Ongaku to Hito
I fly away
text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi, Ishii Eriko
With a release date slated for April 12, the title of their new album is 異空 -IZORA-. What kind of album will this be? Coming from a band who just celebrated their 35th anniversary while facing the challenges of the times and themselves. We’ll talk about that in detail in next month’s issue and the special publication PHY.
But this month, we’ll be talking to the composers of the two singles that precede the album’s release; guitarist Hoshino Hidehiko who composed Taiyou to Icarus (The Sun and Icarus), releasing on the 8th, and guitarist Imai Hisashi who composed Mugen LOOP (Infinite LOOP), releasing on the 22nd. Although the songs sound completely different, you can tell that they’ve got the same direction when you listen to them.
They’ve spent quite a long time recording, starting work in the beginning of last year and even continuing between tours. So what happened to the songs that they originally said would be released in two discs? And what were they intending with the decision to split the singles like this? Let’s find out where BUCK-TICK is going.
text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
IZORA was Mugen LOOP’s original working title
For some reason, that word continued to linger in my head, so I figured that it could be the album title instead
――You haven’t decided on the name of the album you’re releasing in April?
Imai (I): IZORA…… What? You didn’t know? (Lol)
――I wasn’t told what it’s called (lol). Izora, was it?
I: Yeah. Written in Kanji, it’s “異空”. It’s probably about time for us to announce it, right?
――I intend to ask you about the singles that will precede the album but first, last year’s tour. The closing show at Nippon Budokan was impressively executed and its overall worldview sharpened.
I: That was nice, wasn’t it? The tour…… Well, there were postponements because of COVID-19 and all that so it hasn’t exactly ended, but I’m satisfied despite all that has happened.
――The songs that you chose to perform for the THE BEST 35th anniv. tour were not the songs we’d call easily understood or songs that would get the crowd going. Instead, the set list was made up of what best represents the band BUCK-TICK of today and that was also really great.
I: That’s probably also the energy of the band as well. We members would suggest all the songs that we want to perform and at the end, Sakurai-san (Sakurai Atsushi / vocalist) would collect them up and fine tune the selection again. That’s how we usually decide on our set list, but I think that turned out well too.
――It’s also great that the execution just gets better and better with each performance. By the way, how’s your leg?
I: I got used to it (lol). It’s not what it used to be, but it’s not all that inconvenient [now]. Although, I kind of hate that I can’t run. That’s why I keep going for rehab sessions. I try to walk as much as I can, and today I walked here. I couldn’t [attend the sessions] at all while touring, but in any case, I move around the most when performing anyway. Maybe that in itself adds quite a lot of progress to rehabilitation.
――I heard that you’ve been recording throughout that tour too.
I: Right. That was pretty long. At first, I imagined that we’d release two [albums] with a short interval between them. The songs…… I think we probably had about 20 prepared. But then we gradually started to change our minds about it. We came to the conclusion that since we were going to divide the songs into two anyway, it would be more interesting if we split them into two more clearly defined themes for release. We wanted to do it better like that.
――So the division was a result of coincidence.
I: Right, exactly. Maybe, in future, I might think of working on a project based on such an idea. But this time, I think it’s probably better not to. Since the songs are more or less ready for release, we decided that this time, we’ll select some and make an album with them.
――Without any initial concept.
I: Yeah. Things got tight in terms of time too, so it wasn’t that we wouldn’t be able to pull it off. We just felt that we wouldn’t be able to pull it all off in time so we can only release this for now. It wouldn’t make sense anyway if we were to force it and squeeze out two albums, right? That’s why we came to this conclusion after a discussion among ourselves.
――Two different types of songs have been made into the two singles that you’re releasing ahead of the album; Mugen LOOP composed by Imai-san, and Taiyou to Icarus composed by Hoshino-san. Is this a remnant of your original concept?
I: It…… is?
――I wouldn’t know (lol).
I: Although, as a start, we began by generally grouping [the songs] into, say, those are performed by a physical band and those that are performed electronically. Oddly enough, while the songs were originally distinctly different, as we built on the songs, they eventually turned into the usual BUCK-TICK fare.
――Well, I guess that’s to be expected after how through these 35 years you’ve been making all kinds of music that don’t seem to come from the same band.
I: Because of that, I decided to try and create a song using synth and without guitars but it started to sound more and more like the usual BUCK-TICK song before we even got to the end. That’s why, if we were to do something conceptual, we have to make a conscious effort much earlier on.
――But I also think that this is proof that BUCK-TICK has been able to take in and incorporate all sorts of genres as a band.
I: Say, for example, if we compose a song that doesn’t feature guitars, it’ll be interesting to see how we would translate that into our live concerts performance-wise. That’s the kind of stuff I want to do.
――When you give yourself that kind of a restriction, what’s meant to stick out would stick out, so that’s certainly interesting to explore.
I: But, at that point in time, well, we’d then wonder what people think of it, right? I’m getting ahead here, but I’m thinking that it would be nice if we could try these things out and have fun recording after we’re done with this album’s tour.
――So, the new songs. Let’s start with Hoshino-san’s Taiyou to Icarus. It’s an unusual one considering that it’s a Hoshino composition.
I: Unusual, isn’t it? It sounds nothing like his usual style and that makes it interesting. There were about three other songs that we were considering, but while we were trying to decide which to pick and in what order we should arrange them, we settled on this.
――And when was Mugen LOOP completed?
I: Probably really early on. I can’t really remember exactly when, but I had the idea to try composing a song using only synth, so all I had in the beginning was a short synth melody. Then, I told Yoko-chan (Yokoyama Kazutoshi / manipulator), “I’m thinking of composing this with the synthesiser.” But all I had at the time was one short melody so when he listened to that, his eyes went blank like, “…… Huh?” (Lol)
I: He was all, “I never could’ve imagined that Imai-san would make me listen to this short of a synth segment.” (Lol)
――Just a short segment of an intro (lol).
I: It’s kind of boring with the usual chords on guitar anyway, so if we use a chord progression where this riff gets played over and over, it’ll end up feeling like that. I feel like I managed to do something interesting that I’ve never done before (lol).
――That synth comes right at the start. And even after the other instruments come in, it continues to loop in the background.
I: When all is said and done, it mainly gives the impression that it’s being the way guitar chords are, but I guess that’s good too.
――And about the title, Mugen LOOP.
I: That’s Sakurai-san. This song’s original working title was IZORA.
――Ah, and this became the album’s title.
I: That’s right. A different sky, a different place. Something like that. For some reason, that word continued to linger in my head even after the song was renamed to Mugen LOOP, so I figured that it could be the album title instead.
――Based on what you’ve shared, I get the sense that you’re actively employing never-before-used methods but is there more to it?
I: Is there more…… No, I think there is, but this time, my PC died when I was in the middle of composing (lol). Song data, stuff I’ve been working on, all of it has been wiped away from this earth. People might assume that I would know what I wrote, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t remember a thing (lol).
I: And there were warning signs. Sometimes it’d do things that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, and when it’s starting up, I’d find myself thinking, “What’s going on, why is it taking so long……?” (Lol) It’s like I was negotiating with a machine. Like, “Please!” (Lol)
――Then you should’ve done something about it earlier (lol).
I: But I made it (lol).
――Right (lol). There’s no end to the list of things you find interesting and the things you want to do, is there?
I: Yeah. When we go on tour again or something I’ll definitely find something I want to do again, so it’s something else that I look forward to as well, I suppose. Additionally, I’ve now got more time to rethink the songs that didn’t get included this time around so I guess this is good too.
――You’ve been working on band activities while spending some periods of time stuck in limbo because of COVID-19, but cyclicly speaking, I’m thinking that it’s about the time when you tend to start thinking about solo activities or working on something else. Is Imai-san getting any itch of that sort right now?
I: I guess I don’t really think about it. I imagine that stuff like Lucy, for example, would be interesting to work on once in a while, but I also think that it’s good if I could do it with BUCK-TICK anyway.
――Are you feeling very motivated when it comes to BUCK-TICK?
I: Yeah. There’s still stuff I want to do so all’s good.
――And this time, both singles will have remixes of songs from the album.
I: That’s right. It hasn’t been decided for Mugen LOOP, but we asked YOW-ROW (GARI) to work on the remix for the song Namonaki Watashi from the Taiyou to Icarus single. As he does the chord programming we’d tell him what we want it to feel like.
――Ah, so you’re not leaving it all up to the remixers.
I: That’s right. We tell them what we envision. Half remix, half rearrangement, something like that.
――How many tracks will the album have?
I: I think 14. There are songs where I’m the vocalist but just about all the lyrics are written by Sakurai-san.
――Well, it looks like you were able to finish up the album smoothly, so please go buy a new PC, a good one.
I: I was thinking that spending that money once should keep me set for 20 years but……
――There’s no such PC (lol).
――Also, just recently, the esteemed Takahashi Yukihiro-san (YMO) passed away.
I: Yeah. I knew that he wasn’t doing too good but it was still a shock.
――There’s no doubt that he was one of your influences, but he also invited you to perform with him before, right?
I: That, well, it happened in the middle of a conversation we were having for a magazine feature. I guess Yukihiro-san thought I was interesting since I was not only a guitarist who was influenced by YMO, but also my hair was sprayed up vertical, looking like a youngsters who’s into what they these days call Visual-Kei. And it just so happened that Yukihiro-san had a tour in the works at the time, so he suddenly raised the topic, “Imai-kun, how about playing guitar [with us]?”
――Well, of course, you’d be surprised then.
I: We had just released Aku no Hana at the time, so that was only two years after our debut? I was shocked by how flexible Yukihiro-san was, but from my perspective…… more than being happy about being offered such an opportunity…… you could say it was an immense burden (lol).
I: Because it was a time when even I wasn’t convinced that I was good enough. So I told him I didn’t think I could do it. If this happened after we released Kurutta Taiyou then maybe I’d feel excited about it, though.
――Imai-san, please take care of your health and live long.
I: Likewise (lol).
――Did you cut back on drinking alcohol too?
I: I don’t really drink at home anymore too. Somehow, I find it interesting that I’ve become like this too. I’ll drink when I meet people outside, but it’s no longer the way we used to with the “Hey, let’s drink until daybreak or until we’re dead drunk” intention.
――I guess it just means that all of us are at that age (lol).
――But based on what I’m sensing when I listen to the songs, it doesn’t feel very much like you’ve settled down, so that’s a relief.
I: Right. Because I’m thinking it’s better to have fun doing what I can do now.
text by Ishii Eriko
It’s not the kind of pop that’s simply refreshing or feels like you’re breaking through something.
Likewise with the lyrics where it’s a bit of a thought-provoking story.
――I’d like to start by looking back at last year. Firstly, September’s two-day event at Yokohama Arena was an immense achievement for the band, wasn’t it?
Hoshino (H): Mm. That’s right. Well, it was sort of our 35th……
――Not “sort of” (lol).
H: Not “sort of” (lol). So far, we’ve had events for our 20th, 25th, and 30th anniversaries, but performing in an arena for our 35th felt like the mark of the beginning of a milestone. So there was this very significant feeling, like a weight.
――Because of the scale of it, right? It’s only natural.
H: Exactly. It’s not something we could skip and we couldn’t excuse ourselves from it with a, “Sorry, we caught COVID-19!” The pressure was immense. And that was also the case with our year-end show at Budokan. On the morning of the event, I really felt this, “Ah! Thank goodness I feel great!” Like, “I don’t have a fever. Do I? Ah, thank goodness, I can do this!”
――You can really feel it.
H: Then, when I arrive at the concert venue, I’ll check whether everyone’s here. To that extent, I don’t think these shows feel like any we’ve done before.
――But when you think about it, that’s probably how all the staff members and the twelve thousand audience members felt on event days too.
H: Right? (Lol) That’s why, somehow…… I really feel like something close to a miracle has happened. And just how precious concert days are. The same goes for our Yokohama Arena show too, it’s just so great that we managed to properly carry out those two days without a hitch.
――It was an amazing show. The weight that you mentioned earlier, was that mainly in reference to the pressure you felt?
H: It’s the pressure. Because we have to deliver something good to our fans who took the time to come together for our 35th anniversary, and there’s also all these emotions around reaching this milestone. I guess that’s what made things feel heavy.
――I think the content of the show had some heavy feelings for the audience too when I think about the song choices and the performance direction. Especially the flow of it in the middle segment.
H: That was an idea from Sakurai-san. Well, it’s like he said himself, this 35th anniversary isn’t just about celebrations. We gave it a lot of thought with the intention to put on the Yokohama Arena show in a way that’s uniquely us, uniquely BUCK-TICK. Also, we released our new song, Sayonara Shelter as a part of our 35th anniversary best-of concept album, so there’s also the fact that we started our song selection by first deciding that we wanted to perform that song. That’s why it’s not your usual anniversary show, and why it gives the feeling that it’s a little different.
――Ever since I attended the show, wild thoughts seem to have started sprouting up in me. It’s as if my peaceful life had suddenly been shattered and I’ve begun to think about things like how even BUCK‐TⅠCK will one day come to a sudden end…… and so on. I’m semi-paranoid about it (dry laugh).
H: Ahahahaha. Even so, we can’t deny that possibility.
――Please don’t say such things. Even though I’m the one who brought it up, I was hoping that you’d laugh it off like it’s unfounded.
H: Hahahaha. Who knows? But my view towards death has changed since my father’s passing and it’s easy enough to say that it feels close by too. Sooner or later…… Sooner or later, it’s something that comes for everyone eventually though, right? There are age-related reasons, and we don’t know when we’ll fall ill too. These things I feel very keenly now at this age. I also feel the desire to keep living and take it all in. But honestly, I do sometimes think about how things might all end suddenly.
――Not with pessimism, right?
H: Not at all. Of course, I do want to keep doing this for as long as I can. But there’s also nothing I can do if something were to happen. Those are the kind of thoughts I’ve been having these days.
――Has the mood within the band changed in recent years?
H: …… Has it? Well, it does feel like something’s changed since COVID-19 happened though. It’s like it’s gotten hard to communicate. Like we couldn’t even have a meal together.
――When all of you have been drinking together so much throughout all this time.
H: Hahaha. But oddly enough, I’ve come to find that there are parts of this situation that I find particularly freeing. Like I can now watch my downloaded movies on Netflix at our tour destination hotels. I can also do that when we’re on the move though. I guess I’m realising how much free time I can get now. Instead of wasting time doing nothing except drinking (lol).
――I see. So after the shows at Yokohama Arena, your 35th anniversary national tour began. I have the impression that this was where the expressive performance of Sayonara Shelter really changed.
H: Mm, that’s right. Those lyrics have a very obvious contextual background to begin with…… And, well, the war is still going on even now. I guess you could say that Sakurai-san gradually honed his performance. I couldn’t really watch because I’m playing my guitar (lol), but I’m hearing comments like, “There’s something gut wrenching about Sakurai-san’s performance,” or, “Brings tears to my eyes,” from our acquaintances and fans. Somehow, hearing such remarks makes me feel glad that we wrote it. It’s a song that’s steadily growing so I do wonder whether it’s reached its furthest potential yet.
――By the way, how does Hoshino-san feel about Sakurai-san writing such raw lyrics reflecting the times and applying them to his own performance? Do you think it’s a given?
H: Mm. Although…… I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a given. In any case, he’s the one who composed the lyrics, and I know that he wants to make sure that he does a faithful depiction of that perspective, so I fully understand his desire to convey the song’s message on stage. It’s not like I’m against it in any way, and to me, as the composer of the music, it’s all good as long as the song comes to life. So I’m more of the mind that he should be free to do as he pleases.
――Understood. Next, let’s talk about the new songs. They’ll first be released in the two singles, and then later on, in the album.
H: Yes. We’ve been busy with production and recording work since last year and we decided rather early on that we would release two singles. As for the album…… we actually planned to release two. But as we went on with a bunch of other things, it eventually turned into one. Hahahah.
――Is it simply because there weren’t enough songs?
H: Nah, there are a number of factors (lol). That’s why we’ve still got quite a number of songs that are halfway done. Maybe they’ll one day see the light of day?
――The first single is Taiyou to Icarus. It’s been a surprisingly long time since Hoshino-san’s song got released as a single.
H: Yes. Previously was LOVE PARADE’s double A-side which was the opening and ending theme song of our movie. That’s…… already 10 years ago, I think? So it really feels like it’s been a long time since.
――How did you decide on which songs to release as a single?
H: Ah, I had the thought of [making it] one of the pop-ish songs on the album when I was composing it. But as we worked on it, it turned out surprisingly well. Director Tanaka-san also said it’s really good and pushed for it, and well, I thought, “Oh? This doesn’t sound like anything I’ve done before. It’s super fresh. Maybe this would be a good choice.” So I also pushed for it too. There were other candidates too, but it feels like we decided on this in the end.
――What part of it felt new to you?
H: I wonder. It’s not something that can be simply branded as pop. How should I put this…… It’s also got all kinds of emotions like warmth and tragedy mixed in. But it’s not the kind of pop that’s simply refreshing or feels like you’re breaking through something. Likewise with the lyrics where it’s a bit of a thought-provoking story.
――Indeed. How did you feel when you first saw these lyrics.
H: Ah, I thought they were really great. The perspective fits the song too. And there’s so much bittersweet in it.
――You weren’t initially taken aback?
H: I wasn’t taken aback. Well, it’s the usual…… Although, saying it like this is kind of (lol). When you say taken aback, in what way do you mean it?
――Well…… The perspective of this song comes from a person who’s headed towards their end or death, right? I never would’ve thought that such a pop-sounding song would have such a worldview.
H: Ahh. Nah, because that’s always the case [for us]. Hahahaha! I don’t mind it at all. I just leave it all up to him.
――Sakurai-san always weaves a profound story and immerses himself in it. But not everyone in BUCK-TICK would immerse themselves in the that same world, right? In a good way.
H: Mm. Uh…… It’ll become a problem if all five of us get stuck in there (lol). It’s probably something to do with our inherent dispositions, but there’s a natural balance there.
――Especially since Hoshino-san comes off as an amiable person who tries to be natural. Is this something you’re mindful of?
H: Nope, it isn’t. This is just my true nature. Hahahaha.
――You don’t really want to act?
H: Acting is, mm…… I’d probably say it’s not my forte. I guess I just prefer to go with what’s true to me. Of course, there are definitely times when I get carried away by a song as a performer though. I think I’ve gotten deep into playing my guitar more often than putting on a performance though. It’s just that in our recent shows and concerts, it kind of feels more effective for me to communicate with our fans with my true self. I feel that a lot.
――For example, by going closer to the audience?
H: No, I’ve moved around in the past too, but I think there’s quite a gap between us and the audience. It’s just that we didn’t have many songs that allowed for that in the past (lol).
――Hahahaha! But there aren’t that many of those even now.
H: Mm. There aren’t all that many more, but I also understand the stance that it’s better to enjoy a song together when it allows for it, and I’ve come to want to have fun with it too. Like when we play up-tempo songs and such. If the vibe of the song is right, it’ll feel very viable for me to enjoy interacting with our audience. Compared to the way things were in the past, it’s not all darkness now.
――It would seem that the pop vibe in Taiyou to Icarus also calls for a fun atmosphere during a concert.
H: That’s right. I think it would be nice if that’s the song it would become, though.
――Its B-side is Namonaki Watashi -Kachoufuugetsu REMIX-. This is a rare case where we get to hear the remix of a new song from the album ahead of its original version.
H: That’s right. Looks like that’s how it’s turned out.
――With the remix coming first, people listening to it would be trying to figure out what the original might sound like and how much of it was remixed.
H: Ahh. I think it’ll be fun to listen and compare too, once the original version is available. So do have fun until then.
――Yes. The other single is Mugen LOOP. It’s a song written by Imai-san, but what’s your impression of it?
H: Mugen LOOP is also…… yeah, a very unusual melody, I guess? Like city pop, or something. It’s somehow a kind of a strange song, but. This, well, also came from our shortlist of songs and was selected to be our second single. I feel like this is a song that people from all walks of life might be able to appreciate, though.
――I would think these preceding singles are hints towards what the album would be like. Was it more of a bold decision to create first impressions with these two songs, or more of an obvious decision?
H: Hmー……… Bold, I think? If I were to pick one. With the knowledge that, well, these two songs aren’t all there are. That’s all I’ll say. Fufufu.
――Because we’re not sensing all that much darkness from these two singles, right? It’s like, so…… what’s on the other side?
H: Yes, yes, yes (lol). You’ve got it.
――Fufuf. I don’t think it’s that simple.
H: Well, something like that, maybe. I would like everyone to look forward to it. With a little bit of, “It’s going to be something you won’t expect based on what you hear in these singles~.” There’s a variety of genres and likewise with each worldview in each song. Well, I hope everyone would give it a listen. I can’t say any more yet (lol).
The respective interviews with Hide-san and Imai-san were being held at the same time at the record company. After the interviews concluded, I mentioned that I’ll be going to Okinawa with Yuta-san in two days for his photoshoot and interviews, to which Imai-san quipped, “What’s that? You all are gonna watch baseball, aren’t you? Is that work? Do you call that work?” Then, Hoshino-san laughed, “That’s, you’re not going to shoot at the location where I did mine, are you?” I wonder what crossed their minds when they saw a red, sun-burnt Yuta-san back in Tokyo after that trip (lol). That aside, we took lots of great photos in Okinawa. Look forward to seeing them in Yuta-san’s upcoming book releasing on April 12!