35th Anniversary Feature
PHY Vol. 22
I do sense that some sort of change has happened. Within myself
In any case, my desire to focus on music has grown stronger
— Sakurai Atsushi
BUCK-TICK celebrates their 35th debut anniversary on September 21. In all this time, the band has kept the same original member line-up while making all kinds of music in different themes with inspiration from a wide variety of genres and also touring at a consistent pace.
CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv. is the concept album they’re releasing in this period. Although its voluminous 80 tracks breaks the mould of the idea of a “best of” (lol), the selected songs have been split into five concepts that perfectly embody the essence of the band that is BUCK-TICK and their journey thus far. Then again, it’s more of an impossibility to attempt to summarise the band’s 35-year history within one mere CD.
However, the mood of the band right now is definitely not entirely celebratory ahead of their anniversary. Rather, I think it seems a little gloomy. What is the reason behind this?
A best-of album, a new song, COVID-19, growing older, and concerts.
This special feature explores where BUCK-TICK currently stands on a variety of topics. September 21 is the day when BUCK-TICK will see a new beginning. Incidentally, due to the many happenings in the recent period, these interviews have been arranged in chronological order, according to when they happened.
BUCK-TICK Solo Interviews
Text by: Ishii Eriko
How each person thinks has also changed over time. Everyone is growing more and more uncertain about the future
I’ve had periods when I’m feeling uneasy about my health and I’ve had COVID-19. But I think everyone’s feeling the same way
――Since your 30th year anniversary, both BUCK-TICK and the world have had some hectic times. There’s COVID-19, members of the band have fallen sick and sustained injuries. Thinking about it, quite a lot has happened.
Sakurai (S): Yes. And separate from music, there’s been other frustrations in the recent few years. Including the question of how many more years I can keep at this; on account of my age and my level of motivation too. I really feel that I can’t tell what might happen anymore after all these experiences I’ve had.
――Are you able to share more in this regard?
S: You hear about it all the time. Take Kanemitsu-san, for example. I believe it’s similar to what he goes through as editor-in-chief. There’s all sorts of difficulties that come with becoming a director or manager or chief of something.
――That’s true. So it’s the kind of problems that come to those who lead?
S: Things I can’t really talk about. A bunch has happened…… Right? (smiles at the editor-in-chief)
――This is rare. We’ve never really heard you talk about these things until now.
S: Well, how each person thinks has also changed over time, you know? I believe that anyone and everyone is growing more and more uncertain about the future. I’ve had periods when I’m feeling uneasy about my health and things like that, and I’ve had COVID-19 too. But this doesn’t apply to me exclusively, I think everyone’s feeling the same way, right? In the past few years, I believe there were those whose lives changed dramatically ever since COVID-19 came about, and even the cities have changed, right? I believe it’s been both difficult and scary for everyone. Not only me, but our fans as well, and their families too. We’re all experiencing invisible pressures and encroaching terrors too.
――Yes. I think we’ve all had to make all kinds of tough decisions in the confusion.
S: Indeed. In reality, we couldn’t even hold concerts. Not only us, but I think everyone including our staff, those in the stage play and entertainment industry, the actors, the whole world felt it. That this situation was not something that anyone could even have dreamt would’ve happened. But history has taught us that such things actually do happen.
――So what did you do with all the free time that resulted from your schedule being emptied out?
S: Uh…… I rode my bicycle.
S: Fufufu. Yes. Well, I’d go along and do things I wouldn’t normally do…… like cycling all the way to the park on my bike.
――Has cycling always been one of your hobbies?
S: Yes. Quite so. Although I’ve been riding on the same one for about 10 years now.
――The ones that go fast, right…… In other words, a road bike?
S: Yes. The not-city bike¹ (lol). The ones with elevated seats.
S: That’s what everyone says, but it’s fun. I can go here and there unlike driving a car, and obviously it’s faster than walking too. I made all sorts of discoveries. Apart from that, though, I haven’t done anything particularly productive.
――Oh, really (lol).
S: I say that but I’ve been approached by a lot of people, asking me whether I’d like to participate in this and that. One of them was a broadcast. And right about 2 years ago, our fan club-exclusive tour was put on hold but there was also a conversation about going on NHK with Hiroshi-san (for the dialogue program) at the time. Normally I’d hate the idea of going on TV to talk, but I felt it would be good since it was a way for fans to see me. I actually had a really good time. I’m extremely thankful to Hiroshi-san.
――It was very intriguing. Aside from that, you also had a dialogue with author Tono Haruka-san, right?
S: Ah, that’s right.
―― Was it also something you felt was good to do at that juncture?
S: Well, honestly speaking…… Mr Tono came to our concert before he was awarded the Akutagawa Prize. My ex-wife and I had a mutual acquaintance, Mari-chan from Kumamoto who was a man who identified as a woman, who passed away suddenly. It’s one of those things that proves you never know when something will happen out of nowhere. After that happened, I received a letter asking, “May I come and watch your concert?” That was the Makuhari Messe show. You could say that was our first meeting after 29 years…… Well, it was as good as a “Pleased to meet you for the first time.” The next time we met was after the concert at Yoyogi Gymnasium. That was when he said, “I’ll be an Akutagawa Prize-winning author when we next meet,” and I was like, “Oh~”. And after that, he really won it. I thought it was amazing.
――Ohh. That’s impressive.
S: I saw the press conference that came after the award ceremony, and there was a reporter who seemed to be incessantly trying to dig up information about his father from him. I got the impression that this person probably knew [the truth] and wanted [Tono] to say it on his own. Then, a representative from Bungei approached me with, “Mr Sakurai, would you like to do a dialogue [with him]? Because I believe a lot of people are going to turn their curiosity [towards him] later on.” I declined at first, though.
――Is that so?
S: Because I felt that I don’t have any right to show up now, at that point of time and say that I’m the father of an Akutagawa Prize-winning author. But after that, Mr Tono himself told me that, “I would like to talk with you.” So. Since that’s the case…… I also thought that this might be the one thing I could do for him in my life as a parent, so I agreed to it.
――I think it ultimately turned out to be something beautiful. Far more so than a scoop in a gossip magazine.
S: You’re right. Honestly…… I felt vindicated by the words Mr Tono said to me. For these few decades.
――It never left your mind?
S: It really was my cross to bear. Because I sincerely felt that I caused their family a lot of unpleasant feelings. Not that I could do anything if they hated and resented me though. But contrary to that, he actually said things like, “[I appreciate that] I could study all the way to college”…… I’m really grateful.
――I’m glad to hear that. Truly.
S: It’s probably convenient for me to say this, but I was definitely a little happy too that he won the prize. Really, even though I felt apologetic that I couldn’t do anything for him.
――I’m a parent myself so I understand where you’re coming from. These days, I find more joy in the youth and children’s hardwork and success than my own. Maybe that’s actually a form of hope in itself.
S: Exactly. It also feels like a weight has finally been lifted from my shoulders. And it really dawns on you that this small child has grown up and matured into their own person. That they’ve grown into a stronger person than you had expected…… It really gets me feeling, “Ah, you’re living your life well.”
――It’s something truly wonderful.
S: You can’t really judge people by their appearances these days considering that there are so many of the younger generation who have things figured out better than the adults. That’s why there are things we can’t give up on in the world. Of course, there are parts of it that are rotten too, right? In my recent MCs, I’ve been saying “The world is rotten-” and things like that, and it’s something that I blurt out without much thought. But there definitely are things that we can’t give up on in the world, you know? Hope still exists.
――Yes. Now, about the band; with your 35th anniversary right around the corner, any thoughts about this number?
S: Hmmm? …… Huun…… Long.
――Hahaha! I got careless with phrasing my question (lol).
S: People often say, “Isn’t it amazing that you’ve played together for 35 years now.” But it doesn’t really strike us like that. I recall all sorts of things in fragments but…… I can’t quite describe it. Because it’s not as if we’re doing the same things day in and day out.
――Is it that feeling you get when you’re doing something you enjoy while time is just passing by?
S: There’s some of that too, but personally, I still feel like there’s room for growth in terms of my singing and my lyrics, if I do say so myself. In the end, that desire for more is still in me so I suppose I’m unable to be satisfied with myself.
S: Also, this is referring to what we spoke about earlier, but recently, I’ve started to be mindful of what I do in the sense that I don’t want to disgrace Mr Tono. Like releasing work that an Akutagawa Prize-winning author wouldn’t be embarrassed of, and when I think about how many more times I can do all this…… I’d figure that it’s now or never.
――It’s sobering, isn’t it?
S: In that sense, I think that somehow or rather, when I read Mr Tono’s work, I get inspired.
――Over and over, you’ve all said things like “This might be the last”, or “I wonder how many more [albums] we can produce”, but does such a topic normally surface among the members?
S: No, no. Not at all. It doesn’t happen, but…… Who knows, right? I don’t know what everyone thinks about it though.
――It’s significant to the band when members get injured or fall sick, right?
S: That’s right. In itself, it can’t be helped that such incidents occur, but I do sense that some sort of change has happened. Within myself. In any case, my desire to focus on music has grown stronger.
――So you didn’t sink [into despair] together with it all?
S: Ah, no. I did.
――Oh, my bad. But it sounds like you never thought about stopping.
S: Yes. That I have creative work to do saved me. It’s like I’m here because there’s something I can do my best and immerse myself in. Since the start of the year, it’s been song after song and I’ve been sitting in front of the computer almost every day hemming and hawing, making time to focus purely on creating stories.
――When it comes to lyrics, do the words come to you all at once and you just write everything down? Or is the process more like a patient waiting game for the words to appear in your mind?
S: Ah, it depends on the song, but oftentimes [the lyrics] come in a steady stream stemming from my first impressions. Of course, after that, there’s still a long road to completion though. With the tiny details that only I would be bothered by. Like, “僕は (boku wa)” or “僕が (boku ga)”²……… which should I use? Although there’s also the part of me that bursts out with, “Any of them will do!” But I just can’t help but obsess over those kinds of details. Fufufu.
――I actually thought this might’ve been a tough time but based on your tone of voice, it sounds like you’ve found enjoyment too.
S: That’s…… true. Because somehow, I keep getting strong desires of “I want to write this plot!” As long as I still have time to work on it, I’d keep thinking about things like whether or not there’s a better word or phrase I can use. It is during this time when I can have fun with creating the story.
――Your desire to sing a good song and your desire to write such a certain story; are these separate from each other?
S: Ah…… When you put it like this, I’d say yes, you’re right. Although, initially, when the plot gets ahead, I’d suddenly realise that, “Ah, oh, right. I’m singing this.” Of course, there’s also the melody and the rhythm to consider. That’s why the very last stage involves fitting them all together and turning it into a viable song.
――Have you ever considered, for example, writing short stories or something like that?
S: No, no, no. I think that’s tough.
――Since the plot is the first thing that comes to mind, then, Sakurai-san, don’t you think it’s feasible?
S: …… I don’t
S: I mean, those authors, novelists, even the literary greats of the past, they’re all unwell, aren’t they? Even I’m not well and I’m just writing these lyrics. Even if they’re well respected and people think they’re amazing…… I just wonder, “Are they okay?” Because they’re already consumed by their stories, right? It’s bad for health, honestly.
――I would want to read it though, a short story written by Sakurai-san.
S: Really? Then…… Shall I start with something erotic?
――By all means. Please feel free to be nasty (lol).
――That was a joke, but in the end, what you really want to do is song and music, right?
S: That’s right. I wonder what makes the difference for me. Well, maybe I just like singing in itself.
――Right. So, your 35th anniversary concert at Yokohama Arena. What can we expect to see?
S: For the stage, we intend to suggest doing something we’ve never done before, so I’m not too sure how we’ll capture it on screen. As for songs, we’ll be performing our popular songs through these years and maybe also our new song Sayonara Shelter, if possible.
――Got it. I look forward to it.
S: And what else? I do want to pick a few songs myself, though. Because for July’s fan club tour, I couldn’t quite readjust my focus so the other members of the band decided on the set list for me. I don’t really know what meaning I would like [the songs] to hold at this point in time though. I wonder if I should make people think about the current world situation, and about September? Of course, the songs I would like to perform are also likely different from the songs people want to hear, so there’s also some giving and taking to do. It’s like the coexistence of my own cynicism and solace. I think it would be nice if we could show the audience something like that.
――Is there a festive atmosphere right now? Although, I feel like there was more of a celebratory mood during your 30th anniversary.
S: …… Somehow it feels like we can’t really get into that mood, right? With the way things are now. Of course, we do want everyone to enjoy themselves though. But this isn’t about me personally, so I think we can achieve a good balance when we put everyone’s influence together.
――Understood. And lastly, may I ask you a particularly difficult question?
――Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow band members who you’ve been walking, and sometimes running together with for the past 35 years?
S: (Immediately) Thanks for all your hard work.
――Hahahahaha! …… Is that all?
S: That’s all. …… What? You want more? Were you expecting a good answer?
――Fufufu. I just thought it’d be beautiful if there was a “thank you” or something like that.
S: Nope. None. They know without me saying it.
――Alright. Thank you!
¹ Bicycles with a basket in front, a.k.a., the mama-chari.
² While technically interchangeable, there’s actually the slightest of differences between “僕は (boku wa)” and “僕が (boku ga)”; one places emphasis on the subject that comes before, the other places emphasis on what comes after.
Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi
There’s a lot that is different than how it used to be, but we’ve always found a way to make it through
So my wish for our 35th anniversary is for the band to keep going on together
――Shows for the fan club and mobile members-exclusive tour have been postponed following Sakurai-san testing positive for COVID-19.
Hoshino (H): I was surprised but it can’t be helped, can it? Because it’s now something that can happen to anyone and everyone. I just hope for Sakurai-san to rest well, make a full recovery, and return in the best of health.
――It was your first tour in a while so did it feel refreshing to travel around the country again?
H: All kinds of memories sprung up like reminiscing about what it felt like and so on. Since it’s really been quite a while since I travelled with the band. Also, the thought of how we took the way things were for granted three years ago and how we’re now in a not-normal world hit me again.
――That’s for sure.
H: Those were the kind of things on my mind while touring.
――Next, BUCK-TICK will be celebrating your 35th anniversary together on 21 September.
H: Well it feels like things have been the same as always, though. But each one of the days are special days in their respective ways.
――Speaking of which, doesn’t you think a person can really sense the weight of these 35 years through your best-of concept album?
H: That’s true. A set of 5 CDs, and…… about 80 songs?
――Exactly 80 songs.
H: We’ve released quite a few best-of albums so far, haven’t we? Starting with our very first best-of album, we had the band’s selection of songs, a collection of single A-sides that were released with the label we were signed with at the time, and even one that was of songs requested and voted for by fans.
――You have to put some thought into it every time you release one.
H: They’re all good in their own ways. But although there are indeed a lot of songs in this iteration of our best-of’s, the songs have been split very conceptually and I think that’s what makes it rather interesting.
――But I’d think that song selection was tough.
H: Our staff separated our songs into the major categories for us before we all had a look at it and gave our own opinions on which songs we’d like to see where, but since CDs have limited capacity, we ended up in the situation where we had to sacrifice a song if we wanted to add another. It was quite agonising after all. And we had to think about the flow of the tracks too.
――The five titles of each category were written in Esperanto, which translates to “rebellion”, “gothic”, “electric”, “fantasy”, and “hope”. It’s easy to tell that the band has brought all kinds of songs to life whether thematically or musically.
H: We’ve really got a wide range, don’t we?
――Hoshino compositions are also a category of their own in a way so I think it’d be nice if they were all compiled into one release too, though.
H: Although I don’t think “Hoshino” can be written in Esperanto (lol).
――Hahahahaha. There’s also a new song included in this best-of album; Sayonara Shelter. The lyrics were written by Sakurai-san, while Hoshino-san composed the music, right?
H: We didn’t initially intend to release it here, but Director Tanaka-san said, “Don’t you think this song needs to be released now, rather than with the album scheduled for next spring?” I thought that was certainly true. And after having a meeting with the band, we came to the decision to include it in the best-of concept album.
――Did you think this way because of what was being sung?
H: Yeah, that’s right.
――The lyrics bring a gentle gaze upon the current situation in society. More specifically, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the “innocent children” who are victims of it.
H: I guess Sakurai-san seemed to want to zoom in on that situation and he was a bit hesitant but it’s a message that we have always been sending all this time, so I suppose he felt that it would be okay to include it in the best-of album. I think so too anyway.
――The lyrics are very typical of Sakurai-san, aren’t they?
H: Yeah. It’s a gentle perspective, isn’t it? With the way he sings about something like seeing salvation in such a terrible situation. We can’t really keep silent when something like that happens. I could really sense how much he wanted to send this message out.
H: And it was happening right when we were recording vocals too. Around March, I believe. Ukraine was being bombed by air strikes and there was a video being broadcast in the news on TV of a girl singing Frozen’s theme song (Let It Go) in the shelters where civilians took refuge, right?
――I saw that. It’s the video that went around of a girl about seven years old singing and encouraging the evacuees, right?
H: I have a daughter about the same age too. It really made my heart ache. That was the kind of scenario we were recording in so I really felt each and every word very keenly.
――It’s really sad that we live in a time that makes Sakurai-san write and sing such lyrics. I would think that this is one such scene that he actually doesn’t want to sing about.
H: Yeah. I think the music to this song could’ve been suitable for just about anything too. It could’ve been a love song, or one that inspires wondrous scenery. But I suppose here and now, these are the lyrics for it.
――Hoshino-san’s music was completed before the lyrics?
H: That’s right. Because in BUCK-TICK, the music tends to come first.
――So, that means you didn’t actually think that these lyrics would be written, right?
H: For Sayonara Shelter, it was timely so I guess I had a bit of a hunch too that these would be the type of lyrics that he might very well write for it.
――It turned out to be a sound and melody that fit Sakurai-san’s current emotions.
H: Yeah. It’s a mid-tempo song but it feels a little bit different from what we’ve done so far. A progression that stuck with the mid-tempo beat would work too, but I wanted a bit of change. Like trying a rhythm change in the middle of it. Besides, I’d think that the attachment of such lyrics to such a melody is most probably a result of Sakurai-san’s feelings naturally flowing into his writing.
――I think so too.
H: Also, I believe the version that will be in next spring’s album will be a little bit different, so do look forward to that too. I’m not working on it though.
――What did Hoshino-san focus on for this song?
H: Hm… Rhythm, but also the melody, I think. But the melody for the chorus came easy, and I really liked Sakurai-san’s lyrics for that part. It really moved me.
――This gets me thinking that this is where lies the goodness and the strength of a band who has been together for such a long time.
H: You’re probably right.
――Along with this new song, I heard that you’ve started recording your next album and have already made quite a bit of progress, so what kind of album do you think it’ll turn out to be?
H: Hasty (lol). But I think we managed to do some really great things here. Like you said, we’ve made quite a bit of progress with recording work. We’re pretty much done with recording the guitar parts for all the songs that we have now and they’re now in the mixing stage. Since the fan club & mobile members-only live tour has begun, we’re pausing recording work for the time being so I don’t have a clear idea of how things would turn out in the end though.
――All members of the band have said that you’re making good stuff, but no one would give me any specifics (lol).
H: This upcoming album is made based on an idea from our staff and a particular concept. That’s why I think it’ll be in a style that has never been seen from BUCK-TICK before. Although even I don’t know how it would end up (lol). In terms of music, I think you’d probably get to hear all types of music in the songs.
――…… I’m even more confused now (lol).
H: Anyway, do look forward to it. Because after our show at Yokohama Arena or halfway through our national tour, I think we’ll have new song(s) again so we’d have to record. Imai-san also said he’s working on a few more songs anyway.
――What about Hoshino-san?
H: I’ve delivered three songs, including Sayonara Shelter and I’m pretty much done with recording already. I guess we’ll see how things go afterwards. For now, I do plan to compose one more song though.
――As usual, you’re the one bringing the balance (lol).
H: I think it’ll turn out great. But we’re going to get pretty busy from here on out, aren’t we? It’s about time for us to start thinking about what we’re going to do for our Yokohama Arena show and prepare for rehearsals. And a month after that, we’re going on a national tour, right? When on earth will he find the time to record? (Lol)
――That’s his problem (lol). And Anii will be celebrating his 60th soon.
H: That’s right. Anii is turning 60 and reaching the next stage in life ahead of us. We’re all going to follow after him in the coming years, but looking at Anii now, I can imagine myself still playing guitar in BUCK-TICK when I’m 60.
――That’s only another 4 years.
H: In the blink of an eye (lol). You’re right. Although there are two seniors ahead of me.
――You can see what’s ahead.
H: But thus far, we’ve constantly released new work and gone on nationwide tours with the new releases just about every year. We’ve been living very blessed days but things like this time’s COVID-19 could happen in our lives. Although, well, I think we’re headed in a good direction from here on out.
――Going forward, what does the ideal way of life look like to Hoshino-san?
H: I’m no Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones), but it’d be nice if I could become a cool grandpa like him and continue to play guitar on stage with all that flair.
――Wouldn’t that mean changing your image (lol)?
H: Well I guess we’re of different types (lol) but we all get more and more wrinkles as we age anyway. But I want to stay cool, you know? I want to keep playing music too.
――As a part of BUCK-TICK?
H: Of course, I’d like for us to keep going. It’s only natural to think so when we’ve come this far. I can’t really imagine what it’d be like otherwise. But as long as one person can’t do it anymore, this band won’t be able to continue on. That’s what I feel.
――That strong bond is beautiful yet ephemeral at the same time.
H: I suppose. So, there’s a lot that is now different than how it used to be in the past, but even in such situations. We’re same five people who have always found a way to make it through. And that’s why, my wish for our 35th anniversary is for the band to keep going on together.
――Did these thoughts come about as a result of Hoshino-san’s father passing away, and your hair loss and health problems due to the immune disorder?
H: I think there’s definitely some influence. Because in recent times, I’m feeling more and more strongly that anything could happen at any moment. I’ve grown to be mentally prepared.
――Rock bands tend to have more impulsivity or anger or things like that in their youth, but now, all the members of BUCK-TICK seem to possess that kind of preparedness in some form. Yet at the same time, I can really sense the band’s desire to go for it.
H: You’re right. I think everyone’s got that vibe. Because I think everyone’s had their own respective experiences. Not as a band, but as people.
――I think the fact that you can’t cover up your humanity is linked to what attracts people to the band that is BUCK-TICK.
H: Really? But thinking about it, I feel really blessed that we still have enough fans now that we can still perform a 2-day show at Yokohama Arena. We’re also getting a lot of letters and emails saying things like, “I recently came back [to being a fan]. Thank you for being active for so long.” Of course, I’m thankful for all the people who have watched over us through all this time, but it really makes me happy to hear that someone has come back as a fan after, for example, leaving to focus on raising their children.
――I think it means that you’ve cultivated a good relationship with your fans.
H: That’s true. When I fall sick and get discouraged, I would remember all the letters I’ve received from everyone who were battling illnesses like cancer and all that, and I’d tell myself, “No, no, I can’t.”
――That it’s not the time for you to be weak.
H: Rather than me encouraging our fans, I’m the one who’s being encouraged and motivated by them. That’s why I think our 35th anniversary is just a checkpoint. I still want to continue deepening the bond with everyone and maintaining the good relationship we have. COVID-19 is still a thing so it’s frustrating that we can’t really have concrete plans, but I hope that the timing of our 35th anniversary can serve as a start to all of that.
――Can you already envision your future 40th anniversary and all that?
H: Five years later…… I’ll be 61. I don’t really want to think about it but (lol), we’ll probably keep going. Like I said at the very beginning, I want to cherish every passing day as if they’re all special respective days.
Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi
I don’t want us to be nothing but carried away by the voices and the atmosphere of the times
Because this is a band that was started by the five of us
――Here we go.
Yutaka (Y): We ended up doing this remotely again (lol).
――We have to be very careful since you’re preparing to resume touring.
Y: We’re shocked too.
――Were all the members of the band already in Nagoya by the time Sakurai-san tested positive for COVID-19?
Y: Yes. It seems like Acchan’s health took a sudden turn for the worse the previous evening. Acchan’s got a throat condition too, so he was the most careful one out of all of us, and yet this still happened.
――Right? Sakurai-san was quite cautious, wasn’t he?
Y: All of us, the whole band, when we’re on tour, we’d eat our lunch boxes in our own rooms starting from the day before we travel. On concert days, we’ll book out a whole restaurant and eat in small groups. But since he still caught it anyway, we can only say that it is what it is.
――I hope you get to resume your tour. Although you had to postpone a few shows, how do you feel about being on tour for the first time in a while?
Y: It feels refreshing to be somewhere other than Tokyo. I even thought, how many years has it been since I last rode the bullet train (lol). Mount Fuji, the sea, being able to watch all that scenery passing my window was super emotional. I felt like I gained a new sense of appreciation for all the things I used to take for granted before.
――Does that mean, Yuta-san, for about three years, you haven’t gone……
Y: Out of Tokyo, no. I couldn’t even visit my hometown. That’s why when I head out, I feel happy and grateful for it. And also thankful that everyone waited for us. The shows we’re playing for this tour are standing shows. The audience numbers have been kept to a limit and to prevent overcrowding, they’ve been given designated spots to stand in, but at least, when I look down from the stage, it doesn’t look like the number of people in attendance has been reduced by that much. I feel like I’m also getting back that sense of what performing a live concert feels like.
Y: And the audience can’t vocalise, right? It’s very a real pity but my heart feels so full when I see everyone cooperating with the rule. They’ve all come together as one to make the concert a success. That’s why, while still taking into account the situation at hand, I felt it’s important to create a space where people can enjoy a live concert without holding back, and also to live up to the expectations of those who want to watch us perform live and help us succeed in this despite the situation.
――Compared to other shows, the audience at BUCK-TICK’s concerts really do their best to abide by the rules.
Y: I feel like they’re trying to convey something to us with that. That’s why even without their voices, everyone feels more united than ever. And for us, there’s that sense of that return to normal life when we travel and tour. I don’t think we’ll be able to go back to what things were like before COVID-19 and I believe we’ll have to think about new ways to do things too, but the more shows we play, the more we all can start to feel that things will be okay. Everyone is coming together to make it work, that’s the kind of tour it is.
――After that, BUCK-TICK has a 2-day anniversary concert at Yokohama Arena coming up, followed by a national tour that begins in October.
Y: I’m looking forward to it!
――Do you have a clear idea of what you’re going or intending to do at this point in time?
Y: It’s a tour that comes after the release of our best-of album, so it’s not one that specially has to follow one album’s concept. In other words, it doesn’t have a clear concept, but I guess that also means that there’s a lot we can do. I think it’ll be good if we can first celebrate with everyone at Yokohama Arena, then head into our national tour with that excitement.
――So you’ll celebrate your 35th anniversary at Yokohama Arena with a bang.
Y: And after that, we’re going to travel the country, not to give thanks, but to have a good time together with everyone.
Y: Since it’s our anniversary, I think we’re going to have a lot of fun. Rather than put on a celebration and then end it with a huge fireworks display, I think we’re hoping to put on a show that signals that we’re just getting started. I’m looking forward to it.
――Also, do you feel any differently when you see the words “35 years since debut”?
Y: I wonder…… But things are clearly different than how they were, right? We had the pandemic and we couldn’t really perform any shows as much as we wanted to, could we? That’s sort of ongoing, so I guess I don’t really feel the carefree joy like “It’s our 35th anniversary~!”
Y: I said it earlier too, but it’s like I’m carefully chewing and digesting how precious activities like recording and performing live that we’ve taken for granted till now, are to me. The world has changed, war has broken out, and a lot of things won’t work out the same way they used to, right?
――We can’t stay the same.
Y: You can really sense the changing of the times. Amidst that, I’ve been thinking more and more about what we can do, what I can do. In the end, I definitely want the five of us to keep going forever, so I don’t want us to be nothing but carried away by the voices and the atmosphere of the times.
――You’ve got a point.
Y: Because this is a band that was started by the five of us.
――Is there anything you think you can do in such times?
Y: The only thing we can do is bring joy to people through music, so I guess we can only feel those emotions while doing what we do.
――That’s why the band has come this far, and why it’s important for it to keep going?
Y: That’s definitely true, but what has kept us going is the results too. There’s no checkpoint. Because we’ve always tackled each and every thing we do seriously, and none of this is a given, right? Because I don’t think we could’ve gotten here if the five of us didn’t put in effort. We have to take things seriously. We can’t let ourselves take our present status for granted. That’s something I feel particularly strongly about recently. That’s why I want to take on more new challenges, and I hope that people will enjoy seeing us do that.
――For such a 35th anniversary. You’re firstly releasing a hefty volume of a best-of album featuring five CDs and 80 songs.
Y: Having been at it for 35 years, the number of albums and songs we’ve released has grown pretty large. Even just counting our best-of albums, there’s quite a number already, isn’t there?
――For the official best-of albums with “CATALOGUE” in their titles, there are already five.
Y: That’s why this time, since we have so many different types of songs, the idea to release a best-of album that splits them into these concepts came up. Rather than lining all our singles up in sequence of their release date or having us band members select the songs, we felt that the fact that we could create this format of a best-of album is interesting, and very BUCK-TICK, isn’t it? Although the song selection was tough (lol).
――There’s one new song among them.
Y: Sayonara Shelter, right? This is, we’re currently in the midst of super-secret recording work though……
――Since when did anyone ever call it super-secret (lol).
Y: Since before summer, in absolute secrecy (lol), we’ve been going into the studio whenever we have time. Not to record a few songs at a go, but one at a time. This is for the album we plan to release next spring, just as announced, but there are some songs that are already complete. Then the suggestion to include one of the songs in this best-of album came up.
――Sakurai-san’s lyrics paint a realistic depiction of the current situation of the world, don’t they?
Y: Yeah. It’s steeped strongly with a sense of these times, so I guess that might be why even our staff thought it was better to release it now.
Y: Also, we thought it would be better if we showed the next step the band was also taking instead of only looking back on our past. The songs that we’re recording now, all of them have gotten pretty good responses, but this song by Hide is also really good too.
――In terms of playing this song, was there anything that Yuta-san was especially particular with?
Y: Hide’s music is melodious, so it won’t work unless my bass sounds like you can sing along with it. If my bass notes don’t make much movement, the song won’t come together nicely so I guess that’s what I paid attention to.
Y: Hide said to me, “I shaped it to some extent, but feel free to change it.” Even so, it’s quite difficult to make any changes (lol).
――It’s an unyielding Hoshino melody, right?
Y: But it turned into a good song. Recently, Acchan’s been saying, “We’re in unpleasant times but……” But despite that, I think it would be nice if a song like this could rip away the unpleasantness of unpleasant times and tear us a way into a new world.
――But it’s a very meaningful album that really allows us to appreciate the diversity of what BUCK-TICK has done in your 35 years of band activity, isn’t it?
Y: That’s true. I think it’s a catalogue that is unique to us because of how we’ve done so many different things over the years.
――Isn’t it tough for you as a musician to play this many genres of music?
Y: In the past, it was though. The typical flow of events when we debuted would see situations like Imai-kun suddenly turning something he wrote into a 16-beat rhythm but here I am, incapable of playing something like that (lol).
――It’s a bit too late for me to say this but you’ve done well to keep up with that.
Y: Because it was fun to play together with everyone. I didn’t want to leave it. That unity. When I couldn’t play something well, I practised like hell with a rough idea of what it should sound and feel like, and that was how the five of us experimented and figured things out. I guess you could say that was enjoyable.
Y: When you spend a long time doing one thing, you’d tend to get flickers of ego, like wanting to become better or wanting to polish up techniques, but that doesn’t happen with us, you know? It’s obvious when you listen to this best-of album, but while part of the reason is that there’s no time or place for ego (lol) with so many genres, more than that, I think our desire to bring something new to our fans, to let them hear something interesting is just far stronger. For better or worse, it feels like [our music] is becoming something that belongs to us less and less.
Y: Besides, [achieving our] 35th anniversary isn’t something that we could’ve done on our own. Now, more than ever, I feel that this is all only possible because we had everyone’s help and support. I know first hand how important this all is precisely because we weren’t able to meet during the pandemic.
――It sounds like that’s why this band is so particular about releasing an album every year and going on a thorough national tour.
Y: Well, that’s of course. It’s also because our bodies would get easily fatigued if we don’t play music on a consistent basis. Because we no longer have bodies that will do whatever we want like when we were young (lol).
――That’s what happens when we age.
Y: Also, I’m remembering incidents from the past more and more. We recently played a show at Sendai for the first time in a while, but on our very first tour of the Tohoku area, our first show was in Sendai too. We had such a hard time. The background music played for the first song and suddenly Imai-kun’s guitar wouldn’t make a sound (lol).
――Memories of problems (lol).
Y: I think that was at Yamaha Hall. That venue’s probably already gone. On this tour, lots of these memories of the past kept coming to me. Our band also has a very long working relationship with the staff. Like the regional promoters, if I’m not mistaken, the same people have been coming to greet us at the station for about 30 years. It sort of feels like we’re there to visit our relative or our uncle at their home (lol).
Y: I’ve been thinking a lot about these people who have watched us grow and have built up the band together with us. That’s why, I’m really looking forward to travelling around the country after our Yokohama Arena show. I hope to go into it fully prepared.
――Getting ready to make sure you’ll be able to perform while also taking care of your health.
Y: And that’s why we’re doing a remote interview like this (lol).
――You don’t think the end of your super-secret recording work is close yet?
Y: I don’t. It looks like it’ll be going on for a while yet. I think we’ll probably be recording between tours after we’re done with Yokohama Arena.
――I guess that means whatever you feel during the show will again influence your music.
Y: Yeah. I think Imai-kun might very well be looking for something like that.
――You’ve got quite a number of songs recorded, don’t you?
Y: See, it’s super-secret (lol).
――Yokohama Arena, a best-of album, recording work, a national tour; pretty busy days are ahead.
Y: Yeah. But we were completely unable to perform live these few years too. So I’m grateful for all the things we can do. And we’ll have to take care of our health too (lol).
Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi
It’s not difficult to do whatever we want to do
Isn’t it as simple as not doing do what you don’t want to do
――Yesterday was Yagami-san’s 60th birthday celebration concert. How was it?
Imai (I): Unlike a regular concert or tour, there was the aspect of celebrating Anii so, how do I say it…… I guess it was fun (lol).
――Please put a bit more effort in your word choice (lol).
I: Hahhahhahha. I enjoyed it in many ways so it was great.
――Your setlist included Itoshi no Rock Star and SEXUAL×××××! too. That created a different impression from the tour.
I: Yeah. Also because we only performed a few songs, right? Anii invited ISSAY-san (Der Zibet) to perform Itoshi no Rock Star because he wanted to do that one, and the other songs that he wanted to perform, in terms of the lyrical content too, were songs that everyone could enjoy. It was fun.
――And 3 years later, it’ll be Imai-san’s turn.
I: What is…………… Ah, me? 60th birthday celebration? No frikkin’ way I’m doing that (lol).
――Even if you don’t want it, you’ll probably end up doing it, right (lol). And this time, Sakurai-san tested positive for COVID-19 so you had to postpone shows in three locations; Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Toyosu for your fan club and mobile members-only tour, right?
I: It’s not as if we can do anything about that anyway. Not only Sakurai-san, but there’s recently been an increase in the number of infections among the people close to me too. It’s no longer surprising for it to happen to anyone. I think we just have to be mentally prepared for that when we decide to perform live.
――But how do you feel? Touring around the country for the first time in a while?
I: Given the present situation, everyone’s wearing masks wherever we go, and they can’t vocalise, right? But I can really feel their enthusiasm, the vibe that they’re hyped up. From where we stand, we can only see their eyes, but it’s like their emotions really come through.
I: The intensity of everyone’s gaze is strong (lol). Also, I noticed Acchan was being unusually extra talkative, but since the audience can’t vocalise, I guess he was talking more on stage than usual to make up for that.
――He’s very kind, isn’t he? It’d be a burden on Sakurai-san if he was the only one to do it, so let’s have Yuta-san talk next time.
I: It’s better if Yuta doesn’t speak (lol).
――How’s the song selection for this tour?
I: Just like Anii’s event, we decided to pick songs that people can enjoy. But even as I say that, I don’t mean exclusively songs that get the audience excited, I mean songs that can be enjoyed in many other ways too.
――Like songs that you haven’t performed in a while, and those that are kind of nostalgic.
I: Yes, exactly. All five of us chose songs that we wanted to play. What did I pick…… Boukyaku and Hamushi no You ni. And also Aikawarazu〜 (Aikwarazu no “Are” no Katamari ga Nosabaru Hedo no Soko no Fukidamari), I think.
――And right after this, you’ll first have a special concert at Yokohama Arena.
I: It’s a 2-day show, so as you’d expect, the number of songs we’ll perform is going to be significant. We intend to make sure that everything is well prepared, from staging to band cohesion and all.
――We’re calling it a special show, but do you think there’ll be a strong festive mood?
I: Well, I’m just thinking of making it a good show as we always do. Every year’s an anniversary of some kind anyway (lol). And it just so happens that this year, it’s our 35th debut anniversary, right? I wouldn’t really think of anything special for this. I just think that it’s always special so we should have fun wherever it is we play.
I: Although, 35 years together…… is the same age as JoJo, that’s what I thought (lol). [Note: This year marks 35 years since JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure began serialisation.]
――I didn’t know that!
I: When you think about how we’ve got the same number of years of activity as JoJo, it’s kind of emotional, isn’t it (lol).
――But it’s also amazing for a band to to achieve 35 years together (lol). You’ll be going on a national tour, BUCK-TICK TOUR THE BEST 35th anniv. in October, but will it be more focused on your best-of album……
I: It’s got 80 songs in it so there’s nothing to focus on, right (lol).
――Well, that’s true though.
I: We haven’t come up with anything for that yet, but I think we’ll be doing something interesting, something different from Yokohama Arena. In any case, right now, we just feel very strongly about wanting to go about it properly.
――Without being swung around by COVID-19, right? And this CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv. best-of collection. As mentioned earlier, it’s being called a best-of album, but the number of songs here is huge.
I: Well, that’s because we divided 35 years’ worth of BUCK-TICK songs into five themes and then selected the best songs of each theme. Besides, I think it’s more interesting to apply this sort of limitation to them.
――The names of these five themes are written in Esperanto. Were they named by Imai-san?
I: I wanted a sense of unity. If we made each one sound like album titles then they’d all have some form of meaning to them, and that would make it feel overcrowded in a way. So I wanted them to sound symbolic, sort of like what “CATALOGUE” is. Esperanto has some similarity to English, so it gives the feeling that you understand what the words are and yet, not really. I thought that would be kind of interesting.
――In other words, you didn’t want the titles to hold strong, concrete meanings.
I: Yeah. Besides, I think those who want to understand what it really means would look it up anyway. Most of all, I just think the way the words look is interesting. Although, you’d more or less get what ELEKTRIZO means.
――Who picked the songs?
I: In the beginning, our staff roughly divided our songs into these lists. We then laid those out for discussion to let those who have favoured songs to suggest which would be better to include and make adjustments accordingly. I think I mentioned one or two songs but…… which songs were they? I completely forgot (lol).
――But there isn’t any other band who’s made so many different types of songs.
I: This is just how things turned out after 35 years of making whatever music we want, though.
――Well, that’s probably true, but there’s a rather small number of bands who can actually do that.
I: I’ve never felt as if we’re being forced to be a band who does this anyway, and I think we’d hate doing what we do if we felt like that. But since we want to do this, that’s all we can do, right?
――Is it not difficult to do whatever you want to do?
I: It’s not, is it?
I: Probably. Just don’t do what you don’t want to do. Even so, maybe in the past we might’ve thought about whether or not a particular song was suitable for the era or for us but those kinds of considerations gradually stopped applying to us.
――There’s a new song, Sayonara Shelter that was included in this best-of album. This was recorded while you were working on the album that’s still in development, right?
I: That’s right. We finished recording this track to include in the album that we’re releasing next year, but Director Tanaka-san said, “Don’t you think it might be better for this song to be released in the best-of album?”
――Just this one song?
I: That’s right. It’s composed by Hide but there are parts of Sakurai-san’s lyrics that were influenced by the current social situation so I think the idea was to send a message by releasing this song at this particular time.
――It’s certain that the war has cast quite the shadow on Sayonara Shelter.
I: But that’s because of the lyrics, right? It’s only of course when such events are being described in the lyrics. Besides, rock bands are inseparable from society. If we were to put it in clear context, then it would take on a slightly different meaning, but this is Sakurai-san’s lyrics we’re talking about. I think it’s fine as it is. We can leave the rest to the listener.
――Also, there are quite a few songs in this best-of album that have been remixed, right?
I: I guess it just so happened that we chose songs we wanted to do that with. The programming for Aikawarazu～ was redone based on the arrangement we created for Locus Solus [Note: Locus Solus no Kemonotachi, the May 2019 show held at Makuhari Messe]. That’s why it ended up with quite the industrial vibe. For ANGELIC CONVERSATION, I’ve been wanting to change its mix since a while ago, but it just so happened [we picked it here] (lol).
――The categorisation here doesn’t have names attached to them, but after 35 continuous years of working with the same people in the same band and writing this many songs, the unique characteristics of the song writers Sakurai, Imai, and Hoshino are bound to appear.
I: That’s true. Naturally.
――And it’s easy to tell that Imai-san is a person who tends towards hope and light after all.
I: But isn’t that normal? Humans want to have hope, right? Because I don’t think there’s anyone who will be okay with letting it be regardless of how rock bottom things get. I might’ve said this before, but if I write about negative things, I feel like I’d get pulled in that direction and I don’t like that feeling. That’s why I project these things into my music and lyrics as much as possible.
――I think we’re in need of such music since we’re living in times when it’s difficult to stay positive.
I: Well…… I’ll do my best (lol).
――And you’re not taking your 35th anniversary as a milestone.
I: Not as anything in particular. I said this earlier, but that’s because it’s always an anniversary. Next year will be our 36th, and the year after, it’ll be our 37th (lol). Although, seeing these numbers, I do start to think about how a band I started when I was about 17 years old has now made it this far, and how much we’ve aged since.
――Doesn’t it scare you?
I: Not really (lol). I don’t really think about my age. As long as I don’t tire of music, I can keep going endlessly. Besides, since I haven’t grown tired of it after 35 years, I don’t think that will happen hereafter, and even now, songs I want to make keep coming to me. I’m not sick of recording work at all either. Maybe it’s because it feels like a search rather than thinking about the music. Like, “Ah, so this part of me exists.” That’s why it’s fun. Although it’s a bit tiring now since we’re holding concerts at the same time too.
――But having shows to play means you’ll be able to get yet another form of inspiration……
I: There’s definitely that. There are times when that naturally comes after we’ve been performing live for a while. That’s why I’m looking forward to finding out how I’ll react when we travel the country again after this.
――Is recording work going well?
I: Well, it’s pretty cool. But I want to add a little bit more to it and bring out more polish. More refined…… in a way. You’ll get it when you hear it. I can’t explain it very well, but I think you’ll be able to tell that it’s a little different from what we’ve done so far. It’s exciting stuff. You’d be like, “Whaaat, they turned this song into something like this!”
――Speaking of which, Imai-san, about 10 years ago you used to use more concrete words like “gothic” or “band music” to say what the next album’s theme is before recording.
I: Ah, back then, yes.
――That doesn’t seem to be the case these days.
I: That’s because even if I say it’s digital, or gothic, or band music, they’re already things that BUCK-TICK would naturally incorporate.
――Ah, I see.
I: So even if I say those things now, it doesn’t really mean anything, does it? It can’t be helped even if we do the same things. When we had our meeting in the beginning, we said we’d roughy be segregating digital and live music…… and things like that, but we don’t particularly focus on those concepts while we’re working on it. Taking out all hints of live music entirely, or eliminating all programming music, or doing the opposite of those, things like that do sometimes happen, but in the end, the main idea is to create something good, right?
――Do you think the band has even more potential?
I: It does. Because bands are interesting. There’s the intrigue that has been coming for 35 years continuously. On the other hand, there’s also the kind of fun that comes from starting anew. What’s interesting is when a person presents something they possess. So I don’t think I could’ve kept going if I did this alone.
――I see. By the way, how’s your leg?
I: Pretty much healed. There’s no more pain or anything like that. I can move around a lot on stage too. But the axis of my body is still weird. It feels like my balance is off and I’d get tired standing.
――What do you mean?
I: I don’t know how I stood before I broke my bone. Even when I stand when I go shopping, I’d feel like this wasn’t how I used to stand. Maybe the length of my leg changed or something. That’s why I need to walk instead of going for rehabilitation, and go for physical therapy to gradually get back to normal.
――Doesn’t that mean it’s tough being on stage too?
I: Well, I guess. When I tried moving like I used to, there are times when it hurts quite a bit, and I’d be like, “Ah, I still can’t do this.” But, well, I’m not all that bothered by it. Because I just have to do a different move then. It’s just a matter of changing things up.
――After significant events like breaking a bone and COVID-19, has the world around Imai-san changed?
I: I don’t think it really changed…… No, it has changed, I think. Although I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about. Even if things aren’t the way they used to be, we’ll be alright as long as we can think of new ways of doing things. That’s what we’ve been doing for a long time anyway.
Interview by: Kanemitsu Hirofumi
Even for ordinary people, if they live long enough, they’ll be able to experience that which geniuses have never seen
It’s not all good things only, but I don’t think it’s bad either way
――This is belated, but happy 60th birthday.
Yagami (Y): Thank you. We had a big celebration at CLUB CITTA’ Kawasaki just the other day. But at this age, I’m reminded of my father more and more.
――You spoke about it in your autobiography too.
Y: Well, my father was a cheerful man full of vitality too, but had a stroke right when he hit 60. And for the next 10 years, he lived the rest of his life like that. I just think about how I’m at this age now too.
――No, no. Even during your birthday concert, you were banging on the drums all day, weren’t you? You’ve still got a long way to retiring due to age.
Y: Well, it’ll be Acchan and Imai’s turn in three years’ time anyway (lol). I think we’ll definitely make a big celebration out of it. But turning 60, it used to be treated as a turning point in a person’s life in the past, like a sense of how it’s almost your time while giving thanks for having lived this long. It used to hold that kind of meaning though. But humans now live longer than ever, and everyone is being told to work more these days, so you don’t feel the same way about it at all now.
――That you can tell just from looking at the stage.
Y: You saw ISSAY-kun (Der Zibet) singing with Acchan, right? I thought that it would make everyone happy if they performed Itoshi no Rock Star together, so I directly gave him a call and asked if he would make an appearance, and this guy, he’s the most good looking person in Japan who’s the same age as me (lol). Being 60 isn’t a phrase that fits him at all.
――Truly. How was it performing as Blue Sky?
Y: We were able to do some interesting things. It gets me wanting to make another album. Although it’s a pity that SHIME couldn’t be around. I always invited him to join us as a guest singer for my birthday shows.
――He passed away this year, didn’t he?
Y: He’s just a year older than me. One of the people who I thought was an amazing singer. There’s no one who can cover English songs better than him. On his behalf…… well, not exactly, but I’d like to continue Blue Sky and play together a few times a year.
――He was a close friend, wasn’t he? What about BUCK-TICK’s performance, then?
Y: Maybe it’s because of everyone’s strong desire to celebrate, but the drum stand was too high up (lol). I’m grateful for their intentions, but it’s difficult to maintain contact with the other members of the band like that. Slight deviations and mistakes would occur. Even though it’s a celebration, I want to say that my drums aren’t like this! (Lol). The next time we do this, please put my drumset on the ground because even if I can’t be seen, that doesn’t matter to me..
――I’ll look forward to your 70th birthday celebration in 10 years’ time (lol). Also, there was also the fan club and mobile site members-only tour in that same period.
Y: Seems like it’s the first in 3 years. It certainly is fresh to play shows in the local areas, and even if we can’t go out and wander around, it was fun to be on tour for the first time in a while. It’s just that good things really are always followed by the bad.
――Sakurai-san testing positive for COVID-19.
Y: Seriously, these things happen when we’re having a good time. But even though it’s been a while, I wasn’t nervous at all when I was on stage. I even thought I should be a little more nervous instead. But I don’t need to be as nervous as I was in the past, though.
――That’s what it was like when I started reporting on your shows, right? Right after you switched labels to Ariola.
Y: The period when I just entered my 40s, yes. The stage scared me so badly that I seriously considered retiring. As you’d expect, I could drum during rehearsals but I’d make mistakes when it came to the actual performance, and that made Yuta super duper angry (lol).
――How strict of him (lol).
Y: Because he’s a person who’s serious and gives his all in whatever he does. At the time, my body couldn’t keep up with the way I used to drum in the past. So I changed my drumming methods, went to the gym, and I guess you could say I finally understood how to handle drums. I’m pretty sure god gave me the time to do that before I turn 60. Because John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) got it before he hit 20, he passed away early at 32. It took me almost 20 years to sort of get it (lol). That’s why I can keep drumming until my 60th.
――So that’s what you think.
Y: That’s the difference between an ordinary person and a genius (lol). But even for ordinary people, if they live long enough, they’ll be able to experience that which geniuses have never seen. It’s not all good things only, but I don’t think it’s bad either way.
――Up next is your special concert at Yokohama Arena. How does Yagami-san perceive this 35th anniversary of yours?
Y: I’m just out to carry out my mission (lol). For BUCK-TICK’s performances, it’s good as long as we can bring joy to our fans, so I’ll make that happen without getting carried away.
――And you’ll be releasing a “CATALOGUE”-titled best-of album.
Y: It’s a primer…… meaning, it’s got a lot of songs (lol). But I think it’s interesting that they’ve been divided up by concept.
――With so many genres, the way you drum and your tuning have to be completely different, don’t they?
Y: They are different. I did my own tuning up until Aku no Hana too…… Come to think of it, this has nothing to do with the best-of album, but we have a song called PLEASURE LAND, right? Back then, we recorded at VICTOR STUDIO and in came Ponta-san (Murakami “Ponta” Shuichi) from another studio, and he started tuning my drums for me without asking. When he was done, he had this smug look on his face as he left, saying, “Toll, how’s this?” (Lol). I was too scared to change it so I just drummed with those settings for that song. Ponta-san’s name isn’t in the credits though (lol).
――This CATALOGUE～ is a reminder of just how many types of songs this band has, but do you actually feel like you’ve drummed in such a variety of styles?
Y: I sure do. I had to get used to that in the past, so Yuta and I, just the two of us, the rhythm team used to rehearse together often. It’s just that if we did that too much, we’d be too perfect and that would be no good. In the end, it’s a human being who’s drumming anyway so something somewhere would get worn out. It wouldn’t ever be perfect. And that’s good. Even a perfectly clean rhythm created with programming would become a little off when it gets recreated through human efforts. That’s the beauty of music created by humans.
――Because the humanity of it comes through with a little bit of a gap.
Y: We record drums last these days, so I’m basically matching a rhythm that has been made complete, but even then, there will be slight discrepancies and it wouldn’t be a perfect match. That’s good. You’ll understand when you listen to this best-of album. Because the songs where drums and bass were recorded together have a very tight rhythm.
Y: Also, I don’t think anyone realised, but in the new version of ANGELIC CONVERSATION, we’ve replaced the guitars and the singing, but the fundamentals of it remains the same. It’s the same take from 1988’s recording in London. What’s different is the break that comes in at the middle; the first one and the second one are different. The second one runs a little faster (lol). But the producer, Owen Paul really liked it and we’re now using it here.
――The faster one?
Y: Exactly. We didn’t fix it. Owen was a singer-songwriter to begin with, a person who hit number 3 on the UK charts, yet such a person praised us, saying, “It’s such a good song that I’d want to sing it and release it as my own.” (Lol)
――Please mention that when we’re interviewing you for the autobiography (lol).
Y: I remember things from the past well, but there are just so many things to bring up that I’d just forget some (lol). On the other hand, I’ve got zero memory of my 40s when I drowned myself in drinks (lol).
――And you’ve also got a new song, Sayonara Shelter, in there.
Y: It’s a good song, isn’t it? Acchan has put into words the emotions that everyone feels in this era. I would think that people would get a strong anti-war impression, but I feel Acchan’s kindness just as much. It’s characteristic of him, isn’t it…… Ah, of course, the music is good too. I have to praise Hide sometimes too (lol).
――Hahahaha! Also, I heard that you’re already in the midst of recording work.
Y: We’re pretty much done with recording the songs that we have at this time. But we have a national tour after Yokohama Arena, so we might start recording again halfway too. It’s been a while since we could go on an actual tour, so I think Acchan and Imai might feel something there and want to turn it into a song.
――Seems like it’ll turn out to be a rather substantial anniversary leading up to your release next spring.
Y: Good things are followed by bad (lol) so we’ll be cautious. Besides, the band can’t come to an end here, so we’ll be giving it our all. I think we can do it without taking a break. Everyone, including myself is already at an age where our bodies won’t be able to catch back up if we rest. We’ll lose our edge, or rather, we’d very quickly go into decline. This is especially true for drummers. Part of it is a physical challenge, so we have to drum regularly or we won’t be able to anymore. That’s why, I want to keep going consistently even after we’re done with our anniversary.
――I hope for that too.
Y: Well I’ve also got the wilfulness that comes with being a drummer anyway (lol). That’s why all drummers diligently continue to practise on their own even when their bands are taking time off. Even so, if they’re not in a band, then there’s something different about them. Because it’s important for us to figure out how to work with the sound pressure that guitars, bass, and singers produce. If you do this alone, you’ll definitely end up drumming in a subdued manner. But when you play with a band, you’ll be creating raw sound pressure, so the desire to not lose out to everyone else comes up.
――And that’s why you’d like BUCK-TICK to continue without taking a break for as long as possible.
Y: But I do think we’re getting old. For the record, retrogression is also progression anyway. Besides, there’s no way we’re the same in our 20s and in our 60s, right? The way I drum is completely different too. I think it applies to everyone no matter their occupation, but if you feel that you can longer do what you’ve always been doing thus far, then you’d start to think about what approach you should take to tackle your work, right? There might be those who decide to quit their jobs if they can’t do it anymore, but that’s only because they don’t really like it. If your presence is required where you’re at, then you have to think about what you can do to be a valuable person here while also accepting the fact that you’re in decline.
Y: I thought of quitting and retiring when I entered my 40s, but as I grew older, this is what I’ve gradually come to understand. Since we’re releasing such a best-of album, I thought it was a good chance for me to listen to our old songs, and they’re hilariously fast. Ridiculously fast (lol). Acchan’s singing also sped up along with it. If I were to drum that with a clicker, it’ll feel like a rush no matter what, so to prevent feeling like that, I end up drumming even faster. It’s the pride of youth. All I thought about was drumming in a cool way that satisfies myself.
Y: Now I think about the groove more when I drum. Also, it would become difficult for Acchan to sing if I play it with too much detail. I keep that in mind and try to keep it simple when I drum so that he can sing as smoothly as possible (lol).
――I guess you could say that in a good way, things like your ego faded away in the course of drumming all these years.
Y: Ah, I don’t have any of that anymore. As a drummer, all I have is a desire to make good music rather than hold onto pride and ego. To put it in extreme terms, I don’t need my drums to be heard. As long as the song is viable. You have to be prepared for that to be a drummer. Because it’s not the quintessence of a drummer to be loud and noisy or drum with intensity. It’s about how you control the sound you make to turn it into a songs’ complimentary seasoning. Everyone should try drumming for Yoshida Minako-san at least once in their life. Because she’d get angry if you’re noisy.
Y: Because a drummer shouldn’t have a sound of their own. The sound they make has to be according to what the venue or the people need. That’s what Ponta-san has always done, and what I understand very well now at this age.
――I get the feeling that your understanding is probably thanks in part to the friendships that Yagami-san has, and also the diversity of sounds that BUCK-TICK has as a band, as proven by this best-of album project.
Y: That’s probably true. Musicians…… especially drummers, I think, will all feel uneasy. I’m always worried about things like if I were to change to this style of drumming, won’t I lose my identity? Or will my skill decline? Things like that. Additionally, as I grow older, I can really feel my physical ability dropping, like, I’d find myself realising that I can no longer do what I could 10 years ago.
Y: But in BUCK-TICK, Imai and Hide would bring in all kinds of ideas without any concern for genre, and all five of us would figure out how to make it happen together. We’d shape things based on what we’re capable of doing. I guess that’s why I came to think this way as a drummer, and also why I’m still with the members of this band when I’m 60.
――Just like your mentor Ponta-san, there appears to be a part of Yagami-san that considers your occupation to be a drummer, yet more than that, your occupation is also being a member of this band, right?
Y: Because in the end, what I enjoy the most is still being part of an ensemble, you know? Also, since we’ve been doing this together for 35 years, everyone has improved their skills in their own way…… Ah, except for Imai (lol).
Y: There’s no nuance that he’s undeniably good from that guy’s guitar playing (lol). But that’s why it’s good. Even though things could usually sound smoother, it wouldn’t. It’s like he approaches something simple with twists and turns and from the opposite end, then gives it shape (lol).
――That’s how Imai’s melodies come about (lol).
Y: Indeed. Imai actually wanted to look at instructional books and DVDs for guitar playing in the past. But I said, “Instructional books? It’ll be the end if you read those.” (Lol)
――He should just live with those sensibilities (lol).
Y: Exactly (lol). Also, there was once when we joined a drinking session with a voice training instructor in the past and her husband was a famous guitarist. When Imai asked, “How do you play the blues scale?”, I said, “Sir, please don’t teach him!” (Lol)
――And the accumulation of these efforts has resulted in the completion of Imai Hisashi.
Y: Nah, that guy’s not complete and that’s fine. When I went to his home, there were what looked like instructional books in his bookshelf, but I guess he didn’t refer to them (lol).
Editor’s File 1:
If this is the last time ever, if my weak self were to raise my voice
What should I really be singing about now? That resolution is the one thing that struck deep into my heart.
Text by: Ishii Eriko
When it comes to anniversary releases, an exceptionally substantial all-time best-of album was released in the year of their 30th anniversary. It’s been 5 years since, during which they couldn’t keep moving at full capacity for two and a half years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so a similar collection of masterpieces would not make much sense.
In that case, BUCK-TICK, whose musicality has always been described with words like “overwhelmingly original” and “ever-changing and fantastical”, has taken the plunge to attempt to divide their indescribable world into five different concepts. This idea, which originated from their staff, once again highlights the band’s miraculous balance.
Balance. To this, I would like to bring up the 80-20 Pareto (パレート / pareeto) principle. Or perhaps, if we were to play around and B-T stylise this, we could call it the Parade (パレード / pareedo) principle.
80% of the song are composed by Imai, while the remaining 20% is by Hoshino. 80% of the song lyrics are written by Sakurai, while the remaining 20% is by Imai. It somehow feels like this, but is it really true? The following are the results of a tally of all the songs on this occasion.
The percentage of Hoshino Hidehiko songs are: 13% in DISC 1 ＜RIBELO＞, 20% in DISC 2 ＜GOTIKA＞, a low 5% in DISC 3 ＜ELEKTRIZO＞ and DISC 5 ＜ESPERO＞, while just under 30% in DISC 4 ＜FANTAZIO＞. The underlying 20% isn’t wrong, but it would seem that his personality get to stretch its wings especially in the area of ＜fantasy＞.
The interesting thing about DISC 4 ＜FANTAZIO＞ is that 100% of the songs lyrics were written by Sakurai Atsushi; it is made complete with nothing but Sakurai’s world. He holds monopoly over the concepts of love and death and jet-black decadance. In other words, one might’ve thought that DISC 2 ＜GOTIKA＞ would be Sakurai’s domain, but there are in fact 3 songs with lyrics written by Imai. In terms of percentage, another perspective comes in a little less than 20% of the time.
With stories from different writers and a majestic rhythm brought into this word by the hands of Higuchi Yutaka and Yagami Toll, the band’s gothic lens grows evermore robust. One of the discoveries to be made here is that Sakurai is not the only gothic denizen here. And that lyrical balance in the other three albums was surprisingly not 8-2 at all.
Imai Hisashi is remarkably eloquent. If we were to include lyrics that he co-wrote with Sakurai into the count, he would account for 50% of the songs in DISC 1 and DISC 3, and 60% of the songs, a comfortable majority in DISC 5.
This isn’t a competition, so there are no winners or losers here, but Imai first comes up with the words (mainly one word phrases like ＜反逆 / hangyaku＝RIBELO＞ and ＜希望 / kibou ＝ESPERO＞), then hauls in the sounds (＜工レクトロ / electro = ELEKTRIZO＞to signify the use of the latest equipment and eccentric, exotic-sounding dance tunes) to endlessly expand BUCK-TICK’s horizons.
Imai, the pioneer and adventurer. The abilities of each member of the band to take in these unprecedented ideas and turn them into reality without fail. The Parade principle of 20% input to create 80% movement applies here, but it is never by any means a one-man system.
There is Hoshino’s music that bears a casual universality regardless of theme, and Sakurai’s singing prowess that brings polish to a solid worldview with a single vibrato and exhale. All these elements have always brought inspiration to the band, energising everything as a whole. They bring balance and maintain order.
Now, having spoken about the beauties of this band that has remained unchanged for 35 years, let’s move on to the new song.
DISC 3 ＜ELEKTRIZO＞ refers to their musicality, while DISC 5 ＜ESPERO＞ can easily be said to be entertainment in its own right. So what does DISC 1 ＜RIBELO＞ point at? What is the reason behind the inclusion of their one and only new song, Sayonara Shelter here?
Composed by Hoshino, this song begins with a beautiful arpeggio and the line, “Ephemeral candle Dance, dancing in the basement (儚いキャンドル 地下室でダンスダンス / Hakanai kyandoru Chikashitsu de dansu dansu)”. Such an enchanting touch no doubt creates a fantastical mood that deserves a place in DISC 4. But this song carries a realism from the next verse on which mercilessly severs away the ballroom party.
BUCK-TICK’s ＜rebellion＞. Their middle fingers have always been pointed at the ominous forces who come to take away our freedom.
As mentioned above, half of the songs on DISC 1 were written by Imai. It is his role to present a strong one-liner first. The words ＜destruction＞ and ＜soldier＞ were initially cynical metaphors that were used since Muchi no Namida to replace concrete language against the absurdities of the world, terrorism and conflict. Sakurai probably took these words that Imai put forward and turned them into a story of his own. At this juncture, I can’t quite tell whether Imai had hoped for that level of embodiment.
Sadly, or rather, foolishly, itis difficult for events that break Sakurai’s heart to disappear from this world. Guernica no Yoru vividly intermingles his personal memories with a past tragedy, but this time the Ukraine invasion has turned into the ultimately realistic story in Sayonara Shelter.
＜Someone is coming to kill us (誰かが僕らを殺しに来るよ / Dare ka ga bokura wo koroshi ni kuruyo)＞
＜Am I going out to kill someone (わたしは誰かを殺しに行くの / Watashi wa dare ka wo koroshi ni iku no) ＞
The brushwork leading up to this point can no longer be contained within ＜FANTAZIO＝fantasy＞. The Demon King who was thought to frolick with fantasies in a jet-black world is now waving the banner of ＜RIBELO＝ rebellion＞with a resolve stronger than anyone else. I don’t think that actually wanted to hold such a position. But if this is the last time ever, if my weak self were to raise my voice, what should I really be singing about now? That resolution is the one thing that struck deep into my heart.
Balance and order has been maintained. As much as that fact is true, the balance has changed so much that now, BUCK-TICK cannot say that things are stable as per normal. There is no disputing that the whole world is in a state of pestilence and war. Between both nations and individuals, everyone has no stability in this day and age.
And despite it all, BUCK-TICK presses on. There is no question that the moments from here on out are crucial as they approach the conclusion of their 35th anniversary celebrations.
Editor’s File 2:
This one verse from Sayonara Shelter may very well have been about that little girl
Or a message to each and every one of their fans
Or additionally aimed at themselves back in those days when they just started the band
text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
First of all, let’s put things in perspective.
BUCK-TICK celebrates their 35th debut anniversary on September 21. With no change in member line-up, they have been releasing new work on a consistent basis and tours almost every two years, travelling all over the country. There’s no shortage of bands that have been around for a long time with the same members, but no other band can match their pace of releases and shows.
If we define touring as ‘going to five or more venues outside of Tokyo and Osaka’, we can say that roughly speaking, BUCK-TICK has had about 35 tours in the past 35 years. In other words, we can count them to have held a national hall tour at least once a year. Furthermore, this doesn’t include the annual December 29 show at Nippon Budokan, special arena shows, festivals, events and fan club-only shows.
In addition, there has not been a tour in the last three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of performances they’ve held to date probably numbers at 1000 strong. Some big names like THE ALFEE and Stardust Revue can boast this extraordinary a number of shows, but it’s likely the only other rock bands to have done so are B’z and GLAY.
Such a band is now in its 35th year of ongoing activities. The average age of the five members, including the one member who hit 60 recently, is 57. They are beasts whose physical capabilities and visual presentations remain undiminished.
An anniversary of such a band. Anyone would like to celebrate it with a big fireworks display as a fan, but the atmosphere isn’t like that at all. The members of the band themselves seem to have an aversion to such an act to begin with.
On September 21, the day of their anniversary, they’ll be releasing their 80-track best-of concept album CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv., but although it might be a good idea to promote it a little along with the inclusion of their new song Sayonara Shelter, there are newspaper advertisements and posters in Tokyo’s train stations but there’s barely any promotional work being done by the band members themselves.
While they are busy recording their new album slated for release next spring and preparing for the forthcoming shows, it’s a little too quiet a way to kick start their 35th anniversary year.
However, it does appear that there are several reasons for this.
Firstly, the world hasn’t yet returned to normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, it is impossible to expect that we will be able to live life like we did before COVID-19, and we’re still exploring ways to make all entertainment events, including live performances, happen. Business is slowly getting back to normal, but everyone is still required to wear masks, and no one can vocalise. There’s also a limit placed on audience capacity.
In such a situation, they might feel they probably don’t want to, or don’t feel very good at announcing their anniversary celebrations to the outside world. Even Higuchi said, “ I don’t really feel the carefree joy.”
That lack of desire could be due to being sick and tired of the way they were being treated as something to be consumed when they got thrust into the public eye right after their debut. And because they refused to let their careers get controlled by others, they failed to gain as much popularity as they might’ve potentially had. Yet at the same time, these actions have undoubtedly created a strong trust and bond with their fans. And now, they cherish that bond more than anything.
And, another thing.
Perhaps they feel a sense of ＜insecurity＞ somewhere unbeknownst to them.
That comes from the feelings of loathing and the division in society. Of course, the war too. It is the grief and bitterness depicted in Sayonara Shelter. Even as we sense beauty and hope from the song of a young girl, it is also filled with helplessness and an inability to do anything about her situation.
And that comes from how their activities as a band came to an almost complete stop because of COVID-19, how they don’t have all that much time left in themselves, and in addition, how the band just wouldn’t be BUCK-TICK if it were missing just one of them. Faced with the fact that they are bound together by a common destiny, they were made anxious about their own futures. You would think that would be superfluous, since the band has been so consistently active. Even more so when life is no longer just about the band.
Yet they have been running 35 years together with this＜insecurity＞ in one hand, and ＜hope＞ in the other. That’s why BUCK-TICK’s songs are believable and in no way frivolous. It is likely that they gained this ＜hope＞ by continuing to tour. And at present, they are unable to achieve this balance because they can’t perform consistently right now.
Yet somehow, even though the five of them seem to feel as if they are being shrouded heavily in darkness and anxiety, light and hope awaits ahead of them. The start of that will probably come with their shows at Yokohama Arena on September 23 and 24. They will likely generate more of that together with their fans again at each venue they play on their national tour which starts in October.
After COVID-19 happened, Sakurai has become even more sensitive to the changes in his surroundings, and events like his own illness and the passing of Hoshino’s father seem to have led him to believe that anything could happen at any time. Everyone can feel somewhere that things are not the same as they used to be anymore. Both with COVID-19 and the environments we find ourselves in.
Nevertheless, now that Yagami has reached the age of 60, he now sees degeneration as evolution, and Higuchi has said that he wants to avoid being confused by extraneous voices and not be carried away by the prevailing mood of the times. At the same time, Imai understands the realities of ageing and an uncertain future in society, but his absolute faith in the band and music has not wavered. He is, after all, the driving force that leads the band towards the light.
Tonight sleep peacefully I’ll come and meet you for sure
(今夜 静かに眠る あなたに会いに行く 必ず / Kon ya shizuka ni nemuru Anata ni ai ni iku kanarazu)
Wait for me in that shelter
(あのシェルターで待っていて / Ano sherutaa de matteite)
This one verse from Sayonara Shelter may very well have been about the little girl who was Let It Go in that bomb shelter in Ukraine. At the same time, it can be thought to be a message to each and every one of their fans who they have not been able to meet for a long while because of the pandemic.
Furthermore, as Higuchi said, “This is a band that was started by the five of us.” These lines may also have been aimed at themselves back in those days when they just started the band. What their 35-year footprint tells us is that nothing but hope lies ahead for those who continue to walk into the future with these five who have continued like this all this while.
The cover shoot was postponed once due to Sakurai’s medical treatment and other reasons, but now, on this sunny day, the cover shoot was finally taking place. First to arrive at the studio were Anii and Yuta-san, the sibling team. With the day’s edition of the Daily Sports paper in one hand, Yuta-san talks endlessly about the Tigers with editor-in-chief Kanemitsu after he finishes his make-up. Listening from the side, Giants fan Anii teased, “You go on and on about them in your columns every month and it still isn’t enough for you, is it!”
After that, Sakurai-san breezed into the studio sashaying. He looked like he lost some weight, but he appeared energetic, giving us all a sense of relief. We first started off by shooting the solo shots. The photographer in charge of this shoot was Tanaka-san, who was also in charge of the Okinawa photos for the extended and revised Simply Life ～Life goes on～. As if this shoot was an extension of that, Hide-san also appeared relaxed in front of the camera. Seeing this, Kanemitsu looked like he wanted to escape from reality as he said, “Aah, I want to go to Okinawa again……” (Lol) Incidentally, we bought a copy of the dancyu magazine and placed it in the waiting room because we expected Imai-san to read it, but while he was waiting, Imai-san’s eyes never left his phone. Maybe he was playing Pokémon……
This was all usual behaviour from the members of BUCK-TICK but it felt like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen all five of them somewhere other than the stage, so that was the best part of it all.