After seeing and experiencing NUL.’s first performance on August 16, our minds were filled with questions! We decided to meet up with HIZUMI a couple of days later to get these questions answered.
In case you haven’t kept up with the news, NUL. is a three-man band consisting of programmer Kishi (Abingdon Boys School), vocalist HIZUMI (ex-D’espairsRay), and guitarist MASATO (defspiral). Now let’s get into it!
Hizumi, it’s been eight years since you retired from the music scene but now you’re finally back! How does it feel to start a new chapter in your music career?
I’m excited about it. Over those eight years, I thought a lot. For example, I had a lot of ideas that I’ve accumulated while I was inactive, but right now I can only say I’m looking forward to what comes next.
What’s the reason behind the name “NUL.”? Also, what is the concept of the band?
The word “NUL.” means “zero” or “not applicable”. It also holds the meaning that our world view, that our style of music doesn’t apply to any other band. Including the meaning that we are starting from zero, we chose the name NUL.
We haven’t created a particular concept. Right now, Kishi and Masato are both involved in large, main projects, but also working with me in NUL. I told them that I want them to be able to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do in their main project, so my feeling is that if there is something they’d like to try, I’d like to be able to make that a reality here.
I believe NUL. as a band without a concept is an advantage. That way, we’re not locked into any one form, and we can freely express musical ideas.
As there is no concept now, are there plans to introduce one later?
If we wanted to do something outside of that concept, it would be really difficult, almost like we’re held captive by it, and I couldn’t get past that idea. We’re free to express ourselves without being limited by a concept, I think it’s better not to introduce one.
With D’espairsRay, did you decide on a concept first? How did the process work at that time?
D’espairsRay was built on its concept for the band itself and we created songs based around that concept.
In regards to NUL., without sticking to one particular genre, we’re able to cook up pretty much anything. One thing we’re excited about when it comes to going overseas is to inject a little of the music or rhythm that’s popular in that country into our sound, and that’s the kind of unit I believe we are.
That implies you’re already thinking about heading overseas?
Of course! I’ve been thinking about it since the beginning.
After D’espairsRay, you focused all of your energy on your design brand UMBRELLA. What made you decide to start a new band now?
I’m very thankful that so many people were hoping for me to produce music again, but at the same time, I was very hesitant as my throat still wasn’t fully healed and I didn’t want to cause problems for my bandmates. That was a big factor behind not having any desire to play in a band again but one day, one of my seniors was like, “why not just try? If you’re a nuisance, it’s fine.” [laughs].
That took about eight years to figure out?
I actually decided to resume my musical activities at the end of last year. I constantly felt like I wanted to make music but I wasn’t able to. However, simply put, the feeling of wanting to make music was far stronger than the feeling that I couldn’t. My senior gave me the chance to realize that.
Why did you decide to work with Kishi and MASATO?
Actually, Kishi has been suggesting we work together for a while now, so when it came down to starting a new project, if I was going to work with someone, I thought it should be Kishi. I went to see him and asked, “Can I be a nuisance?” [laughs].
As for MASATO, he is a personal acquaintance. When Kishi and I were discussing the format of the unit, while we were talking about how we wanted to add a guitarist, MASATO was the first person that came to my mind. Of course, I knew he had responsibilities with defspiral, but I got in touch with him anyway and asked if he would like to join.
Has Kishi influenced the music a lot?
In fact, I asked Kishi to produce songs for D’espairsRay because I liked his songs.
Without a concept, how would you explain NUL. to somebody? For example a friend, or friend of a friend?
It’s hard to explain with words, I’d give them a CD and ask them to listen to it [laughs]!
NUL.’s sound is quite different from that of D’espairsRay, how do you think fans overseas will react?
I think it will be different for everyone but the sound that we’re aiming for with NUL. isn’t the same sound as D’espairsRay. I’d like it if people are able to appreciate the music l will make with NUL., as well as the music I made with D’espairsRay.
So far, the only people who have heard NUL.’s music are those who attended the show at Shibuya REX. How did you feel before, during, and after the concert?
Before the show, I was really busy. During, was also really busy. After was… again, crazy busy [laughs]. Honestly, I didn’t have time to let the situation sink in. It was pretty much down to the wire at each stage—production was just about finished, the soundcheck was finished by the skin of our teeth, and by the time I realized it, I was going on stage [laughs]. Before I knew it, the show was over.
Was it quite stressful for you?
I definitely felt the stress and tension, but it was a lot of fun. Time flies when you’re having fun, it felt like it was over in an instant. I think that, probably for all three of us, the sense of accomplishment we had after the show was amazing. I can say with certainty that making 12 songs in the space of three months was incredibly hard. We didn’t plan on making 12 songs—it was more like 10 originally—it just kind of happened.
And there were no new songs in the encore right?
Well, all the songs are new [laughs]. We played all of what we wrote!
Since you’ve been away from music for so long, do you feel like your relationship with music has changed over the years?
I’ve come to realize that being away from music for eight years actually had some positive points for me. In that time, for example, if I had continued making music, I probably needed to keep on using the style.
There’s this image that artists develop where if you do something for a long time, you just have to commit to it. Of course, this can be a great advantage for some artists but, being away from it for eight years, I’m no longer bound by this “character”—it doesn’t exist anymore. I’m free to create as I want, unrestricted by the idea that I can’t act outside of that box. And I think that’s my greatest weapon.
You announced that you’re still not fully recovered from your health issues, how did you overcome this by singing again?
I’m still taking care of and treating my throat’s condition; the music we make with NUL. is made to fit what I’m capable of.
From the time we started this band up until we performed our first show, we were constantly testing, for example, what melodies or pitches would make certain symptoms come out. It started by getting to know myself.
Will we ever hear you scream again?
Of course. Though, me being me, I can be reckless sometimes but I understand that my throat is a lifeline for this band, thus, after rehearsals and shows I really make sure to care for my throat as best I can.
You started the show without any MC, is there a reason for that?
When it comes to expressing NUL.’s music, I’ll talk on stage whenever I feel like it is a good idea, but conversely, if I don’t feel like it is needed, I won’t. A lot of bands decide where they’ll speak during their set but we’ve decided to take a more flexible approach to it.
For us, as you hadn’t been on stage in such a long time, we were expecting you to say something!
I thought it would be kind of wrong for me to use that show as an “I’m back” situation. Even though I felt that way, it wouldn’t feel right to use NUL. to deliver those feelings, so I decided not to say anything.
The fan next to us was crying when the intro music started, even before you even appeared on stage.
Isn’t that a bit too early? [Laughs]
She was really crying!
That there are people out there who care enough about me to be moved to tears is something I’m truly thankful for.
How did the other D’espairsRay members react to the news of you starting the band NUL.?
A pretty relieved kind of “Oh really?”. [Laughs]
They weren’t really surprised?
I think they probably already knew.
Do you consider NUL. to be a visual kei band? It’s very different from the usual visual kei style, a lot more toned down.
Because MASATO and I are in the band, I can see why we might be considered visual kei.
Similar to the talk of creating our concept, of course there are good points, but there’s no intent to outright state that we’re one particular genre like, “we’re a visual kei band” or “we’re a rock band” or “we make electro”. We want to be freer, good and bad points included. I hope that people will see and hear us before they judge.
Will we ever see a collab between UMBRELLA and NUL.?
No, I don’t think so.
Can we ask why?
I feel like if I were to mix NUL. and UMBRELLA, with a collaboration for example, UMBRELLA’s reason for existence would be lost. In my mind, I want to keep them totally separate and when it comes to UMBRELLA, I don’t think the other members would become involved.
How will UMBRELLA be affected now that you’re working with NUL.?
UMBRELLA won’t be affected at all. With UMBRELLA I make things that I enjoy and it is the embodiment of that. When it comes to NUL., I’m designing things keeping in mind how we want to present ourselves as a band. The ideas are different.
You mentioned earlier that you want to go overseas, what can overseas fans expect from NUL.?
Actually, I’d like to ask what you’re expecting of us [laughs]. Right now, we can only focus on making great songs and putting on great performances.
That’s pretty much what we expect!
Then, please expect more music from us.
Now that the band has been established, have you set any short term or long term goals for it?
Of course there are goals that I have in mind, and it’s likely the other members have their own goals in mind, too. As a band, we have goals like “be here by this time next year” for example, but I can’t say more about that at the moment.
As MASATO and Kishi take part in other projects, do you think they are focusing 100% on NUL.?
I think they probably approach it in the same way that I do with UMBRELLA. MASATO likely doesn’t have any crossover between the things he does for NUL. and the things he does for defspiral, and the same for Kishi regarding Abingdon Boys School. I think they’ve been able to separate them and make that switch. In that sense, when writing songs, maybe they’ll be finishing up songs specifically for NUL.
Starting NUL. was a selfish thought of mine, and I invited both of them to join me knowing that they had main projects, so I hope they can take care of it well. NUL. is the three of us including myself, when it comes down to it, we’re planning to give it 120%! [Laughs]
Finally, could you leave a message for your fans overseas?
We want to head overseas as soon as we can but the world is a big place. It will probably take some time, if you can’t wait, you should absolutely come to Japan!
We’re utterly thankful to be able to meet up with HIZUMI again and finally talk music! The JROCK NEWS team is also crossing our fingers for potential overseas performances in the near future.
Concert photos: Ueno Hiroyuki (上野宏幸) of nonfix creative