Vol.32 Takahiro Mizushima & A9 Shou - A Talk (Part 2) -
One year on from the first staging of “Sakuraikku Smile ‘16”, we bring you this interview-style article featuring voice actor, Takahiro Mizushima, and visual-kei rock band vocalist, Shou (A9), who met through the late contents producer, Takamasa Sakurai. This installment continues from the previous article Vol.31! (*For more info on the event, check out episode #20 of this column!)
>> Click here for part 1 of the interview >> TEAM SAKUSAKU presents - Favorite Collections - Vol.31 Takahiro Mizushima & A9 Shou - A Talk (Part 1) -!
I Looked at Japanese Pop Culture from a Global Perspective and I Knew What I had to do
Takahiro Mizushima (hereafter referred to as Mizushima): As a voice actor I mainly work with anime and games, and I think that one of the characteristics of Japanese animation is the sheer broadness of expression. For example, you have the range of voices of the voice actors, the intricacies of the anime itself, the acting…and it’s all this variation with each area adding its own color and flavor that I think gives it it’s inherently Japanese and pop-cultural qualities.
A9 Shou (hereafter referred to as Shou): The fact that there are so many people who say they want to listen to the original Japanese audio even though they can’t understand what is being said is probably a testament to how valued those qualities are as well. When you think how many English and Chinese speakers there are in the world, in a way, you could say that the survival of the Japanese language now rests on the shoulders of Japanese voice actors…!
Mizushima: Such responsibility!! (lol) But the power of music is also incredible and I think there are a lot of people out there who listen to Japanese music and Japanese groups, even though they don’t understand Japanese language, because they think it’s cool. Perhaps with visual-k especially, would you agree?
Shou: You’re right. In the past we saw ourselves as an underground movement that ran counter to all the popular Japanese artists of the time…but now when I look at Japanese bands from a global perspective, I see with full clarity the kind of band we should be. The visual impact of visual-k is a big part of that. It’s not quite glam and it’s not quite metal but it has a certain gaudiness like the characters you might see in an anime, and I think that weirdness that brings Japanese pop culture and visual-k together is an important factor to maintain so that people from overseas see it and think ‘That’s interesting. I don’t speak the language but I want more.’ And it’s all because I met Sakurai-san that my thinking has changed in this regard.
Voice actor and narrator. A friendly character who is popular with both men and women. A clear fresh voice, often plays quiet youngsters, as well as cool, handsome characters.
Major roles and appearances (among many others): Has voiced characters in TV anime, such as Jyojiro Takajyo in "Charlotte," Kotaro Takebayashi in "Ansatsu Kyoshitsu (Assassination Classroom)," Jun Shiratori in "Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (The Town Where Only I am Missing)," Rolo Lamperouge in "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2," Kouta Otoyama in "Uchu no Suteruvia (Stellvia of the Universe)," Hubert Ozwell in the game "Tales of Graces," Momota Asuma in "Boyfriend (Kari)," etc. Also provided dubbing in films such as "Sokyu no subaru" for the character of Li Chun Yun played by Shao-Qun Yu and "Chronicle" for Andrew Detmer played by Dane DeHaan. Radio work includes "Takahiro Muzushima / Ryohei Kimura ←SIDE BY SIDE→" and many more.
Since 2013 has been using the name "TAKA" for musical performances and activities.
Vocalist. Formed Alice Nine in 2004. They played the Budokan in 2011 and have been pro-active in their overseas activities, twice performing an Asia Tour. Adding to an already 14-year-long career, their new single “F＋IX＝YOU” produced by Ken (L'Arc-en-Ciel) was released on January 17, 2018.
"World peace through J-POP culture!"
TEAM SAKUSAKU is a playground for artists and creators of J-POP culture.
Our passions for the things we like is the pathway to PEACE.
Official Website: http://teamsakusaku.com
We're looking forward to receiving your applications!
Application period: Friday 19th January to Sunday 11th March 2018
Winner announced: Wednesday 14th March 2018
(The winner will receive an email direct from asianbeat.)
[TEAM SAKUSAKU presents - Favorite Collections -] Vol.31 Takahiro Mizushima & A9 Shou - A Talk (Part 1) -
[TEAM SAKUSAKU presents - Favorite Collections -] Vol.20 TEAM SAKUSAKU - Sakuraikku Smile '16 -
[TEAM SAKUSAKU presents - Favorite Collections -] Vol.6 A9 HIROTO - People Themselves Are Music -
[TEAM SAKUSAKU presents - Favorite Collections -] Vol.1 Takahiro Mizushima - Screaming Love for Hello! Project -
[Culture Watch] TEAM SAKUSAKU will be throwing their first PARTY on 19th December 2016!
[JAPAN! JAPAN! JAPAN!] #98 Alice Nine’s Tour of China will be a Decisive Test for Japan’s Music Industry
[Japan! Japan! Japan!] #81 The “Urbangarde×Uesaka Sumire” Collaboration! Genre is Irrelevant! Japan Pop Culture Carnival – Part 3
[JAPAN! JAPAN! JAPAN!] #48 Interview with “Alice Nine” Vocalist, Shou – Part Two
[JAPAN! JAPAN! JAPAN!] #47 Interview with “Alice Nine” Lead Vocalist, Shou - Part One
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Shou: Lately I’ve actually been thinking more about how to get people from overseas to come to Japan. Of course we will maintain the mentality that Sakurai-san imparted on us and do our best to keep visiting fans outside of Japan, and even though I’m aware of all the various hurdles, I also want to create something so good that people will want to come to Japan to see it. That’s the goal I’m working towards at the moment.
Mizushima: It’s important in our line of work not just to think about pursuing the overseas market once we’ve made it in Japan, but to think about the overseas market from the outset. Even if you do give a performance overseas, if you’re constantly thinking I’m going to them so they know who I am, or, I’m going to them so that one day they’ll come to me, then I’m sure you will expand you’re reach significantly.
Shou: I for one have fully come to realize the importance of making your way out into the world. There are a lot of overseas fans who come to Japan for A9 national tours, but what we learned was that the majority of these fans were from countries in Asia. And I think the reason we’re getting more people wanting to come to Japan to see us is because we went to them for our Asia Tour. The overall number is still relative small, though… It may not be ‘the world’ but as an Eastern island nation, I want to continue to set my sights on Asia.
Shou: I really am the epitome of the in-doors type, but I guess my consciousness has begun looking outwards (lol).
Mizushima: (lol) I think there is a real value in “TEAM SAKUSAKU” and all its members who share that view whilst endeavoring in his and her individual field. I hope that more and more people get involved, and not just those who had some connection with Sakurai-san. either!
───A final comment to finish up?
Shou: It’s important that we carry on Sakurai-san’s work and put it into action, and I think that also means contributing to Japanese pop culture. Specifically, though… (turns to face Takahiro-san) please get something made! (lol)
Mizushima: Seriously!? You sure it’s okay to put that in the article!? (lol)
Shou: I don’t mean just songs, but artworks and different ways of showing things as well!
Mizushima: I seriously wonder just what I could do if I had a person of such amazing expression supporting me all the time… I definitely have to get in shape first, though (lol).
MizushimaI think that cultural growth all comes down to ideas. Just like BABYMETAL and bands that feature traditional Japanese instruments – ‘Can these two things actually work together!?’ – thoughts like this lead to innovation. If “TEAM SAKUSAKU” were a bento box it would be a jumble of Japanese, Chinese and Western flavors all mixed in together. But then you discover that this combined with that actually tastes amazing, and only such a bento box could lead to such realizations. In that regard, it’s also big opportunity – not only in the business sense – and I want to challenge myself in various ways insofar as my capacity as an adult allows. It’s a miracle that I was born into this age and that we’re gathered here together right now, so I really want to make the most of this opportunity and be a part of something creative. So, bearing the cultural responsibilities of this small Asian island nation…(turns to face Shou) please do your best! (lol)
Shou: Likewise! (lol)
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The moment you've been waiting for has finally come.Breaking through with a two-month consecutive maxi-single campaign and now fresh off of their first fan club tour, alice nine. have now released their first full-length album, "Zekkeishoku."
First off, the lead-in track "Velvet." As the guitars kick in you feel your anticipation swell--the beat jumps to develop the sound in unimaginable directions. With perhaps the thickest sound on the album, "Velvet" packs a heavy punch of music. When the vocals, twin guitars, bass, and drums combine into an intoxicating groove that will wipe your mind clean, it's best to just entrust your body to the music. Of course, it wouldn't be alice nine. if they stopped there--the song progresses to a dramatic crescendo of which you just won't be able to get enough. If you can get your body to remember the song, you'll feel one with the band when you see them live.
The bonus DVD included with the limited edition version of "Zekkeishoku" features the music video for "Velvet." The score features the addition of the sounds of a lighter and the exhaling of smoke granting the video the refined feel of a classic Italian film. Garnering the band members' own seal of approval, this is a video not to be missed.
Listen closely to the songs "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-" and "jelly fish." As the title implies, "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-" is an instrumental track. The digital sounds of the track will bring to mind ripples of water expanding deep into a quiet sea of anticipation. Hearing the song I was reminded of the paintings of Christian Riese Lassen. I wonder what everybody else imagines.
In a flash, "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-" develops into the song "jelly fish." "jelly fish" sports a lyrical guitar sound and an encompassing pop tone. However, the aggressive way the song develops is distinctive of alice nine. A decidedly conceptual song, "jelly fish" features an undescribably elegant chorus, shimmering acoustic guitars, and a steady, unmissable drumbeat. Then the vocals jump back in. "jelly fish" is a song best heard while reading the lyrics; you'll want to sink into the depths of the world hidden within. Woven with symbolism and aesthetic style, the lyrics carve a vivid image into the back of the minds of the listener. One can only marvel at the skill with which the lyricist combines the lyrics and poetry.
Now that you've had the chance to hear "Zekkeishoku," it's time to experience the band live. Alice nine. launched their ten-show "Kimi no Hitomi ni Utsuru wa Zekkeishoku" tour May 3 at the Shibuya-AX. The tour, the largest solo-tour in the history of the band, comes to a close May 31 at Zepp Tokyo. What sights does the band have planned for the shows? Something different, and something new, that's for certain. Make sure to see the shows for yourself!
Alice Nine's Offical Website
King Records Alice Nine Website
alice nine. interview
First off, congratulations on completing your fan club only tour "Kacho Fugetsu Vol. 1."
Everyone: Thank you!
How was it playing for the first time in front of your fan club members?
Sho (Vo.): It was our first time in front of only the fan club so we got a chance to do something different from our normal shows, to show the audience more of what we're really like. Despite playing at the rather large Shibuya O-East, overall I felt like we were able to get closer to the hearts of our fans. Everyone in the band got a chance to talk or MC. It might have been a little tedious to the crowd, but we felt really at home (laughs). I don't know how I should put this, but I'm just glad we got a chance to play catch with the crowd.
Nao (Dr.): I'd say that it was an easy show for all sorts of reasons. I think we were able to try a bunch of things because we were playing in front of our fan club. I was glad to see that everyone welcomed us more warmly than I thought they would.
Saga (Ba.): It always feels like it's us one-on-one with the audience, but with the fan club show it felt more like the members were working with each other, member-against-member (laughs). From the band's point of view, we were able to show the audience the same everyday selves that we show each other. It was fun.
Tora (Gt.): We thought a lot about the show since it was our first time in front of our fan club. It felt like we were trying to grope for something. It was like; this time let's give them everything, a show, a talk, a hand-shaking party. I think it turned out great. I'd like to plan more events like this in the future.
Hiroto (Gt.): Lately we've gone from expanding our base to releasing an album, and then finally a show. I feel both the crowd and the band were able to grow closer since our first show in a while was in front of our fan club. I think it was a great opportunity.
You released your first full-length album as alice nine. on April 26. Did you play any new songs from the album at your fan club only show?
Sho: The only song we played was the lead-in track "Velvet" at our Tokyo tour finale. I think our fan club members compose the core group of people that come to our shows. We decided to try "Velvet" because I wanted our fan club to hear what we were thinking as soon as possible. I wanted them to understand what we were doing and respond accordingly.
Nao: (Whispering) "And now it's up to you!"
Sho: Yeah, yeah (laughs). We want our fans to continue developing. We're throwing the question out now, and we're looking forward to seeing the answer at our second solo tour "Kimi no Hitomi ni Utsuru wa Zekkeishoku."
How did the crowd respond after hearing the new song, "Velvet"?
Sho: How, indeed. We were still feeling the high from releasing our first album, so I think we thought the song sounded cooler than it actually was. We were a little drunk on ourselves (laughs). The crowd, of course, was full of the people who have been following us the most, so they still got into it. But more so, I'd say we it was more about us feeling good about playing the song.
How was it for you, Nao?
Nao: "Velvet" is the lead-in track to the album, so we wanted everyone to hear the song as soon as possible. We played it live with the hope that people would quickly come to like it. With our second solo tour "Kimi no Hitomi ni Utsuru wa Zekkeishoku" we want to play more songs that show off how we've improved like "Velvet." We want the crowd to get into the new songs.
Saga-san . . . or would you prefer to be called Saga-SAMA?
It seems like everywhere one goes people are calling you by that name. (Laughs).
Saga: Nope, you don't have to use "Sama" (Laughs).
(This interview was conducted directly after the members had returned from another event. Each of the members seemed pretty tired with the exception of Saga who seemed down right exhausted)
Saga, you look really tired. Are you all right?
Saga: Uh, I'm OK. I'm OK! (Laughs)
How was "Velvet" live?
Saga: Personally I felt like we were overflowing with power, spewing out energy. However, I think we had too much energy and ended up whiffing. I couldn't get enough of the rush. Instead of playing the song for the crowd, I think we were having fun. We came at it more like a beginning band would. (Laughs)
How was it playing bass on "Velvet"?
Saga: Well, instead of playing it normally, how should I put this . . . it was like I could see myself performing live while I was still in the studio recording. I felt like I had jumped out there and started playing.
(You can't tell from this transcript, but Saga was unusually tired on the day of the interview. It took him at least a minute to say the previous line)
Sho: (Whispering to Saga) You're taking forever! (Laughs)
Saga: I know (laughs)! Next time I'd like to do more rock staging. (Laughs)
Thank you (laughs). How about you Tora?
Tora: To tell the truth, we wrote "Velvet" with the original intention of performing it live. Frankly, we wanted to play the song. If you were to ask me the essence of the song, I'd have to say that the song is our flesh and blood. Just playing it live I could feel it.
Tell me an interesting story from the fan club only tour.
Sho: Did anything happen?
Tora: This wasn't really much of a tour. We didn't move around much and didn't stay anywhere. I guess we could start with Nao . . .
Nao: Did I do something!?
Tora: Well, uh (Laughs). Someone got left behind at the rest stop on the freeway.
Nao and Sho: Ha ha ha ha (Laughs).
The most interesting things seem to happen to Nao.
Tora: Yes (Laughs).
Nao: I was plotted against . . . probably (Laughs).
Tora: I kept thinking, "He'll be back any minute, He'll be back any minute," but he just wouldn't come back.
Sho: Nao always has to use the bathroom at the most important times.
Now that you mention it, Nao was the only person to go the bathroom right before this interview.
Nao: Yeah (Laughs).
Sho: Everyone got antsy thinking, "He'll come out now . . . now!" but he just wouldn't come out.
Nao: So I'm a couple of meters from making it back to the car and they start leaving! I was like, "What?" I think they knew all along.
Nao: I've actually been left behind before (Laughs).
Sho: When we went on tour with other bands on our label . . . no one even noticed. They even took roll call. But we said, "Don't worry about it!" (Laughs)
Nao: Saga even sat right next to me on the bus. I felt like, "Hey, watch out! Didn't you see I wasn't sitting next to you?" (Laughs)
Saga: After we left I thought, "Hey! Nao's not here!"
You didn't notice even though you're part of the same rhythm section? (Laugh)
Saga: Yeah . . . I do wonder why I didn't notice that time. (Laughs)
OK, now I'd like to ask you a few questions about your new album "Zekkeishoku." When did you first start talking about releasing a full-length?
Sho: Just after the middle of last year, I think. We showed off our heavy side with "Kowloon -NINE HEADS RODEO SHOW-" and showed off our pop side with "FANTASY," so we had this vision of releasing a full-length album where people could easily get a feel for the alice nine. sound. That was in fall of last year.
How did you feel when you decided to release a full-length?
Tora: To tell the truth, once we decided to put it out I was a little nervous. We'd never written a full-length in one sitting before, and it wasn't like we had a lot of songs sitting around that we played live. We thought up everything right up to the deadline and then went straight into recording. But we were able to see where we wanted to go explicitly because we worked this way. It was like, "Oh, that's the type of album we wanted to make." When we finally got around to making the album we didn't rut about at all. It just popped right out.
So you were nervous at the start.
Tora: Well, this was our first time making a full-length album. Of course, we were also really happy to have the chance to make a full-length. We've always wanted to make a full album, and now we were finally starting. So, nervousness and hope flitted about our eyes. (Laughs)
Sho: I guess we were nervous because it was this unknown world, an unknown number of songs and we couldn't see what to do. I think that actually making a full-length album is one of the steps in becoming an artist. It was finally time for us to express what we are as artists through a full-length. Like Tora said, we were most certainly nervous at first, but once we were able to express what we wanted to do, what we thought felt good, we were able to increase the magic that happens between band members and really proceed with the album. Personally, I really think we made something great.
Hiroto: When we decided to record the album I thought, "It looks like the time has finally come for our band." I think of a full-length as the sort of thing to be released once I've found the appeal of the band, once I've found a band I'm ready to wage my life on, and I've spent enough time together. I was irrepressibly happy once we started creating. alice nine. isn't the sort of band that keeps a bunch of songs in stock, we make each song at the right time with a hundred percent of our energy. When we first created our double singles "Kowloon -NINE HEADS RODEO SHOW" and "FANTASY," we had a solid idea of what we wanted to do, so when we started writing songs after that, we already had a foundation of two songs to work off of, and were able to create more freely. Our latest album has let me feel like we've reached the best point so far in our music-making career.
Nao: First of all, I thought, "at last." I was a little nervous since this was my first time recording this many of songs. But I was excited once we finally started recording. Songs started changing from their demos, and I was excited about what the songs would turn into. Likely, everyone felt the same. I think we were able to create an album everyone could agree with and at the same time expand our hopes for the future. I was surprised how little nervousness Hiroto showed, he was always like "Leave it to me!" Very reliable.
Sho: Hiroto isn't a negative type of guy. Whatever mess the band was standing in, Hiroto was there in full fervor. Always moving, he put positive energy into the band. As a result, everyone really gave it their all, and we've become a great band.
Hiroto: You're embarrassing me. (Laughs) Well, I knew someone like Nao was there to cool us down if I got a little to feverish, so I was able to push everyone further with ease.
(Saga has now reached the peak of exhaustion
I'm sorry to trouble you when you're tired, but could you wake up, Saga?
Saga: Hey, I'm awake! (Laughs)
Well then, sorry to trouble you but, would you be kind enough to mention when you were first of the persuasion to release an album.
Saga: Yes, when we . . .
Everybody: The royal "we"! (Laughs)
Saga: Ha ha, (laughs). So I had sort of thought that you just have these songs you put on an album, and then you take a couple of songs and put them out as singles. So, to put out two singles and then a full album, it felt like we had squeezed out these two singles and now we had to squeeze out even more. So I went at it like my last stand thinking, "There's nothing to lose!" "There's nothing left!" (Laughs) I didn't have anything built up in side of me, so I had to work on what I had seen, what had influenced me. I went in rough, without forcing it. But once we'd finished the album, I came to think, "Wow, we still have it in us. I could keep going. We could probably still make another album."
Sho: Once we'd finished the album Saga grabbed an acoustic guitar in bliss and started singing, "Heeeeey, We finished, the aaaaaaaaalbum." (Laughs)
Saga: We'll be exposing that footage on the net soon. (Laughs)
Everybody: "Exposing?" (Laughs)
I see, I'll be looking forward to it. (Laughs) Now that you've released a full-length album, you could say people have something to judge the band with. What concept did you use to direct the album?
Sho: We've never been a concept band, so we emphasized whether people would become more excited after hearing each new song on the album. Not every song is a single, of course, but we wanted each song to have that type of energy. The only thing we did decide on was to try to give each and every song character.
I heard like this time you were going back to your roots.
Sho: At first we wanted to make an album that was visual, that was a blend of the West and the East in the best sense of the phrase. Albums are like business cards for bands, so we put out "Zekkeishoku" as an answer to the question, "what is alice nine?" We wanted to express that concept. You certainly won't feel the East-West blend just by listening to the songs, but with the art design, our costumes, lyrics, and compositions, everything combines into an overall East-meets-West style. We wanted people to feel the beauty of viewing Japanese culture through the eyes of a foreigner. However, we also want to expand our repertoire. We don't want to stop here either.
How did you illustrate this "return to your roots" through this album?
Hiroto: I'd say through feeling. I wanted to go back and express the excitement of when we first decided on the five members of the band, the shock of first forming a band, and the confidence at the start that we could absolutely put out something interesting. Being our first album, I could also say this was a compilation of everything we've done up to this point, but I also think there are things that begin only after this point. We wanted the people who are hearing us for the first time through this album to think, "alice nine's a really fun-sounding band." We also wanted the people who've been with us the whole time, the fans who know us, to feel excited listening to this album.
Sho: I could say the overall theme for this album was "going back to our roots," but I could also say it was "rich color." We set out to get people excited with color and when someone asked whether we were going back to our roots, we were sort of like "sure."
Tora: Instead of saying that we made this album to go back to our roots, I'd say, and this is standard I guess, but our main thoughts were "In order to create tomorrow, we can't forget what we've done up to this point." If you only keep your eye on tomorrow and do whatever you want, you're bound to fail. You have to reflect on your experiences up to this point and then head forward. That's what this album is about.
Nao: When we first formed the band we made the concept of "East-meets-West" a pillar of our style. Up to this point we've expressed a lot of styles of music, a lot of styles of visuals. For our first album, we wanted to make "Zekkeishoku" a combination of our original intentions for the band, to create a work founded on the progress alice nine. has made together.
Saga: More than a return to our roots, "Zekkeishoku" was us looking back on all we've done to this point and ultimately defining what we want to do as a band. (Laughs) Now that I think about it, I guess our main concept for the album was to have people think "alice nine." once they'd heard the album.
Of the twelve songs on the album ten songs are new. Can you tell me the whole story about how you chose the songs on the album, including the new songs?
Sho: First of all, we always start with a meeting to choose the songs. There we decided on the basics, "Velvet," "Haru, Sakura no Koro," and "jelly fish." The first time we met we wanted to start with all of the good songs. Once we had that axis, we tried to spread out the feel of the album. We gave bonus points to slower tracks or songs with interesting tricks to them, and then we met again and confirmed the twelve songs you hear on the album.
How did you decide on the order--starting with "Corona" and ending with "ARMOR RING"?
Tora: Sho primarily decided the song order. When I saw the order though, I thought it was great. Or, more succinctly, "this is how it has to be." Additionally, when Hiroto recorded the sound effects he intended for them to come in around the fourth track. In that regard as well, I think the track order turned out quite well.
Saga: The album turned out just how we imagined it. I did feel like the sound effects used for the fourth track could only have been placed right there. It felt like the track list came together in exactly the way we had wanted.
Nao: Since Sho's the guy who writes the lyrics we figure that he is also the most suitable person to arrange the songs in order to reflect their lyrical meaning. Personally, I wanted to have a single come within the first three songs of the disc, to have a lively new song for the second track, and to have a contemplative final track. And all my preferences were granted. Otherwise we went with whatever Sho had.
Hiroto: We originally wanted to use the sound effects for the first track. After we started working on the album, however, we started making a lot of great songs and it became difficult to justify using the first song for sound effects.
( Suddenly Sho, who is sitting next to Hiroto, begins caressing Hiroto's hair with his finger)
Hiroto: Wha!? What!? (Laughs)
Sho: Nah, nothing. (Laughs)
Hiroto: Ha hmm. (Laughs) Yeah, so we felt that the first song needed to bring in the start of the album. From there we had to bring the album to the final track, the grand "ARMOR RING." We were able to realize a song order that we thought was really cool. Even the fact that the sound effects came in on the fourth track was very alice nine. I think we have the songs in a good order.
Sho: Basically, I tried putting the songs in the order I thought they should go. Alice nine. doesn't really thoroughly discuss things, but we do understand a lot through feeling. We aren't strict with the sounds on our songs; we mostly work off of feeling until we're like "that's good."(Laughs) I think the same holds true for the song order. I've honestly never thought, "this just won't work" with something alice nine. has done. In that respect, I put the songs in the order each song was calling for, and I'm glad we were all able to agree with what I made. I also felt that the album should begin with a cool song, not sound effects.
Your credits list the composer for every song as alice nine. Is there a reason why you don't list the original composer's name?
Sho: I wouldn't say we don't list the composer's name. We all tend to contribute to the songwriting. If one person did create a song from start to finish, we'd, of course, list that person's name in the credits. But we do all contribute to each of the tracks. That's alice nine's style.
I see. However, I imagine there are fans out there that wonder which band member came up with the original idea for particular songs. I'd be very happy if you could tell me who was responsible for each song.
Sho: (Looking at the tracklist as printed on a piece of paper before him) Ummmm, Hiroto, Hiroto, Hiroto (Laughs). "FANTASY," "3.2.1. REAL-SE-" are also Hiroto's.
Tora: Hiroto also did "Haru, Sakura no Koro."
Sho: Saga wrote "DEAD SCHOOL SCREAMING." Then, "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-" was also Hiroto. "jelly fish" is Saga. And then Tora, Tora, Tora. "Tora Tora Toraaaaaa."
Hiroto: Tora Tora Tora.
Sho: "Tora Tora Toraaaaaa" for three songs. Then the last song is Saga.[Complete Songwriter List]
- Corona: Hiroto
- Velvet: Hiroto
- FANTASY: Hiroto
- 3. 2. 1. REAL -SE-: Hiroto
- Haru, Sakura no Koro: Hiroto
- DEAD SCHOOL SCREAMING: Saga
- Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-: Hiroto
- jelly fish: Saga
- World End Anthology: Tora
- Q.: Tora
- Kowloon -Nine Heads Rodeo Show-: Tora
- ARMOR RING: Saga
Now that I've had a chance to look at the list, it seems like Tora writes a lot of the harder songs.
Tora: Yeah, I'm sort of responsible for the harder songs. If we're going to put out a song like that, it'll probably be by me. (Laughs)
Saga contributed three songs to the album. Is there a particular type of song you try to write? "DEAD SCHOOL SCREAMING" is a hard song but "jelly fish" has more of a lyrical tone. Then "ARMOR RING" is a ballad . . .
Sho: (Jumping in) Adult!? Sexy!?
Tora: (Quiet and plainly) I think he said "ballad."
Sho: Oh, ballad . . . I thought I heard him say "adult."
Sho really seems to respond to "adult." (Laughs)
Sho: If you want to hear about adult, I'll tell you! (Laughs)
Should I cut that? (Laughs)
Sho: No, it's OK. (Laughs)
So anyway, I feel like Saga makes a variety of songs.
Saga: Uhhh . . . this time I looked at pictures and tried to flesh out the image. I couldn't tell you who made the pictures, though. (Laughs) Oh, and certain CD covers, but each of the three songs was based on the work of a different band. I looked at the lyrics and artwork from the band and then came up with something of my own. Each of my three songs on this album started that way. I tend to write music as though I am drawing a picture. However, I present the songs to the band at the rough sketch stage, before I've added any color to the track. Then we each paint the track with our own color and out comes a complete track. To go back a little, that is why we list the composer for all of our songs as alice nine. Personally, I prefer to list the band name in the credits.
A lot of the songs come from Hiroto this time.
Tora: Yes. Hiroto's the type of person that will do a lot if he can. He's amazing when he's in the zone.
Hiroto: I'm a straight-ahead type of guy. When I write music I move forward with whatever I'm feeling at the time--the songs come from what I've felt and what I'm feeling at the moment I'm writing. The songs just flow out of me when I have enough stimuli.
You tend to write beautiful songs.
Hiroto: Oh . . . really?
Yes. Both "FANTASY" and "Corona" are fine. I think you utilize the vocals with your songs.
Sho: Hiroto tends to make hard-to-sing songs. (Laughs) He's the one who sets the hurdle for me. Then I think, I've got to get over it, and sing something to counterbalance his song. I've improved with some of Hiroto's songs.
Nao: Me too!
Sho: So, Hiroto's also pushed along the drums. (Laughs) Hiroto's the most severe with his compositions. Our band has this idea of what we want our finished songs to sound like and Hiroto always writes toward that. In order to get over Hiroto's idea of completion, the band has to focus and do our best.
Hiroto: Personally, I try not to settle into a safe pattern, I'm always looking for stimulation. I wouldn't say I'm always trying to push things forward, more like I'm trying to break things down--I don't like tranquility. I guess I do the same thing with my songs. A lot. (Laughs)
I'm sure each of your songs turned out exactly the way you wanted it. However, if you had to choose one song you'd like to push, which would it be?
Hiroto: I'd say "Velvet." I feel like the band is in a really good place. It feels like we are stimulating each other, pushing ourselves further along. Precisely because the band is in that place, we were able to make "Velvet." I used to think about this back when I wanted to be in a band: when I first joined a band, if I was able to make a band I thought was cool, I wanted to make a song like "Velvet." We're making a music video for the song right now and it's sort of a "look how cool a five-piece band is" or really, "this is what band-life is all about" kind of video. I want people to see the video and discover what is so attractive about bands.
Can you tell me what the lyrics to "Velvet" are about?
Sho: I spoke with Hiroto and we thought the theme was "fire." Fire is hot and dazzling--you can keep setting fire to a burnt-out candle. It may quiver in the wind, but fire continues to put out a strong light. Alice nine. wants to do the same thing to our fans, warm and lighten them up. Fire also has a destructive image. We wanted to tell people to destroy all that is worthless, as well.
What song would you recommend, Tora?
Tora: They are all good songs so I really can't choose. My personal favorite song for the melody and lyrics would have to be track number 5, "Haru, Sakura no Koro." When we were making the song it was still a demo, we hadn't put the finishing touches on it yet. Ultimately, I played guitar for it without knowing how the melody would turn out. But when we'd finished, I listened to the song and thought, "this is a really great song."
Which guitarist has influenced you the most?
Tora: I just play whatever I want, so there isn't any one guitarist who has influenced me. I've been influenced by a lot of people.
I feel that the song "Haru, Sakura no Koro" is a rare sort of song for alice nine.
Tora: We tried a bunch of new things with this song in regard to the sound of the band. I noticed that there weren't that many guitar phrases when Hiroto first brought the song to us. However, I looked forward to seeing what sort of song it would turn into.
What about the lyrics for "Haru, Sakura no Koro"?
Sho: I was moved when I watched the film "Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu" last year with Hiroto. I usually write my lyrics with a scene of what I think the music sounds like in my head, but with this song, the first two lines, "Kizukeba, itsumo soba ni atte tozen to omou yo ni natte / Onaji da ne, mitekita fukei mo kurikaesu atatakana kisetsu mo sakura no hana mo, (I noticed it feels normal to have you by my side / It's the same thing, isn't it? We used to see the landscapes, the repeating warm seasons, the cherry blossom flowers too)" just came to me. All of that scenery comes from "Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu," I just expanded it more with the lyrics. I don't have that same experience of losing a loved one, but I've learned a lot about other people's lives from novels and films. It's helped me study feelings and imagery.
What song would you recommend, Saga?
Saga: Uhhhhh, I have reasons to recommend each of the songs I've written, but if I had to choose someone else's track I'd have to say song number 10.
Sho: Number 10, "Q. (Question)"!
Saga: It really feels like a question.
Could you explain that a little more for us? (Laughs)
Sho: I love this. (Laughs) Go ahead. (Laughs)
Saga: What can I tell you? (Laughs)
It has the simplest ending of any of the songs you've released up to this point. (Laughs)
Saga: That's, well. I've already asked a bunch of people but . . . what did you think after hearing the song?
Overall, I felt the influence of Western music in the tone of the chorus.
Saga: Ah! I mean what stood out the most.
Sho: Ha ha. (Laughs)
Hmmm, the start. It just breaks right in.
Sho: Uh, the melody . . . did you notice anything about the melody?
Saga: So, did you notice anything while listening it? It's like a . . . "question"! (Laughs)
Melody, eh. Well . . . I thought it sounded hard, but--
Saga: Hmmm, I see. I guess so . . .
And the bass is really aggressive.
Saga: Are you serious? I'm glad to hear it, but is that your final answer? (Laughs)
No, but, I'd like to hear Saga say it himself. (Laughs)
Saga: Oh, I just thought you hadn't gotten this far into the song yet. Um . . . Ummmmm, I see. (Laughs)
Saga: I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad. There's a fine line, you know. So . . . I sang a part on the song.
Saga: During the chorus. I'm really glad no one has said "Oh?" yet. (Laughs)
Sho: After I sing "Nani wo shinjiru no ka," Saga sings "Nani wo ai suru no ka."Then we harmonize in the next phrase.
How was it to try singing?
Saga: I can't objectively listen to my voice. Even now, after we've released the album, I'm sad to say that I'm embarrassed (Laughs). It's still a good song; I'm just too shocked at hearing my own voice. As for the song, I think it's the newest type of song for us to show up on the album, and I'd like to put out more in the future. (Laughs) But really, no matter how many people I ask, no one seems to notice me. (Laughs)
I'm sorry. (Laughs)
Saga: It's fine. (Laughs)
What about the lyrics, Sho?
Sho: When I heard the demo for "Q." for some reason I thought about mitochondria, like a picture of a cell viewed through a microscope. Then I thought, I have a very interesting brain for thinking that up. (Laughs) So, then I thought about how human beings are connected from father to child, and what exactly is our purpose within this majestic lineage of things. I sang about the doubts that spring up inside of me.
You sing in English on this song as well.
Sho: Tora makes stylish songs, so I end up wanting to put in some English. I'm the type of person who tells people to cherish the Japanese language, but this song cried out for English. The melody as well--"Q." has a unique melody that could only be expressed in English. The song asked for aggressive lyrics, and so I wrote aggressive lyrics.
Nao, what song would you recommend?
Nao: Ummm . . . ok, the first song, "Corona." Speaking specifically of the drums, I tried out something new with the song. There's a fusion of live drumming and drum machine sounds. We also used this approach in our February single "FANTASY," but "Corona" is an evolved version. It's hard to hear clearly, but we combined live drums and non-live drums together into a really cool sound. I'm happy with the way it turned out. The whole thing came to Hiroto after he wrote the song. At the last minute he said, "hey, this is different from the rhythm that we had in the pre-production stage, but I think we should try this," and it turned out really well. Only the first song has the effect--it helps the song make you feel like something is about to start. It gets me excited.
What about the lyrics to "Corona"?
Sho: I imagined space after the big bang and images dissolving into dazzling light. I saw the contrast of empty space and light, and from there I discovered the theme of "sun." Of course, you don't actually read the characters of the song title ("Koukan") as "Corona," but both words do have the same meaning. I took the phenomena of a circle of light appearing around the sun and used it as a metaphor for us. If we're this shining object, we want to shine warmth on the people who are constantly supporting us. That was the message of the lyrics.
Nao: That's intense.
Sho: Of course it's intense. It's the sun!
Finally I'd like to ask Sho what song he'd like to push?
Sho: Song number 12, "ARMOR RING." If I made anyone think by singing this song, I feel like I'm actually surviving as a singer.
You use the second-person pronoun "kimi" ("you") in the song "ARMOR RING." Who are you speaking to?
Sho: Well, as a man, I wanted the capacity to be able to sing a wedding song. Actually, one of my relatives got married last year.
Sho: Thanks! (Laughs) I couldn't go to the wedding because we were on tour, so I wanted to sing the type of song I would have sung if I had gone to the wedding. If I'm going to make a celebration song, I want to go all the way. I wanted to make people go "Man, this guy's giving me cavities." (Laughs) I was also particular about the chorus work. I think the mixing on the part where Saga and I sing the last "Laaaaa la laaaaa la laaaaa laaaa la" was very guudo.
Saga: Ha ha. (Laughs)
Sho: Since our voices blended so well there, I asked Saga if he wanted to sing with me on "Q." I always want to go to extremes when I'm writing a love song, but with "ARMOR RING," I figured if I'm going to do a wedding song, I've got to go all the way. So I guess "kimi" points to all of you who are listening to the song. It's all of you great guys. (Laughs)
Is there anything you do in order to write good lyrics?
Sho: I used to try things like playing strange word games or trying to write what I wanted to say in different words, but I think I'm done with that. Everyone in the band writes such good songs and I want to honestly reflect that in my lyrics. Now I feel like people will agree with the songs if I just put my whole body and spirit into singing. Since I just put down the words I felt when I heard the songs for the new album, I didn't have to struggle to write the new tracks. And in return I think we made a really good work.
Was there anything in particular you did while recording the vocal tracks?
Sho: Up until now I've tried to show off a little--you could say the same with the lyrics. I put too much energy in trying to sing well . . . trying to make a "real" song because we were actually recording something. This time I tried to just enjoy the sound within me, tried to directly include the emotions that flow out of me. I tried to sing naturally. I was conscious of the things that inspired each song while I was singing, and I tried to show that through my voice.
Can I get a comment about "ARMOR RING" from the original composer, Saga?
Saga: I did originally think it was going to be a song about love. Personally, I wrote "ARMOR RING" while looking at a picture of space. (Laughs) I saw this picture of thousands of stars that all looked like drops of paint had just fallen off of a paintbrush, and was moved to write the song. I wanted the sound to get progressively more layered, and I'm glad to say the song turned out better than I had imagined.
Do you write on feeling?
You don't think everything through?
Saga: I do not think everything through! (Laughs) I don't care if it's new or old. I don't care if other people don't enjoy it as long as it's something that I want to do. I only work off of feeling.
You've also included the track "3. 2. 1. REAL -SE-." Why did you decide to record a track like this?
Hiroto: When we talked about making an album we all decided we wanted a sort of sound effect, a sort of linking song.
Sho: We thought it was necessary to call on the power of instrumentals to change the feel between an album of songs full of such character. The introductory three songs have a grand, fantasy feel to them, however the album moves towards a more realistic world after that. It sounds paradoxical but we thought "3. 2. 1. REAL -SE-" was necessary to separate the fantasy part from the realistic part. The song after it is the rather fantastic "Haru, Sakura no Koro," but to tell the truth, it's sung from a really close distance to the listener and we wanted them to hear the song. "3. 2. 1. REAL -SE-" is like a tunnel from the first three songs to the part of the album with "Haru, Sakura no Koro" and "DEAD SCHOOL SCREAMING." When you go through a tunnel on a train, the moment you leave the tunnel the scenery looks really beautiful--we wanted our listeners to feel that on our album. In that respect, it's used differently from the song "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-." "3. 2. 1. REAL -SE-" cuts off the part with "Corona," "Velvet," and "FANTASY," and begins a new section of the album.
Which was completed first, "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-" or "jelly fish"?
Saga: We finished "jelly fish" first.
I find "jelly fish" to be the main track out of these two songs. Who first proposed to include "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-"?
Sho: How should I put it . . . It just came up inevitably between us.
Nao: We were like, "we should include a prelude."
Hiroto: We thought it would be good to have a kind of prologue.
Sho: We felt that an introduction was necessary to a song with as deep a worldview as "jelly fish."
People usually write "kurage" (jellyfish) with the characters for "water" and "mother," however you used the less standard characters "sea" and "moon." Why was that?
Sho: We like to use old characters: for example the character for "nine" in our name. We didn't go out of our way to use those characters, it really just matched better to the image we had for the song. Jellyfish float in the waves, drifting powerlessly through the ocean. We used that image because it fits perfectly with the song.
Did you use an acoustic guitar for "jelly fish"?
Tora: I played the acoustic.
Were you also the one to suggest using an acoustic in the first place?
Tora: Yes. I wanted to wrap everything up cleanly and thought an acoustic would be better than an electric.
Sho: God often decends upon Tora when we're recording. The song didn't sound this acoustic when we first made the demo. I think God came down sometime before I recorded the singing, while Tora was recording the guitar. When I first heard the background track, I was like "what IS this!?" (Laughs)
Tora: I only see God occasionally.
Sho: Thanks to Tora's guitar I was able to sing a good song.
So after you recorded the clearly acoustic "jelly fish," you turned around and composed the digital-sounding "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-."
Why did you decide to go this direction with your sound?
Hiroto: "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-" was made at a time when "jelly fish" was still not quite as acoustic as it is now. I had this image I thought up when I heard that version of "jelly fish." I imagined a world with the same feeling of "jelly fish," but with a different flow. I just made that image into sound for "Kokkai no Kurage -Instrumental-."
The limited edition of "Zekkeishoku" includes a bonus DVD with the music video for "Velvet." How was it to make the music video?
Sho: It was awesome!
Hiroto: It was really cool!
Nao just made a really odd smile when I said that . . . (Laughs)
Nao: Uh. (Laughs) I actually just saw the completed version recently and I thought, "Wow, cool!" I'm sure everyone is smiling inside because it turned out even cooler than we thought.
Sho: Saga is really smiling. (Laughs)
Saga: Yeah. (Laughs) I think that if I saw this video when I was a teenager I would have absolutely wanted to join a band.
Tora, what did you think when you saw the completed version?
Tora: (Disinterested and cool) The completed version? It was cool.
You're always cool and collected Tora. (Laughs)
Tora: Yes. (Laughs)
How was recording?
Sho: Fun! The engineer was really frank. No matter how hard he had to work he was always grinning, saying "Good, this is good! You've made something good here!" (Laughs) I wouldn't think he was doing something hard. It was as though we were enjoying music for a month, and then we were all a little sad when it was over. We made the album in a state where we weren't sure what would happen or where we'd be in the future, but we were able to plainly show our roots and spend some really fun time together. Sometimes we'd get a break and eat these amazing katsu sandwiches. (Laughs)
Hiroto: This time we were able to meet an engineer who felt the same way we do. We learned a lot from him. This was the most creative recording session we've had, the time that I've felt the most like I'm making music. Up until then we'd really put on our working faces to record and it felt like we were shaving off a piece of ourselves just to do it. Of course, this time we also ran a jam-packed schedule, but we were able to enjoy the music so much that it didn't feel that way at all. I learned a lot and it helped me feel more confident about our music. I was too overflowing with enthusiasm when we wrapped up recording so I hugged the band members and engineer five or six times--I was so happy. It was a speech defying, extremely fast one month. I felt like I was graduating from school.
Nao: As I said earlier, I was nervous at first. However, once we got going with the funky engineer I was able to look at recording as something fun and learn something new about drumming. The engineer was enthusiastic and uncompromising. He'd frequently tell the guitarist "You're strings are dead, change them!" or me "The sound of your snare rimshot has changed so let's redo a few takes." I was surprised he was that particular about things, and it really helped open my eyes.
Saga: I really liked how much I was able to learn. I learned what my ideal sound is and what a finished song sounds like. I learned to see through how good I feel about the songs we have now and the songs we're making. I think that skill is important for what the band plans to do in the future.
Tora: I just had a good time with recording. I dislike struggling over my guitar lines so this time I just went in soft and played whatever I was feeling. I was able to record smoothly, without getting into a rut. The engineer was also a really great person. We recorded the whole thing smiling.
Now I'd like to ask you what new or surprising sides of each other were you able to see while recording? First, why don't you talk about Nao, Sho?
Sho: This time around Nao supported and worried about everything. I found out he was strong-hearted. It's easiest to hear errors in the drums and vocals. But everyone was able to progress, and through that process we confronted our roots and made some fun music. I found myself thinking again about how great a band alice nine. has become.
How about Nao in regards to Saga?
Nao: It wasn't exactly unexpected, but when Saga finished recording and couldn't fall asleep because he was thinking too much he came over to my place and helped record. He didn't even complain when he slept in my futon. (Laughs) The rhythm team--of the same body and soul.
You two slept together?
Nao: We did not sleep together! (Laughs)
Saga: It was a good bed . . .
Nao: It's a futon!
Saga: Er, futon.
Sho: The Marie-chan futon. (Laughs) We call it the Marie-chan futon.
Saga: Yeah, yeah. And also--uh, things people shouldn't know about. (Laughs)
Nao: Uh, what, WHAT?
Saga: Hey, ___ .
Nao: (Flustered) NO, don't!
Everyone: Watch out, watch out! (Laughs)
Well then, could you just lightly touch on that?
Nao: You want to lightly touch it!?
Saga: I was surprised it was so ___ . (Laughs)
Sho: Heeeeey! (Laughs)
Everyone: (Going crazy)
OK, I understand. (Laughs) Well then, Saga, what new side of Tora did you see?
Saga: Well, the man's like a microwave in the recording studio. You throw something in, shut the door, and when you pull it back out it's something else entirely.
Sho: Just as simple as that! (Laughs)
Nao: Tora bought a guitar just for recording.
Saga: Yeah. He plays the guitar in such a way that it made me think that what we have now is great.
Tora, what about Hiroto?
Tora: I think Hiroto's grown the most since we started alice nine. It was a fresh experience hearing how well Hiroto played during recording even though he hasn't been playing in bands for that long. I think he's reached music puberty. (Laughs) I was impressed.
Hiroto, tell me about Sho.
Hiroto: Our band always comes back with more than I could ever imagine. When Sho finished recording the vocals for the first track of the session, "Velvet," I got gooseflesh. He was so good I was shocked. It wasn't exactly unexpected, but at the same time the discovery made me really enthusiastic. Sho's vocals reverberated in my heart. Once again, I found Sho to be a great vocalist.
Sho: I'm happy for you. (Laughs)
Your next tour is scheduled to start in Shibuya, go to Saitama, Sendai, Niigata, Sapporo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Nagoya, and then back to Tokyo for a total of ten shows. Isn't this the longest tour in alice nine's history? Could you tell me what to expect from the tour?
Sho: I'd say we fumbled through our last tour since it was our first time alone. We wanted to start by showing people what alice nine. the band was about, instead of showing the crowd all the facets of the band members. However, this time around we've put out our album "Zekkeishoku," and are preparing to show the audience everything about us. Like the word "Zekkei," we want to show our audience a really wonderful scene. We're putting all of our effort into each show around Japan.
Nao: I'm sure it's not just me who thinks we spent a long time underground leading to the release of "Zekkeishoku." We thought about how much we wanted to perform the whole time we were recording. We'll be performing new songs live this time, and we want to unite the audience with heat and fun and vitamin satisfaction! (Laughs)
Saga: I don't think we can exhaust all the energy of "Zekkeishoku" with just ten shows--we have too many thoughts and too much enthusiasm. We'll be finishing the tour at Zepp Tokyo for the time being, but in my head I can't imagine Zepp being the end. (Laughs)
Tora: I like playing live and I want to take the new songs we've made for the album and play them in as many places as I can. That's why we ended up with ten shows. I plan on putting all my energy into each show.
Hiroto: I really think "Zekkeishoku" is the best release we've ever put out. I can't help looking forward to taking the album on the road. To be able to cross the country with my good friends, to be able to put the thoughts and feelings of our fans into our songs--I really look forward to seeing how far alice nine. can go. This will be our first tour in a while so it should be hotter than ever.
Finally, can you give me a message for your fans?
Nao: We've put out our first full-length album and our hearts our screaming. We want you guys to scream along with us!
Saga: Don't just rely on us. After you've heard this album, think of all sorts of things. Then, when you come to our shows, we'll all be in great shape to resonate together.
Tora: We had a fan club tour and have now put out an album. Now we want to do everything we wanted to do last year but couldn't finish. We'll be doing a lot of new things in the future, and we'll try our best to play as many new songs as we can during the tour.
Hiroto: No more lies, we're going to play exactly what we feel at the moment. We aren't going to worry if you think it's boring or not, we want you to come up against the real alice nine. Let's make some beautiful scenery together!!!!!
Sho: We put our soul into our music because we want alice nine. to have the power to change people. We work hard to make sure our fans can be proud of liking alice nine, and we hope you stick with us in the future.
Everybody: Thank you!
(Written and interviewed by Denno. Translated by Szkoropad)
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