Fool's Mate May 2005
Interview with Sakurai Atsushi  on Juusankai wa Gekkou
“The night can be evil, or it can be pure.”
Translated by Cayce

Fool's Mate: Your most recent album is the first “personal experience type” album that you’ve ever released, am I right?  While you always maintain the same background imagery, the songs change and progress. 

Sakurai:  That's because we kept the backdrop image in mind while making each song, so that all the songs would fit into the same frame.

Fool's Mate:  Did you keep this in mind both as the vocalist and as the lyricist?

Sakurai:  Yes, I did.  This time, we picked a gothic theme for the whole album.  I was able to stray a little bit from the theme here and there, but mostly I tried to obediently follow it. (laughter)

Fool's Mate:  When you say, “follow obediently,” it sounds like you’re just being dutiful, but actually, didn’t the theme emerge naturally during your creative process?  I thought you wanted to be able to hear the world of your album.

Sakurai:  Yes.  Because gothic is a theme I enjoy, I was able to work with it quite naturally.

Fool's Mate:  Is this the reason why, with the exception of one song, you wrote all the lyrics?

Sakurai:  That was a part of it.  Also, Imai asked me to.  He said, “This time, if I write the lyrics, I’ll have to explain to you how to perform them, so it’s better if you as the vocalist write them yourself.”  Because, when I try to enter into the mindset of someone else’s lyrics, there’s always a barrier. 

Fool's Mate:  Even though you’ve been exclusively a vocalist for so long?

Sakurai:  Yes.  Because, even if you only take one word, you don’t for sure what the author’s intention was when he used it.  Only the author really knows that.

Fool's Mate:  And you have to assume that the author had a specific reason for using each word.

Sakurai:  Yes, there's that irritating factor.  And also, because the world of this album is one which I particularly like, I got Imai to let me write as many of the lyrics as I could.  In some ways, it was easier to write the lyrics this time, because, unlike for our previous albums, we had a concept from the beginning.

Fool's Mate:  So where did you get the “gothic” concept in the first place?

Sakurai:  Well, like always, Imai came up with it.  He thought of it during the promotional tour for our last album [Mona Lisa Overdrive.]  Though he also said he became convinced it was a good idea while watching my solo live performances. 

Fool's Mate:  For your solo live, there wasn’t much in the way of stage sets, and it was very simple, wasn’t it?  Imai must have become convinced of his idea through watching your actual performance.

Sakurai:  Yes, he probably did.

Fool's Mate:  By the way, it seems like if you could think of one keyword that describes both “gothic” and “Acchan,” you could think of a hundred.

Sakurai:  That would only be true if you said over a hundred (laughter.)  If time had permitted, I'd have wanted recording for this album to go on forever!

Fool's Mate:  Recently, “gothic” has been popping up in many different areas, and is now abbreviated to “goth,” but when was your first experience of goth, Acchan?  Was it Bauahaus?  (A British band who started activities after 1980.)

Sakurai:  Yes, it was.  When I came across Bauhaus, I thought, “I’ve found something I really like” for the first time unconditionally.  Until then, when someone recommended something to me by saying “here, you’ll like this,” I often didn’t like whatever it was.  Things like the Sex Pistols, that everyone recommended, just didn’t do it for me.

Fool's Mate:  Did you like Bauhaus because in addition to the music, the visual impact was important also?

Sakurai:  Yes.

Fool's Mate:  In the PV for one of their famous songs, “Telegram Sam,” the part where they use lots of shadows and very little light is very successful and powerful, isn’t it?

Sakurai:  Yes, I feel that.  If it weren’t for things like that, don’t think I would like anything to this day.  I really loved the way Peter Murphy worked to create a shadowy image.

Fool's Mate:  You also try to create a shadowy image, don’t you, Acchan?

Sakurai:  Yes, I do, when I’m writing lyrics that I find exciting, or when I’m performing onstage, and so on.  Usually, when I'm standing onstage, I’m mindful of where the spotlight is, but after being in a band for so many years, I’ve come to deliberately separate myself a little bit from the light.

Fool's Mate:  If you move a little away from the light, then part of you will be in shadow.

Sakurai:  Yes.  At first, when more light shines on my face than I thought was possible and it’s so bright I can’t see anything at all, I panic a little.  Even so, I like it (laughter.)  And I also like moving away from the light to make shadows.  I learned how from watching Bauhaus videos.  I thought, “wow, how cool,” and I taught myself how to do it.  I've learned that the shadows are only there because of the light, and the light is there to make shadows.  It’s not so good if you light everything up. 

Fool's Mate:  So, what is the lighting in your home like?

Sakurai:  When I’m writing lyrics, I only turn on one lamp.  Even when it gets to be morning, thanks to my curtains, my room stays completely dark (laughter.)

Fool's Mate:  Do you also have gothic items in your room?

Sakurai:  I want to go shopping for things to make my room completely gothic, but I’m not quite that devoted.  But I do have masks and things.  Because (pointing to his own head) it’s very sloppy in here (laughter.)

Fool's Mate:  So, did you write all the songs for this new album in the dark?

Sakurai:  Yes.  During the day, when the weather is nice and sunny, I get this feeling like I don’t want to write anything.  Because, I feel like, if the sun shines, it’s justice.

Fool's Mate:  Justice? (laughter)

Sakurai:  Because, under the sun, I think everyone gets pacified.  In the nighttime, all kinds of stories begin.  Because, the night can be evil, or it can be pure…but I think the relationship between day and night is like the relationship between light and shadow that I talked about before.  You can’t have just one.  And for me, when it’s one, I always wanted it to be the other.

Fool's Mate:  You’re conscious of both the day and the night?

Sakurai:  Yes, but I also like creepy, nocturnal things (laughter.)  Because during the day, there’s no place to hide.

Fool's Mate:  But the main character in “Romance –Incubo-” would probably hide in a coffin.

Sakurai:  Ahahahaha (laughter.)

Fool's Mate:  Do you like vampires?

Sakurai:  I admire them greatly.  They can't live during the day, but at night, they function properly (laughter.)  But it’s not okay for a good adult to say that! (laughter)

Fool's Mate:  So, most of the time, since you have to be a good adult, you’re diurnal.  But you’re really nocturnal, aren’t you, Acchan?

Sakurai:  I want to be nocturnal now and forever.  Because even right now, I’m waiting for the night to come. [Note from Cayce: Sakurai listed "Waiting for the Night to Come" as his favorite Depeche Mode song in another interview.]

Fool's Mate:  This new album really fits you perfectly, doesn’t it?  You even sing, on “Kourin,” the opening track, “Awaken now, the night is beginning.”

Sakurai:  Yes, I do, don’t I (laughter).

Fool's Mate:  At any rate, there are many songs in addition to “Romance –Incubo-” and “Kourin” that take place at night.  But they involve many different settings and twists.  For example, in “Cabaret” and “Doll,” there are parts that are sung in women’s speech. [Note from Cayce: in Japanese, women tend to use slightly different vocabulary and grammar from men.] 

Sakurai:  If I’d tried to do something like that before, Imai might have protested.  But since I covered the song “Amaoto wa Chopin no Shirabe,” which is sing from a woman’s point of view, in my solo live, Imai knew I could do it.  I told him, “If I just change the feeling a little bit, I can become that character.”  Because I had already had the experience, I was able to do it easily this time.

Fool's Mate:  So, you wrote in women’s speech, and then you performed it.  Did you feel as if you were mentally putting on women’s clothes?

Sakurai:  There is no way that I can become a woman.  But, in the song, I use women’s speech and try to become a woman as much as I can, to the point of being vulgar. [Sakurai is probably referring to “Cabaret,” which has some explicit lyrics...what a surprise.]

Fool's Mate:  When you write the lyrics yourself from a woman’s point of view, is it easy to become the character onstage? 

Sakurai:  No matter what the lyrics are, I think of them all in my head, so in my head, I’ve already become them.  Of course, we could also have chosen to use a female vocalist.

Fool's Mate:  But if you did that, the meaning would have been different.

Sakurai:  Yes.  In “Cabaret” what I wanted to do was impersonate a man and a woman, and the lyrics are vulgar.  Even so, this song is not merely wearing women’s clothes on the outside, it really has a female core.  I am a man, but I’m singing about desiring a man.  In “Doll,” the person on the stage is a doll, but emotionally, she awakens as a woman. 

Fool's Mate:  So there is a man’s part, and there is a woman’s part.  When you sang these lyrics, did you record them separately?

Sakurai:  No, I did them all at once.  But I was conscious of “switching roles” while I was doing it.  The first line and the second line are sung by a girl doll, but the second time around, the lyrics for the A melody are sung by the doll’s master, and so on.  This is something I could say about the whole album, but in this song, I am not singing as the vocalist Sakurai Atsushi; rather, in each song, I sing acting as a different character.

Fool's Mate:  So, in “Doukeshi A,” you play Pierrot?

Sakurai:  Yes, and when I stand onstage, Pierrot’s role overlaps with my own a bit.

Fool's Mate:  Have you ever thought of yourself as Pierrot?

Sakurai:  There have been times when I’ve thought that.  I think about it when I’m presenting myself onstage and trying to make the audience happy.  Especially because I was very resistant to being seen as a celebrity.  The audience knows me, but I don’t know the audience.  So I think to myself, what am I?  At the time we were making “Six/Nine,” I had the freedom to explore and I became unable to look at myself.  But I went really into my work, and the result was that it turned out to be a great album.

Fool's Mate:  So, now how do you feel about being looked at?

Sakurai:  “Please feel free to look at me,” is how I feel (laughter.)  That’s where I’ve become tough and defiant.  Now, I even feel like I’m able to honestly sing the line in “Doukeshi A” that goes, “No one cares about you.”  Especially because this time, since there are so many songs where I’m playing a role, I feel like it’s not okay to be overly self-conscious.  When I perform on television, I’m not able to completely assume the role.  But afterwards, I regret it.  So now, I’m trying to go into the role as much as possible and get myself to a state where I’m brimming with confidence (laughter.)  Whether I actually sing the songs well is a different story.

Fool's Mate:  How do you feel about how well you sing the songs?

Sakurai:  Both I and the director are more concerned with the feel of the show rather than the technical quality of the performance.  Also, there are some times even during recording when I do things like sing a little sharp deliberately.  Although I do take care to think about not pushing it too far, ultimately, expressing the character is the most important thing (laughter.)

Fool's Mate:  But, I think the reason you can do that is because your technique is already so good.  Even when you perform live it seems like there have been times when your vocal is carrying the whole band.  And moreover, you are always perfectly on pitch.

Sakurai:  If I denied having ever done that even once, I’d seem stupid (laughter.)  But, I think it’s because I use an earphone monitor while I’m performing, so I’m able to sing at a higher level.  When I do that, though, I don’t feel like it’s a live at all.

Fool's Mate:  What do you mean?

Sakurai:  Since I can’t hear the voices of the audience at all, I get really anxious sometimes.  I think to myself, “Do they not like me at all?”  (laughter)

Fool's Mate:  So the meaning of the album title is something like, “Thirteenth Floor in the Moonlight.”  Where did this title come from?

Sakurai:  Imai came up with it.  Maybe he chose it because it has a ring of uneasiness to it (laughter.)

Fool's Mate:  But when you look at the album as a whole, it doesn’t end up being completely dark.  I think there’s definitely some humor in there, too.

Sakurai:  Oh yes.  I think humor and pathos are both elements of goth.  This album also contains elements of fantasy.  I thought it would be good if listening to the album were a little separate from real life, like reading a fairy tale.  Because when I think of goth, I get an image of a cute or charming devil. 

Fool's Mate:  Like how in the fashion world, the gothic and Lolita styles have merged.

Sakurai:  Yes, exactly!  This album has a gothic theme, but it’s also my own personal theme.  Light and dark, life and death, things like that.  So, the recording actually started on my birthday.  At the beginning, in the story of the album, I was supposed to die at the end.  But then, Imai said, “Actually, you're going to survive.”  And he replaced the song at the end (laughter.)

Fool's Mate:  That last song, “Diabolo –Lucifer-” ends with the phrase, “Cheers to your darkness.”  I wonder if that is similar to how you expressed in this interview that you didn’t want to forsake the night and be a creature of the day.

Sakurai:  It is (laughter.)

Fool's Mate:  So, as we’re coming to the end of this interview, I want to ask the two questions I promised I’d ask.  The first one is about your 20th anniversary.

Sakurai:  It really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.  When I think about it for real, I know it should feel like an enormous amount of time, but when I think about each of the things that have happened in that interval, it doesn’t seem that way.  It feels shorter than 20 years.

Fool's Mate:  When did you realize that it was going to be your 20th anniversary soon?

Sakurai:  The first time I thought about it was when I got asked about it in an interview for the fan club newsletter.

Fool's Mate:  How did you feel at that time?

Sakurai:  I felt like an enka singer (laughter.)  “Anniversary” seems to imply long suffering, so I don’t like the word (laughter.) 

Fool's Mate: So then, one more question, about your next tour.

Sakurai:  We’re going to be focusing on the contents of our new album, and I think there is going to be a very visual aspect to it.  I actually wanted to make a movie telling the story of each song, but if you piled up all the things I want to do in the future, they would make a mountain.