VMC Online
Interview with Sakurai Atsushi and Imai Hisashi
Translated by Cayce

As they welcome the 20th anniversary of their debut, Buck-Tick is suddenly at the center of an uproar of activity.  They’ve just released their new ultra-pop single “Alice in Wonder Underground,” and their new album Tenshi no Revolver will be the 15th studio album in their career, a truly magnificent accomplishment.  They’re also sponsoring a special event including all the artists who participated in the creation of their tribute album, and they’re doing a long-term national tour for the first time in a while.  With a schedule so full you won’t be able to take your eyes of them, and the eager anticipation of their upcoming release, what might they have to say to their fans?  We’ve asked Sakurai and Imai a few questions.

VMC: What with commemorating your 20th anniversary, doing a major tour, and sponsoring a festival, you must be incredibly busy.  September 8th, the date for your BUCK-TICK FEST 2007 “On Parade” is coming up quickly.

Imai: Yes, that’s right.  After we released the tribute album, the idea for the festival slowly began to develop.  We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to pull off and look good doing it, but we had a feeling that this time around, we were going to be able to make our idea into a reality.  At first, we weren’t thinking about our 20th anniversary, and we weren’t thinking about the logistics of the event, either.  But finally, we decided we were actually going to do it, because, after all, it is our 20th anniversary… 

Sakurai: We’re still the same people, so the 20 years isn’t such a big deal.  But the more frivolous halves of our personalities were really happy about the idea of making everyone celebrate.  So in the end, we ended up having a big festival, where it would be okay to get together with everyone and make a lot of noise. 

VMC: Only I can’t imagine the members of Buck-Tick shouting with everyone “It’s a festival, YAAAY!”

Sakurai: (nodding vigorously) Personally…well, it’s not really my style, after all.

Imai: I’m going to have a hard time being both a sponsor of the festival and an object of the celebration.

VMC: (laughter) Even though you say it’s not your style, don’t you think after 20 years of success you’ll be able to enjoy it after all?

Imai: After I thought to myself “Let’s do this thing,” I started to feel a little more enthusiastic.  I thought that it couldn’t be that bad, really…

Sakurai: Well, what I really don’t want to do is an encore together with all the bands.  I like to think we’re giving them all an opportunity to show off and do their own thing in that venue.  I would rather be a good host to them.

VMC: Am I correct in thinking that in your new album, you express some of the joy you’ve felt from being in the band recently?

Imai: The album theme is, first and foremost, “band sound.”  You can see it in the rhythms, the melodies, and the guitar chords.  We’re going for a very simple, stripped-down rock band sound here.  Also, we wanted to make something catchy.  Maybe there are some not-so-polished parts, but this time, we wanted to try something very different from the uptight, maniacally stoic approach we’ve had up until now.  We made our songs with that in mind.  We wanted to write some enjoyable melodies. 

VMC: Can you give me a more concrete example of an enjoyable melody?

Imai: Not really…well, I guess pop songs, or catchy songs.  I say that, but actually I think there are many different kinds of enjoyable melodies.  But the songs on this new album will not be like the songs on our two most recent albums, “Juusankai wa Gekkou” and “Mona Lisa Overdrive.”

VMC: Well, to use the classic wisdom, between Western-style music and more traditional Japanese music, Japanese folk song-style melodies seem to hold the greatest appeal right now. 

Imai: Yes, yes, it’s the same for us.  We weren’t thinking about it specifically, but we were tying to work as naturally as possible, and I think we have ended up closer to that style.

Sakurai: Yes, I think there are definitely parts of the album which will be very attractive to listeners.  Because actually, I think everyone’s blood runs towards songs like that.  If we’d done this kind of thing earlier, I think I probably would have spent a lot of effort rejecting the idea and trying to do something else, but at this point, I don’t feel that way.  I think I’m finally able to enjoy this sort of music more and hum the melodies to myself, et cetera.  I thought to myself that this kind of song has always been appealing to people, and that’s not a bad thing. 

VMC: Is that the sort of feeling you wanted to express in the album, Imai?

Imai: Hm….well, of course I want people to listen to the album.  But that’s not really what my first feeling about the album was.  When I thought about “Juusankai” and all our previous digital records, and how particular they all were, I thought that if we kept making that kind of stuff forever, it would just end up lukewarm.  Maybe no one can see it, but I’ve got a really mushy side to me somewhere in there.  And thinking about that, I decided that an album of catchy songs would sound a little sharper. 

VMC: But haven’t you found a balance between uptight and mushy without even thinking about it?  If one side or the other gets too strong, you just move a little to the other side.  If you didn’t do that, you wouldn’t have been able to keep going for 20 years.

Imai: Well, yes, that’s definitely true.  But back when we were just starting out, we weren’t able to think things like “the next album is going to be in thus-and-such a style.”  I honestly think we were really bad musicians.  Now, we’re able to have the fun of asking ourselves, “what can we pull off this time?”  Like, what kind of ideas will fall into our heads next?  What sorts of things will pop up?  If you start looking forward to it, it becomes really fun. 

VMC: I understand.  Now, finally, I’d like to ask you about your music videos.  Have you ever had any troubles or concerns with your PVs?

Sakurai:  Not really…well, at first, I’d just get filmed and that was all I could do.  Now, I always think about what style I’m going for, because I always feel that I should act.  I get very self-conscious about myself as an entertainer.

Imai: There are bands for whom simple shots of the band performing are cool enough, and there are other bands for whom this isn’t true.  And obviously, people have different ideas about what’s cool and what’s not.  As far as Buck-Tick is concerned, I just always want to make sure that we’re making interesting videos.

VMC: Is there anything from your past videos that really stuck with you?

Sakurai:  The PV for “Uta” was really funny.  We all dressed up as roadies.  It was such a serious, hard song and all that, but it sort of lacked something.  Also, the director had a really good idea, so we all kind of thought “what the hell” and did it.  And it wasn’t weird or serious at all, it just ended up being funny.

Imai: I’ve got really good memories of “Uta,” too.  Another one I liked was “die.”  For this one, we all wore colored contacts, but we were wondering if everyone’s eyes would be okay, so it was a challenge.  I remember that I was really nervous about it.  And…Sakurai acted really weird at the end. [I think he means at the end of the PV.]

Sakurai: If I’d gone to an ophthalmologist, he would have said “you’re hurting your eyeballs!” (laughter.)  I’d already decided I was never going to wear contacts again in my life.  But then after I decided that, the contacts looked really good on me.  They just sort of float there, like they’re suspended in midair, and they give my eyes this cold, wintry, frozen look, but behind that, bang! they’re smoldering like gunpowder!    

Imai: You’ll never admit failure!

Sakurai: Torture me with water, torture me with fire.  They looked damn good on me.  (laughter)