異空 -IZORA- Feature
ROCK AND READ 106
Photos ◎ Miyawaki Susumu (PROGRESS-M) [Sakurai and Imai shoot]
Hair, make-up ◎ Tanizaki Takayuki, Yamazi Chihiro (both from Fats Berry)
Styling ◎ Shimizu Kenichi
profile & information
Formed in 1985, they had their major debut in 1987. Members of the band are Sakurai Atsushi on vocals, Imai Hisashi on guitar, Hoshino Hidehiko on guitar, Higuchi Yutaka on bass, and Yagami Toll on drums.
They released their 41st single Taiyou to Icarus on March 8, followed by their 42nd single Mugen LOOP on March, and finally, their 23rd album 異空 ‐IZORA- on April 12.
They will kick off “BUCK‐TICK TOUR 2023 異空 -IZORA-” on Wednesday, April 19 at J:COM Hachioji. The tour will conclude with the final shows on Saturday and Sunday, July 22 and 23 at Tokyo Garden Theatre.
It’s been about two and a half years since the release of their last album, ABRACADABRA which was produced right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and named as such to act as a spell to drive the plague away.
BUCK-TICK’s 23rd original album, 異空 -IZORA- is the latest to be released on April 12, the same day as the publishing of this magazine.
This new chapter of BUCK-TICK comes after their 35 major debut anniversary commemorative best-of concept album and performances at Yokohama Arena, and their first national tour with a live audience since the COVID-19 pandemic. How will it turn out?
Including the first and last instrumental tracks, the album consists of 14 songs with Sakurai composing lyrics for 11, Imai composing lyrics for one and music for 11, and Hoshino composing music for three.
We hear from each of the five band members their thoughts on all the songs of this album and their behind-the-scenes stories of the production process.
- QUANTUM Ⅰ [Music: Imai Hisashi]
- SCARECROW [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- Warukyuure no Kikou (ワルキューレの騎行 / Ride of Valkyries) [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- Sayonara Shelter (さよならシェルター) destroy and regenerate-Mix [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Hoshino Hidehiko]
- Ai no Haremu (愛のハレム / Harem of Love) [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Hoshino Hidehiko]
- Campanella Hanataba wo Kimi ni ( Campanella 花束を君に / A Bouquet for You) [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- THE FALLING DOWN [Lyrics: Imai Hisashi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- Taiyou to Icarus (太陽とイカロス / The Sun and Icarus) [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Hoshino Hidehiko]
- Boogie Woogie [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- Mugen LOOP -IZORA- (無限 / Infinity LOOP -IZORA-) [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- Noraneko Blue (野良猫ブルー / Stray Cat Blue) [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- Hizumi (ヒズミ) [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- Na mo Naki Watashi (名も無きわたし / I, Nameless) [Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi / Music: Imai Hisashi]
- QUANTUM Ⅱ [Music: Imai Hisashi]
Everyone gets shone upon by the sun
and hit by the rain, equally.
This is enough.
It is enough to bloom and exist.
profile & information
Born 7 March 1966. Blood type: O. Vocalist of BUCK-TICK which formed in 1985 and had its major debut in 1987.
Interview & Text ◎ Okubo Yuka
Excluding the instrumental tracks at the start and end, the album 異空 -IZORA- consists of twelve tracks, all of which Sakurai wrote lyrics for with the exception of THE FALLING DOWN which also features Imai as a vocalist. We present Sakurai’s commentary on his own writing.
The number one thing I fear the most is losing myself. I think it’s best when I have works like this album to cling to, because I get sick in a healthy sense of it.
――Before we start talking about the album¹, I would like for us to take a look back on your 35th anniversary year. As I was listening to you perform ILLUSION² during the encore of the first day of your concert at Yokohama Arena³ last September, I suddenly wondered whether the young men standing on the rooftop of a building in the music video from those days had ever imagined that they would be performing this song at Yokohama Arena 35 years later like this.
Sakurai (S): Looking back now, it really feels as if we didn’t even know left from right or front from back in those days 35 years ago. For better or for worse, we’ve really grown, haven’t we?
――There’s a big difference between your present image to what it was back during ILLUSION so that’s probably why that particular period came to mind. The image change was no doubt partly due to changes in preferences, but I wonder whether it’s a prominent show of how you’re in charge of your own production, like what you wanted to express, or what you wanted to show your audience, things like that.
S: When we first debuted, our naive intentions were to look cool and make ourselves stand out as much as possible visually. That gradually led to people saying that we wouldn’t be us unless we looked like that. And we started to feel that they were not considering our music separate from our image and at the same time, very restricted by a thing that we only started doing because we enjoyed it. That got me thinking that there was something wrong with this and I guess when I found what I really wanted to do on my own free will, that was probably a few years after debuting…… And it also applies even now, actually.
――Is there something you continue to feel the same about even now?
S: Definitely that it’s all about the music. These are seeds that we have sown ourselves, but the fact that we styled our hair up, that people thought we were Visual-Kei, that we looked the way we did will things that will always follow us around.
――Performing with your hair sprayed up the way it used to be might also create a visual mismatch if you were singing Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete⁴ which has lyrics written from a woman’s perspective, or Maimu Mime⁵ where the song is split between the male character and the female character. In that sense, you’ve changed with the times and the music you write.
S: I’ve grown to think about things on my own better, I believe. As a vocalist, I sing songs,and I sing stories so with all these different types of music and stories around me, I think there would be some mismatch if I’m not featureless* [as a performer]. For example, if I’m singing a ballad with a bit of a romantic story yet I’m wearing some eccentric outlandish outfit, the song would become nothing but empty words. That’s why I’m now always most comfortable keeping my hair short and black.
――So your current image is because of your desire to be featureless*. I think the change in your approach towards music is also reflected in your lyrics, but can you tell us what that looks like in chronological terms? Your 20s, for example, would encompass the period from your debut to the release of your album, Six/Nine⁶, right?
S: When we debuted in my 20s, it was as I described earlier; we didn’t know left from right. We simply had vague notions that we should probably sing love songs or something. After that, my life took a 180-degree turn when I experienced loss with my mother’s passing when I was 24. It was so bad that I can’t remember a thing about the tour we were on at the time, but I made sense of it my own way based on the idea that with her life, perhaps my mother was guiding me towards the direction of what I should sing about. My 20s was really a time when I knew nothing and was trying to figure out what it is I’m meant to do. It was a period which really left an impact on my mentality.
――It was an important period in the shaping of your originality. Your 30s started off with the single Candy⁷ and the album COSMOS⁸. That was also the period which saw the release of the album 13-kai wa Gekkou (十三階は月光)⁹.
S: I may be wording this badly, but I think the band was also lost during that period. Our arrangements were ahead of the times, we were adding all sorts of trendy elements in our music. If I really look back carefully and listen to what we did, that was an era of trial and error with songs we never even released and I think it was probably around that time when there were a bunch of changes going on with our record companies. So I believe that was probably a period of struggle that we needed for us to get out of our rut.
――It was a period of big changes, wasn’t it? 13-kai wa Gekkou also left a strong impression being such a conceptual work which leans towards the gothic.
S: That’s true. In my 20s, Kurutta Taiyou¹⁰ would be the clear highlight of that decade, and following that would be Six/Nine and then 13-kai wa Gekkou in chronological order. I would think those periods were when our energies were most condensed.
――Your 40s began with the release of the single Kagerou (蜉蝣 -かげろう-)¹¹, the album Arui wa ANARCHY (或いはアナーキー)¹² and then the start of THE MORTAL (Sakurai’s solo project).
S: Personally, to me, although THE MORTAL only ever released one album¹³, it really was a period of time that allowed me to do as I pleased. I think it was in all our 40s when the other members of BUCK-TICK also had some leeway to go and do whatever they wanted.
――That’s true. And now, your 50s started off with the single New World¹⁴, leading up to this new album, 異空 -IZORA-.
S: This is probably strange to say as an adult, but I think a lot of my thought processes have become more complicated. For example, feeling contrition, getting feelings of guilt. I keep looking back at all the things that have happened to me up until my 50s, but I also think that there’s nothing else I can do except look to the future. In a strange sense, I’ve grown up though.
――In the process of producing the album, Sayonara Shelter was released ahead of time¹⁵ and performed at your 35th anniversary concert. All these might’ve factored into how the song left this strong particular impression, but on the whole, 異空 -IZORA- also appears to be a reflection of the current social climate. What kind of mindset did Sakurai-san work on 異空 -IZORA- with?
S: I’m already past my mid-50s, so at this age, both my physical condition and my emotional stability aren’t as good as they used to be. But recently, I started getting the feeling, wondering whether this album will be our last. Although, I have been saying the same about our recent releases. What I’ve really been thinking is to make sure I finish things to the degree that leaves me with no regrets …… Even as I say that, I would speculate, hold back with my words, and there are things unrelated to music that get in the way, but this time around, I could really really focus in response against all those things. It’s like, I could do what I really wanted to do without thinking about other things because I could focus as a result of these extra elements.
――Were there times when you felt afraid with the ability to go all out and straight up do you want?
S: There’s my own thoughts. Like, will they obliterate me if I say these things? It’s a bit of an exaggeration, though (lol). But more than that, the number one thing I fear the most is losing myself. It’s scarier if I have to, for example, create things of no interest to me or unrelated to myself. I think it’s best when I have works like this album to cling to, because I get sick in a healthy sense of it.
Loneliness is something that has been gradually bloating up within me. Considering that this is the first song with lyrics, I thought it would be good if I could take it to the point where everything feels hopelessly beyond saving.
――I see. There’s debate on musicians speaking out about war and politics and yet in BUCK-TICK’s 35th anniversary tour¹⁶, we would see you speak your mind about the war. Sakurai-san had also said before, “There might be people [in the audience] who don’t want to hear about these topics when we finally have the chance to hold concerts.” But how have things been on that end?
S: I really think our fans, those who listen to our music should be free. I think they should have the freedom, because I believe in the freedom of speech. Of course, people may feel upset over being subjected to talk of war when you’re just looking forward to enjoying a concert, and I think that’s only natural. While there’s a giving end, there will be a receiving end. So that’s where each party has to make their own choices based on what they like. While I can’t help feeling bothered by the criticisms even if it’s just one versus ten words of praise, I think I’m too old for that already so I should just do whatever I like.
――Yes, and I think that’s definitely the kind of song and music that we want to hear from Sakurai-san and BUCK-TICK.
S: I want to do things that don’t stray from what I think and feel, so it would be nice if there are people who like what I do and think it’s good music, or a good vibe, or that it feels nice and all. And I really think that should be left up to personal enjoyment. But the conversation again changes if we’re talking about insulting or ostracising others. It’s fine if you don’t like the things you don’t like. Just enjoy what you do enjoy. Whether its art or concerts or music or novels, isn’t it fine to take it as it is? We might be too much for some in terms of how we make them feel or the things we say, but this is where I would like people to make their own decisions on what suits them.
――That’s true. Now, let’s get into the specifics of this album’s production. You’ve spent about a year since last year working on album production in parallel with touring. Did you originally have some specific concept or direction you wanted to go in?
S: This was quite a while ago but…… At first, our director, Tanaka (Junichi)-san proposed the idea of two releases and we began discussions. We started off with the general idea that we don’t know how many songs we’d have unless we try this out, but we had rough ideas. A simple example would be producing one CD with a cheery vibe and the other with a dark vibe. So I suppose that was the rough idea we started with in regards to how we wanted things to turn out.
――And that ended up as one single disc with a mix of songs that swing between the extremities of the light and dark spectrum.
S: I believe our two songwriters (Imai, Hoshino) considered that balance as they did their work. Among the songs which didn’t make the cut this time, there are a number that are very cheerful. I think they would’ve brought some balance [into this album], but we were already out of time (lol).
――So, in the end, the album turned out darker (lol). But what’s interesting in this album is how there are some songs that sound cheerful based on the music but when we look at the lyrics, they really aren’t. There are a lot of songs that can’t really be described as entirely positive or negative, like, the crux of it isn’t so simple. I would like us to talk about this area in relation to each of the songs. So, let’s start with QUANTUM I and QUANTUM II, the instrumental tracks from Imai-san which come at the very start and the very end of the album.
S: I believe Imai-san’s story lives there.
――Indeed. After the opening comes the second track, SCARECROW. Listeners who heard your two singles, Taiyou to Icarus (The Sun and Icarus)¹⁷ and Mugen LOOP (Infinity LOOP)¹⁸, and embraced the “bright” or “refreshing” impressions they gave might’ve felt like this song threw them right back onto the ground (lol).
S: That’s true. So much so that it might even get people wondering whether they got the wrong artist. It’s really the entrance to hell (lol).
――Because scarecrows cannot move and they’re stuck where they are. There is this really overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, being cornered, trapped.
S: Recently, loneliness is something that has been gradually bloating up within me. I’m not trying to reverse its effects on me through defiance, but I decided that I would apply it in a straightforward manner in the scenery, the vibe and all. Considering that this is the first song on the album with lyrics, I thought it would be good if I could take it to the point where everything feels hopelessly beyond saving.
――That loneliness is also adrift in the next track, Warukyuure no Kikou (Ride of the Valkyries).
S: That’s true. I wonder how this happened. It’s a release of pent up emotions, isn’t it?
――With all these thoughts and feelings flowing out, I did wonder whether it was something you wrote in the middle of the night.
S: Because my days and nights really are as good as reversed. Since I can’t sleep at night.
――Speaking of this song title, Ride of the Valkyries is a name that also comes up in the opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Additionally, writings by Nietzsche and from the Old Testament about Adam and Eve are also featured. There are quite a lot of references scattered here, aren’t there?
S: It’s the idea that like every last one of us, including myself, are idiots (lol). This protagonist is a rowdy and violent one.
――The album version of Sayonara Shelter sees it getting the subtitle destroy and regenerate-Mix attached to it.
S: We had violins included this time around. Tanaka-san also had the idea to feature the voices of a youth choir too. We didn’t have enough time so we couldn’t bring that to life, but this subtitle was also Tanaka-san’s idea. I believe Tanaka-san feels quite strongly about the present state of the world too, so it would seem that he’s quite invested in this song as well.
――The inclusion of the violin makes the song feel more organic; it brings to mind green shoots sprouting from the ground. It really makes me hope that things would come to that stage soon. It’s a really wonderful arrangement.
S: I see, that greenery. That’s good, isn’t it? The image it brought to my mind was that of light raining down. Greenery and skylight…… it would be nice if that were to come true, wouldn’t it?
――When Sayonara Shelter was played on tour, Sakurai-san was the father holding his young child, then on the other hand, the soldier with a gun in hand during your performance. It was heartwarming but at the same time, so tragic and that really left an impression.
S: It would be nice if I could execute it a little better, though. I did it impromptu, but I just thought it would be nice if I could convey something through this.
――You did, and I think it’s a song that evolved a lot through the tour. A setting filled with an exotic atmosphere unfolds in Ai no Harem (Harem of Love), but what kind of impression did you get from Hoshino-san’s music?
S: The impression it gave me was of beautiful Islamic patterns, scenery at a bazaar. It’s a bustling scene but within it, there’s a stranger, someone who doesn’t belong and I guess you could say that the story revolves around the loneliness they feel.
――I definitely feel the loneliness in this song too. There’s a part in the second half where you sing it almost like a chanson. Was this intended from the start?
S: It was. We actually wanted this last part to sound even closer to chanson, but it felt like we’re overdoing it, so we used the very first take. Tanaka-san also said, “The first take sounds the best.” There’s a melody but at the same time, it sounds spoken and then it leans more and more towards spoken word, so there’s a course correction there.
――That part also has whispers going on and on. It adds to the unsettling feeling.
S: I always have fun trying out different things with Tanaka-san when we’re working on the chorus but those whispers were not meant to match the main vocal lines so I did it in a way that, kind of feels crazy.
――That part gave me a scare.
S: I wanted to scare our listeners (lol).
Because there’s a story in me that I want to tell.
I’m not being defiant, but what’s wrong with beautifying things (lol).
――The intro to Campanella Hanataba wo Kimi ni (Bouquet for you) gives it a standard American pop type of sound and chorus, it’s a song that really hits you in the gut when you realise exactly what this song is about.
S: Our only understanding of the current war is through the news, but when we look at the situation in Ukraine, we see the mixed feelings that the mothers have about the soldiers in the tanks, we see civilians handing bouquets of flowers to the soldiers. It gets me wondering who these innate messages are supposed to go to. Would be nice if it did get through, though. Like what I said earlier, this song is really one of those which give the false impression that a cheerful song is finally here (lol). It’s got a gentle touch on the surface precisely because the music is cheerful. I think it’s good if the song gradually starts to sink into those who listen to the words.
――A lot of the songs in this album are very memorable with how the music really stands out and how simple the words in the lyrics are. I would say this song included. And these words alone are so strong and impactful that you open up a whole world with them. The chorus in this song is only made up of eight words, yet they’re very thought-provoking to me.
S: That’s right. This time, instead of writing an essay, I shaved and cut down the words. The idea is that since I can’t fit an essay here, as long as I can convey my message, it’s good enough for me.
――Next, THE FALLING DOWN is a song with both music and lyrics composed by Imai-san but Adam and Eve show up here again. It got me wondering whether there’s some part of it that is synchronised with Sakurai-san’s lyrics.
S: Imai-san’s lyrics usually come after mine are done, so maybe there are certain elements here and there that caught onto him. Who knows?
――We have a duet here with Imai-san singing in the first half, and then Sakurai-san in the chorus.
S: That’s Imai-san’s standard operating procedure. My part really just has me mostly screaming, though.
――The sound as well, I think this song will be a real hook in concert. Taiyou to Icarus appearing at this part of the album makes it sound like the first song to be played on the B-side of a cassette tape. You previously mentioned that your first impression of the demo version of this track was that of “a song that a young Visual-Kei band might write”, but what is this story you’ve written for such a speedy and exhilarating tune?
S: It’s a very pop-like, catchy melody to begin with, so YOW-ROW-kun did his arrangement work on it before bringing out this fast-paced feeling by weaving together a number of different rhythm elements. Even if this was the kind of impression [the music] gives, I’m not very good at writing a story that’s wholly positive, so I started looking around for ideas when I came across the myth of Icarus.
――In the brightness of this song, I could also sense tragedy in it. Like the complex emotions related to the current state of the world being told alongside the adaptation of Icarus’ myth. The brighter the light shines, the darker the shadows deepen.
S: Ultimately, I didn’t want to stray from the fact that this is a story and piece of a music, but I just can’t understand why people are afraid of being honest and saying that they’re anti-war. I think there’s something weird about this, and at the same time, there’s a story in me that I want to tell, so people might accuse me of beautifying things but simply using the veil of entertainment to cloak it.
――We have never had the experience of going to war, so the only thing we can do is try and imagine the emotions and the circumstances in that scenario. I might be digressing, but as I was listening to Taiyou to Icarus, I was suddenly reminded of anime like Space Battleship Yamato and Cyborg 009. Very Showa era titles (lol). Where we see heroes fighting to defend humankind and protect the earth. So although people may call this beautification, like Sakurai-san said earlier, all of these are also forms of entertainment. When we watch [these shows], we feel emotional, we cry, we feel heartache. The strength and brilliance that these characters possessed, along with their underlying melancholy could all be felt in this Taiyou to Icarus.
S: Maybe I’m personally also someone who’s immersed in those sentimental Showa era emotions. Not that I can do anything about it. I’m not being defiant, but what’s wrong with beautifying things (lol).
――On the other hand, I think the vibe of how this song sounds kind of goes against the image that BUCK-TICK has had all this while.
S: That’s the beginnings of a trap. Where we sound like we make pop music, and then we quickly drag them down in quicksand.
――Indeed (lol). In Boogie Woogie, I feel like I’m looking at the band when it first started out.
S: I guess the things that happened around us during our 35th anniversary had a hand in bringing out memories of us messing around and starting the band in our 20s. It’s like a throwback in time.
――The words “junk-heap of a van (オンボロ車 / onborosha)” appear in the lyrics, but who would’ve thought BUCK-TICK really had such an experience.
S: Indeed. This is based on the true story of the time before we made our debut, we were on a Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka tour and on our way home, we were on the Tomei Expressway when we ran out of gas and everyone had to push the equipment vehicle together.
――Next, Mugen LOOP -IZORA- is different from the single version of the song, but I think this city pop vibe really leaves an impression.
S: We lived through the 80s and 90s so I think Imai-san also possesses this sense of pop within him.
――Starting the song with the words “A southerly wind (南風 / minami kaze)” was impactful in its own way, but if we think a little deeper about a “LOOP” that goes on into “infinity (無限 / mugen)”, it’s kind of eerie. Even though the music sounds so refreshing.
S: In short, it’s a dream you see in a coma. A dream where you never know when it’s ending, nor whether it’ll ever conclude. It’s like seeing the same dream over and over again without knowing when you’ll wake up.
――So this “infinity” is also a “dreamworld”.
S: That’s right.
I also had periods when I struggled and fumbled in it, but in the end
I’ve now come to believe that this is probably the only thing that gives me affirmation.
――Sakurai-san’s rather high notes in the chorus were really impressive too. Would you call Noraneko Blue (Stray Cat Blue) a jazz blues song?
S: Sounds bluesy, doesn’t it? Exactly as written in the title, though. I just thought we just had to have cats featured in at least one song on the album.
――You’re rolling your r’s with this sort of languid style of vocals. It’s really cool.
S: Thank you. If we’re using a Showa era word to describe this song, I guess it’ll be “nihilistic”.
――The part where the piano and vocals are in unison is also really nice.
S: The piano was played by Yoko-chan (Yokoyama Kazutoshi). It’s sophisticated, creates a nice atmosphere. And the setting that comes to mind can only be Shinjuku, right? Not Shibuya or Harajuku, or Roppongi but Shinjuku. The song title kind of sounds like a Showa era movie title too, doesn’t it?
――It does. It sounds a little bit cheeky too (lol). Hizumi felt like we were in one of Sakurai-san’s nightmares.
S: That’s exactly what it is. If I go to bed without drinking, I really will get nightmares so this is what I spit out for my own benefit. It turned out that this was kind of like giving myself therapy. Mm, it’s therapy. I’m sick, copacetically.
――I don’t know whether it’s a good thing to describe it as “copacetically” (lol)…… I’m deviating from our topic again, but there’s this character in one of the dramas I watch in the morning who makes their debut as a poet. When the editor looks at the new tanka they wrote for their first book publishing, the editor says something like, “You have to change your perspective. You need to grow more.” A fan who heard about this disagreed, saying that the character is fine as they are and that their perspective of the world is splendid. But to this, the editor said, “That’s ego. It’s as good as telling a boy not to grow up because he sings a beautiful soprano.” Upon hearing that, I feel that the worldview of songs like Hizumi and one of your past releases, Mudai¹⁹ which were born of Sakurai-san’s circumstances are assets to BUCK-TICK, but I started to think that maybe it could be very cruel for you too.
S: That is something I’m very familiar with. That editor’s statement on growing up. Numerous times, and in this album too, I’ve challenged myself to part ways with the words of my mother and father who were like that editor but…… When we talk about growing up, the soprano analogy makes it very easy to understand, doesn’t it? Applying it to myself. I said this in the beginning too, but ultimately, I just wonder casually about whether people will let me write what I want to and take it all in stride. Even though people may call me defiant, you know. I also had periods when I struggled and fumbled in it, but in the end, I’ve now come to believe that this is probably the only thing that gives me affirmation.
――Finally, Na mo Naki Watashi (I, Nameless) has a very gentle point of view. I feel like it carries a message which encourages everyone living here and now.
S: It’s about how I’m really just a single stalk of flower getting shone upon by the sun and hit by the rain just like everyone else, equally. There will be all kinds of encounters and farewells in between; bees and bugs will visit, the gentle breeze of the wind will move us. I’m not trying to stand on a pedestal and give people affirmation, but I’m just trying to say that this is enough. It is enough to bloom and exist as you are.
――So what’s your impression of the album name, 異空 -IZORA-?
S: That was originally the working title of Mugen LOOP, but it was written in English alphabets so I couldn’t tell what it was supposed to mean at the time. After that, it became two kanji characters and I guessed it probably meant something like how we live under the same sky but the sky that each one of us sees is different.
――How do you feel about the way 異空 -IZORA- turned out as an album?
S: Personally I think I’m a gloomy person, if I do say so myself, but this really turned out to be a form of self-therapy and I especially like the second half [of the album]. I guess I can say that I’m glad I could create a world I like while staying true to myself. After that, it will belong to everyone who listens [to the album], so I hope they enjoy it.
¹ Album＝Their 23rd album, 異空 -IZORA-. Released 12 April.
² ILLUSION＝Recorded in their first album, SEXUALｘｘｘｘｘ!. Released November 1987.
³ Yokohama Arena＝Where “BUCK-TICK 2022 “THE PARADE” ～35th anniversary～” was held on 23〜24 September 2022.
⁴ Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete＝Their 36th single. Released February 2018.
⁵ Maimu Mime＝Recorded in their 22nd album ABRACADABRA. Released September 2020.
⁶ Six/Nine＝Their 8th album. Released May 1995.
⁷ Caady＝Their 11th single. Released May 1996.
⁸ COSMOS＝Their 9th album. Released June 1996.
⁹ 13-kai wa Gekkou＝Their 14th album. Released April 2005.
¹⁰ Kurutta Taiyou ＝Their 5th album. Released February 1991.
¹¹ Kagerou＝Their 23rd single. Released August 2006.
¹² Arui wa ANARCHY＝Their 19th album. Released June 2014.
¹³ One album＝THE MORTAL’s first album, I AM MORTAL. Released November 2015.
¹⁴ New World＝Their 34th single. Released September 2016.
¹⁵ Ahead of time＝Earlier released in their best-of concept album, CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv.. Released September 2022.
¹⁶ 35th anniversary tour＝“BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA-” which commences on 19 April.
¹⁷ Taiyou to Icarus＝Their 41st single. Released on 8 March.
¹⁸ Mugen LOOP＝Their 42nd single. Released 22 March.
¹⁹ Mudai＝Recorded in their 19th album, Arui wa ANARCHY (或いはアナーキー).
* The word they used here in Japanese was フラット (furatto), literally “flat”.
You could also say that we’ve been able
to do it for fun, and we still enjoy doing it
without ever getting tired of it.
That’s all there is to it.
profile & information
Born 21 October 1964. Blood type: O. Guitarist of BUCK-TICK which formed in 1985 and had its major debut in 1987.
Interview & Text ◎ Fuyu Showgun
Among the 14 tracks recorded on 異空 -IZORA-, Imai has composed music for 11 of them, and wrote lyrics for plus sang on THE FALLING DOWN. Here, we bring you commentary from Imai’s perspective on all the tracks of the album, along with his preferred sound tendencies and more.
Not even the impression that we’re creating a culmination of us because it’s our 35th anniversary or something.
I think that’s just how it is because we are who we are. Whenever we try doing something, it just turns out like this.
――I managed to catch your shows at Yokohama Arena¹ and Nippon Budokan² last year. The shows had “35th anniversary” in their names, but they not only looked back at BUCK-TICK’s past, they also showcased the band’s present day progress. They were wonderful to watch.
Imai (I): In short, the decision was not to take the approach of performing a best-of selection of songs for our anniversary shows. We didn’t decide on any particular theme; we simply listed the songs we wanted to perform and towards the end, we usually have Sakurai-san compile and put them all together for us. What you saw is just the result of that, so I guess we did good.
――Having been active for such a long time, fans would likely ask that you perform old songs and make similar requests, but BUCK-TICK doesn’t limit yourselves to that, do you?
I: Because there are many among our fans who also enjoy the new songs and want to hear them live. So I think it’s okay that we perform our shows without songs like Aku no Hana³ or JUST ONE MORE KISS⁴.
――I would believe that’s largely because of how BUCK-TICK continued your musical exploration throughout all these years.
I: You could also say that we’ve been able to do it for fun, and we still enjoy doing it without ever getting tired of it. That’s all there is to it.
――It’s great that the band is capable of staying active without losing motivation. So let’s talk about the fruits of that labour, your new album 異空 -IZORA-⁵. Although, I believe you originally intended to release the album in two CDs?
I: In the beginning, before we even made a single song, we did think of trying that out. Ten songs in each disc going on with no pause. So we actually started work with the feeling that we’re heading in the theme of that direction. As it went on with our anniversary schedule, as we performed our existing songs on tour⁶ while also going into the studio to work on new songs, it’s as if I got more and more obstinate. But despite our tight schedule, we eventually managed to get the right number of songs. So we actually could’ve released two discs if we wanted to but then we started wondering, “Why are we dividing the songs into two discs?” Then, we thought that it might be better to choose songs out of these almost 20 tracks and release them as one solid work. through this, we came to understand that we really needed quite an amount of time if we were to release two discs.
――So the idea of releasing two discs was a rough one to begin with.
I: Simply because it would have quite the impact and it might be interesting to carry out such a project. That’s all we had in mind in the beginning. And we did make the move to decide on themes and concepts for these two discs, but when we were done with the songs we made, we also found that they turned out a little differently than expected. So that’s why we decided that we’ll release one CD with 12 or 13 songs in it.
――Were you able to envision the theme of the album when you came to the stage of selecting the songs for release?
I: Nothing specific came to mind at all. Not even the impression that we’re creating a culmination of us because it’s our 35th anniversary or something. But, well, I think that’s just how it is because we are who we are.
――In terms of my impression of the album as a whole, I found the gaps in sound and space, the intervals of each instrument all very cool. It’s like I got to experience the beauty of not playing the guitar, for example.
I: You could say that I tried to remove guitar solo-sounding guitar solos as much as possible. We’re naturally heading in this direction but I guess I can only say that whenever we try doing something, it just turns out like this. And the length of the songs. They’re short, in general. Even though I didn’t have any such discussion with Hide (Hoshino), we always end up with things that are similar in vibe, you know? The song compositions. This time around, there are quite a few songs that don’t even reach 4 minutes. I remember the time when I easily wrote 6〜7-minute long songs and Hide also wrote music of that length. We will find that our compositions and song structures are very similar. That’s another thing I find interesting when we work.
――I would think that this is a result of having worked together for so many years. Another thing I noticed is how distinctive the bass sounds in this album. It sounds soft and comfortable to hear, and yet it also has a strong presence. I get the impression that this enigmatic soundscape straight up turns into the atmosphere that fills the world of this album.
I: This time, we asked a German mastering engineer (Clemens Schleiwies) to work on the album. He was also involved in our previous best-of (DISC: 3 ELEKTRIZO from CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv.⁷) release, and that’s why we wanted to try working with him on this album. He might’ve been the reason behind that bass range.
I thought SCARECROW might work well as a single when I composed it.
But when it got its lyrics, it turned super dark, so I thought, “This can’t be a single.”
――You have the word “QUANTUM” in the titles of the first and last instrumental tracks of the album. Both “I” and “II” share the same main melody but the way the melody is played and the arpeggios are different. Is this to create a thematic stance for the album?
I: We start our concerts with an instrumental track, so I thought maybe we could include something like that in our album too. The concert version would be a little longer, but that’s already done. So I guess the instrumental tracks are [here to show listeners the album’s] theme and world view.
――Then comes SCARECROW, the first actual track with lyrics. I believe this unique darkness is at the root of BUCK-TICK, but was this a conscious decision?
I: Nope, didn’t think of it. This was actually the very first song we composed for the album.
――Does it mean that this song became the benchmark for the album?
I: Not exactly, but I personally thought it might work well as a single when I first composed it. But later on came Na mo Naki Watashi (I, Nameless) and Mugen LOOP (Infinity LOOP), and then we felt that these two were better choices. Also, when [SCARECROW] got its lyrics, it turned super dark, so I thought, “This can’t be a single.” But when we had a meeting, Sakurai-san voted for this song to be a single. I was like, “Huh. So it’s a valid choice.”
――(Lol). I thought that starting the album with that darkness was very BUCK-TICK. I believe other bands would have typically chosen to make the first track Warukyuure no Kikou (Ride of the Valkyries).
I: That wasn’t a decision that was made solely by me. When we were talking about track order, Sakurai-san also raised the idea of making SCARECROW come first, alongside myself.
――Warukyuure no Kikou has pipe organs in its intro and at the end of the interlude, there’s an orchestra too. The gorgeous sounds are just lovely.
I: Those were ideas that came from our manipulator YOW-ROW. “To bring out the valkyrie mood,” he said. When I told him not to worry about how many sounds we have in this song, he really didn’t hold back and added a whole ton of stuff. For this song, I also kind of let him have his way with it from the start to see what would come out of it.
――You don’t sound particularly opposed to including such sounds that don’t originate from yourselves.
I: That depends on the song. But I guess I’m not against it recently. But even if I say that he can do whatever he wants with it, if I listen to what he made and said, “This part isn’t necessary,” he would still remove it anyway. If I have a concrete idea in mind, I’d tell him before he starts work, so we generally play by ear.
――I thought the chamber music-inspired strings arrangement by Kokushoku Sumire’s Sachi-chan in the next track, Sayonara Shelter -destroy and regenerate-Mix brought a really nice touch of grandeur to the song too.
I: I think Hide mentioned it…… That’s how it pretty much turned out.
――If you were the same imai-san from the past, I think you’d probably say something like, “I want to play the guitar for this.”
I: That’s true. But, well, if we’re in the 90s, like 1993 or something, I think we could’ve done it with a guitar synthesiser or something.
――Does that mean the way you think about the guitar as an instrument has changed since then?
I: Nope, I don’t think so. Besides, guitar synthesisers and actual violins are completely different things. While it’s true that it’s possible to do this with a guitar synthesiser too, well, whether or not we actually do it this way depends on the situation.
――Earlier you mentioned the lack of guitar solos. Do you think that’s the frame of mind you’re currently in?
I: Yeah. But, take Na mo Naki Watashi for example, I played that solo-sounding melody and had it included because we felt that it was necessary. Because we kind of wanted a guitar solo, or rather an interlude of sorts. Call it a bridge or something, but we’ll change things slightly depending on the situation. Having a guitar solo as part of the song’s structure isn’t quite the same thing.
――Next, we have Ai no Harem (Harem of Love), Hoshino-san’s song. The way the two guitars play the chords such that they sound like one was impressive.
I: Feels like Hide made it out of Hide’s, doesn’t it? The composer has always been the arranger of their own songs since the very beginning so it’s all him.
――Campanella Hanataba wo Kimi ni (Bouquet for you) is a cheerful song, but when you compose dark-sounding music, do you feel the urge to make your next composition a bright one?
I: As I go, I do think, “This will be next, followed by this.” As to which I want to work on first, I tend to just follow the order I’ve come up with. Sometimes, I also feel, “This song looks like it would be troublesome, I want to get it over and done with first.” Other times, “I’ll just start with whatever I can do,” and then work on more than one at the same time. That’s all just the work I do at home anyway. But I also have fun working on all these.
――Speaking of which, do you get something like a build-up routine to motivate you to compose?
I: I do. Like, wanting to clean up the room before I start or something.
――There’s something like a filter thing going on with the bass in Campanella Hanataba wo Kimi ni, right?
I: That’s because we wanted the bass to sound a little different than usual. Rather than the usual nice sound, we were going for something that kind of draws attention to it, so I think we applied some sort of effector.
――It’s kind of weird in a good way, and the feeling of mismatch with the fresh tune is conversely pleasant.
I: That’s what we were going for.
――Kind of like a synth bass approach. I believe that’s something you appreciate too, but is there anything you’d particularly take note about?
I: Yes, it’s true but also, it depends on the song. And even if we do use a synth bass, it’ll still be played by an actual bass. I guess you could say it’s more about how it sounds when these two come together. That’s probably another thing. It’s part of the arrangement work.
――You’re also involved as a vocalist for THE FALLING DOWN, but did you compose the melody with the intention of singing it already?
I: It wasn’t already decided from the start with THE FALLING DOWN. It’s just that as I worked on it, I started thinking, “Ah, I kind of want to sing the verses myself.” Whether it’s the groove, or the rhythm, those were all done with no restrictions.
――Be it the rhythm or the phrasing, I think therein lies Imai-san’s own original melody and word choices. Would you label those as part of your flair? Or do you regularly keep these aside as ideas, or something like that?
I: Nothing was specially kept aside, not in this case. Nuances are important too, but there’s also the fact that it just wouldn’t work if the words don’t sit well with the rhythm or groove too, so I guess I was a little bit picky with my words there.
――On the other hand, it feels like the melody that Sakurai-san sings focuses more on how the musical notes work. There appears to be more mid-tempo songs in this album too. But that’s not deliberate, is it? It’s just how the current vibe is?
I: That’s right.
――Next, the refrain that plays right from the start in Taiyou to Icarus (The Sun and Icarus) and it sounds like it comes from a keyboard, yet at the same time, a guitar. It’s kind of curious.
I: I don’t know. This is also another one of Hide’s songs, so it might’ve been YOW-ROW but I don’t really know whether they did something or what they did exactly. In any case, I’m playing my guitar too, though.
――The riff in Boogie Woogie sounds like it comes from a mixture or hard rock band of yesteryear too. The sounds used and the bouncy rhythm and the fun yet kind of unusual riff; all of this makes it an unlikely rock song, doesn’t it?
I: About that, I spoke to YOW-ROW, telling him, “I haven’t really heard any song recently that’s got the same feel as the monophonic riff that Uta⁸ had. Makes you want to hear one, doesn’t it?” Maybe that was the cause, maybe it gave him an idea. As I played a bit here and there, I somehow got a vague image of the vibe for this riff. His idea was to add some kind of shuffle vibe to it or some bouncy feels instead of leaving it as it was.
――I see. I think the riff in Uta is wholly a show of Imai-san’s own unique employment of sound. I don’t think it’s deliberate on your part but this is something that deviates a little from the popular musical theories applied to rock guitar.
I: I wonder. I don’t really know, though.
There’s a part of me that feels the guitar is the number one thing that makes [a sound] un-electronic.
That’s why I want to try composing a song that doesn’t sound like it’s got guitars in it at all.
――Next, Mugen LOOP -IZORA- (Infinity LOOP). I heard that the album title, 異空 -IZORA- was originally the working title for this song. This song is another that carries a flavour never before seen from BUCK-TICK.
I: It’s a chord progression that we’ve never played before, and I quite like it too. In the beginning, I had that synth riff, that melody and I was wondering whether there was a chord progression that could allow it to keep repeating from start to end. Starting out from there got us here.
――So it’s a song that came about from that synth melody.
I: That synth melody was the only thing there was at the start, and I considered trying to make it a kind of experimental song which doesn’t include guitars. Then, as I was playing around with the chords, it turned into something completely different than my original idea, but I think it’s better than that. So it grew on me.
――Is it even possible to have a song with no guitars for BUCK-TICK?
I: I just think it would be interesting. When playing something electronic, there’s a part of me that feels the guitar is the number one thing that makes [a sound] un-electronic. That’s why I envision that if I were to go all the way with [electronic music], I wouldn’t include the guitar. I started [working on this song] with that idea to try composing something that thorough[ly electronic], but that didn’t happen in the end anyway. I do want to try a bunch of things after this, though. But I also wonder how that would work live if I did make such a song.
――And that’s why ever since the beginning, you didn’t only use guitars but also other instruments like the Ztar. I believe BUCK-TICK has always looked at studio work and live performances as two separate things. And you have a lot of songs which leave different impressions when they’re played live.
I: That’s just something that happens naturally. It’s not as if we think about recreating the studio versions live.
――On the other hand, Noraneko Blue (Stray Cat Blue) sounds like a studio session within the band. I really like how the bluesy and loose kind of tension makes it very band-like.
I: I had fun bringing out that vibe too. It’s the first time I’ve ever tried something like this and I quite like it a lot. But it wasn’t as if we recorded it in a jam session or anything like that though.
――During the chorus, or rather, the climax of the song where he sings “Hey, Blue (ねぇブルー / nee buruu), there’s this intense analogue synth-sounding tone that’s going on in the back. Is that a guitar?
I: That’s an effector that’s of a less-controlled distortion transmission. It’s from Jack White’s brand.
――From Third Man Records.
I: I think so, something like that.
――Are you always looking for these effectors and equipment?
I: When we’re recording, I would bring a whole variety of compact effectors to the studio and then I’d mess around with them on a small amp when I’m free. If I like it, I’ll then use it or purchase it.
――To me, the distortion and fuzz with those kinds of effectors is characteristic of Imai-san’s guitar sound but is there anything in particular you pay attention to in those areas?
I: I just create whatever I hear or imagine in my head. If I think that something sounds good on the spot, I’ll start working on it in the studio.
――So it’s important to envision it first.
I: But also, there are different situations like, I could create it at home, like it, but just cannot recreate it as it is in the studio. It’s as if there’s something good added by working on it at home. Call it the cheap feeling, or something. Because when we do things in the studio, it will always get this richness and depth no matter what, and it’ll sound well-rounded. When I’m trying to get something other than that, there will be times when I have to take the data from the demo tape and treat it a little.
――What really stuck out to me in Hizumi was this melody that was created through your combined effort with Hoshino-san.
I: That’s pretty much it. We already decided to do this when we started work on arrangement.
――That’s something I wouldn’t have thought I would see in the past. Because you’d tend to do everything on your own.
I: But nothing has changed between then and now. Because whether it’s the guitar part or the arrangement, the decisions lie with the composer. Especially this one when the arrangement calls for both guitars to be tightly knit. Like two guitars playing one riff.
――I just have this very strong impression of how the two of you would always play completely different melodies. There’s this one line that I remember from an interview Imai-san did in the 90s when you said, “I’d leave the difficult parts to Hide. I’ll just have fun playing the good bits.”
I: That hasn’t changed even now, actually.
――(Lol) And the last track with lyrics is Na mo Naki Watashi. It was the B-side to the preceding single⁹ Taiyou to Icarus where YOW-ROW-san was involved in creating the Kachoufuugetsu REMIX (花鳥風月REMIX). Was there something you wanted to achieve in releasing the remix before the original?
I: Rather than achieve, it was actually a candidate for the single. When we decided to release it, we thought to as YOW-ROW to work on it. We wanted to make it more major-sounding than the original and groovier, and we also had the idea of possibly changing the chords. So I called YOW-ROW, talked about it with him through the night, like, “Chords are this and that,” and gave him as detailed a a list of requests as I could. Then in typical YOW-ROW fashion, he proposed the ideas like chords with various tensions, and I thought it was interesting so we went ahead with it. That’s why I can’t say I had anything in mind with releasing the remix ahed of the original. Since we made something good, I just wanted people to hear it as soon as possible and let them experience something completely different from the album version and enjoy the original in another way.
――YOW-ROW-san also mentioned it on social media, but what did you think about the autotune part?
I: He DM-ed me, asking, “Can I do this?” I though it was nice, and pretty interesting.
――Until now, you’ve applied distortion and spatial effects to vocals, but not any effects that alter the voice this boldly.
I: For some reason or other, I don’t really like for the vocals to be withdrawn to the background. It depends on the song, but there are times when it’s better that the voice sounds dry, or when I want to distort it, things like that. There are also times when I want to make it stand out even more with a delay.
――Your tour¹⁰ starts on 19 April. You earlier said that you aren’t thinking about recreating the studio recordings live, but I also think that part of this album’s songs would become more prominent this way.
I: I think we’ll change things up as we decide to, maybe, increase how much we feature the guitars, or compose live arrangements, things like that. But more on a personal level than a over all band level. We would also think about how we’ll perform certain songs, whether or not we’ll start with SCARECROW, all that.
――Once again, as you celebrate your 35th anniversary, do you think about what lies ahead?
I: Same as usual. Because, well, it’s going to be our 36th anniversary soon.
¹ Yokohama Arena＝Where “BUCK-TICK 2022 “THE PARADE” ～35th anniversary～” was held on 23〜24 September 2022.
² Nippon Budokan＝Where “BUCK-TICK 2022 TOUR THE BEST 35th anniv. FINALO in Budokan” was held on 29 December 2022.
³ Aku no Hana＝Their second single. Released January 1990.
⁴ JUST ONE MORE KISS＝Their first single. Released October 1988.
⁵ 異空 -IZORA-＝Their 23rd album. Released 12 April.
⁶ Tour＝“BUCK-TICK TOUR THE BEST 35th anniv.” which was held between October and December 2022 (some shows postponed).
⁷ CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv.＝Their best-of concept album. Released September 2022.
⁸ Uta＝Their 8th single. Released March 1995.
⁹ Single＝Their 41st single, Taiyou to Icarus. Released in March.
¹⁰ Tour＝“BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA-” which commences on 19 April.
This album is quite
rich in variety too,
so I also imagine each
(track) with different skies.
profile & information
Born 16 June 1966. Blood type: A. Guitarist of BUCK-TICK which formed in 1985 and had its major debut in 1987.
Interview & Text ◎ Okubo Yuka
Within 異空 -IZORA-, there are three songs that were composed by him; the album version of Sayonara Shelter which was also included in the band’s best-of compilation, Taiyou to Icarus (The Sun and Icarus) which was a preceding single, and Ai no Harem (Harem of Love). In this interview, he shares his perspective on all the songs of the album, with a focus on his own three songs.
I believe there were people who became fans with songs like JUPITER and Dress,
and I think that Taiyou to Icarus would probably have the same effect.
――When the band was deciding on the singles that would precede the album 異空 -IZORA-¹, I heard that Hoshino-san who normally doesn’t have any strong opinions surprisingly pushed for Taiyou to Icarus² to be one of them. In the interview you had with us back in December’s release of the 104th issue of this magazine, you also mentioned that in recent years, you’re “a little bit stiff, so (I) want to break through that” when it comes to your own compositions. I’m getting the feeling that Hoshino-san has made some sort of breakthrough somewhere within yourself, so what do you say?
Hoshino (H): Part of it is because our director, Tanaka (Jun’ichi)-san really pushed for it too, but during the process of producing this song, as the guitar parts were added, the vocals were added, [my insistence] stemmed from this point when I started thinking, “This is good, this song.” Even based on my own style, this [song] can be classified as pop, but I personally think there’s a very sad element to it too. And I think that element really came through when it matches with the lyrics. Because I didn’t want it to be a simple pop song that’s nothing but rainbows and butterflies. And we were really able to bring this across, so I think that’s probably what made [other people] feel that this song will definitely do well and inspired them to push for it as a single.
――How did the other members of the band react at the time?
H: We were all having a hard time trying to decide on which songs to pick, so I thought I’d just go for it, you know?
――For Hoshino-san, has this song always been in the running to become a single right from the start when you first composed it?
H: No, not at all. Because I composed it with the intention of making it one of the tracks in the album. We originally intended to produce two CDs. Broadly speaking, we were aiming for something like a light versus dark version, and this song was just one of those that was going to be included.
――Specifically, in the light category, right?
H: In the light category. It might lean towards the dark category because of its lyrics but in any case, I thought it was more suitable in the light category. In the beginning.
――Once Sakurai-san’s lyrics came in, it had the potential to be a song that could fit either category, right?
H: That’s right. I think the lyrics to Taiyou to Icarus has been written in such a fashion that it can be interpreted in a number of ways. Those who listen to the song without looking at the lyric booklet would probably conclude, “Ah, a pop song.” But if someone looks at the booklet and starts thinking about it, I think their perspective on it or the way they hear it might change too. I think it’s fine for people to experience it in their own way, though.
――I had the impression that this could turn out to be a song that changes the general public’s impression of BUCK-TICK. Just like JUPITER³ for example.
H: I had a strong feeling about that too. With songs like JUPITER and Dress⁴, I believe there were people who weren’t fans but have been listening to BUCK-TICK that actually said that they liked it, and I think that Taiyou to Icarus would probably have the same effect. It would be nice if people started listening to our music because of this, though.
――I’ve heard that Hoshino-san is super strict with your recording direction when it comes to your compositions, so how did things progress with this song?
H: I’m not that strict these days. Nowhere near to the past (lol).
――Is that because you had some sort of change in mentality?
H: It’s been this way these past few years, but I’ve come to think that it’s probably better to hear a variety of opinions. I’ve grown up, haven’t I? (Lol)
――I see. I guess that means you also paid attention to various opinions this time.
H: Yeah. I no longer stubbornly say things like, “I’ll hate it all unless it’s like this!” (Lol)
――Is that so? (Lol) So during recording, was there anything you specifically wanted from the rhythm musicians Yagami-san and (Higuchi) Yuta-san?
H: They do have the demo tapes so I just asked them to play based on what they hear there. I didn’t say anything too complicated to them.
――What about the feel of the sound?
H: With the sound, I always listen to a bunch of stuff on site and then make a judgement on which would work. Things basically went smoothly without any disagreements.
――Is there a particular type of sound that you were going for?
H: It’s the same as the decisions we make for drums, but I basically want it a little tight, with resonance. That’s pretty much it. We have (our engineer) Hiruma (Hitoshi)-san to work on a bunch of other things after that anyway. It was a generally, “Oh, that’s nice,” kind of vibe. I don’t think I had much to say. Hiruma-san also listened to the demo tape and he didn’t deviate too far from that anyway. He’s got years of experience on that end so it’s alright.
――In terms of first impressions of this song, Sakurai-san expressed that he felt “it’s a song that a young visual-kei band might make” when he first heard it. How do you think the song has changed [from its demo version] to the final version?
H: That demo tape didn’t have much synth stuff going on. In other words, it was mainly guitars. I think that’s where he got that impression of a young band.
――I see. What was your approach to composing the guitars?
H: For guitars, it’s the same thing I do with recording it. Recently, I’ve increased my guitar arsenal by one more SG (Gibson), but I haven’t changed what I use much in recent years. I always do this for recording, but I’ll note where I’m supposed to press on a score sheet and then I’ll double check it with Imai-san as I record, so this has never changed this whole time. With Taiyou to Icarus, it’s a case where I’m the one teaching Imai-kun, so I’d go to the studio and refer to the sheet while telling him to press here and there.
This is actually the version of Sayonara Shelter that we originally wanted to release.
We had always wanted to include violins in it.
――What about Sakurai-san’s singing?
H: He wrote and rewrote the lyrics for this song a number of times. Like adding in katakana and making these kinds of cosmetic changes to the words. He was very particular about those tiny details so I think he changed the lyrics quite a few times.
――You engaged YOW-ROW-san to be the manipulator for this song. What specifications did ask of him?
H: After discussing with Tanaka-san, we decided that we wanted him to bring in his “YOW-ROW style”.
――And how would you describe that?
H: At the very first stage, he would always add in a lot of sound elements. And after that, he would usually take things out as he goes, but recently, he doesn’t do that either. He would do all the adding and hit the mark with a bang, so with Taiyou to Icarus, the hooks in the areas of YOW-ROW-kun’s speciality we just so good. In short, if the main sound was the guitar, then, like what we said earlier, that would make the song sound like it belongs to a younger band. But when we bring YOW-ROW-kun’s sounds into the spotlight, then this is how the song would sound. You could say that’s what I was looking for, or rather, much of the reason why I asked him to work on it was because I was hoping for him to do that.
――Like the sparkly feeling in the intro.
H: Yes, exactly, those kinds of vibes. I think this time I’m really into YOW-ROW-kun’s melodies.
――The album version of Sayonara Shelter includes the subtitle destroy and regenerate-Mix. The biggest change that we hear in this version is the featuring of violins here.
H: Sayonara Shelter was included in our best-of release⁵ but this is actually the version that we originally wanted to release. Because we had always wanted to include violins in it.
――Did that come before this title and the lyrics came about?
H: Yes. I could already hear the violins from the very beginning so I wanted to include it. But since we made the decision to include the song in our 35th anniversary album, I was like, hold up. We can’t just throw it in there because I wanted to use it just for the album. So we then agreed to sleep on the violin thing for a bit and meanwhile, release the band-only version.
――Kokushoku Sumire’s Sachi-chan was in charge of playing the violin here, so what kind of discussions did you have?
H: I basically started by telling her that I’d like the violins in the chorus, the interlude, and the outro. She came up with a few versions herself and recorded them for me to hear. Then I would feedback on which sounded good, and which I would like her to play. Also, it was Sachi-chan’s idea to feature the violin right in the beginning with the intro too. She suggested, “I’d like to play this at the start, if you don’t mind.” And I told her to go right ahead. That’s more or less how it went.
――It’s nice how that intro carried this sense of nostalgia.
H: I think the impression it gives is different depending on whether or not [the violin] is there.
――Who was the manipulator in charge of Sayonara Shelter?
H: Same person we had for the best-of version, Cube Juice-kun. Because there were no changes. But when the violin was added, it felt like he suppressed the synth a bit.
――The organic sounds of the violin along with the word “regenerate” in the subtitle really gives me the feeling of a hopeful future. It’s nice like this.
H: That makes me glad to hear because I hoped that [the song] would bring our listeners a warmth that bears hope.
――What concepts were Ai no Harem (Harem of Love) based on?
H: I think this song probably sprouted from a concept close to dub or ska music. I didn’t play it on guitar but I played a ska rhythm on keyboards for this. That’s where it started and towards the end I mixed in some dub elements with the vocals and all that to finish up. I had a kind of thick, gooey image of it in mind.
――That progression in the second half does have that effect.
H: That’s really just how it naturally turned out. Because it just happened that we got that dub-like ending without even a guitar solo. Naturally.
――The part of the second half that sounds almost narrative, like chanson, was interesting too.
H: That part of the song, the melody or something already existed in my head. There’s an even more spoken version, but we chose to use the very first take that went along with the melody I thought of.
――Was the percussive sounding part in the intro originally there?
H: The keyboard part was originally there but the percussive part you mentioned was a mix of a bunch of sounds that Cube-kun put together.
――It might be a bit late ask now, but the role that manipulators play in BUCK-TICK’s music is really significant compared to other bands. I believe that Hoshino-san and Imai-san have very strong opinions when it comes to your music and that you’re people who will work on things to the very end to achieve the perfection you’re looking for. And yet you leave part of the production to the manipulators. Why is that?
H: That’s, well, the way we’ve generally been doing things in recent years. I can add synth and programming on my own too, but ultimately, I don’t have it in me when it comes to those things. There’s also the fact that the song can grow further if another brings in something extra. And I’m not very used to working with programming, so it already takes me extra time just to create the demo tapes. For example, it’s easy enough to decide on the melody, but it just takes me too much time to choose the tone, the type of sound…… It’s a real problem for me, choosing the tone. Because there are just so many options and I have to listen to each of them one by one. I’d put in the melody that I can enter and right from the get-go, it should feel like this. Then there’s the looping rhythm, and the rhythm itself is detailed so once I start working on it, I’ll be spending quite a while there. That’s why I’m of the mind that maybe it’s just better to leave this to [the manipulators].
――I thought it might be quicker if you did things on your own instead of spending time going back and forth with someone, but it sounds like there’s a strong case for entrusting it to someone else too. Although I believe the relationship of trust you have with them is why you can leave the work to them with a peace of mind.
H: That’s right, we have a very strong relationship in that sense. Because not only do the people who work with us understand what BUCK-TICK’s colours are, they even understand the colours that each respective song should have. I believe that’s because of this relationship of trust, and also it makes it easy to get things done.
――This also applies to the overall feel of the album, but Hoshino-san’s three songs in this work definitely feels a little bit different from this perspective compared to the “Hoshino melody” we’ve always known. Does Hoshino-san have any thoughts about this?
H: Hmm…… I think I’m not there yet. I kind of feel like there might be something that I managed to make a breakthrough on, but I also feel like I can still do even more. But I would say that in the end, Taiyou to Icarus and these songs did turn out to be something I didn’t do before. Maybe part of it, yes, but I get the feeling that I might’ve managed to get a close up on these areas.
――Whichever way it is, I think it’s awesome.
H: Thank goodness (lol). Let’s leave it at that, then.
There are a lot of songs left that weren’t recorded for this album
and not yet finished, so I hope we can unveil those too.
――Next, I would like us to touch on Imai-san’s music too. Let’s start with QUANTUM I and QUANTUM II, the instrumental tracks at the start and the end of the album. What kind of effect do you think they had on the album?
H: It feels like they’re creating a world. There’s also the feeling of that world expanding. It creates this sense of unity that I think would also happen in the live concerts.
――The first SE track feels like it opened the doors to a new chapter, but the bleak despair in the next track, SCARECROW, is overwhelming.
H: The difference is huge, isn’t it? (Lol) The intro starts with an arpeggio…… It was probably the very first song we completed. I remember thinking, “Ah, so this is the vibe.” And that the world of the lyrics’ is pretty dark.
――Solitude also oozes from the next song, Warukyuure no Kikou (Ride of the Valkyries), doesn’t it?
H: I thought this song was just so cool. Imai’s style really comes through the guitar riffs too. The guitars themselves sound super solid or something. It doesn’t quite feel entirely bulky though. We’re getting more of that recently. This solid finish.
――There is such a disparity between the musical and lyrical impression of Campanella Hanataba wo Kimi ni (Bouquet for you) and that makes it very impactful.
H: This song…… I think i just played it casually so I don’t have much impression of it (lol). When we were deciding on the track order, it was lined up next to Sayonara Shelter. Now I’m recalling that we debated whether or not to keep it like that. In the end, we decided to put other songs between these two tracks.
――Since both of these songs were inspired by war, putting them together one after another would deepen the overtones, right?
H: That’s right. Just like Sayonara Shelter, I’m also looking forward to seeing how this will be presented in concert.
――Will Hoshino-san also sing choruses in the live concerts?
H: We might play songs during the concert that will need me to sing but…… Speaking of which, I didn’t sing in any part in this new album. I wasn’t asked to. But I guess it would’ve been nice.
――Next, the only song in this album that has lyrics written by Imai-san, THE FALLING DOWN.
H: It’s got Imai’s signature style of riff, doesn’t it? It sounds a lot like Western music, and it seems like the main [sound] here is programming, based on the finishing. We’ve also got Sakurai-san and Imai-san’s duet going on here so this is another song I’m looking forward to play live.
――Looking solely at the lyrics to Boogie Woogie leaves the impression that it’s a cheerful song, but the sound is relatively heavy, isn’t it?
H: But if it’s a question of whether we should categorise it as “light” or “dark”, I’m inclined to categorise it as “light”. This song also revolves around the riff. I kind of remember finding the rhythm surprisingly difficult
――The lyrics are also a highlight of this song since it gives us a glimpse at the band in your youth.
H: With subjects like the junk-heap of a van (オンボロ車 / onborosha), right? It all feels familiar, but (lol). Then I realise it happened over 30-odd years ago. It was probably around the time we made our debut when we were driving around in that old, broken vehicle. I’m looking forward to playing this song live too.
――I can hear echoes of city pop in Mugen LOOP -IZORA- (Infinity LOOP), and the resort vibe it gives is quite fresh..
H: In terms of our past songs, there’s a touch of songs like GIRL⁶. The same loop goes on and on in it, and I heard that was what this song is apparently based on and composed upon. We don’t really have songs like this one, so it feels fresh, doesn’t it? The guitar feels nice and clean too with the single coil.
――The music video has a storyline too, and that’s certainly a highlight.
H: It’s the first time in quite a while that it’s being set in a hotel, but the looping concept was the director’s idea. It’s an unusual vibe, isn’t it?
――It was funny seeing the whole band squished in the elevator together too.
H: That was funny. Imai-san was designated the role of pressing the elevator button and we had so many NGs (lol). I think he just happened to stand near that area and then got thrown the responsibility of button pressing and he ended up having to do it over and over again. We had to make sure that the door closed just right before Sakurai-san comes in or right after he enters, but he just couldn’t get the timing right. He was probably thinking, “Why me?” (Lol)
――What a story from behind the scenes (lol). Next, we have the bluesy Noraneko Blue (Stray Cat Blue).
H: This is another song that makes it feel like you’ll easily slip into its world.
――The unison of the vocals and the piano is outstanding.
H: It is. For guitars, the main thing we play is the arpeggio, but I didn’t do anything particularly difficult with it. With the bluesy vibe, I get the feeling that this would be fun to perform live.
――While Hizumi is a relatively dark song.
H: Since it’s entitled Hizumi (distort/warp) too. But you could say that it’s an addictive song. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a song in BUCK-TICK. I paid particular attention to the bouncy beat.
――Na mo Naki Watashi (I, Nameless) is a beautifully ephemeral mid-tempo track.
H: This is also a song that grew out of an arpeggio, and quite fitting to close off the album as the last track. It feels like it’s connected to the final SE, doesn’t it? The last boss.
――What do you imagine when you look at the album title, 異空 -IZORA-, which Imai-san came up with?
H: I think it’s some sort of a symbolic descriptoinof this album. Considering the historic times we live in and so many other things, maybe he felt that this word is the one that fits this album best. I think it’s a perfect fit. This album is quite rich in variety too, so I also imagine each (track) with different skies.
――On the whole, how do you think this album has turned out?
H: Although we originally intended to release two CDs, we went with one instead and I feel that it was ultimately a good thing we made this change. Because if we were to release two CDs, the songs may end up leaning towards one side or another but having only one CD turns it into a versatile-sounding album and I feel that’s good too.
――You’ve celebrated your 35th anniversary and finished your new album. Is there anything you want to do next?
H: There are a lot of songs left that weren’t recorded for this album and not yet finished, so I want to finish them. It would be nice if we could start work on the next one a little earlier, though (lol). There are songs that have the guitar parts recorded already, so I hope we can unveil those too.
¹ 異空 -IZORA-＝Their 23rd album. Released 12 April.
² Taiyou to Icarus＝Their 41st single. Released in March.
³ JUPITER＝Their 5th single. Released October 1991.
⁴ Dress＝Their 6th single. Released May 1993.
⁵ Best-of release＝Earlier released in their best-of concept album, CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv.. Released September 2022.
⁶ GIRL＝Recorded in their 20th single, Zangai. Released January.
It feels like we got here while being
in a constant state of “here and now”.
Honestly, I feel that it’d be nice if we
could keep going for as long as we can.
profile & information
Born 24 January 1967. Blood type: A. Bassist of BUCK-TICK which formed in 1985 and had its major debut in 1987.
Interview & Text ◎ Yoshida Koji
Here is Higuchi Yutaka’s version of song reviews for the band’s latest album 異空 -IZORA-, released 35 years after their major debut where he shares key points of his bass playing and his interpretation of each song from the Higuchi perspective.
I knew that it was going to be a great album for sure.
Everyone’s unconventional, so that expands our range too.
――Considering that last year was the 35th anniversary of the band’s major debut, did you ever think 35 years ago that this band would still be around 35 years later?
Yuta (Y): No, I don’t think such an idea even crossed my mind. It feels like we got here while being in a constant state of “here and now”.
――On the other hand, do you currently think about things like whether you’ll still be doing this in ten years and all that?
Y: I guess it would surprise no one that there is a bit of that recently. This is an odd topic, but that’s probably because I’m seeing my friends passing away more and more these days. But honestly, I personally feel that it’d be nice if we could keep going for as long as we can.
――I suppose that’s why this is one thing that hasn’t changed. Thinking about the future isn’t something you did when young, and it still isn’t something you do now.
Y: Yeah. I think it’s probably still the same sentiment. Because our vector always goes in the same direction, like how we release now and the next thing we look forward to is going on tour.
――So what’s the one thing in these 35 years that left the biggest impression on you?
Y: It’s got to be the period of time right after we debuted. We were up to our eyeballs in work while being utterly clueless about things. Work, as in, there were other things that we had to do even though all we had ever done [prior to debuting] was perform at livehouses with our instruments. There were interviews like this, appearances to do at record stores, meetings with sales staff, and all that.
――I recall the record company had branch offices in each major city back then.
Y: And it’s ultimately the idea that adults sell products. Well, although this is music we’re talking about. When we see everyone doing their best, we’d feel like we have to do our best too but then we have Production telling us, “Make music.” And Publicity telling us, “Go advertise.” And Sales telling us, “Go organise fan events.” We had people telling us to do all these kinds of things. Everyone would compete with each other to book times on our schedules so we couldn’t rest at all. Only on days when we were stuck travelling could we rest (lol). Those experiences I can never forget.
――Yagami-san said the same thing too. That they wanted to treat your travel time as off days.
Y: He said that? (Lol) But looking back at it now, I guess we were able to experience a whole lot of things because we went through that. Even though I just turned 20 at the time. It’s a good thing that happened at the time it did. If we were to go through that in our 30s, we’d probably start feeling like we don’t want to do this any more (lol). Because we didn’t know anything at the time so we thought our experiences were normal.
――This particular incident was also featured in the lyrics of Boogie Woogie in your new album, but it seems that in the middle of a tour, you all had to push a vehicle that ran out of fuel to move?
Y: On the Tomei Expressway, right? That was probably during our very first or second tour.
――You can still remember even now.
Y: I guess it’s because of how impactful it was. Our vehicle broke down because it ran out of fuel and we had to find a way to get it to the next parking area. I’m pretty sure we were in an area where Mount Fuji was visible too. So we just kept pushi—ng. And you know how parking areas are on a bit of a slope? When we got there, we were like, “Yes! We did it!” and still pushing and it all went groon! (Lol)
――It sounds very much like youth.
Y: I guess you could say that it became a very significant part of our roots. Being able to go to each city to perform, seeing how [fans] have been waiting for us; that was when I feel a sense of fulfilment. I think it wouldn’t be wrong to say that this feeling is also connected to the present .
――If your car actually ran out of fuel, that probably means you were broke.
Y: That’s right. We’d pump just barely enough fuel for the road.
――Getting your major debut in such a situation, did it motivate you to want your music to be sellable?
Y: Rather than that, what I wanted more was to get feedback because we’re doing what we do.Because, for example, we could clearly tell that the people at the record company, these adults around us were happy for us. Everyone was all smiles. I feel like that’s not something that can be encapsulated in “wanting to sell well”.
――I’m going to change the subject here, but back in 2020, you were no longer able to hold concerts the same way you always have because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following that, you managed to hold shows at Yokohama Arena¹ last year, and even your first tour² since the pandemic.
Y: The first thing that came to mind was definitely how every band was probably going through the same thing because of COVID-19, and being unable to do anything was probably the most excruciating thing of all. So when the moment came that we could go on tour, I really felt like I finally understood how blessed we are to be able to do all these things we used to take for granted like touring, seeing everyone again. Also because when we started touring last year, there were still some people who were still worried and didn’t want to come. That’s why I’m sincerely grateful to those who did attend our concerts in the midst of that.
――In other words, it’s times like these when you appreciate your fans more than ever. Next, I’d like to move on to talking about your album³. To start, when did Higuchi-san switch to album production mode?
Y: I would’ve already gotten into that mode once I started recording, actually.
――I heard that it was last April when recording commenced. Back then, did you already have some expectation of how this album would turn out?
Y: That only came to me when I was about halfway through, in terms of the number of songs. But I knew that it was going to be a great album for sure. Each song could hold its own. Although I guess you could say that we know how to do this very well since the same could be said for quite a number of our songs. Everyone’s unconventional [in their own way], so that expands our range too.
――Back when ABRACADABRA⁴ was being released, one thing I remember very clearly from Higuchi-san’s interview⁵ was how you mentioned the band would avoid recording with each other, avoid having meals together, and head straight home right after you were done recording your parts. So it sounds like you’re saying that this time, it’s a complete opposite and things went pretty smoothly.
Y: That’s right. We didn’t have to go that far this time around.
――Does this mean you were able to talk about this and that and make changes during your recording sessions?
Y: That’s right. Because Imai-kun, Hide (Hoshino), the song composers would come too when I’m recording. Myself, I’d change certain things from the demo tapes I received, so I’d tell them how I’m going to do it and we’ll discuss things like that.
In extreme terms, I think this falls within the grounds of not playing anything (lol).
Because I really think that as long as I can enhance the song and the melody, it’s good enough.
――Did you encounter any new challenges when it came to bass recording this time around?
Y: Almost never happens? But I used an upright bass for Noraneko Blue (Stray Cat Blue) and Hizumi. I also felt pretty satisfied with how it turned out.
――Any new equipment?
Y: Nope, not really, I think.
――On the other hand, is there a bass guitar that you always use for recording? Or one that you’ve consistently used in these 35 years?
Y: None to that extent.
――So what is your main go-to when you’re recording?
Y: I mostly use the Zemaitis, the Precision Bass (Fender), or the Ricken (Backer). Surprisingly, I’ve used the Ricken for quite along time. Since Speed⁶, I believe.
――So Higuchi-san isn’t the type to keep changing up the equipment that you use.
Y: Because when it comes to the bass, I feel that its neck is everything. That’s why I use necks that I’m fond of. The Fender Precision Bass, it’s probably made in 1968 so the neck was super warped. And I actually commissioned them to make the exact same neck for me again. Down to its weight. They made that for me and then changed the parts too.
――In short, that just shows how much you like it. The comfort level when you play this bass.
Y: Yeah. It’s not as if the guitar can’t be played anymore without the original parts, but it just feels kind of weird if I switch to playing it high.
――But I think that’s also a reflection of Higuchi-san’s play style. Right, then. Let’s hear about the [album] tracks from you. Excluding the instrumental tracks at the start and at the end, the first song we have on the album is SCARECROW.
Y: For this song, I used a 5-string for the first time in a while. The demo tape didn’t originally feature a 5-string, but I thought it might be a good idea anyway.
―Even though you wouldn’t use the low B?
Y: No, I used the 5-string because I wanted to hit lower. Imai-kun’s original version in the demo tape played the bassline with the higher strings of a regular 4-string, but I wanted to bring it lower. I thought it might be better to bring out that bleakness according to the image of this song.
――Which 5-string bass did you use?
Y: One from Greco. Although, if I were to drop tune for a concert, I would use a 4-string Music Man to do that.
――I feel that Higuchi-san’s bass playing has a very human touch to it. What is something you keep in mind when playing?
Y: It’s got to be the melody. I feel like I used to focus more on the rhythm but now I’ve come to tend towards focusing more on the melody. Something like a form which accentuates the melody.
――The melody of the vocals?
Y: There are occasions when the bass itself becomes the melody too, but it’s meant to enhance the melody. But doing that would also mean I’ll gradually stop playing the bass (lol). I guess that’s comfortable to me now, on the contrary. Because in the past, I would’ve headed towards trying to bury it but now I don’t really want to.
――Would you say that your style of bass playing changed drastically in that aspect?
Y: A lot has changed, but the period that gets these comments the most has got to be darker than darkness -style93- ⁷.
――In other words, back in 1993.
Y: Because that’s when I switched from playing on beat to playing by groove. And another period when I sensed things changing bit by bit was around memento mori⁸.
――So, per your words earlier, you find yourself simplifying things as much as possible to enhance the melody itself.
――What are your thoughts on SCARECROW?
Y: I definitely thought that it changed a lot once the lyrics came in. That he’s really amazing, Acchan (Sakurai). Things like that.
――Next, Warukyuure no Kikou (Ride of the Valkyries).
Y: This, I thought, whoa, Imai-kun, amazing (lol). It’s what you probably call a guitar-based composition, right? The arrangement of this song.
――How did you play your bass?
Y: This was done really simple. It’s so simple that we could probably cut and paste it but they wouldn’t let me (lol). Although that’s what made it interesting too, on the other hand.
――It’s a pretty heavy groove, though.
Y: But even though it’s heavy, how do I explain this… It’s got that uncomfortable, disturbing feeling that Western music had towards the end of the 80s and the start of the 90s (lol).
――Did you use a 4-string for this?
Y: 4-string, yes. I only used the 5-string in SCARECROW.
――Next, we have the album version of Sayonara Shelter.
Y: Our director had the same idea about this song, that it’s absolutely better that we release this song first. Given the historical times we live in. And that’s pretty much why it was released ahead of time.
――You have already decided to include it in the album, but it was included in your 35th anniversary best-of concept album⁹ and shown to the world ahead of the album first.
Y: Yeah. Because we felt that was the most appropriate time.
――In the album, the suffix destroy and regenerate-Mix has been attached to the song and you’ve invited Sachi-san from Kokushoku Sumire to play the violin here. What do you think about the album version of this song?
Y: I think it’s great. They probably invited her to participate with the thought that it would definitely make the song more interesting if they changed it a little after releasing it like that.
――Next, Ai no Harem (Harem of Love). It sounds like Hoshino-san’s song has turned into a good hook for this album again.
Y: Yeah. It’s really as if something like an interlocking between the composers exists. And when that becomes a part of the album, it makes the whole even better, doesn’t it?
――I believe long tones and muting were crucial in playing the bass for this song.
Y: I originally wanted to try playing it almost the exact same way as what was in Hide’s demo tape, but I ended up changing a few patterns in it. Like taking it out or not.
――So, subtractions. In terms of fingers?
Y: Fingers, yes.
――Next, Campanella Hanataba wo Kimi ni (Bouquet for you). A cheerful song finally arrives at this point but…
Y: Personally, this song was the most difficult one of all.
――What made it difficult
Y: The groove. Because I somehow couldn’t quite get into the groove in a good way. But, well, it turned out nicely in the end anyway.
――Putting it another way, I guess we could say that that made the song one you played with purpose.
Y: Yeah. That’s what makes me look forward to playing songs like this one on tour more than others.
We produce the album and then complete it during the tour.
I look forward to touring. We get to find out how [the songs] will evolve.
――Next, THE FALLING DOWN. Was there anything in particular you kept in mind when producing such a bouncy rock ‘n’roll groove?
Y: We already made the decision to make this one sound crunchy. Even though it’s bouncy, it sounds crunchy, so it’s really got this “bzt, bzt” feeling. The song’s got a really straightforward vibe so I figured it would be better to play this one without too much thinking.
――How do you feel about the bounciness?
Y: Surprisingly, I like it. Somehow, I realise I’m becoming bouncier and bouncier on the whole, as I grow older.
――I understand that feeling. You get this bounce that doesn’t translate to musical notation even for a regular 8-beat song, right?
Y: That’s why I also find myself finally understanding recently what an 8-beat is probably supposed to sound like.
――It’s your own 8-beat groove that’s slightly bouncy, and not the precise 8-beat that comes from a music score.
Y: Yes. I don’t want it flat.
――Your thoughts on Imai-san’s vocals? Although, there are already quite a number of songs with his singing now.
Y: But I definitely think that we’re able to show a lot of different sides of ourselves because these songs exist.
――So, one day, we’ll hear Higuchi-san too.
Y: Nah, that’s never going to happen (lol).
――Next, Taiyou to Icarus (The Sun and Icarus). What did you think when the song first came to you?
Y: I had the impression that it’s a cheerful song. And that it would be in the running to become a single. Rather, that it would probably reach that stage.
――So it wasn’t a song that was recommended for a single release from the outset.
Y: That’s right. Because that’s something we rarely do.
――Anything you took note of when playing bass for it?
Y: I go up and down for this song. So properly, and carefully.
――You wanted to play carefully
Y: Or rather, personally, I think that going up and down makes things messy. Because playing it like that is similar to strokes on a guitar. I’m more careful with the down strokes here. So I play carefully to make sure it doesn’t end up sounding messy. It might just be me, but when I first received the demo tape, I felt like I was listening to a song by The Jam.
――A rock band from the early era.
Y: Yeah. I thought that’s the kind of song it was, that’s why I decided to play up-down like that, though.
――Next, Boogie Woogie. Literally, a boogie song.
Y: Don’t you think it’s the newest frontier for BUCK-TICK in this whole album? We don’t really have songs like this one, do we? Because, although the acoustic version of Uta¹⁰ had this vibe, we almost never bring out such a blatantly energetic vibe. I’m looking forward to bringing such an energy to our live performances.
――Next, Mugen LOOP -IZORA- (Infinity LOOP).
Y: This was another song I thought was definitely in the running to become a single though.
――And it did actually become a single¹¹. A 16-beat melody basically makes it what people call city pop, though.
Y: Yeah. That’s why for the bass in this song, it might be weird to describe it as taking it in and out, but the groove I brought in was like that. This song is pretty interesting, isn’t it?
――It is. Although it’s city pop, there’s no doubt that it still has that wonky rock groove unique to BUCK-TICK.
Y: That is also what makes it a personal favourite for me too. Also, I think it was pretty well done.
――Next, Noraneko Blue (Stray Cat Blue).
Y: This is another song where I immediately decided I would use an upright bass for the moment I received it. It’s kind of hard to describe; because it’s not exactly jazzy but it’s got that vibe. I do want to try playing this with a real wood bass too, though. But it won’t be suitable for musicians like us since we perform in halls. The sound would get screwed up and all that.
――Because it’s just not the same as performing in livehouses like rockabilly and jazz musicians.
Y: And also because I don’t do those kinds of slaps. I won’t really get to do that playing normal basslines. I could do it if we performed in the quiet settings that jazz musicians have, but since we have music going on, the whole soundscape would have to come to a sudden standstill [if I were to do that].
――Does that mean your touch and other factors would change when you use an electric upright bass?
Y: It will. I think…… I can’t really stray too far from the original pitch, but I guess bit by bit, I’m starting to understand lately that even if I do shift away from it, there’s some flavour that I’ll bring in. It’s like I’ll sound more like the real thing if I stray off instead (lol).
――Do you enjoy playing the upright?
Y: I actually quite like it.
Y: This one features an upright too. The vibe here somehow feels kind of like a Tom Waits song; that’s what I thought when I received the demo tape.
――I get what you mean. That apathetic jazzy feeling befitting of an American bar.
Y: I got the vibe of Tom Waits’ slightly darker songs, so I thought the upright bass might be just the fit for it.
――And finally, the last song on the album which has lyrics, Na mo Naki Watashi (I, Nameless).
Y: I also thought this had the potential to become a single.
Y: Really, I thought it was a great song ever since I heard the demo tape. So, with our recording process, the guitars and all that comes first, right? After that, when Acchan’s part came in, I again thought, “Ah, what an amazing song it’s become.”
――What did you focus on when playing the bass here?
Y: For this song, it’s the same as the melody thing I mentioned earlier. Trying not to play more than necessary and all that. Dum……da-da-da…… Like that.
――That’s what we often call “restrained playing” though. Something within those grounds.
Y: Nah, in extreme terms, I think this falls within the grounds of not playing anything (lol). As good as plain dango without toppings. But it’s also because I really think that as long as I can enhance the song and the melody, it’s good enough. To the extent where I think it’s okay for me to sit out (lol).
――Playing in a way that is as good as “not playing” somehow sounds like some kind of zen answer.
Y: The bass in this song is really like that, isn’t it?
――Zen bass playing (lol). I’m sure this is another song that you would like people to hear live.
Y: But I really think it applies to the whole song, though. I say this every time, but for us, it’s definitely a case of producing the album and then completing it during the tour. When we try playing [a song] together, I’d get light bulb moments like, “Ah, so this song makes the listener feels like that.” That’s why I look forward to touring. Because we get to find out how [the songs] will evolve.
――Especially since this tour¹² is really one that is meant to carry the album. Looking forward to it is all there is.
Y: Yes. This being a tour during our 35th anniversary year firstly means that we get to see everyone again. And this time, I guess you could say that this time, we could go back to how things were. The rules on cheering have been relaxed too. It wouldn’t be immediate, but it would be nice if we could hold concerts the way we used to again.
¹ Yokohama Arena＝Where “BUCK-TICK 2022 “THE PARADE” ～35th anniversary～” was held on 23〜24 September 2022.
² Tour＝“BUCK-TICK TOUR THE BEST 35th anniv.” which was held between October and December 2022 (some shows postponed).
³ Album＝Their 23rd album, 異空 -IZORA-. Released 12 April.
⁴ ABRACADABRA＝Their 22nd album. Released September 2020.
⁵ Interview＝Published in this magazine’s 91st issue, released September 2020.
⁶ Speed＝Their 3rd single. Released January 1991.
⁷ darker than darkness -style93-＝Their 7th album. Released July 1993.
⁸ memento mori＝Their 16th album. Released February 2009.
⁹ Best-of concept＝Their best-of concept album, CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv.. Released September 2022.
¹⁰ Acoustic version of Uta＝Uta Ver.2021 (唄 Ver.2021) which was recorded on their 40th single, Go-Go B-T TRAIN. Released September 2021.
¹¹ Single＝Mugen LOOP (無限 LOOP), their 42nd single. Released 22 March.¹² This tour＝“BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA-” which commences on 19 April.
I recently bought snares,
the supers sensitive type. To start with, I was using
a full-face when we debuted, so
I’m going back to my roots at 60.
profile & information
Born 19 August 1962. Blood type: A. Drummer of BUCK-TICK which formed in 1985 and had its major debut in 1987.
Interview & Text ◎ Yoshida Koji
BUCK-TICK’s style of recording music basically sees the drummer entering the studio last for recording among the members. The person who gets a bird’s eye view of the band, Yagami Toll, a.k.a. Anii tells us about the key notes regarding the drum groove in this album. And shares priceless stories from 35 years ago!
I want to re-record SEXUAL ｘｘｘｘｘ！ with my current level of skill.
But I won’t be able to pull it off the same way, for sure. You won’t get that recklessly-rushing-forward kind of feeling.
――You turned 60 last August, so, did anything change?
Toll (T): I don’t really pay it much attention. Because it’s just the passing of another year, isn’t it?
――How’s your back?
T: It’s alright. Since I do my stretches and all that before getting down to it.
――I assume that’s one of the methods you’ve cultivated over more than 35 years to ensure you can keep going, right?
T: That’s because I was, how old was it, in my late 40s? When I changed, right. I started going to the gym, changed my drumming form too. In short, everything underwent change. I don’t think anyone else knows, but I even changed my drumsticks to lighter ones, and my drumming range of movement. I used longer sticks in the past.
――You’re saying you used to rely on centrifugal force to drum?
T: I could do that when I was young, because I was flexible. If I do that now, I’d be gone, so I guess I can’t anymore (lol). And recently, I’ve started wearing gloves. With gloves on, it’s made things even more comfortable.
――But I thought that Yagami-san’s posture has always been great, even 35 years ago. You’ve always kept your back so straight. You don’t do that on purpose?
T: I don’t, not at all. Because it’s one of those things I’ve just carried on doing since my amateur days. It’s as simple as a matter of, “I’ll drum like this since this is the type of song we’re performing”. Being in my 20s back then, I didn’t really care about form and all those things. Although, maybe [my posture is] because I was a steelworker when I was young. When I was 18 up until I was 21, I was working with steel bars at construction sites and we really had to take care of our backs.
――You’ve got a strong back to begin with.
T: That’s why I understand the purpose of gloves, ever since my steelworking days. My seniors would tell me. Compared to doing things barehanded, people would ultimately only exert more strength when they’re protected. You’d often find jars that you can’t open because they’re stuck tight, right? You’ll be able to open them right up the moment you put on gloves. But you won’t be able to barehanded. As to why, it’s because you’re not going all out. Or rather, you can’t go all out. Because if you did, you’d get injured and all that. That’s why, now, wearing gloves…… I’m weighing it, all the time. Like on my right, [the drumstick feels] about 5 grams lighter and on the left, it feels about 5 grams heavier, but somehow, it all feels lighter when I’m wearing gloves as opposed to holding them barehand.
――There’s a left side and a right side even though they should be the same sticks, right?
T: But generally, what I heard from a lot of people and among my drummer friends too is that the left definitely feels heavier. In the end, I think it’s just the non-dominant arm making up the weight. There was a time when I also used a knocker type stick on this (left) side.
――The tipless type.
T: And on this (right) side, I used the regular tipped ones. That probably happened around the time we released Aku no Hana¹ and Kurutta Taiyou². Doing that would somehow make it more difficult to notice shot irregularities, something like that.
――So what’s the one thing you’ve got on your mind as you look back at the past 35 years?
T: Ahh, I want to re-record SEXUAL ｘｘｘｘｘ！³ with my current level of skill. Ahahahaha! But I won’t be able to pull it off the same way, for sure. You won’t get that recklessly-rushing-forward kind of feeling.
Probably because I read How to be BIG (成りあがり) in high school.
That’s why I’d have the desire to perform at the Budokan and all that.
――But that’s good, isn’t it? By the way, it comes up in the lyrics of Boogie Woogie too, but it appears that you had the experience of your car breaking down on the Tomei Expressway in the past and everyone had to push it forward together.
T: Yeah. All manner of things happened. I think that might’ve happened on the Great Seto Bridge too. Since we were broke, we’d try and save money by refueling with the bare minimum of what we’d need, right? So even though we’re saying, we’re still good, we’re still good, that’s how we ran out of gas in the end. It’s hilarious, isn’t it? That’s just how broke we were. Myself, when I was steelworking, I weighed 60kg at my peak. Then when I was around 21, I started playing in a contest band, and then I joined BUCK-TICK at 23. Which means in those 2 years or so, I actually lost 10kg.
――Because you were broke.
T: Exactly. Living the broke life in Asagaya. (At the time, I was living with) Yuta (Higuchi) and he told me, we’re going to live on Baby Star Ramen for the next three days. I was all, that’s not a good joke. Like, give me a break. Don’t make me live like this. And you know how the water supply is considered as a life line, right? The water supply is the last one to get cut off, right? Ours did get cut.
――First goes gas, then electricity, and finally water.
T: Even our life line got cut (lol). When we made our debut, I only weighed 48kg. I went from 60kg to 48kg. I was living on the real poor man’s diet.
――But it’s a funny story now when you look back on it. Back then, did you honestly ever think you’d come this far?
T: I don’t know, but I had goals and the sort. Probably because I read How to be BIG (成りあがり / Nari Agari) in high school. The book by Yazawa (Eikichi)-san. That’s why I’d have the desire to perform at the Budokan. And Korakuen Stadium, although it doesn’t exist anymore. But I also wanted to perform at Tokyo Dome⁴. And Seibu Stadium⁵. When we first got to perform at the Budokan and Tokyo Dome, I was around the same age as Yazawa-san when he first did too, though.
――That’s the Yagami style of How to be BIG. Then, I assume you did want your music to sell well.
T: Rather, when we debut, I didn’t feel that joy you’re supposed to get by debuting. Partly because I felt that we’d be let go if we didn’t at least achieve a certain amount of sales. I thought, if we didn’t at least show some amount of success, we’re doomed. Because, you see, the goal isn’t simply to debut.
――In other words, it wasn’t paradise simply because you managed a major debut.
T: You’d eventually be expected to chart when you release your debut work, right? And SEXUAL ｘｘｘｘｘ！ was in thirty-something place. That was like, oh, shit. Because it felt like you have to minimally reach top ten or you’ll be dropped. But also, seriously, at the time, we were already running a crazy packed schedule. It was so awful that we really didn’t even have time to sleep or anything. I still remember our manager at the time going back and forth with the promotion people from Victor about our schedule. They opened up our schedule book and said, “It’s empty here.” And he said something like, that’s the day we’re travelling back or something. Then [the Victor staff] wanted to count that day we’re travelling back from tour as a day off. And he was arguing, that’s no day off! (Lol)
――I used to often hold interviews in the bullet train too back then.
T: That’s why it honestly felt like we barely got to rest in the first two, three years after we debuted.
――And you even had to style your hair up.
T: That too. If I had to do it from scratch, working on it on my own would probably take me about two hours, right? But we didn’t even have that kind of time. So I’d just sleep on my side with my hair still styled and take about thirty minutes to an hour to fix it before getting back to work. That’s why I’d only get to leave my hair down around two or three days a week. Because it’s faster to just fix it. It just so happened that the band members of PERSONZ were coming over to my home on one of those days off and I went to pick them up from the station. [When they saw me] they asked, “Huh, Anii, do you style your hair up like this all the time?” And I told them, “It’s only because I have work the day after tomorrow.” (Lol)
――Ahahaha. We’re going to change the subject here, but last year, following your show at Yokohama Arena⁶, you also went on your first tour⁷ since the COVID-19 pandemic started. How did you feel being on stage?
T: Really glad that we could make it happen, you know? Since it’s been such a long while. But no one could vocalise, they could only clap. I didn’t know whether to say it’s hilarious or not because of how much their response changed (lol). Because the cheers that we get are quite something, aren’t they? It’s already pretty hysterical back when we debuted (lol).
――How was the Yokohama Arena show?
T: I might’ve been more nervous for that one than Budokan. It somehow felt really huge. And it’s got quite a bit of length to it, right? That’s why I remember feeling a bit nervous.
――To think even Yagami-san would feel nervous.
T: Yeah. A bit (lol).
At worst, I recorded three songs in one day. It’s normal for me to record two songs within a day anyway.
It’s like Imai gives me a push and I roll (lol).
――And while you’re doing all that, you’ve also been working on the production of this new album⁹. How long were you in recording mode for?
T: I started recording around April of last year.
――One year ago. That’s quite a long time.
T: We initially planned to release two albums. That’s why we were working on it with a much more hurried pace than usual. At worst, I recorded three songs in one day. It’s like Imai gives me a push and I roll (lol). It’s normal for me to record two songs within a day anyway. It’s just that I have to rehearse a lot. Because the situation was such that when I [entered the studio], it’s purely for recording purposes. Which means I’d drum [a song] about only five times and only spend time deciding on what kind of sound we’re going for [in the studio]. And since way back I’ve never liked drumming like that very much (lol). Didn’t we release a 25th anniversary box¹⁰ for Aku no Hana? There’s an LP in there and it was my idea to have copies of the que sheet that was with the vinyl record. When you look at it, you’ll know exactly how many takes we took. Majority of the time I only needed one take and it would be good enough to be used for the record. That’s why it really feels as if I barely drummed. Ultimately I feel the most motivated when I do [the first take] so that probably made people feel that it was good to use.
――But doesn’t Yagami-san feel uneasy like this?
T: Precisely because I rehearsed that much ahead of time. In a way, I feel myself becoming more and more comfortable as I go.
――BUCK-TICK’s current style of recording means that drums are recorded last, but back when you did Aku no Hana, drums actually came first, right?
T: When we used to record drums first, it basically would mean that drums and bass and (Hoshino) Hide’s rhythm guitar are more or less recorded together. When we worked on SEXUAL ｘｘｘｘｘ！, it was literally these three parts recording simultaneously. That’s why we were done quick. See, we took two to three weeks to finish SEXUAL ｘｘｘｘｘ！. While HURRY UP MODE¹¹ only took us around ten days, including mixing. Because we really did it like, “One, two, and~”. We’d just fix the singing and the guitar solos a little bit after that. That’s why albums like SEXUAL ｘｘｘｘｘ！, HURRY UP MODE were pretty much live studio sessions where we recorded together.
――And then it got more and more experimental. Like Six/Nine¹².
T: That was never-ending though. And multiple things were going on at the same time already. Like, there was a studio for rhythm players to record, another studio for the mixing. It felt like the early stages of production were going on simultaneously with the late stages.
――For this album, did Yagami-san have any expectation of how it would turn out?
T: Nope. It’s always the case where I can’t really tell when it’s Imai or Hide filling in the vocals first. It’s only after Acchan (Sakurai) has written and sung the lyrics when I’ll feel, “Ah, this is good,” for the first time. Because the song would somehow sound like a song by some UK indie band with Imai’s substitute singing (lol).
――I get the feeling that would sound cool too, though (lol). So here, I’d like to have Yagami-san comment on each song [on the new album]. Skipping the instrumental track in the beginning, let’s start with the first actual song on the album, SCARECROW.
T: There’s this kind of half-time feeling and then at the chorus or something it turns into an 8-beat, doesn’t it? Both share the same tempo but we’ve deliberately changed the nuance of it. During the half-time beat I drummed as heavily as possible, and when things speed up, I tried to make it feel like we’re charging all the way to the very edge. I used a clicker so the tempo is actually the same. That’s why I say that it’s just the nuance that changed.
――Next, Warukyuure no Kikou (Ride of the Valkyries). How did you bring out heaviness when you drum?
T: In short, by holding the sticks in reverse and getting the rimshot in deep. And also changing the drumming position. If I want to keep things light, I can just hit the edge anyway.
――So that means you drummed soft for the next song, Sayonara Shelter -destroy and regenerate-Mix.
T: That’s right, I didn’t use a lot of strength.
――The album version includes violins. What are your thoughts on that?
T: She’s good, isn’t she? Sacchan (Sachi) from Kokushoku (Sumire). Genius Sacchan. It’s just amazing, her ability to improvise.
――[The melody] wasn’t written out on a score, right?
T: I believe not.
――Next, Ai no Harem (Harem of Love).
T: It’s a song by Hide, but the rap bit in the middle of it was interesting. Because that’s exactly how he sung it in the demo tape, as a substitute.
――Ahh. So you can hear Hoshino-san rapping in the demo tape.
T: That’s right. And I think I might’ve used real leather for this song. Cow. That’s often the case with Hide’s songs. There’s a song, Luna Park¹³ previously where I used real leather too.
――Aren’t snare heads usually made of plastic?
T: Not actually. Using real leather would make a rounder sound. I heard there used to be tons of varieties. Like pigskin, sheepskin. That’s what I learnt when I had that dialogue with Inomata Takeshi-san. I asked him what kinds there were, and he said cowhide was the most expensive, but when they didn’t have the money for it, they’d buy horse or sheep. But pigskin has porse so the moment a brush or something gets in, it would rip in an instant. That’s why they try to avoid pigskin but he still would if he didn’t have enough money. Then he’d have to deal with it breaking a lot.
――Such a topic feels like you shared the secret behind the sound of the drums in this song. Because I think it has a unique warmth to it. Next, Campanella Hanataba wo Kimi ni (Bouquet for you). The tune here kind of lightens things up here.
T: But I bet no one ever thought that such a tune would carry words like “machine gun” and “missile” in its lyrics (lol).
――It’s not something you’d expect when you hear the music.
T: That’s why I had fun drumming it (lol).
――With the way these lyrics would surprise people (lol). Next, THE FALLING DOWN. Isn’t it difficult to drum such a bouncy rock groove?
T: But it’s my own way of bouncy. It differs from person to person, doesn’t it? The nuance. This is my style.
――So you just had to bring in your own groove.
T: Or rather, it’s the only thing I can do. When it comes to this kind of a groove, the only way I can execute it is with my own nuance, right?
――Man, I think it’s a really cool groove, though. Up next, Taiyou to Icarus (The Sun and Icarus).
T: This, I decided to drum like I’m in a really good mood (lol). The melody feels like that, high spirited. The kind of feeling that makes me want to try and drum hard.
――Next, Boogie Woogie, an unexpected boogie rock song, but is this also the same style of groove that Yagami-san spoke about?
T: The riff kind of reminded me of (Led) Zeppelin though. That was how they played it with programming but I tweaked it into something I could easily drum. This is another song I thought had interesting lyrics.
――We also touched on it earlier, how it’s got true stories thrown in as well. Next, Mugen LOOP -IZORA- (Infinity LOOP). BUCK-TICK’s style of city pop.
T: Isn’t it great? I really like songs like these.
――Yagami-san enjoys city pop too?
T: I do. Think about it, I like artists like Yuming right from the start. I even liked (Yamashita) Tatsuro-san too. So when I was performing with the Carol cover band, I was covering Yuming and Tatsuro-san and all these other artists after everyone went home.
――So while drumming 8-beat songs, you were drumming 16-beat songs too.
T: That’s right. The very first album I bought by Tatsuro-san was MOONGLOW, and in it was a song called RAINY WALK. The drums on that song were by (Takahashi) Yukihiro-san. He just kept going “Zut-ta, su-tzu-tzu-tzu……” It was like torture. On and on and on. That was the kind of thing I practised.
――Repeating the same thing over and over; in other words, drumming developed through endurance. That was during your teens, right? Have you never had the thought that it’s boring while doing that?
T: I never did. I guess it’s ultimately because hearing studio musicians like them drum inspires me.
――I feel like I managed to glimpse the starting point of the Yagami groove. By the way, what do you think about Yokoyama Kazutoshi-san’s remix¹⁴ of Mugen LOOP for the single?
T: I received a message from the staff asking, “How’s it?” and after I gave it a listen, I replied, “Tell Yoko-chan that I said it’s excellent.”
――Sounds very Yagami-san (lol). Next, Noraneko Blue (Stray Cat Blue).
T: I thought it sounds kind of like reggae, in the beginning. With Imai’s singing.
――The jazz 4-beat you drummed sounds so sophisticated, it’s really cool.
T: I really had to work in the ambience for this one.
――It doesn’t sound muted.
T: Actually, I generally don’t do muting all that much. Like maybe this tom drum or that, no, I don’t really [mute anything].
――Next, we have Hizumi.
T: For this song, in terms of nuance, it’s like a “Come, come on, come have a look” kind of vibe. I suppose that’s why I tried to go with a rather bleary feel. For the drum.
――Deliberately cheapening the feel.
T: I went into a tiny little booth, enclosed the bass drum and made it super dead.
――On top of that, you also made sure that the bass drum was tight, right?
T: That’s right. And that there’s no interference. There’s actually quite a bit of that. Like I’d use the one that won’t make the cymbals sound.
――And, excluding the last instrumental track, the final song on the album is Na mo Naki Watashi (I, Nameless).
T: It’s got the Okinawan scale, right? The tuning I did for this song was pretty close to what I use in live performances.
――I could really see this song being performed live and I suppose one of the reasons for that might have to do with the drum tuning you mentioned. By the way, do you change the way you think about how you drum depending on whether it’s a live show or a recording session?
T: I don’t. Because in our case, we aim to recreate the songs. So it’s like making all the right sounds in sequence.
――Don’t you seek the rhythmic swings that come from the roller coaster of emotions that can only come from live performances?
T: Instead, I actually can’t. Because now, I’m listening to click tracks for all the songs. And the lighting is also coordinated too. It’s really become a whole show. That’s why I’m more than happy to listen to it. The clicks. Since I’ve grown used to it recently (lol).
――That can’t be. I’m sure you used clicks even 35 years ago, right?
T: Using clicks, the first time was around the time we released Dress¹⁵.
――You have an upcoming tour¹⁶ for this album, and for this tour, Yagami-san’s priority is to focus recreating the source music, right?
T: That’s right. I want to execute it well, though. Right now, I’m thinking about what I should use, but I recently bought snares. Again. The super sensitive rim-clamped ones*.
――The Ludwig ones? The type of snare where the snare wires protrude from the head.
T: Yeah. From the 1970s. You know Drum City? I went there, and somehow, they told me that they procured it for me. So I bought it from them, can’t be helped, right? (Lol)
――It’s nice that you’re excited about having bought a new snare even at 60.
T: The first super sensitive I got was a gift that came with the Vistalite drum set that I bought. The rim-clamped one. But I’m not very familiar with the Vistalite, its nuance, you know? Just as I was thinking about buying a proper one, it so happened that I went to the store and it was there, I thought, “Ah, they said they procured this for me.” To start with, I was using Pearl’s full-face snare when we debuted. That’s why I feel great drumming on a rim-clamped snare for the first time in years. I’m going back to my roots at 60, ahahaha!
¹ Aku no Hana ＝ Their 4th album. Released February 1990.
² Kurutta Taiyou ＝Their 5th album. Released February 1991.
³ SEXUAL ｘｘｘｘｘ！ ＝Their first major album. Released November 1987.
⁴ Tokyo Dome＝Where “BUCK-TICK Phenomenon (バクチク現象 / BUCK-TICK Genshou)” was held on 29 December 1989.
⁵ Seibu Stadium ＝Where “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was held on 2 August 1990. Now named Belluna Dome.
⁶ Yokohama Arena ＝Where “BUCK-TICK 2022 “THE PARADE” ～35th anniversary～” was held on 23〜24 September 2022.
⁷ Tour＝“BUCK-TICK TOUR THE BEST 35th anniv.” which was held between October and December 2022 (some shows postponed).
⁸ Budokan＝Where “BUCK-TICK 2022 TOUR THE BEST 35th anniv. FINALO in Budokan” was held on 29 December 2022.
⁹ New album＝Their 23rd album, 異空 -IZORA-. Released 12 April.
¹⁰ 25th anniversary box＝Aku no Hana -Completeworks- which was released in February 2015.
¹¹ HURRY UP MODE＝Their indie album. Released April 1987.
¹² Six/Nine＝Their 8th album. Released May 1995.
¹³ Luna Park＝Recorded on their 38th single, Datenshi. Released January 2020.
¹⁴ Remix＝Mugen LOOP -LEAP- which was recorded on their 42nd single, Mugen LOOP. released 22 March.
¹⁵ Dress＝Their 6th single. Released May 1993.
¹⁶ Tour＝“BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA-” which commences on 19 April.
* I actually have a really hard time trying to explain/translate what the Japanese call 全面当たり (zenmen atari – full-faced/rim-clamped?) which is the specific type Toll said he bought.
全面当たり refers to setting up the snare wires such that the snare wires protrude from the bottom head of the snare. This is mostly used for classic models.
内面当たり (naimen atari) is refers to setting up snare wires such that the whole length of it fits within the diameter of the snare drum. It’s the popular setting these days.
Apparently there is no differentiating term for these two set-ups in English. 内面当たり appears to be the standard assumption.
For a visual representation of the difference between the two, click here. (Left is 内面当たり, right is 全面当たり)
Full『異空 -IZORA-』Song Review
異空 -IZORA- has 14 songs including the two opening and ending instrumental tracks.
To complement the interviews with each of the five members of the band, do read these commentaries for each of the tracks as well.
Text ◎ Okubo Yuka
- QUANTUM Ⅰ
An opening sound effect track that sounds like the opening to the doors of a new chapter following the band’s 35 debut anniversary. A strong vitality can be felt from the power of each particle of sound.
Listeners who approach this album with the impression of “light” that the preceding singles, Taiyou to Icarus and Mugen LOOP carried would feel like this dark song has suddenly shoved them into the gloom. Lodged in the ground and unable to run away, the scarecrow sings of loneliness and despair. From the very beginning, the guitar arpeggio appears at key points in the song, evoking melancholy while the heavily reverberating bass resonates with despair.
- ワルキューレの騎行 [Warukyuure no Kikou / Ride of Valkyries]
A solemn and theatrical track. In old Norse mythology, valkyries are “maidens who select slain warriors”. Be it life or death, good or evil, only a fine line draws the distinction between each side. Lyrics that seem to flounder and struggle against absurdity leave a deep impression. The brisk, steady rhythm of the bass drum sounds like the regimented advance of calvary footsteps. The scale that the orchestra brings in the middle of the song is also nothing short of emotional.
- さよならシェルター destroy and regenerate-Mix [Sayonara Shelter]
The album version of Sayonara Shelter which was first released in September 2022 through the band’s 35th anniversary commemorative best-of concept album “CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv.”. The addition of violins played by Kokushoku Sumire’s Sachi brings a sense of greenery and the feeling of light raining down to the song, adding the nuance of hope to the subtitle “destroy and regenerate”.
- 愛のハレム [Ai no Haremu / Harem of Love]
A mid-tempo track with its foundations in dub. The exotic rhythm which continues from the intro, and words like “Casablanca” and “Marrakesh” all hint towards the setting of this tale; Morocco. The second half of the song is the very heart of this track which creates an aura of indescribable foreboding with its narrative-style vocals and whispers chasing after it.
- Campanella 花束を君に [Campanella Hanataba wo Kimi ni / A Bouquet for You]
A traditional pop song that starts with scat and a jaunty guitar riff. Lyrics which spell war through the eyes of an innocent young boy have been stripped of superfluous words and are frankly simple. With its startlingly straightforward words sung in the manner of a sprightly young child along to a cheerful melody, this is one song that depicts the times we live in.
- THE FALLING DOWN
The only song in this album with both music and lyrics composed by Imai Hisashi, it’s got a bold, heavy guitar riff playing to a shuffle beat. It’s got a simple structure made out of a verse and a chorus sung by an angel falling from grace. With Imai’s rap-style singing in the verses and Sakurai singing as if he were almost shouting, this is a track that is bound to shine live.
- 太陽とイカロス [Taiyou to Icarus / The Sun and Icarus]
Sparkly sounding synth sounds and a catchy melody filled with momentum, this track sounds so fresh that it could almost rewrite the image that BUCK-TICK has had all this time. Yet at the same time, it tugs at your heartstrings because of how fleeting this optimism is. Inspired by the myth of Icarus, the lyrics are nothing short of excellence with the way it intricately describes the wavering emotions of the protagonist as he flies for the heavens with destiny weighing on his shoulders. I hope that listeners will pay close attention to the lyrics which place focus on each and every notation in this song.
- Boogie Woogie
Born from a striking guitar riff, this song is as its title suggests; a boogie track. The effective sound scape and theremin-enhanced interludes were impressive too. Lyrics which incorporate truths like stories from the band’s early days and the name of a bar the members frequented make the song all the more fun and dramatic.
- 無限 LOOP -IZORA- [Mugen LOOP / Infinity LOOP]
The album version feels lighter compared to the version of this song that was released in the preceding single. It begins with just one small bar of a synth riff and that riff loops on from the start of the song to the very end. The refreshing music inspires a resort-like atmosphere and is accompanied by singing that sounds beautiful yet somewhat haunting, like something delusive. Sakurai’s high-pitched chorus is another highlight to look out for.
- 野良猫ブルー [Noraneko Blue / Stray Cat Blue]
A jazzy, bluesy number that effectively employs swinging drums and the timbres of a piano and a double bass. The story of a man reeling at a stray cat living its life freely somehow gives off the atmosphere of some backwater suburb in the Showa era. The desperation of the trilling vocals mixed with the raucous wild piano that comes in towards the end is especially delicious.
- ヒズミ [Hizumi]
A riff that came from the intertwining of two guitars and a double bass tinged in melancholy has created an unsettling and dismal worldview. The complicated emotions and distressed cries of a protagonist who has had no choice but to distort themself are sung along to a tune that moves on with indifference. The outro is heartrending too, with the distortion of the guitars in the outro sounding like an explosion of suppressed emotions.
- 名も無きわたし [Na mo Naki Watashi / I, Nameless]
A ballad with a gorgeous Japanese melody. The arpeggio that goes on throughout the strong sounds ephemerally beautiful, like dancing flower petals fluttering down and scattering. A single, nameless stalk of flower is the main character here telling of its small joys in everyday life, its encounters and farewells. Despite its short life, it lives with no regret, blooming as wildly as it can to the best of its ability. It is such a message which resounds in our hearts, quietly encouraging us.
- QUANTUM Ⅱ
The ending sound effect track that closes off this album. “QUANTUM” is defined as “an integer multiple of a unit quantity” but the keyboards which enter in the middle to play the single-note melody also invokes the “Quantum Prayer”, bringing the message of a “wish” with it.