Interview with Higuchi Yutaka
Text by Sasaki Mika
Translation by Lola

When you moved to the capital in '85, it was under the pretext of going to a specialty school right?
That's what I told my parents. But of course, it was to be in the band.

Did your parents give you funds to go to the capital?
Yes, in the beginning. But they stopped after a year and then it was hell *laughs*.

Where did you live at first?
Asagaya. About three years after high school I became friends with BOOWY's Matsui-san and since he lived in Asagaya, that's where I wanted to go. I lived with my big brother. The only one missing was our vocalist and then when we had a meeting one day, Acchan said, "You know, I want to sing" so then we were missing a drummer. I think what happened next was simply fate. Anii's band broke up. Anii had been doing contests with LA-PPISCH and was getting fed up of the band scene but I persuaded him. He was quickly getting frustrated with his situation and he felt like he had come to Tokyo for nothing so, that day, he packed his bags and came with me.

How much was your rent?
40 000 yen. We didn't have a bath but we were lucky enough to have a toilet. We had a six tatami room and a four and a half tatami room that had a tiny kitchen, it was basically a 1DK *laughs*(1). I was really happy living there every day. So happy I could die. It really felt like my own little house to me. It had a split floor, with the vestibule on the lower part.

How long did you live there?
For about four years. We got kicked out the last year by the landlord. He just showed up suddenly one day and told us to get out and stay out. When Anii and I were talking about it we were freaking out because damn, we have no money so I thought, ok, we'll just have to save up. So we saved about 200 000~300 000 yen and moved out the next day! *laughs*

That was a fortune in those days.
It was~. Around that time we did shows about three times a month in little live houses. We rehearsed about once a month and I worked about four days a month which is pretty useless right? Because my job was so unreliable, one day I told Anii, ok, I'm off and left but then came back in right away. When he asked me what was wrong, I told him I was unemployed *smiles*. It was so sad.

What kind of job did you have?
I worked at a game centre. I was the video rental guy.

Do you remember how much you made per hour?
Nothing much. I don't even think I made 500 yen per hour.

It's a student's salary because usually they have an allowance from home on top of that, but yours stopped.
Yes. It was painful. I couldn't eat good things. I ate things like Baby Star Ramen a lot *smiles*. But because I could never eat a proper meal I wished for the band to have a steady number of gigs so that I wouldn't have to suffer like that. Being uncertain about our lives was frustrating and awful. It was like nothing was going well. But we kept trying and after awhile we got our wish to do lives. We did about 3 shows a month because in those days there was just a lot of amateur bands out there.

I think you guys are the last generation of musicians that worked their way up through live houses and actually printed your own publicity posters to get your name known.
Yes. That's because people don't really know how to make posters. I made ours myself. It cost money but I'd be there in the Family Mart printing copy after copy. And eventually I even made stickers but I didn't have money for that at first. I got money to print stickers once we signed with Taiyou Records.

How did that happen?
When we were playing in a live house, a guy from Taiyou Records came to see us because he had seen us in the battle of the bands. And since he thought we were interesting, he came to greet us. Even though we were making music we weren't selling anything, and we thought we should make cassettes but we only went to the studio once. It was pretty cheap to go. Anyway, so we made this cassette but I didn't how good it was that we did that until that guy came to talk to us. I'm glad that we did, it was fate.

How many copies of 'To Search' were sold? (It was released in October '86)
2000 copies or something wasn't it? They all sold so. They did a second press. At least I think they did. We just can't forget that, 2000 copies. At least I haven't.

Were you guaranteed on the label after that?
Not yet. Because they had to see if we'd pay off. And we did with 'Hurry Up Mode' (released in April '87) and got signed.

So things went smoothly after just talking to that guy?
Because we were always doing lives. In those days, you went to Tokyo to make connections but it was frustrating. Some people begin to wonder if they should pursue a different path. Like just working for a clothing store. But I was determined, there was absolutely no way that was going to be me. So I played at any live house that I could. Some of them weren't pretty, like Eggman (2). And sometimes I felt like wow, if this is what being major is like, it sucks. But I'd rather be a half-ass pro than be a part of the regular working world doing something I hate.

Was it the constant support of your fans that made you able to go on?
No, but I was determined. And paid my own way. There were times when there'd be no one in the audience. No one or like two people. Basically if we paid 20 000 yen we would be let on stage. So they gave us 50 tickets and were told that if we sold half we'd get a guaranteed regular spot. But we didn't even sell one ticket. Still we paid so we went. We figured that even if we didn't sell any tickets, it'd be ok because as long as we're the first act, there will be people there already to see the bands that come on after. But we ended up being the final act that day. Before us there was a band of university students and the place was packed with their friends, almost 60 people but by the time the second band had finished playing, everyone had left. It was like, oh no! They're leaving, this sucks, there's only a couple left *smiles*. So we just performed for those two people. I wanted to meet them after.

You weren't discouraged?
We bore the disappointment. Because the same thing had happened to bands like BOOWY and Rogue. Over time we'd do more shows, places like Shinjuku Loft and the Live Inn, and we'd see BOOWY and Rogue backstage because they'd have lives there too. That motivated us. It made us realize that if we try, we can do it. So we just tried harder you know. Even though we were really poor by that point *smiles*, we were going somewhere. Our will power saw us through. But it was still awful performing with no one there. In the live house.

Did your life get better after you gained popularity?
My life didn't really change, it just became beautiful.

How much was your rent after you moved from that other place?
At that point I actually had something like a salary. And I lived with Anii too. Even so, we got a place for about 60 000 yen a month. Because it had a bath. It was just gorgeous to me *smiles*. I was happy with it. But my life itself didn't change at all. Even after our debut.

When did you decide to go pro?
Hmm.......when did we do that show at the Live Inn? June of '87? We announced our debut with Victor after that. We had talked about it beforehand.

Had the record company people come to see you perform live?
They came to see us after the show in Toshima Town Hall . (April '87)

So playing in that concert hall was key.
It was. It was an adventure. That was the time of sticker making. The staff and us went around sticking them all over the place, stickers saying 'Buck-Tick Genshou'(3). We joked that we could find our way home by following the trail of stickers *smiles*. Stupid huh? I felt like, now I know what it's like be a vandal. Finally we finished by putting one on our telephone pole *smiles*. We really put them anywhere we could. Even at the train station.

Did you have a full house for Toshima Town Hall?
It was almost full. That place has two floors doesn't it? The second floor was closed off for the show. But as I said the first floor was only half full. We had just put out our first album on CD. Actually, I think that was the first CD we made.

Did you have a CD player?
No I didn't *smiles*. But we still made the CD, even though none of us could listen to it. It was after that that we did our first nation-wide tour. We had to call all the little rural areas to make the bookings at the live houses ourselves. Because we had appeared in magazines like Takarajima and DOLL around then, they knew right away who we were so that made things a bit easier. But we were careless. We ended up staying in a love hotel. For 1000 yen a night.

Was it just men staying there?
It was. When we got to the live house we looked more like band staff, not the band. Because for awhile we drove our own equipment vehicle. Acchan and our staff took turns driving. But there were no guests outside when we got there. When we went inside......there weren't even forty people.

How many lives did you do before you felt like going pro was paying off?
That happened fairly quickly. Maybe after around four shows. Now bands are lucky. But in those days, big record companies wouldn't let you perform.

Ah, right, not until you released your debut album.
Yes. And since they told you in advance they thought it was ok. So then when they told us to perform, it really felt like we had no choice. But then we were still supposed to feel indebted to them and all the media. You know, like otherwise no one's gonna wanna watch a sucky band like ours right *smiles*. We got flamed by the media you see.

Ahahaha. Well anyway, so what happened after your decision at the Live Inn?
Since it was settled that day, we announced it on stage.

And did your life change after?
It became busy as hell. Usually, after you release an album, you go on tour right? But we had tours even without releases. The worst was when 'Just One More Kiss' came out. We just got back from London and had to go on tour for the previous album. Even though we had just gotten back from recording a different album. I just didn't get it. Well.........even if I didn't get it, it happened. It was hectic.

What was your salary like then?
I'm not sure. I think it was something like 100 000 yen. But I was still living with Anii. I moved sometime around when 'TABOO' came out. I moved out on my own right before we did that show at Budoukan (January '89).

What did it feel like to move up enough to be able to do a show at Budoukan?
I didn't think about that at all. I just didn't have the time to even think about it. We were that busy. We put out a lot of albums. Or first album came out in November '87 right, then we did a mini album in March of '88. Then we put out another album, 'Seventh Heaven' that June. Rehearsals, interviews, and recording was all going on at the same time. It was awful having to go campaigning at the same time as being on tour. No wonder I didn't know what was going on. I barely had time to wash my face *smiles*. I could never relax and just hang out back then. There was no time.

When did you start getting a little time to yourself?
Around the time of 'Aku no Hana'. And that was, because, because of what happened with Imai-san. That made us reorganize ourselves a little. I think that was the strangest time for us. I was worried about what we should do, to sell rock music.

Was the record company worried too?
Magazines, the record company, and the office staff were all worried and didn't know what to do. They were all going crazy, saying things like maybe it'd be better if we tried pass ourselves off as idols. Because it was a time when being seen as rock wasn't popular. Which was just absurd to me. But that was what star magazines were saying. On the whole, it just felt like we were falling behind and had to catch up with the world and the times.

Rock bands like BOOWY and REBECCA got their break because record companies realized that rock sells!
I know right? But we're not close to the level of those artists. It even showed during interviews you know? We'd do interviews even though we didn't have an album coming out and so they'd just ask these silly questions like, do you like melon? *smiles* After that, we'd just answer with a grunt or whatever no matter what they'd asked and they'd print it *smiles*. I think a lot of bands who debuted around that time were doing that. And then the publicity people would squabble with the magazine people. But they'd come to an agreement. So in the end we had no choice and had to go along with doing recording while doing publicity. It makes me laugh. I'd be signing things during TD. It was like I went around more often with a pen in hand than my bass *smiles*. It was crazy........

Bands now should be grateful that you paved the way for them.
Yes but I think the bands that came before us had it a lot harder you know. I feel like without them there wouldn't be any band growth, or changes in the music scene.

So did your life continue without a hitch after all that?
I'd say rather, that when things are going well, it feels like everything else in life is going well too. Even with the people around you. As you get older. But I still can't believe that it's been ten years already. It went so fast. But I think we still have a lot more left in us.

(1) A 1DK is basically, a one room apartment with a kitchen. So...technically it's two rooms but...I guess the 1 is more for there being only one bedroom.
(2) Shibuya Eggman is a live house.
(3) Anyone who has watched B-T Picture Product I knows what this is right? The Buck-Tick Phenomenon.