X: First of all, congratulations on your 10th anniversary. All: Thank you.
X: It’s been two years since our last interview with you. Could you begin by introducing yourself and could you tell us about what you were doing before DEATHGAZE? Ai: I’m DEATHGAZE’s singer, Ai. Before DEATHGAZE I was playing in a totally hopeless band.
X: What kind of band? Ai: I don’t think I should mention the name.
X: In what ways was it totally hopeless? Ai: Everything, really. [laugh] After that band, I started DEATHGAZE. Takaki: I’m guitarist, Takaki. Before DEATHGAZE I was in an oshare-kei (stylish) band. [Ai, Kosuke laugh] Kosuke: I’m the bass player, Kosuke. Before joining DEATHGAZE I was doing various different things. Naoki: I’m drummer Naoki. Before DEATHGAZE I was in a band called Berry.
X: Ai and Naoki are the original members of DEATHGAZE. Can you tell us about your decision to start the band? What was your original “vision” for DEATHGAZE? Ai: First of all, we wanted to start a band that’s just plain awesome. Something you can’t find anywhere. It wasn’t just about writing good songs, I mean just an amazing, mind blowing band. Forget best in the world, I wanted to be the best in the universe. And I knew for drums, nobody could do this besides Naoki. So I approached him: “I’m about go become the best in the universe, please come join me!”
X: Does the same thing apply today? [Ai and Naoki look at each other] Naoki: It’s still the same. Ai: We’re getting there little by little. [Laughs]
X: Kosuke and Takaki joined the band more recently. Can you tell us why you joined the band? Kosuke: I was at a loose end at the time, and I saw on the DEATHGAZE homepage that they were looking for a bass player.
X: You had a formal audition? Kosuke: At that time, I knew the president of the company that DEATHGAZE was affiliated with. Ai: I thought Kosuke would be a good choice, we knew each other from before anyway. And he contacted us at the perfect time. I was going to take over the vocals and I couldn’t do that and play bass at the same time.
X: And Takaki, how about you? Takaki: I wasn’t really aware of DEATHGAZE before. My other band ended, and when the previous [DEATHGAZE] guitarist left [Naoto retired in 2009] I called Kosuke, who I`d known for a long time. Kosuke: He said, “I’m bored. I’ve got nothing to do. Please let me join.”
X: Tell us a bit about your band dynamic – how do you put up with each other? Who’s the noisy one, who’s lazy etc. Ai: [laughs] Oh, we’re really good friends. We’ve been doing this for a long time,so we don’t have to put up with each other.
X: Like, say, somebody likes to eat a lot of garlic, so his breath smells bad… or anything? Ai: I think that’s fine, kind of funny, actually.
X: So, no arguments? Fights? Ai: We don’t really fight about anything. X: How about like, does somebody like to leave their stuff laying around? Ai: I think that’s fine. If you’re lazy, you’re lazy. That’s that.
X: So there’s never really any conflict between you. Let’s talk about heavy metal. At your J-Rock a Go-Go! show, you and CUTT talked briefly about Pantera. I’ve also heard Slipknot mentioned as an influence. Can you tell us about your musical influences? Ai: Korn. Heavy, foreign bands, like Metallica. I’ve listened to all kinds of bands. Sepultura, Pantera… They were all cool.
X:How about Japanese bands? Ai: I’m not sure that they are influences but we all like LUNA SEA and X-JAPAN. [all agree] That was our generation.
X: What was the first album you owned? Ai: The first album I bought was a solo artist called “KAN”[laughs when everyone looks at him in incomprehension]. They had a hit called “Ai wa Katsu” (Love Will Win).
X:Wasn’t it a rock band? Ai: No. Before I was enlightened about rock, I just listened to normal Japanese song, like KAN and Southern Allstars. Kosuke: X-JAPAN’s “DAHLIA”. I didn’t really buy albums back then, just singles. “Dahlia” was the first actual album I got. Takaki: Mine was a band called TRF – “EZ DO DANCE”. They had a song called “Survival dAnce”. Naoki: Mine was “Ranma ½”. [all laugh]
X: Anime? Was it a soundtrack? Naoki: I just liked the songs, like the main theme.
X: So you like anime? Naoki: I used to love anime.
X:What anime do you like to watch now? Naoki: Well, I don’t know about recent stuff. I don’t really watch them anymore.
X: Earlier, you mentioned several bands. If you could play with/meet any band, who would you choose? Any band. Japanese or foreign. Kosuke: There’s a band called “Tama”. It’s a Japanese band.
X: What kind of band is that? Kosuke: It’s pretty intense. [Ai starts laughing] I’ve always been a fan… I want to be their friend. [Laughs] Ai: Really? I didn’t know that about you. [Laughs]
X: Any others? Ai: Well, in Japan, I like UNICORN. I’m wearing the shirt. I would like to meet them. It’s not that I admire them, but…
X: You like music from the old days, huh? Ai: I like Visual-Kei (visual performances) and other heavy Japanese stuff, but I like lighter stuff too, like normal pop songs. I listen to all kinds of things. Naoki: I’d be very happy if I had the chance to meet one of the foreign artists I was influenced by.
X: Such as? Naoki: Slipknot, Pantera…
X: If you could meet them, what would you want to talk about? Naoki: I wouldn’t be able to talk. I’d be speechless.
X: Why? Would you be nervous? Kosuke: I guess I would say “Well, let’s just have a drink first!”
X: That’s a good idea [laugh] No need for words! Takaki: In the dressing room, I’d really like to meet 12012. [12012’s singer Wataru, who is sitting in the dressing room, leans in to listen]
X:You want to meet them? That might be a bit difficult. Why do you want to meet them? Wataru: Do you want to be my friend? Ai: He just wants to be your friend so badly. [Laughs] Wataru: Weren’t we already friends?
X: [Laughs] Ok, fine. But really. Who? Takaki: Hmm… well, I’d like to meet TRF. [All laugh] Wataru: Well, actually, given the chance, I’d like to meet them, too. I want to shout “Thunder!”
X:We’ve asked you about the Nagoya-kei scene before, but I`ve also seen you described as “Metalcore” by some websites. How do feel about this label? Ai: Well, I’m not really concerned about how we are perceived, if they want to put a label on it, that’s fine.
X:What other genres do you want try? Ai: Well we don’t really think in terms of “genres”. We just start with what sounds good, and it goes from there. It then builds to completion. We do this by just doing whatever we like, sometimes it’s metal, metalcore, rock, pop… I think our music is simple to understand; we just play what sounds good.
X:So, you’re Nagoya-based, but you’ve travelled all over the country. What have been some of the best places to play? Kosuke: Osaka. The takoyaki is delicious!
X: What about the bands you’ve played with—and there have been a lot. Who are the most interesting/inspiring bands you’ve worked with? Ai: Well…We’ve played with a lot of bands… They each have their unique styles…. but for now, it’s 12012, I guess.
X: What did you feel were the main differences between you and the other bands? Ai: As we played with other bands—including bands who’ve been around for 10 years—we each took different paths and developed our styles in our own ways. I feel like I’ve got to keep my game up.
X: Sounds like healthy competition. So, going back to the J-Rock a Go Go show, there was a lot of talk about cats with Ai. Can you explain the cat fixation? Do you have a cat? As the band has “cat people” and “dog people” how do you reconcile your differences? Ai: I like cats. All animals are cute. I like their round shape, and their careless and free attitude. X: Who are the cat people and who are the dog people? Takaki: I’m a dog person. I’m allergic to cats, so it has to be dogs. [All Laugh] I don’t dislike them, I just like dogs better.
X: You all seem like cat people to us. Kosuke: Cat people are feminine. Don’t you think girls who act like cats are cuter than girls who cat like dogs? [All laugh]
X: Well, for girls, I guess… [Laughs] Thank you for the valuable lesson!In July, you’re releasing your“best” album DECADE, which contains 32 songs. Obviously, the choice of songs reflects your whole back catalogue, live favorites and singles. Are there any songs you wish had made it to the final selection? Ai: I wish I could have put them all in. It’s difficult to choose. We are always delivering albums which we consider to be “best” every time…
X: What was your selection process like? Did you choose by popularity? Ai: The first disc was for people who missed out on the singles that went out of print. The second also mainly consisted of out of print songs. We wanted to bring these back. It’s mainly our old songs, but I feel these songs can still stand on their own.
X: What’s your favourite song to play live?
Kosuke: There’s a song called “294036224052“, I wouldn’t mind performing that over and over. At the end of a live, we sometimes repeat that song 3 to 5 times. Takaki: “-1” is probably my favourite….It’s intense… That’s all. Naoki: Hmm, well it’s difficult to decide, but “RING THE DEATH KNELL ” – the drumming on that is fun.
X: Is the rhythm different from the other songs? Naoki: Yeah. It sounds fresh every time. Ai: I like the song “Children.” I think it’s just plain awesome. I felt we finally wrote a song that no other band now could write; I don’t think others could follow it. I like that feeling. [Laughs] It’s like, “In your face!” you know? X: You’ll be heading to Europe in July to kick off your anniversary tour. For new fans to listen to, which songs do you think are definitively “DEATHGAZE”? Ai: Questions like this are always difficult... Kosuke: They should listen the whole “Best of…” album. Ai: It’s difficult. All of our songs are good in their own way. X: So the bottom line is, listen to the whole album.So, your tour of Europe is quite a “whistlestop” one – playing the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Austria, Russia etc… Which places are you looking forward to checking out, even if for a short time? Ai: Apart from Kosuke, this is our first time overseas. We’ve only got an image of these places from seeing them on TV… This is all new to us. We’re very excited, but nervous at the same time. Us two (gestures to himself and Naoki) especially like beer so Germany is one place we’re looking forward to. Beer and sausages…. That’s all I really know. Room-temperature beer. I don’t know much about France, just the Eiffel Tower…
X: Sounds like you’re looking forward to the food. Ai: We’re looking forward to the food. We also look forward to checking out the sites, but we won’t have much time to look around…. We’d love to have the chance.
X:Kosuke, where have you visited? Kosuke: England, France, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Spain.
X: Where did you like the best? Kosuke: I liked Sweden. They treat Japanese people like stars over there.
X: Really? What do they like? Kosuke: Music and anime…I wouldn’t put too much hope into the food, if I were you. [All laugh]
Naoki: I’m sure seeing the Eiffel Tower isn’t going to blow us away, but we’ve only seen it on TV, so maybe seeing the real thing is a different experience.
X:So, with ten years behind you, what plans to you have for the near and far future? Kosuke: Bands that have been playing for many years tend to be settled down in some ways, but we want to keep moving forward. Ai: We want to always be assertive, and on the offence, so to speak. There’s still a lot of room for improvement.
X: And finally, two years ago, your final messages talked about playing overseas. Now that this is going to happen, can you give a final message to our readers in Japan, Europe and the rest of the world? Ai: This is our first time overseas, and we have yet to see how the shows will turn out but we want to spread our music everywhere and be understood everywhere, and have fun doing it. We want to continue to represent Japan as DEATHGAZE and to see the world. We will make it to the top, so expect us there. We’ll be seeing you all!