BABEL – The first of BUCK-TICK’s 30th Anniversary Project
15 November 2017
Interview text by Imai Tomoko
BUCK-TICK has released the single, 「BABEL」, as the first part of their debut 30th anniversary project. As it has been for the past 30 years, their first new single after around 14 months is a song that brings a breath of fresh air and sounds distinctly like them. They, who have been active without any member changes since their debut with the video 『BUCK-TICK Gensho at THE LIVE INN』on 21 September 1987, released their all-time best compilation 『CATALOGUE 1987-2016』, that transcended beyond record companies labels, on 20 September 2017. They also held the 『BUCK-TICK 2017“THE PARADE”～30th anniversary～』on 23 and 24 September at Odaiba Yagai Tokusetsu Kaijo J Chiku, Tokyo. The driving force behind their new song 「BABEL」, that was created in parallel with such an overview of their past work, is something extraordinary. Sakurai Atsushi and Imai Hisashi talks about the events that led up to the birth of the new song and what comes next.
■ Making up a god and then desperately trying to surpass that god
■ I have thought that, it would be nice if that was possible
── The new song 「BABEL」 is a profound one that is packed with BUCK-TICK’s personality, how did it come about?
Imai Hisashi (I): This was probably the 3rd song from the initial stage when I started writing songs that will be used in the album. I was creating it at home, and at the demo stage, I thought, “This might be good as a single”. After that, when we started recording the album, other cool ones started being made, and I wondered if another song should be the single but surprisingly, this became the first single.
── What were the points that made you think that it would be suitable as single?
I: Perhaps it was the flow of the song, or maybe it was the beat. It’s heavy but, it feels like it progresses steadily? It also has a feeling that we haven’t had so far. The feeling that the chords are novel, like how it goes from major key to minor, I think the way it develops and that key changes are quite interesting.
── Certainly, most singles are pop songs but this is a little different, isn’t it. That unlikely feeling.
I: Exactly. I also had the intention of wanting to produce a song that captures with such a feeling. Not only is it pleasing to the ear, I think that even something like that holds something that the fans and listeners can accept.
── Did you consult the honest feelings of the fans and the fans’ votes for your 30th anniversary best-of album project as one of those evaluation criteria? Unexpected songs that weren’t singles or popular songs were included too.
I: That vote could be done once daily, and one person can vote multiple times so if there were diligent people, those songs will be ranked highly (lol). That’s why I was like “Heeeh～”. Well, I did take it into consideration though.
── But I did think that it’s because of that that a song like 「BABEL」 was created though.
I: How do I say it, not to “attack” but, something like this can be considered as pop as well. I think that even something that’s not something melodious and a little esoteric can be amusing.
── Even the arrangement leaves an imposing impression but does that overlap with the theme of the song?
I: The one who made the basic sound on the demo and put in the synthesizing was YOW-ROW-kun though.
── Imai-san is the vocalist in Fuji Maki-san’s SCHAFT right.
I: Yes. The amount of sounds that YOW-ROW-kun has is just so many that you could say that the development is dizzying, and had interesting parts.
── Yokoyama (Kazutoshi)-san has joined in BUCK-TICK’s recording though?
I: That’s because Yoko-chan and YOW-ROW-kun has different areas. YOW-ROW-kun is unhesitant, he has a part of him that decides ”I’ll put this kind of sound in”.
── This may sound rude but, with a generational difference, are there areas where you were in sync with Yokoyama-san?
I: There’s that as well, isn’t there. With Yoko-chan, we look at each other’s facial expressions and so on (lol)
── (lol) Was something like that a breath of fresh air for the song as well?
I: Not necessarily, but a variety of songs were indeed created.
── When producing the song, what was the image for lyrics like these?
I: This part is about this song so, I’ll hand it over to you.
── For Sakurai-san, what, in this song, inspired you for the lyrics?
Sakurai Atsushi (S): This song had a working title.
── Is that so?
S: We always have a temporary working title. I thought about it for quite awhile, assigning that working title.
I: I was like, why are you thinking about it so much (lol). The word「Babel」popped out, but we were also worried that the working title would affect the lyrics. Having said that, when the substance of it was expressed, it turned into this. In comparison, there was a time when we thought about the working title for around an hour.
── Is it because you want to to impose the image of your own song on the lyrics?
I: It was a jumble of thoughts along the lines of “I don’t want to but～”, like “what are we doing” (lol). So, when producing the song, this word,「Babel」, just sprung up normally. After that, when we searched online, it just so happened that the「Babel Exhibition」was being held, and I thought, well that’s just perfect.
── Was the word「Babel」something that created an image for you?
I: Simply put, it’s roughly “the Tower of Babel”, like a tower of treachery.
── Did Sakurai-san write the lyrics based on that working title?
S: Going back to the earlier topic, I also overheard that the working title was carefully chosen. So going with that flow, when coming up with song lyrics and doing the synchronisation, it’ll turn out exactly like that, the story will change completely, and it’ll get a different title too. I do have that flexibility too but, however, as a hint, there are times when the weight of it is different too. Imai-san mentioned this as well but there was a「Babel Exhibition」too, and even though they probably didn’t know about this song, it felt like the fans jumped the gun, saying things like “I went”, and sending us more and more merchandise (lol). Since I also knew about Babel as a child, I wondered, again, what will happen if I put it into words. I thought about it in parallel with the title.
── What does Sakurai-san think of as「Babel」?
S: In short, something like the egoism of man.
── Did you write the song lyrics around that?
S: Right. The, I suppose, main character, makes up their own god, then desperately tries to surpass that god. I have thought that it would be nice if that was possible, as a song, as a piece of music.
── At first glance, it doesn’t look like there are a lot of words in these lyrics, but I thought that what was stuffed in it was quite substantial.
S: That’s right. At the start, physically, there were quite an amount of words, at 5 or 6 pages on the PC. I gradually eliminated that.
── I would think that writing 5 to 6 pages at the start is quite tough but isn’t it even tougher to work on rewriting and cutting down on that?
S: Although I hate bragging that it was tough (lol), I was really tired this time. I noticed that each time, the degree of exhaustion seems to multiply.
── I wondered if the theme for the revision that you toiled on was the 2 aspects of Babel that Sakurai-san spoke of earlier. The purity and egoism of man. BUCK-TICK has depicted those ambivalent emotions well.
S: That always becomes the subject or the motif. Though I do think that if I’m a better person, it would’ve then been a different motif.
── I believe that there’s a profoundness that’s unique to Sakurai-san and BUCK-TICK, but in such a grandiose theme, there is also a playfulness showed by overlapping words with English, like “ifu no nen”, it makes me feel that there’s a good atmosphere.
S: Right. You might say that making people feel perplexed and think ”I wonder how serious these people really are” when they hear it, or creating the feeling that it’s not straightforward, is playfulness. Then next, we might produce a song that you’ll hear when you go shopping at the convenience store (lol). This time, that’s the kind of thing it is.
■ I definitely thought of an atmosphere akin to that of a monarch’s fragility
■ Terrified, shaking, asleep. They’re also part of the song lyrics though
── With regards to singing techniques and the like, were there areas that you were careful about or that you had difficulty with?
S: Once I write up the lyrics, I go ”Right, I’ll sing now!” (lol). I need a switch that tells me that it’s not done. Because if I’m not immersed enough in the singing phase, I’ll get the feeling that it doesn’t feel right. With regards to「Babel」, it’s a feeling similar to the emperor from The Emperor’s New Clothes. I definitely thought of an atmosphere akin to that of a monarch’s fragility. Terrified, shaking, asleep. They’re also part of the song lyrics though.
── So you don’t assume what you’d do while you’re singing when you’re writing the song lyrics?
S: I do think of that, at the same time. Because it’s a solitary world in the middle of the night. If it’s “the flesh of the lamb and wine”, I’ll have it like this, and eat it with my hands, or something (lol).
── Phrases like “motto chi wo (give me more blood)” are rather impactful lyrics, aren’t they.
S: Depending on circumstances, I’ll probably round it off and make it milder, but because this is an absolute monarch, he does not mince his words, like if he wanted to kill that person or something, that’s what it is.
── In the first line, there is “I am non-existent” though.
S: It goes around in circles, doesn’t it.
── Looking at the completed version, was it Imai-san who entitled it「Babel」?
I: Nope, when Sakurai-san’s song came in, I thought ”Ah, this is will be good as a single”」.
── Please tell me about the B-side「Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete」.
I: It’s a song from the album that’s currently in the works, that has been remixed by Ishino Takkyu-san. This is a new song that has been released as a remix first.
S: The latest song.
── It’s bold to suddenly remix it and record it on a single. isn’t it.
I: We had a meeting about what we should do about the B-side, the idea of possibly asking Ishino Takkyu-san for a remix surfaced. We gave Takkyu-san a choice of 3 songs. The original song is completely different. It wasn’t made in this club style.
── I did think so, but where did the idea of asking Takkyu-san to remix come from?
I: From Director Tanaka-san. I thought it was interesting too. When I heard what he created, the feeling of the gradual build-up is wonderful.
S: I liked it a lot too. I was also happy that it could be transformed into that style of dance music because it’s based off the original song. Rather, it’s great that two songs can be enjoyed.
I: The original song was a candidate for the single too.
── It could be that Takkyu-san had the desire to do it because it was that kind of song.
I: Exactly. I thought that the feel of the chords were interesting too, and of course, I suppose it was easy for him to make the tempo and BPM more club-like.
── Is the album nearing completion too? Even on September 23/24, at the「BUCK-TICK 2017 “THE PARADE” ～30th anniversary～」that was being held at Odaiba Tokusetsu Kaijo, you’ve briefly mentioned the new work.
S: Since we started rehearsing for that event just as we were entering recording for the new work, it was tough to switch from the newest songs to the debut songs (lol). My body couldn’t switch at all. When I got on stage, I was resolute and determined and it was all right but I was kind of unable to convey those feelings (lol).
── How were those two days?
I: It was fun. Suddenly going from recording and work on new songs to performing past songs live, I couldn’t get used to it at the start of rehearsals but as the concert neared, I got more excited too. I’m glad that we did it.
──It was fun for the audience, but it was also amazing that there were 42 songs in 2 days. Where did the idea of having such a big difference in content for those two days come from?
I: Somehow, we changed it halfway, then ended up changing everything (lol)
── Did you think that you’ll be able to do it soon because they were songs that you’ve previously performed tens of times before?
I: No, not at all. With the old songs, it was like ”Why did we put this phrase is?”. It felt absurd. I first listened to the source tracks at home to pick up the sound of it, and did rehabilitation before the rehearsal so that was quite exhausting (lol), like “How did I play this?” (lol). I analysed it. Like, “If it’s me I guess I’ll do it like this?” (lol) or, I probably wouldn’t do something this confusing, I’ll probably do something easy so, ah~ it’s like this.
── It’s tough because it’s not recorded on a score, isn’t it. I would think that as you play, won’t there be a lot of retrospective feelings as well?
I: More than that, I thought that it was amazing that on the 2nd day, we started with「Fly High」and ended with「Mudai」. Far from Tsundere, it’s more like having a dual personality (lol).
── (lol) But with your newest song「New World」at the end of the encore, I think that should settle it. How was it, having tried holding this event?
I: It was, of course, a good thing, and I think that we brought joy to the audience too. I’m glad that we did it.
S: After all, having been doing this for 30 years, this is also the first time that we were able to stage something like this, and I think that even for people who don’t know our earliest songs, they’ll also be able to think “So they did something like this”, and feel like they made new discoveries. Once again, I thought that anniversaries are delimiters. Then, we were also able to create a switch of starting something new because there was also the recording for the new songs, which makes me feel like it started with this.
── That start of new things is what this 「BABEL」turned out to be. I’m looking forward to what comes next. You also have a nationwide tour, and a year-end final being held at the Budokan over 2 days too.
S: That’s right. While everyone is celebrating for us, while we can still do it (lol). I’ll be great if we can energetically do it freely.