音楽と人 - January 2004
Sakurai Atsushi Interview
Translation by Lola

This new song 'Gensou no Hana' is like the album 'Kyokutou I love you' from about two years ago.
Yes, that's right. It took an extremely long time for it to be ready.

I see. *smiles*
When I wrote 'Kyokutou yori ai wo komete' 2 years ago, I noticed the similarities between the songs. But at that time we could only pick one as a candidate for the single. At that time I thought a powerful song was necessary and because of that, I chose 'Kyokutou~'. I thought it was good for the album, but also I kept thinking that I wanted to put out Hoshino's composition 'Gensou no Hana' no matter what. I had a new strength of will.

Ha ha ha ha ha.
Because I wanted it to be powerful. *smiles*

So you really were that determined?
Yes. I even thought maybe it would be ok to put it on our previous album 'Mona Lisa Overdrive' but this time Imai disagreed.

That's so sad.
A little, yeah *smiles*. But if you think about the traits of that album then you might agree. However, this year I kept thinking I wanted to put out a new song. Especially now given the tension in people due to the situation of the world, perhaps it's a good time.

Throughout 'Kyokutou yori ai wo komete' I noticed a pair of feelings, not only the strong impact September 11th had on you but also unrest and besides that, extraordinary strength in facing these feelings.
Yeah. Right after that happened, images of terrorism began to be shown on tv. The raw feelings of that time compelled me to write.

Coupled with those feelings, what sense do you have of the situation?
Like after a festival...well you can't compare war to a festival but in both cases there is nothing but that, how can you think of anything else?

If I say something extreme like military tactics are deceiving, unarmed you will lose. Then will you despair or will hope live in your heart?
Yeah. I think that in homes and families it's a constant repetition of hope and despair, many people say 'How can you dream of tomorrow! It's nonsense.' I say 'No, you're wrong. It's for this very reason that the absolute peace and happiness of tomorrow won't come'. In the end as time steadily progresses, the solution won't present itself unless you lean towards a certain position. It's a song that has yet to end. While it is still incomplete I think there is just a slight lean towards hope.

I see.
That sort of balance...I've always had inside me. I thought it's not really that way is it, it's not real. Sadness and happiness, good and bad, these certainly coexist. I think when writing, that is extremely easy for me to understand. But consequently, during these past 2 years I thought that in order to make a leap of that sort , for the words and the sound to come out...I have to feel it. That was around 2003, I was influenced by outside events yet I felt maybe it wasn't really the time.

That's a rare thing you know.

Given that, how do you think of yourself? For instance in regards to war, as you know it happens that justice is undermined on either side.
Ah...yes what you say is true but, I think it's more on an individual level. Both sides believe in the righteousness of their cause. Only in the end it transforms into animosity for the other...I don't think anything good can come from this. Ah, it's difficult to explain. We're living in the era of 'what good could possibly come tomorrow'. Endlessly people sing of these things, only that's not really what I want to do. But thinking I have no grounds on which to only sing of hope without comparing it to its antithesis is of course not the right idea either. That contradiction, within myself, I feel progresses together with the stream of time.

I think Sakurai-san, that from the start you've sensed the vanity of life within yourself...
...hell no.

You do. *smiles* Your self loathing is widespread throughout your lyrics, as if cutting yourself inside, you have many lyrics like that I think but, coming here, you've certainly begun to feel hope, is it like your reaction to reality?
I'm not really sure. Of course if I'm examining myself introspectively things become simple to understand, but I just can't say it. The explanation is simple on the inside but not so easy to divulge aloud.

When being introspective?
You might say it's simple but, take for example what's happening in Japan and the rest of the world. Doesn't it seem like everyday you hear about it...the cruelty of war? Right now, the world is full of unbearable tragedy but the unbearable thing is war...not people themselves is it? Then if I say I will write a song about the hope of tomorrow and the future...will it matter?

There are many things on the news that are disliked due to the harshness of what is shown. But I think turning a cold ear to it is even worse.
Yeah. Usually most of the world is unconcerned with reality, they are overflowing with hope until they see these things and they understand. Then they feel despair within themselves and that very negative emotion ends up becoming their motivational force. Actually, until now I think a large part of myself was like that.

I see.
Only this time it would be like rubbing salt in the wound, I couldn't do that. Within music all you have to do is complete the piece, no matter what, even if things end up going in the opposite direction than you had foreseen. It's not my intent to personally attack good people, if it seems like I'm overwhelmed with tragic things everyday, if it becomes routine, I won't find fault with someone for it. I want balance. If there is hope, there is despair, if there is despair, then there is hope. I can't state things definitely like 'It's ok. Since tomorrow will surely be better'. I can't say such an unrealistic thing but in the same vein I also can't say things like 'Tomorrow will suck too. I don't know whether I should bother living anymore', I even think that would be worse to say. Not that I think my words will change anything. But even still I want to say 'it's ok'. Even if it's unrealistic to make such a claim somewhere inside me my belief in hope is strong.

Well then, in what way do you think your voice conveys this message?
Mm. If I can convey it 'Sweetly and simply' or 'prettily' then it's good. But really I place my hopes on the person who will listen to me without evil intent, simply hear the song honestly and purely.

You say the person? The person who will bring hope to the world?
That's right.

But in these lyrics, I noticed that the image of flower = knowledge was conveyed honestly.
Yes. I think I was rather vague but if the person listened and bit by bit understood inside then it's worth it.

The song is very sad but you had to give it to the world.
Yes I did...that's why when I was about to record it, standing in front of the mike, I came to realize how very important that moment was. I think sadly, I cried then.

From now on will you try harder?
Yes. Of course the other band members also put their energy into it. I think what we're trying to convey is big but, my natural voice, my way of singing about feelings is dying and that is definitely not a good thing. Perhaps there is some sort of spirit that can inspire me to record a song. Then since I'm also being influenced by my self, the composition is honest. But you know sometimes I am unable to express my thoughts honestly. I can't be thinking of whether people can see what I put into it or what kind of reaction there is to it.

Because of you we're unaware that it is Hoshino's melody.
Ha ha ha ha. I think that's also a big influence there.

To be frank, would you say that 'Kyokutou I love you' strongly reflects your colors and 'Mona Lisa Overdrive' reflects Imai's?
Yes. If one person only vaguely listens to it then such would be their impression. Since I'm the one singing there was a sort of sense that I could make little requests. So for 'Kyokutou~', we penetrated society's core, but for 'Mona Lisa~' we went for something lighter.

Because of that it is your worldview that is expressed; do you think your view has become clearer now?
How can I say it...of course there are many things I don't think of at the crucial moment when standing at the start line.

Ha ha ha ha. I'm changing the topic but, when you speak of flowers, what kind of image do they have for you?
Strength... and fragility, the power of life. Not just something pretty to the eye...a bodhisattva in a way. That power is in men and in women but the proportion of strength in women is greater. *smiles* That's the sort of image I have inside me.

Flowers seem like a symbol of something. In a way they conceal things yet symbolize kindness.
A symbol is a symbol but, right now it may have no effect. In the world things occur yet we can live without knowing of them, in that way symbols are invalid when speaking of strength and about fragility. Even if left alone a stem can break yet still have the strength to endure, stepping on it can irritate its fragility and even so still the bud has strength.

Um, when I listened to this song it made me think of 'Cosmos'.

In 'Cosmos', you seem to be addressing birth and life with the words of but with 'Gensou no Hana', you seem to be saying that it's too late, the world has been lost in despair since the beginning.
Of course it seems like the feeling is one of ruin but now is better.

What do you think of people who argue with each other concerning this?
Yeah...that's life I think. I don't think you can do anything but...it's also strange, hearing stories of people making handguns, bullets, and missiles and all for money but even these people who are making tools for murder and destruction, don't they have families, don't they have children? I try to imagine it but if I just think well, that's life then it doesn't seem like there is a point. But nowadays, people hesitate to throw things away.

Recently for example, if I'm no longer wearing certain clothes, I give them away. I think I'd be glad if the United Nations would take them. Really.

In the end people don't give things away though right?
They throw away the majority and recycle just a little bit.

While having the feeling of 'well that's life', there is also a feeling of regret isn't there.
That feeling of regret isn't something that passes. I can't give a clear explanation. I'm a man that can't control his own feelings, so people say 'what are you saying?' and then I get that feeling of regret.

So you can't control your feelings?
Yes. Even though I'm older. When I say something good I feel my humanity overflow but, when I say something bad I feel immature. What I'm saying is...I guess I have a small heart.

I don't think that at all.
Well maybe you're right. *smiles*

How do you want to be?
I don't know.

Ha ha ha ha...do you have an ideal you want to be?
No, I don't. On the surface I can say I'm as I want to be. What about inside? I don't know, there's nothing I really want to become, I guess I can say I'm troubled. I think I would like humans to become a little more peaceful.

I think you're extremely calm in this interview.
What can I say? I don't know but I'm troubled.

I don't know about that but right now what feeling is disagreeable to you?
There is of course disagreeable feelings. I think everyone has negative feelings but, if those feelings disappear then perhaps you become a little bit of a mystery. *smiles* Because you're missing part of your feelings. But negative feelings of the self are of course disagreeable.

But up till now those negative feelings were the motif for your songs.
Mm, it's true. There is a of course a lot of evidence of that negativity.

Yes in every one, I don't really want to say this but to be able to put out songs with such forward-looking perspective, as if there is hope something inside of you must have changed, don't you think?
Yes, I suppose. It's expected to have self conflict. Growing timid due to an inferiority complex and feeling like an idiot isn't good...but recently that's there. With just that you end up unable to collect yourself. You're made into that person who is unable to start anything, it's contagious, what are you to do.

Seems like you have to be made to do something, but what I wonder.
That I don't know. Since I really thought that, it becomes that way, only I feel I have no choice. Why did I think that, can I say I'm just being spurred on, it's difficult to say. But I think I only keep company with a small number of people.

Do you gain anything from associating with people?
I feel...there is something gained. But to put it into words...When I feel another's ego, ah that's when I think I see the way. A little while ago, it was all inside my heart, what to think but that is disintegrating, as you receive, at last things come to become what they are. I think you can't accept everything but, ah, it becomes that you feel many things.

Was it fairly long ago, what was felt inside your heart?
Of course doesn't everyone see themselves as a hero of a story on the inside.

You were wandering around inside your own world.
Yes, that's how I thought when I was in elementary school.

Gradually you came to understand things were not that way.
But I think it's a natural thing to think that you are at the centre of your world at that time.

But recently you feel other people's egos.
I've definitely become open to that recently. I understand someone else now as a person, a subjective being.

Like looking in a mirror.
Yes. Well, even if I understand that, I have to understand what 'my self' is. I can become able to feel a person's subjectivity but, I can't accept everything. Like when people quarrel and hurt each other, I think that they just want a little bit of mutual understanding from each other.

I noticed such feelings come out in this song. Like a kind of love.
...'love', do you mean the kind of mercy and love of pity? Or self love?

...the kind of great mercy and love. *smiles*
I understand. *smiles*

Your severity towards yourself is strange, many people find it imposing, but I think your stoic-ness can also be heard in this song.
No, but it's supposed to be about accepting and being able to help and also...not just about self love I think.

But, it's because you think that of love that when you did the song the opposite didn't come out.
I guess so. I kept telling myself I must not associate with disagreeable things, even myself. If I only say how much I despise and hate myself, really I end up looking like a guy who only thinks of himself and who likes saying such things. From there I should go on to the next step, but of course I'm unable to love myself...since I can't go to where there is great mercy and love. *smiles*

You will come to like yourself.
Yes I want to. *smiles*

But then it seems a world view is born in 'Gensou no Hana', one that until now seemed dead, the piece is fresh and will come to spread don't you think?
Yes. I think so...there may be some negative attitudes towards it but, I will struggle to move forward over bumps rather than begin to step back and end up falling. It's the same thing when writing music, it's a struggle. But I think I'm like a spoiled child perhaps when it comes to doing things. Yet I don't feel as though I'm just performing a role. Now I think what I will really do is find myself.