No one could stop them after all

Ongaku to Hito
December 1994

Interview by: Ichikawa Tetsushi
Photography by: Adachi Akiko

 

 

I watched the second day of SCHAFT’s live shows at Shibuya Public Hall on September 27th. The 4-member band, with PIG’s Raymond Watts on vocals and THE MAD CAPSULE MARKETS’ MOTOKATSU on drums, is a different SCHAFT from the one from the “corollary” album ‘SWITCHBLADE’. In terms of the nature of their sound, it was, of course, electronic music that made full use of the technology they had at hand, but the sheer incoherence of this “noise emitting beast” from the four of them makes me think that this is precisely what rock is. Their level of perfection here is far higher than that of B-T’s or SOFT BALLET’s, but this bohemianism was filled with the joy of these musicians who have been freed from the fate of major bands of having to be run as businesses. 

Honestly speaking, this is probably a complete hell for the visitors who gathered with the intention to see “B-T’s Imai” or “SOFT BALLET’s Fujii”. The sight of some of the audience being bewildered and dumbfounded was amusing, but the shameless showing of SCHAFT’s “masturbation”, their unadulterated impulses, is promising after all. As artists, when it’s time to have fun, they’ll have to go all out and have fun. Furthermore, the remarkable coolness of MOTOKATSU’s ultrasharp drumming, Raymond being pushed into the audience (←appearing to look like a dive), and Imai’s happy face during the October 1st live at Osaka W’OHOL, simply adds to it. Even during this interview, which was held on the day following their Shibuya live, they seemed to overflow with joy.

 

 

Fujii「Rather than performing a live, it’s more like we’re creating a new remix」

 

ーー I got to watch SCHAFT’s live at Shibuya Public Hall yesterday…

Fujii (F): I think our sound was about 80% complete by yesterday.

ーー I think that SCHAFT evidently exists as two different bands between your CD and live versions, but I do wonder what kind of concept live SCHAFT has.

F: That’s just how it turned out when we got down to it.

ーー (Wry smile) You’re saying there was no plan.

F: We planned (lol). We did discuss about the order we’d play the songs.

ーー Well, that’s of course, isn’t it.

Imai (I): Hya hya hya hya hya.

F: When we were touring as LSB…… We spoke about things on the road…… But that said, I have the feeling that it only happened once.

ーー What about Fujii-kun’s hopes with regards to a live?

F: Ahh, well, I do have some for the stage and the lighting though.

ーー And aside from that?

F: Aside from that, I’ll just manage it somehow as we’re performing anyway so (lol).

ーー …… Aren’t you basically betting on big changes?    Since you’ve got MOTOKATSU drumming for you during your live, and there’s the presence of the audience as well.

I: It’s good that it’s much more intense than the CD, and, well, I guess it just turned out that way.

F: The arrangement is quite…… different from the CD’s, isn’t it.

ーー Of course, of course. That’s only natural since the arrangement is made based on an assumed live performance, right?

F: No, instead of the assumption of a live, it’s more like creating a cool, new remix.

ーー So it’s the same approach and concept as that of making a remix album.

F: Yeah.

ーー After careful considerations I could guess that this turned into an explosive live only after the deskwork, or the recording, but you guys didn’t really think anything, huh.

F: Yeah. But the fact that Raymond does that kind of staging, we didn’t think of that either, did we? Imai-kun and I, both of us, we watched PIG’s live in London, and as far as that was concerned, it gave me the impression that “This person is rather ‘Gou Hiromi*’.”.

ーー What do you mean by Gou Hiromi?

F: Well I’ve never seen Gou Hiromi so I don’t know.

I: Hahahahaha.

ーー Then don’t make that comparison.

F: No, but somehow, I just got that impression (lol).

I: At that time he felt like some dandy……

F: But he was shaking hands with the audience. While he was singing.

ーー I can’t imagine that from the fiercely explosive man I saw last night.

F: After watching PIG, I turned to Imai-kun…… and said “This is worrying for our live, isn’t it” (lol).

I: Hahahaha.

F: Then he exploded at Shibuya Public Hall (lol).

ーー So that was completely unexpected.

F: Yeah.

ーー How was MOTOKATSU’s drumming? CRA¥** testified that he was terribly anxious until the days before rehearsals started.

F: Now he’s even said “I want to play another 10 more tour dates”.

ーー He has a reckless sort of cool, I suppose.

I: I guess he was recklessly cool.

F: Ain’t that great. He even said, “I’ll become a child of SCHAFT”. I guess the trigger was that we’re playing SCHAFT’s sound instead of THE MAD CAPSULE MARKETS’ sound after all.

ーー But he was ultrasharp and attacked fiercely, furthermore, that machine-like accuracy with his beats, no one aside from MOTOKATSU can pull that off after all.

F: Yeah, he’s like a bass drum demon, ain’t he?

ーー (Lol) And how was the execution of this time’s live in terms of the remix versions?

F: Hm… If you compare it with ‘SWITCHBLADE’, they’re remixes but…… I think that it’s actually close to the original version that we envisioned when we started making it. So it’s kind of like, this might be how it turns out if we remixed that album ourselves.

ーー So you’re saying that by going through the different stages, be it the remix album or the lives, you returned to the original concept of SCHAFT.

F: I suppose.

ーー This strange flow of events is interesting.

F: It may look like our direction changes out of nowhere from an observer’s perspective, but I suppose that’s alright.

ーー No one’s blaming you, y’know~ (lol). But, like this, SCHAFT will be frozen, right, in other words?

F: But we’re releasing the live VHS too.

ーー A live album with just the sound source would be good too, wouldn’t it?    Based on SCHAFT’s nature.

F: We’ll release the live VHS in December, then the live album in February, followed by it’s remix album in May, and the 2nd album in November, how about that?

ーー A delusion, another delusion, and yet another delusion. What’s going to happen to your original bands, B-T and SOFT BALLET, if you do that?

Both: ………

F: After ‘SWITCHBLADE’ comes ‘SWITCH’, right? Then after that, it’s ‘BLADE’, followed by ‘SWITCHBLADE RETURNS’ (lol). And lastly, it’ll end with ‘The Last SWITCHBLADE (最後のSWITCHBLADE / Saigo no SWITCHBLADE)’. But then ‘SWITCHBLADE Returns (帰って来た SWITCHBLADE / Kaette Kita SWITCHBLADE)’ shows up (lol).

ーー But by the time that happens, it becomes troublesome for everyone, so it’ll simply turn into ‘7’ or ‘8’ (lol).

Both: Hahahahahaha.

ーー Anyway, back to our previous topic… In other words, you’re saying that there’s a gap between ‘SWITCHBLADE’ and the original form of SCHAFT that you had in mind.

F: …… I suppose that’s depending on the song.

I: …… There are songs like that too.

F: Because there are times when we entrust the remix to someone else and that births something that’s different from what we intended.

ーー So that means that ‘SWITCH’, which was remixed by Fujii-kun, is far more correct, and actually, I, too, prefer ‘SWITCH’ over the album (lol).

F: You’ll definitely like ‘BLADE’ much more then (lol).

I: Even though we really don’t know if the live VHS will be named ‘BLADE’ (lol).

ーー But this round of SCHAFT’s activities seem to have become a catalyst that made your absurd ambitions swell even more, didn’t it. Substantially.

Both: ……(Lol)

ーー Heeeey.

F: I asked Imai-kun before about this, but there’s another band called SCHAFT, spelt differently, in the UK.

I: Furthermore, they’re do enter the charts once in awhile. But now there’s not a trace of them left……

F: That’s why we thought of wanting to achieve higher rankings than them in the British charts.

ーー But you’ll have to change your name to “SCHAFT JAPAN” (lol).

F: We’ll go with “SCHAFT帝国 (SCHAFT Teikoku / SCHAFT Empire)” (lol).

I: Hya hya hya hya. But…… I’d like to do this…… next year too…… (lol).

 

Imai「Even if I played something and think that “that’s a cool tune”, it can’t be heard under all of SCHAFT’s noises at all (lol)」

 

ーー I really do wonder what on earth is this appeal of SCHAFT that makes those involved in it so excited about it.

I: …… It’s fresh…… and it’s fun, isn’t it.

ーー That’s all I can see.

I: (Lol) Yes, that’s right.

ーーSo what’s the freshest part of it? That it doesn’t exist in the form of a band, or that you don’t have to stick within the lines of your original bands to do this, or something else.

I: Well, there’s that too…… and because it’s also cool.

ーー (Lol) This isn’t an elementary school student’s reflection essay, y’know. What do you think of Fujii-kun as a creative partner?

I: …… He’s reliable, very much so. Be it for sound production or for the stage, his ideas just keep coming too.

ーー For example, when it comes to the guitar parts, it’s not like B-T’s where there’s a distinct “introduction, development, turn, and conclusion” or a clear presence the song’s melody, so isn’t it only natural that the perception is different?

I: There aren’t that many variations in sound but……Sounds are sounds, so even if I played something on my guitar and think, “Ah, that’s a cool tune”, it can’t be heard under all of SCHAFT’s noises at all anyway (lol).

ーー That’s true.

I: That’s why it was a little tough on that end.

ーー In other words, there aren’t any band-specific highlights, and any preparation for solo parts will be absolutely unthinkable too.

I: Yeah…… That’s why the feeling I get on stage is different too, and that was fun.

ーー What about Fujii-kun?

F: Wh-what? Uhm…… What bothered me was standing around in weird positions, like the middle of the stage and such (lol). So on the contrary…… I kind of got the feeling that we’re a band (lol).

ーー As I watched, what came to mind was that Imai’s enjoyment came from the standpoint of being separated from a band, but Fujii-kun’s excitement, on the other hand, was like that of a first experience in a band… It illustrates the difference in character between both of your original bands and that was amusing.

F: Well it was band-like (lol).

ーー What is this band-likeness that Fujii-kun is referring to?

F: Something like that.

ーー Wahahahahahaha.

F: How do I say this…… Strangely enough, my colours haven’t been determined, have they? When I’m with SOFT BALLET, aren’t I a motionless, angry person? It’s because I don’t have to be conscious of that, and I can move my body even as I’m playing the keyboard too.

ーー It might be the first stage persona that appeared in Fujii Maki right.

F: Ah, that might be so.

ーー And yet, on the side, this one (←talking about Imai) is doing weird things.

I: This one (lol).

F: Hahahahaha. Weell… Just as I thought “I suppose I should go to the front”, and I’m heading to the front of the stage,  Imai-kun gets there ahead of me. “Ahhhh, oh crap, right then, I’ll go in front at the start of the next phrase”, and then Imai-kun steps out, “Oh no no no no, craaap” (lol). It couldn’t be helped so I stood in the centre and played, then Raymond comes from the side, staggering and collapsing towards me, and I thought “Uwawawaa, this is baaad” (lol).

ーー It’s like the nail that  doesn’t fit in getting hammered down.

F: Yeah (lol). But I thought they were all so cool. Like I wanted to try spinning round and round once too (lol).

 

Imai「When Raymond loses it a little……」
Fuji「Fufufufufu」

ーー Aren’t there any designated roles in SCHAFT?

F: That’s not the case, I suppose it’s because its the kind of sound that allows you to be free?

ーー You saying something like that makes me want to ask you, “So does that mean that you can’t be free if its SOFT BALLET?” (lol).

F: No, that’s not the case but, well, there’re a few things……

ーー Kukukukuku.

F: I always say that I don’t like doing lives but, it’s fun, you know?

ーー In other words, it’s the freedom of gigging, or maybe it’s your first experience of the impulsiveness of live performances that happens during a band’s early stages??

F: ……Hmm, that might be it. So…… The first time an amateur band gets on up stage…… This feeling is probably similar to that.

ーー But I think that people who have never tasted those sensations by now would’ve found it weird though.

F: Hmm, perhaps I might’ve experienced it before, feeling that…… peculiar sense of unity (lol).

ーー Come to think of it, this is also Imai’s first time performing lives that aren’t B-T’s, right?

I: …… Well, it’s the same in B-T but it’s that feeling of wanting to go closer to the other 3 people (lol) while playing my guitar. But when Raymond loses it a little……

F: Fufufufufu.

I: You wouldn’t think that he’s like that as a person, but he’d immediately stagger and collapse onto you so (lol).

F: I heard about this from ISHIG∀KI-kun*** but while us two were performing the 5 songs for the first half, Raymond was guzzling down Vodka in the back. So, I think he was probably dead drunk by the time he came up on stage.

ーー This means that his actions on stage are nothing more than a product of intoxication (lol).

F: During rehearsals, he sat on my keyboard and fell over too.

ーー (Lol) So lastly, let me, once again, ask for a concrete answer to what SCHAFT’s ambitions are.

F: We want to keep going until we at least reach ‘SWITCHBLADE Returns’ (lol).

ーー In last month’s issue, you also said that you “want to release at least 2 or 3 different remixes”, so does that mean that you have even more approaches for remixes?

F: But I’m already quite satisfied with what we’ve got. We’re rather satisfied with the arrangement for this time’s live, aren’t we? And there are of course good mixes in ‘SWITCHBLADE’ as well, and ‘SWITCH’ was done nicely too, and there are also songs whose live arrangements are the best.

ーー Well, I suppose a best-of album then. A combination of all three.

F: A best-of album, that’s a good idea.

I: A best of already (lol).

F: Making a best of album is one other way, isn’t it.

ーー (Lol) What formidable efficiency.

I: I want to…… do an overseas…… release. We’ll be able to do that, for sure.

ーー So what are your plans after SCHAFT?

I: Once it ends, it’s B-T. When I woke up yesterday, I thought, “What the hell, it ends today” and I felt depressed… I completely forgot about the Osaka live that was to come after that (lol).

ーー (Lol) What if you could continue with SCHAFT for another 2 months?

I: I’ll do it!

F: A nation-wide tour, right…… But SOFT BALLET has to start in November so……

 

 

 

 

Notes:

* Gou Hiromi (郷ひろみ) is a singer who originally started out under Johnny’s. He does some acting too. Official site

** CRA¥, also known as Ueda Takeshi. Bassist of THE MAD CAPSULE MARKETS.

*** ISHIG∀KI, guitarist for THE MAD CAPSULE MARKETS at the time.

 

 

 

Translation:Yoshiyuki
Scans: Spanielonthemoon on tumblr

 

 

JAPAN Tribute Extravaganza!!

Ongaku to Hito
October 1996

Interview & Photos ー Ichikawa Tetsushi

 

 

Fujii Maki + RYUICHI (LUNA SEA),
Ishida Shokichi (Scudelia Electro), kyo,
Morioka Ken + ISSAY(DER ZIBET)
SUGIZO (LUNA SEA),
Tsuchiya Masami and KEN

 

I don’t think it quite matters what kind of a band JAPAN was at this point――
Huh, is the producer allowed to say such an irresponsible thing?   This beautiful “bullied” British band is the epitome of the “righteousness” of individualism and escapism which they expressed, but even if they don’t entirely agree with that, there are many active Japanese musicians who follow the band and just about everyone has listened to their music. Such is their “large” presence. 

A “tribute album”, in the first place, is supposed to be a compilation of covers done by musicians paying homage to their great predecessors but what I aimed for was actually something else. This “closed” Japanese music scene where the boundaries between record companies and bands are too strong is so boring that I wanted to create a place where musicians could present their work more freely as they pleased, and this is what I really wanted to do through JAPAN.

And so, a number of unusual combinations like “RYUICHI + Fujii Maki”, and “KEN + Tamura Naomi”, and “ISSAY + Morioka Ken” were formed and fresh “by-products” like a first solo work, or a first involvement as vocals were brought to life one after another. That’s right, if everyone has fun working together, we’ll be able to realise interesting things, won’t we? There were a lot of “big names” who were, unfortunately, unable to participate due to scheduling conflicts, so with that in mind, we’ve done this big special feature called, “The Great Rock Game.” Read it, listen to it, buy it (smiles).

 

Album info:
LIFE IN TOKYO – a tribute to JAPAN
(Releasing 4 September 1996 / BMG Victor)

 

 

 

ISSAY + Morioka Ken
The “Older Brother” and “Younger Brother”

 

―― Alright then, the first performance by the “Sworn Brothers of Decadence Tag Team” in 12 years――

Morioka (M): ISSAY-san changed, hasn’t he? He’s turned somewhat more masculine, it’s a nice touch. Lately, I’ve just been struggling and crying every night.

ISSAY (I): You just have to laugh that sort of thing off, you know? If you can’t laugh at your own unmanly self――  That’s how I protect myself in that area. Don’t you know? I’m a sissy man! (Wry smile)

M: Ohh, there it is (smiles).

I: And after that, it’s all about how you turn it into an art form (smiles).

―― You guys, you’ve got a weird relationship.

I: We’re bosom friends ♡.

―― …… Now that I think of it, this is the first official interview for Moriken¹ after Soft Ballet’s disbandment, isn’t it? I’m sorry this is the project that the interview is for.

M: No, don’t be (smiles). Anyway, I thought of wanting to say something classy like, “My goal is to win a Grammy,” or something like that.

I: Where’s the class in that statement (smiles).

M: … Sorry.

―― Don’t you apologise either (smiles). What were the two of you like back then?

M: Back when I first met him, I thought ISSAY-san was scary.

I: I was always freaking out, wasn’t I?

M: But I’ve recently come to understand that state of mind very well.

―― Oh, come on. How old were you?

I: Probably 16? It was around the time when you just went from being a freshman in high school to a sophomore, right? I’m 5 years older than you so I guess I was about 21.

M: But I had so much fun when I performed with ISSAY-san’s band, and in some part that was an eye-opener for me too.

―― What did it open your eyes to?

M: After that, I started writing music, so I’m really grateful for it.

I: I was just making up music a lot as I went along (smiles).

M: You were really helpful to me.

I: Ah, I’m glad~, I’m happy that I’m alive~ (smiles).

―― What kind of teenager were you back then?

M: I was studying at the piano department of the College of Music², but I was a gloomy teenager who loved JAPAN and Kraftwerk.

―― Introverted.

M: That’s right. So, I became extroverted in Soft Ballet, well, as a way to put myself out there in the world―― I became an outgoing man at our live shows.

―― You say “outgoing”, but I feel like you’re just a guy dancing weird (smiles).

M: (Smiles) I only became like this because while we were performing at live houses, my body remembered this as the way to capture the audience, that’s all.

―― So it’s just a means to an end.

M: Pretty much…… But, besides, letting myself go like that, isn’t it a sort of release too? Ah, will it turn into something negative for Soft Ballet if I say such things…… It’s okay, right?

―― You’re overly concerned (smiles).

I: He indeed was an introverted teenager, though. But I thought he was a kid with an amazing aesthetic sense.

―― By the way, what sort of music did you make in that band?

I: A mix of punk and glam and electro-pop done badly (bursts out laughing).

M: Uh, but when I heard it for the first time―― Well, I’m always conceited (lol), so I thought, “Ah, if I work hard, I’d be able to play all sorts [of music] too,” and then I kept working hard at home making tapes and so on.

―― You were a pure and earnest teenager.

I: He was very earnest. When I told him we were going to perform live, you know, he suddenly showed up with bright red hair. I was like, “Hey, wait a minute, is your high school okay with that?” (smiles). That was the moment when I first realised that this guy was actually very extreme (smiles).

―― (Smiles) So, an introverted kid who does crazy things once he makes his mind up about it, or a bullied kid swinging both his arms in tears as a self-destructive final attack.

M: Yes, yes, exactly!

I: Hahahahaha!

M: I think fans of rock music are basically like that, or me, at least (smiles). You know, I was super popular [in school] in the beginning (wry smile). I was often top of the class be it in grades or piano, but people eventually got tired of me and I ended up getting bullied. They started to make fun of me. And that’s despite the fact that it was all girls in school. It was like this in junior high too…… I was bullied. If I coiffed my hair neatly, they’d keep tousling it up and all that (wry smile). Even though I’d say, “Stop it―!”

―― And that’s when listening to JAPAN’s Quiet Life³ saved you.

M: Yeah, that it did.

―― Well, then how did this time’s tag team come about?

I: When I heard about [this project] I immediately said, “I want to play with Ken-chan.”

M: Waa♡!

―― And the song you did was my choice; Fall In Love With Me. The ultimate song of self-pity! Perfect for you two!

I: I was set up (smiles).

M: When I read the lyrics, I found myself muttering, “Whaat?” I was wondering whether this song was selected because of its lyrics (bursts out laughing dryly).

―― The song itself was well-received. It was being praised with phrases like, “the 80s strikes back,” and “electro-goth,” and so on.

I: Yaay (smiles).

M: Hahahahaha. Me, I’m afraid of what I’ve created so I haven’t actually listened to it, though.

―― ……

M: I, well, after [Soft Ballet’s] disbandment, I’ve been at home with my child, and children start gaining a sort of awareness when they’re around 3, right? And what I’ve recently come to feel strongly, well, it’s a no-brainer, but when I realised, “be it animals or humans, we’re all connected,” I started to feel like something in me started to die at the same time―― Ah, sorry (wry smile).

I: (Smiles) It’s okay, it’s fine.

M: The sense that…… I have to get it out as soon as possible, it’s really very important. For example, if the sense of seeing a glass of beer as a mere “glass of beer” turns into the sense of seeing it as “a glass of liquid made from wheat”, your one-sided sensibility will die off. And that gives me a tremendous amount of fear.

―― With getting married and having children, the pressure of cultivating that primal instinctive bond and keeping up familial responsibilities is an attack on the “individual”. Perhaps it’s an unfathomable fear of that.

M: Ahh, perhaps that’s it.

I: Maybe that’s what it means.

―― If that’s the case, then the only thing left to do is to flee! The great escapism!!!!

I: For me, that’s how it’s always been.

―― The trinity of escapism, victimhood, and an impulse to express oneself, isn’t it?

M: Hahaha. Ahー I see.

―― It’s as if you’ve realised that you’re looking at a child and thinking, “How cute,” and immediately you start mourning, “Oh, shit! I’m turning into a regular person~~!” (wry smile). Then, you’d thrust yourself into a state of impatience and grind with the compulsion that “I have to perform to death!” in what little time you have left.

M: Yes, that’s exactly it. It was like this for me before I produced by solo work (← Questions) when I was still in Soft Ballet. I suppose it’s because I was just playing [with music] at home all the time when I suddenly thought, “Ahh, something’s dying. Ahh, this is bad. Ahh, I have to do something,” and plunged myself into writing all sorts of phrases. Before I knew it, I’ve written about 50 pages. Then, I thought, “Ah, that’s right. I have to go on my journey of enlightenment. I have to save the world and humanity through music.” So submitted those to the record company and said, “This is the kind of music I want to do for my solo.”

―― Wow (smiles). The director who read that must’ve been miserable too. Such an intense and powerful desire to run away.

M: Hahahahaha!

―― You do love JAPAN after all.

Both: Hahhahhahhahhahhah!

M: But it’s definitely still there. So I guess it’s because I don’t understand it myself, but I do think that it’s probably healthy to continue doing this until I eventually figure it out.

―― I definitely agree. Don’t worry about this or that; if you’ve got a growing desire to escape from things, then don’t hesitate and just go!   That’s all you can do!

I: I don’t call that “escapism”, I call it “a battle”.

M: Yeah, that’s a battle, isn’t it?

―― ISSAY is excellent. Because he’s been living his whoーle life with the singular notion of, “I want to run away.” (smiles).

M: Excellent (wry smile). But for me, when he let me listen to Kirigirisu⁴, I read the lyrics and thought, “Isn’t this kind of irresponsible?” (smiles).

I: (Smiles) But that’s because I’m a grasshopper⁵.

M: I did find myself thinking, “ISSAY-kun, what do I do to feel better!⁶” (lol).

 

 

 

 

Notes:

¹ Morioka Ken’s nickname.

² To be exact, it was the Toho College of Music-affiliated Toho Senior High School’s Piano Major program.

³ The third studio album by English new wave band Japan released on 20 December 1979.

⁴ Released on 23 March 1996, Kirigirisu (meaning grasshopper) is Der Zibet’s 12th studio album.

⁵ This is in reference to Aesop’s Fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper where the ant is supposed to represent a hardworking individual or someone who plans for the future versus the grasshopper which represents a lazy idler, or someone who doesn’t plan for the future. To note, ISSAY has described himself elsewhere as someone who doesn’t plan for the future lol. 

⁶ I’m actually kind of confused about this line since it only mentions ISSAY and has no other punctuation to help with distinguishing what the subject/direction is.
So here’s the original text for your own interpretation: “ISSAY君元気になってどうしてくれるのよ!”

 

 

 

Translation: Yoshiyuki