No one could stop them after all
Ongaku to Hito
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.
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.
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).
F: Then he exploded at Shibuya Public Hall (lol).
ーー So that was completely unexpected.
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?
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).
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.
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.
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……」
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……
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……
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……
* 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.
Scans: Spanielonthemoon on tumblr