|Date||January 3, 2009|
|Author||Sarah & Non-Non|
JaME had the chance to interview the rapidly rising stars of the rock scene ONE OK ROCK about a variety of subjects including touring and riding the wave of success.
Shortly after the release of their third full album Kanjou Effect, JaME met up with ONE OK ROCK again for an interview. This time, only vocalist TAKA and guitarist Toru were present, to talk to us about their recent album release and future aspirations.
At what point and why did you decide you wanted to pursue a musical career?
Taka: I'm not sure when?
Toru: About 3 years ago? We originally liked music without caring about genres. We wanted to do a band to know more about music; we especially loved rock and listened to it a lot. Three months after we made the band, we started to think that we wanted to make our own original songs and sounds, and decided, "We’ll do our best in this band!"
What was the first live you saw?
Toru: It was RIZE, when I was around the 6th grade in my elementary school.
Eh!? You were going to live houses when you were in the 6th grade of elementary school?
Toru: (laugh) No, no, I sometimes just happened to be there. I used to dance and appeared at the event, and RIZE was the only band there. Others were hip hop and so on. When I saw them I thought "They are so cool". I hadn’t seen a live performance until then, and I listened to their guitar sounds thinking "MIXTURE is so cool". It was my first thought. I also thought I wanted to do a band too, and so I did various musical things.
Taka: For me it was RIZE too, I went to see them in a live house, I think.
Were you first surprised by RIZE the first time you saw them?
Taka: I saw RIZE and thought "I want to do a band too.".
Congratulations on Kanjou Effect (English title is Emotion Effect). It really is an excellent album. What meaning are you trying to convey with the title?
Taka: We have so far released three albums, until now all of which have different "colours". Our favourite music changes each time, and the style of music which stimulates us we are comes out in our albums quite a lot. This time, on our 3rd album, it is different from our previous works. While the base of ONE OK ROCK hasn’t changed, our favourite music is added as an influence. It combines with us, which makes our albums different every time, I think. And this time the emotional’(emo) genre was the influence that combined with us, so we named the album Kanjou Effect (Kanjou means emotion in Japanese).
What were the biggest challenges for you while making this album?
Taka: First of all, the sounds changed totally. We changed our engineer because we were searching for an engineer who could make our sounds very powerful. Then when we started recording, we were working with a different person from the person who we were used to working with, which was our biggest challenge. If it all didn’t go well, I honestly don't think this album would have been that good.
Were there any other challenges besides the engineer?
Taka: A new producer had also newly joined us to work on various things. Anyway, to carry our theme and to make the album were were challenged, and we were very stimulated by these additional challenges.
I can hear a lot of Foo Fighters influence on your album Kanjou Effect. What would you say were the key influences on the album?
Taka: I like them. Toru: All of us like them.
Which Foo Fighters songs do you particularly like?
Taka: I like Pretender.
Toru: As I listen to our music, and don’t think it’s influenced by the Foo Fighters too much, another listener might think differently. Our songs have different colours in each song, so I want you enjoy it.
Is there any other bands that influence you?
Taka: Well, I think most of the bands that influence us are emotional (emo) rock bands, such as My Chemical Romance, ENTER SHIKARI, Last Winter, SAOSIN etc,.
Toru: I listen to almost all of young so-called emotional bands whose band member ages are in their early twenties.
Your new album also seems much heavier than your previous work, Break My Strings for example is a heavy song. Are you still experimenting with various styles or is this something you want to do more of in the future?
Taka: Our band’s guitarist; Alex likes metal very much. That influences the song a lot. The thought of "We want to make these kinds of songs" has been discussed for quite long time, but we didn't have the skills to express that kind of music then. Finally as time passed we became able to express this style of song ourselves, which was also a challenge. I want to do this style of song more and more.
I can see that Alex makes these kind of heavy songs often.
Taka: Yes, He has a taste for western music.
On the other hand, he sometimes makes quiet acoustic guitar songs too though?
Taka: Yes, I know. His way of making songs seems American. It’s not as delicate as Japanese style composition. He takes time to make songs and his songs are powerful, so we can see such an element in him.
Toru, you didn't put rap vocals into the songs this time. Did you mean for this to happen?
Toru: Yes. This time, the style of the album wasn’t meant to be that way, and the direction of our band isn’t like that either.
The song, 20 Years Old is rather interesting since three of you are indeed turning 20 years of age this year. Was that a conscious thought in writing that song?
Taka: I haven't changed a lot yet, but when I was a teenager, adults including my mom and dad tried to control me. They protected me saying "Don’t do this" and "Don’t do that". However, when I turned 20 years old, it disappeared and I had to protect myself somehow. However, humans are never able to change so quickly, so I think what I had to actually change when I became 20 years old was that point alone. Before I became 20, I wanted to be 20 years old earlier, but once I reached that age, I didn’t want to forget my past feelings. While I will keep my teenage feelings from now as I have held them until up to this point, as I work I will absorb what I need and dump what I don’t need. I want to make cool music more and more.
As I read your lyrics, I thought you wanted to stay in 20 years old!
Taka: Well, I’m not sure whether I really want to be like that?. I know if I would stay 20 years old, I would lose something definitely and maybe I want everything? I’m human and have a certain desire which is now coming to the surface, I think. I would be like "I want this too", unable to ever throw away anything and I would explode. That’s why I have to throw away what I don’t need, but I don’t like to do that so easily and I think "Is it really OK to throw it away?. That’s the point I thought about most in the time between being an adult and a child. It’s a delicate line in which I’m not a child nor an adult while but I'm being asked to change by people around me suddenly. In such a difficult situation, it's especially hard to change; I feel like it’s not good to shrug off such things necessarily, so I put the theme as 20 years old on the lyrics of 20 years old this time.
What challenges do you feel you face both personally and professionally having now reached adulthood?
Toru: I love music so much, I want to listen to various types of music more and more, and to challenge various things around the world. I want to develop myself, it would be nice to discover many things, and I hope music could be a little better here in Japan.
Do you feel it’s not good enough here?
Taka: Personally, I feel so. It might be caused by the cultural difference from the UK or USA for example, and I know there is no limit if we search for rock. However, at a basic level, Japanese music might be seen as too commercial. I want music to be very grand. I might not be such a human to make this happen alone, but I feel it’s a natural shape of music. To search for it is good, but if we search for too much and lose the grandness, I doubt it is a good thing. As we received a lot of influence from American and British music, I want such a music scene spread in Japan more.
You are from a generation where grew up listening to western music, so naturally you feel like it’s not coming from outside but what you express naturally and there is almost no difference between Japanese music and western music anymore, right? I think such feelings of young people are wonderful. I’m always surprised when young people like yourselves mix music of various genres and express it so naturally.
Taka: Yes I think that our generation likes to mix things. When you can’t divide things into a genre you just add something on. For example, reggae rock, Hawaiian rock, and then you have just rock and pop too. I think that because there are so many genres it has become very natural to do that.
Your song My Sweet Baby is a beautiful song, what was the inspiration for this track? The acoustic guitar parts in particular are stunning.
Taka: I wanted to make a beautiful song with the acoustic guitar to show off the vocals, so it has a feeling of taking my very first step in composing. I think I’ll develop and become able to make songs in which I can make the goodness of acoustic guitar come to the front once more, and this is a challenge for doing just that. I have many things to display in this song, one of which is that I wanted to make a simple song in which uses only acoustic guitar, vocal, and empty space, and this is like the first contact for that. It's inspiration was Photograph by Nickelback and Stone Sour songs. I originally liked Sting. Quite a lot of the songs made by Sting produces beautiful vocals, and I wanted to make such songs but with a little bit more of a rock flavour.
Did you compose the song as you played guitar?
Taka: I made the melodies and the mood, then we composed the song as we played together.
In Reflection, TAKA, you sing entirely in English. Was this a big challenge? Your pronunciation is very good indeed.
Taka: I think it might be different from the typical pronunciation that Japanese people are used to and that people can hear clearly, but as I listen to music by emotional rock bands, they sound very cool. Their English pronunciation is just simply cool, so I worked hard to be able to sing in this cool fashion more and more. On our second album, there is a song 100% whose lyrics ware all written in English, and we progressed to compose Reflection at the same time.
All of your use of words are so unique, such as "cupido" (from the song of Koi no aibou kokoro no cupido and its English title Partner in my love, cupido in my heart) which is the Latin pronunciation of "Cupid"’, right? "Doppelganger" is the alternate spelling of the German word "Doppelgänger", right? Do you usually use such wordplay? Do you intend to use such unique words?
Taka: Simply speaking, I am kind of stupid so I think that there are many words that excite me in life. (laugh) And I am kind of crazy too. I don’t study at all, so I don’t have the kind of knowledge that everyone else has. When I hear a word that sounds good, or a word that excites me in some way it really satisfies me like a good meal. (laugh)
Is there anyone who actually uses these words?
Taka: When we hear the word "Doppelganger", we think "What is this word?", generally.
And your title is written half in hiragana and half in katakana as 「どっぺるゲンガー」
Taka: Yes! This is because I have my own world view. I make it up. For example, there is a fixed idea of "THAT is a tape recorder" about this.(Taka then pointed the tape recorder in front of him.) But I don’t have such a fixed idea because I don’t really know much about it. So when I see it, I could think about whatever else it would be. I could think it could be a robot, and I would then have those feelings. So if I understand the feelings of "This is it" for example, I cannot imagine using that to write lyrics. But there are many things which I don’t know, so I can imagine "What’s this?" unwillingly when I see something.
That's a great talent you have!
Taka: I’m afraid I won’t be able to write someday if I know more words. I have many words which I don’t even know yet.
Toru, can you understand Taka's feelings?
Toru: No, I can’t understand them. (laugh)
Do your lyrics have deep meanings.
Taka: Well, I try to make the lyrics deeper. (laugh) They become deep as I add my images to them.
And the lyrics match with your melodies perfectly. Even when we just read your lyrics they are so good.
Taka: Koi no aibou kokoro no cupido was written by Toru.
Do you find it difficult to write lyrics, Do you think a lot about matching lyrics and melodies precisely?
Taka: Yes. There are so many Japanese words. They can’t be express a lot of meaning with one word alone; so there are many words and each word has different a meaning respectively, so I care about that.
Which song do you like best on your album Kanjou Effect?
Taka: It’s difficult. I like all of them~. 20 years old is the one which I put the most thought into. When I recorded my vocals for the song for the first time, it took so much time to record it. I was so full of regret and it was very difficult song to get through. So that song is the most unforgettable for me. Toru: I thought about the words of Koi no aibou kokoro no cupido. At first "cupido" was "kobito" (midget), but we couldn’t use it, and we found that after we finished the recording.
I see. So "cupido" was a word added later.
Toru: Yes. So we had to record that part again. I had never experienced that, and I knew I write lyrics quickly. So I was searching for the similar word by myself, and found it, so it was good eventually. (laugh)
Did the PV shooting go well?
Toru: It took us a very short time to shoot the PV. We finished rather earlier than was scheduled. We usually finish quickly as they are usually simple and the main part of the shoot is just a performance scene so we just keep playing.
You are about to go on tour again soon, are there any annoying habits that the other members have on tour that you could tell us about?
Toru: We don’t have any annoying things, well that we could actually mention here!.(laugh)
You are quite busy on tour, You travel, then do a rehearsal, perfom a live, then move to the next place. So I imagine you don’t have enough free time, right?
Toru: Well, if it’s at night, such as after the live or the day that we travel. Some of us stay in the hotel, and some of us go out.
As you are good friends, and you are all in the band together. Aren't you annoyed to be together so much all the time?
Taka: Sometimes I hate to be stuck together, but only once in a while.(laugh) Toru: Anyone can be that way!,(laugh) we are only human. Taka: But it’s very rare. Toru: We stay together in a car for a long time, and we part from others only when we sleep. Taka: When I wake up in the morning, the other members are already there.(laugh) Toru: We eat together. We get up in the morning, meet up again, then go to the live house together.
If the tour is long, do you stay together for a long time.
Toru: Yes. We like to stay on tour for about 2 weeks, then come back to Tokyo.
Do you stay together longer on tour or while you are recording?
Taka: Yes, longer on tour. Toru: We record separately. First, the rhythm party records, while we, the other members, play games, watch TV or chat.
Do you enjoy touring as you can go to various places?
Toru: I used to look forward to eating different foods in local areas, but now I’m looking forward to seeing the mood of the town. As we go to places several times, I can feel it’s very close to me.
In your previous interview, you said you are afraid to go to the place where you have never been before as you think "I'm afraid whether people would come to see us here". Have your fears reduced as you have more confidence now?
Taka: To be honest, I feel strange. Why people come to see us, where they get our information from, and how they come; such things make me feel strange. Even if I have a favourite band, maybe, I can’t be like them, so I can’t believe how wonderful it is that they go out of their way to pay money to see us. I just feel strange that some one is stimulated by the origin of the music which we release, and don't just stand still. We don’t intend to be representative of our generation especially, and we just do what we want to do about the sound which is basically rock music, so it’s no trouble for us at all. If someone would say we aim for rock it might be so, but I don’t worry to do so about the lyrics as well. I do as I don’t worry, so I can’t help thinking what is the motive for people to listen to our music and move even one step naturally. I wonder why they come and gather to see us.
I think they sympathize with you, don’t you think so?
Taka: I’m happy to hear that. And I still feel strange too. I have an awareness to say what is very natural, but I think it’s most difficult that people sympathize with what is just natural and come to gather to see us. Because it means what everyone thinks can’t be achieved in this world. I wonder why people agree with us like "Yes, yes". What I’m saying should not be paid so much attention to.
Taka, your lyrics tell the naked truth which no-one dares mentioning and that's why they sympathize with you, I think. We can see it in songs like 20 years old, Sonzaishoumei (Here I am), and CONVINCING. In Kaimu (Nothing), you use very simple words and express clearly what everyone might think, but they won’t say because they think "If we say this thing, everything would be over". You are so honest. I think few people can dare to say it so straightforwardly, and that's why people sympathize with you. During your live at the Shibuya AX (9/12), it was so nice that the sense of connection with the audience was just awesome.
Taka: I’m happy about that
By the way, how do you prepare for such long trips away from home?
Taka: Ah, well, I prepare pants and socks!
(laugh) Do you have to take anything that is always necessary on your tours?
Taka: What’s that? Ah, masks! There is also must always be a humidifier in the hotel. I bring various things that protect me. I have a box which I never forget to bring, and I never fail to put it in my bag before the day we leave. In case I am late, I always have it.
What else besides masks are inside the box?
Taka: I put things that I use to care for my throat, such as medications for my throat, things to cool my throat and so on.
You wouldn't have too much trouble if you forgot to bring other things?
Taka: Yes. I can always buy other things somewhere. As long as I have it, I’m at peace. Toru: I’m the same. I bring a gargle and drugs for any colds every time. I always gargle after we finish our lives. Oh and my iPod. Taka: Ah, iPod! I always take it!
Toru: I would rather drop everything else if I forgot it! Our tour would be over then. (laugh) Taka: Nothing would be fun anymore then.(laugh)
What do you put on it? Your favorite music?
Taka & Toru: Yes, our favorite music.
Do you put your own songs on your iPod?
Taka & Toru: Yeah, we put them on our iPod!
Toru: When I practice in a hotel, I do so as I listen to it.
Taka: I would die if there if there was no music.(laugh) Toru: When travel to Fukuoka (in Kita-kyushu) by car, it takes us more than 10 hours. If there is no music, we can hear nothing but the noise of the car. I can’t sleep then. Taka: We are addicted.
Do you fight about which music to play in the car?
Taka: Our manager puts music on randomly. If someone doesn't like it, he listens to his own iPod.(laugh)
Toru: If the music is one of our favourites, we say "This is good, so turn up the volume!" (laugh)
You’ll be performing at the ZEPP Tokyo, how do you feel about this?
Taka: Honestly speaking, I’m afraid. I'm not sure I can do it. I have a confidence in us now, and I have a belief; "I know what I shall do. I will never fail to do a good live!", but still I’m afraid. I think few bands can grow at such a fast speed like we have and I know that it’s great, but I also understand we can’t do anything good unless we have a firm base. We haven’t made a firm base yet, so I think everyone is afraid to stand on a big stage. I’m not a man of a rock nature originally, rather I'm a serious man and a perfectionist for everything. I’m never satisfied if I can’t do something, so I’m frightened. However, we’ll make this lacking up by our spirits, and I know it is what we can only do now. It’s just the way to we do our lives, without any lies. So we’ll just do our best. We’ll release 100% power of our power, and we will work hard for that to make sure that 100% can be really be 100%, and I feel like I want to get over each issue one by one until then. I want to play in big venues, and in America. I don’t care about which particular venue, I’m happy if I can see the scene in which various people dive and jump high in front of us and where people in the venue enjoy our sounds. And if the venue is bigger, I’m happier.
Do you want to do lives overseas?
Taka: I really want to go!
Toru: I want to go this year.
Which country do you want to go?
Taka: UK and US?
Toru: If we could go, I would want to go anywhere. There are rock festivals in many places in the world. If we can go there, I don’t care wherever it would be.
What is your dream venue?
Taka: An arena or a dome if we can.
You played at the Shibuya O-EAST and at the Shibuya AX, so you have consistently stepped up to play bigger places. Do you feel you have changed after you achieved this?
Taka: Ah, I feel we have advanced step by step. But I haven’t reached the target point which I have aimed for yet. It’s not like I am advancing by taking the monkey bars one by one, but it’s like we try to ride on the waves coming at us from behind and trying not to be swallowed by them. I feel like we are trying to keep standing. The flow never stops like a flood and we try to ride on the waves, trying not to sink to the bottom and to keep running together. We couldn’t do cool performances then, nor could we do turns like professional surfers do. But I think we could ride on the waves firmly and take them well on our own. We want to do cool performances and we want to be admired "Woooooh!" by everyone, but we can’t do that yet, so I’m very afraid when a big wave reaches us. It means we will play in a big venue. We can’t do it easily even if we want to do a live there, so we have to practice a lot to ride on many waves more and more to prepare for that. I have that fear but, I’m looking forward to it and I want to do such a big live. But I wonder if we would be swallowed by the wave. I’m frightened that we would be caught by it.
What do you want to aim for next year?
Toru: We have a tour next year, and the tour will start from early next year. That will be our longest tour up until now, so we’ll do our very best in every live and do good lives. I’m wondering by how much we could grow next year. It could be carried to our next work, and we could make more and more stunning songs for our next album, and I think we can change even more after we finish the tour.
Thank you very much for the interview!