Trudging our way through the drizzly streets of London, it made us wonder how the GazettE felt about the rainy welcome back to the city after so many years. We were given the opportunity to meet with them the second time this year—the first being in New York—and it was the day after their London performance on June 11 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.
Dressed in minimal branded hoodies and T-shirts with simple graphics or embroidered designs, the members sat in a row with a window behind them. As the heavens continued to pour, the calming sounds of raindrops and the smell of coffee filled the cozy room as we sat before them.
This is the second time you’ve played in London, welcome back. How was the show last night?
Ruki: It was great.
It’s been twelve years, right? Was there anything significantly different since you last played here?
Ruki: At the previous show (in 2007), the majority of the audience was female, but this time it was half-and-half. More male fans showed up and that made a big difference, and I really appreciate seeing that. I felt better.
Yeah? Are you guys surprised by this shift?
Ruki: We’ve been to a few countries now, not just the UK, and we’ve noticed we’ve gained more male fans over there too. As we are men ourselves, it felt as though there was a better understanding between the band and the crowd, that’s how we felt.
Last year, we got to know a few visual kei band roadies. They apparently worked for free to get experience which they later use to improve their own band. How was it for you when you first started out?
Ruki: None of us have experienced being a roadie for another band. From the beginning, we were a professional band. The meaning for “roadie” in Japan has a different meaning compared to here. In the west, they are seen as professionals and highly skilled musicians in guitars, drums, bass, keyboard, and whatnot, whereas in Japan, it’s a “runner” or personal assistant type of role so that’s why they’re not really getting paid. They can actually see what’s going on backstage, that is the reward. The experience is the payment, as well as making connections.
Reita and Uruha used to play football, right? So how did you transition from sports to music, and how have you guys manage to keep your friendship for so long?
Uruha: In Japan, it’s very common to have extracurricular school activities (baseball, football, and volleyball for example), obviously we couldn’t become athletes when club activities ended with school. That’s why we chose to be musicians.
It’s also a good thing because now you’re in the band together.
How have you been able to motivate yourselves from that time to now, to become musicians?
Reita: When I was in second grade in junior high school, I was hanging out at Uruha’s house and we were just playing CDs and playing covers of the songs. It was just too much fun. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a musician.
What usually goes through your mind before the tour? Does the leader Kai take the lead in envisioning it all?
Kai: It’s not really my decision, we always talk about it—all five of us. First, we decide the concept and think about the album, create it, and then we think about how to bring that concept to life with the setting of the stage. We plan as much as we can, but we can only find out what works or doesn’t once we start playing.
We perform many shows, one after another. After a while, things become more clear so that we can start to understand them through experience. Including the album and the tour, we’re always heading to the final show with the goal to complete and perfect our work.
Does that change if it’s a world tour or a domestic tour? Do you get more nervous if it’s a world tour?
Ruki: I don’t know. So there’s not really a big difference between a world or domestic tour for us. Obviously, we can use our own gear when it’s a domestic tour. That’s really the part we’re nervous about. Making sure everything works as well as bringing everything. For overseas gigs, we have to make do with what we get from the venue or the company. So that’s really the thing we’re worried about. There’s always crew who are running around making sure everything works, everything we need is there—I don’t know if the crew is more stressed about it or not?
So more like unexpected things?
Live performances are vital to the GazettE, what is the essence of it? Why do you perform?
Aoi: Of course, we want to show the audience something that differs from their daily life, and are supporting us by coming to see our performance. We want to take them over to another world that doesn’t usually exist. That’s why we perform. In my case, I personally enjoy watching the band members on stage. Seeing them have a really good time, have a great performance on stage, that’s what motivates me. Everyone is working so hard, doing their best. I can’t stay behind, I have to keep up with them.
Would you consider your tour finals a bit more special? Could you explain why?
Ruki: Hmm, the first or the last of the tour—it doesn’t really matter to me. The final show means I have to find something that hasn’t happened at the beginning, therefore I get slightly nervous compared to the other shows. But it doesn’t really feel there’s anything special.
But we’ve watched your DVDs and you’re always more emotional on the final show. Especially Reita, we’ve seen him crying.
Reita: That’s all CG (computer graphics) [laughs].
That’s amazing [laughs]! How about at the end of the tour? Do you get post-tour depression?
Reita: It happens to me after each tour, I’m not the only one, right? All five of us are living and traveling together on the tour. And all of a sudden, being alone, I would feel a bit sad. I was crying a little last night [laugh].
Really? [Laugh] How do you get over it then?
Aoi: Our management pulls me out of the sadness. By the next day, my manager is already calling me and asking me to cheer up because we have a tight schedule, so I don’t have the time to be depressed
You make it sound so easy [laughs].
Kai: It didn’t use to be like this, but nowadays we’ll start giving hints for the next tour or vision of the band. I’ll ride on that excitement so that I have something to look forward to.
Like pumping yourself up?
Kai: Yeah yeah.
Ruki’s dad was initially against him being in a band until they appeared on the music charts. What does your family feel about your career choice today?
Ruki: At the beginning, I was a fan of other bands, I had posters of them up on the wall.
Ruki: X JAPAN! In our generation, bands were seen as outsiders. The bad boys. That’s why my parents were worried, but as they saw us becoming successful, they began to understand.
Can we hear about the other members too?
Uruha: My parents were really against it. Especially my dad. “Stop being a musician”, “Stop being in the band” and whatnot. I always hoped they would approve of what I’m doing one day.
Do they now?
Uruha: I’m not sure, it’s a delicate situation, but when we started appearing on TV, my parents started taping and recording the shows. When I saw this, I felt relieved.
They became fans! Do they still have those tapes?
Uruha: Yeah, I think so? [Laughs]
Kai: Listening to everyone’s stories, my experience was the complete opposite. I didn’t really have the support of my parents, but they weren’t particularly against it. My mum was involved in music, so she kind of understood what was going on. When I told her that I dropped out of school without telling anyone, she was really shocked but she pretty much accepted the situation, like “Well, what’s done is done and saying anything is going to be pointless so we might as well move on”.
Kai sounds like a bad boy.
What kind of music did your mother make?
Kai: She was a piano teacher, but her hobby was jazz piano.
Have you ever thought about collaborating with her?
Kai: I’ve only tried once playing piano with my mom.
Reita: As for me, my parents weren’t really against it. Actually, I only lived with my mother and my older sister and we didn’t have much money at the time so I was thinking inside me, “Is it really fine if I’m not working?”. I really felt guilty and sorry for my mother, but at the same time my passion to start a band was too strong, so I continued.
Uruha: Oh, really?
Ruki: That’s what happened? [Giggles]
So we have a good guy Reita, and then we have bad boy Kai.
Aoi: Well, I didn’t grow up in Tokyo. I used to live in a small town and I was watching late-night music shows on TV. I saw some bands and I casually thought “I can do that too!”, so I decided to go to Tokyo. My parents didn’t really say anything about it.
I thought I could do better than those bands on TV, and I actually did! Maybe now I am the one influencing young people on their TVs, just like me before?
The Olympics will be happening in Tokyo in 2020. Until 1948, music and art such as poetry writing were Olympic events. If you could introduce any activity, what would you add?
Ruki: You mean if we could choose? [Laughs]
Reita: We couldn’t really choose a winner if it was a competition in music, so maybe a physical activity—like, who could headbang the longest?
We [Uruha and I] will actually represent Japan in this category!
That’s very impressive!
Reita: We will do our best.
You have been playing music for so long now, in what way did you change through your music activities, in terms of personality?
Ruki: I became a little more anxious.
Why is that?
Ruki: I came to do a lot of things by myself thanks to music—composing tracks, designing products, even flyers—I have to manage many aspects and ensure there are no mistakes. I can’t allow myself to rely on people so much and leave them all the work. Because of this, I feel more pressure and tend to get anxious.
How about you Kai?
Kai: I don’t think I have changed fundamentally—personality isn’t something you can change that easily. But all five of us together are creating music that we like, and I think our attitude, our approach toward music has changed compared to when we started. It has deepened.
Are you still cooking for the band?
Kai: Well not as much as before.
Ruki: But didn’t you just cook for us recently, pasta?
Kai: Oh that’s right, pepperoncini (a spaghetti dish with garlic, olive oil, and chili)!
May we ask the question to Uruha?
Uruha: What was it again?
We were talking about the influence of music on your personality.
Uruha: Ah yes. When I played football, I didn’t have the chance to assert myself. I played as a defender so I wasn’t in a position to take initiative, so I used to withdraw and stay back. When I started playing music and actually enjoyed it, I started to become more outgoing and forward, it really surprised me.
How about you Reita?
Reita: A long time ago, I wasn’t very good at standing up in front of an audience. In junior high school for example, during presentations, I was so shy that I couldn’t stop my knees from shaking. But eventually, I got used to it and enjoyed performing on stage. I eventually overcame that fear.
We actually love the way you move on stage!
Reita: Oh really? Thank you.
Could we hear about Aoi?
Aoi: I was the youngest of my siblings, so I was kind of spoilt and a bit selfish, somehow the music spirited me up and eventually my selfishness vanished a little bit.
What’s the coolest piece of technology you have used so far in music?
Aoi: Probably the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). It contributed a lot to the recent music, so record companies can save a lot of money thanks to it as we don’t really need to spend time in the studio. In a way, the DAW provides us more freedom to do what we want to do.
We also heard you used to use software such as EZ Drummer?
Aoi: Of course I’m using that kind of software a lot.
Do you have any recommendations?
Aoi: Well, we use that software for demos, and obviously we are using Kai’s drums when we are recording tracks.
Thank you to the GazettE, JPU Records, the team and management for the opportunity.