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FT 096 Imai Hisashi Interview

FT: Recording was suspended for a period of time due to the novel coronavirus, but how far had you gotten in your work on the album up to that point?

Imai: About halfway, something like that. Not just with the guitar recording, but about half of all the work I had to do [for the album.]

FT: During the stay-at-home period, we saw that you uploaded a lot of delicious-looking things to your Instagram.

Imai: I thought, "this is how it's gonna be." With this kind of Instagram or blog, somehow, I know myself. That's why I thought, for now, it can't be anything else but food (laughs).

FT: You mean, food was all you had to enjoy?

Imai: I enjoy it, but also, as a topic to bring up on platforms like this. That's why I thought it would be pretty funny. I thought, "I'll try deliberately only posting food."

FT: We enjoyed your "soda-colored sky" photo.

Imai: I did that once loooong ago on my blog. That day, the sky was exactly the same color as a GariGari-kun [see pic below], so I thought, oh, this is perfect. It went really well the time I did it on my blog.

FT: We were most surprised by your collaboration with Hoshino Gen's "Let's Dance at Home."

Imai: My friend recommended it to me (laughs). When I was talking with my friend on Zoom, he said "this is what people are doing these days, what if you try it?" At that point I wasn't thinking about it too deeply, and I thought I should just go for it and do it really fast, but then I thought, if I'm going to do it at all, how should I do it? Lots of other people did it, too. But I didn't know how, so it was difficult. I asked a lot of questions to the staff members when I tried.

FT: Is that so? But, without this kind of opportunity, I doubt we'd have ever seen an Imai Hisashi-Hoshino Gen collaboration, so it was a special experience.

Imai: It was interesting. I had fun. 

FT: Also, Buck-Tick's fan club and mobile site members' only tour got postponed, but past live videos were streamed on YouTube and NicoVideo. You touched on this on your Instagram.

Imai: On Instagram, you get a direct reaction, so I thought it was funny.

FT: You got them just when people had just been posting comments like "I wonder if Imai is watching, too."

Imai: Yeah, that's right.

FT: The entertainment industry has been categorized as "non-essential, non-emergency," but during this time, a lot of artists were searching for ways of expressing themselves, such as live streaming. What did you feel during the stay-at-home period?

Imai: It was just before the full stay-at-home order was issued due to the coronavirus. I was just about finished with the last song for the album, but I got more and more angry, so I thought I'd write a song to refresh myself. So, I stopped working on the song I had been working on, and wrote this new song in about five minutes, and I like it quite a bit. This kind of situation has impacts on a lot of things, and even though I was determined not to feel stressed out, I thought that maybe some kind of feeling was putting pressure on me after all. I don't have a salaryman-type job, so even with the stay-at-home order, for me, it's the same as usual. I stopped going to the studio, but nothing changed about my life cycle at home. So at first, it was hard to really get it, it didn't really gel for me when people around me said they were on a break from work, but after a while, I thought, oh, yeah, I'm on a break now, too. It might sound weird to say I was optimistic, but I thought I'd like to use this chance to get a grip on a lot of things. When I think about how I learned a lot, I'd like that to be an optimistic thing... I guess that's how I feel about it.

FT: You mentioned this before when you talked about the refreshing song you wrote when you were angry, but did whatever it was you got a grip on have an impact on your songwriting?

Imai: When I write lyrics, those kind of lyrics just come out. Like, something about how somehow I feel a little gross. Lyric writing has always been the kind of thing where I feel a lot of things and then spit them out, so I'm sure that this time, I picked up on something somewhere and wrote it into the lyrics. I think it's been like that for me from the beginning. This time, I really understood how lyrics are me picking up feelings and writing them down.

FT: During the time when recording was suspended, did you look at the songs you'd already finished and think, I want to tweak this or that?

Imai: I did, but when we started recording again and I went back to the studio, I had a lot of things to think about. While I was hiding in my house, I didn't really feel like picking up any instruments and doing any work, it was more like, I'd have a thought and give it a try. I took it easy and that was a good thing.

FT: You said you were working on three songs after recording resumed.

Imai: As of now, we've got the drums for the three songs and all the demo vocals finished. Next, we've got Sakurai's vocals and backing vocals, and some parts where I'm not satisfied with my guitar part, so I'll be fixing those up. Also, Yoko-chan isn't even half done with his synth parts (laughs).

FT: Is that right?

Imai: You'll have to ask us more questions later.

FT: Okay (laughs). In advance of the album, "Moonlight Escape" and "Kogoeru" are going to be released as the lead single. When you released "Datenshi," you mentioned the keyword "negative space," but you also wrote "Moonlight Escape" during the same period, correct?

Imai: That's right. At first, I was going for catchy and poppy, thinking this would be the single, but then I thought, actually, let's make it "Datenshi." You could call this song simple, or you could say it doesn't have a lot of stuff piled on it. The intro starts gently, it's got a purity to it, it's a song that's made up of nothing but its core elements - those were my first thoughts.

FT: I see. What was your impression of the title and the lyrics when you got them?

Imai: I thought they were kind of cloudy. The melody is pretty bright, but the lyrics aren't bright and sparkly like that. Somehow I feel it fits.

FT: "Kogoeru" was written by Hoshino.

Imai: It's quintessential.

FT: Quintessential Hoshino, you mean? What about your guitar part, Imai?

Imai: I'm playing it, but lately, in Hide's song arrangements, the parts just go on and on. Like, this riff again? Though I can't say it too loudly (laughs).

FT: I'd like to ask you about the album in much more detail in the next issue, but this is another album full of very distinctive songs.

Imai: Yeah (laughs). It's more interesting that way.

FT: Is the refreshing song you wrote during the stay-at-home period "Eureka"?

Imai: That's right. It's "yuriika" in Japanese. But could also be pronounced "e-u-reka."

FT: This song didn't have lyrics yet when we heard it. Are you going to write the lyrics?

Imai: No, just the shouting part on the chorus. You could call them lyrics, but it's really just spouting words. Sakurai is writing the rest.

FT: So it's a collaboration, then. In addition to that song, you wrote the lyrics for three other songs, and will you sing lead vocals on one of them?

Imai: There are a few songs where Sakurai and I both do lead vocals. I had the idea to sing the A melody part of "Que Sera Sera Elegy," but then I decided that Sakurai should just power through and sing the whole thing, so I had him do that for the demo vocals and it sounded cool.

FT: At this point, what kind of album do you think this is shaping up to be?

Imai: Nope, I can't read it at all yet. And I think that's kind of fun, even for me.

FT: For your previous album, No. 0, you decided on the opening song and the ending song right from the beginning, but you say that this time, you have no idea yet.

Imai: Yeah. We haven't decided on the album title, either. I'm thinking about it, or rather, hoping the muse will send it to me soon.

FT: What about the seven-letter keyword?

Imai: I'm not going to talk about that yet.

FT: I see (laughs). We're looking forward to hearing the finished album. Now, please give a message to all your fans, who are looking forward to Buck-Tick's next activities.

Imai: We've made a wonderful single and album. Look forward to them. Imai, signing off.