Feature: What are your favourite things?
Après-guerre Reissue Vol.1
Der Zibet celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. As the vocalist of the band, ISSAY’s presence is inimitable. With this issue’s theme surrounding our interviewees’ “favourite things”, we take a deep dive into his mind and catch a glimpse of a surprising side of him through conversation.
Der Zibet、KA.F.KA、ISSAY meets DOLLY
Active with Der Zibet, KA.F.KA, ISSAY meets DOLLY among a wide variety of activities, ISSAY’s is ultimately a vocalist with an unwavering character whose presence radiates through his performances which incorporate pantomime and, of course, his singing.
ISSAY OFFICIAL H.P.:
Der Zibet OFFICIAL H.P.:
New album, Bessekai
―― Releasing an album this year, in the year of your 30th anniversary, did you take any special notice of things like milestones or turning points during production?
ISSAY (I): I think I’d be lying if I said no, but it’s not as if we paid all that much attention to it either. It was sometime around the end of last year when the band had drinks together while talking about the concept of the album. After that, we only decided on the album’s name after the start of this year. First came the concept, then came the name. And only afterwards did we start to put the music together.
―― Does it mean that everyone has the common idea of another world that isn’t the one we live in?
I: To start, when we were discussing the concept, we decided that we won’t do anything that would get classified as indie, or too niche, or anything like that. Der Zibet has always been a band that is said to be “too niche” to begin with anyway, but we’ve released a few albums since our reunion, and we’re of course satisfied with them, but we feel that we’ve producing them in a friendly manner. And thought, isn’t it about time that we made something that featured our quirks in the limelight? Those were the sentiments that came first. Once we had that down, we started thinking about what exactly were Der Zibet’s quirks, and things like MONDE MOVIE and MONDE FILM and MONDE MUSIC started coming to mind. Which led us to wondering, what’s the definition of MONDE in the first place? Cutting to the chase, it’s something like another world (bessekai / 別世界). As we started talking about how it seems to imply something that isn’t of this world but rather of another, we started to get the idea that Bessekai might be a good idea for an album title.
―― Hearing that gives me the impression that you’re only talking about going back to being “too niche” because this is for your 30th anniversary.
I: I don’t think the other band members feel this way, but for me, personally, I see our situation as a band from 1985, who made the type of music we did back then, thinking about what we want to create in the year 2015. Obviously, 30 years have passed, times have changed and even we have changed in our ways of working and all that, so all things considered, what are we going to do in 2015? What are we going to do now with the same underlying feelings that we had when we first started the band? That’s what I personally kept thinking about.
―― Apart from going in the niche or indie direction, does [this album] have any other tangible differences from your other recent works?
I: Rather than some strong, pointed intention to bring things towards this direction, we simply freed ourselves from our shackles. [Normally,] if I think that something might be difficult to grasp, I’d make small changes to it, right? So that’s something I decided to stop doing this time around. Even when we have [jam] sessions among ourselves as a band, we’d usually try our best to eliminate the thinking that certain parts of our music should be made more easily acceptable. No matter how niche we are, or how much people say we’re indie or whatever, we’re a band who’s attuned to pop, so no matter what, I think our melodies are pop-ish. That’s why we felt that it’s not possible for us to do anything ridiculously outlandish.
―― I also have the impression that as a band, Der Zibet is pop, but this album-
I: Is easy listening? (Lol)
―― -was somehow overwhelming to me from the second track onwards, when METRO was followed by Mr.Bad Trip and then Toki no Boumeisha (時の亡命者).
I: Because that’s the kind of flow we intended with the track order. If we wanted [the album] to sound like pop, we wouldn’t do this (dry laugh).
―― That’s true. So how do you feel about the work resulting from freeing yourself of the shackles of making yourselves easy to understand?
I: There’s quite a big difference when it comes to the lyrics. How do I explain this simply. Say, for example, there’s a second character in the lyrics. In previous albums, I think this second character would be given form and made visible. I’d write “you” and write it all down so the listener would know what kind of person this second character is. But this time, we completely ignored all of that. And we additionally also did our best to refrain from writing typical love songs. Love songs are easy to make sense of. Very easy. That’s what we wanted to rid ourselves of as much as possible. We just want to make the world we envision even more blatantly visible the way it is, you know? And, you can see it, can’t you? You just can’t help it (lol).
―― Because you show us the worlds that could be seen and felt with each song just as they are.
I: Exactly. That’s what it is in a nutshell. That’s why you can no longer describe it with the words ‘pop music’, right? But from each and every one of the songs, you can probably see different worlds in them. I think you’ll be able to see them clearly. But I don’t think there’s anything more to it than simply giving us a view of the worlds that the protagonist steps into. That’s the kind of work it is.
―― Going back to what you initially said about the concept, does this mean that MONDE MOVIE is one of the keys to this album?
I: No, not particularly. It’s just that when we were discussing Bessekai’s concept, the music that HIKARU presented was an instrumental piece. I thought it might be interesting to put lyrics to it, so I did that without anyone asking. That also happened to be the moment in time when I was trying to figure out what kind of lyrics I should write, so this ended up being the very first set of lyrics that I wrote for this album. And once this was done, I was easily able to compose the lyrics to the rest of the songs. For me, there’s this tunnel when I’m writing lyrics and if I don’t go through it, I won’t be able to write. The tunnel this time around wasn’t all that long, but I wrote the very first set of lyrics which were for MONDE MOVIE, without any thought at all and after that, it got easier and easier for me to write. It’s not that I want to do it all in this manner, but I just think it was a really good thing that this was how it started.
―― How did the recording go?
I: Smoothly. I used a hand mic to record my singing this time. I mentioned that there’s one mic that I really favour because I really like how it I sound recorded when I sing into it, and HIKARU said okay, sure. Then, let’s record with you singing into the the mic in your hand. It’s just so comfortable to sing with a hand mic, you know? The last time I sang into a hand mic was when we recorded our second album (dry laugh). Isn’t it nice to not have to worry about how and where you’re standing?
―― It’s the kind of album that makes me think of entering a world while you’re standing still and singing though.
I: Because there’s no song to sing unless I immerse myself in that world.
―― Not that. I was thinking of a more physical sort of world.
I: Like darkening the room? Personally, I generally do keep it darkened but not so much recently, I think. Because I want to make it relaxing, you know? If it’s set up ahead of time, I think it’ll just turn into something that makes my stomach hurt more. Anyway, I just didn’t want to be bothered by unnecessary things any more. I wanted to lose the tension in my shoulders. Does that make it easier to understand? Besides, don’t we use hand mics for live performances too anyway?
―― I just can’t imagine what kind of a live performance this album will yield. Although, I’d expect that there’s some form of live show unique to this album.
I: Well, it isn’t exactly an album with much leeway, is it?
―― Now that the album is complete and you’ve released it, do you think it’s turned out to be what you had imagined when you initially decided on the concept?
I: What we thought of in the beginning was in no way defined. It was something more ambiguous. That’s why it’d be wrong of me to say that we’ve created exactly what we envisioned. We are satisfied with how we executed it; the way it’s turned out with the kind of album name and concept it has. It’s a very experimental album for us from that perspective.
―― So you’re satisfied with the results of your experiment. What do you like about this fulfilling work of yours?
I: I guess I’m satisfied with the fact that it’s got quite a hefty presence as an album. I’m not talking about how it’d turn out in a live performance, but just the way it is as an album. I’m happy with it.
―― When you talk about going home, you’re referring to returning to your actual hometown where you grew up, right?
I: Literally what it generally means. I go back a few times a year. Although that includes occasions when I go back because I need to attend to something on this day and that day, regardless of my personal intentions.
―― Do you feel more relaxed or liberated when you go back?
I: I don’t. I think when I was about 27 or 28, before then, it felt like the city was telling me ‘Welcome home’ every time I got off the train and stood in the station. But after a certain point, it stopped saying that. It was then when I realised, “Ah, I don’t belong to this city anymore.”
―― What do you do when you go home?
I: I check.
―― Check what?
I: My own pain, for example. It’s a city where a river flows. When I go there, I can check on the pain that I felt from back then. Whatever the time, whether midnight or midday, I’d go to the beach and zone out while staring at the sea, and check on my past self who used to watch the sea like this too. I check and make sure that the person I was back then is still in this body of mine.
―― Is that because you want to stay the way you are?
―― I’m getting the impression that this is connected to your being a performer.
I: There’s no doubt that it is related. I need to drop by home, make my rounds and visit each key spot, and check how this sea looks to me at this point in time.
―― Do you like rose gardens?
I: I’ll go once or twice a year. Usually, I’d visit one in Tokyo.
―― I’m definitely very much into the idea of ISSAY-san with roses, but why rose gardens?
I: It’s fun, for some reason (smiles). It feels like I’m on a leisure trip. But I haven’t been able to see the spring or autumn roses. But when I was in Kamakura for business the other day, I went to the Kamakura Museum of Literature and there happened to be a rose garden there so I took photos (smiles).
―― Do roses mean something special to ISSAY-san?
I: That never crossed my mind. But don’t they make you feel, like “whoa” when they’re in full bloom? It makes me feel as if le spectre de la rose from that ballet might be in there somewhere. Like they inspire dreamy fantasies. Although, the same goes for cherry blossoms too. Because I feel a thrill in my blood when I go to places where cherry blossoms are blooming all over, you know? It’s embedded in Japanese DNA. I go cherry blossom viewing too.
―― You’re surprisingly fond of taking leisure trips.
I: I love them. I just don’t think of taking them often. I actually like man-made places and sights. Like places where buildings are all lined up together. I feel like the city is breathing when I see the buildings’ rooftop lights shine and flicker. I love it.
―― And in all of that, you just happen to adore roses.
I: Yes. I’d go and look at the sea. I adore roses. And cherry blossoms. Those are the kinds of things I love.