音楽と人 - May 2005
Interview with Sakurai Atsushi
Text by Ishii Eriko
Translation: Lola

Sakurai-san, if I ask you about what is gothic to you, what sort of images come to mind?
Let's see...well if I say things that I've listened to that strike me as gothic then of course there's Bauhaus and Siouxsie & The Banshees which I liked when I was young. Now there's Raymond Watts and more recently during my solo there was Jim-san(1) and Wayne-san(2) whom I worked with.

Wayne-san *smiles*.
But he really qualifies. When we're talking about music anyway.

When were you first touched by the gothic style?
Umm, with Bauhaus...when was it? I guess I was about 19 or 20. I happened to like David Bowie too and Bauhaus did a Bowie cover, then they did a T. Rex cover too. That's when I started to get into it. So at first I didn't understand the reason behind it so I didn't think it was dark. It was only......when I began to comprehend the depth of it that I really sunk into it. Naturally, I listened to it very carefully.

Bauhaus is hard to follow sometimes aren't they. But you deliberately set out to understand them.
Yes, yes, I did.

Since we're talking about them, which would you say is your favourite Bauhaus album?
Um... I've listened to 'The Sky's Gone Out' and 'Mask' quite a lot. Well, I've listened to all of them a lot. When I was about 20 or so of course I was into the visual aspect of it and how cool it was but while it was cool on the surface, what fascinated me was that when you looked into it there was a glimpse of something ominous and frightening. That's when it really hit me. I was completely captivated by the idea of something that was 80% dark but 20% light.

At that time, new wave and punk were popular, what did you think of them?
Hm.......I honestly wasn't attracted to either. Even though everyone was freaking out over the Pistols...I'd just sort of nod along but I didn't get what the big deal was. At that time, I liked songs like 'Hotel California'.

Fuhahaha! That's unexpected.
The melody is pretty and back then I absolutely loved songs like that. While there's energy behind punk, it's destructive but I can understand why people are fascinated by that too. But that's just...me isn't it. As for what attracts me...mm...of course I say the shadows but it's because the opposite side of light, naturally is darkness, they go together and that's what seems real to me...even though they're in contrast *smiles faintly*.

You've had a preference for that from the start haven't you. For dark things more than light things.
Mm not quite......it's more that I hate things in between. Even fun things have their opposite, that's how I think about it. For about ten years now. Doing relatively happy and lively things inevitably leads you to the opposite end eventually. It's not so much a matter of preference, it's my way of thinking.

And so that's what led you to do something gothic?
At first I didn't really know what kind of gothic thing to do. I just knew it had to be dark and in the minor key. Something visually bewitching.

Once you had decided on gothic as a theme, how did lyric writing go? Did you have some key words in mind, did things flow naturally? Or did you have to try hard to think of lyrics that would fit the music?
This time...was completely different in terms of trying to get things out. Well it's natural...I say it's natural and then I wonder is it really? *smiles* It's more that the lyrics are about what I like, so they come naturally.

Your lyrics always seem to be fundamentally about the tedium of human existence Sakurai-san.
Not really...........but well, perhaps it seems so. Ever since I was little I've seen and felt various things...I can say that life is in a word 'tedious' but more in the sense that it is lonely, however, of course I think there is a point to it.

It's the violence that becomes tedious but would you say that living without being able to be moved by anything is an empty existence?
Yes, yes. I would. Being able to be...completely moved by something is such an amazing thing, it is something to envy. To explain things simply, in the end life will pass you by while you hesitate that's what also makes it so lonely but I don't hate it.

Mm....well, but because I got my hopes up and then was let down a lot, it made me rather timid. I end up being filled with a great deal of...resignation at times. I'm forever uncertain. I've said it many times in magazines but I wasn't even good at being a delinquent and even pursuing something I liked was hard. Even when I cared about something, I always left it unfinished and that's a negative thing.

I guess the opposite would be someone like a pro baseball player right. From when they're little they live wholeheartedly for baseball with Koshien(3) as their goal, then when they become pros they go on living for 30 or 40 years with only that as their passion. It's amazing.
Yes, yes it is. Ah...and it makes them happy too...considerably so.

Perhaps *smiles*. It's difficult to compare music with sports but isn't there a lot of daredevil music out there? And aren't there a lot of people who sing songs about hungry spirits and things?

But you're different Sakurai-san. Even though you write many love songs, the truth is they're not really inspired by true love are they?
Ah.....um, it depends on my mood at the time but they usually end negatively, that's the impression I want to remain. Much of those stories come from movies and books in the end. Stories where you wish and hope for something to be fulfilled...can be sappy and dramatic. But for the most part, they end badly.

Stories about getting what you wish for, and being filled with happiness don't really have anything to do with you personally though right Sakurai-san?
N-no....*smiles* that's not...........that has nothing to do with it *smiles*. Mm...of course it seems like I'm suddenly stuck on that. Not to compare myself to the sports player we spoke of earlier but....I'm not good at pretending so I'm tired of people fighting over their differences because it generates such a disdainful energy. Even if you wish for and hope for something, you'll have to make some sacrifices to get it. Well, you can try to run from it but no matter how hard you try, it will pull you back. That's how I am anyway.

So you're not really the type of guy who hates to lose are you?
Ah....hahaha. No, or maybe I am? Mm...perhaps *smiles*.

There's been a lot of talk about the band 'Sambo Master' recently, do you know of them?
Ah, yes. I've seen them on MTV and Space Shower and I've come across them often when flipping through magazines.

You know they started to make music because they had an inferiority complex. Then as they sang their inferiority complex went away bit by bit, is that partially how you feel?
Not exactly, just because those people said that doesn't follow that I'm the same. Because I'm horrible, because I'm ugly, because I'm bad, that's why I did music and also because it suited me. But even though I made music I still had a terrible inferiority complex. At that time I felt like I had no choice but to be as I was. Because of that the mood when I performed was terrible, it made me sick because I was using this bad energy......once I moved past that I look back and think 'man, I was so annoying'.

You know it's like when your pores are all open and you think 'what's this? this sucks!' *smiles*.

But I think that behaviour is fundamentally true for any expressive person. When they're in a band they'll say things like 'Don't touch me! I'm not a piece of meat damn it!' but then because of their inferiority complex they'll add 'I'm just trying to tell you something'. In your case Sakurai-san, a life without rapture is boring, and it's that emptiness that makes you turn to a world of S&M and devil worship. Even though your current style is completely different, you put the same energy into the presentation.
Ah. But the energy of a healthy individual and the energy of an unhealthy individual feels different. Mm, yes.

Do you think you could sing if you were lacking the negative energy that comes from things like your depression and the tediousness of life?
Mm, not really....no, until I find something else, I think it's impossible for me. If I did find something that made me look forward to tomorrow than I would want to do it because it would make the current melancholy disappear. But...that's a part of my character that is impossible to change...so I don't think about it anymore.

Until the time comes *smiles*.
It's already impossible so I don't think about it. Just like it's impossible for me to quit drinking.

So then you aren't worried that the things you've created in this world of goth will be lost eventually?
No, but even though I wrote this album with goth in mind I think only one or two songs are really gothic. Other than that I feel there's a great gap between what is goth and what is gothic. There's spiritualism, religion, devil worship and a strange fascination with dolls and then on the other side, there's love. That's quite different from what goth generally is but that's just my own special gothic style.

Nooo, I think all the songs are perfectly gothic. I think dolls are perfect for goth *smiles*.

However, it's not about a real flesh and blood woman right. Meaning, the pair of lovers in the songs are just a creation.
Ah, yes. But in the end they die, they kill, they are just puppets *smiles*.

Because they lack individuality *smiles*. Did you want to write a love song in general for the world or a love song only for lovers?
Hm........I only intended to write it for myself. But...how can I say it? I don't mean to compare myself to other people but love and passion are so typical and I am fascinated by much more than that. Yes. It's more the energy that rises from it, whether it's good or bad, that's what captivates me. To say it another way, something that is more than just a love song on the surface, something that feels like there is more inside, that seems wild, that's what I like. That's what I write in the end.

Maybe singing about love and lovers isn't necessary for goths though. So they don't need to become enraptured either. That's more just for you Sakurai-san and Peter Murphy.
Ah..............I see what you mean.

It shouldn't be up to me to make you recognize that.
Hahahahahahaha! Well see, it's because I'm already so deeply immersed in that world that I don't see it you know. It's like how I say...that I hate campus life.

Yes. Me too.
I absolutely hate group activities. Even though I haven't done it, just imagining what it's like frightens me and that makes me all the more scared. ...but that's not really the answer is it?

If I analyze my behaviour, then perhaps the truth is that I yearn for it *smiles*. Saying that it's just because of how I perceive things on the surface isn't any excuse though for my feelings towards campus life. It's just like tv dramas that play at night. Of course I understand that there are people who are really like that but...seeing them as characters makes them irresistible to me and I can have incredible empathy towards them *smiles*. Probably because that's what I need.

Perhaps that's it. Maybe you're fed up with real women, either that or you're just scared of them.
Ah...I think I am scared of them. Hahahaha. Well I love them but *smiles*, but there are also aspects that frighten me and it's when they are being frightening that I am completely disgusted with them. I'm not saying that I'm fed up with my partner but that I get fed up in that kind of relationship and then I even get fed up with myself. I'm drawn towards pragmatism in the end. Well even though I write about many different subjects perhaps, negative feelings like jealousy, are in fact very ugly. I'm sick of it. That's also why....perhaps when I do music, it saves me from that.

But isn't that completely well suited to gothic music? Or did you not feel that way before?
Um... well gothic that came from Europe has been taken as a fashion but goth for me personally is a bit of that and quite a bit of my own preferences. It's my own goth.

It's your goth.
My goth, yes *smiles*. See, you just confirmed it. Perhaps it varies a little in definition from other people's but it works for me.

Yes it does. But I also think goth doesn't get old. Even when there are changes in fashion, there will always be this kind of music.
You're right. It is invulnerable. But it tends to be associated with being old and dried up.

Just remember Nick Cave's wise words 'Only two things are indestructible, cockroaches and goth'.
Oh I like him. Nick Cave-san *smiles*. But you know it's not the devil who is so dark. The real black heart belongs to man.......doesn't it.

(1) Jim Foetus.
(2) Wayne Hussey.
(3) Koshien Stadium is where the Japan National High School Baseball Tournament is held.