A Special 35th Anniversary Commemorative BE@RBRICK
Release of Photo Tee and BE@RBRICK Featuring “BT-MM”,
Beloved Guitar of BUCK-TICK ‘s Guitarist Imai Hisashi a.k.a The Prodigious Lefty
10 July 2022
Text by SHINNO Kunihiko
Photographs by NAGAO Masashi
Edit by TOMIYAMA Eizaburo
Imai Hisashi, BUCK-TICK’s guitarist who’s been a leader in the Japanese rock scene. His influence can not only be heard in music, but also seen visually in all types of creative media. It is from this man that came the commemorative BE@RBRICK which celebrates the 35th anniversary of BUCK-TICK’s major debut. In this interview, he shares with us the story behind this collaboration.
I wanted to play the BT-MM with a bow in performances
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of BUCK-TICK’s major debut, MEDICOM TOY and HIRAKAWA RENTAROU’s rock apparel brand “Amplifier” has released guitarist Imai Hisashi’s BE@RBRICK and a newly created photo t-shirt.
Both merchandise feature Imai’s beloved “BT-MM”, also known as “Maimai”, with the BE@RBRICK featuring striking illustrations of this same guitar that were drawn by Imai himself.
This will be Imai’s first return to OPENERS since 2019 (https://openers.jp/design/design_features/Hl8mX). This time, the spotlight is on “BT-MM”, known to fans as “the first guitar that comes to mind when you mention Imai Hisashi”. We speak to the man himself about it.
“We were still amateurs when I first started thinking about making my own original guitar. When I saw BOØWY’s Hotei Tomoyasu-san, who we look to as a senior we share a hometown with, painting his guitar, a white Telecaster (FERNANDES TEJ) with red and black paint.
It was only after our major debut when I got to create one starting from its shape (form). I had one made through consultations with a representative from Fernandes (guitar producer). The first guitar had a modified body cut in the shape of a diamond (FERNANDES TSUCHINOKO) but the final product was smaller than expected and it wasn’t very well balanced.
As for the second iteration of BT-MM, I wanted to play it with a bow in performances so I initially had the idea of creating a guitar with the form of a violin. I specified for the curling coiled up tips and the f-holes to be featured, and I thought the resulting design was pretty good. The first time it was used in public was at 1989’s Tokyo Dome show. The Fernandes representative came up with the BT-MM product code and the name Maimai on his own, and I pretty much figured, ‘oh well, so be it’ (lol).”
Imai, nicknamed “The Prodigious Lefty” composed most of BUCK-TICK’s music. Ingenious riffs and melodies produced by his left-hand playing have captivated countless people.
“When I write, I use my right hand and I also tend to use my right hand when I throw a baseball and all, but there’s just a certain few occasions where I favour my left. Like shuffling poker cards.
Back in elementary school, I was given an acoustic guitar because my uncle was teaching me how to play, and from the very start, I’ve always felt more comfortable holding the neck in my right hand. Even when everyone told me, “Kiddo, it’s the wrong way around,” I wouldn’t understand what they meant. What’s the wrong way around? And even after I finally figured it out, I just couldn’t hold it that way. No, it’s just impossible (lol).
I wasn’t all that interested in playing guitar at the time, so I left it alone for a good while, but in high school, when we started talking about starting a band, I thought, “Come to think of it……” and I recalled those times. Right versus left, what should I do? It’d be trouble if I made the wrong choice at this stage (lol). But no matter what, it’s easier for me to play with my left hand. Maybe my body’s just used to it. My father and grandfather are both left-handed, so maybe, in a way, it’s in my blood.
I decided that I don’t need to think too much about it since both hands are used in playing a guitar anyway, and went looking for a left-handed guitar to buy. But left-handed guitars are more expensive than regular ones. At first, my parents looked into it and told me that “it’d cost around 100,000 yen”. But that’s something from a well-known brand. Then, I happened to come across an ad on a black and white page of a magazine that advertised a cheap 19,800 yen guitar, so I decided that one’s good enough and worked part-time to buy it. I still have that guitar with me. I thought it would be interesting to play guitars with both left- and right-handed types since I’m originally a right-handed, but I couldn’t do it at all (lol).”
Imai has not only captivated with sound, but also his hairstyles, makeup, and outfits too. To that, we also asked about where his unique aesthetic sense comes from.
“Artists Uno Akira-san (a.k.a. Aquirax Uno) and Yokoo Tadanori-san. Foreign influences are Salvador Dali and Giorgio de Chirico. Among manga artists, it’s Araki Hirohiko-san. He’s the author of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and I like the light touch he has in his art. Isn’t this year also the 35th anniversary of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (serialisation started in Weekly Shonen Jump 1987 #01)? Some years ago, a fan gifted me an issue of Shonen Jump from that era with JoJo on the front cover, and on the back cover was us featured in Victor’s CDian (※1) ad. I never expected that a fan would have something like this. That was interesting. It felt kind of fateful in a way.”
(※1) In 1988, BUCK-TICK and JVC (old name for Victor) ran an advertising campaign with the catchphrase “An explosively deep heavy bass (重低音がバクチクする / juu teion ga bakuchiku suru)” for CDian, the true CD/cassette player with subwoofer. The two of them came together again in 2015 to promote high-resolution sound equipment with the new catchphrase “An explosively high resolution (ハイレゾがバクチクする / hairezo ga bakuchiku suru)”.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the fusion of mechanical aspects with human, and when we were making the music video for Speed (their single released in 1991), we filmed a scene of the band performing with instruments attached with gears and hoses. It had a similar vibe to what is now known as steampunk.
Another manga artist I love is Nihei Tsutomu-san, the author of BLAME! and Knights of Sidonia. I really like the logo Nihei-san designed for our label (Lingua Sounda, BUCK-TICK’s private label).
I’m not the kind of person who goes out a lot to begin with, so nothing much has changed for me even after COVID-19 came around. In terms of movies, I quite liked Disney’s Cruella (2021) last year.”
This was something I doodled at home as an attempt to turn BT-MM into a sort of character
He had produced photo T-shirts and figurines with Amplifier before, but this BE@RBRICK release is a first.
“I’ve been to exhibitions held by MEDICOM TOY numerous times, and I have had the thought of one day trying my hand at designing a BE@RBRICK. So I was really happy when I was asked to do it.
The idea for this design was suggested to me by Amplifier’s Hirakawa-kun. This was something I doodled at home about 10 years ago as an attempt to turn BT-MM into a sort of mascot character. Furthermore, this was drawn in one go. I had the intention of using it on band merchandise too so I wanted to draw it one more time with more effort put in, but no matter how many times I tried, it wouldn’t turn out well. Somehow, I just didn’t like them, you know? It’s either the expression, or the shape, or something. In the end, the first one was the best, so that’s what we’ve been using all this time.
During the creation of this BE@RBRICK, I didn’t voice out any specifications, but the size of the guitar and the balance of the design that they came up with was just perfect; I really liked it. I also intend to display it in my basement workroom at home once it’s produced. And if this is well received, I’d definitely like to do this a second or third time.
But BE@RBRICK also adapts with the times, doesn’t it? When I went to the recent exhibition (BE@RBRICK WORLD WIDE TOUR 3, held from 4 to 9 December 2021 at Omotesando, Tokyo), what I found was new wasn’t a bear but something that was shaped like the Nike of Samothrace (Ancient Greek marble sculpture discovered on the island of Samothrace in 1863) which I thought was really cool.”
With 22 original albums and 40 singles under their belt, BUCK-TICK will be celebrating the 35 years of activity with the same band members in September 2022. On Wednesday, 21 September, they will be releasing both the Blu-ray & DVD release of Misemono-goya ga Kurete Kara ～SHOW AFTER DARK～ in Nippon Budokan and the CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv., a five-CD concept best album that deconstructs and recompiles their works released over their 35-year career. They will also be holding BUCK-TICK 2022“THE PARADE”～35th anniversary～, a special concert on 23 and 24 September at Yokohama Arena to mark the start of their 35th anniversary year.
“A lot of fans have reached out to us, sharing how much they want to attend concerts even though they can’t. It’s also frustrating for us because we can’t put on a show for everyone although we want to. But the global situation is finally starting to change little by little, so I hope that we can all look forward to the 35th anniversary concert at Yokohama Arena.”
Debut 35th Anniversary LIVE
【BUCK-TICK 2022“THE PARADE”～35th anniversary～】
＠ Yokohama Arena
BUCK-TICK 2022“THE PARADE”～35th anniversary～ FLY SIDE
Friday, 23 September 2022 (Holiday)
Doors open 17:00, show starts 18:00
BUCK-TICK 2022“THE PARADE”～35th anniversary～ HIGH SIDE
Saturday, 24 September 2022
Doors open 16:00, show starts 17:00
BE@RBRICK BUCK-TICK Imai Hisashi 100% & 400% / 1000%
Produced by｜HIRAKAWA RENTAROU
Supervised by｜Imai Hisashi
Size｜Full height at approx. 70mm / 280mm / 700mm
Release date｜Delivery and release in October 2022
Price｜［100% & 400%］15,180 yen (w/ tax) /［1000%］63,800 yen (w/ tax)
To purchase｜Pre-order at MCT TOKYO (https://mct.tokyo/) from 00:00, Friday, 24 June ～23:59, Monday, 18 July 2022. (Japan time)
※For more details, please visit the official MEDICOM TOY website
※Pictures of samples were shot under supervision. May have slight differences from those on sale.
BE@RBRICK TM & ©️ 2001-2022 MEDICOM TOY CORPORATION. All rights reserved.
Imai Hisashi Photo T-shirt
Amplifier “今井寿” TEE design G
The photo T-shirt Amplifier “今井寿” TEE design G will be released on Imai Hisashi’s birthday, 21 October. BE@RBRICK BUCK-TICK 今井寿 100% & 400% / 1000% is also slated for delivery and release in October. All of these are made-to-order items, so please access the websites and place your order during the order periods.
Produced by｜HIRAKAWA RENTAROU
Photo by｜SHIBATA ERI
Supervised by｜Imai Hisashi
Release date｜21 October 2022
Price｜6,930 yen each (w/ tax)
To purchase｜Pre-order at any MEDICOM TOY online stores from 17:00, Friday, 24 June ～ 23:59, Sunday, 31 July 2022. (Japan time)