Rockin'on Japan - August 1990
Interview with hide & Imai Hisashi
Text by Ichikawa Tetsushi
Translation by Lola & w_b

So how did you guys meet?
Imai: We met randomly in Roppongi....
hide: We met twice randomly at the same bar but apparently the second time, I passed out and Imai-kun carried me home and put me to bed *laughs*.
Imai: *smiles* Yeah. hide-kun and Yoshiki-kun were there....
hide: That was the time when KING-SHOW's guitarist Kitsutaka went on a drunken rampage.

Are you sure it wasn't X going on a rampage?
hide: But you know Yoshiki and I had stopped 'cuz we thought that it'd be too messed up if police got involved *laughs*. So in the end it was just three of us drinking and then I got drunk and fell asleep in Yoshiki's car. And so apparently Imai-kun ended up bringing me home *laughs*, but I don't really remember.

Aw how kind of him *smiles*.
Imai: It's just because I got a lift in the car.
hide: But then we met again in the bar and I told him, "Hey Imai-kun, you changed your hair" and he was like, "Ugh, yeah". So like I thought it was all up but then it turns out it was all flat in the back *laughs*.
Imai: You're making that up, I don't remember that at all *smiles*.

So basically, neither of you know what you're talking about because one of you was dead drunk and neither of you remember anything but, you do know each other at least.
hide: Yeah, yeah. Cuz we've only ever met when we were drinking.

Well that's lame. So hide what do you think of Buck-Tick as a band?
hide: I think the first I saw of them was the Live Inn video. Not for Fireball Records right, what was it again?
Imai: *smiles* It was for Taiyou Records.
hide: Oh yeah. Man I was completely wrong *laughs*.
Imai: That was around the time of our debut, the time of the 'Buck-Tick Phenomenon'.

You both exploded onto the Indies scene and then made the move to a major label. But were you aware that people generally saw you as the same kind of band?
hide: Me? Sorry, I had no idea *laughs*. So then I saw the video and thought, hey we have the same hair, we should definitely hook up *laughs*.

Imai-kun, did you know about X?
I knew the name for quite awhile....and thought maybe they were hard rock or metal. But I only found that hide-kun's style suited me personally.
hide: *laughs*
Imai: He performed in a way that made me think that he was something I'd like.

He just said you're 'something' he'd like.
What d'you mean, 'something'? You crush me with your words *laughs*.

Could you be specific about what makes him different from you?
Imai: Well his image. His guitar parts in X's songs, I'd say they're more psychedelic or something. And I like Daniel Ash and he was close to being like him in my mind.

And hide, how did you see Imai-kun?
hide: Y'know, I thought he was like a perfect mannequin. But that's cuz I hadn't seen him move yet. And then I thought, he's like a work of art.

*smiles* You're saying that because you love groping mannequins during lives.
hide: Yup. I'd like to put him in my room.

Um, he just said he wants to put you in his room.
*giggles* ....

Since you both constantly put your hair up, neither of you thought, "Damn it that guy's copying me!"?
hide: I had no reason to think that *laughs*, it's not a hair competition.
Imai: Hahaha.
hide: Well to the general public if you have your hair up, you're all the same you know, and once people saw that in the Japanese rock scene they lumped all those bands together *laughs*.
Imai: It never occurred to me either that he was copying me. But then when I saw X, my first thought was that they were amazing, well, the height of their hair was anyway *smiles*.
hide: Hahahahaha.
Imai: Yeah but you know, then my hair was getting super damaged so I stopped putting it up.
hide: Yeah, yeah. I just didn't think Imai had that problem. Around that time I saw photos of one of his outdoor lives and now I guess it must have been raining cuz he looked pretty pathetic. And you know, at the time I thought he looked like that on purpose.
Imai: I got drizzled on by the rain and ended up looking like a garlic bulb *smiles*.

Are you aware you both sound like victims? Next you'll say how horrible it must have been.
Well, yeah. We're commiserating!
Imai: Hahahahaha.

But you do have incredible hair you know hide.
hide: It's like a broom. Now I have other people put it up for me but back in the day I did it myself. Now even if I wanted to do it myself, I just can't reach *laughs*.

So how long does it take to put it up?
hide: It used to take three hours! But now, about one.
Imai: It takes me about 30 to 40 minutes.

What's with the huge time difference? *smiles*
hide: What the hell? Guess I'm just more fussy about it cuz I'm an ex-beautician *laughs*.
Imai: Oh, so did you design that hairstyle while you were studying to be a beautician?
hide: Yup. To graduate, I had to design a hairstyle for the school fashion show. Everyone had such artsy designs like something from Vogue magazine.
Imai: Right *smiles*.
hide: They weren't interesting. I put up every single strand of hair for that fashion show. Truth is, I'd really like to put it all up even now. Right now it's all one length but I'd like to try having it layered. Ah, sorry, I'm using beautician language *smiles*.

What are your thoughts on hair Imai-kun?
Imai: Well......I find getting my hair cut is really annoying. My hair grows quickly so now it's a good length to put up and then suddenly when I do, it looks cool *smiles*.
hide: Yeah. Your hair's so nice now.
Imai: *smiles* Really? This is just what I ended up with.
hide: But didn't I see you with green hair on a photo recently?
Imai: Yes. Recently. Just a week ago.
hide: I was often forced to give people that haircut.

At beauty school?
Yup. There are very few men who suit that cut though.

I'm not sure I follow you *smiles*.
So when did you start playing guitar?
hide: Around the third year of middle school. But I only knew the low chords. I learned by looking at chords from a known musician's song book.
Imai: *smiles* It was the same for me at first, I only remembered the major and minor chords. After that I sort of figured out how to do a slide.

So you both learned the basics on your own.
I don't know, I just had to learn how to play guitar *laughs*. When I listened to people who knew what they were doing, it made me feel even more that I just had to learn!

But wouldn't that just frustrate you even more?
Must. LEARN! *laughs*

*smiles* What was your goal as a guitarist?
I didn't plan on being this amazing virtuoso. But now I want to be.

You didn't want to be a super technical guitarist?
But, I've always thought I was amazing *laughs*. Like I thought if those guitarists wanted to play fast, go ahead. But what is there to speed? I'm better than that. And that's how it started, *laughs* really.
Imai: For me, I'd say I just wanted to be eccentric at first *smiles*.
hide: *laughs* Aaah, yeah. I absolutely agree about the eccentric thing.

I see, you both got into it for the wrong reason.
But it is a good reason. Really, it's a pretty general one.

So you want to be different from other people?
Yeah. Not just with looks and musical phrasing, but everything. And I want to be good at it. That's why I haven't copied anything since The Stalin.

But in general when people say someone is 'eccentric' they mean they're bad at what they do, don't they?
But usually those who say that don't listen to our kind of music you know. So that's why I used to think there weren't any other people like me.

Well then you must have felt quite out of place.
Yup. Back in the day people would say they didn't get me. They really were vicious.
Imai: I wanted to be apart from everyone else *smiles*.
hide: I wanted to be different but no one ever understood me. The truth is, as a rocker you're not supposed to follow the trends but when I was an amateur I got swept along with them. For example when the trend went from hard rock to heavy metal, some people thought that was the coolest thing. And if you didn't think the same, they'd think you were uncool. I really hate that. I've always thought why can't I listen to it all, what you like and what I like.

Were you steadfast in denying the trends?
Well I was outside of the main crowd too so I lived as a rebel.

Did you want to be a rebel?
Imai: While still being included, yes.

I wonder why you two didn't follow the main crowd.
Gee, I wonder. But if I had, I would have become a beautician.
Imai: Yeah I wonder too.

Both of you first were in bands before being known as individual guitarists but when you were in the band, did you still claim that there's no one like you?
When I first joined X I thought, I can't fuck this up! But of course being different was incredibly important to me.

You mean different from the other members?
Yup. That's why I had to keep my individuality. Joining another band and performing under its leader was incredible. Performing someone else's songs was incredible. I had a business like approach to the position I had in X, but at first I thought I would have to go to great lengths not to lose my individuality. But the people who came to see X and thought that I was different were right. That's what I had been going for, since the very beginning.

Can you be more specific as to why?
That's just how it was. To put it simply, when it came to costumes, makeup, hair and all that, if Yoshiki hadn't insisted that I be myself and arrange my parts the way I like, I guess I would have felt obligated to conform to the band. At that time X's name became known after we appeared on 'Genki ga deru TV'. That's when I thought that I must stick to my principles. I really had to keep in mind that until that point I had been able to stay on the sidelines.

That ties into what Imai-kun said about being the only eccentric one.

You had to stay different too didn't you Imai-kun? So you acted like an enigmatic mannequin *smiles* on purpose right?
Buck-Tick itself as a band is a little outside of the box. And I wanted to be set apart amongst them as well.

So even though you felt apart, you wanted to stand apart right?
Yeah. To stand we were saying just before about me being like a work of art, I guess it's like saying, "There's something strange about that guy isn't there?".

So you intended to be that way.
Yes. That's why I'm a little different.

Because you want to show who you really are.

However life is really difficult for those who try to be different on purpose isn't it?
Back when I was in my band, I wanted to differentiate the five personalities but that's something that if people don't get, you can't explain it to them in words. It's pointless forcing my personality or my role in the band on people who just don't get it. But the fans get it just by watching us. That was the scariest thing, I hated that the most and that just plain sucks. 'Cuz then, they don't care about the sound.

Isn't it the same in X?
In X's case, when I joined, I checked Yoshiki and Toshi out and they both looked very different. Did it mean that they wanted me to be myself? So with X, the most difficult thing, even more difficult than learning how to perform well at the heart of the band, had already been settled from the start.
Imai: It's the same for me too because we're all individuals. Like X, Buck-Tick has five members too and we each have our own personality's not like people think we're alike and it's not often that people ask who is who. And I'd say it's the same with X, as with Buck-Tick, you can tell the individual members apart.

So you're not forced to be different?
Right. And it's not like we needed to have a meeting about that, it just happened naturally.

So X and Buck-Tick have this kind of approach in common.
Yeah, right. For the people who get it, when they see a photo they'll get the full picture right away, in one shot. Because our aura will shine through.

However, both of you seem not to have a choice but to be "eccentric" right?
Yup, really it's inevitable. And that's my underlying issue. I really think so anyway. When I'm objective I absolutely see that as my issue.

Can you elaborate on your issue?
Well it's because I was fat right. Until high school I weighed 80kg.
Imai: Oh, really?
hide: I was really fat right so I was riddled with issues. Even now. Because of that I hated when the people around me would think they were the best no matter what they did *laughs*. I still don't get what they thought was so amazing about themselves. They had no grounds to think that.
Imai: Hahaha.
hide: If my old self was here right now, he'd be the type that I'd really want to pick on, I'd want to tell him, "DRINK!".
Imai: Hahahaha!
hide: I'm the kind of guy I hate the most. I bully them because I completely get that way of thinking.
Imai: Hahahaha.
hide: It was around the third year of middle high I guess. At that time, remember how everyone would bring their bicycles or watches to school and brag about them? So I wanted to show them what I thought was cool because I had bought a Gibson guitar......what'd I say *laughs*?
Imai: *smiles* I'm shocked.

Are you upset?
Yeah *laughs*.
hide: It's like me saying now, "I bought a Lamborghini" *laughs*. When I bought the Gibson, I was called "Gibson" so I wonder if now I'd be called "Lamborghini-kun" *laughs*.

I wouldn't, I wouldn't. Even if you did buy a Lamborghini now no one would envy you *laughs*.
*laughs* Are you mocking me? Would you rather call me "Mr. Mini Car"?

So what do you think of this guy?
Yeah...I like him....*laughs*

What would happen if you made the effort to view your issues in a positive light?
Yeah, well. X itself as a band started at a disadvantage, so obviously I thought I was at a disadvantage too. From the bottom the top is......usually being at the top seems like you can't go further than that but......that's how I could see it. In my childhood I was really critical of myself, so rather than see from the top, I put myself at the bottom because from there I could see that there are other things out there. I don't do that now but it's where I come from.

If it were the still the case it's not like you could anything about it anyway *laughs*
Imai: Me too and now that I think about it, it seems like I feel that way a lot.

You have the same issue?
Yeah. So I wish I could tell myself, "Look at me now!". Because when I was in junior high, I was really tiny.

So one's fat and the other's small *laughs*.
Imai: *laughs* I wasn't just super tiny but I was pasty on top of that. And my cheeks were kind of puffy and really easy to pinch and pull at. And when I was in junior all the girls were taller than me and they'd tell me things like, "You're so~ cute <3!". That's why I have issues.

But it's good being called cute.
If they meant it as cute yes but, I took it to mean the opposite and figured they were making fun of me. And you know, I wasn't a kid! *laughs*

Did it wound your teenage pride?
And on top of all that, I had an incredibly huge head. When I was a kid I would play around at a Shinto shrine and all the other kids would suddenly dive under the wooden deck around the shrine right. So I'd go to follow but I was the only one whose head wouldn't fit so I couldn't go in *laughs*.
hide: Me too, I had an abnormally fat head *laughs*. The witch hat I'm wearing today is an extra large, and you know how in the back you can regulate the size of baseball caps? Well I have to leave it undone to be able to wear them *laughs*.

I have a fat head too *laughs*. When I was made fun of because of that a lot as a kid and it pissed me off.
I know! Rock is about having issues *laughs*.
Imai: We're influenced by our issues.

Do you think rockers would suck if they didn't have issues?
Well I couldn't go so far as to say they'd suck. I can see myself objectively because of my issues right. And so that's why I guess I need my issue ridden self right?

Oo. That's deep man.
What the hell are you saying? *laughs*
Imai: But your issues make you stronger. I'd say they're even the driving force for us.

Aside from your personal issues, are there issues within your bands themselves? Since at the beginning you were both viewed as being all flash and no substance.
Frankly it's magazines that are the perpetrator of that prejudice you know. The mass media you know. I think it's straightforward right......but I get it. I was able to see the band in action before I joined so I thought that those remarks were really uncalled for......then when I joined we appeared on "Genki ga Deru TV" right when X first peaked. I thought the plan was pretty simple. Get good reviews's a really ugly story you know......I wasn't sure how to get people not to say bad things or how to get them to say good things about my image or how I presented myself but somehow, I figured it out.

If you observe the mass media objectively do you see what you have to do for them to like you?
Yeah, I do. But I can't say that that's the only thing that ties to X right now. From the very beginning my strong point was being able to advise Yoshiki and Toshi.

Does it seem like you are able to easily control the mass media because you can be objective?
I wouldn't go as far as to say that *laughs*. But even if I put together a band now, I would make it a rule that objectivity be mandatory. Especially now with X, I'm really trying to do that.

But it's not that all mass media are bad though.
Yup, obviously.

Has Buck-Tick developed a good way of dealing with the media?
No, but in the beginning we had some pretty strong reactions to it.

What made you react?
Well they would judge us without really listening......

Did they criticize you by saying things like, "They're all show" and basically only talked about your appearance?
Yeah, quite a bit. I was hurt by that so I reacted strongly. Since the time of our debut we've been pushed to have our darker songs at the forefront of our performances.

Were they asking you things like, "Hey can't you be heavier or darker! C'mon!"?
Yeah. Because in their eyes there was nothing to us. *smiles*
hide: I really do get where you're coming from.

But were there some things that could work to your advantage in the situation?
Yes, there were. Because it made us stand out anyway, and if it brought out our characters more and established each of our positions which in turn brought people to the lives then we win anyway.
hide: It's the same for X. If we just put out the greatest common denominator that both the media and the public masses want then we'd be compromising but X has the intention to put out the smallest common denominator *laughs*.

So both bands have come to this point without compromising. Do you feel vindicated in regards to your peers who criticized you in the past.
Well, I don't have to talk about it. I can just snicker in private you know. It's not something I should show openly. The reason why they criticize me so much is precisely because I'm impassive when I perform.

But you're thinking it *laughs*.
Oh yeah, with all my heart.

Have you been building up your resentment for years?
I think so, yeah. At first I'd imagine various scenarios like, "Hey why don't we run em over with a truck?". Like the editorial staff from magazines.

Imai-kun have you triumphed in this way as well? *laughs*
Yup, I have. Yes.

This guy's not telling the truth *laughs*.
But I'm also grateful for the criticism you know. Because it pushed me forward. Because I'm so riddled with issues. I can't move if I'm getting my ass whipped but it gets me fired up if it happens or when there's uncalled for remarks like, "You LOSERS!".
Imai: Yes. That's so true. Then the moment you start doing well sales-wise, they'll start praising you but part of being in the performance business is dealing with those sorts of people. That's how I've come to feel anyway.
hide They're a bunch of backstabbers.
Imai: Yeah.
hide: Those people will praise you even when you suck right? Or something.*laughs* Lately I think about that often. Yoshiki says the same.

*laughs* Well since you're doing well you can say that but what would happen if you tanked I wonder.
If I tank I'll run them over with a truck! Isn't it obvious?
Imai: Hahahaha.

They'll suddenly start grovelling.
*laughs* Damn straight.

And what if Buck-Tick tanked?
Well, I might not run people over with a truck *laughs*.......I think I'd just keep playing.

Oh! We've got a goody goody here *laughs*.
But now that I'm playing I've got some I never think about what would happen if we for now I'll just keep at it. Steadily.

You have a solid foundation.
Well, I guess I'm the same.

So you think a steady guy would run people over with a truck?
It was a metaphor! Metaphor!

Uh oh you ended up compromising *laughs*.
Hahahahaha. Try to insult me and I'll run you over! Just because *laughs*.

Hahaha. You know I find it deeply moving that you both aimed at being eccentric and ended up in extremely successful bands who are eccentric.
I know right. Well, because both Buck-Tick and X aren't part of the band boom. So I don't care if we get lumped together. Is it bad? I think it's good really. And the public has the freedom to choose between the two of us. Looking for a good band is like looking for a firefly in the dark.

But for both of you, what is at the base of your self-confidence?
But you know when it comes to confidence......I play because I have it.
Imai: Well you know it's not such a risky business.
hide: Yeah but business is business. What the hell *laughs*.

I admire you for your readiness *smiles*.
Wouldn't you say we're really in the business of selling our life away? *laughs*

Do you think Buck-Tick and X will continue getting their own way?
Well, we're both going strong.
Imai: Going strong?
hide: Yup.

Well because you're both in bands where the actual members aren't thinking of leaving.
They're not and neither am I. And since I saw Buck-Tick I think it's the same for them.
Imai: Yes, I think so.

I'm looking forward to seeing which band will lose a member first *laughs*.
I think we'd all rather die than quit you know.

You only mean X right? *laughs*
*laughs* Ah, right, right.

So are you going to die?
No, no *laughs*.