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He became famous with SuG and decided to go his own way. Not only did he continue to produce music, he also cooperated with other artists for their projects! Read our exclusive interview with him about his work!

Before we talk about your recent activities, we would like to start by asking you about your career in general. Most people overseas probably started to know you through your band SuG. What did SuG mean to you?

Everything started with SuG for me. It raised me as a musician.

How was breaking up with SuG and starting your solo project afterwards, for you?

Well, you know. I’ve learned so much from doing SuG that I think I was able to start doing what I wanted to do thanks to that. 

How was it in the beginning for you? Starting anew without the support of a label must have been difficult, right?

To be honest, I was so busy with creating songs, building a company and everything that piled up so I don’t remember much.

That sounds really tough… Did you ever think about being in a band with fixed members again one day?

Ah, I guess I’d like to try it someday. Lately I started listening to Måneskin so the thought occurred to me.

They played a show in Tokyo the other day, didn’t they?

Yes, they played at Toyosu PIT.

Did you watch them live?

No, I couldn’t. I had a concert coming up, so I couldn’t.

Ah, I see. Going back to discussing your career, what was the most difficult part after you started your solo project?

For my solo project? It’s building a company (laughs).

It’s a completely different area than music, isn’t it?

The most difficult thing was creating the right environment to make music. There were a lot of things that I wasn’t good at. There still are actually.

It sounds like you have much more fun with music.

That’s right (laughs).

On a different note, this year you celebrate your 15th anniversary as an artist. That is an incredibly long time! How is it for you to look back on these last 15th years? 

That’s a difficult question. I have so many memories. I think the most important thing is that all my dreams have come true. I was able to realize everything I wanted to do. It has been an amazing 15 years.

Did you always expect to continue doing music for such a long time?

No, I didn’t. 

I see. I think compared to 15 years ago, many things have changed. What do you think was the greatest change in the last 15 years?

The greatest change… If I can say something other than about myself, I think the biggest change is that I can put out the songs I want to release very quickly. As for myself, in the beginning, I couldn’t even write songs so I think the biggest change is I’ve learned to write songs about my emotions. 

Was there a reason, like a special happening that made you improve your writing skills or did you slowly learn to write song by song?

I really feel like I’ve learned it by practicing little by little.

Besides your solo project, you are also offering song production, design and movie direction for other artists. Do you work differently when you work with others on their projects than when you work on your own projects?

I think so. First of all, we discuss a lot about what the person wants to express and do, as well as about the artist themselves and the project. From there on I’ll try and create something that hopefully extends that person’s character into the project. That’s the biggest difference. I just create my own work the way I want it. It’s a different process depending on who is the leading role in the project. I learn a lot during the process. It’s very stimulating. 

That’s amazing. Is there something you definitely have to do before you start to work on something? Like a ritual or something?

Yeah, in my case, I think I’m the type of person who learns by watching various people’s PVs and reading books. There are people who can do it through sense and sensibility, but I think it depends on each individual.

What MVs do you usually watch? A certain artist maybe?

Well, I just watch any and all: from the 100th place to the 1st, that’s my usual routine.

I see. Let’s continue the interview by discussing your solo project. This year in March you announced the end of your solo project sleepyhead. You mentioned in your statement that your way of doing things would make you dislike music and production, that you could no longer stand that and that you have to find a way to enjoy it again. We hope that you will find something you can enjoy once again. Do you already know what you want to do first once your solo project ends?

Well, I don’t really know. It’s not like I don’t have anything I want to do, but I’m the type of person that does what he wants to do right away, so I feel like I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do in my current environment. After all, I haven’t been able to go to different countries in these 3 years because of Covid-19. Usually, I’m someone that goes overseas quite a bit. When I go abroad, I can discover what artists who are based in Japan and “Takeru” are really like. There are many opportunities to improve myself. I will go to America for the first time in a long time in September, which is next month. Because I will finally be able to go abroad after a long time, I think I will be able to find what I want to do again. 

Speaking of that, what kind of expectations do you have for the live performances and fans in America?

That’s the thing. My image of America is that people listen to music without dividing it into genres so concerts themselves lead to great discoveries. So I find out what kind of songs are well-received, which songs are popular, and what kind of performances are exciting. This is basically learning by doing and leads to great self-growth. 

Which song is always popular overseas regardless of the country? 

It really depends on the country. I think it’s probably “R.P.G.” or “gr8story”. I guess anime songs are the most listened to in the world. 

Indeed. They are very popular because they are easy to listen to. Let’s talk a little about struggles in music. To put an end to your musical activities after 15 years must have been a hard decision. What would be your advice to others who are also in the music business and struggling?

In Japanese culture, most of the time, musicians are expected to be professional musicians. One of the things that changed me when I went abroad is that there were many famous bands in the United States that were also working different jobs. Japan also started changing little by little in that aspect. After all, when you put too much pressure into earning your life through only music, it becomes work and eventually you end up hating it. 

Indeed. Next, I would like to ask you a few questions about your album as well. To celebrate your anniversary you recently released a very personal best-of album called “STREET GOTHIC STYLE”. The album contains 18 songs written and composed by you from the last 15 years. Half of them from your solo project, half from SuG. Was it important for you to have the same number of songs?

I didn’t even notice.

Really (laughs)?

It just happened like that when I chose the songs I wanted to include. 

That’s an incredible coincidence, isn’t it? We bet there were a lot more than just 18 to choose from. Was it hard to decide which songs to include on the album?

I couldn’t make a decision so I decided to go with the set list of a concert. 

That’s amazing. So it ended up being a concert album?

That’s right. That’s how I decided on the songs. There are many other songs that I wanted to include though. 

Such as?

Such as sleepyhead’s “akubi_girl” or “HOPELESS”.

What is your personal favorite song? 

I get this question a lot, and the answer is I don’t have a favorite, or a number one song. It’s kind of like being asked to choose a favorite between your three children (laughs). I can’t answer that, it would feel wrong, you know? I can more or less guess which songs would be everyone’s favorite, though. 

Would you tell us?

The one song that everybody likes is probably “SAKURA AME” (桜雨). However, I want to emphasize again that I can’t choose a favorite song for myself.

Was it difficult to rearrange the songs?

Rearrangement, in general, is difficult because I have to compete with my past self.

There is an increase in electro elements especially in SuG’s songs, right?

That’s right. I adjusted them to my current sense of music.

So you like electro style?

I do. I like hip-hop and electro. 

Are there any other genres that you like?

I like techno music like EDM. That has influenced me a lot.

Could you tell us what you concentrated on when you rearranged the songs for your best-of album?

I never change the melody. The same goes for the songs. I’ve decided not to make any changes in the intro or the main phrases of the songs either.

Can you please explain to us why you chose the name “STREET GOTHIC STYLE” for your album?

Street Gothic is a subculture, and that I think best describes what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years.

Many people were involved in the production of the album, such as TeddyLoid and Katsuma of coldrain. Can you tell us more about how it happened that you worked with these people? 

Right. Mostly because we were friends. 

I see. So, was it like you were hanging out together, and you said “let’s do it”?

It usually happens like that.

That sounds great. Next, I would like to ask about the jacket of the album, it seems like you like butterflies. 

That’s correct. I even include them in my tattoos.

So did you turn your tattoo into the jacket?

Yes, I often use it as my icon.

The jacket consists of many different things that don’t seem to have any relation to each other. For example strawberries and scalpels. But together they complete the picture. Can you tell us the story behind the jacket work? 

I used things that appeared in various PVs from the past 15 years.

Ah, I see. Where did the strawberry come from, for example?

That was used in SuG’s “GIMME GIMME” (ギミギミ).

You just recently finished your 15TH ANNIVERSARY LIVE TOUR「STREET GOTHIC STYLE」. How was the tour for you? 

Both the oldest and newest songs got equal amounts of excitement from the audience. It wasn’t like only one outshone the other, so I was really happy about it. 

That’s amazing. Which song got the most excitement? 

“FUKANZEN Beautyfool Days” (不完全Beautyfool Days).

What is your favorite thing about touring?

My favorite thing about touring? Other than the concerts themselves? 

That’s right.

When I go on a big tour, I often stay in the local area. I enjoy going to restaurants and visiting museums. Next time I go to the United States, I want to go see a NBA match. I’m searching for tickets right now. I’ll check the ticket sales all the time.

It’s a great opportunity so definitely go for it.

I’m the type of person that goes to various countries to see things like that. It stimulates me and gives me ideas for certain works. When I went to Thailand, I got to see a Muay Thai match- it was great. 

That sounds amazing! Let’s once again return to the live shows in Japan. The first concert of the tour was fan club limited. Was the atmosphere different to the other concerts? 

You mean like different songs? There weren’t many differences this time. 

When you say “this time”, do you mean that there were differences before?

At the old fan club limited concerts, we used to make sudden changes in the set list.

The audience was allowed to film the complete show of the final. To allow fans to film a part of the concert is a trend we saw more and more recently, but being able to film the whole show is a first. Can you tell us why you allowed the whole concert to be recorded? 

I think it’s a very good promotion to record a live show and put it on social media these days. I always welcome it as long as everybody protects the etiquettes. 

That’s really great. There are a lot of people overseas that record the shows and watch the live shows through recordings. Although, some people say that because of this, people that aren’t that tall can’t see the stage well. What are your thoughts on this?

I think it’s fine as long as it’s not done all the time, and if it’s just a little bit. Everybody is very skilled at it. When I went to America for example, people took recordings and photos for a while, and then they went back to enjoying themselves. In Japan, people aren’t really used to it yet. 

On 22nd of November you will host the STREET GOTHIC FES as part of your 15th anniversary. The guest line-up looks very interesting! What can your fans expect from the festival?

Hmm. All of them are artists that I have been involved with for the past 15 years so I think I can create a dramatic day like only I can do.

That sounds very exciting! So, we still have a little bit of time left, so I would like to use the chance to talk a little more about you. You also released a book with the title “Sentimental end of the world”. Can you tell us why you chose that title?

It’s hard to explain it simply. Sentimentality was my greatest element for creations, so I wanted to change it into something more fun and simple by writing a little novel, and then I named it “Sentimental end of the world”. 

What was the first concert you ever went to?

The first concert I ever went to, if we’re talking about a professional concert, and not a friend’s, then it probably was Hyde’s.

What song will you never forget the lyrics to?

Currently, it’s “It’s okay to die so just live your life” [TN,: sleepyhead – SHINDEMO II (死んでも良い)].

Do you have any hobbies besides music that you are very invested in? 

I turned one of my hobbies into work, but other than that, I like basketball, travel and coffee. Oh, and cooking! I cook my meals myself.

And to close this interview please leave a message for your fans overseas.

When I looked at the data, I saw that many people are listening to my music, and it made it to the charts in Poland, France etc. I want to do my best so that I can travel to various countries proactively despite the pandemic.

Interview: Jenny, Chris
Translation: Gamze
English Edit: Kaity

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It would be great if you could support us with a small donation.
It might not be much for you, but it would help us providing more and better interviews in the future.
With a little bit of your support we might be able to realize even more!

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