音楽と人 - November 2010
Interview with Sakurai Atsushi
Text by Ishii Eriko
Translation: Lola

Struggling with Apprehension

You've done something unexpected with this new album. Even though you've done pop songs in the past I would say that these really are a break through since you've never really had a whole album that was so dance oriented before.
Yes......I suppose. Personally I'd say it's multi-faceted, it's not just danceable, there are a few variations on the album. I think we just discussed the dance part a lot when recording started. There's that rave feeling to it at times.

Rave music is not something I would associate with Buck-Tick's image though ordinarily.
......right *smiles*.

How removed did you feel from that Sakurai-san?
Well......as you just said now, perhaps it is the most unrelated to me. Yeah, even in the band, even though I did listen to it, I was the most removed from working on it. I don't really feel connected to it.

Well then were you guarded when you were singing?
No, quite the opposite. If I compare it to previously, I'd say I really left out the power of my emotions this time. Before, I was full on honest to a ridiculous degree to the point where I felt I had to catch myself but now, I've let that go. To be brief, I was able to do things comfortably.

So it's not that you removed yourself completely from it since you were still able to enjoy yourself right?
Right. That's how I approached it. Before, of course because I had to watch myself, I felt so heavy and wasn't able to fully enjoy myself. And when that happens to me, everything seems horrible to me. So this time I thought to let go of my feelings beforehand, even if it's just a little.

It shows how much [memento mori] has influenced you and wouldn't you say that it's necessary to fully understand all of Buck-Tick when it comes to their sound? And perhaps it is because of the effect it had on you and your feeling of accomplishment with it that your way of thinking changed.
Well, for me it's the opposite. That album......well talking about the work itself, for me there was always a doubt as to whether I actually did it well. Even my voice is weak. Well those are my doubts but I don't think it's something the listeners can hear. And this negative way of speaking is probably horrible for people to read too.

No. Actually I'd like to delve into that a little more. So you're saying you weren't happy with your work?
To put it simply, I just wasn't in a good place mentally. There were these bouts where I felt completely uninspired. So because of that I felt on edge while friends and family would tell me things like, "it's good". But personally, I didn't really feel it was good enough. When I compare it to now, I was extremely conflicted then.

Um, if it was so extreme, you could have stopped temporarily.
At that point I thought I had to see it through because......if I stopped it would have been a really big deal and would cost time and money. Looking back on it clearly I can say that I was thinking things like, "I wanna stop already!" without even realizing it. Because I was in such a state of gloom, I felt like it was all forced like I have to keep going, I have to go today. Everyone else had this new goal they were aiming at while I just felt hesitant about the whole thing. It's just, well, because they are very patient with me *smiles bitterly*, anyway, somehow I didn't feel a part of the [memento mori] project with Buck-Tick so because of that, naturally I felt I wasn't needed.

This might not be a good way of saying it but, it sounds to me like perhaps Sakurai Atsushi of Buck-Tick was tired of performing.
......I'm not sure if that's the best way of explaining it either but, well that was sort of how it was. Yeah......I think I performed with the intention of not performing.

So the album came out while you still remained apprehensive about it and when the tour began you didn't grumble about it. So what was going through your mind then?
Of course......at the start of the tour I was constantly thinking about what I should do on stage. Sadly that's not really an excuse for all those who came to see us......for those first three, four or five shows. But basically as I continued to do things, I began feeling better about it. When I think something's good, I'll perform well and of course if I think it's bad, it's the opposite. My performance changed for the better and as long as I could find some little good thing to keep me going then, my voice would be better too.

Of course because I was able to come through for the actual shows, it was good. So the tour......while it might sound like an exaggeration to say, ended up being a sort of rehabilitation for me. I was able to complete it feeling really good about it.

Your fans play a great part in that of course. Just the fact that you realize there are people there who came because they want you, that's something that you can feel right away.
Yes. I did feel it. I even remember the first day, the way the people in the front row were looking at me brought me such happiness. And I felt like because of that, I had to really be good you know.

So you were able to do a good job. As an artist, that must make you proud.
It does. It's best if I can give a full performance. And I think that's what I did.

If you recall, in an interview two years ago changes in your private life were being felt in reality and I wondered how you were able to balance that with your lyrics.
Ah, yes. Well I don't think it was due to any one particular thing. I'm just not that tough by nature.

But I feel I understand. Like for me, a little while after I had my child for some reason I didn't want to listen to music at all. And I especially didn't want to look at anything that was dark in nature. It felt like all the things that I liked and used to think were important didn't matter, I didn't need them anymore.
Ah......that's the strength of being a mother, your bond to your child is deep. I can't fully understand that as a man but, perhaps it's close to that. I'd say my heart opened. At that time.

Actually, there are some artists from overseas that announce, "I am taking a break from touring to spend precious time with my family".
Ah, yes Western artists do say such things quite often.

Even though I think it'd be good if you guys slowed things down, Buck-Tick has once again managed to evolve in a completely different direction without doing so. But I imagine that if you were distressed Sakurai-san that you would not be able to do so.
Yes. This time I really feel like I've learned from my own bad example. To think about good things and as I just said, that way I can perform fully. And because I perform fully, I feel accomplished, which is the real issue for me so it's better if I can perform well.

Because the sound is really bold too I feel as though it's really easy to get into in parts. Like with [Dokudanjou Beauty] and forgive me if this offends you but, that song made me think of Lady Gaga.
Ha ha ha ha. Well, that's ok, really. But that's not my opinion on it........

I'm still standing by my opinion *laughs*.
That's ok.

It feels completely disco. Because of the "Yeah Yeah" and "Go Go" lines.

Like I can see you inciting the fans during a live with both your hands waving in the air.
.........well, depends on how my body feels on the day. See otherwise I might regret it after *smiles*.

Hahaha. But it's not that you can't do it.
No *smiles*.

Other than that song, there are some really beautiful songs on the latter half of the album. I thought they suited your perfectly Sakurai-san. Yet if I were to compare [Hamushi no you ni] and [BOLERO] for instance, your singing style is completely different for both.
Yes. Because as I've said many times, when I'm performing, I'm always aware of what I'm doing on some level right. So when it comes to my singing, there are parts when I'm less powerful and if I can do what fits the song then I'm content. Like there are some songs that I did with a frivolous feelings, others with the feeling of being enraptured and even some where I was completely serious.

But rock musicians have a negative image when it comes to performing.

But isn't it a little like acting? You have to completely immerse yourself in a role to truly embody the emotion so that other people can feel it in the end. Is that how it is for you now Sakurai-san?
I'm no Ziggy Stardust but I'm happy you think I'm like an actor. I do think it's best when I get into the character of a song completely.

I'd just say that the difference between you and an actor is that you write lyrics as part of your work. And of course the words can be unrelated to you.
Right. On that point, I'd say Imai-san's lyrics are a good example of that. When I perform his songs, I can get into them to an extent. But when it's my own lyrics, it's really the only thing on my mind no matter what.

You really see Imai-san's incredibleness with his use of different writing styles in [BOLERO] and [Django]. When you see that he has such a broad writing range, do you envy him?
Well.........how do you think Imai-san feels when I sing? If we're talking about envy. I'd rather say I find it interesting more than enviable. Like maybe if I'm having trouble connecting to his song, he'll tell me he wants me to change my approach to it. So that I can be convinced when I'm singing and thereby get completely into it. He makes it interesting for me in that way. That's really the most fun. And then if we can make people grin when they listen to it, all the better.

So you hope it will make people happy when they hear it.
Exactly. Yes. I do hope they will enjoy it. It's the kick in the ass I need to work.

Not just a push? *laughs*
Hahaha. Well it takes a gentle nudge for me........to get going. Basically I when I start I feel pressured and sort have to tell myself that I can do it because I've done it before but then once the lyrics are done, I'm grateful I had the chance to work on them.

Fufufu. Well, I feel it's very interesting how your different personalities come through on the album. Imai-san even has a broad range in his sound too that goes with how he wrote such nonchalant lyrics. But you Sakurai-san as always wrote what fits your perspective.
Ah......I guess so, yes. But recently I'm convinced of what I'm doing. For me, what I love is when something really suits me, like the lyrics this time. Even though I do think they're a little sombre myself. Like the words and the stories are a little solemn.

But there's also some with pure love in the words. Like the last song [Solaris] which I really think you wrote honestly.
Yes. Of course, not that it helps me to be so. I wrote it with the feeling that it would be ok if I wasn't honest, it's ok if I just made something up.

What I want to know is, why is it that even when you write with an underlying motive the words that come out are, "It's ok if it's a lie" or "Is it a dream or a vision". Why is it that what you love and what helps you, is unreliable to you too?
Hmm......I think, I think because it's fragile. There is an end, to our human world I mean, like when someone dies suddenly. And when that happens, you think how can there be anything enjoyable in this world and then it's really easy to get yourself down. Now......after that you wonder what you should do. And I think if you don't get those feelings out even once then you won't feel at peace. For myself because the words aren't a lie then, well I think it's ok to use them when it's for one of Imai-san's beautiful pieces of music.

I see.
How to say......it's not a lie for me but, if even one word had a hint of a lie then it would all be a complete lie to me. So even with things like dreams, hope and love if there's even a little doubt then it's all a lie to me. Because of that, it's honest to me, well I won't say it's an illusion but even if it is, that's ok. That's sort of how I feel about it.

It's the balance between darkness and light, hope and despair. With only one of either it becomes a lie, yet even though you're the sort of person that always looks at the darker side of things if you really didn't have any hope you wouldn't be able to live.
Right. Everyone, feels that way in their heart in some respect of course. Well whether they call it hope or not. For instance even during war you wonder what you'll do the next day, you want to eat and just thinking those things can be your motivation to keep going. I think that's all ok, because of course I think that's what it is to be human. As I said it's something fragile but there's something tough about it too.

I heard this from someone else but, apparently during the Pacific War soldiers would greet each other bravely with the words, "Let's meet at Yasukuni" (1) even though it was a lie. I thought it was their desperate way of saying let's go home, let's return to our families.
Ah.....really. I can't say whether that's true but, I imagine they all had similar thoughts perhaps. Like, please let the war end. Isn't that in Sakaguchi Ango's book, "On Decadence"? Even during war of course there are people who are tough and hold onto life. So while people are fragile and tough, when it comes to myself, I'm just foolish. And of course that's what comes out in the end.

While I will say you are timid, you are also quite tough Sakurai-san. Because I can hear it in every song you sing on this album.
Hahahah. Yes. I suppose.

(1)Yasukuni is the Shinto shrine dedicated to the souls of the dead who fought for the Emperor.