Aesthetics of Invariance
Ongaku to Hito #087
Text: Kanemitsu Hirofumi
Photos: Ogishima Minoru (荻島稔)
Hair & Makeup: Tanizaki Takayuki, Yamaji Chihiro (Fats Berry)
Last year, BUCK-TICK went on a hall tour, then a livehouse tour, and finally an auditorium¹ tour following the release of their first album in two and a half years. It was a sprightly burst of activity that is very much like them (lol) but who could complain about that. The 21st century has turned out to be a little bit different for these guys who would’ve normally gone back underground after all that activity.
On 28 March, the band will be releasing ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH CUT UP, the live CD, VHS, and DVD of the performance that they gave at Nippon Budokan. In addition to that, Schwein, the Japanese-German-British coalition that Sakurai and Imai have joined will soon commence with a tour also in the works. So this month, we’ll be talking about Schwein…… or so I hoped, but they haven’t made their music yet (lol). Hence, we’ll be talking about Sakurai Atsushi’s year 2000 and his band philosophy. And then, it’ll be Schwein in the next issue…… probably.
What is it…… This wasn’t our aim, but I guess we’ve succeeded in achieving versatility
―― This issue is going to be published in March so it might be a little late for this, but what do you think about your tour?
Sakurai (S): Mm…… It was the first time that we divided our shows between the hall venues and the livehouses but having tried it out, I came to realise the benefits and enjoyment of performing in the two different types of venues. It was especially so with the livehouses, though. I’ve never really given it much thought until now, but I think we are more suited to [livehouses] after all. Because we’ve never really made that kind of a distinction between the two until [last year].
―― Of course, because you’re closer to the audience. There’s a sort of unity, an atmosphere about it, or something.
S: You’re right…… Mm… This is something I only realised after we’ve split our shows into these two styles, but you could say our audience hold themselves back or something when they stick exactly to where their designated seats are…… It’s like they sit and stay still (dry laugh). And that’s certainly quite, well, I don’t need to say it again, but being able to move and act however they wish…… When I get to see that from the stage, I’d sincerely feel that it was a good thing that we decided to do this. Part of it is because we’re closer, yes, and us as performers also get to feel the liberation from a regulated world that live concerts are too. Also, for us, we won’t feel like we’re putting on a performance with a formal sense of “showing” something but rather, we can leave it as unpolished.
―― So, let’s look back at your activities in 2000 again.
S: Of course, broadly speaking we changed record labels and all that, and thinking about the time when we were recording, we’ve started working on our music so we didn’t really have much time to spare, but I could definitely sense that everyone was feeling positive with the fresh start.
―― And that wasn’t like, a sense of urgency or anything like that.
S: It sure wasn’t. If we did feel anything like that, it’d be more likely that 2 or 3 years ago, we’d already be feeling, “So, anyway, we’ve released a single,” then started to wonder, “Which company should we go to?”.
―― How did the band fare during those uncertain times?
S: Mm, the pace and stance of the band itself didn’t really change from our usual, but as you’d expect, if you’re asking about things that aren’t related to music, we can’t really…… How should I put this…… We can’t really do anything on our own. I guess I can’t help saying childish things like that (dry laugh), but in the end, I’d rather leave those things to people I trust to handle, so.
―― It could be said that the band still stands in that unstable situation, or rather, you don’t even budge an inch, right?
S: That’s definitely because it’s me and the other 4…… For example, I’ve often been asked whether I’d like to go solo or anything like that, but there are a lot of good and bad points to consider and all that…… But anyway, it’s definitely because when I look around me, I see the same faces I’ve always known and they’re all feigning ignorance as if they don’t know anything.
―― Fufufu, feigning ignorance (lol).
S: Well, it’s me wondering whether they know that I’m getting offers or not (lol). Then, I’d suddenly feel at home, in a way. I can’t do anything even if they felt bothered by it, but I don’t really worry or feel negatively about it. It’s not some kind of weird confidence or anything like that but it’s just, I feel that whether they cut our contract or whatever they do to us, whatever happens we’ll somehow make things work, or rather, no matter what happens, it’ll turn out alright. My thoughts don’t really go in a negative direction. But…… Well, there are times when I’d feel uneasy, just personally speaking. Like when I’m working on the singing, or the lyrics, or the staging, or I get stuck while working on an album and I’m feeling like, “I have nothing more to offer!!”…… Those insecurities sometimes come out of nowhere, but when it really comes down to it, I can visualise in my head what I’d do for that piece of music, or the staging and all of those things on my own. As a result, I’d get so absorbed in it that I’d get into a bit of a high. You could say, that’s why my frustration disappears completely.
―― So you’ve just about never given any conscious thought to the possibility of the band breaking up?
S: …… Conscious thought…… Mm… Well, I’ve thought about those types of situations to kill time (lol).
S: I think it sounds like a pain in the ass (lol). No matter what happens, there’s no chance we’ll ever talk about “divorce”! (Emphasis added)
―― Ahahahaha! Sounds just like what a woman would say.
S: Yeaah, I got reminded of a bunch of past experiences (dry laugh).
―― I see (lol). But, say, for example, if you wanted to “depict life and death”, or “sing love songs”, if you had themes like that, you don’t necessarily have to stick to being in a band to do that, right? I just wonder where your motivation to make music in a band comes from.
S: Mm………… I guess it might be because it’s easy (lol). Working hard, words like, “You can’t buy hard work,” and all that, I absolutely haaate those, you know (dry laugh). And…… Mmm…… This is a band that we’ve built together from scratch after all. People keep telling me, “Go solo,” but, mm…… It’s troublesome, and I don’t really like leaving my house empty, you know?
―― What fatherly comments (lol). I guess you want to protect your family.
S: Noo, I don’t like that sort of clinginess (dry laugh). I don’t like being cheated on too though, but…… I’m happy that I’m being asked (to go solo and things like that), but I suppose, in the end, essentially, what I want to be is the vocalist of a band, you know. Besides, there’s also the fact that the other members will possess whatever I’m lacking in. And if we’re talking about someone who was a solo artist to begin with and then later decided to start a band, they’d already know the lightness of moving along freely too. I might be saying too much, but lots of bands change their lineups, and there are those who had members go solo, or start other bands, but…… the original is still the best, or something (dry laugh). There are certainly cases where things are different, and there are lots of people who do great as solo artists, but somehow that power is…… With the focus on their personal power, even if they’re performing in the form of a band, in the end, they’re still not a band, are they? It’d just look like that [solo artist] person is the only one giving his all (dry laugh).
―― Speaking of which, you’ve recently started a unit in the form of Schwein. I was hoping you could tell us more about how it came to be.
S: Hmmm…… I really don’t know! (Squarely)
―― Hahahahaha! It happened before you realised it? (Lol)
S: No, it’s not quite that but…… I think it was last year, around the time when we were doing our recording? That this topic came up. It’s not the kind of thing that just comes to mind, you know? I’m not agile, and if I’m giving my all working on one thing, anything else turns into a pain in the ass. So, I think Raymond (Watts / PIG) had given it a lot of thought, but it was only around the end of last year when things finally became reality in the form of a “unit”…… Although, even now, I still don’t know what it’ll be like (lol). Of course, as you already know, it started from SCHAFT and we did gigs together two years ago, went on tour together too. We’ve also contributed music to each others’ CDs and took part as guests too. We’ve always had that kind of relationship. Although somehow, I don’t really know why he’s so interested in us (lol), but he’d call us whenever something comes up. For Raymond, he’s got PIG to work on and perform in America too, so he didn’t actually have to go through all that trouble to deliberately invite Asians to do this (dry laugh). That was the very first thing I thought, anyway. I don’t think we’ve talked about it before. That’s why I can’t really go into detail. We don’t even have songs yet (dry laugh).
―― Ahaha. Then, is there anything that Sakurai-san personally keeps in mind for what you’ll do in Schwein? Perhaps, like wanting to do something different here, as compared to what you usually do in BUCK-TICK.
S: Mm… Personally, I’d say it’s basically the same, I think. But, although I’m doing this with Imai, both the music and environment will change completely, so I think that would change me too. That’s something to look forward to as well.
―― When we look at this combination of Raymond of PIG, Sascha of MDFMK, and Imai Hisashi, you can’t help but get the feeling that sound will be prioritised over words, so what is it that Sakurai-san thinks should be expressed in that?
S: Well, you know, as a Japanese…… Fufufu. The, what do you call it, the feeling that there’s no difference between a British and a German, I get that feeling, but there’s a nuance that only the Japanese have when it comes to song and…… I guess that’s pretty much it, though. I’m just thinking that I should just do what I need to do. My best, or maybe, un-best (lol).
―― Fuhahaha! So, I guess we’ll talk more about Schwein next month.
S: Please contact Raymond for a proper story (lol). Work on the tracking for our video(s) and all that are still going on, right, so I can’t quite transition away from BUCK-TICK.
―― Is there a need for you to switchover?
S: Yeah. Although, I don’t really think it’s particularly necessary for me to switch from the BUCK-TICK version of me to the Schwein version or something. This is more about switching from the work of “making it even better” during the tracking to the creative work in composing. Because I always start from the surface of it (dry laugh). I would want to set up my own world nicely and do things properly inside of it (lol). When it comes to composing, I would want to get into that mode and work on it all in one go, but I can’t really do that well.
―― Like thinking about things while listening to PHYSICAL NEUROSE or what (lol).
―― But anyway, why did you decide to perform that song live?
S: Ah, well, Imai was…… Initially, well, it’s how we’ve always done things but we’d brainstorm about which songs from the album and our back catalogue would be good to perform. I’d often mull over the setlist and things like that, but everyone leaves it to me, so. At that point, I’d say, “Everyone disregard the line-up and structure and tell me what songs you want to play.” Then Imai slides in and mentions that song. Although, it was a great help to me that he said it without thinking too much about it, you know. Everyone’s restraint…… Well, by now there’s no such thing as holding back or mincing our words, though (lol). They’d just tell me things like, “I’ll leave it to you.” Then, when it’s all up to me, I’d be stuck in a dilemma (dry laugh).
ーー Ahaha! I guess they just want you to decide.
S: But I’m biased, you see. I’d end up picking all the daa～rk and gloomy songs (dry laugh). We also performed LOVE ME, SPEED, and ICONOCLASM, right? Just when I was wondering what should we do with those 3 songs towards the end, that song was raised. It was actually brought up during our first tour, the hall tour, but I wasn’t quite convinced. It made me think, “It’s kind oーf, mm, I don’t know if it’ll workー?” So, it was only after we were pretty much done with the hall and livehouse shows that…… this inconceivable song came around so I’m really relieved that it did, like, “Ahh, thank goodness.”
―― Your “ultimate weapon” (lol).
S: Mhahaha! Although, I think there are quite a number of people who don’t know that song.
―― Right? But when it comes to performing such an old song, won’t you somehow…… get that sense of “incompatibility”? Looking at it now.
S: I do. Especially when I start singing, I feel it very strongly. I don’t think [the others] would get much of a sense of that since [they’re] playing instruments, though. I even found myself thinking, “Ah, how embarrassing… These words, I don’t really want to say them now.” (Dry laugh).
―― Although, it really felt like a breakthrough for you to suddenly do PHYSICAL NEUROSE right there and then, didn’t it?
S: That’s true. It would’ve never been a thing before, but what is it…… this wasn’t our aim, but I guess we’ve succeeded in achieving that sort of versatility. It’s not like we can rely on hit songs forever (lol)…… It’s probably phrased badly, but it’s something that makes me feel, “If we play this song, it’ll probably make things interesting.”
―― Like a breaking ball²?
S: Right, something like that. If we played JUST ONE MORE KISS or something at that point of the show, you can already guess that the audience will probably get all hyped but (visualising)…… Mmー I guess it’s a good thing sometimes, though (bright smile).
―― Oh! (Lol) Well, I suppose I can expect a little more from your next tour (lol).
S: Mmmー (lol).
―― Mhahaha! So, you might’ve been asked about this before, but does BUCK-TICK have a strong desire to constantly stay up to date as a band?
S: Nope, we don’t. There are probably people who like doing that, but we don’t want to burden ourselves with that kind of weight and force ourselves to carry it. I think we’re capable of accepting anything and everything if the time is right for us, but since the very beginning, we never wanted to be at the forefront of that.
―― What about when it comes to language?
S: It’s the same with language too. As long as they are words and phrases that I understand well and are fresh to me [I’d use them]. Whether they’re outdated or recent slangs, I don’t know. But if they’re fresh and I can grasp it, then anything goes.
―― I can’t really imagine Sakurai-san using words like “you’re bugging me [uzaa～i³]” anyway (lol).
S: Ahh, I hate that kind of language (dry laugh). Like, “for sure [zettee⁴]” and those kinds, right?
―― Ahaha. Chew on those words and digest them properly.
S: If I can digest them…… I still don’t think I can make use of them after all (lol).
¹ This “auditorium” actually refers to the venues of TOUR ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH which was held in large convention centre venues, namely Orix Theatre in Osaka, Nagoya Congress Center, and Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan.
² In baseball, a breaking ball is a pitch that does not travel straight as it approaches the batter. It isn’t a specific pitch by that name, but is any pitch that “breaks”, such as a curveball, slider, or screwball.
³ ウザイ (uzai) is basically the Japanese slang version of describing something as annoying or irritating. It’s a very casual/informal form.
⁴ ぜってぇ (zettee) is very casual/informal kind of slang-ish version of 絶対 (zettai). It means the same thing, which is “definitely/for sure”, or something along those lines.
Scans: tigerpal from LJ