Memories: Sakurai Explaining “Shinkai”
On working on Shinkai: “… I was looking at the negative side of myself. I didn’t have the energy and I couldn’t laugh at myself. But in this album, I think things are getting better…”
Edited from original article by kodomo-san
[Translated interview from BPass Magazine 1997]
Kazutoshi Sakurai (vocal&guitar)
Ken-ichi Tahara (guitar)
Keisuke Nakagawa (bass)
Hideya Suzuki (drums)
Photo 2007 (c) Toy’s Factory Inc
Asked about the songwriting process for Shinkai: I hadn’t tried taking music critics seriously in my previous albums, except for this one. I really love this album. Since I really like it, I expect critics to be cynical and speak negatively of it. So if people say something positive, that makes me happy. (Addressing the interviewer) You probably don’t like it because the sound is heavy; there are no dreams (it’s very realistic and serious; there is no attempt at positive imagination). It’s a dark album. I want those people who can remain positive through dark times to listen to it.
Tegami (Letter): …I didn’t sing this song without some emotional involvement; it would be callous if I did so. Of course break-ups are sad. When I sing this song, I sing it with the anticipation of something strange created from the culture of human civilization. So if I can deliver this message to my listeners, I’d be happy.
Ijah’s note: This song really took me by surprise. I first heard it when I was playing the regress~progress DVD. My sister Awa took a shine to this song and asked me what it was. I said I didn’t know, I didn’t fancy the song because it was too slow. A few years later (yes, it was a few years later), I was walking across the Palace of Golden Horses lobby when I heard my other sister Aning humming it. I turned to her and asked, isn’t that a Mr Children song? She said, yes, it’s called Tegami [Letter]. For the love of me, I could not remember which album it came from, so I ransacked my room for the regress~progress DVD and watched the clip all over again. Only then did I start to appreciate the simplicity of this song, and what it really meant.
Arifureta Love Story: “I could write the lyrics for this song easily. They came to my mind easily. But first I made demo tapes, and while the band played the music in the studio and arranged it, I sat down next to them and wrote the lyrics. I had had enough of love stories (to him they’re all the same). As I described in this story, they’re very common (he expressed a banality about them).”
You wrote this song from a third person point of view?: No. I’m personally involved in the lyrics.
Do the quarrels between men and women in relationships annoy you?: (He only responds with a cynical smile and a deep breath. He hesitates and then looks absorbed about something in the past).
Mirror: (I liked) Kan’s song, ‘Marui wo Shiri ga Yurusenai’ (“I can’t take round hips anymore”). So when I worked with Kan for a radio program (FM 802’s Music Gumbo), I wanted to introduce this song because it was my favorite. So I wrote lyrics for that song. The poem was about when I was a teenager, and I heard an argument. It was my friend who was saying how the word ‘rock’ is meaningless in Japan. I heard this argument all night. Finally, I came to the conclusion, something that still holds in my mind, that it’s neither rock nor pop, but a woman’s hip. So from that idea, this song was created.
[Let’s talk about] Namonaki Uta, Have you ever fallen in a slump? : Yes, I have. When I was writing the lyrics for ‘Atomic Heart’, I felt my worst.
Have you ever felt how great you are?: Yes, I have. As for this album, while I was writing the lyrics, I felt like that. For example, the song which I didn’t spend much effort on became a hit song (Namonaki Uta). I felt like that (then), satisfied and confident. I don’t want to compliment myself, but I just want to say that sometimes there is a second wherein I feel I am great. But I’m not always confident or proud of myself.
How about the opposite situation in which you felt how incompetent you are?: Yes, I have. As a human being, yes, I have. But as a musician, I haven’t experienced it. As a human being, I often feel how silly I am. I’d describe myself as having lack of common sense, irresponsible, and not logical. Recently, I’ve often thought that even if my conscience says something is right, and the majority is in accordance with it, and it’s meaningless to me, I wouldn’t consider it and I’ll go for something that my conscience says is wrong, and not in accordance with the majority, but is meaningful to me. This attitude applies to my music and my life, even if people blame me.
Machine Gun wo Buppanase, Have you ever wanted to be born in a country where English is the first language?: Never. I like the Japanese language. I feel it’s very easy to write lyrics in Japanese. In my song (Machine Gun wo Buppanase), I used the words, ‘Sugaritsuitansai’ and ‘Heishi desu’ (“I am a soldier”). I feel comfortable using Japanese. I am able to utilize it. I feel this language is my weapon. If I go to a place where English is the first language, I couldn’t explain my feelings in details.
Toriko: My favorite part of the lyrics (from this song) is ‘Yasashisa ni uete mieru no wa tabun/Hikutsu na kako no handou’ (“If I look like I desire somebody’s kindness as a result of hard times in my past…”). In short, there is a woman who sleeps around, hangs onto and is always looking for guys. But this (one) guy likes this woman because he thinks the woman went through hard times, lacking in love. So now in order to make up for that hole in her past, she plays the love game. She behaves like an easy woman. There are so many women who are called bad, but I really think that maybe those women have this mental deficiency. I wish to have them fill that hole in their minds with something.
I always care about pretending to be the characters of the songs (that I wrote); depending on the song and lyrics, I change my character to match the song. Compared to my past, I’ve mastered this technique, and how to change my voice tone, and the various ways of singing. I think there are some parts where you can catch what I was singimy words (and some you can’t). As for singles and albums, the scene changes, the story changes, because the single has a massive audience on the radio; my audience is required to listen to it (so he pays more attention to its production). But in my albums, they can read my lyrics card, so it’s not necessary for me to pronounce it clearly.
Hana Memento Mori music video.
Hana -Memento Mori-: There is a sentence in the song, ‘Hoshi ni Naretara’, that I’m used to being laughed at (“Warawareru noni mo nareta”). I don’t remember exactly when, but since a certain time, I started not caring about whatever people say about the things which I strongly believe in. However, if people say something of which I never cared about or never realized, I get hurt (for example, if you criticize him for his sense of dress, which he doesn’t pay much attention to, he will get hurt).
Shinkai: I really love the sound of this song, and I love its structure, but I cannot be subjective to the lyrics. I still remember what motivated me to write these lyrics. However, I didn’t have any intentions when I wrote the lyrics. They came from my mind. So when I listen to the song, I realize what I think. It’s so realistic. Too realistic for me. It’s uncomfortable because I came too close to myself.
When I sing a song, I’m an instrument. The engineers arrange my voice depending on the numbers. If I sing one way, the arrangement sometimes tells me how it’d be like if I sang in another way, and the words become more impressive. Then I ‘deform’ the voice tone. So I feel comfortable being an instrument. How did I feel while I was singing? I think I was deeply involved in it. I was natural.