Ongaku to Hito
November 2023

Imai Hisashi
AFTERSHOWS

Cut through this Endless Darkness¹
Interview with Imai Hisashi

text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photos by Yamauchi Hiroe, Aoki Hayaka

 

The final performances of BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空 -IZORA- happened over two days, on the 17th and the 18th of September at Gunma Music Center. There’s a lot of significance behind concluding their tour and closing off their 35th anniversary year which started with a 2-day event at Yokohama Arena last year in this hometown venue where the band used to often perform; it’s a preface indicating that this is not an “ending” but a “beginning”.

And three days after the final show was the 21st of September. That’s right, on this very anniversary day marking the band’s debut, I interviewed guitarist Imai Hisashi. Rather than fixate on the concluded tour, he’s already looking ahead, feeling his way to his next vision. This is precisely why the last song of their final show had to be New World. The 異空 -IZORA- that Imai speaks of, the tour, and also a formidable hope towards something new; these are what he shared with us in great detail.

 

I couldn’t wrap my head around what kind of album this is
But I just knew that it was nothing like anything we’ve done before
Then we started touring and I started to get a feel of the response

ーーIt just occurred to me that today is the 21st of September. That’s BUCK-TICK’s debut anniversary day, right!

Imai (I): Ah, huh…… Congrats.

ーーThat’s my line (lol). While there’s still one rescheduled Nagoya show left, for now, the 異空 -IZORA- tour has come to an end. I think the concerts were exquisitely executed and they really showed us the album’s world, but I’d like to hear Imai-san’s perspective on it.

I: I composed a bunch of different things myself and, you know, in the beginning, I couldn’t wrap my head around what kind of album this is at all. But I just knew that it was nothing like anything we’ve done before. Then we started touring and I started to get a feel of the [audience’s] response, and I guess you could say, the more shows we played, the more I got into it?…… Yeah. I just felt really strongly that it’s an album like nothing we’ve done before.

ーーAs you mentioned in [past] interviews, the concert was structured to start with the first track of the album, QUANTUM Ⅰ and end with the last track, QUANTUM Ⅱ. Your first show at Hachioji barely had any MC segments, neither was there member introductions or a drum solo.

I: Ah, right, that’s what the very first one was like? Not doing the drum solo was most likely an idea that came from Sakurai-san (vocalist Sakurai Atsushi), probably. This time, it was Sakurai-san who posed the suggestion that since we’ll basically do away with member introductions, we should start the encore with a drum solo.

ーーI see. But I felt that structure coupled with the content made this concert a thorough approach to bringing the world of the album to life.

I: That, definitely. But it’s also because we gradually got a better grasp of it as time went on. When the first show concluded, I thought, this is unlike anything we’ve done before. I wasn’t sure what it would turn into but as the shows went on, things got more and more interesting. And the [audience’s] reception was good too, right?

ーーIn it, the character “Hizumi-chan” takes over Sakurai-san and starts taking on a life of its own. There’s no arguing that was the highlight of this tour.

I: It didn’t feel like that in the beginning though. But it really is amazing that Sakurai-san gets up on stage and puts on such a performance on his own volition as a vocalist, isn’t it?

ーーThat’s one of the things everyone goes along with as long as it’s what Sakurai-san wants to do, right?

I: Yeah. I don’t [say] I want him to do something in particular or anything like that. I never have.

ーーI think the timing of this tour happens right when the COVID-19 pandemic has settled and the audience can cheer, when concerts are going back to normal. How has the response been?

I: As expected, I got the feeling that people haven’t quite gotten used to it or something in the beginning, but they were reserved, you know? I guess everyone was watching us with the vibe that they weren’t too sure what they should do. Things haven’t completely gone back to the way they were originally but we’re slowly getting there.

ーーAnd the final shows of this tour were held in BUCK-TICK’s home town, at Gunma Music Centre.

I: Those two days were really fun. At the very end, it finally sank in that this is how everything ended up. It was an album that was nothing like what we had done, but I didn’t foresee that this is what it would become either. As I said earlier, I couldn’t grasp what it would become, up until the very end.

ーーI wonder why.

I: Not because it was influenced by something else but while composing the songs, first, my PC broke.

ーーAh, right (lol).

I: So my music composing environment at home changed, you see? I wasn’t familiar with the new system and I couldn’t use the workspace I set up for my work PC, so I ended up having to compose in a really really inconvenient space (lol).

ーーNot at the basement work den where your PC was set up?

I: Not there, but at a low table near the sofa at the back (lol). I set the system up there but since it’s on a low table, it was a bit of a stoop while working so I had to hunch while programming (lol).

ーーHahahahahahaha.

I: It was sooo uncomfortable (lol). Then, we initially wanted to release two CDs so our original goal was something else entirely too. That’s why I say that 異空 -IZORA- is [an album] that didn’t have anything; not a plan nor a theme nor even a concept. And we just went along with the idea that we’ll keep recording whatever we made. Then halfway through came the decision to make it one CD so even I couldn’t really make sense of what kind of work this would be after we put all the songs we recorded together.

ーーSo starting with QUANTUM Ⅰ and ending with QUANTUM Ⅱ was how you gave it some coherence.

I: Yeah. And while we were performing, I guess I found myself understanding better what [the album] was supposed to be.

ーーThat’s really how it went, right? Also, going a little off topic, since you dropped the idea of releasing two CDs, what happened to the unreleased songs and the half-recorded songs that didn’t make the cut?

I: With those, we’d probably have another look at them or redo them, I think.

ーーA relook!

I: If they were already recorded in full, I might think they’re OK as they are, but there are only a few tracks that has Yuta’s (Higuchi Yutaka) bass and Hide’s (Hoshino Hidehiko) guitar recorded, and don’t have my guitar or Sakurai-san’s voice recorded yet. So I’m thinking I could incorporate the ideas that I’m getting now and the things I want to try in these songs.

At first, we planned to end the same way we did with the tour shows
But I thought, we always play New World at the end of these milestone shows

ーーI see. So, was it always part of the plan to celebrate the final at Gunma Music Centre?

I: You could say we wanted some sort of closure after all. And if we were to do that, then our hometown’s the place, I suppose. There were a number of different venues in the running, but Gunma Music Centre is one where we will almost always play whenever we go on tour anyway. Since it’s getting older and people are saying that soon it wouldn’t be able to host concerts anymore, we decided that it was probably a good idea to do this here and now. Besides, it’s also our anniversary.

ーーI see.

I: Back in my high school days, I went there to watch something for a school event. So that’s exactly how long it’s been around. The changing rooms are small, and it gets really really cold in winter (lol). But it’s nice to perform there after once in a while.

ーーYou’ve also switched out quite a few songs from the tour’s regular setlist.

I: I think we put in more songs that weren’t from this album.

ーーAmong them was New World which came at the very end of the encore. I think that made a huge impact.

I: It wasn’t in the original setlist, was it? Everyone brought up the songs they wanted to perform, we picked a few to change things up, and we planned to end the show with Na mo Naki Watashi, same as the tour. But we always play New World at the end of these milestone shows though…… that’s what I felt. So I requested this song and ICONOCLASM, and said, why don’t we play New World at the end.

ーーHaving New World at the end not only wraps up 異空 -IZORA-, but it also creates the sense that the band is start up again from that point on, doesn’t it?

I: I just thought that it’d be so good. When you think about it, even the venue is a place in our hometown that we’ve always played at since ages ago too. It’s great, isn’t it?

ーーThe way it brings out memories of how the five of you felt 35 years ago?

I: Yeah…… Maybe that’s the feeling.

ーーSo the tour has ended, it’s been announced that there’s a documentary movie in production and that the annual Nippon Budokan show will be happening, but do you, Imai-san, have a vision of what you’re going to do next already?

I: I’m really getting heaps of the “I want to create something” feeling.

ーーActually, I want to hear about the contents of the “heaps” (lol).

I: I don’t know exactly what they are but I’m thinking it’d be great if we could do something new again that feels different. Like, I think I can create something like that again.

ーーWith BUCK-TICK?

I: Yeah.

ーーI always say this but that’s the amazing thing [about you guys]. If you wanted to do something that feels different, you’d more likely work with different musicians instead of the same band members, which I think would make it easier to get a hold of that change though.

I: Nah, if we can do it, I want to give it a try with this and that. Right when we just started going on tour, Raymond (Raymond Watts / PIG) came to Japan and together with Sakurai-san, we met up, went for food and drinks, and got buzzed with talk about doing SCHWEIN again. At the time we didn’t really have the time and energy to think about doing that properly yet so we stopped the conversion there and told him to wait a bit until we wrapped up the tour.

ーーWhat did Raymond say?

I: He said, “Let’s do a SCHWEIN US tour.” (Lol)

ーーBefore the album was released, SCHAFT also came up in conversation when we were having drinks after the dialogue interview with Takeshi-kun (Ueda Takeshi / AA=).

I: Right. So, you see, I’ve always harboured the desire to continue activities with SCHAFT and SCHWEIN and Lucy. But it’s all about timing with all of them. At the same time, I want to do whatever I can do while I can. But I hate being so busy that I’m pressed for time, and more than that, the band I want to work on the most is BUCK-TICK, you see.

ーーI really wonder why you feel so strongly about BUCK-TICK’s activities.

I: Hurhur. I forgot (lol).

ーーBut obviously things aren’t the same as they were 35 years ago. Oddly enough, even though everyone’s grown older and even started their own families, everyone’s still dedicated to the one same goal. And that’s really difficult to have, I think.

I: But our roots have never changed. I don’t think it’s something that can be changed all that easily.

ーーWhen I reflect on myself, I feel like a lot has changed. I realise that I can’t dedicate a hundred percent of myself to magazine work because other than that, I still have to deal with my family and children, the company, and management of it too.

I: Isn’t that an occupational difference? It’s probably not the same.

ーーSo what’s different for a band?

I: We’re more selfish² (lol). We do of course take into consideration things like we can and cannot do, our families. We do that, but we have freedom, you know? There’s no rigidity. Because what a band needs are things like artistic qualities and creativity. Things like these, you can’t really use force to squeeze something out or we’d end up getting constrained and stifled, you know?

ーーI see.

I: All’s good as long as we can enjoy ourselves. Probably because there are many different ways to have fun. Because it’s not about how long we spend, but the quality [of what we do].

ーーThat’s true.

I: That’s why I want to have fun as a band. While we can and are doing it. Because I don’t want to find myself one day going, “Ahー I should’ve done that,” and regret.

ーーDo you feel distant within the band? Did that change?

I: Of course it changed. Because it’s no longer just the band [in our lives]. But when it comes to the band, what hasn’t changed is our dedication to creating.

ーーAny interest in doing concerts that recreate albums, or re-recording stuff?

I: Hm…… Like?

ーーLike a concert where the main segment is made up of only songs from Six/Nine or something like that. That kind of an approach.

I: Why would we do that?

ーーThere are a lot of bands who have been at it for a long time and aren’t there people saying that they want to hear the vibe of this album [from the past] or hear you do songs that you rarely play? Or even doing this just to generate some buzz. Things like that?

I: Huーm……… Boring.

ーーHahahahahahaha.

I: Although it might be interesting if we went with the approach of going all out to change the arrangement [of our songs] like what we did with Koroshi no Shirabe (This is NOT Greatest Hits) (note: their self-cover album released in 1992). But I did try to envision such a concert before. For example, what would it be like if we did a concert in the world of 13-Kai wa Gekkou and did it like that throughout? I gave it some thought but…… I think I’d really hate it.

ーーHahahahahahaha!

I: Like, it’d make me gloomy, I think. Because that would definitely make me want to do something new.

ーーAfter being in the same band for so long, others tend to do those reprisal concerts or do re-recordings to find some change in perspective or a breath of fresh air, but that’s not how it works [for you], right?

I: I think our old songs are things that belong to those days so that’s  enough. Even if one day I find myself thinking we should try recreating things, it wouldn’t be a direct reproduction and in the end, I feel like it’d just end up becoming all tied up in gothic nuances.

ーーSo instead of doing that, you’d rather go with the approach of doing whatever catches your fancy.

I: New things are always more fun.

ーーThat’s why you want to create something new.

I: That’s right. Which is why after this, we still have the live house tour and all but I want to start on the next thing already. And when I think about that, the ones that can bring it to life are BUCK-TICK after all.

ーーI would think so.

I: We’ll soon start creating next year so.

ーーHave you spoken to the band?

I: Not yet (lol). But we’ll definitely create.

 

 

Notes:

¹ Lyrics from New World: 無限の闇 切り裂いてゆけ (Mugen no yami kiri saite yuke)

² More than just “selfish”, 勝手 (katte) also carries the nuance of “doing whatever one pleases” and a certain degree of “freedom”.

 

 

 

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AFTERSHOWS

2023.09.21
Imai Hisashi BUCK-TICK

Since you’ve wrapped up your tour, let’s do an interview — that was the suggestion. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of conducting an interview over drinks when it comes to BUCK-TICK has recently been lost. But just when we thought that this tradition had come to an end, Imai raised the request, “…… Let’s go drink!”. We even went to the ramen place that we often frequented in the middle of the night back then, and before we knew it, seven hours had gone by. That’s right. This is how interviews with Imai go…… But without [Imai] even turning into a Jizo statue* halfway, the party ended before the last train. To Kanemitsu, this might just be a [sign of] significant improvement [on Imai’s part], or perhaps, something entirely revolutionary? Could this mean that next time, [Imai would hold up] until the last train before leaving too!?

 

 

Notes:

* Oftentimes, Imai would space out and fall asleep pretty early on during drinking parties. When he spaces out, people say he’s a Jizo statue.

 

 

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Translation: Yoshiyuki
Scans: Yoshiyuki

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