Ongaku to Hito
Text: Hirofumi Kanemitsu
Hair/makeup: Naoko Araki
Styling: Tomoharu Yagi
Clothes: CONNECTED, A LITTLE VILLAGE
To play it safe (lol), I’ll introduce them once more. Schwein is made up of BUCK-TICK’s Atsushi Sakurai and Hisashi Imai, along with PIG’s Raymond Watts, and KMFDM’s Sascha Konietzko. This is an entirely new project formed by the 4 of them. Looking at their respective band names, one would imagine a heavily industrial sound coming from them, but instead, one would be surprised by how the songs lined up in their album, Schweinstein can even be considered as melodious. Even without words, the pop-ish sound that has been enveloped by their desires to freely do whatever they please shows that the four of them understood what one another wanted to do. But herein lies a question. Why did Schwein come together now? What difference does it have in comparison to BUCK-TICK?
In line with the name of this unit, this is an interview with Hisashi Imai in a freezer surrounded by pork (Schwein means ‘pig’ in German)!
ーー I think we should once again sort out the series of events that have led up to Schwein.
Imai (I): Right……… Let me see… In the beginning, it was Raymond who spoke of it…… Hm, yeah. I heard from him. Did he say something that sort of sparked it off……… I can’t recall the exact point in time…… Last year…… When was it?
ーー Well, although you’ve forgotten the period, what were your thoughts when you heard him say, “Let’s do this”?
I: The reason why we’re doing this is, of course, because I thought that it’s interesting. He’s done remixes for us, we’ve collaborated in Raymond’s songs, we’ve gone on tour together. And numerous times we’ve spoken about how we’d like to come together and form something, be it a band or a unit, but there were issues with timing and whatnot. It’s never turned into anything concrete. Eventually…… I think someone spoke out and it became reality though.
ーー Somehow, left as it is, it’s like the Japanese side of this was just waiting, in a ‘someone will probably say something’ way.
I: Indeed (smiles). But I guess I’ve always had the vague premonition? of ‘I suppose we’d probably do it’. Like, I wanna do this…… That’s why in the beginning, there was no…… nothing like a concept; none of that was given any thought. The original idea was simply…… [creating] something cool that can be done with us four. Something industrial or noisy or melodious, and so on. We didn’t even think about that direction. No clear form was decided upon but I suppose that eventually turned into Schwein.
ーー You mentioned “something cool that can be done with us four”, but how is that different from what the five of you do in BUCK-TICK? I think that it’s the same in terms of the members all aiming to create something cool though.
I: Uhm…… I think it’s basically the same. However, with us four in Schwein, I guess I look forward to the fact that I have no idea what will come of this combination that we’ve never had before. What we’re capable of doing is already perfect, but how each of us will express that, I guess you can say that this area is particularly thrilling to me…… Simply put, it makes my heart pound.
ーー Like junior high schoolers dating for the first time (smiles).
I: On the other hand, BUCK-TICK is…… For example, it seems like it’s alright if I don’t go to the studio, even during recording. There’s not that much of a need to think “At this point, I have to do this, and this” as I play my guitar…… I can do it all, so it’s not tiring.
ーー This sounds like things between a couple who has been married for years (smiles).
I: Yeah. Applying that situation to Schwein, it feels like the fumbling you do when you form a band for the first time and go into the studio…… the nervousness (smiles), yeah. That’s right.
ーー What you seek, or that scale of joy; the measure is different, isn’t it?
I: That’s because things like a sense of accomplishment…… it doesn’t exist with Schwein. Because [the goal] can’t be seen. There’s a freshness, like ‘Ah, is this what Schwein is?’. When it comes to BUCK-TICK, I’d be making progress with the notion of ‘Ah, yes, that’s right, this is it, this is what it should feel like’. And when everything’s done, there would be a strong sense of accomplishment and joy, like ‘Right. Ahー It’s done’. But this time, it’s like ‘Oh, what? Ah, it’s done?’……… I’m a real novice here.
ーー Novice (smiles). Well then, when we talk about Imai-san’s extracurricular activities away from BUCK-TICK, SCHAFT comes to mind, but have you thought about differentiating this from that?
I: No………… Not particularly……………… I think that there are a lot of areas like the way the songs are composed or the structure and so on but…… Uhm, I haven’t really composed a song while being focused on that.
ーー For example, if there were commonalities, where do you think they can be found?
I: That’s simply BUCK-TICK’s Imai joining Schwein and composing songs (smiles), that’s the commonality. It’s not like I flip a switch and change completely or something. It’s the same thing as saying that the same human being is doing this.
ーー …… Hmm.
I: It’s just simply that at the time, there were a lot of sounds that I wanted to try playing. That’s why there was such a variety of tunes that gone produced. From trance to hip-hop even.
ーー You’ve mentioned that this reaction birthed a sense of unity, but did you also think of creating something with a melody within that?
I: To think about that…… We didn’t particularly aim to create melodious music but…… That style, or in other words, music that can be described with the word ‘industrial’, in a nutshell, is of a theory that doesn’t actually have a melody, I guess.
ーー Well, there also parts where the portions without a melody come across as cool too.
I: In those parts, there are some………… areas which were frustrating too. Well, when it comes to people, whatever, you know (smiles). You could say that I do it because I think that having no melody is good because I get sick and tired of that (smiles). Of course, I do think that there are songs like that which sound very catchy too though. As I listen, even if it’s just noisy and jam-packed with hard-to-hear elements (smiles) I’d compose an additional something that doesn’t have a melody, then I’d wonder whether I’m being complacent.
If I do it alone, I can’t really see anything new nor anything interesting
ーー That said for example, wouldn’t that make Sakurai-san’s involvement as the vocalist this time around a big part of things?
I: Ah, that’s right. I do think Acchan’s presence was rather significant.
ーー He was writing lyrics and providing vocals as Schwein’s Atsushi Sakurai this time around, but how does Imai-san feel about this from your perspective?
I: (Lol) Well, this part, you know (← points between eyebrows).
I: ……… It doesn’t really…… furrow (smiles).
I: I guess that’s the big difference. Hyahyahya (lol).
ーー BUCK-TICK’s Atsushi Sakurai frowns?
I: Comparatively so (smiles), it happens a lot.
ーー That’s the opposite of what Imai-san said earlier. He probably thinks so hard that he frowns (smiles) because when it comes to BUCK-TICK, he holds a strong world view of his own. On the other hand, Schwein is a completely unknown creature where whatever he sings will be produced, so that probably gives him a lot of freedom.
I: …… Mm. There’s that as well…… Though there are weird parts in it that tire you out too.
ーー Parts that tire you out? In Schwein?
I: Yeah. Evenly spread on the whole.
ーー (Smiles) Evenly spread?
I: Yeah. As I said earlier, it’s because I don’t really know what finishing dictates that such a song is ‘finished’. So, let’s say with the guitar, if I have an idea, I’d just keep going………… That’s why I’m always thinking. I don’t brood over it but I’d end up thinking about how the sound should be, and if I get input from the others, I’d be like, “Ahー If that’s how he’s approaching it, then……”. I’ve no time to rest (smiles).
ーー Let’s say, comparing a situation where such a tension* exists with a situation where there’s space for you to feel some sort of peace of mind, which do you find more attractive?
I: More of………… Weーll, it all depends though. Say, if I have a place where I can, to a certain extent, feel comfortable in, and another where I can, for example, produce music within that tension*, I think I’ll end up finding a balance between the two…… But that’s not a motive, you know. I do feel that “I do it because I want to”, so…… It really is just that simple an emotion.
ーー So what kind of person is Raymond Watts, the partner to your doing things because you want to?
I: ………… Hmm…… Raymond has that kind of aura so I guess he’s that kind of human being……
ーー …… I don’t quite understand (smiles).
I: No, well, I don’t really have that…… I’ve only got an impression of him but………… He meddles from the side (smiles).
ーー …… Meddles from the side?
I: Ah, he’s an electronics kind of human being. Same as Sascha.
ーー Elec…tronics? (smiles)
I: Because he loves machinery (smiles).
ーー Well…… Like, if you’re playing a game you like but you’ve got no one to play with, you wouldn’t mind playing against the computer either, right?
I: Yeah, yes.
ーー I do think that it feels like this is a gathering of such people.
I: That’s true…… Mm. We exist in the same cluster, so the desire of “I want to do something like this more” comes out.
I: Because all 4 of us are capable of doing it on our own. But if that’s what we did, then the appeal fades away. So, this is indeed the case with games too, right? If I play alone, I’d wonder, “Where’s the fun?”. When we stand on the same stage, we become a cluster; the desire emerges and it becomes power. For example, with music, it’s not impossible to do it alone, but if you do, you can naturally do anything you want and you’ll [eventually] reach the flattest part of that. [When that happens] you won’t be able to come up with aーnything greater than yourself, right? …… I guess it’s like, it’s too ‘you’…… Well, I wouldn’t hate that but neither would I feel excitement too. That’s that I seek in music after all. If I were to, for example, go solo…… Well, I wouldn’t do it because it’s troublesome (smiles) but I suppose I won’t do everything alone. I’d probably go to a number of different people and tell them, “So, do whatever you want with this for me”. I feel more attracted to that. More than doing eーverything on my own.
ーー What’s the reason for that?
I: Hm…… I’m not conscious of it at all though. However, I just want to do new things after all. If I do it alone, I can’t really see anything new nor anything interesting. …… So this time, I don’t know what we’d end up with, I can’t see it. I guess you can say that this is a strength. This work is one where I can’t get a clear view of what kind of music we can make nor what kind of album it’ll turn out to be.
ーー I suppose that’s why you wanted to see properly. You didn’t know what will come out of this process.
ーー I guess you wanted to put yourself in that place for a bit.
ーー And that’s why [you’re doing this] not because it’ll give you feedback for BUCK-TICK or that it’ll bring your career to the next level, but because it fired up the excited heart of your inner child, right?
I: It’s that simple. You see, I often get asked about it. But I don’t really think much about those kinds of things, and [it’s not like] I’m adopting a spectator’s perspective to once again consider how BUCK-TICK is now good at this particular area and so on…… Riight? Like, do I have to go in such a roundabout way to understand that? (Smiles).
I: Like, we’re not that insignificant. You see, it’s simple, to me (smiles). Because I’m the type of person who would naturally let myself be (smiles).
* The ‘tension’ in these refers to the ‘nervousness’ that was mentioned earlier on.
Scans: spanielonthemoon on Tumblr