MIYAVI Interview（August 4th, 2006）
It was a muggy August day in Tokyo, when I made the journey to JR Gotanda station from Haneda airport to meet with Tessa, a member of the JaME staff who came from Holland to Japan. After we met we hurried to Shibuya for the interview which was supposed to start at 18.00 at office meeting place as arranged. We took the Keiou-Inogashira Line from Shibuya, got off, and called the manager where we discovered that the actual interview was to be held in a restaurant opposite his office. When we entered into the restaurant following the manager, MIYAVI was already there, taking a supper of bread and soup.
First of all, could you please introduce yourself?
MIYAVI: I’m MIYAVI, a guitarist who can sing, dance and tell jokes! I’m working very hard and doing my best with musicians of the same generation as myself, to arouse the Visual music world!
Have you ever been to Europe?
MIYAVI: I have been to France and England, for photo shoots. I was surprised to meet foreign fans there. In France I visited a club called [Queen]. When I left the club a little bit drunk at around 4 am, there happened to be a fan outside who said ‘Ahhhhhh——!’ when she saw me(laugh). In Japan, I usually don’t have my picture taken with fans, because it might cause a rumor which I won’t have the slightest idea about, and that could cause trouble. But I was drunk and excited at the time, so we said ‘Let’s take a picture together!’ (laugh)
When did you start taking an interest in music and guitars? When did you start playing guitar? Who inspired you?
MIYAVI: I was 15 years old. I had been playing soccer and intended to be a professional player. But in the 2nd grade of junior high school, I dare to say that I failed in that. But I happened to hear some talk about starting a band, and I got a guitar. At that time I didn’t have a role model, I just wanted to play the guitar and write songs on the guitar all of the time. Although I listened to various types of music, I was very moved by Visual-kei artists such as X-JAPAN and LUNA SEA. As well as that, I liked the Blues, and I listened to hard rock bands such as METALLICA, L.A. Guns, MARILYN MANSON, Industrial style music such as NINE INCH NAILS, and a even a little bit of Motown such as Ray Charles. Because of those artists I got various elements from all kinds of places, but by far the biggest effect was from Visual-kei artists.
What kind of band was your first Band ‘Loop’?
MIYAVI: It was nothing but visual-kei! (laugh) ‘Loop’ was the band I played in from my 3rd grade of Junior high school. In that band I studied how to do make up, how to perform lives, and how to write songs.
Why did you choose to be a solo artist instead of forming a new band after Due ‘le quartz? Have you ever thought about joining/starting a new band?
MIYAVI: When the band broke up, there were fans already for a new musical project to begin so I didn’t have time to find members to make a new band immediately. I wanted to start rolling straight away, because the fans were waiting for me. I didn’t have singing experience, so at the beginning my singing was a little off, but I thought things would improve as I progressed, so I started as a solo artist.
Had you never had experience singing before?
MIYAVI: I only shouted.(laugh) I just made loud noises in the background. I had never done lead vocals to convey something in a song.
Did you write lyrics by yourself?
MIYAVI: I wrote both lyrics and music all the time. I also did all of the sequence programming by myself. That was until I began my solo career and debuted as a Major artist, up until then, I programmed all of the bass, guitar and chorus, prepared the pre-mixes, and brought it all to the studio.
Where did the idea for Mintaishi come from? Do you plan to reform and play with this session band again?
MIYAVI: It was just for fun.(laugh) Mintaishi was really minor and temporal and I had actually forgotten about it until right now.(laugh) When I was in Osaka, I really liked Japanese hard core bands. But after I arrived in Tokyo, I met up with the members of hard core bands, and we said ‘Let’s play together!’. Actually, our musical style was totally different, so even though I wore visual-kei style makeup and dressed up, the band still played hardcore style music. How can I describe them?…..they were close but a little bit different from The Ramones, SEX PISTOLS etc, but somehow they seemed more dangerous,(laugh), but we played together because I liked them.
Did Mintaishi actually play lives?
MIYAVI: Just once! (burst out laughing) We recorded one song and played once on stage.(laugh)
How did you get such people as PATA (ex X-JAPAN), Shinya (ex LUNA SEA) or Chirolyn (ex hide with spread beaver) to support you?
MIYAVI: It was through connections. (laugh) In fact, I respected them very much. I wanted to learn from them for my own experience, even though we just stood on the same stage playing session music together.
Actually, how did you feel playing with them?
MIYAVI: Of course, it was great! They had a very big presence after all. Each of them had long career and plenty of experience, so they were very calm, cool and collected. It was a very good experience to be able to work with them.
Why did your music style become so pop? Do you plan to play more rock stuff again? Why has your music suddenly taken a softer more romantic direction, a huge change from your previous rock style?
MIYAVI: I didn’t become pop just because I became a major artist. But if you reverse that idea, I understand very well the feeling of artists who become more pop when they become major label artists. Inevitably when an artist signs to a major label the variety of listeners to which we want to convey our message obviously increases, so we need to choose easy and simple words, melodies, and songs. The reason why I’m doing pop now is for my experience, it’s also the same reason why I want to play with expert musicians on the stage. The biggest reason why is because, I really wanted to study the pop style groove, since I’ll always do rock music anyway. For example, rock music basically has vertical beats, but pop, R & B, and bossa nova has a side swing, and there are various grooves and styles like this. I thought it was a good opportunity to learn and absorb them into my own style of rock, creating more profound beats and groove.
Did the idea come from you?
MIYAVI: Of course!
You can create songs in lots of different styles, so you have a wide range of musical abilities, don’t you?
MIYAVI: I think so. Basically, my music is ‘shallow and broad’ (laugh), and I’m trying to listen to lots of different types of music, for example, including music from the 70’s and 80’s even though I don’t know the music in absolute detail. I want to take the absolute essence of the style, to take and remember certain details, which will then naturally come out in my own musical style, I think..
When you want to write a Latin style song, do you take it out from your inner self?
MIYAVI: I don’t know…. but a phrase becomes what it is naturally. Even if I try to write a Latin styled song, I don’t think I could write a good song, because there are always lyrics, a message, and a theme in a song.
In your solo career, everything released prior to the [Kekkonshiki no Uta ~Kisetsu hazure no WEDDING MARCH~] [Are you ready to ROCK?](Single in 2005), was written and recorded by yourself; why was that?
MIYAVI: I’m still writing songs all by myself, but mostly I let other people arrange them. This is because I wanted to separate myself as a vocalist, musician, and a composer. When I input songs into my computer I’m a composer, when I sing songs I’m a singer, and when I play I’m a performer, so I have all these totally different viewpoints already. I thought I should leave to others what I can, because chiefly I want to make songs as a singer and performer.
The new album [MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU~] released in September, is a great album including everything of you.
MIYAVI: Yes. That’s different from others. It’s my ego. (laugh)
Is it true that the song [Coin Lockers Baby] is based on the famous book by Ryu Murakami? If so, why did you decide to write a song after a book?
MIYAVI: I’m often asked about it….I like reading novels, especially books by popular writers such as Kou Machida and Masaya Nakahara, but I hadn’t read any novels by Ryu Murakami until after I wrote the song. A long time ago, I was watching TV and saw the news of a baby locked in a coin-locker, it gave me a strong inspiration to write. Around that time I was playing with GARA the vocalist of MERRY and we covered a song by SADS (led by KIYOHARU(ex. KUROYUME), which is also a song about a baby. That in turn inspired me again and I finished the song, so nothing really relates with the novel. But after that, I wanted to read the novel, and bought it, but I haven’t read it yet.(laugh) On my bookshelf, there are many books by Banana Yoshimoto, Randy Taguchi, Eimi Yamada, Ryu Murakami, which I haven’t read yet. I’m trying to read them, but I don’t have time. I only read when I am in the bathroom.(laugh)
I didn’t know that. I thought this song was related to the novel somehow.
MIYAVI: Well, it’s a delicate situation, because if they both don’t link, no-one will get it. I will have to write a sequel song after I finish reading the novel then. (laugh)
Why did you release the 6th single [Kimi ni Negai wo] in July, the full-length album [MYV☆POPS] in August, and 3rd album [MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU~] in September, consecutively?
MIYAVI: Because I’m a busy bee by nature!(bursts out laughing) The album on which I’m more of a composer is [MYV☆POPS], and the album which I’m more of a performer on in is [MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU~], so I wanted to release them separately. On [MYV☆POPS] I wanted to express the idea of popularity. I think love and pop music are so similar; love needs a partner and pop music needs listeners. As for love, we usually act thinking about a partner’s feelings, and for pop music I compose songs thinking about listeners. I wanted to study pop music in own my way, and that became [MYV☆POPS]. At the same time, for the album [MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU], I wanted to fit in with the quality of the songs themselves and absorb myself into my performance, playing acoustic guitar alone. Normally I can put both into one album, but I dared to separate them and released them one after the other, because I was going to release lots of songs instead of lives, this year.
The impression of listening to these two albums is totally different.
MIYAVI: Of course!
Did you write the songs on those two albums around the same time period?
MIYAVI: Yes. But, since CD releases usually contain mixed styles, for example, the coupling song would be a solo style song whilst the title song would be a pop song, which would be two different styles but I wanted to separate them when released. This is because these two albums are totally different from my previous album [MIYAVIZM], which was made specifically for my image as a solo artist. But, this time I created a clear concept and theme for each work (one album pop style and one album solo style). It was possible to do it this way because I’m a solo artist, and I just simply like to create my works in this way.
The song [We love you] appears on both albums but the arrangement of this song is very different on each album.
MIYAVI: On [MYV☆POPS], I chose the best direction for the song, because on that album my role was more of a composer. In the course of the arrangement, I added a chorus, conga, and various percussion, keyboard sequencing, whatever the song needed. After [MIYAVIZM] which has a lot of my character in it, I have been working much more as a composer. On the contrary, [MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU~] was made concentrating on my playing.
You are very talented as an artist.
MIYAVI: Thank you. But from a viewpoint of which I’m I might not be so good (laugh), because when someone asks ‘What is MIYAVI?’, they can’t get a true idea of what I am right away. I play acoustic guitar, guitar pop, arranged pop, and even industrial songs like I used to play in my Indies period. This pattern can be seen in solo artists such as David Bowie, Prince, too. I can change because I am sensitive to my feelings. But for my fans, these changes aren’t always desirable. If I was a fan, I would stop being a fan (laugh), because I would like the music and cheer the artist, then when the music changed, I would not be a fan anymore. I think it’s natural, and if it happens in a band, the band should break up! (laugh). This is because the image of the band would of become totally reversed. I think it’s impossible to totally change the style and image of a band which has 4 or 5 members.
You can do it though, because you are a solo artist.
When the new album [MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU~] is released, I’m sure everyone will be surprised. The image of the album is very serious.
MIYAVI: I think so. I like it (laugh), I like it that I released ([MYV☆POPS]) and then afterwards ([MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU~].(laugh)
Do you mean you like to surprise the world, or more to change yourself?
MIYAVI: I like both. As I said, it’s not a good idea as a selling point, but from the perspective as an artist, it’s good, because I’m growing up. So I dare to be like this. Another thing is the element of surprise, which is the basis of shock rock in visual-kei. I’m doing music on the base of entertainment, and I’m more of an artist than just a musician that is involved with visual and musical elements. I’m lucky to be able to do it freely.
On the album [MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU~], you play guitar well. Do you practice playing guitar very hard?
MIYAVI: Of course, I practice very hard. But for me, it’s not just practice but an extension of my pleasure. Sometimes I don’t play at all. I know for sure that there are millions of players who play better than me, but it’s not a matter of better or worse for me. It is just that I can’t think that I they would be better than me if we stood on the same stage and performed together. The most important thing is what I want to convey through my playing. I think there is no meaning to playing if it doesn’t reach people, even if they play well. As for technique, I don’t think I’m that good, but I want to express my originality and my feeling.
The song [We love you] is very cool! If you perform this song during your overseas concerts, the audience will love it!
MIYAVI: Thank you very much!
Especially, the version which is featured on the [MIYAVI UTA~DOKUSOU~] album, you sing in a low voice and it sounds very cool.
MIYAVI: It was really difficult, to stay in the groove! I like to flip in and out as I wish. Mostly I like low threshold music, which is popular, vulgar and foolish, and I like such lyrics too.(laugh). But I also like more adult music too. As an artist, the worst thing for me is to be restrained and I don’t want to bind myself at all.
For your September live performance, You will be playing acoustic guitar and singing?
MIYAVI: Maybe. To reduce the budget. (laugh)
Where do you get your inspiration for lyrics and music from?
MIYAVI: Whenever, wherever, and everyday! (laugh) Of course I do when I am recording in a studio, but now I’m talking like this. For example if I talked about the difference between our cultures, then I could feel something and create songs. Usually, whenever I take a shower, or I am in the bathroom, eating, or in a car, well, I can’t write music when I sleep! (laugh), but I have inspirations from my dreams. Musicians who have long careers, depend on how much music occupies their lives, I think. If music occupies 90% or more in their lives, they are always inevitably in a creating mode.
MIYAVI, your lyrics seem to be written around specific ideas, such as a song for a British friend, or an anime song etc. Do you write songs by being inspired about images or ideas or do you rather fit your songs around specific images or ideas?
MIYAVI: Yes, I don’t like abstract images very much. Especially, I don’t like puns, which can be seen nothing but a pun (laugh). I like a way of expression which I can be solidly reminded of the images, and I think that’s really important.
Do you like anime?
MIYAVI: Not at all. (laugh) I just happened to be asked to write something for that occasion.
Which artists inspire you now?
MIYAVI: Keziah Jones, Raul Midon, Ani DiFranco, who all play acoustic guitar, and sing alone. Recently, I think it’s cool to be alone.
Do you now prefer the acoustic guitar more than electric guitar now?
MIYAVI: Only now. (laugh) Acoustic style and electric style cycle periodically within me. (laugh) [MIYAVIZM] was in an electric style, and now I am in acoustic style. But sometimes I play electric guitar session with my friend DJ in a club.
Are you interested in playing other instruments such as drums?
MIYAVI: Well, it’s difficult to say, because I’m interested in playing many instruments, but for playing drums, I would be poor player because of my dexterity. (laugh) Life is short, and what I can do is limited. If I spend my time playing drums, studying, or playing guitar, those abilities would improve. So I try what I can, but I’m interested in different instruments.
MIYAVI, you put forward the concept of [Neo Visualism]. What do you think about your visual style? Have you ever scared people because of your many piercings and tattoos?
MIYAVI: I don’t think so. Piercing and tattoos are nothing to be scared about. For example, cutting your tongue into two or inserting implants is scary, of course. (laugh) The reason why I put forward [Neo Visualism] is because I want to show it’s presence and existence in my own way, showing that visual-kei is not only about make-up and creating big hairstyles to be graceful, decadent and narcissist. Now I’m searching for a way by myself, and I want to carry on a good image because I have been influenced by my seniors in positive way. I just want to present the new way of my existence.
Have you ever experienced any suffering or gained any advantages due to your style?
MIYAVI: Taxis will still stop for me. (laugh) and I have never been picked on for a fight.(laugh)
Do you stand out too much?
MIYAVI: Well….I do. (laugh). I’m not conservative. It’s impossible for me to be plain, I would rather stay in my home all the time than do that!.(laugh) Concerning piercing and tattoos, I don’t like patterns very much, and I’m just ‘me’ and no one else, which anyone who knows me can see immediately (laugh). In this meaning, I have many advantages and disadvantages. (laugh)
Why are all your tattoos black?
MIYAVI: All the other colours have been erased by the rain. (laugh)
How do you think you got fame at this young age? Have you been affected on your view of life and the world around you?
MIYAVI: I am definite when I say that, this is not fame at all. Well, how can I say…., I feel as if I haven’t even started yet. But I just feel grateful to my many fans for so much, and I want to respond to them. I have never thought about my status and fame at all, because I am satisfied with what I have achieved.
How do you feel about being famous and having fans all over the world?
MIYAVI: Of course I’m very happy about that!
MIYAVI, you are very active in Asia.
MIYAVI: Yes. I went to Korea recently.
How was that?
MIYAVI: It was very hot, but the fans were very hot, too! They were more than excited, to the point of being mad! (laughs)
The fan response was just like back home in Japan?
MIYAVI: That’s true!! Shanghai seemed like Osaka, and I get inspired with something like that. It seems like there is a difference between advanced nations and developing nations. People look upward, which leads to vitality. For example, The Beatles came to Japan about 30 years ago, before I was born, but I imagine it was like just like that. Innocence is beautiful because everything in view is fresh, and those people are innocent and pure. In advanced nations, people know a lot and seem to be burning out somehow. I could see the force of human spirit from fans there. I don’t say how Japanese fans or American fans are different, but I definitely felt the power of their feelings while I performed there.
You’ve been to Paris recently where you shot your photo book [Je Vous Souhaite Un Bon Anniversaire]. Why did you decide to shoot in France? What did you think of Paris?
MIYAVI: Simply speaking, it’s because I haven’t been to France before.(laugh) Concerning the photo book, it was for the same reason as [MYV☆POPS]. I thought about expressions I don’t have and I decided to leave the entire initiative to others. Usually, I produce almost everything, but this time I was being directed instead of doing things myself. Then the site proposed for shooting was France. It was agreed and then chosen as the location. That’s all.
How was France?
MIYAVI: I went in June, but it was very cold! (laugh) I travelled to many places doing general sightseeing. At the Louvre, I met a fan and was so surprised. I actually went Louvre twice, but I couldn’t get in at all.(laugh) Once was after closing time, and the second time it was closed for some other reason. (laugh) However, Paris seemed like very happy place, even if it was a little bit cold.(laugh)
Do you want to go again?
MIYAVI: Of course! I really want to go to Europe to perform concerts.
Do you have plans to perform in the USA or Europe?
MIYAVI: In fact, I haven’t performed in the USA or Europe, but I think now is the time when we can perform concerts anywhere in the world. I would still always want to go to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Hokkaido, and then to Paris, with the same feeling as a domestic live tour, saying ‘Well, I’ll go on a live tour!’.
You have many fans overseas, so I think it’s not a dream at all.
MIYAVI: Well, I really want to go. I don’t have a plan now, but I want to go next year.
In September, you will be performing an acoustic concert. Why don’t you go overseas?
MIYAVI: Oh! You are pushing me! (burst out laughing)
Acoustic lives need less instruments and materials, so it’s economical.
MIYAVI: No….. it costs more than you think, actually.(laugh) But I will be going to local radio stations with my guitar to play for a live broadcast.
Can you tell us anything about your future plans?
MIYAVI: This year, there are lives planned for September and that’s all. After that I might escape from Japan (laugh), and might go to somewhere in Europe. (laugh)
Please give a message to foreign fans.
MIYAVI: I love you so much, more than you know. This year is the time when I bend my body to jump, and next year I want to perform live concerts in Europe, America and Asia. As I sing songs, I want to share the feeling of being alive at the same time. I want to sympathise with other people’s feelings as we continue through life together. Let’s improve, and overcome any problems together!
Special thanks to PS Company for arranging the interview and offering MIYAVI’s photograph.
After the interview, MIYAVI presented a special [MYV☆POPS] tumbler (insulated travel cup) which has a pun spelling printed on it. The cup is not available for sale and has MIYAVI’s autograph on it. The cup will be presented to one lucky winner as a special competition prize!
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