Wings of a Fallen Angel
Ongaku to Hito
text by Ishli Eriko, Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photographs by Chito_The Octopus
hair&make-up by Tanizaki Takayuki, Yamaji Chihiro_Fat’s Berry
styling by Shimizu Kenichi
2019 began with the performances of a postponed tour, the release of their single Kemonotachi no Yoru／RONDO, Locus Solus Bestia (Locus Solus no Kemonotachi), a 2-day event held at Makuhari Messe, and their annual year-end THE DAY IN QUESTION which they played in 5 locations around Japan. Although BUCK-TICK more or less held back on public activities in favour of working on music production, it appears that this year, they will be making dynamic moves.
Marking the start was the January 29 release of their single Datenshi (Fallen Angel) and the tribute album PARADE Ⅲ ~RESPECTIVE TRACKS OF BUCK-TICK～. While their 3rd tribute album serves up amazing content with a diverse line-up which includes the likes of Shiina Ringo, DIR EN GREY, BRAHMAN, and more, their new song Datenshi is even more amazing. At first listen, it comes across as a slightly digital, 8-beat rock n’ roll song, but the more you listen to it, there’s a strange alien feeling, or something prickly that unsettles and entangles the heart.
The interview confirms it. After all, Imai Hisashi is an unconventional, somewhat eccentric band member. And while talent is certainly needed to make this possible, more than that, it’s his enormous trust in the person that is Sakurai Atsushi which brings it all to life. This is where we find the reason behind the band’s ability to continue keeping things fresh even now, after more than 30 years since their formation. The year 2020, without a doubt, will be their year.
I personally also had rather intense emotional ups and downs
You could call it a mental health issue, but I became a bit of a shut-in
Interview by Ishii Eriko
―― First, let’s look back on the past year. After you concluded your 2018 show at Budokan, you started the year with preparations for Locus Solus Bestia, your one-man at Makuhari Messe, right?
Sakurai (S): Yes. In May. Talk about it started early on, and since we also had the keyword “beasts (獣たち / kemonotachi)”, we [decided] that we would release a single alongside the Makuhari [event]. We could already see our goal, you know? Since we weren’t holding a concert for a new album, it felt as if we were doing it just to show off the 2 songs from the single. So, although it wasn’t as if we had no pressure on us or had all the time in the world, but we did have a lot of time to think it over. The first half [of the year] was spent in meetings and all that.
S: And while we were doing that…… A friend of mine passed away in February. This person is someone I’ve known since our debut, who runs a bar in Kumamoto, who isn’t a woman but is one at heart. It was really sudden. We even just met at our year-end Budokan show, and time has just been passing while I’m still struggling to come to terms with the death of someone I’ve known for 30-something years…… But, well, I’m [still dealing with it] until now. I’m just stunned because it came out of nowhere. Everyone seemed rather shocked too.
―― This someone who all the members of the band were close to?
S: That’s right. In the beginning, we met when [the band] went on our first [promotional] campaign and all of us immediately got along really well. When we held concerts, they¹ would definitely attend whenever we played in Kyushu, and they’d even come to Tokyo for our shows. They were full of life at Budokan, too. So when we heard that they collapsed, we thought, “They’d be fine,” but apparently, not.
―― …… Ah.
S: Well, that happened, and after Makuhari wrapped up…… We were talking about starting work on the production of our next album, but we couldn’t really switch gears and things just fell more and more off track work-wise. The single that we finally made turned out to be these two songs, but this, too, was finished later than we originally planned.
―― Did the other members feel like they were in a stagnant state too?
S: I wonder? I don’t think so, actually. Contrarily, I think they were able to use that time effectively for themselves. It’s just that when the year is split into approximate halves…… Mm, we were kind of out of it in the latter half of the year after Makuhari wrapped up, weren’t we? I personally also had rather intense emotional ups and downs. You could call it a mental health issue, but I became a bit of a shut-in².
―― Is it okay to publish this?
S: Yes. But it’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time now. And there are times it’s difficult when we’re in production, but if there’s nothing going on, I’d end up thinking about things on my own and it gets really difficult. I’ve been dealing with this side of myself since a long time ago, but I would cyclically find myself in that [mood].
―― Is there a reason for this? Because during the interview right before Locus Solus, you showed us such a radiant smile and told us that you’re fine, that you’re drinking alcohol too, that you’ll be taking a good rest even though you had to be hospitalised in the middle of your previous tour.
S: Ah……… That’s true. Well, there was also the passing of that acquaintance, that friend, but……… I wonder why? There’s nothing, is there? No reason or anything…… It’s just an empty feeling. Although there’s nothing [to cause it], I just seem to get pulled in that direction. I had to start work on our album production too, and, mm …… I had a rather long stretch of time to face myself with questions like, “What do I do next?”, didn’t I? But, well, I’m still like this even now, though. Yeah, when it’s hard, it’s hard, isn’t it?
―― Somehow, it seems as if things are heavier than ever.
S: That’s why it’s a year where there isn’t really…… much to talk about. Mm…… It doesn’t look like there’s any content, is there?
―― Kukukuku! But I think that the Sakurai-san who gets pulled into darkness before he notices it has always been around. Although, it also feels as if the producer Sakurai-san who somehow manages to get things moving by tricking that side of him into expressing himself exists at the same time.
S: Ah, that’s a good way to put it. Perhaps it’s that producer’s work that has gotten tough (smiles).
―― And that made you stop for a bit.
S: It did. Hmm, like getting stuck in a childish, self-centered way of thinking and dwelling on thoughts like, “…… What am I?”.
―― On the other hand, do you feel better when you’ve decided on what you’ll do with BUCK-TICK and you’re busy working on it?
S: Maybe so. Maybe I’m still happier with that kind of bustle. Working on things and troubling over them; those aren’t labour pains, though. I guess you could say that it’s a different type of hardship.
―― But as far as listening to Datenshi and Luna Park went, I didn’t feel those goings-on behind the scenes at all.
S: Ah, then that’s good. I suppose it’s because this is work where I’m creating and spinning stories, so in a way, it’s still healthy. I guess I’m able to vent my emotions like this.
Rather than forcing myself to flaunt something that doesn’t show how I truly feel, or something that is not of my interest, I only want to sing about one thing so it’s alright even if it makes people think, “Ah, this again?”
―― When were these two songs made?
S: Um…… October? I think it was much later than scheduled. Also, we initially had a different song, a song that was not Datenshi which was supposed to be the single. But Imai-san presented this Datenshi in our final meeting. Because it appeared that a BUCK-TICK which gives off an edgy vibe was more fitting for our present selves than a gentle BUCK-TICK.
―― Ahh, the original candidate was a more gentle type of song?
S: That’s right. That will be going into the album.
―― Datenshi is a song that sounds more like a simple rock and roll. And in it, you’ve etched the words “it aches” ³ and “I’m falling, aren’t I” ³.
S: Yes. In my mind, I’ve imagined hurting myself more and more, so I thought maybe it’s about time I let others hear it.
―― It’s the same Sakurai World we know.
S: Yes. I guess you could say that this is better than enjoying hurting people. Like, since it’s just me, I can torment myself as much as I want, and I can pull my own punches right just as I approach my limits. I don’t know about other people, but things that I can’t really speak to others about too…… There are one or two. In my heart and mind, I’m no saint. And since that’s the way it is, I feel that I should just spread these black wings of mine. I thought it’d be a good idea to spin such a story and somehow make it cool.
―― Is the Fallen Angel⁴ a creature which lives in Sakurai-san?
S: Yes. And it is not something that exists only in me, but also in all the ordinary people as well, dressed up the form of a human being. Vigorously expanding their desires.
―― But wasn’t it hard to write the words “I’m falling, aren’t I” when your emotions were spiralling and sinking down?
S: Ah, but well, [it was alright] because when you multiply a negative by another negative you’d end up with a positive, right? That’s how I think it is. Also, I suppose I’m fortunate that I can put out these lyrics at such a time, can vent [my feelings] on the outside, and have strangers who are willing to listen to these things for me. But for those people who are really worn out, who really can’t get out of bed…… Even just imagining it is scary for me. It’s not as if you can simply say, “It’s alright. Things will somehow work out.”
―― That’s why we need dark music too. But the other song, Luna Park is an exceptionally “pop” song, isn’t it?
S: Yeah. For this song, we’ve completely cut ourselves off from Datenshi. You can say that [this song] is our usual pattern, but like how the lyrics go, [the song is] about how it all ends so quickly when you’re having fun, like at a circus or an amusement park. It has always been like this. In short, that’s what I want [our listeners] to feel [when they hear this song].
―― But this song gives me a strong sense of, “even though I know that it’s a lie, I want to believe that forever exists”.
S: Ahh. Well, I also thought that it’d be nice if I could tell it from a child’s perspective. Because children are capable of having very pure dreams, aren’t they? I’d be glad if everyone can listen to it from that perspective.
―― Also, why did you use “we” ⁵ instead of “I” ⁵ as the subject in the song?
S: Ahh, well, I have a painting by Chagall⁶ in my room.
―― What’s the title of the painting?
S: What was it…… I don’t quite know what it’s called, though. [In the painting,] lovers are flying through the sky, in a blue sky. From that painting, the words, “By chance, we meet” came to mind, and then, the image of separation…… (Staff searched for Chagall’s painting and shows him the screen. Numerous similar blue paintings appear) Ah, it’s not this one. Neither is it this one……
―― …… I didn’t know Chagall painted so many pieces with the same motifs. I’m even getting a sense of madness from them. Do you empathise with this intuition to keep painting the same themes over and over again?
S: Yeah. I suppose you can say I like it, this feeling.
―― I don’t mean this in a negative light, but more often than not, what Sakurai-san’s lyrics say is [the same thing] in the end.
S: Yes. I think so too. After all, I believe that it’d be a sin for me to force myself to flaunt something that doesn’t show how I truly feel, or something that is not of my interest as if I’m an expert on it. There’s only one thing that I want to sing about, so it’s alright even if it makes people think, “Ah, this again?”
―― Also, the line “we are dreaming, dreaming” ⁷ in the chorus, does it hold a double meaning?
S: No? Nothing like that in particular.
―― Ah, I see. Because, when 夢夢 (yume yume)⁷ is written in Hiragana (ゆめゆめ), won’t it’s meaning turn into “must never”, like that of its use in olden texts and stories? For example, “You must never ever look at [it].” ⁸
S: Yes, yes, yes. There’s that, isn’t there? That usage. Ahh…… But I didn’t associate [the word’s] meaning with Japanese aesthetics.
―― It just gets me thinking that if we apply the “must never” meaning of the word here, it carries on the secret cipher of “don’t leave” [within the song], doesn’t it?
S: That’s pretty nice. May I claim that? (Grins)
―― I’ve read too much into it, haven’t I? Although, this may be a hollow sounding statement but, don’t you think that there’s something about the song that makes you want to say, “This is what defines BUCK-TICK’s presence.”?
S: Yeah. It may sound like empty words, but really, I hope it’s true. And, that this is [the legacy] that our music leaves behind. I, too, get that feeling that it’s there.
―― I have this impression that the resolution to continue playing with these 5 band members as BUCK-TICK has been especially strong in recent years.
S: Hmm…… I think everyone’s already resigned⁹ to it.
―― Resigned (smiles). That’s a good resignation, isn’t it?
S: I suppose it’s a good one. Mm, regarding myself too, I don’t suppose we’d be of much use if we went anywhere else anyway. After all, I’m not good at it, am I? Meeting people. …… I’m sorry, even though that’s my job.
―― No, don’t be.
S: Well, but, there’s something about meeting people and speaking to them that keeps me distracted. After all, if you let a piece of junk¹⁰ stop working, it’ll just crumble away. You have to keep it moving.
―― [It’s good, then,] as long as talking isn’t a burden for you, more than anything.
S: But, well, since my character is like this, [it can’t be helped]. Sometimes, people would call me for work, but other times, I’d be drinking and spacing out on my own, and I guess that’s just the way I am. Also, I read Discourse on Decadence¹¹.
―― By Ango¹¹? He wrote, “Let’s live, let’s fall” ¹², but does Sakurai-san understand this feeling too?
S: Ahh, but that man’s circumstances are different, aren’t they?
―― Because that was during wartime, right?
S: It was tough, wasn’t it? And that was an era when you couldn’t really help it even if you lost your mind. It’s just that…… This is probably an entirely different topic, but I’m 53, now. I previously spoke about this too, though.
―― It’s the age at which your father passed away, right?
S: Yes. And I’m probably drinking even more than my father did too. For some reason, I kept getting the feeling that I’m getting pulled [by him] throughout last year. I went back to Takasaki, my hometown the other day and I spoke about it with my older brother but he said, “You’ll be 54 soon, so just hang in there.” (Smiles). Although, it made me realise that maybe my older brother was thinking about these things too. I think for my brother, he was very much more concerned for his family, so…… What were we talking about again? I’m sorry.
I turned the same age as when my father passed away, and I’ve also had to bid farewell to people
It had me thinking about a lot of things. Like, “How long will I live?”, and the like
―― It’s alright. We were talking about the lyric, “I’m falling” ³.
S: Ahh. But there’s a part of me which was being pulled by those sort of things. There’s [the circumstance] with my father, and I’ve also had to bid farewell to people. It had me thinking about a lot of things. Like, “How long will I live?”, and the like.
―― Are these scary to you?
S: I am, scared. In the sense that I do feel fear of it, and I don’t want to be hurt too. Also, I’d hate to make things difficult for the people around me. That’s a thought that comes to mind when I look at my family too. Like, when I think about when my mother passed away, I’d believe my brother was also hit hard by it. That’s how I’ve come to think, you know? That I’d hate to bother the people around me.
―― Ahh. This is different from the feeling of, “I just want to disappear.”
S: Yes. It’s as good as end of life planning (smiles).
―― Hahahaha. So, what do you do for that?
S: …… I’ve been drinking.
S: With my utmost effort.
―― Good work!
S: Hahaha. Thank you!
―― I’m not sure if “falling” like this is good or not, though (smiles). But do you feel a strong intuition that 2020 will, at the very least, be better than last year?
S: I do. Mhm. I hope for it too. Well, you could attribute it to [the fact that] we’d be creating works, and also, that the whole of Japan will be doused in the colours of the Olympics…… Well, it might just be Tokyo, but I just think that it might also be good to get absorbed in something that’s got nothing to do [with my work].
―― Oh, really? Will you be watching it? The Olympics.
S: I think I probably will watch it. I suppose even I am surprisingly patriotic myself. If I watch international tournaments or things like that, I’d support [Japan] anyway.
―― I see. There’s one more thing to talk about; there’s the tribute album too. How do you feel about it?
S: Well…… It revalidated those two’s, Imai’s and Hoshino’s songs, didn’t it? Like, “Ahh, what great melodies.” It feels as if [the artists] took the songs apart and put them back together again, so I could legitimately acknowledge, “Ahh, this is what I like about this song.”
―― So it feels as if you can listen [to your own] songs as someone else’s.
S: You’re right, really. For example, how simple and beautiful Sakamoto Miu-san made our song. I could really treat it as someone else’s song and relax and listen to it. I was able to detach myself from it completely too because it was sung by a lady.
―― The way minus(-) incorporated female vocalist, Fujikawa Chiai-san was quite admirable too, wasn’t it?
S: Yeah, since Keijijou Ryuusei is a song that I love a lot, it was lovely to hear how it sounds so ephemeral with a female voice.
―― And your sworn brother of the heart, ISSAY-san is also taking part.
S: Yes. Der Zibet was the very first one to finish the song and send it to us. It really made me think about what wonderful seniors they are to us. And that Ai no Souretsu is…… I ended up feeling that perhaps ISSAY-san is a better fit for that song.
S: I felt a bit of jealousy over that. But there were re-discoveries for me too. Somehow, the picture of decadent¹³ nobles dancing in Rokumeikan¹⁴ came to mind. I thought, “Ah, how refined.” It was lovely.
―― What did you think of the unexpected element of BRAHMAN?
S: First off, I thought, “They’ll do it for us?” And I didn’t expect them to ICONOCLASM as their choice of song too. Before this, the first time we met was at an event in Sendai, and somehow Yuta got along really well with them. Although I’ve only met them once, I could feel their love. And each of the covers by the others were great too. I enjoyed them as well.
―― That’s great. So, following this, the album is, of course, what’s next, but how’s your work going now?
S: Not progressing. At all¹⁵.
―― Kukukuku. When do you think it will be released?
S: Around summer…… would be nice, I think.
―― Please don’t say inauspicious things (smiles). But is your present mental state rosier than last summer?
S: …… Yes. It might sound thoughtless of me to call it a distraction, but nonetheless, when a goal or a task has been decided for me, that’s where my attention will shift to after all. It becomes a little bit easier on me like that.
―― I understand. I thought that this interview was going to be one where I could say, “I’m glad you were able to get a good rest,” but instead, it turned out to be something completely different.
S: Ah, it really did. Although, when I think about the readers, maybe it would be better if I didn’t talk about these things. But I can’t lie, so… Saying, “Ah, no, I’ve been doing well,” or “I went to the beach¹⁶,” and things like that……
―― The beach¹⁶! No one wants to hear such a voice from Sakurai-san.
―― I hope that it’ll be a good year, 2020.
S: Yes. I hope so too.
¹ Sakurai never specified the pronoun.
² He used the term 引きこもり (hikikomori).
³ Lyrics from Datenshi:
痛いよ (itai yo) = it aches
堕ちてゆくんだろう (ochite yukun darou) = I’m falling, aren’t I
⁴ No brackets were used for the words 堕天使 (Datenshi) here so I translated it as it is rather than used the Romaji name of the song.
⁵ 僕 (boku), the masculine-implying version of “I”, versus 僕達 (bokutachi), “we”.
⁶ Marc Chagall was a Russian-French artist of Belarusian Jewish origin. An early modernist, he was associated with several major artistic styles and created works in a wide range of artistic formats, including painting, drawings, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic tapestries and fine art prints.
⁷ Lyrics from Luna Park, 僕達は夢夢 (bokutachi wa yume yume).
⁸ ゆめゆめ見てはならぬ (Yume yume mite wa naranu).
⁹ The word 観念する (kannensuru) implies that one is mentally prepared to a fate that is unchangeable. Like being “prepared for death”. Translations of it include “to be resigned to”, “to be prepared for”, “to make up one’s mind”. I went with the “resigned” version because it’s funnier anyway.
¹⁰ ポンコツ (ponkotsu) can mean something that is useless or unreliable, or “a piece of junk” along the lines of a very old machine. He meant it in a sense similar to what happens if you turn off an old machine which has been running for years or even decades. Suddenly everything falls apart and it won’t work again.
¹¹ Discourse on Decadence (堕落論 / Darakuron) written in 1946 is Ango Sakaguchi’s most famous essay which examined the role of bushido during WWII. It is widely argued that he saw postwar Japan as decadent, yet more truthful than a wartime Japan which was built on illusions like bushido. The work itself, however, does not make any claims about the meaning of decadence.
¹² A line from Discourse on Decadence: 生きよ、堕ちよ (iki yo, ochi yo).
¹³ The word used here was 没落 (botsuraku) which refers to the fall of a nation or a family/clan. For example, the fall of the Roman empire, the downfall of an affluent family and so on.
¹⁴ Rokumeikan (鹿鳴館) was a large two-story building in Tokyo, completed in 1883, which became a controversial symbol of Westernisation in the Meiji period. Commissioned for the housing of foreign guests by the Foreign Minister Inoue Kaoru, it was designed by British architect Josiah Conder, a prominent Western adviser working in Japan. Although the Rokumeikan’s heyday was brief, it became famous for its parties and balls, which introduced many high-ranking Japanese to Western manners for the first time, and it is still a fixture in the cultural memory of Japan. It was, however, largely used for the accommodation of guests of the government, and for meetings between Japanese who had already lived abroad, and its image as a centre of dissipation is largely fictional.
¹⁵ He actually said ぱったりと (hattari to) which refers to a sudden, unexpected or abrupt stop.
¹⁶ In Japanese, going to the beach is typically written as “海に行く”, literally “I went to the sea”, which is what was said here.
Something that makes people think that No.0 “was normal in comparison”
I want to create something that deviates from the rules even more
Interview by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
―― Shall we first start with a recap of 2019?
I: Uhh…… What did we do?
―― To start, in the first half of the year, you played a few shows at various locations which came about because Sakurai suddenly took ill and you had to postpone part of your tour. Then, in May, you released Kemonotachi no Yoru / RONDO and held Locus Solus Bestia at Makuhari Messe. And now, you’re still in the middle of the tour, but you’ll be rounding that up with THE DAY IN QUESTION 2019 at Yoyogi First Gymnasium this year-end.
I: Well, we didn’t really show our faces much but I suppose it felt like a year where we did a bunch of stuff. Locus Solus Bestia was fun, too.
―― In what way?
I: The general tone of the live show was a little dark, wasn’t it? But that was fresh, right? And that acoustic set on the center stage. It was our first time doing that but it was not bad. Just that in Makuhari Messe, it’s a looong way from the stage to the seats at the back, right? When I think about how the audience at the back probably couldn’t see us, I feel that it’s a bit disappointing. There are various opinions on this, but I think it’s better if we played in a venue where there are second-floor seats and people can watch us from above.
―― The setlist was indeed fresh. Like an inverse THE DAY IN QUESTION, or one that oozes with what makes BUCK-TICK’s core.
I: That’s how it ended up. We weren’t aiming for anything in particular. It just happened that way. Because when we collected the songs that the members wanted to play and we put it all together, that’s just how it turned out.
―― I suppose you were all in agreement without needing to check what you were going to do with each other, right?
I: That’s right.
―― That’s what I thought when I heard that Yuta-san proposed Aikawarazu no “Are” no Katamari ga Nosabaru Hedo no Soko no Fukidamari.
―― Did you always intend to let your 2019 go at this pace from the beginning?
I: Yeah. You could say that it’s because I had quite a strong desire to properly compose music, or write a new song, or something like that.
―― Is that music for BUCK-TICK?
I: There’s no other, is there?
―― When I heard No.0, I thought that this album was the terminus ad quem of BUCK-TICK’s recent few years. That’s why I got this vague notion that the next album would probably involve a completely different approach, though.
I: Yeah. But I didn’t even think for a moment that [the new songs] might be better done with someone other than BUCK-TICK. Because there’s still a lot I want to do and experiment with the band.
―― It’s never-ending, is it?
I: It sure is…… There’ll probably be no end until I die.
―― When you spoke of things you wanted to do, what exactly was it?
I: What is it…… I still have no idea at all, but I guess it’ll be something that makes people think that No.0 “was normal in comparison after all”. I want to create something that deviates from the rules even more. Experimentation…… It sort of feels like that, but you could also say that it’s music that does exist anywhere in the world at present, or something that deviates from the rules and the norm, or something of the sort…… I still haven’t thought it out properly, though.
―― Was Datenshi what you composed with those concepts in mind?
I: Yeah. We made the song through quite a bit of trial and error while keeping that in mind. That’s why it has a clear theme, although we weren’t deliberately aiming for that.
―― When I first heard Datenshi, it gave me the impression that you’ve returned to a simple band sound based on rock and roll, but going back to your roots wasn’t what you aimed to do, right?
I: It may sound like that, but we’ve arranged it in a way where the bass and guitar ensembles and arrangements are being put in completely different areas than how we’ve been doing it so far.
―― Pardon me, but how is it different?
I: So, for example, parts where you’d expect to hear the bass according to regular band theory won’t have any bass, so on and so forth. We tried out lots of different approaches like these. Right now, what we’re looking for is an aggressive tone.
I: But it’s different from the genre sense of punk or metal or anything like that. It’s just an aggressive feeling.
It’s not a result of us doing this for 30 continuous years. Neither is it a miracle or anything like that
We’re all working hard, and that’s what I trust in
―― Putting it very simply, when you produced SEXY STREAM LINER in the past, you incorporated house and techno into your music and ended up creating an album with an approach which was considered to be rather edgy at the time. To prevent spoilers, I won’t go into detail with regards to what kind of song [Datenshi] is, but can I say that you chose to go all the way with that concept rather than simply bringing it into your world as an ingredient?
I: Yes, exactly.
―― Looking at it from another perspective, I also get the feeling that employing such an approach evades the curse of the BUCK-TICK-ness where anything goes to generate the most originality for you.
I: Yeah. I thought that it could even be that such a method was instead the most typical of us.
―― Everyone tried to somehow get away from BUCK-TICK’s curse but be it programming or gothic or singing to your own playing or performing an 8-beat rock and roll number, no matter what you do, they’re all elements of BUCK-TICK so whichever way you go, you won’t bring out your full colours. In Imai-san’s case, you can do whatever you want because BUCK-TICK exists, but I suppose that might be tied to the fact that you keep trying all kinds of approaches, right?
I: Since I’ve got a variety of drawers¹ [to open], it’d be a waste to not open them to take a look anyway.
―― Come to think of it, I went to watch THE DAY IN QUESTION at Takasaki the other day. I thought the BGM that you’d play pre-concert would be genre-less as per usual, but suddenly GUNJOGACRAYON² came on and I was so confused.
―― It made me wonder just what kind of range your drawers contain.
I: About that, our manager contacted me a day prior and said, “Please send me tomorrow’s BGM.” Because I completely forgot about it (smiles), I started thinking about it right then, and I had so many [options] that I couldn’t decide (smiles). So without much thought, I just decided to put in whatever was suitable along those lines.
―― Fuhahahahahaha. I thought that it was definitely representative of that deviant sense of Imai-san’s.
I: I suppose it might be so.
―― Could it be said that this [deviant sense] is something that tends to some about when you’ve been at it for such a long time? Like, you want to rid yourself of constraints, or something like that.
I: It’s distancing from it and escaping from it. I think that it’s fun to break away from that too. That’s why whatever comes next is the one that’s going to be really interesting. I think it’s because we’ve made No.0 that we’re able to do that.
―― Is it going to be something special which has no relation to genre, or something that no one has ever heard before?
I: I can’t explain it very well, so I want people to get a sense of it through the nuances. Because like I’ve said earlier, I’d end up conveying something different again if I explain too much in detail. During Arui wa Anarchy too, I said, “surrealism”, but that was only a word that I used to share it’s image with designer Akita-san, you know? At the time, it was fine in the context of our conversation, but even if I told the general public, “BUCK-TICK’s next theme is a surrealism!”, it would be as good as a heavy metal band saying, “Next, we’ll be putting out a metal album!”
I: But that went out of hand and surrealism became the emphasis. The news began covering surrealism instead of the album (smiles).
―― And that’s why it’s a delicate and difficult task to put it in words, isn’t it?
I: It’s difficult, and the more I talk about it, the more I’d eventually end up thinking, “That’s just the same as usual, isn’t it?” Well, that’s also because what I want to do keeps changing, right? During Tenshi no Revolver, I thought I’d stick with that vibe for the rest of my life, but now it’s completely different.
―― What vibe are you referring to?
I: In other words, making rock easy to understand, with the riff, and things like that. It happens all the time. Me, thinking, “I want to do this.” But then, it changes. Because that’s just how it naturally goes. That makes things interesting for myself, and for us [the band] too.
―― So, because that is still there, you’ll be playing as a band tirelessly in 2020.
I: Yeah, I think it’s going to be amazing (smiles).
―― And that is because of the enormous trust that you have in the band that, like you’ve said earlier, gives you the confidence that, “No matter what I do, it’ll be alright as long as it’s with these 4.”, right?
I: That’s why we’ll never tire of doing it, right? It’s the same for me and everyone [in the band]. Whether it’s recording work or rehearsals, if I start to think about slacking off, I believe I’d be clear [that I feel that way], but I don’t get those kinds of feelings at all. I don’t ever think, “This is good enough.” ³ I think that’s our greatest strength. Because, you see, I don’t think that this is a result of us keeping at it all this while, or having been doing this for 30 continuous years. Neither is it a miracle or anything like that. We’re all working hard. And that’s what I trust in.
¹ I think it can be established that when they say “drawers”, you can imagine a huge cupboard with a ton of drawers for you to open and close. Each drawer holds a different thing, and opening a new one gives them something new to explore.
² GUNJOGACRAYON were formed as a four- or five-piece outfit around guitarist Kumihara Tadashi and keyboardist Ohmori Fumio in the late 1970s, and have been supporting the Japanese underground music scene since then. Their peculiar soundscape with violently scattered piano sounds, weird and tricky voices or a sticky guitar psychedelia could amaze and perplex lots of reviewers and audience. They are famous for not only their sound but also the rarity of their studio works (they have released only three official albums for over 30 years).
³ In the sense that something half-arsed is good enough for him to call it a day.
[Live Report] The Day In Question 2019
2019.12.03 Takasaki City Theatre
This is their annual year-end show. They chose to play in their hometown, Takasaki, Gunma on the opening day of this tour. Because this was a place befitting their announcement of a new beginning.
text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photographs by Shibata Eri, MASA
The band’s freedom and the absolute trust they have. That, I believe, without a doubt, is what leads into their next release.
3rd December. Takasaki City Theatre.
This was the first day of the tour, so I can’t deny that there were still areas to be explored. The fact that this is their hometown, a special place to them probably has some bearing on it too. During the member introductions in the encore, Higuchi and Yagami, the brothers who grew up in Takasaki, were standing all smiles while being introduced last. But what the live show conveyed was akin to a firm resolve to take a step forward into somewhere new. This is a band whose members are all above the age of 50 and which was formed more than 30 years ago, but this spirit with which they still take on their music, live performances, and the band itself can only be described as amazing. Therein lies the enormous trust that has been built up through the years.
Since THE DAY IN QUESTION is positioned as an annual year-end show unrelated to album releases, the members deliberately bring in songs that they don’t usually play. And this time, the set list that they eventually decided on here didn’t include a single song from their latest album No.0. Of course, they did go on a long tour for it the year before last, so they might want to keep their distance from that particular release for the time being, but more than that, it feels like their reason behind this was a decision to reset everything and head towards what’s next.
And in terms of song selection, even though this was THE DAY IN QUESTION, with the exception of Uta, SILENT NIGHT, Speed, and LOVE ME which were released during their debut with their first era in Victor, most of the songs they chose were from the 2000s, released after they moved to Ariola. Because of this and the addition of various arrangements, the overall tone of the set list left a fresh impression, emphasising a band which has grown stronger since their ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH days.
On this day, Sakurai’s emotions were once again conveyed with a tingling pain. As shown to us during the No.0 tour and Locus Solus Bestia, his method of looking at himself from an observer’s point of view and “performing” Sakurai Atsushi separates the stage from his daily life for him and thus, likely reduced the burden on himself, making it comparatively easier for him to confront the music but this live show leaves a heavy weight in my heart. There’s even a kind of fear that I’ve seen something I was never meant to see. But that’s a good thing. Mudai in the encore was especially stunning, weaving darkness over magnetism. The way he sang as if he was squeezing everything out of himself could only be described as bona fide.
Because this was the kind of show they gave, Imai’s wildness stood out. From Cyborg Dolly: Sora-Mimi: PHANTOM to PINOA ICCHIO -Odoru Atomu-, and Alice in Wonder Underground to Speed, the sight of him playing the guitar while hopping around the stage was of an uncontrolled creature not found anywhere else. There probably aren’t many who can tame him. And here is where he can be free.
The more I watch their contrasting performances on stage, both Sakurai and Imai seek what they lack from each other. They can be described as light and darkness, but in the end, it’s as if they have a complementary relationship with each other; one can’t be without the other. And that’s why they are unafraid. Whatever the approach of the music they create, no matter how heavy the themes, it will all become a part of and also build up the prominent individuality of the band that is BUCK-TICK.
Among all of that, they performed their new song Datenshi. At first listen, it makes you think that they’ve decided to make a U-turn back to a simple band sound, but discomfort and avant garde can be glimpsed, in a good way, on their faces. And also, those catchy yet dark lyrics. I kept wondering what it was, and in the interview, I found out. From this song comes the band’s motivation to step out into new frontiers and the suspense which currently exists within.
In 2019’s THE DAY IN QUESTION, the band’s freedom and the absolute trust they have in each other was felt more strongly than usual. And that, I believe, without a doubt, is what leads into their next release.
BUCK-TICK and the Ariola Decade
Celebrating the release of B-T LIVE PRODUCT -Ariola YEARS-
text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
In 2000, BUCK-TICK switched labels to BMG Funhouse. Following that, BMG was absorbed into Sony and the label name was changed to Ariola Japan. Those 10 years of activity was a crucial period for the band to establish something. In this article, we will unravel those days as we contemplate the significance of this box set.
This era is a time of BUCK-TICK’s rebirth and their awakening as expressionists
Now, as they cross 30 years together and step into their golden age, it’s more important than ever to look back at where they came from and appreciate it
BUCK-TICK was with Ariola Japan from 2000 to 2010 which includes their time with BMG Funhouse, the predecessor of Ariola Japan. The live footage from this era, including previously-unreleased content, will be released in a 10-disc Blu-ray box. The video resolution will, of course, be scaled up and the sound quality remastered in high-definition, so through this box set, live works prior to TOUR 2007 Tenshi no Revolver, which had only been released in DVD format, can now be enjoyed in much higher video and sound quality.
That said, it’s an expensive product with a price tag of 32,000 yen. And now that the sales tax rate has gone up, it’s a little daunting to loosen the purse strings (lol). The unreleased live footage from the annual Nippon Budokan concert on December 29th, which was held as an additional performance to the TOUR 2010 go on the “RAZZLE DAZZLE” is included as a bonus disc to encourage those of you who feel this way.
The main setlist is no different than that of the recording of disc 9 in this box, but the songs which were performed for the encore were, on this day only, different from what was performed on the other dates of the tour. They performed the very first song on ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH, their very first album released upon their move to Ariola Japan, Baby, I want you. and the epilogue of 13-kai wa Gekkou, DIABOLO as the last song. The song’s ending of “Go-kigenyou sayounara” sounds like an expression of gratitude to Ariola with whom they have spent more than 10 years. Their relationship was such; loved and beloved.
In the beginning, when BUCK-TICK moved to BMG (now Ariola) at the start of 2000, expectations for the band was, in all honesty, rather low. SEXY STREAM LINER, released in late 1997, used a lot of programming and sampling, making it an album which leaned towards techno or house music. At the time, such an approach was shockingly edgy, and both the scene and the listeners couldn’t keep up with them. The reaction they got was, in short, one of rebuff and, as if to show this to them, the turnout to their live shows gradually decreased.
It was right then when I took over this publication and I went to watch them live for the first time in a while. The show I attended was SEXTREAMLINER Reishiki (type 0) which was held at Nippon Budokan over 2 days, but the second floor seats were shockingly sparse. To be honest, I remember myself wondering, “Is this band…… okay?”
It was during such a period when they switched labels. The news was not highly publicised and was instead, quietly conveyed to me. But the passion of those involved with them was fiery. When I watched the live performance mentioned earlier, I thought, “Maybe I don’t need to cover the show……”, but eventually what got them into the publication was, without a doubt the enthusiasm of their promoters of that time and their manager. I was a little sceptical, so the coverage of ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH was published in monochrome pages. Things, however, gradually began to change with the times and a good vibe began to flow.
Wasteful behaviour, like the way they used to only go into the studio at night even though it had already been prepared for their recording sessions, began to disappear. They started to become more aware of their situation. In other words, the Ariola era was, in many ways, the right time for the band to give themselves a reboot.
And that’s why, during this period, there was a sense of the band working towards getting something back, where all 5 of them were looking towards the one same direction and, at the same time, being acutely aware of their band sound be it for album recordings or live performances. It was also in this time when each of them embarked on their own solo activities for the first time.
However, those activities were most definitely things that they couldn’t have done within the band and rather than doing this to puff up their egos, it was more for the purpose of distancing themselves from the band. And in those activities, Sakurai’s theme became “the performance of non-fiction” to “portray life and death”.
As long as he possesses this firm concept, he can do anything, and utilising this, Imai’s music began to freely traverse between pop and avant garde too. Among all of this, Imai was inspired by Sakurai’s solo activities and took the “gothic” concept and created the masterpiece 13-kai wa Gekkou which then led into the worldview of “life and death” in memento mori. It was during this period of time when they once again acquired something unshakeable; something that would become the core of the band.
Long story short, I’ve said it numerous times, but it was during this Ariola era that the worldview that was to become the present BUCK-TICK’s core surfaced and took a tangible form. You can see the way they’ve matured from one live show to the next, and each of them is fascinating to watch.
Sakurai, who had been projecting himself through the band’s speedy progression and sound gradually sensed the danger of this, encountered the gothic style of expression, and learned that he could project himself there rather than simply act it out. Such is the tale told in these 10 discs.
Ariola Years is a time of BUCK-TICK’s rebirth and their awakening as expressionists. And now, as they cross 30 years together and step into their golden age, it’s more important than ever to look back at where they came from and appreciate it.
『B-T LIVE PRODUCT -Ariola YEARS-』
01 ONE LIFE, ONE DEATH CUT UP
02 BUCK-TICK TOUR 2002 WARP DAYS 20020616 BAY NK HALL
03 Mona Lisa OVERDRIVE -XANADU-
04 at the night side
05 悪魔とフロイト -Devil and Freud- ClImax Together
06 13th FLOOR WITH DIANA
07 TOUR 2007 天使のリボルバー
08 memento mori 090702
09 TOUR 2010 go on the “RAZZLE DAZZLE”
10 BONUS DISC
So how will they express themselves and prove their abilities?
BUCK-TICK’s existence is that which is found in such a colossal question
text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
This is this first single since Kemonotachi no Yoru / RONDO, the theme of Locus Solus Bestia. As one of those who had been there at the live show, I had a rough idea that this’ll probably be a song of gratitude. That would be the most beautiful story of all. But I had forgotten that BUCK-TICK is a band that will always put a new crack in that perspicuity.
At first, a gentle number was prepared for release, but the story of its last minute replacement with Datenshi is typical of them. The song starts with a glam-like guitar riff, followed by an electronic sound which defies the typical rock and roll mould. This title track which plunges us into a jagged B-T world is a number which lets us get a sense of Imai’s true nature and desire to deviate from the norm. On the other hand, you could say that it’s because of Sakurai’s songs, which he says only ever sings about the one same thing, his absolute vocals, and his lyrical world that Imai is required to deviate. Even now, these two’s honeymoon still show no signs of ending.
The B-side to this single is Luna Park; a fresh, breezy, electric pop-style number written by Hoshino. I’ll talk about this later, but Hoshino is truly unwavering as a maker of simple melodies. You could even say he’s an artisan. The sensual seduction found in here; a fleeting sigh, a slightly forlorn smile, dreamy innocence, and Sakurai’s expression with his adding of lingering notes as the song ends turns the simple song into an irreplaceable original. After Locus Solus, there was a period of stagnation when he was struggling to work out what he was but hearing these two songs, I can’t help but say it. There is no question that you are Sakurai Atsushi of BUCK-TICK. And this is something that no one but you can do.
For better or for worse, this fact can be keenly felt in their 3rd tribute album, PARADE Ⅲ. No one can become Sakurai, neither can anyone sing like Sakurai. The original songs are a dark and debauched demon realm, so if they approached the songs sluggishly with a singing style different from their normal selves, that attitude would be all too easy to spot. The reluctant contrivity will be exposed. But, that said, singing simply won’t bring them far. It would just prove that Hoshino’s songs have a good melody and are surprisingly refreshing. That’s all. All things considered, the difficulty of pulling it off is high with every iteration of a tribute album. Because rather than going head to head with the original songs, these participating artists have to confront what’s in them or they will most definitely get burned.
First up, BRAHMAN have decided to take their winnings and quit with ICONOCLASM. No matter the song, we will scream with all our heart and soul! It is with that spirit and buff body that they push hard with to the very end. Although not even a sliver of the bewitching nature of the original remains, the unreserved manner they did their cover with makes their participation all the more meaningful. Similarly distant from BUCK-TICK, Sakamoto Miu’s and Fujimaki Ryota’s simple, stripped-down arrangements are a stark contrast of the original songs. Simply singing alone won’t get you far. And I believe that you’ll come to understand what it means to challenge what’s inside of you when you hear their songs.
Also involved are artists adjacent to BUCK-TICK like Kokusyoku Sumire and GARI, but the masterpiece is minus(-)’s rendition of Keijijou Ryuusei which saw Fujikawa Chiai invited for the vocals of the track. It respects and carefully follows the world of the original song, but if you listen closely, you will notice that a 6/8 time, or a waltz, has been casually inserted into the originally four-beat song. But we should first of all say that Fujii Maki did a great job of choosing Fujikawa’s voice which added an elegance that is not too heartbreaking.
Then, the participating artists who respect BUCK-TICK and are in-turn respected by BUCK-TICK too are probably DER ZIBET, DIR EN GREY, and Shiina Ringo. I was surprised at the arrangement of Shiina’s music, but the power of each artist’s expressive ability was an eye opener. Neither of them can become Sakurai. So how will they express themselves and prove their abilities? BUCK-TICK’s existence is that which is found in such a colossal question.
BUCK-TICK’s 2020 begins with Datenshi and after that, they will move on to their next album. In their 33rd year together, these 5 steadfast band members will be taking their next step into the unknown. This I await in anticipation.