【Interview】BUCK-TICK’s 22nd Album, ABRACADABRA
18 September 2020
Interview/text: Tae Omae
Acceptance and affirmation for everything in life, for everyone who wishes to live as they are
BUCK-TICK will be releasing their 22nd album ABRACADABRA on Monday, September 21; the 33rd anniversary of their career. Eureka, the vibrant rock and roll number which was released ahead of time is an anthem which repeatedly calls out “LOVE!” in celebration of life. That alone has more than powerful enough to open up a wind tunnel in these melancholy times, but the true magnificence of BUCK-TICK is found in the jet black parade of Boukyaku (忘却 / Oblivion) which closes off the world of this album. This is an all-encompassing affirmation and acceptance of every facet of life; not just the hopes and delights and thrills and joys, but also the nightmares and pain and sadness and remorse. So, how did they create this album, which seems like an amulet for all those who wish to live as they are to keep close to? This we ask vocalist Sakurai Atsushi and guitarist Imai Hisashi.
■ “A slightly deviant vibe” or something edgy
■ I thought of aiming for the essence of something like that
―― Listening to ABRACADABRA, the album was beautiful and it felt like something I would use as an omamori¹ in dark and depressing times; like a safety net for the heart. When did you start work on this album? And how did it progress?
Imai Hisashi (I): Probably last Autumn? I started writing music around spring, and that’s when it started, I suppose.
―― Was that around the time when COVID-19 brought about the mood of voluntary restraint? Or earlier than that?
I: Earlier than that.
―― Did you already have a general concept or vision for the album at the time?
I: When I was composing, I personally had something in mind. Like, “a slightly deviant vibe“. For some reason I kept coming back to the thought of aiming for the essence of something that’s kind of edgy, or something along those lines. But even if that’s what I’m aiming for, it doesn’t mean that I want to force my way there no matter what. It’s fine to stray away from it a little too. Well, but it wasn’t all that much of a concept anyway.
―― I feel that for over 30 years, everyone in BUCK-TICK has always deviated from the norm in the sense that you’ve always created works that do not fit the mold. So were you thinking of something different this time too?
I: I’m pretty sure I did because otherwise, I wouldn’t get the feeling myself that “I want to try and put that into words”.
―― This vision of “something deviant”, how exactly was it reflected in your work? Were there any aspects of songwriting that were considered out of the ordinary for you?
I: No, there was none of that in particular. Simply put, deviant refers to things like “no pandering”, and the like. Although, now I’m wondering whether I’ve mentioned that side of things before.
―― Do you mean that you won’t consider doing things that are derived from the consideration of what the general audience would like, and these sorts of ‘services’?
I: That’s right. Basically, as long as we think it’s good, we’d go ahead with it as it is. I feel that the initial spark came from those really small things and it eventually grew into my motivation.
―― This vision that Imai-san held from the very beginning, at what stage was it first shared with Sakurai-san?
Sakurai Atsushi (S): No, he didn’t at all.
I: I didn’t say anything.
S: …… I didn’t ask (smiles).
―― (Smiles). So, you were sort of just watching the music get written?
S: That’s right.
―― When did you start aligning your awareness with each other?
I: I think it’s better if we don’t have to say things to each other like, “Like this.” Once it’s said, the other party would get stuck there and even if he thought that something isn’t quite right with doing it “like this”, he wouldn’t tell me that. Though, well, he usually doesn’t really say anything to me anyway.
―― I see. Aside from the previously released singles², what was the first song that was written for the album?
I: The first ones were probably MOONLIGHT ESCAPE and Datenshi.
―― Those became singles in the end and for Datenshi, you have another version recorded, right?
I: That’s right.
―― In the beginning [of the album], you start with the sound effects (SE) track PEACE, followed by Que Sera Sera Elegy, URAHARA-JUKU, and SOPHIA DREAM; a group of psychedelically textured songs with a strong electronic-feeling and a crisp audio impression comes one after another, but did those come about much later?
I: That’s right. After we made MOONLIGHT ESCAPE and Datenshi, those 3 are the songs that were composed right after I entered yet another creative period.
―― How did this album’s production and recording schedule get affected by COVID-19?
I: Recording was suspended. For about a month?
―― How did you feel during that period?
I: I guess, as you’d expect, you could say that things gradually grew dark. Because I was in such a bad mood, it was then when I wrote Eureka.
―― That’s the song which was released ahead of time, right? Was that unconditional strength and bright energy linked to your own desire to break past that stifling situation?
I: Yeah, I think so. Actually, I wrote a song with a much heavier guitar riff during that period, but I gradually grew sick of that gloomy feeling. And I thought, “It’s been a while since I wrote a song like Eureka. Maybe I should try that?”
―― Eureka’s lyrics even have the word ABRACADABRA, the album’s title. Did this word appear in Imai-san’s mind at the stage of this song’s creation? Or did that come from Sakurai-san?
I: That’s right. It was from Sakurai-san that the word appeared in the lyrics.
―― Well, then, I’ll direct the question about how the word “ABRACADABRA” came about to Sakurai-san. But first, can you tell us how you felt about the situation where you had to suspend your work as a result of COVID-19?
S: For me, I had the lyrics of 1 or 2 songs to write so I was focused on that. Well, with the feeling that there’s no other option but to behave myself. While still not really understanding why…… It still applies even now, but without exaggerating it, [I had a sense of] “we should protect each other’s lives first”. Because no matter what, the studio was going to be sealed off anyway, and it’s [a place where it’s] difficult to get ventilation too. And after the state of emergency was announced, it’s like everyone stayed home to “protect themselves”.
―― How did you feel at the time?
S: I was a bit scared. Because there was this realisation slowly dawning on me that “this doesn’t only affect other people.” My mood was also definitely…… Well, then again, I’m always depressed³ to begin with (smiles).
―― (Smiles). So, it felt like [the situation] just made it worse?
S: Yes, I was depressed³ (smiles).
―― So, how did the word “ABRACADABRA” catch your eye in that situation?
S: When we had to stop recording, I was left with the lyrics to Eureka to write, and I had a lot of time to do that, about a month, so that’s what I did in that period of time. Right at the start, Imai-san had decided that the chorus was to be in English, so I had to think about whether there was any way to ride on that well while still making it “me”. I went to read various books and widened my horizons, and watched movies and all that too. While doing all that, when I opened up the web for some reason to have a look, it felt as if [the word] just came towards me.
―― Huh! So, you just grabbed it like, “This is the one!” and reeled in it?
S: That’s right. So, while I was doing that legwork, I meant to increase the reach of my antenna to capture a wider variety of things, so that was how the word approached me.
―― For Imai-san’s part of the lyrics where you shout “LOVE!” over and over, did it reflect your mood at the time just like the music?
I: Yes, that’s right. It naturally turned out like that when I composed it so I thought it’d be fine to just leave the chorus as it is.
―― It’s very strong, isn’t it? This loving ode to life. I was overwhelmed by the inexplicable energy. Was it in part to fire yourself up?
I: When I was composing it, I did find myself thinking that this was what I wanted right now. It really just flowed naturally. After all, I did get the sense that I was feeling low. There was also anger over the suspension of recording, but honestly, I also felt reluctant about going to the studio. I didn’t really want to go.
―― There’s also the worry that you’d get infected and all of that, right?
I: Yeah. All those various things built on each other and it was with that drift that this song came about.
―― Aside from the pause in production affecting this album in reality, I wanted to ask how much of it was also influenced by the climate of these present times, but can I assume that it is quite strongly reflected in this album?
I: I think there more or less has an influence, as per usual. Because all these things are happening here and in reality.
―― What about Sakurai-san? How much does the mood or climate of these times influence your lyrics, or perhaps, your singing?
S: I guess you could say that from the time I started working on the single last year, I didn’t want to let COVID-19 get in the way of our work until recording got suspended. So, I’d at least be careful in real life, but the album is, after all, something that I work on in my room and my own time and in my own head, and because I didn’t want something so incomprehensible to interrupt me to that extent, I purely wrote what I wanted to write. It’s a bit different for Eureka, though.
―― So, rather than writing about the goings-on in society, you dug into what was within you to try and write at your usual pace?
S: Much of it used to come from the imaginings in my head in the past, but in comparison to that, this time, [what I wrote] before COVID-19, say for example, MOONLIGHT ESCAPE was about child abuse, and so on. With regards to those topics, I would write about a way out, or say something like, “It’s okay to run away.” Then, in Villain, it’s about the darkness of humanity. Like those who are usually all smiles but once they go online, they get all egoistical⁴ and repeatedly slander others anonymously. But [what this song is saying is], “I know all about that side of you!”. Also, the song where suicide turned into it’s subject…… (Kogoeru). It happened to overlap to the period of time when there was a report on TV about those who took their own lives, but I wrote it way before that. It makes me feel sorry about that for some reason, though……
―― But it was a coincidence.
S: Yes. But at the same time, one of those things which I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time now is “the fact that such a way of life exists in reality”.
―― No matter the subject matter in Sakurai-san’s lyrics, there’s always an open-minded take towards the idea that “it’s okay to run away”. I think it’s very kind of you to not at all put any blame on those who come to that decision.
S: No, not at all. I’m just being kind to myself (smiles).
―― But I think that this is exactly why [your music] becomes a safety net for those who have fallen into a state where their thoughts consume them, right? Do you also wish that [it’s alright to choose to run away]?
S: Yes. Because I, too, couldn’t run away no matter how much I wanted to. There are a lot of people who were in that situation in their childhood too. While we keep getting told to, “Be a man,” or “Think positive”, I believe there are definitely people who aren’t good at those things. To those people, [I want to say] something like, “It’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to be whatever feels natural to you.” That’s why there’s also a part [of me that hopes] that maybe [this] can bring a small breath of relief to those who have negative thoughts.
―― Rather than small, I’d think it’ll be a huge relief to them. I do feel that society is filled with an atmosphere which suggests that weakness and darkness is unacceptable, and to add to that, we live in an era where the attacks are all aimed at those who are just hurting, like how you’ve depicted it in Villain. I feel that [this album] is an omamori¹ for them.
S: I’m glad to hear that.
■ My obsession with life is very strong, perhaps even twice as strong as a regular person’s
■ It is because we have that greed that we grow tired
―― Going back to the topic of the order of songwriting, MOONLIGHT ESCAPE and Datenshi were written, and following those, was Eureka the next one to be composed?
I: This time, Eureka was the last of all to be written.
―― Look at the album on the whole, I could sense the meaning behind the narrative of it with how you raised the curtains with Que Sera Sera Elegy’s “This is the start of an illusion” ⁵, and ended with Eureka’s “I’ll get rid of everything and make it all disappear” ⁶. The message I got from it is that everything in life is all an illusion, and that’s precisely why we should enjoy it as we please. But Boukyaku (Oblivion / 忘却) comes in at the very end, bringing with it an air of indescribable impermanence. Although it was surprising that the album did not end with Eureka, it was satisfying. Did this song order come about naturally?
I: Nope. When it came to the song order, we were stuck on which of those 2 songs was better for us to end the album with and there were a lot of different opinions about it. But I do think that this form [that we’ve decided on] is really beautiful.
―― Which song did Imai-san back?
I: In the beginning, I backed Boukyaku but at the end, I was like, “As expected……”. Should I speak for the notion of making Eureka the last song? That thought crossed my mind. I did feel that it’s definitely this one after all, though.
―― How about Sakurai-san?
S: We managed to decide on the song order with director Tanaka (Junichi)’s input as well, but Tanaka-san helped us take a good look at all of it from a bird’s-eye view so he gave us the idea for the first song when he said, “What about Que Sera Sera Elegy?”. He was like an eye-opener; as if he was removing the scales from our eyes. So, when we were trying to decide between Eureka or Boukyaku for the last song, he decided to betray Imai-san, you know? He said something like, “Put Eureka last” (smiles).
―― Were you at it until the very last minute?
S: Yes (smiles). Imai-san and our manipulator Yokoyama (Kazutoshi)-kun planned to put Eureka last and have it link back to the first SE track Peace. But me and U-ta (Higuchi Yutaka / bassist) kept whining, “But this is better~”.
I: But I wanted you both to convince me too (smiles). Like, say, “This is better!”
―― (Smiles). So, everyone was insidiously pestered by Sakurai-san and U-ta-san and eventually this is how it turned out.
S: Yeah. All while saying, “You traitor!” (smiles).
I: Towards U-ta, too, I kept thinking, “Tell us more firmly!” But it felt like U-ta couldn’t say it at all (smiles).
S: Exactly. Because he has no support (smiles).
―― You actually wanted him to explain the reasoning behind his recommendation, right (smiles). But even though he didn’t have the words for it, he decided to make you change your mind with his passion.
I: That’s right. But, well, I really feel that this was the better choice (lol).
―― Sakurai-san is laughing at you…… (smiles).
I: For me, I’m just the kind of person who has those very complicated feelings (smiles), but I guess I wanted to mention again the feeling of linking [the final song] back to SE Peace. Because the track Peace itself is a song that was made from the deconstruction of Eureka.
―― Oh, is that so!
I: That’s why I’d think, “Doesn’t it fit nicely?”
―― Making the album end brightly and then cycle back to the beginning. That’s one possible form in itself too, isn’t it? But I feel that the darkness, the rainy mood, and the afterglow of Boukyaku wonderfully turns the overall flow into one that says, “This is the BUCK-TICK World!” With regards to the lyrics of Boukyaku, when did you write them and what thoughts did you have in mind?
S: I think it just so happened that we finished the vocal recording for this song a mere couple of days before the state of emergency was declared. So, I guess it was definitely during a time when I, too, felt that atmosphere around us where the world and even Japan was gradually getting invaded by anxiety. But I’ve always had the notion that, “I want to write about this feeling.” Although, I don’t really know myself whether this came about because I was being influenced by the vibes around me or if it was just a coincidence. Well, I guess it’s a bit of both. Everyone, and myself included, of course, have had a lot of different encounters and experienced many other farewells too. But while those bring both joys and sadness in their own ways, it’s just how things naturally go, isn’t it? At least, that’s how I hope I’ll be able to think one day. That’s the kind of topic I wanted to write about.
―― Is this coming from an observer’s point of view? Or the perspective of your future self looking back on the current you in this time period?
S: Hm…… Perhaps. It’s one of my usual themes, though. Like, returning to the earth⁷ or returning to the womb⁷. We get born into this world, but there’s a sense of, “So many things have happened, haven’t they? And now you’re tired, aren’t you? Well, then, let’s go home.” I just think it’d be nice if that’s the kind of story I can tell.
―― In track 5, Tsuki no Sabaku (Moon Desert), you’ve written “Until we turn to bones Until we turn to ashes” ⁸; a description which appears to make us think about our afterlife even after we’ve decomposed. Isn’t there something similar to an attachment to life implied in there?
S: No, it’s quite strong there. On the other hand, it is because we have that greed [for life] that we grow tired. I guess, maybe my obsession with life is very strong, perhaps even twice as strong as a regular person’s.
―― So, is that why when you feel “pain” while living your life, you’d accept that you’d feel “tired” or want to run away or take a rest and allow yourself to feel down?
S: Yeah. It’s like I’m telling myself that. Although I think that it’d be nice if everyone would have a listen and feel it in different ways.
―― I see…… It permeates every word [you write]. Boukyaku is a beautiful, wistful, melancholic ballad, but it’s something special to Imai-san too, right?
I: That’s right. When I was composing it, I felt that I’ve written a good one.
―― Only Imai-san can write this melody line, right?
I: That’s not true, though (smiles).
―― When you were writing this song, did Imai-san have any scenes in mind?
I: I wonder…… I didn’t have any of that in particular. Instead, I was thinking of writing a gentle song, or something like that.
―― Next, I’d like to ask about two other songs which upon the song title announcement had me excited and wondering what they would be like. Maimu Mime (Dancing Dreaming Mime / 舞夢マイム) and Dance Tengoku (Dance Heaven / ダンス天国). How did this series of “dance” songs come about?
I: For Maimu Mime, I had the notion of wanting to create something that sounds like a popular song from the past. When it was done, I thought, “Ah, this is already perfect for Sakurai-san’s signature worldview.” (Smiles). I got the feeling that this is where the song came from.
―― A song where one person plays the roles of both the man and the woman at the same time. It’s an explosion of Sakurai-san’s world, isn’t it?
I: No, I didn’t know exactly how it was going to turn out, though (smiles). I was looking forward to seeing what lyrics he’d come up with for this song.
―― When Sakurai-san first heard Maimu Mime, what impression did you get, and what kind of lyrics did it make you think of writing?
S: It felt like “a popular Showa-era song” and at first impression, I already decided, “Let’s keep it that way.” A lot of different scenes came to mind, like the sloppy conversations between men and women at a karaoke (smiles), and the atmosphere of Shinjuku, and so on.
―― It certainly creates the mood of an obscene and degenerate city, doesn’t it?
S: I wanted to make it a song that sounded as if it was born of Shinjuku, as if it came from that sort of world. Such a world has sorrow, the stylish backs of nihilistic men, the men and women who grow tougher and tougher…… I thought it would be good if I could build such a world from top to bottom.
―― When you’re writing song lyrics from the perspective of both a man and a woman, does Sakurai-san have certain characters in mind to draw from? For example, someone around this age, or someone with this attribute, and so on.
S: That I do have.
―― So, the profiles of these two in the lyrics…… Ah, but it might be rude to ask.
S: I think it’d be more fun to let people imagine that part for themselves after all. Rather than having me reveal, “they’re between their late 20s and late 30s…” and so on and so forth, it’s better if [listeners] create these characters for themselves (smiles).
―― My heart skipped a beat when they said these terrible things like, “Shall we try dying” ⁹ so carelessly.
S: It sure gives the song a touch of Showa-era dramaturgy, doesn’t it (smiles).
―― Dance Tengoku is Hoshino (Hidehiko)-san’s song. What did you think about this song?
S: This song is one that Hide (Hoshino Hidehiko) wanted to do with a kind of “Here’s me knowing about avant garde too!” and that’s also evident here (smiles). I thought maybe it’d be good for the lyrics to ride on that too. This one belongs to the Showa world too.
―― This doesn’t sound like it’s Shinjuku, is it?
S: Well, this is [set] in Mishima Yukio’s Confessions of a Mask¹⁰. Like, in the final scene, the male protagonist becomes euphoric at the sight of a rugged man’s body.
―― I see. There’s a phrase that goes “Be it woman Be it man It doesn’t matter” ¹¹ which gives me the feeling that it’s a free world which breaks down traditional values, but in the case of Confessions of a Mask……
S: Yeah. This is a modern-day…… How should I say this? There are all kinds of men and women so rather than discriminating them, I was hoping that [this song] would give them a sort of upbeat feeling, like “It doesn’t matter whichever way you go. Let’s just dance and have fun!”
―― This is an up-to-date LGBT perspective, isn’t it? Completely different from the gender view in Maimu Mime.
S: That’s right.
―― And the methods of depiction in Que Sera Sera Elegy, URAHARA-JUKU, and SOPHIA DREAM are all different but I’m getting the impression that the common motif present in all of them is the hallucinatory experience. I had all sorts interpretations, for example, was SOPHIA DREAM part of the world of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (The beatles)? And so on. Imai-san wrote the lyrics to Que Sera Sera Elegy and SOPHIA DREAM so what did you think of?
I: For SOPHIA DREAM, right from the start I already had the intention of making sure the words “SOPHIA DREAM” alone would make up the crux of the song. So, that’s where I started [the lyric writing process] to somehow make the whole thing feel fictional while looking down on this world from up above.
―― A young girl looking down from the sky; is that image similar to the album jacket’s artwork?
I: Yeah, probably. That’s the kind of picture or rather, image I had in mind.
―― What about Que Sera Sera Elegy?
I: For this song, words which matched the the melody somehow come to me at the same time while I was composing it so I decided, “I’ll compose and write at the same time as far as I can.” That’s how I ended up writing it and this is what it turned into in the end.
―― Is it rare that both the music and the lyrics come to you at the same time?
I: That in itself isn’t all that rare, though. Also, I guess you could say that the A-melody was more like a rap so, I suppose it’d be quite the hurdle for Sakurai-san to “put words to this” rhythm even if I asked him to after all.
―― So this is because you felt that it’d be difficult.
I: Yeah. Because I also felt that it might feel unnatural no matter what other words were applied to it. That’s why I thought of doing it myself right from the start.
―― When it comes to such a song, you won’t let Sakurai-san listen to it until it’s done?
I: No, not really. Even when I get to a point when I’m wondering, “What should I do with the lyrics?”, in the end, I might decide, “I should ask him to write it after all,” but there are also times when I’d decide, “I think I’ll write it after all.”
―― So, it depends case by case. URAHARA-JUKU’s lyrics are by Sakurai-san, so how did those come about? These lyrics bring up scenes of youths put in danger, though.
S: For this song, I’ve moved from Shinjuku to Harajuku (smiles). It’s a poppy and glittery place for the kids but I think it’s dangerous to yearn for such places blindly. This came from the impulsive anger that I, too, felt when a young girl’s abduction and captivity was being reported in the news. I wanted to tell the story of a girl who does various things…… even selling her body. Ultimately, the song is saying, “But you should be careful.” Only you can protect yourself.
―― A warning.
S: That’s right. In the end, the girl pushes the bad guy away in Omotesando. To let him get struck by a car.
―― She fights back properly.
S: But it’s like, “You go home and sleep. I’ll take the rap” (smiles). That’s the kind of story it is.
―― This time, you’ve included different versions of a few previously- released songs. There is Cube Juice-san’s Kogoeru Crystal CUBE ver. (Kogoeru is the B-side to the previously released single, MOONLIGHT ESCAPE) where he handled the manipulations, and Kemonotachi no Yoru YOW-ROW ver. and Datenshi YOW-ROW ver. Only these songs had names attached to their titles, but I thought it was unusual. I think it would’ve been fine for them to be recorded as album versions without any additional notes, but why did you choose to name them like this?
I: I guess…… I thought it’d be complicated if we were to just bring the titles across like that. Like, if we do that, it’ll give people all sorts of impressions [based on the title alone].
―― Do you mean that naming the songs with an adjective like, “〇〇～ Electria ver.” would limit their imaginations?
I: Exactly. That’s why, even if we were to name it in a way that says, “This is what it is,” and highlight it, for example, simply stating that what YOW-ROW made is YOW-ROW’s arrangement, there will also be those who say, “Is his name enough?” And also it’s honestly a pain in the ass to think about every single track as a mix or something like that (smiles).
―― (Smiles). Because that person’s arrangement is something unique too, and it doesn’t need any other adjectives to describe it, right? It also got me wondering if you’re treating them like family because it was quite impactful to look at the list of songs and see names aside from the band members’.
I: Ahh, that’s because we’ve been enjoying having them work on a variety of things for us over the past few years.
―― So there were no qualms about putting their names there?
I: Yes, that’s right.
■ Although it’s probably impossible create a “tour mood” with the film concert
■ I’m happy if it gives them an excuse to come all dressed up, and make it as unordinary¹⁴ as possible
―― I was surprised by your unusual decision to release this album in all formats available. You’ll be releasing your first vinyl record in about 22 years and your first cassette tape in about 28 years in addition to a CD, high-resolution streaming, and even download/streaming services. What are your thoughts regarding this?
S: I didn’t think anything of it in the beginning (smiles). I thought we were going to release it normally in CD format. Regarding the vinyl record, it came about because designer Akita (Kazvnori)¹² who thought of expressing [the design] with a large jacket. To date, there were a few times when he has given us LP-sized photographs when we didn’t have anything of that size, and there was once when he helped us out when we did. But this time, too, he gave it to us in this form.
―― We can enjoy it in high-resolution sound quality and yet at the same time, there’s a cassette tape version too. It sure is nice for the recipients to freely choose whether they want to enjoy [the album] through state-of-the-art technology or through a nostalgic item.
S: It was Imai-san who said he wanted to release a cassette tape. Cassette tape specialty shops are gradually growing in number these days, and record stores are still around too, right? I think that these are things that those who still love such items can enjoy after all. But I don’t have a player that can play this time’s LP, though (smiles).
―― And this is where the BUCK-TICK portable vinyl player comes in, right (smiles). And it’s still getting a flood of pre-orders. Is Imai-san particular when it comes to cassette tapes?
I: On occasion, I catch word that cassettes are becoming a serious fad. I think kids these days know nothing about cassettes. But I guess it’s fun to have it as an item anyway, and they look like they’re having fun to me. That’s how it really was in the beginning, right? That’s why during the meeting, I thought, “I guess I’ll just mention it.” (Smiles).
―― As the main composer, how does Imai-san feel about the high-resolution versions?
I: When I had the chance to listen to it in the studio, I thought that it was really great in terms of sound quality.
―― There is a lot of audio information in BUCK-TICK’s works in recent years so there’s always a discovery where I notice that there’s another sound after listening to it a number of times. I’ve had the opportunity to listen and compare, and I thought that being able to listen in high resolution suits both the characteristics of the music and the needs of the listener.
I: Yeah, I think so too.
―― And it appears that the orders are flooding in for pre-orders of the BUCK-TICK vinyl record player and cassette tape player which were also designed by Akita-san. Those are attractive items that definitely get people thinking, “I definitely want it!”
I: That’s right. I want them myself (lol).
―― Although there are enthusiasts, this is an attempt to create an attachment to the music players of the previous era which are generally getting used less and less. There’s a trend in the world where everything is becoming more and more data-driven, and I think this is a wonderful antithesis to that.
I: Indeed, I think that’s true.
―― I’m wondering whether this is fundamentally linked to your holding of the film concert tour. How did it come about? This form of pre-recording a live and then screening them in various concert halls around the country?
I: We first found ourselves in a situation where we could no longer go on tour and we started wondering, “What should we do?” Since it’s no longer possible for humans to to actually travel to each location at that stage, this was the only option we had. We just decided that we’d do our best and hold a tour the best way we can.
―― I think you could’ve chosen to not to do a tour that uses live venues but instead, for example, held a live with everyone in Tokyo with everyone and then streamed it, or something like that. I wanted to ask what was your main reason for not doing so, and what you had in mind [when coming to this decision].
I: That’s, that, isn’t it? Grown-up problems¹³…… (smiles).
―― So, basically, it’s too late to cancel it (smiles). That’s a given, and it can’t be helped after all. In a worst case scenario, if an artist only performs and talks alone in their own room to stream, it would be difficult for them to continue their activities, right? I suppose it could be said that even if it’s just in the form of a recording, giving people the opportunity to go to a live show and actually go to live venues at each location also creates jobs for the staff and other related persons. I had the feeling that perhaps the decision to do this film concert tour isn’t only about yourselves, but also considers the future of the team on the whole. What do you think?
I: I think in terms of how we’re going to do it in future, I guess you could say that this is one way or something like that. Of course, you could say that live broadcasts can reach everyone without barrier, and it can reach everywhere all in one go. But this tour came about because we’re in this situation, and I guess we want to try out a variety of methods. I guess that’s what it is, I think.
―― What about Sakurai-san? What do you think about your tour taking this film concert tour type of shape?
S: We heard about the event organisers’ situation from them, and when we asked, “What is the best way for us to go about this?”, what they suggested to us was this film concert tour. In the end, it’s certainly not possible for us to travel to each location, so at the very least, we’ll let our staff work but with sufficient measures to prevent infection, of course. And we also provided information to encourage visitors to the venues to take extra care. I think we were able to do it in a better form, as close to best as possible. Although it might be a little impossible to let everyone who is coming to the venue feel the “tour mood”, they can still come to the venue all dressed up. I’ll be glad if we can make it as unordinary¹⁴ as possible for them.
―― Preparing for the day ahead of time, leaving home to go to the venue and meet your friends, talking about the live show on the way home…… All of these have become difficult to do now, but all the time spent going through this series of these unordinary¹⁴ events is part of the joys of going to a live show, isn’t it?
S: That’s right. I’d like to let them have a taste of that feeling even if just a little. Although it’s a little frustrating for us that we can’t go to each location.
―― Is there only one recording for this film concert tour?
I: Yes, we’re already done. With a setlist made for the film concert.
―― On Monday, September 21, the anniversary of your debut, you will be holding your first no-audience, live online broadcast concert called ABRACADABRA LIVE ON THE NET. Is the content for this completely different from the film concert?
I: We’re performing the new songs for both events, but everything else is completely different.
―― I believe this no-audience, live online broadcast concert was decided because the members had a strong desire to do this. How did you come to this decision?
I: When everyone gathered for a meeting regarding the film concert, we already had the desire to do a live broadcast, so we suggested it there and then.
―― I see. So you’ve been thinking about the two sides of this and the film concert from the very beginning.
I: Yes. We solidified it from there.
―― What does Sakurai-san think about the no-audience, live online broadcast concert?
S: If there are people who tell us, “We want to see it,” then there’s no reason for us to not do it any more, is there? Even for the recording of the film concert, I thought, “I don’t know if I’d be able to muster up this much energy when there’s no audience……”. I just feel that I receive a lot of energy from the audience when we do concerts with an audience.
―― It made you notice the irony of it.
S: That’s right. The cheers and the applause and the eye contact. I was reminded that these were what inspired me to get up on stage.
―― Speaking of no-audience live concerts, you had experience in it with SATELLITE CIRCUIT in 1991, right? A groundbreaking experiment in the early days of satellite broadcasting, it was held as a centerpiece event to commemorate the inauguration of WOWOW, and was broadcast live across the country.
I: That’s right, yes.
―― Do you still remember how you felt at the time when you took on this challenge? And how you felt watching it after it ended?
I: Personally, I had fun doing it. That’s why I wonder if that feeling will resurface again this time. That said, honestly…… I did find myself wondering which [camera] is it (smiles).
―― What does Sakurai-san remember about it?
S: Uhh…… Sorry, I thought, “That’s bland.” (Smiles).
―― (Smiles). Something’s missing if you’re not standing before an audience?
S: That’s definitely it. Where to look, what to say…… I was even wondering whether an MC was even necessary. But even now I’m being told that the MC I gave back then was out of context (smiles).
―― It was a legendary MC, wasn’t it (smiles). Do you come prepared in advance for what you were going to talk about?
S: No, even now I still don’t prepare anything when it comes to the MC.
―― Most of us decide on what to say dependnig on the atmosphere in the venue. Is Sakurai-san that type of person?
S: That’s right. That’s why I end up talking about unnecessary things too (smiles).
―― Well, then I guess we still don’t know what you’re going to say on Monday, September.
S: …… Maybe nothing (smiles)?
―― Please say something (smiles). I do want to sigh and say, “When will be able to go back to the good old style of live concerts?”, but what does BUCK-TICK envision the future format of live performances to be? I suppose you’re going to see how it goes with this attempt first.
I: That’s right. With regards to live streams, I guess the good thing about them comes through because of this present situation that we’re in. If this isn’t the case, I don’t think we’d do that.
―― BUCK-TICK is also very popular abroad, and it’s big that those fans who can’t really attend live shows usually are able to watch now, right?
I: That’s very true. Given that, I do wonder how it’d turn out since there are no capacity limits at all too. I also wonder about whether there will be more different ways to do this in future.
―― We’re in a situation where COVID-19 has not only affected live shows, but also questions the very existence of music and puts the arts and entertainment industry in jeopardy. Considering all of this, was there any part that made you re-examine your feelings towards music?
I: I feel that in this situation, the form with which we bring [our work] to our fans and music lovers is gradually changing and refreshing itself.
―― This was also a period when we keenly felt that even though we’re feeling down, music is definitely something that gives us a lot of support. In that sense, did your trust in music as a medium or personal feelings of, “That’s what we’re creating,” grow stronger?
I: I think it did grow stronger, and there were more opportunities for me to think especially about those things.
―― What about Sakurai-san? As new methods to distribute music come about, was there any part of you that reconsidered the significance of the existence of music, or renewed your feelings about it?
S: I think everyone did have those thoughts, but I only imagine that things will get better. That’s why we take measures to step up towards that end, and so on. I think the most wholesome thing for us is really to interact with the audience at concerts with our music, though. Until we can return to that, we can only bear with it because COVID-19 infections are life-threatening. I hope to someday meet everyone again on a concert tour. Also, for me, music is something that has been saving me since I was a child. So, this isn’t part of our earlier conversation, but [music] was also a place where I can escape to. And that’s why I hope that each person’s method of listening and enjoying music remains the same. I’d be happy if that’s the kind of existence [that music] can have.
―― Looking back, at the time of 9.11, you you depicted your wish for a peaceful world with Kyokutou yori Ai wo Komete, and after the Great East Japan Earthquake, you released the album Yumemiru Uchuu to be close to those who have been hurt by the disaster. Considering the state of the world now, who are the people you’re hoping to support and help the most with this album?
S: Ah, no, that’s…… We’re not being presumptuous here thinking that we can do something about things from where we are. We have something that we’ve created ourselves here, and we just think that it’d be nice if various people happen to to feel that, “This really resonates with me now.” This is something that belongs to the listeners and if we happen to cross paths, then that’s good in itself too. Like, if they encounter our music and think, “How poignant,” and things like that…… I really think that’s enough. Because we can’t actually be close to them or anything like that, right? That’s why I think that as long as there are people who enjoy our music and like it, it’s enough.
―― Does Imai-san feel this way too?
I: I do. I mean, I don’t think about it that much, though.
―― Looking back on this album again, were there any discoveries you made following its completion? Things that unintentionally turned out a certain way, and the sort.
I: Since we had to suspend activities, and had our recording progress in various ways we’ve never done before, there was a part of me that, although sure that we’d complete the album, also had no idea about what kind of album it would turn out to be. I think that conversely made it an album that I looked forward to.
―― What about Sakurai-san?
S: The stories I wrote, definitely…… Or rather, it’s most certainly not positive or forward-looking either. There isn’t even a message that says anything like, “Let’s cheer up”, though. How appropriate it would be to say, a negative multiplied by another negative makes a positive (smiles).
―― No, it’s definitely appropriate. It’s lovely.
S: My energy leans towards the negative, but when it is multiplied with those who feel a little down, we’d be like, “Oh, yeah! Let’s go!” Well, if only it’s like this (smiles). If only I could generate affirmative courage, even if just a little. Like what you said today, the way you called [the album] an omamori…… That’s a good one (smiles). It’ll make me happy if those people can listen to this album like an omamori.
―― Aside from “Make everything disappear!”, the chant “Abracadabra” appears to have a variety of different interpretations, even one that says it dispels plagues. Don’t you feel that this can be taken in many different ways?
S: That’s right. You could say that for me, I simply mean to say, “This is just a verbal spell, but this is all I can do. My apologies.” Like, if many different people cast many different spells, that should do something, right? (Smiles).
―― But words are important, aren’t they? I feel that words and music have a soul. We’re still not sure about how the annual year-end live concert will turn out, but when I hear Sakurai-san’s “Have a happy new year” and Imai-san’s guitar phrase when he leaves the stage, I feel like I’ve received a lovely gift (smiles).
―― Lastly, regarding this album’s artwork, what were the keywords that the band shared with Akita-san?
I: No, well, we had a meeting with designer Akita-san, and he told us the idea with which he wanted to proceed. At the time, we had a few different ideas floating around, but among all of that, we felt that this one’s good.
―― It’s a very bright jacket, which is an oddity among your works which have been mostly dark, isn’t it?
I: That’s also something I mentioned to Akita-san in the beginning. I thought it’d be nice if we had a rainbow in there.
―― It’s beautiful and it feels fresh. How does Sakurai-san feel about this?
S: I think that it’s a good thing that it isn’t dark. For this time (smiles).
―― Why do you think so?
S: Like the lyrics that Imai-san wrote, it is “hopeful”, and it’s also related to my lyric of “like a rainbow” in Boukyaku. In this way, I can convey the things that I’m embarrassed about through Akita-san’s art work.
―― What a wonderful collaborative effort.
S: It sure is. It’s because I already trust him.
―― Well then, we’ll first look forward to the album’s release and the no-audience, live online broadcast concert on Monday, September 21. Thank you!
S/I: Thank you.
* Do note that any lyric translations featured here are subject to change.
¹ Omamori (御守 or お守り) are Japanese amulets commonly sold at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, dedicated to particular Shinto kami as well as Buddhist figures, and are said to provide various forms of luck or protection.
² I believe the interviewer was referring to Kemonotachi no Yoru/RONDO.
³ The word used here was 沈んで (shizunde), used to refer to something sinking.
⁴ The phrase used here is 鬼の首を取った (oni no kubi wo totta), literally, to have chopped a demon’s head off. It’s a saying that typically refers to a person boasting, or being overly prideful or triumphant over inconsequential things.
⁵ A line from Que Sera Sera Elegy: 幻想の始まりだ (gensou no hajimari da).
⁶ A line from Eureka: 全て消えて失せろ (subete kiete usero).
⁷ “Returning to the earth” as in the cycle of life and how people all decompose and effectively return to the earth. “Returning to the womb” as in 胎内回帰 (tainai kaiki) the unbirthing thing.
⁸ A line from Tsuki no Sabaku: 骨になるまで 灰になるまで (hone ni naru made hai ni naru made).
⁹ A lie from Maimu Mime: 死んでみるか (shinde miru ka).
¹⁰ Mishima Yukio was a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor, model, film director, nationalist, and founder of the Tatenokai. Mishima is considered one of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century.
Confessions of a Mask is his second novel. First published in 1949, it launched him to national fame even though he was only in his early twenties.
¹¹ A line from Dance Tengoku: 女でも 男でも どっちでもいいのさ (onna de mo otoko de mo docchi demo ii no sa).
¹² Kazunori Akita or Kazvnori Akita have worked on BUCK-TICK’s album and single covers for a long time now. You can see all his works here: https://www.instagram.com/kazvnoriakita/
¹³ The actual phrase was 大人の事情 (otona no jijou), which is an excuse for not explaining something (lol). It can be translated as “adult matters”, “grown-up business”, or basically, “none of your business”.
¹⁴ Meaning to imply, not an ordinary day.