probably turn into something interesting.

―― So, that’s why if you think that it doesn’t work, you’ll pull the idea back yourself.

H: Yes, exactly. Also, I’ve recently been around Cube-kun (Cube Juice) and Yoko-chan (Yokoyama Kazutoshi) and YOW-ROW-kun (GARI). So there are now more people around me who do manipulator work for us. Each of their musical flavour is different, so we don’t really get the same things from them, and there’s also a part of me that looks forward to the changes (to the songs) which come from them. There’s a lot of that chemistry these days.

―― Are you saying that in other words, you’d throw them something that will serve as a sort of base and they’ll do a bit of arrangement with it, put in the music and return it to you, following which you’d get inspired by it and that will give shape to the song?

H: That’s right. I guess you could say that’s the recent trend. It’s something I really look forward to.

―― Both of these two songs involved Cube Juice, right?

H: Yeah, it just so happens. Perhaps it was Cube-kun who wanted songs, though.

―― I see. This special issue will be published in 2020, but I’m getting the feeling that you more or less know your direction for this (2020) year.

H: Well, there’s also a large possibility that there’ll be a 180-degree change, though (lol).

―― Hahahahaha. But you’ll be doing lots of things this year, right?

H: Yeah. We plan to produce the album and go on tours too. I think it’d be nice if we could announce that at Yoyogi, though (note: they announced the album’s projected summer release and a national hall tour in autumn).

―― Definitely. And in your upcoming 3rd tribute album, it’s given me the impression that you’ve gathered an even more unique and interesting lineup than ever before.

H: You’re right. It’s the most varied one we’ve had so far, isn’t it?   There are quite a few female artists too, so that will probably bring about an impression unlike anything thus far. And there’s a wide range of genres too.

 

When I see the smiling or crying faces of our audience from the stage, I get reminded that this is why I do music
I get to see that this presence that is BUCK-TICK is so sought after by everyone

―― Are there any memorable songs for you?

H: Ringo-san’s Uta is amazing, isn’t it? People won’t normally go with such an approach; singing (our songs) in English and arranging it like that. It surprised me. Also, Fujimaki-san’s** song was nice too.

―― This also came up in my conversation with Imai-san too (note: the interview published in the February issue of Ongaku to Hito), but he said that there are 2 Fujimaki-san’s in this tribute album (lol).

H: Aah (lol). That’s true. Fujimaki-kun’s*** song was nice too, of course, but I’m talking about Fujimaki-san** who did Konayuki (lol). It’s only on occasion, but we meet for soccer so I thought I’d talk to him about this next time, but it feels as if the strength of that song comes through because he was singing while playing the guitar. I believe it’s something that one can’t do unless they have confidence in performing with that style.

―― This is an insight coming from BUCK-TICK’s acoustic master, huh (lol).

H: I thought it was really good. All the other participants carried it out in such unique ways and we wanted them to make the songs their way, so I’d say the album turned out really well. Listening to this made me feel once again that the merits of our band’s songs really stood out too.

―― That’s true. And you’ve also commenced recording work for your album.

H: Early, isn’t it? 2020 is an Olympic year too.

―― Are you going to watch the Olympics? (Lol).

H: I don’t think I can (lol). I’d assume that there’ll be a lot of people around during that period and I won’t be able to get around much, so I’d probably hole myself up and work in the basement. I think we might be going on tour after that too.

―― You won’t be able to go to the southern islands too.

H: I won’t be able to during that period, so I guess I’ll go after recording is done (lol).

―― You’re going? (Lol) But I believe you’re thinking of making this another solid year of activities for BUCK-TICK, right?

H: Yeah, for the second half.

―― I wondered if all of the band members might start getting the desire to do something that is different than the vibe they’d get from being in a band following the success of creating an album with as high a level of completion as No.0, but I’m getting the feeling that this isn’t the case.

H: Well, I don’t know about that. I would suppose that each of us has different thoughts, although it is true after all that we’d feel a sense of accomplishment after producing No.0 and performing our live shows. But I don’t think that this would be reason enough for us to feel like we want to try something outside of BUCK-TICK?

―― I do wonder why that is.

H: Hmmm, I wonder why.   Based on what I personally feel, that (lack of desire for something else) is the reason why we’ve been performing live shows like THE DAY IN QUESTION  for 20 years, and when I see the smiling or crying faces of our audience from the stage, I get reminded that this is why I do music. That is, in the past, whether we’re writing music or performing shows, it was mostly for ourselves. We would mostly do whatever we wanted to do at that point in time, so I suppose we were pretty egoistical, though. But seeing the audiences’ faces, realising that this presence that is BUCK-TICK is so sought after by everyone makes me want to share that space more and enjoy it with them.

―― I see.

H: My awareness of the band might’ve been slightly different in the past than now, but I will never ever get tired of this.

―― Those are strong words. I suppose we can say that whatever you’ve built up with the fans has become a strong motivation for you.

H: Yes, yes, exactly. Personally, I guess I want to see the faces of people who come and watch us. I’ve somehow come to feel that way, you know. Like, “Ah, I want to see them again. That was fun.” I feel that this is the kind of relationship that we have right now.

―― That’s a great story.

H: And that’s the moving tale that I’ve come up with (lol).

―― Don’t be shy, now (lol). Well then, I guess it looks like there won’t be a Hoshino Hidehiko solo anytime soon.

H: There’s no chance of that anymore.

―― Y-you made a vow (lol).

H: I didn’t, right? Surely (lol). I don’t feel any motivation towards that. And I think that’s the same for everyone now.

―― Indeed. I can feel that the unifying force within this band of 5 has grown even stronger after No.0. Like a strengthened resolve that you 5 will make things work no matter what happens.

H: That sums it all up. I don’t think there’s anything else aside from this, and I guess this alone is enough to keep us all filled. I suppose it’s important to direct our energies outwards too, but I’m getting a little old for that, you know. Didn’t both Sakurai-san and I fall ill in 2019?   When I think about that, I feel that I’d rather give my all to working on what we already have and do the best I can. After all, I don’t know when I won’t be able to play as BUCK-TICK ever again.

―― I assume there’s a sort of a flipside to that.

H: There is. Well, it would be great if I had the energy to direct outwards too, though. Those who will leave us will leave us anyway (lol), but right now, I want to make sure that I do right by the band.

―― I can understand that. No one knows how long it can go on for, and that’s why you’re now exuding the desire to do whatever you can now while you can.

H: I think that’s precisely how everyone feels now. I’m not looking to confirm that this feeling exists, but I can sort of sense that everyone probably has that on their minds. The kind of sense you get from knowing each other for years (lol).

 

 

Notes:

* BUCK-TICK was signed to BMG Japan between 2000 and 2010, which changed its name in 2009 to Ariola Japan. BMG Funhouse is a subsidiary of BMG Japan.

** Referring to Ryota Fujimaki who covered Just One More Kiss. He covered Konayuki (粉雪) with ToshI (X Japan) in December 2019’s edition of FNS Music Festival. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nipXhWb_Gs

*** Referring to Maki Fujii of minus(-), Soft Ballet. He worked on the cover of Keijijou Ryuusei with Chiai Fujikawa.

 

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Higuchi yutaka

Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi

I personally feel that there’s still a lot more we can do when it comes to creating music among the five of us
This feeling that there is still a lot we can show off is very much alive in me

―― We’ll start by looking back on last year. So, Locus Solus no Kemonotachi happened in the first half.

Y: Yes. Locus Solus wasn’t an album tour and neither was it our usual THE DAY IN QUESTION, so we started by coming up with a different title before we brainstormed. We also got to perform our new songs, so I think it was a great show.

―― There were some firsts too, weren’t there? Like performing your encore set at the centre stage, and that unbelievable pro-wrestling style entrance.

Y: Pro-wrestling style entrance (lol). That stage extension was pretty long, wasn’t it? And playing in the middle with everyone was fun too. Gathering there and squeezing together, we were even closer to each other than we’d usually be in our rehearsal studio (lol). We really haven’t performed together in such a small space in decades, so it was somehow nice in a way.

―― That space was probably as small as the studio you used in your early days, right? Do you remember those days?

Y: Ahー, Koenji’s…… I wonder if it’s still there?   PAL Studio*. But I also think it’d be nice if we could do new things like these going forward.

―― Though, I’d expect that it can be stressful to do something for the first time or challenge new things.

Y: Yeah, well, but I want to do more of what we’re capable of. Because even I can feel that there’s still a lot that the five of us can do together, and that our live performances are only getting better and better. That’s why I want us to do more and more together.

―― You’ve come to realise that for yourself and can proudly say it here too. This is nice.

Y: After all, we’ve come all this way without stopping. Especially considering that I started out having only played bass for a year or two by the time we debuted. Keeping at it, I more or less grew to understand how to play well, but that’s not the focus of what I’m saying. Now, when the five of us come together and make music, I can distinctly feel that we’ve gotten good. That’s why I feel that we’ll only get even better. Yeah…… Although, it certainly is weird for me to say that myself (lol).

―― No, that’s a good thing. Doesn’t it often happen that it becomes difficult to see how else you can grow after doing the same thing for so many years? And instead, (rather than that,) you’d be thinking about your physical limitations first.

Y: No, well, it’s because I personally feel that there’s still a lot more we can do, you know? In terms of expressing something or creating music with the five of us involved. This feeling that we still have a lot we can show off to the people who are always waiting for us is very much alive in me.

―― You’re putting emphasis on “the five of us”, aren’t you?

Y: Yes. Isn’t BUCK-TICK made up of five people anyway? (Lol). Of course, we do have the support of our staff, but it’s always been the five of us going through all sorts of experiences together. The laughs…… Well, there weren’t many tears, but there were a lot of fun times. Even during our tours or rehearsals, we still get that same feeling when the sounds made by the five of us come together for the very first time. It’s not (the kind of feeling that) gets us grinning, but there’s a comfortable tension.

―― Is it something similar to the moment when high school students enter a studio and sound their instruments?

Y: Yeah. (It happens whenever) we do something together or play together. Would it be weird to say that this in itself brings me joy?   I really enjoy it. I can’t quite explain it well, though.

―― It’s amazing that this hasn’t turned into a monotonous routine to you. Such feelings don’t last that long between a married couple, for example.

Y: As you’d expect, it’s because our composer Imai-kun has a lot to offer. And usually, there’d be things that I have to study up on too. That’s why, although it might be dependent on the song, the thought that something is a bore has never crossed my mind.

―― So, for this single’s Datenshi, what did you think of it when it first came up?

Y: A rock-flavoured song. In the demo tape stage, Imai-kun filled in the vocals so that (version) had quite a strong rock-flavour to it. And I thought it’d turn into something pretty good once Acchan sings it.

―― I heard that the initial candidate for the single was something different.

Y: Yes. It’s a slightly milder song, but when it came to deciding which we should release first, we went with Datenshi. Well, although Hide wrote a song too, (we went with this decision because this song is one where) Imai-kun wrote the music while Acchan wrote the lyrics. I believe, after all, that’s the image which the songwriter and the lyricist have when they think about what it is they want to put out at this point in time. So, I suppose in a way, (we’re making the decisions) according to that.

 

―― By the way, how do you see Imai-san as a composer?

Y: ……Vague.

―― Vague (lol).

Y: He always says, “Like this,” but he’s only got a skeleton of things like the bassline done, so when I change a certain part some way I like, he’d say, “Okay, okay.” He doesn’t really push for things to be done according to the demo he made himself. Maybe rather than that, it’s more about (composing) it together and expanding it to him. That’s why I say he’s vague.

―― I see. I haven’t asked everyone but the original demo is rather different than what goes on air, right?

Y: Exactly. Basically, the impression it leaves is different. After all, the bass is the part which gets recorded first, so with every song, I’m always wondering, “How will this song end up sounding?” This single’s Luna Park was (initially) completely different too. In the beginning, it was a British-sounding demo tape. Once the vocals and music were added in, the image of the song changed a lot and brightened up a lot.

―― Ahh, that electropop programming wasn’t there in the beginning, was it?

Y: It wasn’t there at the start. I think Hide probably did that through a manipulator’s mastery, but I really thought that it became very pop.

―― Does such a thing often happen?

Y: Yeah. It’s also because Imai-kun would steadily make changes along the way. Even though he’s the one making the demo tapes, he’d more often than not add in something completely different midway. It might sound strange when I say it like this, but this is why it feels as if the song gains its soul the very moment Acchan sings it. At that moment, I’d get that sense of “…… Ohh!”

―― I’ve got a weird question, but, have you ever thought, “What an awesome band I’m in”?

Y: Mn!   That’s…… Nope, I respect them, but “awesome” has never crossed my mind.

―― But I think that a tag team like Imai-san and Sakurai-san isn’t something that can be found in just any other band, and there’s really something quite miraculous about it.

Y: Hmm. But we’ve been together since we were in high school, and I was even their junior too (lol). I don’t really think about those things. From then until now, nothing has changed. For example, back in high school, Imai-kun would tell me, “I’ve got this sorta music, I’ve got that sorta record,” and he’d let me listen to indies stuff that could only be procured in Tokyo in those days. I guess you could say that’s something which still goes on even now. It feels as if he’s a~lways telling me, “I’ve got something good.”

―― And that’s something which still interests Yuta-san even now.

Y: That’s right. And I’d be like, “Whoa, that’s amazing!” That’s why things haven’t really changed between then and now.

―― Though, now, I can’t quite imagine what Imai-san was like in his high school days.

Y: He was someone who didn’t talk much. Although, I guess all of us are the same in terms of not talking much. Hide isn’t the type to be all loud and rowdy anyway, and Acchan is even quieter than either of them.

―― When the five of you came together as a band, did a chemical reaction occur right off the bat?

Y: That’s right. Good vibes. Well, that was after we moved to Tokyo, though. After Acchan became our vocalist, the vibe changed. Ever since then, we’ve been performing with that same vibe, so I guess that’s why I enjoy it.

―― But that feeling that you’re getting better and better, I suppose that’s probably something that everyone feels too.

Y: Yes. Probably. We won’t say it out loud, though. But I think that those who’ve been watching us all this while probably think so too. Our band has definitely become better than we were before, and we want to be even better. Because we have so many people supporting us and coming to our shows, it makes us want to make it even more powerful and have everyone enjoy themselves even more.

―― I get this feeling that the ‘circus’ image is what you’ve firmly settled on in recent years.

Y: Kind of like a show; something that entertains, right? But that’s why it’s not simply about getting the audience into it. I guess as artists, we have a lot of songs and there are many different approaches (we can choose from), but in the end, (the response) we want to hear in the end is, “That was fun.” And also, things like, “That got me thinking.” I can’t really express it well in words, though.

―― Because it’s not just about entertainment that brings a smile, right? In the end, you want everyone to truly enjoy this world (of yours).

Y: Exactly. After all, we five members definitely have this desire to entertain.

 

If I was asked, ‘how far can you go?’ some decades ago, I’d be able to respond with ‘forever’ but
The older we get, the more it makes us think about things…… But I’d like to keep doing this for as long as I can

―― And among everyone, the one who smiles the most during shows is Yuta-san.

Y: That’s right. Because I think that if you feel great during the performance, you should feel free to smile. I think everyone naturally shows what they personally feel. Of course, I can’t laugh frivolously when it’s a surreal tune, though (lol). That’ll just make me a nuisance, so I’ll try to interpret it in my own way.

―― I think Yuta-san who has a wide range of connections across various genres and has done a serialised publication in support of Hanshin** has been actively doing things that are uncharacteristic of BUCK-TICK’s image.

Y: No, no, I’m actively being asked to do all of this (lol). Editor-in-chief Kanemitsu*** is making me do this. Although, I’m also (thinking, I’ll do it) to at least represent BUCK-TICK.

―― “At least”, you say (lol). But BUCK-TICK is completely detached, and you don’t have any obvious followers too. That’s why I feel this makes Yuta-san’s existence a cheerful window (into the band).

Y: Ahh~. If you say that, you’re (heaping) responsibility (onto me).

―― It’ll be fine since you have this smile of yours. It looks contrived anyway if everyone (in the band) has the kind of face that makes it feel you’re all in the demon world.

Y: Ahh, well, we had made those faces when we debuted. Glaring as if saying, “No laughing at us, don’t take us lightly!” But I think as we went along, we began to find our own style that is unique to us.

―― When did that start to change?

Y: Probably just a little bit before 2000. It just gradually changed within us. Maybe it was around the time of “ONE LIFE~”, just as we entered our Ariola (era). It’s not as if there was any particular event which made us change, but we got the sense that we can do what we want to do. That we should have more fun doing this.

―― Would you say that things became easier?

Y: Probably. Rather than easier, you could say we began to feel that we can express (what we want to) without creating (that sort of impression). Although, we don’t really do that much anymore anyway.

―― That’s true. When I think of the past, I get this image that makes it seem like no one (in the band) eats or uses the bathroom at all.

Y: …… If we don’t eat, we’ll die (lol).

―― At the very least, I couldn’t imagine you living a normal life at all.

Y: Ahh, we’re normal, though, right? Well, if you compare (us) with normal bands, there are those who (make their hair stand up) like this too, and there are also those who are always silent (lol). But I think that’s simply because a lot of us are shy and quiet people.

―― But can shy and quiet people endure on that stage?

Y: Mm, it feels like a switch gets turned on and I think this goes for us too, though. Although, it’s not as if we’d be in the wings going, “Let’s do this!” or, “Yeay!” and all that.

―― Hahaha. If you did, that’d be scary.

Y: We’re relaxed, though. But the moment we go up on stage, everyone suddenly snaps into gear with a “Bang!” I think that’s how it is for all 5 of us. Because this has already become the norm for us.

―― And you’ve been doing this for more than 30 years. It’s stunning.

Y: Mm… But you could say our 30th anniversary was more like a checkpoint. Like, it’s something that we’ll definitely get to as long as we keep at it. That’s why we’ve been thinking about what’s next and what comes after that since the year of our 30th anniversary. It’s quite common, isn’t it? Situations where a band’s members’ emotions which hit a climax on their anniversary and then start to wane after that, ending up with them doing nothing.

―― The typical anniversary waning (lol).

Y: Exactly. I’m also trying to avoid that personally. Which is why we did Locus Solus and also held the DAY IN QUESTION tour last year, and I thought that it was great that we didn’t slacken off. It’s like the feeling that if we keep this up, we’ll be able to carry these feelings over into the new year.

―― Although…… You only released one single in 2019, didn’t you?

Y: Oh, that’s right. It’s true. That’s why I’m thinking that in 2020, I want to first make our album something great and then go all around Japan to where fans are waiting for us. We didn’t do that many shows last year anyway. And besides, I believe it’s such a joy (for fans) when the band comes to the city where you live, isn’t it?

―― How’s the current stage of production?

Y: We’re at the stage where… our manager is asking us to please save up songs for the album.

―― Hahahaha.

Y: Imai-kun says things like, “They’re always on my mind.” Although, we always ask, “Where?” Like, are they in his Mac, or are they not in there yet…… I’ve no clue about that (lol).

―― I’ll be looking forward to your summer album. Also, I assume this is something that you’d have been asked numerous times in recent years, but do you think about how long you can do this and how far you can go?

Y: I don’t know, though. …… But if I was asked something like this some decades ago I’d be able to respond with ‘forever’, but you know, the older we get, the more it makes us think about things, so although I want to say forever, I also know that it’ll all end if (I) die after all. But I’d like to keep doing this for as long as I can.

―― Is it scary to think about the end?

Y: Mm, well, it’s almost as good as asking, “Are you afraid of death?”, isn’t it? But (if we’re afraid of the end), the band might end up becoming strained and all that, you know. Yet, like I said earlier, I know there’s still more to come going forward, so as long as I still feel like that, I want to keep going on.

―― Do you have an ideal ending?

Y: Ideal?   ……… Uh…… I guess, it’s to end without disbanding.

―― Disband…… Are you going to do that now?!

Y: It gets people thinking, “…… What?” Doesn’t it? (Lol).

―― More like, “What the hell are you saying?”

Y: Or rather, “Huh, why make such an announcement when you could’ve just kept quiet?” For sure (lol).

 

 

Notes:

* PAL Music Studio in Koenji, Shinjuku.
Source: https://duck-walk.blog.ss-blog.jp/2008-09-15
image

** Hanshin Tigers; baseball team. 

*** The interviewer.

 

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Yagami Toll

Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi

No matter what type of song we play, it’s always being described as uniquely a BUCK-TICK song
But this is because of the honest work that the band members have put in throughout the years without growing conceited

―― The year-end THE DAY IN QUESTION has concluded. How was it, holding your final at Yoyogi National Stadium First Gymnasium for the first time?

T: Shall I make this clear?   It was the first time in a while that I messed up so much. Even I was shocked. Like, “Whoa!   I’m so tense!”

―― Was that because it was your first time performing there?

T: Yeah. That venue was a first for us, and the pressure from the audience was incredible too.

―― Because the ones right at the back were pretty far away from the stage, weren’t they?

T: I’d guess it was difficult for them to see us too. The acoustics too, it’s pretty tough (to get right) since (the venue) was long sideways. But the condition of Acchan’s voice sounded great, didn’t it? I could tell with the in-ear monitors on. It’s the usual balance, but when he started singing, he could push his voice pretty low. In fact, when he did that, I thought, “Oh, he’s doing well”.

―― What concept did you have in mind when you were selecting the songs for the setlist?

T: This time, for me, I picked Aku no Hana and Jonathan Jet-Coaster. I figured we should play those kinds of fast-tempo songs while I still can (lol).

―― As a drummer, you mean?

T: Yeah. We put them into the setlist and I’ll practice to confirm that I can still perform them. When you watch old footage of songs like Aku no Hana, I didn’t use click tracks for any of the songs back then so the tempo was fast.

―― Now you’d use click tracks no matter the song, right?

T: The only exception would be Speed. Because it seems as if Imai would get uncomfortable if I drum that song too proper. For Aku no Hana’s final outro too, if I drum according to the click track, we’d go out of sync. That’s why I’d listen to Imai’s guitar and drum just for that last part. The nuances from those days have been ingrained into both of our bodies.

―― I see. But that was a great live show.

T: It was, wasn’t it? Despite my messing up (lol).

―― You seemed to be the liveliest one at the after-party too (lol).

T: I don’t really remember it, though. It appeared that we drank until 10 a.m. (lol). I get an adrenaline rush from performing live, so when it’s over and it’s all been released, I’d look like an idiot. And besides, since it’s the year-end, there’s an added sense of closure too (lol).

―― So how was the year 2019 for you?

T: There weren’t many live shows, but I’ve more or less practised consistently. I had my own solo activities too, and we started recording after September, so I didn’t really have time to waste. That in itself was good.

―― For drummers, you won’t be able to play well unless you drum every day, right?

T: Yeah. I mentioned this before in my autobiography too, but in the past, there was a period of time when the band was being suspended and we had no activities. Plus I couldn’t go out because there were tons of paparazzi so I didn’t get to drum for about half a year and (my drumming ability) ended up declining badly. A small percentage of geniuses may be fine even if they didn’t drum every day, but for someone like me, an average drummer, I have to work hard to make sure that this doesn’t happen. I’d ask for advice too. Kamiryou-kun (Kamiryou Wataru*) taught me some and that’s when I changed my drumming style to this present one.

―― Considering that you’re the senior bowing your head to a junior to ask for direction, doesn’t pride get in the way?

T: Not at all. Because to ask may be a moment’s shame, but not to ask and to remain ignorant is an everlasting shame. There’s also Bunta from TOTALFAT who’s about 30 years my junior but he bangs out ninelets without a problem, so I asked him to teach me with the V-Drums I have at home. I just stared and watched his drumming form (lol). Basically, if I’d like to take it in if I can absorb it.

―― That kind of effort is crucial, isn’t it?

T: That’s how it is for us all in this band. Although there are aliens like Imai too (lol).

―― Hahahaha. Well, then what did you think of your new song, Datenshi when you first heard it?

T: When I heard the initial demo, I thought that it sounded very Western. With the simple beat. But while listening to it, it felt as if there was something weird about it.

―― Because the bass was put in areas where it normally wouldn’t be, and at times it’d be removed.

T: I thought that approach was interesting. Although such a hollow feeling could turn out badly if there wasn’t a good (music) sense behind it, Imai can do it just fine, so it’s alright. Once again, this round’s demo for Datenshi made me think, “This guy definitely ain’t no regular person.” The music may sound empty but impactful phrases will hit you.

―― And that beat is very fresh, isn’t it?

T: For me, as a drummer, it was great. Luna Park was actually more difficult. It’s subtle, so I had to use a snare which was made in 1910. And made of real leather too.

―― A vintage you own.

T: In the past, I used it for Tight Rope and I broke it on the first hit. Since it’s made of real leather, it doesn’t last too long before it breaks. So I had to drum gingerly, very carefully (lol).

―― Did you get the impression that Imai-san was doing something new with Datenshi?

T: Rather than that, Imai’s demo sounded like a Western song in the first place so I couldn’t really tell (lol). (It was only after) Acchan sang, then I got the sense of, “So that’s how it goes. It got better.”

―― I see.

T: There’s a good balance. We even recorded 3 songs this time though; Datenshi, another nice mid-tempo song, and Luna Park. So it’s good because we have Hide’s songs too. Age-wise he’s younger (than Imai), so there were no clashes nor any obstinacy (with regards to switching his song for Imai’s Datenshi). I do wonder if things would be different if Hide and Imai were classmates, though. But (based on) his character, he isn’t the type to be driven by ego anyway.

―― That’s true. I guess you could say that he’s suited to writing songs for the band.

T: You see, no matter what type of song we play, it’s always being described as uniquely a BUCK-TICK song, but this is because of the honest work that the band members have put in throughout the years without growing conceited. If not for that, I don’t believe we could have found ourselves here.

―― What does Yagami-san personally think is the reason that you have been able to keep going without growing conceited?

T: Because those around us don’t let us (lol). If we get cocky** we’d get smacked.

―― So, if you stick your nose up too high, they’ll break it*** (lol).

T: I think there was a time when I was on the verge of becoming like that, though. But when I was in my slump, I could feel the members’ feelings and how they put up with me and supported me, so after that experience, there was no way I could become conceited. In my case, there was a period when a lot of things were going on in my private life and that dealt a huge blow to me mentally. It wasn’t that I was lacking in physical strength or anything, but I was mentally worthless. I think it must’ve been really tough for all those who stuck by me during those times.

―― In other words, you were unable to have a positive outlook about the band.

T: Yeah, I couldn’t. I had no motivation, I wasn’t at all happy with the way I drummed, and I even felt that it might be better if I wasn’t a part of the band. For real, from my early to mid-40s, I was afraid of being on stage. I was really terrified.

―― So this was around the time of Mona Lisa OVERDRIVE?

T: Exactly. It was awful back then. I kept thinking maybe it was time for me to quit, that it was a good time for me to go. Our manager and Yuta kept nagging (lol) at me for that, so I started going to the gym, changed my form, changed my drum sticks too. I tried out all sorts of things. Whatever I could easily do in my 20s and 30s I could no longer after I turned 40. It even got me feeling that maybe bad years^ really do exist (lol).

―― But you were able to shake it off and reset your emotions.

T: Yeah. The members waited for me with the feeling that (the band) can’t do it unless it’s me, so those bitter thoughts gradually went away. I guess it’s the same with age. As in, since we’re nearing the end, there’s no point in grumbling about the trivial things (lol).

 

I’m turning 58 this year, so every single moment, be it our live shows or our recording sessions, becomes precious
I’d only think about what I have to do to keep playing in the band, what should I do to bring joy

―― Come to think of it, I noticed that your drum solo, too, has gradually changed.

T: That’s right. I believe anyone can tell if they look back on our film releases or something, but in the past, I wouldn’t hit the cymbals with my bare hands. Because, you see, I felt that it’s tacky if I were to do exactly what John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) did. In a sort of not-daring-to-do-it-because-I-like-it sense. But I thought about it, and I came to feel that since I was influenced by him, it’s probably better to show (that influence). Like, if I was the audience, I think I would prefer to see me do it as it is instead of accommodating to my strange particularities. And that’s why I do it with this present style that I have. Besides, it’s probably weird for me to close things off without showing (that influence) at all.

―― Similarly, I’m also getting the feeling that all 5 members of your band can sense somewhere that the end is nigh and when everyone performs with that awareness, your bond grows stronger, doesn’t it?

T: That’s bound to happen when we grow old (lol). My father passed away at the age of 70 and taking that into consideration, I’m turning 58 this year, so that means that I’ve only got 12 years left. When I count backwards like this, every single moment, be it our live shows or our recording sessions, becomes precious. And rather than fretting about the details, I’d only think about what I have to do to keep playing in the band, what should I show (our audience), what should I do to bring joy.

―― Although Sakurai-san had a slightly different view of it, he spoke about something similar with regards to age, didn’t it?

T: I think everyone thinks the same, but I think if any one of us can no longer perform, this band can’t go on anymore.

―― So, more like Led Zeppelin after all than the Who.

T:  Because BUCK-TICK isn’t a business, is it? (Lol). Although, I think something similar to Zeppelin’s Coda^^, a release which sort of says, “Everyone, this is goodbye,” can be done even if any one of us isn’t around.

―― I see.

T: Because in rock bands, it’s not a matter of whether you’re good or not at singing or playing an instrument, is it? I say this a lot, but we’re the ultimate amateurs, you see. And this nuance of ours can’t be brought out any more if we’re missing even just one of our members. Look, there’s no other guitar player like Imai anywhere else, is there?

―― I don’t suppose so (lol).

T: They say this about him often, don’t they? Even though Imai actually belongs in the “poor” category of guitar players, don’t you wonder why people call him a genius? It’s because he’s one of a kind. It’s because he has a uniqueness that cannot be replicated by anyone.

―― Because this is the only place where that uniqueness comes into play.

T: There are loads of people who can play in time with the metronome properly. But (he’s the one who goes), timing? What’s that? (Lol). And that’s BUCK-TICK’s groove. I mentioned it earlier, didn’t I?   That nuance in Speed and Aku no Hana isn’t something that can be produced if it isn’t Imai and these band members playing it. This is something that I’ve only understood now. I’m glad I didn’t quit (lol).

―― Please say this to all the distressed band members (lol).

T: You’re prohibited against quitting your band! (Lol). Anyway, the punk genre has always been a gathering of people who aren’t good at anything from the very beginning. So if you keep at it, that’ll become your unique characteristic!

―― Compelling (lol).

T: It doesn’t only apply to bands, but to everything too, right? Theory is boring anyway.

―― Well, these days, the main platform (for music) to be listened to is YouTube or some sort of subscription service, so the theory is that you won’t be able to sell well unless your intro before the song is short and you cut out the guitar solo.

T: Even if that were true, it then begs the question of, “You may sell well, but are you having fun doing that?”

―― Indeed.

T: You may call it a gut feeling, but I think that no matter what you’re doing, what matters the most is your motivation, your complex, and who you’re doing it with. Because that’s how it is for us. We wanted to do this with these 5 people even though we were criticised mercilessly when we first debuted. (It also worked out) because the band members waited for me even when I wasn’t sure if I could do it any more. And thanks to that, I learnt humility and didn’t become conceited.

―― That’s true. When I listened to the tribute album, it was clear that (BUCK-TICK is) band unlike any other. Including what you’ve just said.

T: For me, I genuinely want (the participating artists) to take apart (our songs). I’m already grateful for their participation in the first place, but if I were to say what I really desire, it’s for them to destroy it all and turn it into a form of contradictory respect. Because that will become references for us. You see, back in the day, when we did karaoke, we didn’t use recorded playbacks. Instead, we had people playing (the music). Studio musicians would be playing the drums. I’d listen to those nuances and steal from them instead (lol).

―― And that’s humility, isn’t it? Because you won’t deny (their versions) and say that it’s wrong.

T: On the contrary, isn’t it one way to learn and realise that there’s another way to play something too? This is the style that BUCK-TICK’s music production has developed, so I felt that it’d be weird if there’s no quirkiness in this band’s drummer after all.

―― What does Yagami-san want to do in BUCK-TICK in future? Or, what would you like the band to become?

T: I want us to become sharp old men. 

―― Sharp old men (lol).

T: The type who gets noticed by the youngins (lol). I want people to say, “They’re amazing,” even though we’re old men.

―― And for that to happen, health comes first.

T: Come to think of it, I haven’t gone for any health checkup recently (lol).

―― Please go!

T: But I haven’t had any symptoms (of illnesses) at all, see (lol). Look, I’m even drinking until 10 in the morning.

―― That’s not the point.

T: Yeah, yeah (lol).

 

 

Notes:

* Support drummer originally of GRASS VALLEY and then SOFT BALLET. Other notable associated acts he has been involved with are P-MODEL, Kikkawa Koji, cali≠gari.

** The actual phrase is “天狗になったら” (tengu ni nattara). Literally: “If (we) turn into Tengu”. Tengu are long-nosed goblins in Japanese folklore.

*** This time I used a literal translation that references the English language of “sticking one’s nose up in the air”, which is a figure of speech to describe haughty behaviour. The “break(ing)” part of the translation also alludes to the Tengu imagery from the phrase Toll used in the last line. On the whole, the phrase “鼻を折る” (hana wo oru / lit. break a nose) basically means to humble a person’s pride.

^ “厄年” (yakudoshi) loosely translates into “bad/unlucky year”. It is generally known as the ages of calamity differ according to gender; 25 and 42 for men, and 19 and 33 for women.

^^ Coda is a rarities compilation album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It is a collection of unused tracks from various sessions during Led Zeppelin’s twelve-year career. It was released in 1982, two years after the group had officially disbanded following the death of drummer John Bonham. The word coda, meaning a passage that ends a musical piece following the main body, was therefore chosen as the title. (Wikipedia)

 

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PARADE III ~RESPECTIVE TRACKS OF BUCK-TICK~

 

TALK SESSION:
Higuchi Yutaka (BUCK-TICK) ✕ TOSHI-LOW (BRAHMAN)

text by Ishii Eriko
photographs by Sasahara Kiyoaki (L MANAGEMENT)

 

For real, all the bands who stand out from the rest
possess the resolution that, “If we’re going to do this, we’ll be number one at it.”
I think that in the end, this is what truly makes a band (Higuchi)

With the utmost respect for the band known as BUCK-TICK, BRAHMAN have fed listeners an intense counterpunch with a cover done their way. Out of this comes a peculiar conversation between TOSHI-LOW, the frontman with the nickname “Oni*” and bassist Yutaka Higuchi. What brings them together despite being completely different in terms of character, generation, and the music scene they grew up in?

 

Although the bassline remained the same, they managed to come up with something so different
This just says that the power this band possesses is very real (Higuchi)

―― Yuta-san’s, “I want to meet TOSHI-LOW-kun,” led to the planning of this interview. Was the first time you met at 2017’s Arabaki**?

Yuta (Y): Yes.

TOSHI-LOW (TL): No…… The actual (first encounter) was about 25 years ago.

Y: Eh?

TL: You know, at Shelter***, when THE POGO’s Ryota had just started JIGHEAD*** in their early days. That was BRAHMAN’s first live show. 

Y: …… Wha――at!

TL: That was the summer of 1995, so it really was BRAHMAN’s very first show. Of course, you weren’t there to see (BRAHMAN), but we were at the afterparty.

Y: ……… Whoa, that gave me goosebumps (lol). Amazing. I remember that. Ryota-kun was there.

TL: JIGHEAD went bass-less a while after that, but back then, the bassist was around, some flashy guy wearing a sun visor. That person going involved with a woman or something and a huge fight started but it was stopped with the casual, “Stop it, stop doing that.” (Lol).

Y: Hahahaha!   But I can clearly recall talking to Ryota-kun. We debuted with POGO in the same period and also performed at Shinjuku Loft and so on together.

TL: I’ve thought since then that (Yuta) was such a nice guy. I think I was someone who didn’t trust anyone at the time so I was very mean to everyone I came into contact with, though. But (Yuta) was suーper nice. Let me say this first; I’m glad (for that).

Y: …… That gave me chills (lol).

―― I’m sure you knew about BUCK-TICK’s existence since your early days.

TL: Of course. Although, their early days’ JUST ONE MORE KISS and Aku no Hana, and Speed was as far as that knowledge went. But that’s because my interests drastically shifted away after that. Though, RONZI (drums) liked them a lot. I always thought that we have no connection with each other and going from that perspective to now having this bring us together makes me nervous. You see, when talk about the tribute album reached me, I even thought, “They definitely made a mistake when choosing artists, right?” (Lol).

Y: Nah, but I run a blog too, and I often receive emails but (upon the release of the news), I had a ton of comments along the lines of, “I’m so happy that BRAHMAN is on board.”

TL: Ah, thank goodness. But on our end, we really had a lot of seesawing back and forth, though. It was first RONZI who decided that our song choice would be ICONOCLASM. “For sure,” he said. But it wasn’t a song I knew so I listened to it again and this song…… This song is a very difficult one to play, isn’t it (lol). We can’t do anything with the arrangement, right? This vibe goes on and on, and that dispassionate detachment is where its appeal lies, so if we mess with that, the song will be destroyed. And to add to that, RONZI said that he didn’t want the bassline to change and MAKOTO (bassist) agreed as well. We tried our best to do this cover while keeping the bassline intact, but it only resulted in our song sounding like a mere copy. So, at that point, I decided to give Yuutan a call.

Y: Heh heh heh heh heh heh.

TL: Yuutan gave me his LINE. I think it was around October of last year. He said something like, “I’m really looking forward to it!” And when I showed (his message) to RONZI, RONZI said, “Oh shit…… We’ll have to rearrange it and do it all over again……”. So, then we started back from square one again. We also figured that if you’re inviting us to take part in this, you’re expecting us to present something that’s been done our way.

―― Ah, so in the beginning, you just read the lines out quietly as they were?

TL: I just read it monotonously, without intonations. I decided to risk doing it with a mechanical sounding voice, but then it all changed from there. I figured that if this was our own song, we wouldn’t be doing it like this, so we tried bringing in more heat into the song. But it was difficult after all. Because only Acchan can produce those vocals, right? And even after we sent our song over, I didn’t receive any reply from Yuutan for the loooongest time. I was freaking out (lol).

Y: No, but it’s not what you think! I already wanted to send my reply upon receiving the sound source, but I thought it might probably be better to do that after the mastering has been properly done. So I just kept resisting the urge (to reply). And once mastering was completed, I immediately sent the message.

TL: And I was just so anxious throughout that period. Like, “Ahh… Did we get the arrangement wrong after all…?!”

Y: No, no, no. To that, all of my band members and I were in total agreement that, “This will definitely be the first track!”

―― It sounds like you ended up experiencing a hit and split rather than getting to quit while you’re ahead (lol).

TL: I was dying here!   Because in fact, we worked harder on this than normal. Also, while we were working on the arrangement, I took the liberty to try and find some common ground (between our bands), but there are contrasts even within the band, aren’t there? For example, the music is pop although it may be dark, and even though it may come across as exclusionary, it’s actually very human. Because such front sides and undersides exist, it made me feel that it would be possible to execute this song with our kind of passion, and that’s what I put my belief in.

Y: Yeah. It was wonderful. Like you said earlier, the bassline remained the same, didn’t it? But despite that, they managed to come up with something so different. This just says that the power this band possesses is very real. Everyone (in BUCK-TICK) remarked that (the cover) was cool too.

TL: …… Thank goodness~.

Y: For real. I think this is the number one (example of what we’re hoping for) when we ask others to do this (with our music). It’s the same for all the bands who stand out from the rest. They all possess this one (resolution) that, “If we’re going to do this, we’ll be number one at it.” And I think that in the end, this is what truly makes a band.

TL: That’s what a band is all about. The music that is created by people who want to do music, those definitely have some sort of format, don’t they?

Y: Yes, yes.

TL: I listened to a lot of past recordings upon this time’s participation, but I found it very intriguing that somehow, what we sought was originality and novelty for ourselves rather than musicality. We’re better described as people who want to play in a band, rather than people who want to dabble in music. And that’s where my affinity (with BUCK-TICK) lies. We, too, don’t (create music) with the intention of writing good or sellable songs but instead, we want to find music that only we, only we 4 (BRAHMAN) can make.

Y: I understand that. There’s 5 of us (in BUCK-TICK), but that feeling of becoming one when all 5 of us come together is so very important. And also, not getting too personal with each other. That’s why I’d also go exploring for song arrangements myself.

TL: But it’s not as if you’re all disparate individuals. I felt that at the Arabaki afterparty too. You’re a band that’s been around for over 30 years, but it’s the after-afterparty and it’s already morning, you know?   But all the band members are there?   It went up little by little but in the end, the only ones left were me and the whole of BUCK-TICK. That was quite the sight (lol).

Y: That was fun. It was the first time in a long while that I was going home by bullet train, and I’m going home drunk too (lol).

 

Being in a band is already the goal and the ultimate form
That is what I can see in BUCK-TICK (TOSHI-LOW)

TL: But everyone (in BUCK-TICK) stayed all the way until morning, and you can see the relationship between the members from that, right?   I’ve always thought that we don’t really have any role models or textbook examples to go by, but I felt that there were things that we could learn from BUCK-TICK. Somehow, it’s as if the band is not a mere means (to an end), but instead, the band itself gives me a very happy feeling, and it makes things super cosy. So I ended up getting so plastered and at the very end I even got to kiss Acchan――.

―― They’re gonna kill you, TOSHI-LOW-kun.

Y: Hahaha. We really had fun drinking.

TL: Well, but Imai Hisashi slept the whoーle time.

Y: These days he falls asleep fast, you know. He’d even fall asleep when we’re eating (lol).

TL: But what I thought was most amazing was when we woke him up and told him we’re leaving, he said, “Already?” with the straightest of faces. He had been sleeping for 2 hours (lol). If we’d known each other a little longer I think I would’ve teased him with an, “Oy!” But everyone ignores it. I thought that was some amazing teamwork. No matter the angle you consider them from, they’re a great band.

―― And that’s not just because of the existence of a drummer, bassist, guitarist(s), and a vocalist, right? This “great band” that TOSHI-LOW-kun speaks of.

TL: Putting it simply, it’s where being in a band on its own is already the goal and the ultimate form. That is what I can see in BUCK-TICK. And even within this, there’s always something they’re pursuing. Their goal isn’t to use music to become rich or famous. I believe that’s why they’re capable of doing something groundbreaking every time and why they aren’t afraid of change. But that said, they’ve always cherished their past and the way things have always been since the beginning. I mean, (your band’s story) starts from your hometown, right?   From your stories in Gunma.

Y: Yeah. Talk about (our days in) Gunma tends to come up in conversation (lol). Since we’ve always been together since way back when, we’d be like, “That guy did this back then,” and, “Nah, that was decades ago.”

TL: The fact that you can still talk about your high school days even now is seriously amazing.

―― Also, in terms of common ground, the starting point (of both bands) is actually punk. BUCK-TICK originally started out as a cover band of THE STALIN^, right?

Y: Yes, that’s right. Imai-kun had (one of) their records. I think it was STOP JAP?   He told me, “This is good stuff,” and I said, “So cool!  A cover^^!” It was just right after I got my hands on a bass, but I figured, well, I can play that with just one finger, right (lol). You know, songs like Tempura (天プラ) and the like. And to that, everyone was like, “Let’s do this!”

TL: I bet Michiro-san was real happy about that.

Y: Michiro-san attended an event of ours’ during our 20th anniversary. And back then, we went on tour together in Kyushu too. We had a lot of fun, and he said he loved ramen, so we decided to go to a ramen stand^^^ to celebrate. And Michiro-san was so happy. In our band, all of us drink alcohol, right? So Michiro-san, he drank with us back then.

TL: I’ve never seen him drink before.

Y: Later on, we asked him, “Michiro-san, you usually don’t drink, though?” But he said, “Just one glass,“ and drank with us.

TL: …… So that’s what brought about his early passing…

Y: Ehhhhhhhhhhh!

TL: Like, you’d wonder, what if he didn’t drink back then (lol). There’s no way it would’ve made a difference, though. But that’s so nice. There’s that punk aura, isn’t there? I’m the one who didn’t go through the positive punk [goth] genre, but doing this cover, I understood that both our bands’ roots were never far from each other’s, to begin with.

 

Even back when you had to stop band activities, all your band members, everyone waited, didn’t they?
I think that this is what friendship is supposed to be
That’s why they’re a role model for these times
(TOSHI-LOW)

―― There’s also another common ground, which doesn’t really mean much, where the bassists of both bands are Hanshin⁰ fans.

TL: Yeah, that’s right. He goes all the time. If there’s a free day while we’re on tour, MAKOTO would definitely go to a Hanshin game. I think you two must’ve definitely passed each other by before.

Y: TOSHI-LOW-kun, you don’t like baseball?

TL: Not at all for me.

Y: But somehow, when Oh⁰⁰ and Nagashima’s⁰⁰ names show up in Oniben¹, don’t they? 

TL: Well, it’s just that I said if I were to make a character bento, I’d want to use aonori¹¹ to make Nagashima’s stubble. And that I’d use the number 3 to form the eyes (lol).

Y: When I read that, I wondered if you were a Giants fan. But I really enjoyed reading Oniben. For me, my father had aーlways made bentos for me. He’s already passed away, though.

TL: If it was back in the day, it’s really rare for a father to prepare bentos for his children, isn’t it?

Y: It might’ve been because Anii didn’t really get bentos made for him much. Maybe he made them for me because he thought that it would be difficult for me, or maybe he felt sorry for me. When I was in elementary school, the lunchroom got closed for construction, so ever since then, he’s been preparing it for me from 4th grade in elementary school until my 3rd year in high school.

TL: What?   Amazing!   Isn’t that obviously because Yuutan was more adorable than Anii?

Y: Eehhhhhhh (lol).

TL: I think from a father’s perspective, the youngest child is the cutest since they’re the smallest of all. But for him to have done that for such a long time, there’s gotta be some sort of love behind it, I’m sure. Otherwise, he wouldn’t do it. Hearing that from you now, it gave me feels. To prepare bentos occasionally is still easy, but doing it every day is really tough. I think your father probably had something in his heart he wanted to convey to Yuutan, and that he decided he would see through this.

Y: Ahh…… But I’ve never thought about what my father could’ve had in mind while preparing that until I read Oniben. Because back then, I thought it was only to be expected. So when I read it, I suddenly realised that my father must’ve been thinking about a bunch while preparing the bentos. But you’re amazing, you know, TOSHI-LOW-kun. BRAHMAN too; you’re all amazing. Your band has been putting out releases one after another, so I can’t really pose as your senior any more.

TL: No, no, no, I had such a great time listening to all your old stories you shared at Arabaki. Like recollections of your early days playing at Loft² and all that, I felt like I could listen to them until morning comes. In terms of era, I’m from the band-boom period, so it may be casual small talk to you all, but to me, all of it is precious. Imai Hisashi, too, he can be one of those opinionated characters now, can’t he? Like the sort to say, “Didn’t I say before that’s off limits!”²² on a gossip talk show. 

―― Hahahahahahaha.

TL: Even back when you had to stop band activities, the fact that you weren’t a band that broke up because of that is wonderful, isn’t it? Of course, I believe it was tough for the members, though. Come to think of it, that was during your first career peak, wasn’t it?

Y: We were really beyond busy at the time. Like, we were constantly in a situation where we would be producing our new album while still going on tour for our previous release.

TL: Wow.

Y: Our heads were already getting all messed up. With our hair put up, there’s no time to even let it down, so we’d sleep on high pillows³ for a little like warriors of the old days and then head straight out right after (lol). That’s why, although that incident wasn’t a good thing, I just think that our band was definitely headed in a bad direction. On the contrary, I guess you could say that making us stop once allowed us to properly shift back to normal.

TL: And all your band members, everyone waited, didn’t they? That’s the strength of a team.

Y: Instead, back then, we were worried, y’know, about Imai-kun. When we met him for the first time (since all of that happened,) he just clapped everyone on our shoulders going, “Mh, mh.” And I think there was even a part of it which turned into a sort of drive (which motivated us to get back up). Because we were in a situation where only our names were out there but we couldn’t appear in any form of media, and our promotional videos and all of that couldn’t be broadcast.

TL: I think that this is what friendship is supposed to be. Of course, things you shouldn’t do, you shouldn’t do, but (the band) didn’t simply cut that person off. Instead, you used (the incident) as a springboard and to move forward together once again. In that sense, BUCK-TICK is a role model for these times, aren’t they? That isn’t how things go at all nowadays. (The offending party) simply gets beaten up and discarded and that’s the end of it. Maybe it’s a sign of the times?   My generation and those a little older than us, I think, definitely have a stronger sense of camaraderie. For better or for worse, there’s some “biker gang” left in us, so we’re people who will never do something like sacrificing one person while everyone else runs away scot-free. I think that’s how it should be even now.

Y: Because we’re all from the Showa era, right? And really, we grew up watching Showa era bands too. We’re of the generation who happened to get to watch Japan’s rock scene getting cooler and cooler. So I think that’s the root of it all for us.

TL: But even with that foundation there, you still keep bringing in new things, don’t you?   If even your foundation changes, then you’d be simply going with the times, but say, for example, if you were to try playing The Stalin’s music with present-day equipment, or if you did it with music programming to see how it would turn out, or something like that, I get this really strong “BUCK-TICK” feeling. That’s why (you make) outlandish music, right? But there are a lot of eccentric parts, and although it’s experimental, it’s also music that is universal.

―― On the other hand, what does BRAHMAN’s music sound like to Yuta-san?

Y: It definitely leaves the impression of heavy rock and punk music. I’ve been invited (to their live show) once. Actor Katsumura (Masanobu) -san asked me to go and watch a BRAHMAN show with him and Sugimoto Tetta-san³³.

TL: Ahh, come, do come.

Y: Actually, I did ask him along too. But I couldn’t go because of work. Even now I feel like I’ve missed out. I definitely want to go to your show next time.

―― To add to that, by all means, please do perform together next time.

TL: For me, anytime. I really want to perform with you together in a band. But…… I guess I might end up showing the fans hell again (wry smile). Because we’ve done that before at Lunatic Fest, y’know.

Y: Did you mess up or something?

TL: Nah, it’s more like the discomfort, on the whole, was overwhelming.

―― Probably because you rudely stepped on the SLAVES⁴ (lol). Now, during BRAHMAN’s shows, TOSHI-LOW-kun leaps into the audience and stands up with his feet set apart on people.

Y: I know, I know. When I saw the pictures and the videos, I thought, “This…… What’s going on here?” Are you standing on their shoulders with that post?

TL: Uh, nope, anywhere will do.

Y: Anywhere (lol). You’re standing in a sea of people, right?

TL: Yeah. I wonder if I could do that and piggyback Acchan. I guess it might work if I can piggyback him.

―― Everyone will be supporting that, with all their might (lol).

TL: Indeed. Both of us are creatures of the underworld, but I’m of a lower rank (lol). Because our statuses are different, you know. An “Oni” is definitely ranked lower than the Demon King, right?

Y: But I most definitely want to perform with you too.

TL: Also, I might be pushing it with this but I’d be glad if you’d come to New Aco⁴⁴ too.

―― Ahh. Have the acoustic BUCK-TICK take part in New Acoustic Camp⁴⁴. That sounds great. I’d like to see that someday.

TL: Their melodies have always been elegant, and they’re really universal and beautiful. So I think their music would really sound great acoustic.

Y: When we previously performed (some songs) acoustically, it was really great. We normally have a variety of synchronicity, but (for that performance) it really felt like all 5 of us was breathing in sync. Also, I could really feel the audience’s breathing too. Yeah, I like that. If there’s any opportunity, I’d like to do that again.

 

Notes:

* I thought of translating “鬼” (oni) into ogre or demon, but I think it works better if I just leave it as “Oni”.

** BUCK-TICK only performed at Arabaki Rock Fest in 2018 so maybe they attended the 2017 one on their own as an audience.

*** Ryota Ogawara is the frontman and guitarist of the mojo punk band JIGHEAD (formed 1995), and before that, rock band THE POGOS (formed 1985, disbanded 1933).
“Shelter” is the shortened name for Shimokitazawa SHELTER (下北沢SHELTER) where JIGHEAD and BRAHMAN played their first live shows.
http://jighead.info/livepast.htm

^ Fronted by the late Michiro Endo, The Stalin were an influential Japanese punk rock band that formed in June 1980 and disbanded in February 1985. BUCK-TICK has previously taken part in a tribute album to The Stalin called Romanticist ~The Stalin/Endo Michiro Tribute Album~ (ロマンチスト〜The Stalin・遠藤ミチロウTribute Album〜). In it, they covered the song Omae No Inu Ni Naru (おまえの犬になる / I Wanna Be Your Dog).
Lyrics and trivia can be found here: http://www.bucktickzone.com/lyrics/uncategorized/omae-no-inu-ni-naru/ 
Listen to the cover here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOZXxjL9Ezo 

^^ Yuta literally said “カバーだ!” (It’s a cover!) so I’ve got no idea exactly what he’s saying beyond this.

^^^ Either something like this or this.

⁰ As in, the baseball team the Hanshin Tigers.

⁰⁰ Sadaharu Oh, also known as Wang Chen-chih, and Shigeo Nagashima are prominent names in Japanese baseball. Both of them played for the Yomiuri Giants. Notably, Oh holds the world lifetime home run record, having hit 868 home runs during his professional

¹ Oniben (鬼弁) is a book of TOSHI-LOW’s bento-making adventures for his eldest son which was released in 2019. Available here.

¹¹ A type of seaweed. Also known as green laver or just dried seaweed.

² The live house, Shinjuku LOFT.

²² The actual statement is, “一回でアウトとか言ってんじゃないよ!”
I honestly have no idea what it could mean but I suppose it’s some kind of common outburst or phrase on those shows.

³ Google “高い枕” for examples. There are other variations but I would assume he’s talking about this.

³³ Also an actor.

⁴ What LUNA SEA fans are called.

⁴⁴ New Acoustic Camp is a sort of not-really music festival which incorporates both the mountains and camping into the events. It is a local Gunma event.
Tokyo Weekender’s posting for the 2019 edition: https://www.tokyoweekender.com/events/new-acoustic-camp-2019-gunma/ 

 

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_______________________

SPECIAL TALK:
ISSAY (Der Zibet)

text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photo&design by MISAKI JUN

In Russian

Even among the many artists who participated in PARADE Ⅲ ~ RESPECTIVE TRACKS OF BUCK-TICK ~, Der Zibet’s Ai no Souretsu stands out from the crowd. It is, after all, because this band understands more than anyone else the one core that BUCK-TICK possesses and has tributed this song to them with love. To understand this band is to know the essence of BUCK-TICK.


That feeling of being at a loss, a vast, empty landscape came to mind
And I thought, ‘ah, I know this landscape very well’

―― Sakurai-san said, “Ai no Souretsu suits ISSAY-san better……”, and I also agree that in this tribute album, Der Zibet was the band who made (BUCK-TICK’s song) most like your own.

ISSAY (I): It’s very nice of you to say that. When I was told about the tribute album, I immediately replied with “I’ll do it!”, but it was such a terrible struggle.

―― The song selection?

I: Exactly. When I thought of picking a song, I guess, since they’re a band who has been constantly active for over 30 years, it’s expected that they’ve got a vast variety of options……

―― That’s true (lol).

I: I listened for days, but there were so many good songs that I found myself thinking, “Ah, this one’s good too. But that one’s good too. This is a problem……” so I texted Atsushi-kun (lol).

―― Hahahahahaha.

I: I said, “I’m in a bind.” (Lol). And he replied, “You can do it this way too, and there’s this other way to help you make your choice.”

―― So there’s that kind of advice too!

I: There is, but in the end, I ignored it (lol).

―― Hahahahahaha!

I: First, I decided that I’d stop trying to decide on a song by pinpointing it out. So I selected a few and then discussed with HIKARU (Yoshida Hikaru / Guitar) which from that list would be interesting for us to do as a band. As to how I chose, I picked 2 to 3 songs that I’d like to sing as a part of Der Zibet, and another song that I’d like to sing if I were doing this solo.

―― By the way, what song is it?

I: It’s an absolute secret!

―― Hahahahahahaha!

I: I won’t ever tell Atsushi-kun either (lol). So I sent those songs to HIKARU, and he replied, “I think either one of these two would be good.” And out of those two, the song which grabbed first place was Ai no Souretsu. Actually, I did think that it’d be interesting to do this song with Der Zibet and I did want to try singing it so that’s why I chose it. I suppose what I was thinking of was pretty close to what HIKARU felt.

―― So what exactly were you thinking of?

I: The imagery which Ai no Souretsu has, you know? That isolation and loneliness that is also present in the lyrics. And the romanticism which he possesses. This, I thought, was very similar to our worldview. Also, I think it was 3 years ago? I watched him perform this song at Budokan and it left such a deep impression on me that it’s unforgettable. I was sure that if this was the song we were to do, we would definitely be able to perform it with Der Zibet’s sound without changing the fundamentals of BUCK-TICK’s expression.

―― What did you think of Ai no Souretsu the first time you heard it?

I: I thought it was very Atsushi-kun. That feeling of being at a loss…… A vast, empty landscape comes to mind, doesn’t it? This world view that he has painted, I thought, was extremely close to my own. The way we deal with this feeling of loneliness it brings is probably different, but I feel that I know this landscape very well.

―― What is ISSAY-san’s method of coping with it?

I: Instead of coping, I suppose it’s more accurate to say that in my case, such a landscape basically already exists. And rather than confronting it, I’d just acknowledge that this is something that will always be in me and not do anything about it. It is there as a given.

―― That’s not the case for Sakurai-san?

I: No, I believe it probably exists inside him too. Because (the imagery) wouldn’t have come out like that if it didn’t. However, I feel that the way his heart wavers, or the way it moves when he sees it, that behavioural pattern of his is different than mine.

―― What’s the difference?

I: Atsushi-kun is…… This is simply what I feel, but the first time he lays his eyes on that situation, his heart will be shaken by, for example, surprise and bewilderment. Then he would wonder what this emotional turmoil is about and endlessly pursue (an answer). I think that emotional capacity of his is interesting.

―― I see. So although he feels sad, he’d wonder about the reason behind his sadness or loneliness and get to the bottom of it, right?

I: Exactly. Also, I get the feeling that there’s always a question mark somewhere in his emotional turmoil.

―― A question mark?

I: Yeah. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this (lol).

―― That’s exactly what we’re looking for (lol).

I: Everyone has their own interpretation, and those aren’t answers, but the question I speak of is not about how things should be, rather, it’s a question mark pertaining to the question of what am “I” when in turmoil.

―― So, it’s about confronting one’s self.

I: I’m the type of person who acts out songs, to begin with, but he sincerely faces (himself) when on stage. There’s a slight difference (between the two of us) there, but since this is a landscape that is very familiar to me, it was easy for me to immerse myself in it.

―― I see.

I: But in these last few years, I can really feel his strength.

―― Strength?

I: I immensely feel the strength that comes from him standing tall and firm on his two feet.

―― How were things in terms of sound production?

I: The final track-down took quite some time, but I think the fundamental areas went relatively smoothly. (We worked on it) while keeping in mind the romanticism and loneliness, and also that isolation which I spoke of earlier, and at the same time, remaining conscious of how much bleaker we can make it sound. Don’t you think that’s where HIKARU’s musical sense came through nicely?

―― That’s true.

I: Don’t you think that if we simply went ahead with taking the same approach to this song, it’ll become nothing more than a simple cover precisely because it’s a song with a world view close to mine? That’s why we went with a tango…… Then again, it’s more like a pseudo-tango, though (lol). Well, HIKARU came up with that idea and suggested, why not take it in that direction. And I was very sold on that, you know. It gives off the sense of an alternate zeitgeist too. I was just allowed to sing freely in that sound (lol).

―― Freely (lol).

I: Yes. I was able to see the scenery very clearly this time, so I decided to sing the lyrics naturally; without a single gratuitous gimmick in the song, nor any weird vibrato (lol). When I was thrown into it, I decided that I’d stand up straight and sing it.

―― Have you heard any response from BUCK-TICK about the song?

I: We spoke about it the other day when we were drinking after Yoyogi. I was pretty drunk (lol) but Atsushi-kun gave me a compliment; he said, “It was great.” At the time, he asked me, “This song…… was it difficult to sing?” (lol). And when I answered, “It was,” he said, “It’s difficult after all, isn’t it, this song?”

―― Hahahahaha.

I: Our lyrical approaches are different, you see. In this song, Atsushi-kun put phrases with symbolic and impactful words in the chorus. I don’t really use that approach, but as a singer working with such lyrics, it’s very difficult. I could feel how amazing he is as a vocalist. So…… I can’t lose! (Lol).

―― But it’s already turned into ISSAY-san’s, or rather, Der Zibet’s song.

I: I’m glad you think so. Since it’s a favourite song of mine, I was even thinking of perhaps singing this song as my own in future live shows. As a vocalist, I’d be very happy if I could, one day, sing this song with Atsushi-kun be it in this arrangement or the original.

―― I would love to hear it. Also, aside from your world views being similar, it’s also filled with love, isn’t it?

I: When involved in a tribute, isn’t it truly frightful if you ended up doing it wrong?   Because we’re essentially different, to begin with. But I think that it’ll turn out to be something really interesting as long as my love for the work and the musician(s) doesn’t go in the wrong direction. We’re not the same person, but it’s important to acknowledge one another, and as a vocalist, I thought a lot about how to put our differences into play.

―― It’s turned out to be a lovely tribute.

I: Because I sang it with all my love for the band BUCK-TICK, and Atsushi-kun (lol).

 

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Contributor Article

A One-Of-A-Kind Polyphony

by Okada Iku

 

Today I surrender to the “polyphony” that melts together into one
I chant the answer without a question, “Only BUCK-TICK is BUCK-TICK”

In 2019, when Ringo Shiina and Sakurai Atsushi performed Elopers on a music show, viewers who saw Sakurai’s performance for the first time screamed in delight on social media one after the other, causing a huge commotion. I, on the other hand, was reminded of the proverb “a borrowed cat¹” when I watched him take a step back for Ringo Shiina in the middle of the song. Because, after all, she did borrow him briefly for that little while.

Elopers is, simply put, very much a BUCK-TICK-styled song. The showy lyricist harmonises with Sakurai Atsushi, no, performs a unison where their voices do not intermingle. It’s an outstanding piece of work that could have been inadvertently inserted right after PINOA ICCHIO -Odoru Atom- as the 3rd track of Atom Miraiha No.9. But such a thing will never happen, because this is, after all, an external collaboration and “not” BUCK-TICK.

But if that’s the case, then what “is” BUCK-TICK on the other hand?   It’s actually surprisingly difficult to define their musicality and answer this question. I find myself laughing at the contradiction that no sooner were they praised as “having remained the same for over 30 years,” than were they described as, “constantly evolving.” Although I have been listening to them for 27 years, even now, I’m always finding fresh surprises whenever I put all their songs on shuffle.

Nevertheless, if you arrange it all properly and trace the changes, there is one major factor that points to linear time and that is the voice of Imai Hisashi. Sakurai and Imai stand side by side and harmonise, no, perform a unison where their voices do not intermingle. Those moments are the instances when my auditory nerves take unparalleled pleasure in acknowledging, “This! This is BUCK-TICK!”

When I first listened to Kurutta Taiyou, I was amazed at Sakurai’s ability to express himself in a variety of different ways, starting with the opening track Speed. More than that, Imai’s “Open it onto Evolution Mode” in the B-side, Brain, Whisper, Head, Hate is noise was even more impressive. Imai Hisashi’s vocals are primitive; it’s a noise that strikes a chord with listeners. He descends suddenly like a deus ex machina, forcibly taking away the gaze that tends to be focused on frontman Sakurai and giving the audience a bird’s eye view of the whole performance. This looks like a monologue, not a solo act. It is not an ensemble of five people, but one Lingua Sounda. This was the “heavenly voice” which opened up the metaperspective to the lost lambs and allowed them to decipher the entirety of the band’s sound.

Also, Aikawarazu no “Are” no Katamari ga Nosabaru Hedo no Soko no Fukidamari and Sid Vicious ON THE BEACH, where Imai performs as the main vocalist, are “foreign bodies” which were cleverly mixed in to prevent the balance and harmony of their respective albums from being boring. On the other hand, listening to Deep Slow, Madman Blues ~Minashigo no Yuu’utsu~, Living on the Net, and other songs of the like now leave the strong impression that they are masterpieces of “the lead actor of the BUCK-TICK theatre Sakurai Atsushi who has an intimate knowledge playwright Imai Hisashi’s direction.” Songs of Sakurai’s vocals give off the sense that if times were different, this might’ve been a stage performance with Imai as the main star.

The chorus work and banter in MY FUCKIN’ VALENTINE, Cyborg Dolly: Sora-Mimi: PHANTOM, 21st Cherry Boy, LADY SKELETON, and, of course, Memento mori also get the crowd excited at their live shows. A similar, but not identical, approach was taken in BUSTER and Les Enfants Terribles, where the same tunes are being repeated by different voices. With Sakurai going before and Imai going after, it is impossible to perform these songs without one or the other. Or, perhaps, they are a two-headed beast that rears its sickle-neck. From this point, the playwright gets in as a cameo in the signatory actor’s solo performance, establishing it as a fabulous two-man show.

During the interlude of Alice in Wonder Underground, Imai’s voice continues to sing DIABOLO -Lucifer- from their previous work 13th Kai wa Gekkou. In Tenshi wa Dare da, the same words which were previously sung by Imai are again pursued by Sakurai with a different melody. As we move onto the days of Tango Swanka, it’s no longer a simple relationship of Sakurai being the main star and Imai being the guest. And by the time we lead up to DADA DISCO -GJTHBKHTD-, the whole song is composed of dialogue between Imai and Sakurai. It is as extravagant as breaking two perfect, beautiful bowls into pieces on purpose and then putting them together once again by kintsugi². Surely the line in Elopers which reads “pH stays at seven as we bind each other up” is a homage to this?   Ringo may not have said anything in relation to this, but I understand how Ringo feels. Because, I, too, love this.

Like a large flower blooming open from a bud, the presence of the polyphony of the BUCK-TICK theatre is only growing. Most noteworthy in their latest album, No.0, was the flow from Nostalgia -Vita Mechanicalis- to IGNITER. From “Open it onto Evolution Mode”, these double vocals have grown and built up over the years, overlapping to a point where rather than no longer getting surprised when they come up in various tracks, we are bathed in an amalgamation of sounds that makes it impossible to even tell where the five-man band is coming from.

In 1993, I watched Dress at some point which led me to check out all the old scores from the local ward library. As a 13-year-old who grew up with YMO as a lullaby but still couldn’t quite find music which hits the spot even after listening to any number of great rock albums, I was immediately hooked on them. The very first thing which moved my heart was, above all, the beauty of the melody woven by Hoshino Hidehiko, then, thanks to the “danceable” groove which Yagami Toll and Higuchi Yutaka created under the skin of a rock band, I can still listen to them without getting tired of them. And finally, my desire to spend the rest of my life watching the one who always craves for the “next one” to death no matter how satisfied he is with their new work; Imai Hisashi and Sakurai Atsushi side by side with each other.

Still, it’s a little late to be wondering what kind of planetary alignment occurred to draw me towards Hoshino’s aria, to peek into this band where Sakurai’s aesthetics coexist with Imai’s noises and the rhythm brothers Higuchi and Yagami. Where the scales and rhythms and festivities of all world music on earth are incorporated in an unadulterated and elaborate manner, primitive yet mechanical, letting you stand and headbang and shake your head side to side, and feel the groove moving you, swaying your hips as you dance with alternating steps. It’s hard to describe its musicality in one word. But today I surrender to the “polyphony” that melts together into one, and I chant the answer without a question, “Only BUCK-TICK is BUCK-TICK”.

 

Okada Iku●
Writer. Born in Tokyo and lives in New York. After working for a publishing company, she began penning essays. Author of Haji no Oi Jinsei, Yome e Iku Tsumori Jyanakatta, Tengoku Meshi to Jigoku Mimi, 40-sai Made ni Kore wo Yameru, and co-author with Nimura Hitoshi and Kaneda Junko for Otoko no Karada wa Kimochi Ii.

 

Notes:

Lyric translations come from This is NOT Greatest Site.

¹ 借りてきた猫 (karite kita neko) literally means a borrowed cat. It refers to a person-for-hire, or a person who appears meek and quiet, as if like a reserved cat in an unfamiliar environment.

² Kintsugi, also known as kintsukuroi, is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.

 

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Translation: Yoshiyuki
Scans: spanielonthemoon on Tumblr

Wings of a Fallen Angel
Datenshi Feature

Ongaku to Hito
February 2020

text by Ishli Eriko, Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photographs by Chito_The Octopus
hair&make-up by Tanizaki Takayuki, Yamaji Chihiro_Fat’s Berry
styling by Shimizu Kenichi

 

2019 began with the performances of a postponed tour, the release of their single Kemonotachi no Yoru/RONDOLocus Solus Bestia (Locus Solus no Kemonotachi), a 2-day event held at Makuhari Messe, and their annual year-end THE DAY IN QUESTION which they played in 5 locations around Japan. Although BUCK-TICK more or less held back on public activities in favour of working on music production, it appears that this year, they will be making dynamic moves. 

Marking the start was the January 29 release of their single Datenshi (Fallen Angel) and the tribute album PARADE Ⅲ ~RESPECTIVE TRACKS OF BUCK-TICK~. While their 3rd tribute album serves up amazing content with a diverse line-up which includes the likes of Shiina Ringo, DIR EN GREY, BRAHMAN, and more, their new song Datenshi is even more amazing. At first listen, it comes across as a slightly digital, 8-beat rock n’ roll song, but the more you listen to it, there’s a strange alien feeling, or something prickly that unsettles and entangles the heart.

The interview confirms it. After all, Imai Hisashi is an unconventional, somewhat eccentric band member. And while talent is certainly needed to make this possible, more than that, it’s his enormous trust in the person that is Sakurai Atsushi which brings it all to life. This is where we find the reason behind the band’s ability to continue keeping things fresh even now, after more than 30 years since their formation. The year 2020, without a doubt, will be their year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Individual Interviews

_______________________

Sakurai Atsushi

I personally also had rather intense emotional ups and downs
You could call it a mental health issue, but I became a bit of a shut-in

Interview by Ishii Eriko

 

―― First, let’s look back on the past year. After you concluded your 2018 show at Budokan, you started the year with preparations for Locus Solus Bestia, your one-man at Makuhari Messe, right?

Sakurai (S): Yes. In May. Talk about it started early on, and since we also had the keyword “beasts (獣たち / kemonotachi)”, we [decided] that we would release a single alongside the Makuhari [event]. We could already see our goal, you know? Since we weren’t holding a concert for a new album, it felt as if we were doing it just to show off the 2 songs from the single. So, although it wasn’t as if we had no pressure on us or had all the time in the world, but we did have a lot of time to think it over. The first half [of the year] was spent in meetings and all that.

―― Right.

S: And while we were doing that…… A friend of mine passed away in February. This person is someone I’ve known since our debut, who runs a bar in Kumamoto, who isn’t a woman but is one at heart. It was really sudden. We even just met at our year-end Budokan show, and time has just been passing while I’m still struggling to come to terms with the death of someone I’ve known for 30-something years…… But, well, I’m [still dealing with it] until now. I’m just stunned because it came out of nowhere. Everyone seemed rather shocked too.

―― This someone who all the members of the band were close to?

S: That’s right. In the beginning, we met when [the band] went on our first [promotional] campaign and all of us immediately got along really well. When we held concerts, they¹ would definitely attend whenever we played in Kyushu, and they’d even come to Tokyo for our shows. They were full of life at Budokan, too. So when we heard that they collapsed, we thought, “They’d be fine,” but apparently, not.

―― …… Ah.

S: Well, that happened, and after Makuhari wrapped up…… We were talking about starting work on the production of our next album, but we couldn’t really switch gears and things just fell more and more off track work-wise. The single that we finally made turned out to be these two songs, but this, too, was finished later than we originally planned.

―― Did the other members feel like they were in a stagnant state too?

S: I wonder?   I don’t think so, actually. Contrarily, I think they were able to use that time effectively for themselves. It’s just that when the year is split into approximate halves…… Mm, we were kind of out of it in the latter half of the year after Makuhari wrapped up, weren’t we? I personally also had rather intense emotional ups and downs. You could call it a mental health issue, but I became a bit of a shut-in².

―― Is it okay to publish this?

S: Yes. But it’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time now. And there are times it’s difficult when we’re in production, but if there’s nothing going on, I’d end up thinking about things on my own and it gets really difficult. I’ve been dealing with this side of myself since a long time ago, but I would cyclically find myself in that [mood].

―― Is there a reason for this? Because during the interview right before Locus Solus, you showed us such a radiant smile and told us that you’re fine, that you’re drinking alcohol too, that you’ll be taking a good rest even though you had to be hospitalised in the middle of your previous tour.

S: Ah……… That’s true. Well, there was also the passing of that acquaintance, that friend, but……… I wonder why?   There’s nothing, is there? No reason or anything…… It’s just an empty feeling. Although there’s nothing [to cause it], I just seem to get pulled in that direction. I had to start work on our album production too, and, mm …… I had a rather long stretch of time to face myself with questions like, “What do I do next?”, didn’t I? But, well, I’m still like this even now, though. Yeah, when it’s hard, it’s hard, isn’t it?

―― Somehow, it seems as if things are heavier than ever.

S: That’s why it’s a year where there isn’t really…… much to talk about. Mm…… It doesn’t look like there’s any content, is there?

―― Kukukuku!   But I think that the Sakurai-san who gets pulled into darkness before he notices it has always been around. Although, it also feels as if the producer Sakurai-san who somehow manages to get things moving by tricking that side of him into expressing himself exists at the same time.

S: Ah, that’s a good way to put it. Perhaps it’s that producer’s work that has gotten tough (smiles).

―― And that made you stop for a bit.

S: It did. Hmm, like getting stuck in a childish, self-centered way of thinking and dwelling on thoughts like, “…… What am I?”.

―― On the other hand, do you feel better when you’ve decided on what you’ll do with BUCK-TICK and you’re busy working on it?

S: Maybe so. Maybe I’m still happier with that kind of bustle. Working on things and troubling over them; those aren’t labour pains, though. I guess you could say that it’s a different type of hardship.

―― But as far as listening to Datenshi and Luna Park went, I didn’t feel those goings-on behind the scenes at all.

S: Ah, then that’s good. I suppose it’s because this is work where I’m creating and spinning stories, so in a way, it’s still healthy. I guess I’m able to vent my emotions like this.

 

Rather than forcing myself to flaunt something that doesn’t show how I truly feel, or something that is not of my interest, I only want to sing about one thing so it’s alright even if it makes people think, “Ah, this again?”

―― When were these two songs made?

S: Um…… October?   I think it was much later than scheduled. Also, we initially had a different song, a song that was not Datenshi which was supposed to be the single. But Imai-san presented this Datenshi in our final meeting. Because it appeared that a BUCK-TICK which gives off an edgy vibe was more fitting for our present selves than a gentle BUCK-TICK.

―― Ahh, the original candidate was a more gentle type of song?

S: That’s right. That will be going into the album.

―― Datenshi is a song that sounds more like a simple rock and roll. And in it, you’ve etched the words “it aches” ³ and “I’m falling, aren’t I” ³.

S: Yes. In my mind, I’ve imagined hurting myself more and more, so I thought maybe it’s about time I let others hear it.

―― It’s the same Sakurai World we know.

S: Yes. I guess you could say that this is better than enjoying hurting people. Like, since it’s just me, I can torment myself as much as I want, and I can pull my own punches right just as I approach my limits. I don’t know about other people, but things that I can’t really speak to others about too…… There are one or two. In my heart and mind, I’m no saint. And since that’s the way it is, I feel that I should just spread these black wings of mine. I thought it’d be a good idea to spin such a story and somehow make it cool.

 

―― Is the Fallen Angel⁴ a creature which lives in Sakurai-san?

S: Yes. And it is not something that exists only in me, but also in all the ordinary people as well, dressed up the form of a human being. Vigorously expanding their desires.

―― But wasn’t it hard to write the words “I’m falling, aren’t I” when your emotions were spiralling and sinking down?

S: Ah, but well, [it was alright] because when you multiply a negative by another negative you’d end up with a positive, right? That’s how I think it is. Also, I suppose I’m fortunate that I can put out these lyrics at such a time, can vent [my feelings] on the outside, and have strangers who are willing to listen to these things for me. But for those people who are really worn out, who really can’t get out of bed…… Even just imagining it is scary for me. It’s not as if you can simply say, “It’s alright. Things will somehow work out.”

―― That’s why we need dark music too. But the other song, Luna Park is an exceptionally “pop” song, isn’t it?

S: Yeah. For this song, we’ve completely cut ourselves off from Datenshi. You can say that [this song] is our usual pattern, but like how the lyrics go, [the song is] about how it all ends so quickly when you’re having fun, like at a circus or an amusement park. It has always been like this. In short, that’s what I want [our listeners] to feel [when they hear this song].

―― But this song gives me a strong sense of, “even though I know that it’s a lie, I want to believe that forever exists”.

S: Ahh. Well, I also thought that it’d be nice if I could tell it from a child’s perspective. Because children are capable of having very pure dreams, aren’t they? I’d be glad if everyone can listen to it from that perspective.

―― Also, why did you use “we” ⁵ instead of “I” ⁵ as the subject in the song?

S: Ahh, well, I have a painting by Chagall⁶ in my room.

―― What’s the title of the painting?

S: What was it…… I don’t quite know what it’s called, though. [In the painting,] lovers are flying through the sky, in a blue sky. From that painting, the words, “By chance, we meet” came to mind, and then, the image of separation…… (Staff searched for Chagall’s painting and shows him the screen. Numerous similar blue paintings appear) Ah, it’s not this one. Neither is it this one……

―― …… I didn’t know Chagall painted so many pieces with the same motifs. I’m even getting a sense of madness from them. Do you empathise with this intuition to keep painting the same themes over and over again?

S: Yeah. I suppose you can say I like it, this feeling.

―― I don’t mean this in a negative light, but more often than not, what Sakurai-san’s lyrics say is [the same thing] in the end.

S: Yes. I think so too. After all, I believe that it’d be a sin for me to force myself to flaunt something that doesn’t show how I truly feel, or something that is not of my interest as if I’m an expert on it. There’s only one thing that I want to sing about, so it’s alright even if it makes people think, “Ah, this again?”

―― Also, the line “we are dreaming, dreaming” ⁷ in the chorus, does it hold a double meaning?

S: No?   Nothing like that in particular.

―― Ah, I see. Because, when 夢夢 (yume yume)⁷ is written in Hiragana (ゆめゆめ), won’t it’s meaning turn into “must never”, like that of its use in olden texts and stories? For example, “You must never ever look at [it].” ⁸ 

S: Yes, yes, yes. There’s that, isn’t there? That usage. Ahh…… But I didn’t associate [the word’s] meaning with Japanese aesthetics.

―― It just gets me thinking that if we apply the “must never” meaning of the word here, it carries on the secret cipher of “don’t leave” [within the song], doesn’t it?

S: That’s pretty nice. May I claim that? (Grins)

―― I’ve read too much into it, haven’t I? Although, this may be a hollow sounding statement but,  don’t you think that there’s something about the song that makes you want to say, “This is what defines BUCK-TICK’s presence.”?

S: Yeah. It may sound like empty words, but really, I hope it’s true. And, that this is [the legacy] that our music leaves behind. I, too, get that feeling that it’s there.

―― I have this impression that the resolution to continue playing with these 5 band members as BUCK-TICK has been especially strong in recent years.

S: Hmm…… I think everyone’s already resigned⁹ to it.

―― Resigned (smiles). That’s a good resignation, isn’t it?

S: I suppose it’s a good one. Mm, regarding myself too, I don’t suppose we’d be of much use if we went anywhere else anyway. After all, I’m not good at it, am I? Meeting people. …… I’m sorry, even though that’s my job.

―― No, don’t be.

S: Well, but, there’s something about meeting people and speaking to them that keeps me distracted. After all, if you let a piece of junk¹⁰ stop working, it’ll just crumble away. You have to keep it moving.

―― [It’s good, then,] as long as talking isn’t a burden for you, more than anything.

S: But, well, since my character is like this, [it can’t be helped]. Sometimes, people would call me for work, but other times, I’d be drinking and spacing out on my own, and I guess that’s just the way I am. Also, I read Discourse on Decadence¹¹.

―― By Ango¹¹? He wrote, “Let’s live, let’s fall” ¹², but does Sakurai-san understand this feeling too?

S: Ahh, but that man’s circumstances are different, aren’t they?

―― Because that was during wartime, right?

S: It was tough, wasn’t it? And that was an era when you couldn’t really help it even if you lost your mind. It’s just that…… This is probably an entirely different topic, but I’m 53, now. I previously spoke about this too, though.

―― It’s the age at which your father passed away, right?

S: Yes. And I’m probably drinking even more than my father did too. For some reason, I kept getting the feeling that I’m getting pulled [by him] throughout last year. I went back to Takasaki, my hometown the other day and I spoke about it with my older brother but he said, “You’ll be 54 soon, so just hang in there.” (Smiles). Although, it made me realise that maybe my older brother was thinking about these things too. I think for my brother, he was very much more concerned for his family, so…… What were we talking about again? I’m sorry.

 

I turned the same age as when my father passed away, and I’ve also had to bid farewell to people
It had me thinking about a lot of things. Like, “How long will I live?”, and the like

 

―― It’s alright. We were talking about the lyric, “I’m falling” ³.

S: Ahh. But there’s a part of me which was being pulled by those sort of things. There’s [the circumstance] with my father, and I’ve also had to bid farewell to people. It had me thinking about a lot of things. Like, “How long will I live?”, and the like.

―― Are these scary to you?

S: I am, scared. In the sense that I do feel fear of it, and I don’t want to be hurt too. Also, I’d hate to make things difficult for the people around me. That’s a thought that comes to mind when I look at my family too. Like, when I think about when my mother passed away, I’d believe my brother was also hit hard by it. That’s how I’ve come to think, you know? That I’d hate to bother the people around me.

―― Ahh. This is different from the feeling of, “I just want to disappear.”

S: Yes. It’s as good as end of life planning (smiles).

―― Hahahaha. So, what do you do for that?

S: …… I’ve been drinking.

―― Wahahaha.

S: With my utmost effort.

―― Good work!

S: Hahaha. Thank you!

―― I’m not sure if “falling” like this is good or not, though (smiles). But do you feel a strong intuition that 2020 will, at the very least, be better than last year?

S: I do. Mhm. I hope for it too. Well, you could attribute it to [the fact that] we’d be creating works, and also, that the whole of Japan will be doused in the colours of the Olympics…… Well, it might just be Tokyo, but I just think that it might also be good to get absorbed in something that’s got nothing to do [with my work].

―― Oh, really? Will you be watching it? The Olympics.

S: I think I probably will watch it. I suppose even I am surprisingly patriotic myself. If I watch international tournaments or things like that, I’d support [Japan] anyway.

―― I see. There’s one more thing to talk about; there’s the tribute album too. How do you feel about it?

S: Well…… It revalidated those two’s, Imai’s and Hoshino’s songs, didn’t it? Like, “Ahh, what great melodies.” It feels as if [the artists] took the songs apart and put them back together again, so I could legitimately acknowledge, “Ahh, this is what I like about this song.” 

―― So it feels as if you can listen [to your own] songs as someone else’s.

S: You’re right, really. For example, how simple and beautiful Sakamoto Miu-san made our song. I could really treat it as someone else’s song and relax and listen to it. I was able to detach myself from it completely too because it was sung by a lady.

―― The way minus(-) incorporated female vocalist, Fujikawa Chiai-san was quite admirable too, wasn’t it?

S: Yeah, since Keijijou Ryuusei is a song that I love a lot, it was lovely to hear how it sounds so ephemeral with a female voice. 

―― And your sworn brother of the heart, ISSAY-san is also taking part.

S: Yes. Der Zibet was the very first one to finish the song and send it to us. It really made me think about what wonderful seniors they are to us. And that Ai no Souretsu is…… I ended up feeling that perhaps ISSAY-san is a better fit for that song.

―― Hahahahahaha.

S: I felt a bit of jealousy over that. But there were re-discoveries for me too. Somehow, the picture of decadent¹³ nobles dancing in Rokumeikan¹⁴ came to mind. I thought, “Ah, how refined.” It was lovely.

―― What did you think of the unexpected element of BRAHMAN?

S: First off, I thought, “They’ll do it for us?” And I didn’t expect them to ICONOCLASM as their choice of song too. Before this, the first time we met was at an event in Sendai, and somehow Yuta got along really well with them. Although I’ve only met them once, I could feel their love. And each of the covers by the others were great too. I enjoyed them as well.

―― That’s great. So, following this, the album is, of course, what’s next, but how’s your work going now?

S: Not progressing. At all¹⁵.

―― Kukukuku. When do you think it will be released?

S: Around summer…… would be nice, I think.

―― Please don’t say inauspicious things (smiles). But is your present mental state rosier than last summer?

S: …… Yes. It might sound thoughtless of me to call it a distraction, but nonetheless, when a goal or a task has been decided for me, that’s where my attention will shift to after all. It becomes a little bit easier on me like that.

―― I understand. I thought that this interview was going to be one where I could say, “I’m glad you were able to get a good rest,” but instead, it turned out to be something completely different.

S: Ah, it really did. Although, when I think about the readers, maybe it would be better if I didn’t talk about these things. But I can’t lie, so… Saying, “Ah, no, I’ve been doing well,” or “I went to the beach¹⁶,” and things like that……

―― The beach¹⁶!   No one wants to hear such a voice from Sakurai-san.

S: Hahahahahahaha!

―― I hope that it’ll be a good year, 2020.

S: Yes. I hope so too.

 

 

Notes:

¹ Sakurai never specified the pronoun.

² He used the term 引きこもり (hikikomori).

³ Lyrics from Datenshi:
痛いよ (itai yo) = it aches
堕ちてゆくんだろう (ochite yukun darou) = I’m falling, aren’t I

⁴ No brackets were used for the words 堕天使 (Datenshi) here so I translated it as it is rather than used the Romaji name of the song.

⁵ 僕 (boku), the masculine-implying version of “I”, versus 僕達 (bokutachi), “we”.

⁶ Marc Chagall was a Russian-French artist of Belarusian Jewish origin. An early modernist, he was associated with several major artistic styles and created works in a wide range of artistic formats, including painting, drawings, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic tapestries and fine art prints.

⁷ Lyrics from Luna Park, 僕達は夢夢 (bokutachi wa yume yume).

⁸ ゆめゆめ見てはならぬ (Yume yume mite wa naranu).

⁹ The word 観念する (kannensuru) implies that one is mentally prepared to a fate that is unchangeable. Like being “prepared for death”. Translations of it include “to be resigned to”, “to be prepared for”, “to make up one’s mind”. I went with the “resigned” version because it’s funnier anyway.

¹⁰ ポンコツ (ponkotsu) can mean something that is useless or unreliable, or “a piece of junk” along the lines of a very old machine. He meant it in a sense similar to what happens if you turn off an old machine which has been running for years or even decades. Suddenly everything falls apart and it won’t work again.

¹¹ Discourse on Decadence (堕落論 / Darakuron) written in 1946 is Ango Sakaguchi’s most famous essay which examined the role of bushido during WWII. It is widely argued that he saw postwar Japan as decadent, yet more truthful than a wartime Japan which was built on illusions like bushido. The work itself, however, does not make any claims about the meaning of decadence.

¹² A line from Discourse on Decadence: 生きよ、堕ちよ (iki yo, ochi yo).

¹³ The word used here was 没落 (botsuraku) which refers to the fall of a nation or a family/clan. For example, the fall of the Roman empire, the downfall of an affluent family and so on.

¹⁴ Rokumeikan (鹿鳴館) was a large two-story building in Tokyo, completed in 1883, which became a controversial symbol of Westernisation in the Meiji period. Commissioned for the housing of foreign guests by the Foreign Minister Inoue Kaoru, it was designed by British architect Josiah Conder, a prominent Western adviser working in Japan. Although the Rokumeikan’s heyday was brief, it became famous for its parties and balls, which introduced many high-ranking Japanese to Western manners for the first time, and it is still a fixture in the cultural memory of Japan. It was, however, largely used for the accommodation of guests of the government, and for meetings between Japanese who had already lived abroad, and its image as a centre of dissipation is largely fictional.

¹⁵ He actually said ぱったりと (hattari to) which refers to a sudden, unexpected or abrupt stop. 

¹⁶ In Japanese, going to the beach is typically written as “海に行く”, literally “I went to the sea”, which is what was said here.

 

 

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_______________________

Imai Hisashi

Something that makes people think that No.0 “was normal in comparison”
I want to create something that deviates from the rules even more

Interview by Kanemitsu Hirofumi

―― Shall we first start with a recap of 2019?

I: Uhh…… What did we do?

―― To start, in the first half of the year, you played a few shows at various locations which came about because Sakurai suddenly took ill and you had to postpone part of your tour. Then, in May, you released Kemonotachi no Yoru / RONDO and held Locus Solus Bestia at Makuhari Messe. And now, you’re still in the middle of the tour, but you’ll be rounding that up with THE DAY IN QUESTION 2019 at Yoyogi First Gymnasium this year-end.

I: Well, we didn’t really show our faces much but I suppose it felt like a year where we did a bunch of stuff. Locus Solus Bestia was fun, too.

―― In what way?

I: The general tone of the live show was a little dark, wasn’t it? But that was fresh, right? And that acoustic set on the center stage. It was our first time doing that but it was not bad. Just that in Makuhari Messe, it’s a looong way from the stage to the seats at the back, right? When I think about how the audience at the back probably couldn’t see us, I feel that it’s a bit disappointing. There are various opinions on this, but I think it’s better if we played in a venue where there are second-floor seats and people can watch us from above.

―― The setlist was indeed fresh. Like an inverse THE DAY IN QUESTION, or one that oozes with what makes BUCK-TICK’s core.

I: That’s how it ended up. We weren’t aiming for anything in particular. It just happened that way. Because when we collected the songs that the members wanted to play and we put it all together, that’s just how it turned out.

―― I suppose you were all in agreement without needing to check what you were going to do with each other, right?

I: That’s right.

―― That’s what I thought when I heard that Yuta-san proposed Aikawarazu no “Are” no Katamari ga Nosabaru Hedo no Soko no Fukidamari.

I: Hahahahaha.

―― Did you always intend to let your 2019 go at this pace from the beginning?

I: Yeah. You could say that it’s because I had quite a strong desire to properly compose music, or write a new song, or something like that.

―― Is that music for BUCK-TICK?

I: There’s no other, is there?

―― When I heard No.0, I thought that this album was the terminus ad quem of BUCK-TICK’s recent few years. That’s why I got this vague notion that the next album would probably involve a completely different approach, though.

I: Yeah. But I didn’t even think for a moment that [the new songs] might be better done with someone other than BUCK-TICK. Because there’s still a lot I want to do and experiment with the band.

―― It’s never-ending, is it?

I: It sure is…… There’ll probably be no end until I die.

―― When you spoke of things you wanted to do, what exactly was it?

I: What is it…… I still have no idea at all, but I guess it’ll be something that makes people think that No.0 “was normal in comparison after all”. I want to create something that deviates from the rules even more. Experimentation…… It sort of feels like that, but you could also say that it’s music that does exist anywhere in the world at present, or something that deviates from the rules and the norm, or something of the sort…… I still haven’t thought it out properly, though.

―― Was Datenshi what you composed with those concepts in mind?

I: Yeah. We made the song through quite a bit of trial and error while keeping that in mind. That’s why it has a clear theme, although we weren’t deliberately aiming for that.

―― When I first heard Datenshi, it gave me the impression that you’ve returned to a simple band sound based on rock and roll, but going back to your roots wasn’t what you aimed to do, right?

I: It may sound like that, but we’ve arranged it in a way where the bass and guitar ensembles and arrangements are being put in completely different areas than how we’ve been doing it so far.

―― Pardon me, but how is it different?

I: So, for example, parts where you’d expect to hear the bass according to regular band theory won’t have any bass, so on and so forth. We tried out lots of different approaches like these. Right now, what we’re looking for is an aggressive tone.

―― Aggressive!

I: But it’s different from the genre sense of punk or metal or anything like that. It’s just an aggressive feeling.

It’s not a result of us doing this for 30 continuous years. Neither is it a miracle or anything like that
We’re all working hard, and that’s what I trust in

―― Putting it very simply, when you produced SEXY STREAM LINER in the past, you incorporated house and techno into your music and ended up creating an album with an approach which was considered to be rather edgy at the time. To prevent spoilers, I won’t go into detail with regards to what kind of song [Datenshi] is, but can I say that you chose to go all the way with that concept rather than simply bringing it into your world as an ingredient?

I: Yes, exactly.

―― Looking at it from another perspective, I also get the feeling that employing such an approach evades the curse of the BUCK-TICK-ness where anything goes to generate the most originality for you.

I: Yeah. I thought that it could even be that such a method was instead the most typical of us.

―― Everyone tried to somehow get away from BUCK-TICK’s curse but be it programming or gothic or singing to your own playing or performing an 8-beat rock and roll number, no matter what you do, they’re all elements of BUCK-TICK so whichever way you go, you won’t bring out your full colours. In Imai-san’s case, you can do whatever you want because BUCK-TICK exists, but I suppose that might be tied to the fact that you keep trying all kinds of approaches, right?

I: Since I’ve got a variety of drawers¹ [to open], it’d be a waste to not open them to take a look anyway.

―― Come to think of it, I went to watch THE DAY IN QUESTION at Takasaki the other day. I thought the BGM that you’d play pre-concert would be genre-less as per usual, but suddenly GUNJOGACRAYON² came on and I was so confused.

I: Hyahahahahahahah!

―― It made me wonder just what kind of range your drawers contain.

I: About that, our manager contacted me a day prior and said, “Please send me tomorrow’s BGM.” Because I completely forgot about it (smiles), I started thinking about it right then, and I had so many [options] that I couldn’t decide (smiles). So without much thought, I just decided to put in whatever was suitable along those lines.

―― Fuhahahahahaha. I thought that it was definitely representative of that deviant sense of Imai-san’s.

I: I suppose it might be so.

―― Could it be said that this [deviant sense] is something that tends to some about when you’ve been at it for such a long time? Like, you want to rid yourself of constraints, or something like that.

I: It’s distancing from it and escaping from it. I think that it’s fun to break away from that too. That’s why whatever comes next is the one that’s going to be really interesting. I think it’s because we’ve made No.0 that we’re able to do that.

―― Is it going to be something special which has no relation to genre, or something that no one has ever heard before?

I: I can’t explain it very well, so I want people to get a sense of it through the nuances. Because like I’ve said earlier, I’d end up conveying something different again if I explain too much in detail. During Arui wa Anarchy too, I said, “surrealism”, but that was only a word that I used to share it’s image with designer Akita-san, you know? At the time, it was fine in the context of our conversation, but even if I told the general public, “BUCK-TICK’s next theme is a surrealism!”, it would be as good as a heavy metal band saying, “Next, we’ll be putting out a metal album!”

―― Ahahahahaha!

I: But that went out of hand and surrealism became the emphasis. The news began covering surrealism instead of the album (smiles).

―― And that’s why it’s a delicate and difficult task to put it in words, isn’t it?

I: It’s difficult, and the more I talk about it, the more I’d eventually end up thinking, “That’s just the same as usual, isn’t it?” Well, that’s also because what I want to do keeps changing, right? During Tenshi no Revolver, I thought I’d stick with that vibe for the rest of my life, but now it’s completely different.

―― What vibe are you referring to?

I: In other words, making rock easy to understand, with the riff, and things like that. It happens all the time. Me, thinking, “I want to do this.” But then, it changes. Because that’s just how it naturally goes. That makes things interesting for myself, and for us [the band] too.

―― So, because that is still there, you’ll be playing as a band tirelessly in 2020.

I: Yeah, I think it’s going to be amazing (smiles).

―― And that is because of the enormous trust that you have in the band that, like you’ve said earlier, gives you the confidence that, “No matter what I do, it’ll be alright as long as it’s with these 4.”, right?

I: That’s why we’ll never tire of doing it, right?   It’s the same for me and everyone [in the band]. Whether it’s recording work or rehearsals, if I start to think about slacking off, I believe I’d be clear [that I feel that way], but I don’t get those kinds of feelings at all. I don’t ever think, “This is good enough.” ³ I think that’s our greatest strength. Because, you see, I don’t think that this is a result of us keeping at it all this while, or having been doing this for 30 continuous years. Neither is it a miracle or anything like that. We’re all working hard. And that’s what I trust in.

 

Notes:

¹ I think it can be established that when they say “drawers”, you can imagine a huge cupboard with a ton of drawers for you to open and close. Each drawer holds a different thing, and opening a new one gives them something new to explore.

² GUNJOGACRAYON were formed as a four- or five-piece outfit around guitarist Kumihara Tadashi and keyboardist Ohmori Fumio in the late 1970s, and have been supporting the Japanese underground music scene since then. Their peculiar soundscape with violently scattered piano sounds, weird and tricky voices or a sticky guitar psychedelia could amaze and perplex lots of reviewers and audience. They are famous for not only their sound but also the rarity of their studio works (they have released only three official albums for over 30 years).

³  In the sense that something half-arsed is good enough for him to call it a day.

 

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[Live Report] The Day In Question 2019

2019.12.03 Takasaki City Theatre

This is their annual year-end show. They chose to play in their hometown, Takasaki, Gunma on the opening day of this tour. Because this was a place befitting their announcement of a new beginning.

 

text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photographs by Shibata Eri, MASA

The band’s freedom and the absolute trust they have. That, I believe, without a doubt, is what leads into their next release.

3rd December. Takasaki City Theatre.

This was the first day of the tour, so I can’t deny that there were still areas to be explored. The fact that this is their hometown, a special place to them probably has some bearing on it too. During the member introductions in the encore, Higuchi and Yagami, the brothers who grew up in Takasaki, were standing all smiles while being introduced last. But what the live show conveyed was akin to a firm resolve to take a step forward into somewhere new. This is a band whose members are all above the age of 50 and which was formed more than 30 years ago, but this spirit with which they still take on their music, live performances, and the band itself can only be described as amazing. Therein lies the enormous trust that has been built up through the years.

Since THE DAY IN QUESTION is positioned as an annual year-end show unrelated to album releases, the members deliberately bring in songs that they don’t usually play. And this time, the set list that they eventually decided on here didn’t include a single song from their latest album No.0. Of course, they did go on a long tour for it the year before last, so they might want to keep their distance from that particular release for the time being, but more than that, it feels like their reason behind this was a decision to reset everything and head towards what’s next.

And in terms of song selection, even though this was THE DAY IN QUESTION, with the exception of Uta, SILENT NIGHT, Speed, and LOVE ME which were released during their debut with their first era in Victor, most of the songs they chose were from the 2000s, released after they moved to Ariola. Because of this and the addition of various arrangements, the overall tone of the set list left a fresh impression, emphasising a band which has grown stronger since their ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH days.

On this day, Sakurai’s emotions were once again conveyed with a tingling pain. As shown to us during the No.0 tour and Locus Solus Bestia, his method of looking at himself from an observer’s point of view and “performing” Sakurai Atsushi separates the stage from his daily life for him and thus, likely reduced the burden on himself, making it comparatively easier for him to confront the music but this live show leaves a heavy weight in my heart. There’s even a kind of fear that I’ve seen something I was never meant to see. But that’s a good thing. Mudai in the encore was especially stunning, weaving darkness over magnetism. The way he sang as if he was squeezing everything out of himself could only be described as bona fide.

Because this was the kind of show they gave, Imai’s wildness stood out. From Cyborg Dolly: Sora-Mimi: PHANTOM to PINOA ICCHIO -Odoru Atomu-, and Alice in Wonder Underground to Speed, the sight of him playing the guitar while hopping around the stage was of an uncontrolled creature not found anywhere else. There probably aren’t many who can tame him. And here is where he can be free.

The more I watch their contrasting performances on stage, both Sakurai and Imai seek what they lack from each other. They can be described as light and darkness, but in the end, it’s as if they have a complementary relationship with each other; one can’t be without the other. And that’s why they are unafraid. Whatever the approach of the music they create, no matter how heavy the themes, it will all become a part of and also build up the prominent individuality of the band that is BUCK-TICK.

Among all of that, they performed their new song Datenshi. At first listen, it makes you think that they’ve decided to make a U-turn back to a simple band sound, but discomfort and avant garde can be glimpsed, in a good way, on their faces. And also, those catchy yet dark lyrics. I kept wondering what it was, and in the interview, I found out. From this song comes the band’s motivation to step out into new frontiers and the suspense which currently exists within.

In 2019’s THE DAY IN QUESTION, the band’s freedom and the absolute trust they have in each other was felt more strongly than usual. And that, I believe, without a doubt, is what leads into their next release.

 

 

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BUCK-TICK and the Ariola Decade
2000-2010

Celebrating the release of B-T LIVE PRODUCT -Ariola YEARS-

text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi

 

In 2000, BUCK-TICK switched labels to BMG Funhouse. Following that, BMG was absorbed into Sony and the label name was changed to Ariola Japan. Those 10 years of activity was a crucial period for the band to establish something. In this article, we will unravel those days as we contemplate the significance of this box set.

 

This era is a time of BUCK-TICK’s rebirth and their awakening as expressionists
Now, as they cross 30 years together and step into their golden age, it’s more important than ever to look back at where they came from and appreciate it

BUCK-TICK was with Ariola Japan from 2000 to 2010 which includes their time with BMG Funhouse, the predecessor of Ariola Japan. The live footage from this era, including previously-unreleased content, will be released in a 10-disc Blu-ray box. The video resolution will, of course, be scaled up and the sound quality remastered in high-definition, so through this box set, live works prior to TOUR 2007 Tenshi no Revolver, which had only been released in DVD format, can now be enjoyed in much higher video and sound quality.

That said, it’s an expensive product with a price tag of 32,000 yen. And now that the sales tax rate has gone up, it’s a little daunting to loosen the purse strings (lol). The unreleased live footage from the annual Nippon Budokan concert on December 29th, which was held as an additional performance to the TOUR 2010 go on the “RAZZLE DAZZLE” is included as a bonus disc to encourage those of you who feel this way. 

The main setlist is no different than that of the recording of disc 9 in this box, but the songs which were performed for the encore were, on this day only, different from what was performed on the other dates of the tour. They performed the very first song on ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH, their very first album released upon their move to Ariola Japan, Baby, I want you. and the epilogue of 13-kai wa Gekkou, DIABOLO as the last song. The song’s ending of “Go-kigenyou sayounara” sounds like an expression of gratitude to Ariola with whom they have spent more than 10 years. Their relationship was such; loved and beloved.

In the beginning, when BUCK-TICK moved to BMG (now Ariola) at the start of 2000, expectations for the band was, in all honesty, rather low. SEXY STREAM LINER, released in late 1997, used a lot of programming and sampling, making it an album which leaned towards techno or house music. At the time, such an approach was shockingly edgy, and both the scene and the listeners couldn’t keep up with them. The reaction they got was, in short, one of rebuff and, as if to show this to them, the turnout to their live shows gradually decreased. 

It was right then when I took over this publication and I went to watch them live for the first time in a while. The show I attended was SEXTREAMLINER Reishiki (type 0) which was held at Nippon Budokan over 2 days, but the second floor seats were shockingly sparse. To be honest, I remember myself wondering, “Is this band…… okay?”

It was during such a period when they switched labels. The news was not highly publicised and was instead, quietly conveyed to me. But the passion of those involved with them was fiery. When I watched the live performance mentioned earlier, I thought, “Maybe I don’t need to cover the show……”, but eventually what got them into the publication was, without a doubt the enthusiasm of their promoters of that time and their manager. I was a little sceptical, so the coverage of ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH was published in monochrome pages. Things, however, gradually began to change with the times and a good vibe began to flow. 

Wasteful behaviour, like the way they used to only go into the studio at night even though it had already been prepared for their recording sessions, began to disappear. They started to become more aware of their situation. In other words, the Ariola era was, in many ways, the right time for the band to give themselves a reboot.

And that’s why, during this period, there was a sense of the band working towards getting something back, where all 5 of them were looking towards the one same direction and, at the same time, being acutely aware of their band sound be it for album recordings or live performances. It was also in this time when each of them embarked on their own solo activities for the first time. 

However, those activities were most definitely things that they couldn’t have done within the band and rather than doing this to puff up their egos, it was more for the purpose of distancing themselves from the band. And in those activities, Sakurai’s theme became “the performance of non-fiction” to “portray life and death”. 

As long as he possesses this firm concept, he can do anything, and utilising this, Imai’s music began to freely traverse between pop and avant garde too. Among all of this, Imai was inspired by Sakurai’s solo activities and took the “gothic” concept and created the masterpiece 13-kai wa Gekkou which then led into the worldview of “life and death” in memento mori. It was during this period of time when they once again acquired something unshakeable; something that would become the core of the band.

Long story short, I’ve said it numerous times, but it was during this Ariola era that the worldview that was to become the present BUCK-TICK’s core surfaced and took a tangible form. You can see the way they’ve matured from one live show to the next, and each of them is fascinating to watch. 

Sakurai, who had been projecting himself through the band’s speedy progression and sound gradually sensed the danger of this, encountered the gothic style of expression, and learned that he could project himself there rather than simply act it out. Such is the tale told in these 10 discs. 

Ariola Years is a time of BUCK-TICK’s rebirth and their awakening as expressionists. And now, as they cross 30 years together and step into their golden age, it’s more important than ever to look back at where they came from and appreciate it.

 

__________________________

2020.03.18 RELEASE
『B-T LIVE PRODUCT -Ariola YEARS-』

DISC
01 ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH CUT UP
02 BUCK-TICK TOUR 2002 WARP DAYS 20020616 BAY NK HALL
03 Mona Lisa OVERDRIVE -XANADU-
04 at the night side
05 悪魔とフロイト -Devil and Freud- ClImax Together
06 13th FLOOR WITH DIANA
07 TOUR 2007 天使のリボルバー
08 memento mori 090702
09 TOUR 2010 go on the “RAZZLE DAZZLE”
10 BONUS DISC

 

 

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Editor’s File

So how will they express themselves and prove their abilities?
BUCK-TICK’s existence is that which is found in such a colossal question

text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi

 

This is this first single since Kemonotachi no Yoru / RONDO, the theme of Locus Solus Bestia. As one of those who had been there at the live show, I had a rough idea that this’ll probably be a song of gratitude. That would be the most beautiful story of all. But I had forgotten that BUCK-TICK is a band that will always put a new crack in that perspicuity.

At first, a gentle number was prepared for release, but the story of its last minute replacement with Datenshi is typical of them. The song starts with a glam-like guitar riff, followed by an electronic sound which defies the typical rock and roll mould. This title track which plunges us into a jagged B-T world is a number which lets us get a sense of Imai’s true nature and desire to deviate from the norm. On the other hand, you could say that it’s because of Sakurai’s songs, which he says only ever sings about the one same thing, his absolute vocals, and his lyrical world that Imai is required to deviate. Even now, these two’s honeymoon still show no signs of ending.

The B-side to this single is Luna Park; a fresh, breezy, electric pop-style number written by Hoshino. I’ll talk about this later, but Hoshino is truly unwavering as a maker of simple melodies. You could even say he’s an artisan. The sensual seduction found in here; a fleeting sigh, a slightly forlorn smile, dreamy innocence, and Sakurai’s expression with his adding of lingering notes as the song ends turns the simple song into an irreplaceable original. After Locus Solus, there was a period of stagnation when he was struggling to work out what he was but hearing these two songs, I can’t help but say it. There is no question that you are Sakurai Atsushi of BUCK-TICK. And this is something that no one but you can do.

For better or for worse, this fact can be keenly felt in their 3rd tribute album, PARADE Ⅲ. No one can become Sakurai, neither can anyone sing like Sakurai. The original songs are a dark and debauched demon realm, so if they approached the songs sluggishly with a singing style different from their normal selves, that attitude would be all too easy to spot. The reluctant contrivity will be exposed. But, that said, singing simply won’t bring them far. It would just prove that Hoshino’s songs have a good melody and are surprisingly refreshing. That’s all. All things considered, the difficulty of pulling it off is high with every iteration of a tribute album. Because rather than going head to head with the original songs, these participating artists have to confront what’s in them or they will most definitely get burned.

First up, BRAHMAN have decided to take their winnings and quit with ICONOCLASM. No matter the song, we will scream with all our heart and soul!   It is with that spirit and buff body that they push hard with to the very end. Although not even a sliver of the bewitching nature of the original remains, the unreserved manner they did their cover with makes their participation all the more meaningful. Similarly distant from BUCK-TICK, Sakamoto Miu’s and Fujimaki Ryota’s simple, stripped-down arrangements are a stark contrast of the original songs. Simply singing alone won’t get you far. And I believe that you’ll come to understand what it means to challenge what’s inside of you when you hear their songs.

Also involved are artists adjacent to BUCK-TICK like Kokusyoku Sumire and GARI, but the masterpiece is minus(-)’s rendition of Keijijou Ryuusei which saw Fujikawa Chiai invited for the vocals of the track. It respects and carefully follows the world of the original song, but if you listen closely, you will notice that a 6/8 time, or a waltz, has been casually inserted into the originally four-beat song. But we should first of all say that Fujii Maki did a great job of choosing Fujikawa’s voice which added an elegance that is not too heartbreaking.

Then, the participating artists who respect BUCK-TICK and are in-turn respected by BUCK-TICK too are probably DER ZIBET, DIR EN GREY, and Shiina Ringo. I was surprised at the arrangement of Shiina’s music, but the power of each artist’s expressive ability was an eye opener. Neither of them can become Sakurai. So how will they express themselves and prove their abilities? BUCK-TICK’s existence is that which is found in such a colossal question.

BUCK-TICK’s 2020 begins with Datenshi and after that, they will move on to their next album. In their 33rd year together, these 5 steadfast band members will be taking their next step into the unknown. This I await in anticipation.

 

 

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Translation: Yoshiyuki
Scans: spanielonthemoon on Tumblr