Let’s rethink B-T SPECIAL, part 2 of 2
Ongaku to Hito
Interview = Ichikawa Tetsushi
Photos = Koij Kayano
Following last issue’s major feature of Hisashi Imai + J’s Passionate Fanboy Declaration Dialogue from Takamatsu, this month’s second part of the B-T Review SPECIAL comes to you from Okinawa.
BUCK-TICK’s first live show in 3 weeks which was held on June 28 at Naha Civic Hall was presented the same way as their first few shows of this tour; their main set comprised entirely of songs from their latest album Six/Nine. Without a doubt, rather than the “spirit of fanservice” which we get when they perform BT classics like “Speed” or “ICONOCLASM” midway, I far prefer this present strong structure which bravely sticks to only their new songs. I like them, and the way they unhesitatingly declare their conviction of “being a liberal band unbound by the currents and trends of the market” gets me excited about the future of this one-of-kind presence.
Of course, this conviction was fully reflected in how good their live show was. What should have been a very “elaborate” set of songs was brought to life by a superb band ensemble that created an unusually groovy atmosphere. Sakurai’s cul-de-sac aesthetic was on full display as he his jacket around his head and writhed wildly, danced around crazily like Bryan Ferry, and “broke” rather intensely. OK OK. The highlight of it all was probably his agonisingly decadent duet of “Itoshi no Rock Star” with their guest ISSAY, who he last performed with on May 17 at Nippon Budokan. With all the passionate kisses exchanged, the performance felt like a true demonstration of latent potential of the Japan’s aesthetic rock.
In fact, ISSAY’s guest appearance was in response to Sakurai’s fervent request for a second interview (← The first was published in our May 1994 issue) and next to making that happen this time in Okinawa, it went on to his appearance at their live show too. Well then, time to read about this decadent duo who have burst out of their unlocked basements and into the mid-summer beach.
Atsushi Sakurai (BUCK-TICK)+ISSAY (Der Zibet)
A decadent conversation even under the sun
ーー I suppose the two of you have never been under direct sunlight this strong together before (smiles).
Sakurai (S): Mm, it’s been a while.
ISSAY (I): (Smiles) It has the power to make anything and everything grovel before it, doesn’t it? Sun rays.
ーー Right then, this came about from Sakurai’s ardent imploring during recording to “have another interview”.
I: While we were having drinks together I had said to Atsushi that “it would be fun if we performed together again”, you see.
ーー Whether it’s for recording or for live performances, ISSAY’s involvement is the first time that B-T had an outsider joining in, but Sakurai’s recent ardent yearning and reliance and love for ISSAY is really something.
S: Mm…… Um…… It’s in return**.
S: He’s invited me to join him as a guest numerous times as well (← Guest appearance on the track “Masquerade” from Der Zibet’s album, Shishunki Ⅱ and their live at Kudan Kaikan ＋ Guest vocals on the track “Koi no Hallelujah” from ISSAY’s solo album, FLOWERS).
ーー The decision to have him take part as a guest on this album’s “Itoshi no Rock Star (My Favorite Rock Star*)” came from Sakurai yourself, right?
S: Yeah. Mm…… On impulse (smiles).
I: Impulses are important, you know (smiles).
S: ISSAY-san’s the only one, right? For that song (smiles).
I: A kind of super dark voice left a message on my answering machine, asking, “…… Are you free” (smiles). So I thought, well, anyway, I’ll have him show me the lyrics, and when I read it, the sentiments that Atsushi now possesses were laid out right there as they were, and I thought that they were really great lyrics. Furthermore, the music goes straight into [the territory of] pop too.
ーー But that was a song that Sakurai was particularly troubled over “whether singing about such a thing is okay”.
I: Perhaps he was worried about something (smiles). Even though there’s nothing to be all that worried over.
S: After all, it was a time when the words made me…… exceptionally nervous, so, this feeling that…… I’d hate to feel the pain of people listening to the song and thinking, “He didn’t have to take things that far”, I had that.
ーー Because that song was a cynical one for fans about yourself as a rockstar, and the industry that you’re in, wasn’t it? But since it actually became this album’s most popular song among the fans, it’s hilarious, isn’t it (smiles).
I: You see, those lyrics weren’t [written] with the intention to attack anyone. They’re lyrics that are pointed in the direction of the person singing them, so it’s about whether or not you’re capable of confidently singing it in a pop setting, isn’t it? That’s why I was really happy that you’d have me sing such a song though.
ーー Ooh, ain’t he reassuring backup.
S: Yeah, or more like a powerful ally (smiles).
ーー How did the recording itself go then?
I: You know, the singing— We sang it a number of times quite seriously before we finally made an okay take, but after that, anyway, in celebration of a job well done, we went for drinks and while we were chatting about this and that, it got to a point in the conversation where he said, “I like ‘Itoshi no Macks’”, and he went in a roundabout way to say something like, “That style of singing is great”, you know (smiles).
I: If Atsushi said, “I want to sing like [you did] in ‘Itoshi no Macks’”, I’d just be like, “Something like that…… might be good” (smiles). Then I’d think, ‘Ah, is that so!’, and then, “Well, then we’ll try that ludic singing style from ‘Itoshi no Macks’ and if they fire at us then so be it” (smiles). So, we sang it only once through and it was given the OK, and though I asked, “Is this reeally okay?”, I was kind of pleased (smiles).
ーー Please properly state what you’re hoping for right from the start.
S: Yes (smiles). It’s because I wanted ISSAY to bring out that part of him. Isn’t it to be expected that you’d be nervous when recording with someone? If he has the impression that (he) can’t step out of the box, I wanted him to be able to do it comfortably so…….
ーー But it took you an hour to beat about the bush and then say it, didn’t it? What an unmanly guy (smiles).
S: But, y’knowー♡ (smiles).
ISSAY「“Aniki***” (Smiles)」Sakurai「That’s dangerous, strangely (smiles)」
ーー This is a song where Sakurai can finally sing about his own dilemma that he’s always held between his rockstar self and his regular self but he was able to demonstrate it with help fueled by compassion deeper than the sea from this “aniki” known as ISSAY.
I: “Aniki” (smiles).
S: There’s something dangerous in saying “aniki”, strangely (smiles).
ーー No, no, the “aniki” type of relationship fits you both.
I: “Aniki” is like those pachinko machines, you know those?
S: Reallyー? (Smiles)
I: (There was one) that had macho aniki’s on the board, like those drawn by Hisashi Eguchi^, doing synchronised swimming and getting flogged and all that (smiles).
S: Dangerous (smiles).
I: I’ve only played pachinko 5 times before in my life, but I’d definitely like to try playing that machine.
ーー (Smiles) You’ve performed together at lives in Tokyo twice, and undoubtedly, it was as if the world of these “aniki” unfolded on stage.
I: Performing that song was so much fun, you know, with [an uncertainty regarding] how the other appear would appear (smiles). Which is why there was a staggering amount of tension, y’know, the both of us (smiles). And we were watching each other closely to decide on how we’d move on our own― Doing that, we ended up getting questions from fans like ‘Was it choreographed?’ and things like that, didn’t we (smiles)?
ーー If you choreographed that, you both will become slaves to lust at every rehearsal (smiles).
S: Hahahaha. That’d be nice (smiles).
I: Ichikawa-kun didn’t see the Budokan performance, but Budokan’s was an evolved form of Liquid Room’s.
ーー What do you mean by “evolved form”?
I: It became more intense (smiles).
ーー Is it maturation or degradation? But B-T fans also welcomed you enthusiastically, so that was great.
I: Ah, but I was thinking about what I should do if they were dead silent when I get called (smiles).
ーー I understand that feeling.
I: Then, you know, our HAL-chan (bassist of DZ) came to Budokan to watch and I was suuper happy (smiles). Furthermore, before I was introduced, Atsushi suddenly sang “Shizumitai (←Der Zibet’s little known masterpiece that heralded the dawn of Japan’s decadence (lol))” in acapella.
ーー You did that?
S: Did I ♡ (smiles).
I: Initially, I was still thinking, “This is DZ’s song but what was itー” (smiles). Then HAL-chan was touched that it struck home for him and it was added into current DZ’s tour setlist, you know (smiles).
S: Wonderful一 (smiles).
I: Though I was happy that everyone welcomed me so warmly this time (smiles).
S: There was a vigour. Like “It’s a warm welcome!!” (smiles).
ーー Probably yours (smiles). But this was the first time that B-T has invited a guest to their live, right?
S: Yeah. I guess, in terms of reliability or something― ISSAY-san is reliable. And being able to feel that our own band members are reliable too, for some reason.
ーー What do you mean by your members being reliable?
S: I suppose it’s probably dependent on the different atmospheres that we take in.
I: A different kind of tension; that might be the case.
S: The feeling that our breathing is perfectly in sync.
ーー On the other hand, what’s “Itoshi no Rock Star” like during the tour when ISSAY isn’t around?
S: It’s lonelyー (smiles).
ーー So this means that you’re happy about the last-minute, first-in-a-long-while duet that will be coming true tomorrow at Naha Civil Hall.
S: Yes (smiles).
ーー (Smiles) But I do wonder what the B-T fans think about Sakurai’s yearning for ISSAY.
S: Ahh…… I don’t really know. I guess they think (of him) as “aniki” (smiles).
I: Hahahaha. “Aniki” (smiles).
S: (Smiles) But after all, in terms of type, I suppose…… At a glance, you’d be able to tell, right? That ISSAY-san is like this and Sakurai Atsushi is like that. We’re definitely not the exact same type, but that part that draws people in so well is convincing too, isn’t it?
ISSAY「Me, I’ve only got one artistic style」
ーー But some years ago, when B-T was about to debut, when X was about to debut, when LUNA SEA was about to debut, you thought nothing of them at all, didn’t you? It was something like vainglory [on your part].
ーー And even though Sakurai performed with a stance that said “Other bands don’t concern us!”, isn’t it exceptionally interesting that this state at this point in time is one where such people are the only tangent point between you both?
(Both burst out laughing).
S: We also spoke about this yesterday when we were drinking but…… I suppose there’s something I longed for after all. Not the wet kind (smiles).
ーー What’s that, this “wet longing” (smiles).
I: Issit a dry longing!? (smiles).
S: No, it’s not dry. I guess it’s wet after all (smiles).
I: Amazing. I ask him what’s a dry longing and next thing he tells me it’s a wet longing (smiles).
S: (Smiles) That…… flexibility, or something, ISSAY-san has it. So, the flexibility and stoic-ness that I feel are― qualities that I’ll never possess, and I’ve seen it in Der Zibet since the very beginning. Furthermore, the strength of that suppleness, that core, I suppose has never changed.
ーー So you’re saying that ISSAY hasn’t changed since 10 years ago.
I: I haven’t changed (smiles). Me, I’ve only got one artistic style! (smiles).
S: (Smiles) Your attitude, I suppose.
ーー On the other hand, what about Sakurai from ISSAY’s point of view?
I: You see, I think he’s cool. So, during this time’s live, I was watching Atsushi on the monitor until it was time for me to go on stage and― In that sense, Atsushi is far more flexible than I am too. And when he’s stoic, he’s tremendously stoic, and that’s the kind of thing that I really love, you know? And more than before, much much more, it’s this… there is this sense of scale now.
ーー Ah, he was still young back then, right?
I: No, it’s not that, because I’ve happened to watch BUCK-TICK’s live in London, in the past (smiles).
ーー During the recording of ‘TABOO’.
I: But for me, ever since B-T came out, I liked their 1st and 2nd [albums] so, yeah. And these two albums that followed― ‘darker than darkness’ and ‘Six/NiNe’, I really love them both, again, for different reasons. It’s definitely…… the way they’re evolving yet there’s a nature that doesn’t change? After all, I get the feeling that all of it steadily boils down to become one thing, and that attitude…… it holds a tremendous amount of good vibes too, I like it.
ーー The point is that― You’re only capable of doing this one same thing since back thenー.
S: Hey, that’s mean! (Smiles).
ーー And being all alone―, and obstinacy being the common denominator that connects you two together, I suppose.
I: Ahahaha. Ah, but these 3 points are huge, you know. These three points might be crucial.
S: A strong spring, that’s what it is (smiles).
I: Because when it comes to artists, I love those people who possess a ton of those, you see (smiles).
ーー But, y’know, I think that being able to do only one thing is a good thing, isn’t it? You can’t [do] rock if you don’t lack skill, right?
I: Yeah. And on the other hand, with Atsushi, no matter what form things come in, he’s able to do it because he has that one thing, doesn’t he? Because, even though I think that he’s only able to do things in that style, he possesses his own flavour. Der Zibet is also like that, but things like the musicality of the band and so on has now changed, hasn’t it? But Atsushi has always done things with one single methodology in such areas, so no matter what music is being presented to him, no matter what style it becomes, I feel that he will be undaunted.
ーー Yes, exactly. Be it DZ or B-T, both bands do things their own way, as they like, and the unreasonable role burdened with the responsibility of “Write the lyrics, sing the song and make it sound like B-T, alright? Make it sound like DZ, alright?” is being delegated to you both (smiles).
ーー But aren’t there a lot of songs that you don’t know what to do with when they get passed to you?
I: Yeah (smiles). That’s absolutely right, that happens (smiles).
ーー Because both HIKARU and Imai are pretty similar, aren’t they? They simply do whatever they feel like doing and then say, “I think this is cool so I’ll leave whatever comes after to you!” (smiles).
I: It will be left to me, so it’s just like that. You see, he’d just tell me to sing it my way (smiles).
S: That’s true. But once I’ve digested it, it’s like it’s already there.
ーー Even so, outrageous songs that you can’t put lyrics to will have their lyrics written by Imai and at the same time, he’d sing it too (smiles).
S: (Smiles) No no, because that’s simply what Imai wants to express―.
ーー But I believe you’ve only become attentive to such areas recently, right?
S: Mm…… In that sense, I suppose I’ve got a little room to breathe, recently. Something like having ISSAY-san join us…… Like the leeway [within the] band.
Sakurai「Successor? I’ve no idea at all」
ーー (Smiles) Well, even then, this decadent ballad tag-team has already happened for 3 previous songs, but when I listen to the CD, your voices are like two peas in a pod, I can’t tell the difference between the both of you.
I: That’s absolutely right. I’ve often been asked myself.
I: But our speaking voices are different, aren’t they? DZ and BUCK-TICK sing on different keys so I guess when we’re on the same key, it sounds similar.
I: And a lady writer/reporter who came to watch the Budokan performance said, “Ah, so this is the separation between your two voices” like she understood it for the first time (smiles).
ーー If that’s the case, it might even be a good idea for the two of you to try coming together as a duo. The aniki version of Karyudo^^ or something like that (smiles).
I: Gyahahaha. Kukuku.
ーー If you tried doing that, I think you’d feel something similar to that stubbornness and one-trick-pony lack of skill.
I: I do think that there’s a closeness for such a case of [vocal] separation and the stances with which each of us performs is different. But yet, in terms of our way of being as artists and the way things are encapsulated, I think that there’s a part of us that is close to aestheticism.
ーー What does Sakurai think about this?
S: …… P-Presumptuous (smiles).
ーー Do you conversely have a wish of “wanting to only change this part” or something like that?
S: No, not at all (immediate answer).
I: Hahaha. Oh, really?
S: Not at all (immediate answer)². Since way back I’ve aーlways been watching, but this person is just filled with the convincing “I should stay in such a place” kind of quality.
ーー I wonder, what will you do if either one of you changed in future?
I: Breakup? (smiles).
S: With one phone call (smiles). “Thank you for all these years”. Really, we can’t speak anymo一re (smiles).
I: (Smiles) That’s cold.
S: But for me, it was a turning point to be attracted to ISSAY-san’s aesthetic and go and watch his live― [He’s] a boy who has his own garden and plays in it. At that time, I didn’t have a garden in my home yet, but ISSAY-san had a place where he’s the only interesting aspect (smiles).
I: Uhahaha. Doesn’t that make me nothing more than a self-indulgent guy!
ーー Ain’t that simply the description of an unsociable guy.
I: You talkin’bout me? (smiles). But I can really understand what he’s trying to say. I think that’s something that I’ve aーlways desperately defended after all. That’s why I’m really happy that he was able to see that from me.
ーー I suppose that’s how the younger ones view the present Sakurai too. You two are of the self-revolving cul-de-sac style, and it’s a credo that only applies to the two of you.
S: Hahahaha. That’s right, that’s right.
I: But, you know, being able to ceremoniously do something like that in the overground scene was impossible before BUCK-TICK debuted, wasn’t it? That’s why, when I look at them, I think that they’re really cool, reliable. I think it’s really significant that they’re living with confidence.
S: The one who’s reassuring is this one [ISSAY]. It’s very much so whenever I’m doing something and I think, “Ah, there’s someone who continues to hold on to a style that’s similar to ISSAY-san’s”.
ーー Ain’t that just lovely. Has no successor shown up?
S: I’ve no idea at all (smiles).
ーー Argh, it’d be boring if this perishes after two generations.
I: I’d hate for [it to end in] two generations! (smiles). Have it go down to posterity.
* BUCK-TICK song title translations come from This is NOT Greatest Site
** Here, he used the phrase お返しを込めて (okaeshi wo komete). I’ve never seen such a phrase myself, so I’d say that it’s not a standard phrase per se, but a mix of two.
お返し, in general, is used in contexts when you’re talking about returning something, like a book (think library) or a favour, or getting back at someone for something, i.e. revenge. You could say that it’s rather obvious that Sakurai’s phrase belongs to the former rather than the latter.
を込めて tends to be used with 愛 (love), 感謝 (gratitude) or 心 (heart) and varying grammar particles to result in phrases which are the equivalent of “with love”, “with thanks”, or “with all my heart”.
From his statement following this line of dialogue, it can be implied that he meant お返しを込めて with regards to his appreciation for being asked by Der Zibet /ISSAY to take part in their activities. Thus, in a way, this is sort of him “returning the favour”. Or so he says ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
*** I decided not to translate 兄貴 (aniki), which is basically a slang version of the more standard お兄さん (oniisan), or in English, big/elder brother. In gay circles, it is also used to address an older gay man who is masculine in spirit and appearance. Although do note that if he is masculine in both spirit and appearance, he can also be addressed as a “nee-san” (elder sister) depending on his words and actions.
^ Hisashi Eguchi is a manga artist who debuted in Shonen Jump in 1977 with Susume!! Pirates. Other works of his includes include Stop!! Hibari-kun!, and Charamono.
^^ Karyudo (狩人) was a singing duo consisting of brothers Takamichi Kato and Kunihiko Kato. They originally disbanded in 2006 to focus on solo activities but have since reformed in 2012.