An Intense Hunger For Life
Pati-Pati Rock ‘n’ Roll
photography Hitoshi Iwakiri (岩切等)
hair & makeup Takayuki Tanizaki (谷崎隆幸)
styling Tomoharu Yagi (八木智晴)
It’s been 2 years since their last album, darker than darkness.
Following the release of their 2 singles, Uta and Kodou, BUCK-TICK’s new album,
Six/Niɴe will arrive on May 15.
That special withdrawn decadence which was brought to fruition in darker～
has been eclipsed by the intense hunger for life portrayed in this album.
But what does it all mean?
From demise to rebirth…… The key to this are the north and south poles of a magnet or in other words,
hidden in the album title which implies the concept of opposites.
In this issue, we’ll close in on them with a double feature of personal interviews with the members of the band
and the direct confrontation between Onojima and Imai over the single Uta!!
- Atsushi Sakurai
- Hisashi Imai
- Hidehiko Hoshino
- Yutaka Higuchi
- Toll Yagami
- Direct Dialogue — Hisashi Imai vs Dai Onojima
Interview by: Onojima Dai
This interview was held right after the conversation with Imai that comes later.
Here, there are quite a lot of differences in the nuances of what they say. And this is the first time that Sakurai so blatantly shared his opinions about his fellow band members. Although it is of course that these opinions are, ultimately, based on the fact that the members have a close relationship with each other, like family.
I do sense the mismatch between the singing and the music, and I get what you mean by that.
But the main reason behind this is really because that guy was too tardy with the songwriting.
―― What did you have in mind when you were in the process of producing this album?
Sakurai (S): It was definitely…… to stop using words that I didn’t know. Even with the applications of words and phrases, I decided that I’d stop using things I don’t know. It probably sounds weird, but I guess it feels as if doing that reveals my own stupidity to a certain extent, whether in the music or the lyrics. Things like vocabulary, it shows everyone your ability, like how you would with your musical instruments and your technique. So, it’s already become difficult for me to do that, things like trying to make myself seem like a bigger deal than I really am.
―― Why did you need to make yourself look like a big deal?
S: (Long silence) I don’t know. I don’t even know if I could make that last either.
―― Maybe you didn’t want to be looked down upon?
S: That might be the reason. But we can’t bluff, can we? Humans. Especially when it comes to this sort of…… Well, maybe that’s not true for everyone. …… Because, me, I’m no actor. Neither am I a poet, right? I’m just a member of a band, anyway.
―― Do you have some sort of complex around being a band member?
S: (Silence) No, no. I don’t.
―― For you, do you feel that you don’t want to fit into the role of the band’s vocalist or that you can’t?
S: Mmn…… (Long silence) …… I don’t know (lol). Do you think so?
―― Don’t ask me.
S: Hahahah. Well, even I don’t know myself.
―― Don’t you think that people in general all get the feeling that their present state of self isn’t their true self, or that “This isn’t who I am.”?
S: I think that might’ve gradually gone away. This might sound contradictory but I’m usually thinking, “Ah~ So this is the kind of person I am.”
―― How did you come to think like that?
S: It’s self-defense, isn’t it? It’s easier like this. To me, at least. It’s like, if I’m at ease, I can deal with anything that comes my way, I suppose.
―― Looking at the lyrics in this album, there are a lot of times when expressions like “I want proof of my life” seem to come up out of nowhere. Does this have some sort of relation to this change that youspoke of?
S: Yeah. Yeah…… But poetry, it’s nothing more than theatrics after all. If I didn’t feel that I had to write, then I wouldn’t. Ah, I might’ve written poetry but I don’t know about song lyrics.
―― Is poetry different from song lyrics?
S: I think it’s different. To me.
―― Is putting music to words itself something that feels unnatural to you?
S: There’s some part of turning my words into lyrics that feels quite unnatural. Because I have to write according to Imai’s or Hide’s music. Even for a phrase like “そうですか [I see] (so-u-de-su-ka)]”, if Imai gives me tan-tan-tan, three beats, it would turn into “そ・う・か [I see] (so-u-ka)”. I noticed that this time, because of that, I had to, as much as possible, do my best to not deviate. From what I’ve written and what I had in mind.
―― So, this album, I thought that the balance between the music and the singing was exceptionally off. That was particularly so in Uta. It’s as if the singing is losing out to the music, or they just don’t match up or something. Though, Imai-kun made it sound as if that was, to some extent, intentional.
S: I can’t, I’m not capable of production like that, of myself. That guy…… Calling him “that guy” sounds terrible. He’s capable of doing that kind of production, you see. I don’t think about those things or go that far. Although, I do sense that mismatch and I do get what you mean by that……
―― Hmmm…… I don’t know if I should say it……
S: Please say anything you want.
―― I got the feeling that there wasn’t enough communication between Sakurai-kun and Imai-kun prior to writing a song and all that, though…… Or am I wrong?
S: No, there was barely anything lacking. That more or less happened when we got to the later half of our work, but there wasn’t anything like that in beginning. Then, after it starts to take some shape, we’d decide that we like this, we don’t like this, things like that…… There’s no planning on the whole, yeah. There are positives to that but there are also things that just don’t work. I don’t think we ever said it was a good thing, though.
―― Even compared to before?
S: No, but we’ve never done that before either…… Because the songs that we wrote earlier on… Like Uta… I guess it’s just Uta. There’s nothing with that song. I didn’t want to say anything, and I was frustrated too…… Because, you see, both him and I, we hate giving in. We also hate making others bend over for us.
―― But weren’t you in perfect agreement for your previous albums and releases?
S: Were we?
―― (Lol) Well, that’s just what it sounded like to me based on what I heard. That both of your goals were aligned and the band came together to move towards the one same direction. Not that it’s in monotony, you know.
―― Though, I suppose it just so happened that the result was unanimous.
S: Yeah. I guess you can say that. Which is why this time, I really couldn’t…… grasp it. Because even after we’ve started recording, Imai hadn’t written the songs yet. Then it was a rush, recording the rhythm section, I didn’t even know anything about the other band members’ work too, yeah. It’s too late to blame anyone for anything, but I won’t blame anyone so I’ll just blame myself (lol).
―― I thought BUCK-TICK achieved a point of perfection with darker than darkness. Then, both Imai-kun and Sakurai-kun decided to change things this time around.
―― But even if you chose to change, won’t you end up looking at the disparate parts? That’s why you’d get the feeling it doesn’t come together as an album.
S: Do you feel that way?
―― Yes. Frankly speaking.
S: On the whole?
―― There are, of course, good songs but if we’re talking about the power of everything coming together to become one, as the album’s appeal as one work, I think it’s definitely your previous work that has it.
S: But, you know, the main reason for this is definitely because that guy was really too late.
―― But it’s not the first time, is it?
S: No, he really was too tardy this time (lol). We couldn’t really do much about it, you know, with the songs that came last.
―― You’ve got a schedule planned out this time around, though. With the film concert and all that, so I guess you were also in a situation where you absolutely had to stick to the predetermined release date.
S: It’s not great, is it? I especially hated that. But, you see, even though I didn’t say anything, my voice was crushed. We had no choice but to do it. Well, even if I said this, it wouldn’t have changed anything. Rather than having no release at all, we decided to bring it as close to 100％ and release it, though. I think that’s the kind of mismatch problem that Onojima -san sensed. Be it between the vocals and the instruments or between different instruments. Although, there’s really nothing that can be done even if I complain about it. But although there are parts that you can’t digest, I think it’s fine as long as people still feel that it’s good. Because I feel that it’s very much a case where if you think it’s good, it’s good.
―― Do you think that the misalignment that you felt with Uta has been solved by the second half of the album’s production?
S: Mm…… Rather than solved, we just stopped caring about it.
―― Gave up?
S: It’s not that we gave up…… We thought that it sounded convincing, that it’s good like this.
―― Didn’t you wonder why you had to persuade yourself into believing that it sounds convincing?
S: (Lol) Convincing myself…… I think it’s definitely because…… How do I put this…… It stinks but having formed such a band, I guess we’re just happy that we can do what we like, so it’s simply because of that…… Is this a boring answer?
―― No, not at all. Because it means that you’ve still got that fresh feeling.
S: No, rather than saying it’s still here, I think it’s more like I’ve been taking it for granted until now.
―― Oh? Did you have some sort of change of heart?
…… And that’s unfortunately where we’ll stop because we’ve run out of printing space. The latter half of this interview will be published in the next issue of this magazine. Look forward to it.
Interviewer: Oshibe Keiko
It might be contradictory to the work I do, but I’m fascinated by this breakthrough album that turns “genre” into a mere empty word, so much so that it makes me abandon the thought of critiquing or analysing it. That is usually a direct reflection of an artist’s views and instincts, and yet, although it’s convincing, it doesn’t tend towards logic. That is simply an abstrusity that comes from the fact that the album is not bound by the logic of genres. That said, this new album by BUCK-TICK might just be an abstrusity in itself. Even if we tried to make sense of it with logic, it is an album that immediately turns the pleasant feeling of sensual enjoyment into something profound. In that sense, we could probably say that this work is an album in which Imai was given the ability to tackle his instinctive urges as a composer in a more direct manner than usual.
If we’re talking about nerve-wracking, I guess it’s my bad for being tardy with the composing (lol).
I did have the intention of finishing things up early, but somehow…… I wonder what happened (lol).
―― Well, anyway. In terms of creative inspiration, what’s it like? This time around.
Imai (I): Nothing particularly new. I don’t think it’s any different than before.
―― I heard that you were still coming with new songs even after all the rhythm sections were recorded, though.
I: Because I just kept thinking that there was not enough, and just continued composing.
―― What’s “not enough”?
I: A bunch (lol). Same with the overall balance too. But what I was really worried about were the songs which came first. They were really just vague…… They had this feeling that they were somehow lacking one other thing. Because I wanted to do that. In the latter half, the songs, it was just…… we were late with those because of small details like drum patterns and bass riffs, guitar riffs, these things.
―― Were there any instances where the final product turned out to be a whole other song, or you had new techniques you wanted to try out, or anything like that?
I: In terms of techniques…… There were songs that were made with programming too, so that’s about it. There wasn’t really anything special in the way we did things. But also because it feels like somehow, we haven’t really found our way out of it.
―― Did you have some kind of vision for this album on the whole?
I: Mmm…… I can’t quite put it into words.
―― Say, for example, the title. Did you have a specific idea in mind?
I: The complete opposites of North and South…… The North and South poles. I had that sort of two-sides-of-the-same-coin idea. I kept thinking about that for some reason. Then I figured that indicating it with 6 and 9 might be the easiest way to get the message across.
―― As something which symbolises the aspect of opposites coexisting.
I: That’s right. Not that it’s a good or a bad thing. Aside from that…… I’m not too sure.
―― So it doesn’t particularly hold any deeper meaning. It’s just a symbol for what you had in mind.
I: Yeah. It’s just because I had that North, South idea in the beginning.
―― I see. So earlier, we talked about your vision for this album, but what about for the previous album? Personally, it gives me the sense of being run through. In terms of imagery, it’s like a futuristic yet decadent landscape at the end of the road.
I: In a way…… I suppose I wanted to do songs that are more stripped down, noisier, those types.
―― I think that gives this album a sense of speed that isn’t just about being fast and also a kind of exceptionally weighty feeling, but did you deliberately intend to enhance those elements for this album?
I: Those aspects of weight and speed naturally occurred without any deliberate effort this time around. So for that…… It was just a matter of letting it grow.
―― I wondered if perhaps those elements were increased as a result of taking that image which inspired you and transferring it into the music at a higher level of concentration.
―― Like, maybe you had less doubt than before when you’re putting the song together. For example, the kind of hesitancy where the idea comes to you and then you think, “Maybe it’s better not to do this.”
I: Ahh. Well, that it’s good to speed things up and just do it once I get an idea was…… something I only realised in the later half of my composition work (lol). Because before, I’ve only always been…… aware of it.
―― That said, I felt that this album turned out to be rather frank, though.
I: Well, that’s the idea (lol). But I know that it definitely feels best when the groove really comes out strong like that. It’s just that I ended up taking a whole day to think about how the intro should go, about the rhythm patterns, and things like that. And it was hard to expand from there.
―― When did you start composing for this album?
I: Around December…… I think it was around then. Probably.
―― So at what point did things start to stagnate after you started composing?
I: The first song was done quickly. Then I redid the second song about 4 times at home. That’s why I have quite a number of different tunes that no one has ever heard before, though. …… At that point…… was when I ran quite far behind.
―― No one’s ever heard them before…… What kind of music is it? Those you’ve rejected on your own.
I: No, well. It’s just kind of music that we’ve never ever done before. I thought it might feel a bit wrong if we were to go with those.
―― That it’s not quite the type for BUCK-TICK to play?
I: Nah. It’s the songs themselves.
―― Ahh. …… So, there were quite a number of songs, weren’t there?
I: There were. That’s why I think we might’ve been able to wrap things up a little earlier if we just did the songs in the order that they came to me, though.
―― You mean, like the song you’re most interested in or whichever song you’re having the most trouble with at the moment?
I: The song that I was troubling with on my own was Kodou. Because its a song that’s easy to misunderstand. Depending on the way it’s captured
―― Specifically speaking?
I: It can be poppy and melodious and cute and pretty and all that. For BUCK-TICK to do that…… I was worried about whether the band could pull it off or not. …… But I figured that if I leave it up to Acchan, he’d get it. That’s why I handed the song over as it was.
―― Ah, so it’s not from the perspective of the listener. But rather, the song could end up with a completely different impression depending on your band members’ interpretations. So, do you think that it turned out well in the end?
I: Yeah. I think so.
―― By the way, earlier, Yagami-san said that the recording atmosphere had improved a lot compared to what it was before. Does Imai-san personally also think that such a…… change has happened?
I: Because it felt like a chore during our first album, second, and until our third album. The recording. We had no time, we had to do one song a day, we’d go into the studio and when everyone’s there, we’d start. It was…… a chore (lol).
―― (Lol) So, were you simply able to enjoy the recording work itself this time around?
I: …… Although, there were times when it felt like something wasn’t quite right (lol). But I think we were able to go through with it very very well this time around.
―― It’s just that in reality, I assume it’d often be nerve-wracking.
I: If we’re talking about nerve-wracking…… I guess it’s my bad for being tardy with the composing (lol) and that was really what made it nerve-wracking. Although, it wasn’t all that stressful once we got to the recording stage.
―― But because it was so nerve-wracking, wouldn’t you think, “I am definitely going to make sure that I’ll finish this up early next time” (lol).
I: If I did things with that intention…… If I did that, we’d probably end up in a position where we’d be saying there’s no way we can be any more polished than we’d ever been (lol). But really, I did have the intention to do that, you know? It’s just that somehow…… I wonder what happened (lol).
―― (Lol) Soー. How much time do you think is enough time to compose an album’s worth of songs?
I: ………… Until I’m done.
―― Until you’re done. That sounds like you’re going to take forever, though.
I: Nah. …… Nothing like that (lol).
Interview by: Sasaki Mika
There’s always an air of calm around Hide, reminiscent of his beautiful melodies. In this album, he has recorded 4 songs and he appears to have become more aware of his position. Is it almost time for the taciturn backseat rider’s counter attack!?
I thought it’d be great if every song would have its own strong character
and we’d be able to play around with the sound to turn it all into one album.
―― Did you expect this album to end up this lengthy?
Hoshino (H): Nope, I didn’t think that there would be so many songs. Because I thought the most we would have would be 12 or 13.
―― I wonder why it turned out like this.
H: Imai-kun is why (lol).
―― How did you feel before you started composing?
H: Personally, I didn’t feel all that…… How do I say this. I felt that I couldn’t see the entirety of it at all and that I’d just write the songs I wanted to write. We compiled it later anyway.
―― Without any discussion to say, like, let’s do something like this?
H: Yeah, we didn’t do that. Then again, in the end, even if I did discuss things with Imai-kun, the differences in our sensibilities and things like that will definitely come to the fore, so you could say that it’s absolutely impossible for any one of us to be the same as the other. Such conversations didn’t happen precisely because we did our own thing. We previously did have discussions about what kind of album we wanted to make on the whole, but this time was special; we didn’t have that.
―― So, what did Hide-kun personally hope for it to be like?
H: I imagined that every song would have its own strong character and we’d be able to play around with the sound to turn it all into one album.
―― Was this 2 year gap between your previous album and the current one planned?
H: Mmm…… I wonder. I wonder if it is (lol).
―― (Lol) What did you do last year?
H: Relaxed so much that I got tired of it.
―― You’re tired of it?
H: Tired of it (lol).
―― Did you write anything during that period of time?
H: Nope, not at all. I started composing when we started talking about releasing the first single, which was around the end of last year, I think. Around November or December.
―― How many songs did you finish by then?
H: 2 songs. Uta’s b-side, Kimi e and one more. We dropped that one, and I originally composed Kimi e for the album but it didn’t feel quite right either so we used it as a b-side instead.
―― If Kimi e was included in the album, you’d have 5 songs in there, but this 5 was picked out of how many?
H: Around 8, I think. 3 were dropped.
―― But, by the time Hide-kun had already presented all your songs, Imai-kun’s songs had yet to be done, right?
H: Yeah. At all (lol).
―― In that situation, didn’t you think of adding more of your songs into the roster?
H: Nope, not really. (Lol) I did think of putting them in if we could, but in the end, if I wasn’t satisfied with the music as a demo tape, I wouldn’t release it anyway.
―― It appears that no matter what, it’s Imai-kun’s songs that determine the album’s direction.
H: Yeah, they do.
―― If that’s the case, then it feels like Hide-kun is always just sitting in the backseat along for the ride. Do you like being in that sort of a position?
H: Mmm…… Rather than saying I like it (lol), well, it’s the natural flow of things.
―― You can tune into what Imai-kun composes because you’d feel that it’s good enough for you too?
H: Ahh, that, I do.
―― Well then, please comment on Imai-kun’s music in this album.
H: There are a lot of cool songs. The songs in the latter half were made in a hurry but they’re really cool. Like love letter. I think this one was probably composed last.
―― But do I wonder why that person took so long.
H: Don’t you think that it’s simply because of the way he thinks? I guess he probably started late too, but it’s most likely because he works things out down to the details.
―― Does no one push him about it?
H: We do. We do, but it’s completely useless (lol).
―― What’s it like recording again after 2 years?
H: It was tiring. The hours were long this time, and there were a lot of songs too. The recording itself was very…… How should I put this? In the first half of our progress, I would go into the studio on my own and work alone and that was nice. Since there wasn’t anyone else around me, I could relax and take my time with it.
―― Do you like that kind of solitary work?
H: When it comes to recording, I prefer that. Because, after all, people sitting behind me in the studio will become a distraction. Especially when it comes to my own songs. It’s better for me to mess around however I want. Although this time, it took a long time to get to business after I was done with that.
―― Waiting around drains your motivation more (lol). That’s why it doesn’t feel like you made [this album] together.
H: Because there was a lot of solo work. Like doing things in different studios and all that.
―― Are you responsible for your own songs?
H: There is that, yes, but even Imai-kun’s songs are done by him going into a different studio to work on it on his own. We were being pressed for time so if we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have made it in time.
―― Without thinking about how the 2 guitars would play together and things like that?
H: That was done to some extent in the demos so we just listened to that and played accordingly. We did discuss it, though.
―― And this Rakuen was a different version than the b-side to Kodou.
H: We did think of putting the single version into the album, but I got a bit selfish and asked for a version that removed the drums and bass and all that and only featured the tabla, and that was what we put into the album. Part of the reason was because I just wanted to try using the tabla as an instrument.
―― When did you decide on the album title?
H: Just recently. Around the time we were done with tracking.
―― How do you interpret this title?
H: I guess you could say it’s interesting. Deep.
―― I was hoping you’d explain this “depth”.
H: I’m also not that…… (Lol) I wasn’t the one who came up with it so I don’t really know but…… I think it’s got something to do with symmetrical opposites, like the north and south pole.
―― Maybe 9 songs are the key to the album?
H: …… Could it be? (Lol)
―― I’m asking you! (Lol)
H: Hahhahhah. Maybe not?
―― There are people saying things like, “It’s the BUCK-TICK revival!”
H: (Lol) That’s not our intention. Well, it’s true that it’s been a long while though…… Hasn’t it?
―― And there are a lot of new bands who people are labelling as post-BUCK-TICK too.
H: Really? Well, I’m not familiar with that so I’ve got no idea.
―― Aren’t you worried that you might’ve lost fans to other bands?
H: No, not really. No such thing.
―― No interest in the Japanese music scene at all?
H: None at all. Because I don’t listen to them, nor do I read the magazines.
―― So you separate yourself from the trends of the general public to create your own world?
H: Yeah, that’s probably it. Don’t you think that’s better? Besides, I think it’s good for people to respectively make the music they want to make.
―― Then, what kind of reaction to the album are you hoping for from your listeners?
H: It’d be nice if they like it.
―― That’s itー?
H: Yeah. Hahhahhah. No, really.
―― Did you think about including the general public with your core fans when you release an album?
H: Sometimes I do, in the end…… While it’s true that if we made pop music…… I don’t know if you’d call it a boundary, but there are times when I get very concerned about it, though……
―― Are you no longer bothered now?
H: Rather than now, it’s like, turning down the noise distortion on the guitar alone would give it a completely different sound. I’m doing all the things that I think are good, so I don’t really think about such things.
―― So, it’s good enough for you if you win over the undecided by doing whatever you want to do?
H: Yeah, that’s right.
―― I suppose you can only think like that if you have the confidence that you’ve made something good, right.
H: Yeah. I especially feel that this time around.
Interview by: Sasaki Mika
We meet every month, but there’s no one who stays the same as much as Yuta. I think it’s a welcome addition to the band to have such a person as their bassist. Although, I would’ve liked it if he would write songs like before, if possible.
That Imai-san sure is a genius. That’s something I’ve reaffirmed when we started recording again after this break.
Because listening to the 1st and 14th songs, you wouldn’t have thought that both were from the same band, right? That’s why it’s fun.
―― What do you think of the final product?
Yuta (Y): There were so many songs that I wondered how it would turn out when we put it all together, but once we put the 1st song, the 15th and this one right in the middle (the 8th) between them when we were finishing things up, everything changed. Rather than the songs just playing one after another, they really brought about a clear image of the whole album.
―― Were these 3 songs an idea that came up at the end to bring some sort of completeness to the album?
Y: There weren’t really any songs that sounded similar or were of the same genre, so we thought they’d be good for that purpose. We’ve never made an album which started with speech either so I thought it could be interesting.
―― Is there anything in the way you produced this album that was different from what you’ve been doing thus far?
Y: Most of it stayed the same but because the songs were composed late, we were recording the rhythm parts until quite late in our schedule. At least, that’s the impression I have. But the way we did things was the same.
―― Was this the latest ever?
Y: Look, we haven’t even started recording the rhythm parts for other songs when we were already working on the tracking (lol).
―― Is that undesirable?
Y: It’s not that, but I was hoping that I’d have a little more time to rehearse my part.
―― Wouldn’t you feel uneasy when you can barely see the big picture for this album?
Y: I was more or less uneasy, yeah. But there wasn’t really anything like changes in the organisation [of work] or anything like that [so it wasn’t too bad].
―― You’ve said before that it’s easy to see what Imai-kun wants to do with his songs, so it’s easy when it comes to figuring out the arrangement too, right?
―― Considering that, would you say that there’s likely a clear picture of the kind of album you’d be making in Imai-kun’s head?
Y: Hmm…… Probably.
―― Did he put that picture into words and share it with the band?
Y: Mmm…… There is a certain extent of communication with us when he’s done with a song so…… Yeah.
―― I wonder how he intended to bring out that sense of completeness.
Y: Mm…… I don’t know that much about it. About what’s in Imai-san’s mind.
―― Then, what does Yuta-kun think about it? As a member of the band.
Y: Like the vibe of the music. Since we had so many songs, I personally thought of suggesting to get rid of some if it so happened that things didn’t sound good together or anything like that. But it turned out nice when we tried lining them up anyway [so we kept them all]. It’s somehow like an atypical 2-CD set, isn’t it? The album’s got that kind of image.
―― What kind of role do you think this album will play in BUCK-TICK’s career?
Y: While we’re doing new things, this new album’s also still got the good parts of what we’ve done before. I personally don’t feel like we’ve used a different approach than our usual, so, yeah, we’re trying new things while taking all the good aspects that we’ve got since our very first album. That’s why I think it’ll be a very easy album to digest for those who have always been listening to our music.
―― So, you’re saying that’s what the album resulted in?
Y: Yeah. I think that’s unintentional.
―― When you say you’re doing something new, which songs are most representative of that?
Y: Probably these few, for sure (points at 9th, 14th, and 15th song). It feels like we’ve increased the number of different sides we have to us again. Compared to our previous album, we’ve completely switched up the atmosphere in this album, haven’t we? It feels like you can clearly see the vibe of each individual song.
―― I guess that might also be the result of the songs being worked on in batches rather than all together.
Y: I think that’s another big reason for it. We’re always working on one song at a time, but in the end, the totality of it, I suppose, turned out to be slightly different than our previous album. And this time around, the vibe of our previous album still remains in a good way. That’s why it wasn’t like we got rid of everything and started back from square one again. I guess you could say that it’s like our standard work but not quite.
―― A transitional album?
Y: …… I don’t know about that. Not yet.
―― How do you feel about making music with everyone again after 2 years?
Y: We make all sorts of remarks here and there so it was fun. I don’t quite remember exactly what they were if you want examples, though (lol).
―― Was it fun while playing too?
Y: It was. It’s just that there are too many one chord songs (lol). That’s why it can get a little bit boring playing bass, but on the contrary, I thought that made it more interesting too. Because then I could play it very thoroughly. I mostly played with my fingers this time around. I guess that was fundamentally different. I basically changed my play style. Deciding between my fingers and the pick is usually dependent on the vibe of the song, but this time, I felt that there were more songs that would be better played with my fingers so I naturally chose to go with that.
―― Which songs do you particularly like how you played?
Y: I suppose it’s these (points at 2nd, 14th, and 15th song). Ah, but I like all of them~.
―― No regrets?
―― You’ve done everything that you’re capable of at this point in time?
Y: I guess I feel that way too. But this time, I really felt, “Ahh, we’ve really made something great.” With the songs arranged in this order, it’s of course, don’t you think?
―― What do you think about the album title?
Y: It’s sleazy…… Actually, no (lol). What was it, something like, they’re actually the same even though they appear to be opposites. Like a sort of cycle.
―― Like a pattern?
Y: That can be rolled anyway you like. Like, something that has the same shape but turns into a completely different meaning once you roll it around. As to what it means…… I don’t know (lol).
―― Was there anything you’ve reaffirmed when you started recording again after that break?
Y: That Imai-san sure is a genius. That’s what came to mind. Because, although you’d get a particular vibe when you listen to this part (14th and 15th song), when you listen to the other songs, it’s a whole other feeling again. They bring something different that doesn’t exist in everything else you’ve heard. For example, if we look at Uta, it’s got a sound that’s unique to only Uta, right? That’s why I thought he’s really amazing.
―― So even if it takes time, it can’t be helped?
Y: Yeah (lol). Because listening to the 1st and 14th songs, you wouldn’t have thought that both were from the same band, right? It’s probably the same when we listen to the 2nd song too, though. That’s why it’s so much fun.
―― To me, I think that among the members, Yuta-kun is the one who is most aware of how people perceive you.
Y: Is that soー. I guess I am the type to care about how people see us.
―― Is it the one thing you think about the most?
Y: I wonder. But I think everyone wonders about how others perceive them, so I don’t think I’m all that conscious of it all the time, though……
―― You’re most in touch with the general public, right?
Y: But Imai-san’s the most popular, though?
Y: He’s popular. And he’s a people pleaser too. For me, it’s just because I talk a lot, right? The other members don’t talk at all but. Imai-san is a person who can explain things in 1 sentence where I’d take 10.
―― I see. Do you think that these 2 years were a needed break for the band to make this album?
Y: It was a good period of time for the band, wasn’t it? Not specifically because it enabled us to make this album. Well, I guess it plays a part, but I think it’s been a good 2 years. Besides, if we keep releasing things one after another, we’d look cheap. Although, if we really thought that it was good for us to release something every 3 months, then I think it’s fine, though.
―― As the big-name BUCK-TICK.
Y: We’re not big at all. We’re still rookies (lol).
―― But you’ve got tons of followers.
Y: I can’t say that. That’s for others to say. We’ve got our own hands full…… But that’s good, isn’t it? As long as everyone works hard.
―― As the headliners.
Y: I suppose so. Although we’re probably only ranked like maegashira-13¹ (lol). But I think it’s good enough if we feel that we really made a good album. Besides, this one’s got weight in it, doesn’t it? It’s over 70 minutes long. Quite something, isn’t it?
―― If you were to take a 70-minute train ride, you’d travel really far too.
Y: You’ll arrive at our hometown (lol).
¹ In sumo, maegashira is the lowest of five ranks in the top makuuchi division. All the makuuchi wrestlers who are not ranked in san’yaku are ranked as maegashira, numbered from one at the top downwards. 13 is just one rank under the rank (14) that allows a wrestler to be promoted.
Interview by: Oshibe Keiko
“This is how it’s always been, but we don’t really keep to what we’ve grasped in our previous release. We do things as if we’re starting from scratch again,” said Yagami Toll. More importantly, it appears that new elements that are created through the band members interacting and influencing each other on stage will naturally tie into the next album. How has his own style evolved in that flow? That’s another part of the process we’ll find out as we talk about the album.
Even if Imai wrote JUST ONE MORE KISS for this album, we’d probably have tossed it out.
Because we prioritised our desire to do things that we’ve never done before for this album.
―― So, this album. Was there anything from your previous tour that you personally wanted to bring into it? Like something related to your drumming, or sensibilities.
Toll (T): Personally, there wasn’t anything in particular but…… Although there’s always been that wild aspect and things like that, I wanted to bring out more natural-sounding drums. That’s why I think most listeners might probably think that the drums sound muddy when they listen to it this time around. But I guess you could say that’s exactly what makes it a truly rare sound coming from the drums. When you hear most drums in the flesh, their sound would be muddy. But when it gets picked up by the mic, it’d turn into a really clean and beautiful sound, right? But that’s not reality, so there’s a part of me that feels that this muddy sound is contrarily better.
―― It seemed especially so in the intro of Kimi no Vanilla.
T: Yeah (lol). That was recorded with something like this (tape recorder for interviews). Because doing that created a really great effect.
―― That’s pretty extreme, but this kind of sound that seems as if you just walked into the studio and recorded on a whim is rather fresh, isn’t it? Gives it a unique vibe too.
T: I guess it’s because the muddiness of the drums itself makes it more real. We just did it with a simple, “How’s this?”, “Sounds good.” But it came together very well, didn’t it? That’s why I’ve had enough of processed, clear sound qualities…… then again, anything goes in these times, so I guess I just want to do things that other people don’t do. Which is why I told my friend’s kid who plays the drums, “Don’t copy me.” But the kid retorted, “There’s no way I can copy such a sound.” (Lol).
―― (Lol) On the other hand, was there ever a period of time when you sought to drum with precision for a clear sound?
T: Rather than seeking it, it naturally turned out that way. Probably like our 3rd album TABOO. I guess you could say it’s because we had a producer (Owen Paul) so I simply had to be precise. But that was also a lesson in a good way, and I get the feeling that it also led into the albums that followed.
―― Would you say that if not for that experience, it would only be much later on that you’d go in the direction that you’ve chosen for this album?
T: Yeah. It might probably only happen much later.
―― But in the past, I used to have the impression that you’d go all out drumming the 8-beat pattern, yet recently, it’s like you’re more toned down or something. For example, I noticed that you’ve shifted towards the idea that drums are supposed to be an instrument played by humans and that’s what they should be.
T: I’m not all that conscious of it, though. It’s just the way it is now. That’s why I’d say that if we’re talking half a year ago or half a year later, I might feel differently too. But, you know, our recording sessions used to be very tense, but now, I can even think about how roughly or relaxed I want to drum. In the past, I wouldn’t say that it was autonomic dysfunction but there was turmoil similar to that. It’s as if your head’s always spinning (lol).
―― Was it really that bad (lol).
T: Yeah. But I won’t be able to drum well if I get too excited either. Because that happens, I decided to get very relaxed for in darker～. Up until then, I had been drumming at full power like crazy but once I decided to do that, I somehow started to feel the groove in chunks. But I wanted to produce a rounded sound, you know. It was completely different once I started drumming with leeway to spare. It’s definitely because I could move freely when I did that. …… But for this album, I didn’t really think about that. I just wanted to drum so…… It might spell trouble for me to say this, but I don’t really know whether I did well or not yet (lol). Although, there’s a strong sense of accomplishment. But, simply put, I lose interest quickly in things that are immediately obvious. There were aspects in darker～ like that, but comparing that album to our current one, I think that album might still be easier to comprehend than this.
―― Could that partly be also due to the idea of making music with the listeners in mind having faded off?
T: But for us, we’ve never done that since the very beginning (lol).
―― Since the beginning (lol). Ever since you debuted?
T: Yeah. We’ve really been doing whatever we like. That’s why, I’m grateful that we do get sales to a certain extent, though (lol). But if we do something badly, it’s just for our own satisfaction anyway, right?
―― Then, do you get the sense that having made it this far, you can now do something like this too?
T: I don’t, not really. It’s just how things turned out when we gave it a go. We don’t even consider things like, “Shall we go with an easy to remember melody?” (Lol). Because we decide whether something is cool or not based on our own standards. Like, if one of us said, “Isn’t this tacky?”, that thing would get tossed out.
―― This perspective on how good something is, are the members of the band always in agreement over it?
T: …… Before, oftentimes Imai would say, “This will definitely be a good song so let’s do this,” and I’d retort, “This isn’t ever gonna work.” (Lol). But that doesn’t happen so much any more. In any case. We have to respect the other’s feelings (lol).
―― So, if there’s even the slightest disagreement, you’d have to put in the effort to understand each person’s opinion on what’s cool (lol).
T: Because we’re a democracy (lol). Majority wins. Whenever we have to decide on something. …… But the songs that Hide wrote in the beginning were very pop. I thought that was incredible. But Acchan said, “It’s not the kind of music we’re doing now.” And Imai’s one word of, “Old-fashioned.” (Lol).
―― (Lol) Did you decide to deliberately eliminate pop music or something like that? For this album.
T: Mm～n. That’s why I think if Imai wrote JUST ONE MORE KISS for this album, we’d probably have tossed it out. It’s not that we’re intentionally eliminating anything pop, but more than that, it’s because we prioritised our desire to do things that we’ve never done before for this album. And when I think of totality, that song comes to mind, so that’s just it.
―― Ahh, I see. By the way, how did the recording work itself go? The sense of fulfillment after completion seems to be quite high, though.
T: But it was tiring (lol). Because, so far, the rhythm portion has always been the very first thing to be recorded, right? But this time, even though we’ve started tracking the music, we were still recording the rhythms (lol).
―― That’s because there were songs that were handed in quite late, right (lol).
T: Because Imai is a slow starter (lol).
―― How was it compared to the last time?
T: It’s the first time that things dragged on so long.
―― Won’t it mess up the pace? Your own too.
T: Even if it would, there’s nothing we could do about it, right? Besides, we’ve even posted the ads (lol). When I saw it, I thought, “It’s going on sale sometime in May. Can we make it?” (lol). At first, when we finished recording 11 or 12 songs, I thought, “Ah, I guess that’s all of it.” But then, Imai said something like, “I’m working on 2 songs.” But I guess he wanted to keep working on it until he was satisfied. You know…… It happens all the time, but we were told that the manufacturer was waiting for us. They stopped production.
―― (Lol) Amazing. A band that stops even the factories.
―― But is this recent pace of releases ideal for BUCK-TICK? For Japan, it’s come to a point where the average is to release one album a year. Compared to that, you’re taking a little bit more time, though.
T: But that, you know, is because it’s business, right? Releasing something every year. So, thanks to this, my annual income has been cut in half (lol). Because we didn’t release anything last year too. …… Kukukuk. We’re poor (lol). I was shocked when I filed my tax return. Like, “I can only save this little.” (Lol). That’s why, from a business point of view, I’d like to push something out every half a year or so (lol). But, you know…… In the end, it’s unrelated, isn’t it? [Music and] whether it makes business sense or not.
Direct Dialogue — Hisashi Imai vs Dai Onojima
The controversy over Uta finally comes to an end!!
Mr Onojima’s criticism of Uta from 2 issues ago caused quite a stir, prompting Mr Okamoto and Mr Ohno to bring a re-examination of the song in the last issue, but I believe, in the end, to truly settle this controversy, we had to wait for composer Hisashi Imai to make an appearance after all.
In this article, Imai shows up to answer Mr Onojima’s questions about Uta and Six/Niɴe as well.
How will he counter Mr Onojima’s scathing comments?
Uta was written in the spur of a moment. It’s only natural that there would be split opinions, but that’s fine.
I’ve come to feel a lack of freedom with the format that we’ve done our songs in thus far, because you can see already where we’re heading with it.
Back in the March issue, I wrote a rather critical review of BUCK-TICK’s single Uta／Kimi e. There were a lot of responses to it including those from the band members, so this article was written to ask them, especially Hisashi Imai, the one who leads the band in their sound direction, for their counterarguments and their creative intentions.
However, since that article was written back when I had only listened to the single, the criticism I wrote was only focused on that song in the single, so now that the album is complete and Uta has now taken its rightful place in it as one of the tracks, it doesn’t make sense for us to continue discussing just that one song. And so here, we will be looking at the overall album concept and flow, which includes Uta.
The very first thing I can conclude is, Hisashi Imai is Hisashi Imai after all. “No matter what critics may say, I will do what I want to do and when it results in something that I’m proud of, I don’t particularly care about criticism or anything like that.” That is what Imai said in a nutshell. He truly is a man who goes his own way. And that’s fine. He makes music. I talk about music. Those are the things we have to do in our respective professions.
First, we started talking about the production concept of the single Uta.
“With that guitar riff, the song was quickly finished. I wrote it without thinking too hard. We chose to feature this song as the single because it’s been quite a while [since our last release], and we thought that it would perplex listeners especially because it’s a song that sounded like a chorus without a chorus, something unlike anything we had ever done before. I think it’s only natural that there would be split opinions about this song. Like some may get surprised or wonder, ‘Uhー what’s this?’. But that’s fine, I don’t really care.”
In other words, not only did he, to a certain extent, expect criticism like mine, he is also saying that he made a controversial piece of work that was bound to stir up discussions. Regarding my comments about how the imbalance between the singing and the music was a problem, this was what he said.
“Even now, we’ve got heavy-sounding songs like Deep Slow and Ao no Sekai anyway. So I don’t like it when people tell me that. Because we’ve put in the effort to make sure that these songs won’t sound like that too. But, well, I guess what will be will be. It’s just the kind of song it is anyway.”
That is to say Imai means that he doesn’t want the verdict of whether his music is good or not to come from people who received a sample CD for free, people like me. He clearly states that the only people who are qualified to judge his music are “those who spent their own money to buy the CDs”. Then, I asked whether he meant that his music should only be judged by record sales, he answered, “Well, yes. Because all kinds of people will be listening to it.” It appears that his reasoning is that the assessment of music is based on personal subjectivity, and the only objective standard is record sales. But it doesn’t mean that good music will definitely sell, nor does sellable music necessarily equate to good music.
Next, the production concept of the album.
“So far, we have had concepts that could be described as ‘heavy’ or ‘dark’ and so on, but I didn’t want to make something around those concepts this time. I wanted [the album] to give the feeling that something else had escaped, like an additional something to the music that BUCK-TICK has been making thus far or something. The feeling that you can see where we’re heading with the style that we’ve had until now. In other words, I’ve come to feel a lack of freedom with the standard format of songs which start with an introduction, followed by the verse, then the chorus, and a guitar solo, and so on.”
I suppose this means that the BUCK-TICK sound that they have established thus far has turned into something that is no longer inspiring to Imai. That’s why their new album is actually a collection of different types of songs with a variety of arrangements. There are songs like Uta too, which are heavy yet are in no way one-dimensional. It’s a good thing, but rather than giving me the impression that [the album] “holds a rich variety”, it feels more like an album that shows the difficulties of using trial and error instead. To that extent, I don’t get the same power of completeness that darker than darkness has from this album, neither do I sense anything close to a deep conviction. Instead, all I get is the feeling that it is still on the way to completion, with songs that sound like ambient techno that, depending on how you listen to them, feel diffusive and out of focus.
“I wonder. I wanted to include a variety of songs, and I sure did include them. But I didn’t want [the album] to feel frivolous, like we simply tried to put different songs together. Yet, on the other hand, I thought it’d be very risky for us to fill up the album purely with songs like Uta.”
Following his experience with Shaft and other external projects, I think the horizons of Imai’s own creative appetite has grown all of a sudden. Imai, who had only known nothing but the band that is BUCK-TICK until recently, has started to possess an urge to express music beyond the category of BUCK-TICK. And as a result, perhaps a gap has appeared between the things he wanted to express and the band’s range of allowance. To put it differently, therein lies the question of how he can turn what he wants to do into reality with the present band. These troubles are now more clearly visible than ever before.
“Right. So how are we going to execute what we want to do together as a band of 5? But it’s also not as if it’s impossible to perform this song without being in a band.”
However, there is one thing I’m uncertain about regarding his reason for being so particular about doing things in a band and as a band. Let’s say, even if drums and bass guitar were excluded depending on the song, while guitars and vocals were taken depending on the occasion, BUCK-TICK is still BUCK-TICK and this doesn’t diminish the importance of each member or their unity. Somehow, although the things he wants to do have long since gone beyond the restrictive category of bands, he’s giving me the impression that deliberately forcing himself to squeeze into that small frame.
Imai himself says that he believes that his band mates understands his intentions. 100%. But I’m under the impression that apparently, communication with his bandmates wasn’t always smooth this time around. It feels to me that as a result, this shows in the vocals-music balance in Uta, in the album’s overall unfocused ambiguity, in how conspicuous it is that the album is the aftermath of ups and downs, and all these things. I do wonder whether Imai had no choice but to stick to his insistence of the “format” of a band because there wasn’t enough mutual communication involved. Or perhaps, this opinion is just a little too farfetched.
After I wrote my review of Uta, I had hoped that I would change my assessment of it after listening to the album. But honestly speaking, even after I’ve now heard what Imai had to say, the murky feeling I’ve got hasn’t disappeared. I think there’s no one who praised Kurutta Taiyou, Koroshi no Shirabe, and darker～ more than me. However, when I listened to this new release, it did not hit me with an impact that got me feeling, “Amazing! They’ve won me over!” or a freshness that made my heart throb like those albums did. Those albums had a monstrous power, asense of unity that forcefully pins the listener into a corner without leaving room for negotiation. I suppose it can be said that I was overwhelmed by the immensity of their talent which grew with every new album they released.
However, even if this time’s BUCK-TICK release was “hard work”, I cannot say that it was their “best work”. Perhaps, BUCK-TICK are now at a critical juncture in their career. At least, that’s how I feel.
Scans: Endless Dei (@DeiEndless on Twitter)