In search of a place to belong
Interview with ISSAY

January 2006

Interview/Text: Yamamoto Hiroko
Photos: Ogiso Takeo


I thought that I never had a place to belong, but as I went through life, what I learnt is that a place of belonging isn’t something you search for, but something you can make for yourself.

This year marks the 20th debut anniversary for the high-energy ISSAY who calls his present musical activities with various bands and units “an abnormal circumstance”. Self-described as a “musicians’ musician”, we take a dive into his life where he originally had an inhibition over his eye-catching appearance.



Vocalist of the band DER ZIBET which went on a hiatus in 1996. Upcoming shows as the  presently-active band LYNX are happening on Saturday, the 31st of December at Yokohama 7th Avenue, and on the 14th and 15th of January at Omotesando FAB. He will also perform with his other unit, ISSAY meets DOLLY on Saturday, the 17th of December at Minami Aoyama MANDARA, as well as for HAMLET MACHINE on Tuesday, the 27th of December at Hatsudai DOORS.



――You were born in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Numazu City?

ISSAY (I): That’s right.

――And you grew up in that warm climate?

I: Yes. Warm climate and warm people all around (lol).

――So were you a sprightly elementary schooler who would go swimming in the sea every summer?

I: Well, I can’t really say though. It was as if my introverted and extroverted selves took turns coming out. “Noisy” would be written in a column of my report card for the first semester, then in the second semester, it would say that I was too quiet so my teachers would be worried, you know?

――Was it because you were affected by being described as noisy?

I: Nah, it wasn’t anything like that. I don’t think it was a reaction.

――Or you made such a racket that you burnt out.

I: (Lol) I don’t know, but I think my mood swings were violent. Since, well, I was so full of worries, you know?

――What had you worried as a child?

I: My parents divorced before I started elementary school and I went with my mother but in my 4th year, I was brought back to my father…… So, that pretty much meant I’ve been witness to my parents’ discord since I was in preschool, see?

――So your emotional ups and downs likely had something to do with that. Then, how did you have fun in such a situation?

I: By playing with imaginary monsters, I guess. I was always playing by making all sorts of things up. Also, I dug holes in the garden.


I: You see, I wanted to create an underground kingdom.

――So, holes that you could go into?

I: So, you see, I dug with my spade with everything I could muster but I didn’t have the strength so once I dug up to my knees, I wouldn’t be able to get any further.

――Because the ground would get harder, right?

I: Right. So I would think the soil was bad here and decide to dig somewhere else which meant that I was digging holes all over in there (lol).

――In a garden that’s covered in holes.

I: I wanted to build a secret underground base like a prairie dog’s (lol). My mother got angry but she seemed to find that the holes were just right for throwing rubbish in (lol). When I start to dig another hole, she’d tell me it’s still too soon (lol). I did get the help of my younger brother who was under a year-old with the digging holes, but if we couldn’t do that, we’d do things like play in the wardrobe with a flashlight.

――You’re quite the introvert, aren’t you?

I: Seems like it, doesn’t it?

――I think so. What about friends?

I: I had a few in class, but I moved houses a lot so while I did live near school for the first two years or so, once I lived further away, my friends wouldn’t come over and play. When I started living with my father, it was a place so faraway that I couldn’t get to school except by car, so I was really alone. But there was a lot of nature around so finding somewhere to play wasn’t a problem. Although, as you’d expect, I didn’t go around digging holes in land that belonged to someone else (lol).

――But it’s tough for children who are separated from their mothers because they’re powerless so they can’t do anything about it.

I: That’s true. When I lived with my father, I had a new mother, but I’d be badly beaten if I was gloomy or wouldn’t stop crying so I decided to tread cautiously just in case. You see, my old man was a million times more of a rocker than I am.

――How severe was it?

I: There’s nothing I could say. If I didn’t do what I was told, violence would erupt.

――To do things like, study hard for your future?

I: So, my family runs a construction company. And since I’m the eldest son, everyone around me naturally assumed that I was probably going to take over and even I unquestioningly could only believe that I would take over too.

――By the way, what about coming into contact with music?

I: None. The closest contact was via music programs on TV, and besides, I loved reading books. All kinds, including the popular Edogawa Ranpo series. Everyday I would go to the school’s library room and borrow one book at a time while on Saturdays, I’d borrow a thick book which I can read over two days. At least my parents wouldn’t get angry at me for reading books.

――I think there’s a part of you that unconsciously suppresses your emotions, but was there something which shaped the person who you are today?

I: It’s always been like that ever since I was in elementary school, but my father was, to some extent, a person with both money and status so my homeroom teachers would all be on good terms with him. So when I told my teacher something that I told them not to tell my parents about, they would expose me to my father and I would end up getting beaten like hell so I would never ever trust them. All the adults around me were also relying on my father’s patronage so I believed that they were only being nice to me to let my father see it.

――That’s the way you thought even as a child?

I: That’s how I thought. That adults had no qualms with lying to protect themselves. So, anyway, when I entered middle school, I joined the Kendo club since my father was someone who was both accomplished in academics and sports. And since it was stifling being at home, I would go to school ahead of everyone. So I’d wake up at five thirty or six in the morning and arrive just as the school gates were about to open, then try to stay back for club activities until as late as possible.

I was in a fight when they were trying to insult me by calling me “Faggot!” The awareness that my face wasn’t particularly manly became such a complex that I decided, “I’ll just wear makeup if that’s the way it is”.

――Were you not saved by music?

I: In terms of music, I did listen to whatever was being played on the radio, but I didn’t like rock.


I: It was noisy (lol). Hard rock is what was being played back then. I didn’t like the high-pitched voices and the loquacious guitars so the only thing I could listen to were the guitar solos by Queen’s Brian May. Other than that, I listened to movie music.

――Music without singing. Does that mean the thought of singing never once crossed your mind?

I: That’s right. So, for high school, I attended a boarding school. I happened to see their pamphlet and thought my father wouldn’t have anything to complain about since it was a prep school…… They were super strict there but it was better than being at home. School classes went on until the 7th period and there were no club activities at all. Once [classes] ended, dinner came right after and then we were to study until eleven at night. There were guards who would patrol around to see whether we were doing anything we weren’t supposed to.

――Sounds like prison.

I: Well, I’d just read my books while pretending to study anyway.

――What if you read manga or played games?

I: If we were found to have those in our possession, you’d either get asked to leave the dormitory or get expelled. There were snitches among us too so we couldn’t trust anyone around us either.

――All this just makes you grow more and more distrustful, doesn’t it? Weren’t you a high schooler when you started wearing makeup?

I: It was when I was in that high school. I was in a fight when they were trying to insult me by calling me “Faggot!” Up until then I wasn’t even aware that (my face) wasn’t particularly manly and it became such a complex for me that I snapped and decided, “I’ll just wear makeup if that’s the way it is”.

――I think other [boys] would normally head in the opposite direction and decide, “Then I’ll train my body!” or something.

I: Instead, the part of me that wanted to make them look like idiots came out. So once I did that, no one said anything like that to me again.

――You were in full makeup in the boarding school.

I: There weren’t any men who wore makeup back then so they thought I was mentally ill, you know? When I was in the push-up position for physical education class, the teacher questioned me, “What with your hands?!” And when I replied, “Manicure,” he didn’t say anything else (lol). Also, during that period of time, we’d sneak out of the dormitory every Saturday and go drink at a bar where gay people gather so I was aware of the culture behind [painting my nails and wearing makeup]. On the other hand, the simple fact that these people exist made me feel better and I thought they were cool for living their lives openly so I didn’t have any sort of reservations about wearing makeup.

――So having been called a faggot, wearing makeup was an attack in kind saying, “What’s wrong with looking like one?”

I: That’s right. No one said anything back so I took that as a win for me. Also, my friends brought me to this place they called a rock cafe and that was where I first listened to David Bowie’s STATION TO STATION album. It was the first time I heard rock music that wasn’t noisy and that made me realise, “Oh, so this is viable [as rock] too.”

――Did you know what David Bowie looked like?

I: I didn’t. But later on I saw a photo of him and thought, “This guy’s face sure looks a lot like the devil’s.” (Lol)

――So you only started growing an interest in rock when you became a high schooler.

I: Yeah. But when I was a second year student, an incident occurred and I had to withdraw from that high school. Well, it was found that we were doing something and scores of us were implicated but a junior who I got along well with was called out by the teachers and got caught. When that happened, he said, “The others made me do all that.”

――Were you caught for something like drinking together?

I: Something along those lines. And although about half of all the students in the dormitory were involved in this one way or another, all of it was pinned on me. I suppose from the school’s perspective, there was no way they could expel all these students so they probably needed to make someone the scapegoat, right? I myself was also questioned by the teachers in their bid to find out who else was involved, but I didn’t want to be someone who sells out my friends.

――It’s disappointing, isn’t it? Rather, a let down. And even though you’ve experienced so many occasions that left you distrustful of other people?

I: Although, my father is the only person I told the whole truth to. That man isn’t rigid through and through; he’s someone who holds chivalry in high regard so he understood why I felt the way I did. Except, he’d keep saying to me, “You think you protected your friends but it was your friends who betrayed you.” So after I quit that high school, he told me to go work while looking out for a school I wanted to attend and so I lived in Tokyo for a while delivering newspapers.

――Kind of like telling you to go learn some self-discipline.

I: Yeah. Since I’m good at waking up early to begin with (lol), I’d get up at four in the morning, deliver newspapers, come home and then drink gin while listening to music. Like JAPAN and Gary Numan and King Crimson and so on. And I also wrote.

――As a diary?

I: Well, I wrote down whatever came to mind. Instead of writing about daily happenings like a diary, it’s more of [asking myself] things like “Why do I have to do this”, or what I felt while listening to music, or what part of a song’s lyrics stuck with me, things like that.

――It was a tough period but at the same time, important, wasn’t it?

I: Yeah. It was really huge. So I worked for about two to three months, but during that time, I became friends with people from political groups, you know? Although, once again, my parents found out about it and they made me go home with them.

――But listening to what you’ve said thus far, you hated adults and when you couldn’t trust your peers in your age group, you went deeper into your shell and yet, you made friends with gay people and political participants. It’s as if you’ve got such a strong curiosity that you didn’t despair, at all?

I: Who knows? In any case, I wasn’t forgiven for getting expelled from high school anyway. Well, at this point in life I think I had no choice but to try and protect myself but that wasn’t how I thought at the time. So I was made to go back with them again, and this time it was a period of confinement.

――Like a period of house arrest where you weren’t allowed to go out?

I: Well sometimes I have to go help out with my father’s work, but everytime he saw my face, he’d say, “Useless. You’re useless.” so I didn’t want to step out of my room at all, you know? But I would also feel suffocated staying in my room so I’d just say, “I’m going for a walk,” and ride my bicycle to the beach.

――…… From there to a beach in Numazu.

I: So while in my room, it’s the same as usual; I was writing whatever, listening to music, reading books.

――Turning whatever was trapped in your heart into words and regurgitating them on paper.

I: Yeah, that’s right. Besides, I hadn’t yet thought of doing music at the time.

――You were a hollow vessel, weren’t you?

I: I didn’t know what I should do. I didn’t really want to go to school, neither did I want to go to work. I was in a total moratorium. And just right then, my younger brother who was living elsewhere because of my parents’ divorce also dropped out of high school, and once that happened, everyone started to say that it was because of his elder brother’s influence so it became difficult to stay for long no matter which family home I went to. I think that’s why there’s little sense of familial kinship to me.

When I started going on stage, I was called “good looking” for the first time.  That got me thinking, “This is where I’m meant to be. As long as I’m standing on stage, I’m not weird.”

――You never had a place where you belonged.

I: None at all. Knowing where I belonged was something that came much much later though. So, this situation continued for about three months or so until I couldn’t stand being alone in my room any longer and went back to high school. I had to do a year over again, but [I was allowed to go back] on the condition that “If [you] caused any problems this time, it’s the end.”

――So you enrolled in a local public high school?

I: Yeah. As usual, I’d go early in the morning, riding my bicycle as I hummed songs. Like David Bowie, Gary Numan, so on. But even though I was going to a new high school, I was a bundle of distrust, you know? Since I was a transfer student, [other students] would tell me, “If there’s anything you’re not sure about, you can ask us anytime.” But on the inside, I was being all, “Shut up, you idiot.”

――Everything looked like hypocrisy.

I: Yeah. I thought, “When push comes to shove, you’d all betray anyone,” you know? Also, I continued to write so I started getting the vague notion that I wanted to become an “author” but I didn’t know whether I had the talent for it. But my modern Japanese language teacher at the time, who was also my homeroom teacher, saw the things I wrote and said, “I rarely see anyone who’s both opinionated and writes this much so do keep writing more.” They also showed me the novel they were writing.

――That was the first time you met an adult who said such things to you, wasn’t it?

I: You’re right. The guys in school were good guys too, and I’m still friends with them to this day.

――You had a distorted experience in human relationships but here were people who received you with open arms.

I: Yeah. It’s the good-naturedness that we call “being Shizuokan!” (Lol) No matter how much I doubted them or how much suspicion I had in me, they were all people who stuck around proper. If anything, they found me interesting, saying things like, “This guy’s something else.” For example, if something happened that I couldn’t take lying down, I would butt heads with the teacher or would typically get sent to the staff room and start a big fight in there, but even that they found amusing.

――Despite being brought up in an environment that promotes social withdrawal, you’re direct, aren’t you?

I: Because I don’t like what I don’t like. And maybe I did some reflection at some point. Since I couldn’t express that I didn’t like something when I was little. Anyway, it was at that time when my teacher suggested, “How about you try writing poetry?” But I said, “I’ve never written anything ike poetry before.” To which he said, “Because your writing is similar to poetry. If you just cut some words out, it’ll turn into poetry.” Even though I understood what he meant, I didn’t have the confidence for it, except, that was when I started using ISSAY as my name.

――As a pen name?

I: Because, you see, I always sign off my writings and poetry with ISSAY. Anyway, that was when I came across T. Rex. And at the same time, I gave Sex Pistols another listen and that’s when I thought, “If we’re talking about something like this, I might just be able to do it too.”

――As in, you could probably sing like this?

I: I could probably make songs like these. That I might be able to write poetry. Thinking about it now, that’s one astounding idea, isn’t it (lol).

――(Lol) It certainly is. Also because you weren’t even doing anything band-related.

I: (Lol) Because I wasn’t. As to why rock music, it’s because I thought such simple rock music was within my abilities, and also because it’s a genre that lets these people turn themselves into their own form of expression. When I realised that “I can dress however I like, wear makeup, and say whatever I like!”, it was instant enlightenment for me, you know?

――Like you’re finally liberated from your gloomy everyday life?

I: And the next thing was figuring out what to do, you know? So, there was this senior who was graduating ahead of me who played the guitar, so I told him, “I’ll definitely go to a university in Tokyo next year.” This senior’s friend also played the guitar but I told him, “Go practice playing bass for me. I’ll find a drummer in university.” And that marked the end of my  second year in high school.

――All of a sudden you’re displaying initiative that looks like it comes from someone else.

I: Because, you see, I had to improve my academic abilities to a level that would get me accepted into a university, something I had never needed to do before. I figured that the only way I could leave home legally was to attend a Tokyo university. Furthermore, it would mean that I could eat for free for four years (lol). I thought I’d see what I could do there.

――Without telling your parents that you’d be doing music?

I: There’s no way I could tell them. So when I got to Tokyo, those were the days when YMO and all that new wave were all the rage. Like Bauhaus and bands like them were popular. It was a battle of ideas and as long as you had good taste, it would work out. And also, [much of it depended on] what the people who saw you thought of you. Anyway, since I’m abnormal¹, I knew that I would draw people’s attention no matter what so I found a drummer and started a band. That was ISSAY&THE SUICIDES.

――What kind of band was it?

I: Glam punk. Initially I said, “Why don’t we cover T. Rex. songs,” and then we went into a studio but then a melody came to mind while I was humming, and so we played an original song in our very first rehearsal. That got me convinced that I was a genius (lol).

――Do you remember what that song was?

I: Um, it was… MAD POET. It means “a crazy² poet”. After that, we went on to perform in a live house and that was the very first time someone said I was “good looking³”. Because I always thought I was a weird person.

――And those were the days before visual-kei was even a word, right?

I: It wasn’t, and while there were people getting up on stage wearing makeup, in my case, I wasn’t just wearing makeup because of music; I was wearing makeup because it’s my lifestyle. So having someone say that I’m “good looking” for the first time, that really got me thinking, “As I thought, this is where I’m meant to be. At the very least, as long as I’m standing on stage, I’m not weird.”

――So you grasped the chance to enter this universe once you performed in a livehouse?

I: Nah, that SUICIDES disbanded and I started my own solo project. That was when Morioka Ken (Soft Ballet) joined me as a member of my band, and bassist HAL, who later on formed DER ZIBET with me. So, during those days, I started getting covered in music magazines and featured in bishonen magazines, and that was how people in certain circles grew to know of my name.

We debuted when I was in my fourth year of university so thank goodness for that. Because if we didn’t, I think I’d just die.

――The bishonen magazines (e.g. JUNE), you were featured as a model, right?

I: Yeah. As a model, even though I’m a rock musician. At the time, I thought I needed to do something, whatever it was so I decided to do anything and everything for the sake of it. During that period of time, I happened to get to know my first manager. And later, I got acquainted with my pantomime mentor who asked, “Come join our next show?” I said, “I can’t do pantomime though.” but he said, “I’ll only have you do what’s within your abilities.” So I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” Besides, I also had the idea that it would be interesting to incorporate pantomime into my performances. And so from then on, I started wearing two hats, being a musician and also doing pantomime.

――So, after the solo project came the formation of DER ZIBET?

I: That’s right. I was getting tired of playing in a band where the member line-up kept changing more and more often, so I asked my staff at the time to help me look for band members. And that person was present in a meeting for Macoto Tezka’s first movie, The Legend of the Stardust Brothers; you know, the one that Chikada Haruo-san composed music for. The two of them were looking for a substitute for an actor who suddenly couldn’t take the job, but anyway, what I heard was that my staff happened to drop my photo before their eyes. And that made them ask, “Who’s this guy?”

――You were a perfect fit for the portrayal of this character.

I: Yeah. My staff told them that they had my profile on hand for the purpose of recruiting band members but they decided that, “Let’s meet him anyway.” So I met them and they said it’s a rock musical so I said okay to it.

――Which means before DER ZIBET, came the movie, The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (1984).

I: So when filming just about wrapped up, we settled on the members of DER ZIBET and when Chikada-san came to watch us play live, he really liked us so he introduced us to the president of the record company he was going to start. And the next year, we made our debut with them as their very first artist.

――After the band was formed, everything quickly fell into place, didn’t it?

I: We debuted when I was in my fourth year of university so thank goodness for that. Because if we didn’t, I think I’d just die.


I: Because, you see, I thought there was no point in living otherwise. And also because on the inside, I decided that if nothing was decided within this period of time then… you know?

I absolutely hated singing in front of people (lol). I wanted to do something that turns a person’s existence into a performance.

――So what plans did you envision for DER ZIBET?

I: [I wanted us to be] a covetous band who is absorbed and incorporated music that isn’t rock too. These words hadn’t come to my mind yet at the time, but [we were to play] “rock music that is an extension of cabaret music”. With classical bits, vulgar parts, and pantomime incorporated, I wanted to do something completely new. Like I said earlier, it’s because those were the days of competing with ideas. In terms of whether I was good at singing or not, that was probably not mentioned anywhere (lol).

――(Lol) Besides, [your case is] unlike that of those who became vocalists because they liked singing, right?

I: Yeah. Especially because I absolutely hated singing in front of people (lol). And also because I wanted to do something that turns a person’s existence into a performance.

――Just by standing on stage?

I: No, what I wanted to do was to the extent that even just regular walking is a performance.

――You mentioned this earlier, but this was in the mid-80s when visual-kei had yet to be coined as a word.

I: In those days, I changed the colour of my hair almost every week; one time it would be purple and the next thing you know, it’s green, then gold (lol). Even when I was young, I’ve always been told, “You’re probably doing this because you think it’s cool, but anyone who looks at you would just think you’re strange.”

――After debut, your performances have been described as European decadence, theatrical, along these lines. I heard that you even had a street lamp mounted on stage, and used masks too.

I: We came on stage carrying hand lamps, right?

――At the same time, you had 16-beat songs, incorporated tango and jazz into your music; I remember thinking I’ve never seen such a band before.

I: And adding to that, we are wearing tuxedos, right? (Lol)

――Later on, people started saying that you’re one of the forefathers of visual-kei.

I: But back then, there were already bands like Auto-Mod and Madame Edwarda in the underground scene. Although it was still sometime before they became more mainstream.

――But the fact is, BUCK-TICK’s Sakurai-san went to watch your show when you debut, and in your first solo album which was released in 1994, Sakurai-san and hide-san and LUNA SEA’s SUGIZO-san, and even Kiyoharu-san who was in Kuroyume at the time were all guest artists too. While DER ZIBET was at first deemed to be uniquely distinctive, don’t you think that as your activities continued, you grew to become a band which musicians look up to?

I: Mm, but I think it’s just that we happened to debut early and that this culture would’ve come about sooner or later anyway. Although, to this day, I must say that I am grateful to Chikada-san and his record company friend who took an interest in us back then. Because even though we didn’t really make many hits, they really took good care of us.

――I think that’s because you had so much originality. We’re switching topics a lot, but it was also a surprise when you released two mini albums titled Shishunki (思春期) in 1991. Because back then, no one would’ve ever thought the Japanese word for “adolescence” (思春期) could appear in rock music.

I: Well, there sure were a mix of opinions, weren’t there? The whole band was made up of people who wouldn’t be satisfied unless we kept doing something new, but while there’s no doubt that we had good taste, when you listen to it now, it’s definitely pop music. A while ago (October 2005), I played a show in Numazu for my 20th debut anniversary where I performed only self-covers of DER ZIBET songs, and [that’s when I realised that] despite how everyone kept going on about how niche and outlandish we were, it’s so curious how it’s just pop music now.

――Yes, yes. So, DER ZIBET announced an indefinite hiatus in 1996. But apart from your solo album release while DER ZIBET was active, you also formed the electronic-rock unit Hamlet Machine.

I: That was a period (1991) of time when DER ZIBET barely did any shows. So I’d say that Hamlet Machine was a new unit that was formed as a result of the explosion of my desire to fulfil my needs. I’m a stage performer so I can’t live without live performances.

――Which is why other than the one solo album, you stuck with performing in bands after going on hiatus.

I: Perhaps. After we announced the hiatus, I did form the band Φ -PHI-.

――With ex. 44MAGNUM band member Hirose Satoshi-san on guitar.

I: A band with two frontmen. But we broke up in three years anyway.

――So now, you’re involved in activities for three bands at the same time; Hamlet Machine which has been around for quite a while now, LYNX and ISSAY meets DOLLY.

I: Yes. It’s an extraordinary state of affairs (lol). With DOLLY, [it came about] because I wanted to play in this type of band no matter what, you know?


I: Cabaret music through and through. I wanted to be infused in that kind of a world that lives outside of the field of rock music.

――Would you say that the original idea you had in mind was something along the lines of the movie Cabaret (starring Liza Minnelli)?

I: That, and the musical version of Cabaret too. And there’s also some influences that come from glam rock musicians too.

――I see. With a keyboard and violins included in the arrangements, the performances are a combination of acoustic and band music, right?

I: Yeah. There are classical elements included as well, but it’s also got the raunchiness of glam rock which makes it sort of decadent. I guess you could call it neo-classical romanticism. I’m doing this with the feeling that I might be the only person who can bring out the beautiful and the grotesque, the gaudy and the raunchy in such a manner.

――I’m getting the impression that DOLLY and LYNX seem to exist on different vectors.

I: LYNX, we started out playing sessions together and this year, we officially formed the band. They invited me for events a number of times and I was thinking it felt engaging when bassist heath (ex. X JAPAN) suggested, “Let’s form a band.” And I said, “You be the leader then.” (Lol) I’ve never been in a masculine band like LYNX so it’s pretty interesting, you know?

――It’s rock with a manly vibe. Can you share a little bit about the members?

I: On bass is heath, while on guitar is SAY→ICHIRO who was from HUSH and is now in w.a.r.p., and on drums is test-NO.’s Matarow. Sometime last year I thought I should do this while I could, you know? That I wouldn’t reject it if it ever came up (lol). LYNX is still a rough stine but I’m pretty interested to see how each of our characteristics would come together from here on out. Just a while ago, we performed in Numazu as a cover band.

――Yes, yes. The Numazu show where LYNX performed DER ZIBET songs and an original member of DER ZIBET, HIKARU participated as a special guest, right?

I: Yeah. Drummer Matarow was the one who came up with the idea and SAY→ICHIRO was the one who suggested performing in Numazu (lol). I didn’t think that HIKARU would really show up, but it so happened that I met him for the first time in a while at a mutual acquaintance’s party. And when I asked him, “Should we play [those songs]?”, he said, “Just do it,”  so then I said, “I wonder if you’d wanna perform too,” and he replied with, “Ah, well, DZ songs are hard, aren’t they.” (Lol)

――Even though the ones who arranged those songs were you, yourselves.

I: But once I mentioned that we’re playing in Numazu, he said, “If that’s the case then maybe I’ll do it.” (Lol) With that 20th anniversary show, I was happy that [the other members of] LYNX wanted to celebrate the occasion for me and we didn’t want to make too big a deal out of it which is why it was held in Numazu. Besides, those who really wanted to come would come for it anyway.

――In any case, you still look the same as you did back then. Including your figure. What’s your secret to maintaining it?

I: Willpower (lol). I can’t give you a good answer to that question. Because I drink, I don’t do diets, I don’t even go to the gym. Well, but I don’t have calmness or composure (lol). The kind of social responsibility or something that people in their 40s have.

――(Strained laugh) People who feel the burden of life.

I: Maybe I don’t have it? Probably.

――But do you incorporate pantomime into your daily life? Like in your postures or something.

I: That, yes. Also, I’ve been exclusively [playing the role] “ISSAY” for over 20 years now, you know? Earlier, I said that I never had a place to belong, but as I went through life, what I learnt is that a place of belonging isn’t something you search for, but something you can make for yourself. Perhaps the biggest winners are the ones who say, “This is my place.”

――I see. Based on what I’m hearing, I get the feeling that ever since you started using the name ISSAY for your poetry, you stuck the label of “puberty (思春期 / shishunki)” on yourself and continued to keep to the promise that you made to yourself all those years back.

I: What a wonderful way to put it (lol). But I’m too embarrassed to let such words come out of my own mouth.

――When the ISSAY-HIKARU duo came back to life at the 20th anniversary event, were there those among your fans who started speculating a return?

I: Firstly, I have no intention of doing DER ZIBET again right now. Because there’s no point unless each of us are at our best, and besides, I live in the moment. There are things I have to do with Hamlet Machine, DOLLY, and LYNX respectively, and there’s also significant meaning for me to be in each of these bands, so I want to do them all right. And we being humans, we never know what will happen when, so I want to do whatever I can. Anyway, I’ll just stop if it’s not working out. I have quite a lot of shows to do, so I hope you’ll come and watch. Because you never know when real rock bands will cease to exist.

――Whatever the band?

I: Yeah. Because bands would break up over any sort of ridiculous reason. Which is why I say that it doesn’t have to have anything to do with me, but if there is a band you want to see, I hope that you’ll go and see them against all odds. I don’t want people to say things like, “I should’ve gone back then.” Because there’s nothing sadder than hearing that a band has broken up.







¹ I chose to translate this part as “abnormal” but the specific word he used to describe himself with was 奇形 (kikei) which is more along the lines of “deformed”, “freak”, “monstrosity”.

² The original text actually censored the Japanese (キチガイ / kichigai), writing it as キ★ガイinstead. While simply translated as “mad/crazy/lunatic”, it is also used to describe a person who has thoughts that are different from other people or slightly divergent from them, and has been interpreted (maliciously or excessively) to simply refer to a person whose behaviour is seen as abnormal by society, or behaviour that is socially unacceptable, or even to that person itself. Although there’s no written rule, this word was supposedly banned from use in mass media in the 1970s after family members of mentally disabled persons protested strongly against its use, calling it discriminatory and hurtful. To this day, you apparently can’t even name characters with this word in games. 

³ カッコいい (kakkoii) was the word here and since “cool” wasn’t exactly the kind of word you’d use back in the 80s, I went with the much more literal translation of “good looking”.





Translation: Yoshiyuki
Image scans: wilhelmina111 on LJ
Text scans: Yoshiyuki

Passing Stories to the Next Generation~
In Memory of Illustrious Rock Poet ISSAY
DER ZIBET Tribute Album Production Project

Motion Gallery

Presented by
DER ZIBET Tribute Project

From 20 January 2024 to 29 February 2024
Funding goal: 5,000,000 yen
Pledged amount: 11,248,218 yen
No. of backers: 870

Crowdfunding page:

Related posts:
DER ZIBET Tribute Update Vol. 7: ISSAY—A Brother & A Kindred Soul by Chu-ya



The Project

This is a tribute album dedicated to ISSAY, vocalist of DER ZIBET who suddenly passed away last August. Funds are being raised for the production of a CD featuring many artists covering a collection of works which embody ISSAY’s soul, which the late Sakurai Atsushi is known to have adored.

To prevent proof that phenomenal artist ISSAY existed from fading away.

【A message from DER ZIBET Tribute Project】

We are made up of volunteers from the music industry who have been involved with DER ZIBET, and we have unequivocal reasons for forming this committee; because we feel strongly that ISSAY, the charismatic figure in the rock scene who died suddenly in an accident, and DER ZIBET, a band that continued to produce classic albums that inspired a wide range of musicians “cannot fade away just like that”, “needs a tangible memorial”, and that “there must be other musicians who share these feelings too”. Even if the life is scattered, the music will continue to resonate in the hearts of those who listen to it, and will continue to radiate an eternal luster. With mixed feelings of loss and determination, we set about planning this tribute album.

DER ZIBET:Left to right – MAHITO(Key.) HAL(B.) ISSAY(Vo.) HIKARU (G.) MAYUMI(Dr.)

【The revolutionary vocalist, ISSAY】

Respected by scores of musicians including BUCK-TICK‘s late Sakurai Atsushi,  the well-loved ISSAY made his debut as DER ZIBET’s vocalist in 1985. Despite being described by the media as “a rock band ahead of their time”, the band was a significant influence on numerous of bands, including those which were later known as Visual Kei.

Penning beautiful lyrics which echo the perspectives of Mishima Yukio and The Doors’ Jim Morrison, he was aptly nicknamed the “rock poet”, bringing affirmation to those living with loneliness and alienation.  Incorporating pantomime (which he studied under Mochizuki Akira since his teens) in his performances, it could be said that ISSAY was a “revolutionary” of the music scene.

Before he debuted with DER ZIBET, he starred in director Macoto Tezuka’s first theatrical film “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers” as an actor. Even on screen, his strong personality came through, and in recent years, he also acted in “Tezuka’s Barbara” which starred Inagaki Goro and Nikaido Fumi. The late director Obayashi Nobuhiko also recognised his talent, describing him as a “phenomenal artist”.

【Okano Hajime; the producer of the tribute album】

Producing this album is Okano Hajime, who worked on the past two DER ZIBET releases and has worked with many other artists like L’Arc~en~Ciel. Alongside him is Koni-young (one of Japan’s top sound engineers who worked with the late Imawano Kiyoshiro, BUCK-TICK, LUNA SEA and many more) who will take on the role of main sound engineer.

Numerous musicians have come forward with love and expressed their interest in participating.  Now, we are working on the living testimony of the legend ISSAY and the multifaceted and original songs of DER ZIBET, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, to ensure that they all carry on into the future.

What kind of chemical reactions will be born from this unprecedented combination of musicians? (List will be updated as and when on this website and on the official X account @DZ__TP)

The tribute album, ISSAY gave life to FLOWERS – TRIBUTE to DER ZIBET – (working title) is slated for release on the 6th of July, ISSAY’s birthday. Our goal is to create a tribute album beyond anyone’s expectations. (※To be released under the POP MANIA label presided by DER ZIBET)

We would like to bring this album to fruition together with those who are interested in this project, and everyone who has been supporting [the band] throughout all this time. Everyone’s help will be greatly appreciated. We thank you in advance.

※FOOL’S MATE channel archive series: From the premium one-man live show A day before 35th trip, organised by DER ZIBET in collaboration with FOOL’S MATE channel, timed to coincide with the 35th anniversary of their debut.


I first got to know ISSAY when he acted in the movie The Legend of the Stardust Brothers as NIji Kaworu. Later on, he let me listen to the music he made with his own band, DER ZIBET and I was blown away by their musicality and execution. Even now, I can’t forget how I tried all ways and means wanting to help them make their major debut. This all happened before the genre that is Visual Kei came about. It’s clichéd, but he was a man ahead of his time. As an old friend of his, I am indeed glad that so many musicians have voiced their support for this project to produce the tribute album.

— Chikada Haruo

Celebrated musicians across generations are participating!

【The tribute album to commemorate ISSAY will involve over 40 musicians】

To start, we have ZIGGY’s Morishige Juichi (vocalist), RED WARRIORS’ DIAMOND☆YUKAI (vocalist),  Kogure “SHAKE” Takehiko (guitarist), and PERSONZ’s Honda Takeshi (guitarist) who are all contemporaries of DER ZIBET.

Also participating are AUTO-MOD’s GENET and now FAR-EAST PHALLUS KICKER’s Chu-ya, both of which are close friends with whom he had regularly held events with in recent years, as well as Chiwaki Mayumi (vocalist) who ISSAY had been friends with since pre-debut, and Fukuhara Mari (pianist) who worked with him in the unit, ISSAY meets DOLLY.

Adding on is a strong group of musicians led by michiaki (Ra:iN/bassist) who are part of the sessions which ISSAY regularly holds at live house Club Sensation in Yokohama.

We also have his juniors, D’ERLANGER’s kyo (vocalist), SOPHIA’s Matsuoka Mitsuru (vocalist)who had been inspired by him since he was in his hometown of Osaka pre-debut, and ZEPPET STORE’s Kimura Seizi (vocalist & guitarist) who first came to Tokyo with a DER ZIBET single.

The list grows with cali≠gari‘s Sakurai Ao (guitarist) and Ishii Shuji (vocalist), Matarow (drummer) & Yonezawa Seiichirou (guitarist) who were members of Lynx which ISSAY formed with the late HEATH (bassist) of X JAPAN during DER ZIBET’s hiatus, and Kaya (vocalist) who has left a comment below. Updates on participating artists will be provided as and when going forward.

Too soon has ISSAY left for heaven. I hope that everyone will support this new interpretation of ISSAY’s world from musicians who adore him. I sincerely hope for the successful completion of this tribute and that the original work will be released in the near future.

— Chiwaki Mayumi

【Participating Musicians ※in no particular order

Shimoyama Jun (ROCK’N’ROLL GYPSIES, ex. THE ROOSTERZ/Guitarist)


Kamiryo Wataru (NeoBallad/Drummer)

Sumida Takeshi (VooDoo Hawaiians/Guitarist)

Louie (Rose Noire/Violinist)

Tsuchiya Masami (Guitarist)

MORRIE (Vocalist)

Hirose Satoshi (44MAGNUM, ex. Φ/Guitarist)

PATA (X JAPAN, Ra:IN/Guitarist)


Ken-ichi (Valentine D.C., VERTUEUX/Vocalist)

Yukino (krishnablue, ex. AUTO-MOD/Guitarist)

Umeda Kazuya (BEAST, nüe, fromDER ZIBET/Drummer)

Keith Yokohama (Demi Semi Quaver, Rock’n roll Big Band The Thrill, エロヒム, Devil Dalipop/Bassist)

Hoppy Kamiyama (“GOD MOUNTAIN” label, arranger, producer/Keyboardist)

Morishige Juichi (ZIGGY/Vocalist)

DIAMOND☆YUKAI (Diamond Shake, RED WARRIORS/Vocalist)

Kogure “SHAKE” Takehiko (Diamond Shake, RED WARRIORS/Guitarist)



Chiwaki Mayumi (Vocalist)

Honda Takeshi (PERSONZ , Effectric Guitar/Guitarist)

Okano Hajime (Bassist)

michiaki (Ra:iN/Bassist)

Mikuni Yoshitaka (GENSHI-SHINBO 〜 PINK FLOYD TRIPS 〜/Keyboardist)

Kashiwabara Katsumi (GENSHI-SHINBO 〜 PINK FLOYD TRIPS 〜/Drummer)

SATOU MINORU (MINORUMOKY, ex. φ, ex. Fliction/Drummer) 

Emi Eleonola (Epf. & Ac.)

Fukuhara Mari (ISSAY meets DOLLY/Pianist)

DIE (Ra:iN, hide with Spread Beaver/Keyboardist & Programming)

kyo (D’ERLANGER/Vocalist)

Matsuoka Mitsuru (SOPHIA/Vocalist)

Kimura Seizi (ZEPPET STORE/Vocalist & Guitarist)


Ishii Shuji (GOATBED,  cali≠gari/Vocalist)

Sakurai Ao (cali≠gari, L.TB, hector/Guitarist)

Yamahana Asaki (AGE of PUNK/Guitarist)

Hashizume Akito (the superlative degree, HUSH, ex. ALL I NEED/Vocalist)

tezya (tezya & the sightz, Euphoria, ex. FiX/Vocalist)


Kaya (Vocalist)

Arase Dai (dieS/Vocalist)

Yonezawa Seiichirou (W.A.R.P., the superlative degree, HUSH, ex. Lynx /Guitarist)

JUN (Valentine D.C./Bassist)


Nakanishi Tomoko (Ulful Keisuke Band, SION’S SQUAD/Bassist)

Minato Masafumi (ex.  DEAD END/Drummer)

Koseki Sumitada (MATILDA RODRIGUEZ/Drummer)

Matarow (ex. Lynx/Drummer)

Jill (Rose Noire, Unlucky Morpheus/Violinist)

Dantoudai no MELODY(participating as a band)
・Vocalist YUTAKA (Kneuklid Romance)
・Guitarist Ogasawara Kenichi (Kneuklid Romance)
・Bassist Ryo-Ta
・Drummer HIME

MAHITO (DER ZIBET/Programming)


Far away, Have your way, the wind sings
The stars, the clouds, and the woods watched you
When you were at your most beautiful, you wounded little thing

It was 1994. I was all about LUNA SEA and BUCK-TICK when a friend introduced Der Zibet to me, saying, “There’s this amazing band”. The cover of HOMO DEMENS left a strong impression on me, and knowing that ISSAY-san was featured in the aesthetic magazine JUNE which I secretly loved reading as an influence by my older sister, I was bursting with interest when I excitedly purchased “Nire no Ki no Ue”. Delicately beautiful lyrics and music, and that voice unlike any other. Addicted in a moment, I’ve been infatuated ever since. Later, I came to know lots of Der Zibet’s wonderful music, but ultimately, the best one of all to me has to be “Nire no Ki no Ue”. The melody, the music, the lyrics, the voice. It is a lovely piece of music filled with strong emotions. And it will definitely continue to be, forever.

— Kaya


Crowdfunding page:

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Backer Rewards

【Basic tier】(common to all tiers)

1. Everyone’s names will be credited in the DER ZIBET tribute album which is slated to be released on 6 July, and will be dispatched for delivery about 2 weeks ahead of that.

2. Production diary e-newsletter distribution 〜 In order allow all backers to follow the progress of the production closely, Itoharu or “the middle man”, who is in charge of production and was a member of the initial DER ZIBET staff, will provide detailed reports in the newsletter.



Album covers of all 19 (+1) of their original works including the 12-inch release “Girls” from their first album, “Violetter Ball” arranged in a lizard-shaped collage.

On the back is the tribute album title and all of the participating musicians along with the five members of DER ZIBET in alphabetical order.

Sizes up to 3XL are availble. Measurements are as follows:
(length, width, shoulder width, sleeve length)
S 66cm 49cm 44cm 19cm
M 70cm 52cm 47cm 20cm
L 74cm 55cm 50cm 22cm
XL 78cm 58cm 53cm 24cm
2XL 82cm 61cm 56cm 26cm
3XL 84cm 64cm 59cm 26cm

ISSAY T-shirt

Photo of ISSAY by Masaaki Otake in 1985 at debut.

Text on the back:
1962.7.6 – 2023.8.5

Sizes up to 3XL are availble. Measurements are as follows:
(length, width, shoulder width, sleeve length)
S 66cm 49cm 44cm 19cm
M 70cm 52cm 47cm 20cm
L 74cm 55cm 50cm 22cm
XL 78cm 58cm 53cm 24cm
2XL 82cm 61cm 56cm 26cm
3XL 84cm 64cm 59cm 26cm

DER ZIBET Silver Cross &ISSAY Lizard

A plate engraved with DER ZIBET sits behind the cross while the cross is engraved with ISSAY. Comes with a 50cm chain. Your name can be engraved on the back of the removable lizard (up to 6 English characters).

Made by Big Black Maria.

Cross: Length 42mm / Width 22mm
Lizard: Length 30mm / Width 16mm

DER ZIBET Cross &Lizard w/ Diamond inlay

A diamond will be in-laid in the middle of the cross. Comes with a 50cm chain, name engraving on the lizard.

Made by Big Black Maria.

DER ZIBET Cross & Lizard w/ Big Ruby (ISSAY’s birthstone) inlay

A ruby, ISSAY’s birth stone will be in-laid in the middle of the cross. Comes with a 50cm chain, name engraving on the lizard.

Made by Big Black Maria.

【Outfits worn by ISSAY have been provided as backer rewards】

On this occasion, the person in charge of making and storing all of ISSAY’s outfits over these years have provided the following pieces which he used to wear with the words, “I hope they can contribute to the album production costs.” It is his hope that they will go to only those who will take good care of them. Please do not purchase them for the purpose of reselling. If anyone finds these pieces being put up for resale, please contact @DZ TP . With your help, we believe that we will be able to prevent such acts from happening.

Each outfit will go on a “first-come, first-served” basis. We hope for your understanding on this matter.

Black Glitter  Long Coat ①

Material: Glittery fabric

Detail: Similar to a velvet coat, except that pleats are concentrated in three areas at the back. Made with a light-weight material.

“Often worn for gigs, shoots, and many occasions. Commonly paired with a feather boa. The long coat series is a favourite style and eight pieces had been made, including those for everyday wear. The material of this coat in particular is light and reflective, so it creates a cyber-like atmosphere on stage. ISSAY also particularly liked wearing a feather boa with it.”

— ISSAY’s Costume Designer

Velvet Long Coat (Black / Purple) ②③

Material: Crushed velvet

Detail: Deep breeches at the centre and sides of the back to create a fuller look when moving.

“Made around 2009 when ISSAY started keeping his hair long. Frequently worn at various gigs, in photographic collections, as a model for paintings, etc. Inspired by the coat Julia Roberts wore over her dress in the movie Mary Reilly (adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). The way her coat spreads wide in the scene where she walks through the storm is breathtaking, and I made the coat wondering if it could be recreated on stage. Stretched out, the hems are almost five meters in length which creates a significant effect when the coat is lifted or fluttered during a performance.

— ISSAY’s Costume Designer

Black Tuxedo with Wide Trousers (3-piece) ④

Material: Shiny velvet

Detail: Satin material on the collar, cuff folds and buttons. Cuffs were made to make the sleeves look finer on the whole.

“Worn frequently at gigs since June 2019. The jacket of the wide trouser suit has been modified a little bit since 2017 and about 10 of them have been made for everyday wear. Unlike fitted trousers, ISSAY liked the way these swayed when he moved on stage. The jacket is a tuxedo jacket which makes it even more special as a costume.

— ISSAY’s Costume Designer

Niji Kaworu  White Leather Jacket ⑤

The legendary white leather jacket which ISSAY wore when he played the character of Niji Kaworu in Macoto Tezka’s first theatrical film, The Legend of the Stardust Brothers which was 40 years ago shot in 1984 and released in 1985.

An item which was in the safekeeping of ISSAY’s Costume Designer (brand: NORIKO KAZUKI, has age-related wear and tear). Director Tezka even said in the video comment that he’s considering buying it. Will there be a battle to own this?!

The Count  Red 3-Piece Suit ⑥