Interview with Yagami Toll
Text by Kojima Satoshi
Translation by Lola

So Yagami-san, back in their amateur days, KISS put out a live album with behind the scenes photos in the jacket and some of the photos showed a large number of people in the audience being full of wild enthusiasm but when did you feel you were in that same kind of situation? Did you have high expectations when you were doing indies lives?
In those days, I didn't even have really high expectations, no. When I started doing live houses in Tokyo, all I could do was believe that if we did shows, word of mouth would spread and our audience would grow because I just didn't think we had much support. So because we were starting out.......I can't believe I'm going to say this but, everyone seemed like our fan *smiles*, I mean, because we were just getting started back then, it wasn't quite like becoming a millionaire but, it was something like the feeling during the gold rush you know *laughs*.

So when did you start to feel more confident in your fan support?
Just before our major debut. Well, I shouldn't say this either but, we weren't begging to go major or anything, because it just happened we had a lot of record companies approach us. So, from there we selected the one that seemed to have the best environment for was sometime around then that little by little we started to feel good about how things were going.

Things went quickly after your major debut. I guess that's to be expected at that time but, normally bands start off in small lives houses, then move on to small halls and after that it's Budoukan and big stadiums.......but it was like you guys skipped all those steps and went straight to the big venues from what I remember...... so in regards to that, did you guys feel blessed with how well things went?
But I don't think it was so Cinderella Boy as that. Of course there were times, like when we played at Shinjuku's 'ACB' that there were only two people there. Moreover, they were actually there to see the previous band but they missed them and since they were a couple, they weren't watching us at all *laughs*. Well our fans have increased since our indies days but it takes a long time just to go from about 20 people to 40.

Because you experienced that, wouldn't that make you feel the sudden increase after your debut all the more? Since after that you didn't really do the live house circuit anymore......
Well I think that's just because of all round band effort. Because it's more than just some special feeling we have, it's like it was fate you know, like some surrounding force and of course the era played a key role in everything too. So, I don't think that anyone can do it as long as they wish for it, I mean, even if Buck-Tick only started off now, with the same members, the same style and the same songs trying to debut, I doubt we'd be where we are now. It's all timing you know, all elements play a part but timing is the most important.

Buck-Tick has also done concerts at the Tokyo Dome. Yagami-san, you've said that you've seen artists like Yazawa Eikichi perform there so then was that the ultimate place to perform in Japan for you personally and what did that mean for the band?
Of course because we'd been doing live houses from the beginning.......going to something so big became somewhat of an obsession because it had a greater capacity. So then......when we did Budoukan, since Budoukan was bigger that became our new aimed for capacity because it's quite large you know. But when we performed there it was like there wasn't a connection with the crowd anymore. Musically, it let us do great things with the staging but it became quite apparent that that was it. So that's what big venues meant to us.

From that point on you began experiencing what it was like to go on tour too. So did you have any misgivings about it. Like with the dozens of nation wide shows, going to a different place every day, being able to handle the same set list; often people say that they end up falling into a rut but was that the case with you personally Yagami-san?
No it wasn't. Of course when you go to a different place, the atmosphere feels different too because in small venues the sound is different too. That's something I can tell from the first beat. And that usually sets the tone for how the show goes for me. Usually I figure out what I have to do based on observing the situation so that I can keep things fresh...... And of course the crowd varies too. From place to place. What amazed me from the beginning, was how subdued they'd be and then suddenly for the encores they'd all be into it, the girls and the guys and that was great. And for me......because I'm completely surrounded by sound during lives, it's almost like I'm not really there you know? That's what it feels like to me. But even for me there are moments when I can get a general taste of the atmosphere and it seems amazing's like God makes a break in the sound to show me 'You are here'. It only lasts a moment, just a break in the bar of music. But that moment is...well it happens only once or maybe three times during a whole tour of some 60 shows but, it's there. That's why I keep playing, I'm desperate for that feeling one more time. And that's why I don't get stuck in a rut.

And that moment is something you feel is only possible with the band?
Yes. Because it's that moment where everything comes together as a band. Well maybe it's not only that but.....this one time I was watching some classical musician talk on TV, and he was talking about how when he went to Germany, people thought he was an amazingly good composer......saying he was like Beethoven even. Because of that he said he never wanted to play in Japan anymore and.....that's something I've come close to feeling. But for me I want to come close to John Bonham or Keith Moon, like my posture from behind when I play you know. Sometimes during rehearsal there are things that I just can't get so I end up doing it however I please and then even I'm amazed by how I did it *laughs*. After when I'm watching a tape of that same performance I wonder 'how did I manage that?' and I end up analyzing my performance and watching it at different speeds to figure it out. I mean, that moment is something to learn from even if watching it over and over is like deja-vu. When it won't stick you know. When it does though, you can't imagine how happy I am.

So that's when you're doing lives right? But what about when you're recording? Do you have moments like that?
Well I mean the stage and the studio are both places of study, but of course you can learn different things from each. Like when it comes to being exact during's ok if it's not super precise because in that moment, the audience won't really hear it. But when it comes to a CD, if it's off...... you'll hear it every time you listen and that's much worse and that's why we use equipment like the Donca Matic (1). It helped me understand that.

Your awareness of these things already shows you know. Even with your latest release, 'Shapeless' I find you can see how you've grown in the remixes with the stuff you tried to do. But that's been going on since 'Kurutta Taiyou' and 'Koroshi no Shirabe'. Like you try to do things on albums that normally people just can't do, and the same during lives......I know I'm going on an on but like in the past, it was as though you only put energy into doing the lives not so much the recording so it felt discordant but then, as you worked more in the studio and completed more albums, I get the impression that your lives suddenly were on a much grander scale.
Certainly from that point on we had a different mindset. We had more freedom. Well, I think we felt more free after 'Aku no Hana' but we were also drawing a bit of a blank at that time, it felt like we had to make some kind of 'comeback'......we just had to get a feel for recording again and adjust to the studio but we had the energy to do it because we had freedom. Then we met with our new engineer Hiruma-san (Hiruma Hitoshi became in charge of engineering for Buck-Tick since 'Kurutta Taiyou') which was a pretty big thing. Until he came along I felt like I couldn't figure out anything after doing TD but now when we work together, it's relatively perfect I mean, it's like 'Wow, this is going so well~' you know......those are all the factors that played a role in making things complete. Up till this point.

Yagami-san, have you personally changed the way you approach the drums?
I wonder...... well I've always thought that every time we record something, it's the best but the truth is, when I think about it now, when I did 'Koroshi no Shirabe' I didn't really find I had a good tone. It was like my biorhythm was off because I was in this slump where I thought I couldn't play anything well. Um......but I can say this now, 'Kurutta Taiyou''s 'Speed' is good but I really don't like the 'Koroshi no Shirabe' version. Perhaps I was too worn out at that time or perhaps I lost sight of wouldn't be the first time.

Recently, you've done concerts around the capital of the city in places like Budoukan and Yokohama Arena which is pretty standard and both have an audience capacity of about ten thousand. Which is a lot more than some rural venues that only hold about 2000~3000 people. That said, does the number of people have some sort of influence over your musical performance?
It doesn't matter to me, personally. Well because Yokohama Arena is relatively new, the sound is steady and that makes things easier, to put it simply, it's because of the type of hall that it is, it's even easy for me to hear the other members. So I'm not really fussy about the number of people because you can have venues that hold 2000 that are good, and others that when you play you wonder 'what's with the echo?' you know. So it seems like the number of seats has nothing to do with how good sound can be on stage. That's why for me, as long as the sound is tight, anywhere's good.

What if you did a show at Budoukan, and then the next day you went on the road to do another live, but you had no idea where you were booked to perform and then you get there and you see beautiful people and rockers in the audience. What would that be like for you, Yagami-san?
Oh, that's happened. Like in places like 'LOFT'(2). Of course I can see where people are in a small place like that. They're really close to the stage. Just seeing people's eyes like that is a powerful thing, it's different from being in a big hall so it can make me a little nervous. But.......that's not how all the members feel about it.

But perhaps the problem is that actually now Buck-Tick doesn't really do shows in small venues too often. So when it does happen, it feels overwhelming. But don't you miss it sometimes? Or has it become oppressive to you?
Well right now, the reason why we're not doing so many small lives is that there isn't this overwhelming desire to do so at all costs.......we just want to try to do lives that show our true selves. truth, we did that in Istanbul. When we went there to do a photo shoot, we did a spur of the moment live.

Ooh. That must have been interesting.
We were in this tiny pub right. And the people who were supposed to perform that day told us "Hey if you guys are in a band, you should do a few numbers". So we were introduced as 'Buck-Tick from Japan' and then we went on......but well our performance was just plain bad *laughs*. It was all a mess. The audience just thought it was fun because it was novel for them to have this band from the Orient come perform but, when you don't know people, of course, you're really curious to know what they think right. So we took them seriously too. I think it made us get over being nervous in Japan a little......

Because you did things in a place where people had no idea about your band image. And this simple attempt at something different is, now, gaining support in Japan and for several bands it may even be necessary for them.
Yes. Um, I really felt that when I heard a Misora Hibari(3) song used for a commercial. It was 'Aisansan'(4). When I first heard it, I was wondering where this amazing female jazz singer was from. I thought her voice was so romantic and sweet. Then when I found out it was Misora Hibari I was like 'holy crap!'.......of course people talk about her being a genius but you know, she really is...... even though I didn't know anything about her, I thought she was really good. Something Imai-kun has talked about a lot recently is that he wants Buck-Tick to establish their own genre but, we feel like we're not quite there yet. So now our growing feeling is that we want to hurry up and become genuinely authentic as a band......and in order to do that, we have to try to put our true selves forward so that we can do something truly amazing from now on.

(1) Donca Matic
(2) I'm guessing he means Shinjuku Loft but...I'm not sure.
(3) Otherwise known as the Queen of Enka or the Queen of Showa. She ruled the stage of postwar music.
(4) Translated roughly as 'Brilliant Love'.