Of Love and Death and Life
Ongaku to Hito
Text: Ishii Eriko
Photographs: Hirano Takashi
Hair & Makeup: Tanizaki Takayuki, Yamaji Chihiro (Fats Berry)
Styling: Shimizu Kenichi
Songs befitting of the cusp of a new banquet. The new double A-side single, “Kemonotachi no Yoru (獣たちの夜 / Night of the Beasts)／RONDO”.
The latter is a bewitching Rondeau which can already be heard as the ending theme song of the anime Gegege no Kitaro and the former is a decadent, BUCK-TICK-style dance number which is exceedingly uptempo yet clad in noisy dissonance and a profound feeling that is in no way light.
The hectic schedule of their 30th anniversary ended with Sakurai Atsushi’s sudden hospitalisation followed by his resurrection at their year-end Budokan performance, but they never had any intention of dragging out this final lingering note. We can even hear their declaration to move forward, further towards the horizon, towards what comes next. What happened that year-end severely depressed Sakurai Atsushi but now, there is not a cloud in his expression.
After all, being born human, it is difficult to sever things away. But time still goes by so, recently, I decided that I would do whatever I wanted to do.
―― It’s probably a little late to say this, but I keenly felt that last year end’s Budokan (performance) was a night overflowing with love.
Sakurai (S): Ahh…… Is that so? Well, genuinely, it’s because the voices of our audience resounded so greatly. It sounds cliche since sports athletes and artists often say, “Your cheers empower us”. But I thought, ‘There really is such a thing after all’. I was happy, truly.
―― Yes. This is probably a painful memory, but may I ask about your medical condition at the time again? Did you gradually fall sick while on tour?
S: Nope. Well, when we were in Tokyo, it came suddenly. Although I did think that my stomach felt a little weird since the previous day. Our first day at Zepp Diver City concluded, I went home, and just as I got into bed thinking that I needed to rest, something felt off. So I went to the toilet…… Well, this is gross talk, but I kept passing pitch-black stools. And that went on until morning without me getting much sleep. Then, I headed out for the concert on the afternoon of the next day just like that.
―― That already was a situation where you can make the call to cancel immediately, wasn’t it?
S: Uhm…… Calling it a sense of vocation is probably an exaggeration, but I was thinking along the lines of, “If I force it, things will fall into place”. Well, I had a haemorrhage during rehearsals too, but I felt, “Let’s just give it a go”. After all, I’d feel regretful if I said “I can’t do it” before I even try. Well, I thought that I’d be letting out audience down too, so…… I felt that I should just do whatever I can.
―― And after that, you were admitted to hospital.
S: That’s right. I got hospitalised for medical tests. I was referred to the hospital, and then they asked, “Can we admit you to the hospital now?”. I had a few days free following that live anyway. I lost about a quarter of the blood in my body, so I was anaemic too. Because of that, I had to rest for a bit to recover my physical strength and red blood cells.
―― But when I heard the announced illness name, I wondered what the cause was and my imagination can’t help but run wild in about all sorts of ways things might’ve gone bad.
S: No, but, as per the announced name, I was told that it was gastrointestinal bleeding. They thought that the cause was the stomach and I was supposed to vomit blood but the blood was pitch black too so they said that it was probably the inside’s…… duodenum or something in the small intestine that was the cause. So they inserted cameras into all of it, my stomach, my intestines, and I swallowed capsule cameras for them to check. But. However, they couldn’t find the location of the cause. Apparently, such cases do happen on occasion. Since they couldn’t pinpoint the location, I got the feeling that they couldn’t say anything at first, but the doctor said, “I think it shouldn’t be a problem after February.”
―― It’s already April, so…… You’re okay, right?
S: Yes. I’m already guzzling down alcohol, so (lol).
―― Hahaha. Please take good care of yourself.
S: Yes. Of course. I’m okay.
―― You also said this right before the song ‘BOY septem peccata mortalia’ began during your Budokan performance, but thus far, you’ve never felt that pain of being robbed of (the opportunity to hold) concerts, have you?
S: That’s right. (People might) get angry when I say this, but…… When I was younger and I felt unwell, there were times when I would feel, ‘Damn～, why is there a performance today～’. I’d finish up rehearsals while nursing a hangover and then I would sober up just as the concert starts. Well, though once I stand on stage, the adrenaline kicks in, so I’d think, “Ah, this feels great” after all. But this was the feeling of having what I naturally do suddenly ripped away from me. To add to that, I caused a lot of worry and inconvenience to everyone. It was a little depressing.
―― What were the emotions that you felt?
S: Firstly…… The feeling of regret. I was frustrated. My body didn’t undergo surgery so I could still move anyway. Well, I was a little lightheaded, but it also felt as if there was nothing wrong with me. I suppose there actually was damage done, but I just kept thinking, ‘…… I wonder if I could (perform) if I forced it?’. I couldn’t decide.
―― Ah, because your mind was going around in circles too.
S: That’s right. I did do a bunch of work on the PC in the hospital ward, but when I read the emails that everyone sent to me…… Words that said things like, ‘You’ve overworked this year, so please get plenty of rest,’ came in. Seeing that made me feel regretful, like…… What the hell am I doing when there are people who think for me like this.
―― I understand how you felt. And because the atmosphere in a hospital is peculiar too.
S: Yeah. I guess it can be said that there’s no contact with society at large.
―― In other words, Sakurai-san is linked to society through your position as BUCK-TICK’s Sakurai Atsushi.
S: I suppose that’s right. Of course, I’m an ordinary citizen too, but (I am connected to society through that reputation) because it’s the most easily understandable and it’s what comes out when I’m interacting with others. But when I’m wearing pyjamas in the hospital, it’s somewhat heartbreaking too.
―― You can wear…… pyjamas.
S: I wear them (lol). Or, what do I wear?
―― No, well, I assumed there were only gowns.
S: Ahh. I wore the gown over my pyjamas. Dashingly.
―― Fuhahaha! By the way, what did the other band members say?
S: Ah, via email, the two brothers said, “Well, get some rest”. Something along those lines.
―― What about Imai-san and Hide-san?
S: Nothing in particular.
―― Right (lol). Our conversation has taken quite a turn but whether it’s about being healthy or about being able to perform on stage, neither can go on forever. I believe that is what you got to feel firsthand this time.
S: Yeah. How long I can keep doing this…… I thought about things like that. Especially recently when there are those who choose to voluntarily retire. Although, of course, I, too, wish to keep going as long as my body and my voice permits. But, well, it’s not something that is within our control. If we can sever off what naturally happens, it would be easy but that is rarely the case. Because being born human, we have emotions, and memories, and blood relations after all. It’s difficult to sever things away. But despite that, time still goes by. Right…… Very recently, I decided that I would do whatever I wanted to do. And I wouldn’t do what I didn’t want to do.
―― You’re saying this in a positive light.
S: That’s right. Because, really, just recently, a friend who I’ve known for 30 years passed away. He went suddenly and it felt like, ‘…… Ah, that’s it?’. That person lived his life as he liked, so I guess that was one thing my friend taught me.
―― Was your friend sick?
S: Nope, he suddenly collapsed. Cerebral haemorrhage or something. Mm…… It was a little too abrupt. Even now, it still hasn’t sunk in though.
―― Even since your youth, Sakurai-san has always written lyrics which revolve around death, but are your feelings about it changing now?
S: …… I think I’m becoming more and more afraid of it. I believe I’ve mentioned it previously too, but my father passed away at the age of 53. And now, I’m 53, but I want to break away from that record by hook or by crook so I’m doing my best. I’ll definitely flounder around ingloriously until the end.
When I’m really depressed, I guess I’d contrarily be able to write up-tempo songs. In the opposite direction of myself.
―― It feels like you won’t sigh and say, “This is fate.”
S: If I could get that pessimistic, that’s fine too, though. I’m actually more unseemly, more noisy and wilful. Something like, ‘I don’t want to dieee!’. Fufufu.
―― Understood. Now, this is about the single, but I read in Yuta-san’s serial column that it’s been put in a sort of theme song position for May’s ‘Locus Solus no Kemonotachi (Locus Solus Bestia)’.
S: (Saying it) as if he knows.
S: Well, to me, the title (of the event) came from Imai-san and since we have a song coming up in the new year along with the single’s release in May, I thought that it would be great if it would be a song that we can announce for this concert. As for the subject, it’s not exactly a song that applauds the fans, but well, it has a sense of, “Thank you for the past 30 years” and something like, “We’ll keep going from here on too”.
―― When you say ‘applaud the fans’, was that what you wanted to properly put in song? As compared to only conveying your gratitude through the MC.
S: That’s right. Well, I just thought it would be good if we could express that nicely using my own words or the band’s words. It’s easy to say, “Thank you”, but rather than that, in a way, I wanted to energise ourselves too and give the feeling that “We’re going to continue as we have always been”.
―― This song was very much steeped in the words “We love you”. You don’t really write that, do you? The subject “We”.
S: That…… is right. But here, these are words that come from the band’s perspective. This is why we’ve made it this far; that’s what I wanted to say. The more I think about these two songs, I get the feeling that they thoroughly explore (these sentiments) yet are stripped down. Doing that makes the songs very easy to get into and when we finished these songs, even I thought, “Ah, it’s turned out well like this”.
―― Instead of “Sing of love and death”*, you’ve put three words together as, “Sing of love and death and life”*. Was this another result of thinking through all of that?
S: That’s right. I wondered, “What order should I put them in?” (lol). This was all me. I’ve always sung about love and death but I thought that it would be good if I stuck “life” in there.
―― If it’s the present version of you singing it, that one word is necessary too.
S: That’s right. Until previously, I’ve been creating that ambience of “love and death” after all.
―― Ambience, you say (lol).
S: But don’t you think it’s alright too? To include the feeling of being alive as well. Yeah…… That’s what I thought myself too.
―― Yeah. And after that, it follows with “Come on dance your life away”** too.
S: Yes. That part, too, will turn into something different if I get embarrassed, though. I kept thinking about it until the very last minute of vocal recording. I felt that if I’m going to go with this then I might as well do a direct delivery, with the sense that I can’t be shy about this, you know.
―― Somehow, Sakurai-san is more cheerful than I expected. It’s relieving.
S: Ah, is that so? …… It shows on my face, doesn’t it (smiles). I was depressed because we had to skip concerts, but just recently, we’ve just performed two shows in Kyushu. Also, we completed the shoot for our music video too. So, now is a period of time when I’m at ease.
―― It’s the same with the lyrics and melody of this single, but it doesn’t look like heavy songs that weigh down are necessary as of now.
S: That’s right. When my mind is in good health, I’d get the urge to write songs like that. Those heavy, depressing songs. When I’m really depressed, I guess this opposite would happen, where I’d be able to write up-tempo songs like “Kemonotachi no Yoru”. Things would go in the opposite direction of myself.
―― I see. So, for example, a song like “Mudai” was possible because you were mentally well.
S: Ah, I was thinking of bringing up “Mudai” as an example too. So, during the recording back then, perhaps I really got into it or something, but I felt that my mental state was really great too. I could really see the world of that work, and I guess we were also in control of ourselves. Also, personally, I especially felt that “Mudai” was “The One!” among everything in Arui wa Anarchy. When that happened, everything went smoothly. Even though the lyrics are about such a topic, there were no labour pains. Instead, I enjoyed it, creating something like that.
―― So, it wasn’t a matter where the song was created from the purging of feelings so truly distressing that you wanted to die.
S: Not at all. Because it’s just an instance where I just thought it would be nice to recall the past. I guess you could say I’m a masochist? As in, sadist versus masochist.
―― Fufufu. Previously, during your 2-day performance in summer at Odaiba, the last song of the main part of day 2 was “Mudai”, wasn’t it? I was appalled, like, what a song to close things off with in the middle of this summer festival mood.
―― And now, you’ll similarly be holding a 2-day live performance too, but I suppose you’re into songs like “Kemonotachi no Yoru” this time.
S: That’s right. Oddly enough, “Mudai” kept coming up. During these past two years or so. I like it so it’s fine for me, but for those who come and watch us…… I wonder if they’ve had enough of it. Or has it become something closer to harassment for them? (Lol). I’ve had those thoughts too.
―― If so, then it’s time for the next theme song. Be it intentionally or instinctively, you’re undergoing a face-lift bit by bit. Your present mode and the way you enthrall always changes a little with each occasion.
S: Yes, I do think that it would be nice if this year would be a year of change (for us).
―― I see. By the way, what’s your plan for this year?
S: After the 2-day live…… A break (grin).
―― …… You look very happy about that.
S: Hahahahaha! I’m guessing that’s how things will go if you write this first. But I’d like to rest a bit.