the GazettE had released no new information since deciding to cancel the 18th-anniversary concert “18TH ANNIVERSARY DAY/6576”, scheduled on March 10th last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that worries were growing among the fans, there is no mistaking that many of them were relieved the moment the band announced in January this year, the release of their new album “MASS”.
Catching guitarist Aoi for a chat on the verge of the new release, we were able to talk with him about his daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic, the band’s feelings behind their silence during 2020, and their new release “MASS”.
First, I want to ask about last year when the COVID-19 pandemic began. From the end of February last year, concerts and events were being canceled or postponed one after another due to the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, including “18TH ANNIVERSARY DAY/6576” which the GazettE had planned for March 10. At that time, how did you feel?
Aoi: At that point, I thought that considering the situation it couldn’t be helped. Of course, I wanted to do the show, but I understood that it wasn’t a good situation for that. There weren’t any disagreements among the band members or staff on whether to do it or not. If it’s canceled, it’s canceled, if it’s postponed then it’s postponed, everyone agreed that it was important to release information as quickly as possible.
At that time people were saying that Corona could possibly be resolved by May. Because of that, we figured that even if March wasn’t possible, maybe we could switch the date to June or something, so we decided not to do it in March.
Because the concert was suddenly canceled while you were getting your spirits fired up for it, you’ve probably grown disheartened instead.
Aoi: I have. March 10 is an important day for the GazettE, so approaching that date we were creating a concert in which everyone’s feelings were united, and then it was canceled at the very last step. But I don’t have any doubt about canceling it. The first half of March was a difficult time. There were people holding concerts and also people who decided not to hold any concerts, and while this was all going on there were also voices praising those who were holding concerts.
But I was wondering if that was something worthy of praise. I think holding a concert or not is up to the artists individually, and I cannot tell you which is the correct thing to do, but I wonder about the people around me who I hear saying that, “holding a concert under these circumstances is an excellent idea”. I think the best thing to do is to not spread Corona any further, we’ve become unable to perform any concerts and we’re disappointed, but I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.
It seems like you assessed the situation calmly. After that, during the month of March, the number of COVID-19 cases increased, on April 7 the first state of emergency was declared, and society entered the “STAY HOME” period. During that time, how did you spend your days?
Aoi: I was a NEET (a person who is not in education, employment, or training). I really was a NEET [laughs]. I was invited to do things but I turned every invitation down and stayed isolated at home. I stayed home the whole time and just played guitar. I have been taking guitar lessons and they switched to being online, so I continued taking lessons. Because of that, the amount of time I spent with my guitar increased.
People like us are being kept alive by everyone, so rather than going out and having fun, I felt that I wanted to get ready for the next time we will have a chance to do a concert. For that reason, I played guitar and didn’t do anything imprudent. If I were to get COVID there’s no way I can hide it, it would be on the news, wouldn’t it? If that were to happen, people would say things like, “even though the GazettE isn’t doing anything, why?”. I think that would be the utmost betrayal to our fans.
We canceled our concert because if someone like me contracted corona, it would look terrible and people would probably say, “even though you aren’t working now, how did you get corona?” [laughs]. Normally, the conversation would be over just by saying, “please be careful”, but that’s not enough right now. For that reason I have been staying isolated at home playing guitar, waiting earnestly for the day when we can go out normally again.
In order to avoid letting the fans down, you’ve been refraining from going out and practicing guitar in anticipation of when your activities will resume. You’re making a conscious effort. What I mean to ask is, when drinking during your period of self-isolation, did you do that at home too?
Aoi: I’ve been drinking at home instead of going out, even now. I’ve become good friends with the guy at the “Kakuyasu” liquor store [laughs]. He’s been delivering my beer about 2-3 times a month [laughs].
What? Er, um, two or three times a month is quite an amount of alcohol…
Aoi: Well I only buy one case with 24 cans in it at a time. I drink two cans in one day, so it’s all gone in about 10 days.
Oh, is that so? So you can only get one case from “Kakuyasu” at a time?
Aoi: No no, you can buy more. But if I have too many beer cases lying around my home I’ll feel like I’m going off the rails [laughs]. That’s why I’m keeping it to one case at a time [laughs].
So it’s not like you’re drowning in alcohol every night [laughs]. You also like fishing, have you not done any fishing either?
Aoi: I have not. I bought a lot of equipment but I still haven’t gone fishing even once.
It seemed fine to drive around in your car and go fishing by yourself from the second half of June, but you refrained from doing it anyway?
Aoi: Yes, again…around summer COVID had calmed down for once, right? Just when I thought this meant I could go fishing, news came out that fire ants had escaped from a container at the pier. So while I held off going there it became winter and the COVID situation grew intense again so it just became pointless. That’s why I didn’t go fishing at all either. I only got as far as winding the string around the reel at home [laughs].
But sometimes I feel like I’ve come full circle and I’m just not that interested in fishing anymore…so I’m not particularly stoked about wanting to land a fish anymore [laughs].
Ah, I see [laughs]. Because of the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that there have been a lot of artists who got depressed, reflected on a lot of things, and decided to retire but I’m truly glad that you didn’t end up in that situation.
Aoi: But it was pretty bad. I thought “I’m the one who wants to get depressed”. I think it would have been much easier to say “I am depressed”. My mental state was quite bad. Anyway, I felt like I was detached from society because I no longer had work to do, and I also felt anxious about money. Even so, I can’t do something like work the register at a convenience store. If word were to get out that “Aoi was working the register at the convenience store”, that would be uncool [laughs]. So I was almost at my limit.
Around that time I think all musicians felt that way, but I was anxious because I couldn’t predict what the outcome would be. I’ve been with the GazettE for 19 years but there has never been such a long period of time where our schedule was blank. Last year at least we were writing songs for the album so it didn’t feel like there was no band activity at all, but I think if I hadn’t had that, it would have been really bad.
Accepting that they could not do their usual band activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists have started streaming on YouTube since around June last year, but the GazettE hasn’t been among them. Hasn’t there been any talk within the band about doing livestreams?
Aoi: It hasn’t come up. Because we’ve never been the kind of band to do anything like that, even in these times we haven’t had any ideas to do anything online and connect like that. We didn’t want to, but that’s our selfishness. How should I put this…when we’ll be able to start our regular activities as a band, we thought about how we will see that period of our past, then we judged that there wasn’t any particular need to do anything, as a band.
I understand those feelings. However, putting aside livestreamed band talks, acoustic sessions, etc., it was surprising that the GazettE didn’t hold any online concerts.
Aoi: We thought that with online concerts we can’t give the whole package in terms of the concert experience. Basically, if we were to perform live while streaming, we didn’t know what it would look like and felt very uneasy. If we were to do one it would work out in its own way, but is that enough? There were also fears that if it were easy to watch from home, people would think that watching from home is better.
Ultimately when it came down to either making a small profit or protecting what the band had built, I’m sorry but we wanted to protect the band. If we were to hold an online concert, when the time came when we could have normal concerts again, someone would definitely say “Well then, you should also stream it live”, and that is also complicated. We thought about a lot of things like that and decided not to do an online concert.
Without losing focus or forgetting about the fans, with a fighting stance, the band decided not to do it, right?
Aoi: That’s right. More than being in the coolest way possible, we wanted to be in the most powerful form for our next moment of action. Because what we seek most is that feeling people get of “the GazettE is amazing just as expected” when they see us performing in person, it’s all we can think of. And I actually have to say this, but I truly believe that we can make it happen.
I want that day to come even one day sooner. When the COVID pandemic is resolved and artists can resume activities, the attitude with which they spent their time until then will become clear.
Aoi: I agree. However, even though I’ve dedicated all this time to honing my musical skills, if the band members think “what a loser” once we resume activities after such a long time, that would be the most unpleasant thing. I’m just doing it because I don’t want to be unable to reply when asked what I did during that time.
Many years have passed already since you’ve been doing this band with the same members and, amazingly, there aren’t any conflicts even now.
Aoi: I think in terms of being a band, it is better to be rivals than “a group of five friends”. That way it’s easier to deal with each other and without the peacefulness you can motivate each other, which I think results in being able to create better work. I’ve become fairly reliant on the others too and there are also times when I strongly feel like I don’t want to be that way.
Aoi, have you become reliant on the members? Although you don’t give that impression.
Aoi: It would be quite serious if that were to leak outside of the band [laughs]. Inside, I felt like I was acting too reliant and I think that was not good.
Even so, I feel like the GazettE is doing well now. Because the Corona pandemic has been dragging on for longer than expected and the period in which we haven’t heard anything from the GazettE has also been longer than everyone thought. Did you not have any worries that the fans might forget about the GazettE?
Aoi: We did. I talk about this with the other members a lot. Stuff like how the GazettE stubbornly protects its convictions too much but after not hearing from us for so long everyone will have already forgotten about us. But I don’t think about what I can do to prevent that. I think the other members are keeping in contact with the fans for our sake [laughs].
But it’s just that stress has been piling up significantly, more than I expected. At our label also, we have stress over not making any profit and we have to think in more severe terms than ever when drawing the line for up to what point we should keep going. We’re not doing any public activities but the stress is accumulating. And during all this happening, I’m living my everyday life where I do the things I’m able to do. Because I’m not meeting anyone all this time I’m not sure if I can do my things.
I think you can do them. It’s been a year since I’ve spoken to you Aoi, but I sense resilience in your mood. the GazettE has kept silent for a long time but on January 29 the release of your new album “MASS” was announced. So you were creating something during the period in which the band didn’t have public activities, right?
Aoi: That’s right. We actually started working on the new album around the end of 2019. Last year in March we decided to hold the anniversary concert, so we took a break to focus on preparing for that. We ended up being unable to have any band activities, let alone the concert. Because of that, various things got pushed back and eventually we started full-scale recording in the summer of last year.
Is that so? When you started creating the new album around the end of 2019, did you have a theme or concept?
Aoi: No I don’t think we did. For “DOGMA” RUKI brought in a picture first but this time we didn’t have anything like that. But for “NINTH” I don’t think we had any particular concept either. There isn’t any concept this time around either, I think it’s just…producing songs right away and just seeing where it takes us.
There’s probably some vague image inside RUKI’s head but I don’t feel like there was any point at which we could put in any clear words what we were aiming towards. That’s why sometime after the concert in March was canceled, everyone started writing songs again by themselves and it became this joint work. While we were busy with that we decided what the main track would be… what I mean is, the main track is the only thing that was actually decided upon. Just that one song, despite it being called an album [laughs].
But I think some of it was inevitable. Considering there was no clear concept and that the band members couldn’t meet in person until around June, it must have been hard for members to know what kind of songs to produce.
Aoi: In summer we all had a meeting to discuss the song selection. We exchanged songs and met about once a month to select the songs, but from around fall we weren’t able to meet anymore. The band installed ZOOM and we also started using Dropbox. However, on Dropbox we made a folder for everyone to upload songs, but nobody did [laughs].
Huh, why is that?
Aoi: Maybe everyone thought it was embarrassing if they’re the only one uploading something [laughs]. On top of that nobody said anything on there, even if they sent a message they wouldn’t get any reply [laughs].
What! You should reply. Why aren’t you communicating with each other?
Aoi: I don’t know, maybe it makes us think we’re cool [laughs]. the GazettE is really strange. We were late to the game using ZOOM and even when we have something as useful as Dropbox, we don’t use it [laughs]. It was really tough while we were finishing the album.
We continued producing songs while exchanging ideas on ZOOM but everyone always stayed up until the middle of the night while still being logged in. We can see everyone on screen, so it feels like we are being watched [laughs]. It’s extreme like that [laughs].
When you were discussing the songs to choose for the new album, what song was eventually decided upon to be the main track?
Aoi: We went for “BLINDING HOPE“. We decided upon “BLINDING HOPE” as the main track around the summer of last year, and because it’s been a while since we made an album, we wanted to try recording this song. We included this song while we were in the pre-production stage. After we recorded it, we had the impression that it came out exactly as we’d imagined. Because it was already like a clean copy of the song there was no need to make any dramatic changes to it.
“BLINDING HOPE” is a heavy and emotional track in which you can taste the core of the GazettE under a fresh new light. Because “BLINDING HOPE” had already been given shape, you were able to have a frame of reference, did that make the writing process for the other songs faster?
Aoi: No, it wasn’t really like that. We wrote “BLINDING HOPE”, but it didn’t give us the overall picture for the rest of the album. In my mind, each song has its own image.
In that case, how did you arrange the songs?
Aoi: RUKI brought in the songs and we would be like “so this is what we`re doing, OK”. Doing it this way there was no need to do meetings again regarding the choice of the songs. As for this album, essentially, all the songs were either created by RUKI or he at least had a hand in them. There are only two songs that were created by us four instrumental members, but even for those songs, RUKI had some input on how to make them, giving them their final shape.
So like I said, they’re all RUKI’s songs. So putting aside whether it’s correct or not to say that a work like this represents the GazettE, I think we were able to create a unified, straightforward album with “MASS”.
I feel that the overall perspective of the album steadily became clear to RUKI. At the core of “MASS” are songs that have an exquisite balance of rawness and synthetic sequencing. What impression do you have of this style?
Aoi: If it is perfect then I’m glad, but as a band, I think that out of all of the GazettE’s works, my impression is that it is the most simple. This is just my personal opinion, but I think that up until now it’s the most simple album and the easiest to listen to.
I agree that it is easy to listen to but I don’t think the songs are simple. When it comes to the arrangement of the music and everyone’s individual way of playing, the way the sounds are laid into the music is very delicate.
Aoi: That’s also something RUKI was able to see. The arrangement and the way the music is sequenced is something RUKI thought of and as for the guitar, I played the parts RUKI included in the demo. This time we concluded that everything was right that way. So in terms of approach, it’s relatively simple and it’s the kind of arrangement where all the parts support each other.
Certainly, in this album I did feel that the guitar was more straightforward than usual. Well then, out of all the songs on “MASS” which is the most impressive?
Aoi: Rather than being impressive, “MOMENT” was fun to record. It was something we hadn’t done before, not so much in terms of the melody and such, but in terms of the method of approach to the guitar. Having a song with entirely acoustic guitars was something we had done before on “LAST HEAVEN” from the album “BEAUTIFUL DEFORMITY” (October 23, 2013), but the technique we used consisted of Uruha and I playing different arpeggios to make a single phrase. This time the arpeggio was done separately on a side guitar while all I did was strum. I think doing it that way gave it some guts and it was also fun.
It was possible to record in the studio but because we continued to record online, I decided to record from home. Because of that, I was able to slowly think about it and build the sound of the acoustic guitar on my own. I hadn’t been confronted with the sound of an acoustic guitar this much before. Of course, the acoustic guitar has its own sound, but up until now, the sound would change depending on how the engineer had set up the microphone…this time I just went to the studio with an acoustic guitar. So I was able to think about a lot of things for myself, which was fun and I’m glad that there were also new things I was able to learn.
So you did something new again, right. “MOMENT” is a medium-tune song with a warm feeling that is musically innovative as well.
Aoi: I feel that warmth too. I think that not just “MOMENT”, but all the songs on this album are very emotional. More than letting our emotions out, it gives this impression of all kinds of emotions being scattered throughout. There’s also a strong sense of a message being sent through the lyrics, and it’s done in a slightly different way than before. I think putting it that way you could say this is a new the GazettE.
This time, in the end, there aren’t any songs written by any other members but RUKI. I don’t think of this as a negative point, rather, the things that RUKI has been keeping inside him that he wanted to express are abundantly present. Moreover, the members have all sympathized with this and wanted to create this together. And so I do not think this work is the image of our band having become a one-man group, but another way for the GazettE to “exist”.
RUKI wrote all of the songs on “MASS” and also had a lot of input in the approach of the instruments, which I wasn’t aware of when I listened to the album, but I didn’t feel that it had RUKI’s character in particular. I think that’s because he is very familiar with the essence of the GazettE and the individual characteristics of each musician.
Aoi: Exactly. One of the most interesting things about RUKI is how carefully he thinks about things. He always says things like “Uruha plays guitar like this” and “this guitar suits Aoi”. Just as you said, RUKI understands the band members, that’s why none of us feel dissatisfied with reproducing the demos RUKI has written for us. This time, in particular, I felt that more than ever RUKI was seeing the band as it is.
So you never thought that something was missing when listening to the demos RUKI presented you…
Aoi: Actually, I did [laughs]. When listening to RUKI’s demos, if there are things that I feel like I would do differently, I’ll suggest, “how about doing it this way”? But because RUKI’s image is clear, there are songs where we ended up doing it his way. Obviously, we didn’t do that just because RUKI decided it was the only correct way. If I believe an approach that differs from RUKI’s would also fit, I have him try both and see which we prefer. Moreover, if we don’t do the deciding process that way when picking which version to keep, I’d feel a great feeling of incompleteness and general dissatisfaction—and RUKI himself would think that we, the other members, weren’t involved in the composition process. I don’t want it to come to that, so I communicate clearly and if I want to try something, I ask him to try it out.
That’s a good habit and this can be said about all the parts, but in specific parts, each member’s personality comes out through the timing and nuance. I want to talk more about the songs on “MASS”, particularly noteworthy is the fusion of hardness and Latin influence in “ROLLIN’“, and “THE PALE” which is dramatic but also feels cold.
Aoi: “ROLLIN’” really is novel. RUKI has said many times that the keyword for “MASS” is something along the lines of “jungle”. He said the same thing when we were working on “BEAUTIFUL DEFORMITY”. “ROLLIN’” does have a melody with a Latin feel but I sense he wanted to create something that is more of a mixture of various elements. RUKI has outstanding taste when it comes to that stuff. He applied that skill in “ROLLIN’”, and honestly, I’m not capable of writing a song like that.
So what you mean is it is also a necessary skill for the other members to be able to give solid shape to the image RUKI has in mind.
Aoi: That is why we have to study. We hadn’t used this tone before for the guitars to fit with “ROLLIN”, and there weren’t any bands to reference. So while I proposed my own approach to the sound for the song, I applied it. I think “THE PALE” is a very the GazettE kind of song, or should I say, basically RUKI really likes this kind of song. So I can immediately imagine playing this song at a concert; it is my impression that songs like this are in any case good songs.
I think there are a lot of bands that use strings and keyboard like in “THE PALE”, but I think a moderate amount is also nice.
Aoi: Certainly if we wanted to make such an extravagant song, we could do it in any number of ways, but “THE PALE” has a “band feel”. That being said, I think RUKI added personal touches in all the right places.
I agree. Now, while “MASS” is your most perfected work, fitting perfectly with the voices of the GazettE heading toward post-corona times, it is also the GazettE’s tenth album. Now that “MASS” has been completed, how do you feel?
Aoi: How I feel, huh, of all the albums up till “MASS”, it is the album that I feel most unreal about having made. Not meeting with the other members and recording it entirely online, and the mixing and so on also having been done online; because of this, I felt like “huh? Done already?” [laughs]. Moreover, because we’re a band that creates its works based a lot on the “concert experience”, we view concerts with utmost importance. That is why even if an album is completed and our fans get to listen to it, we still can’t call it a completed work just based on that.
It was a similar situation with “NINTH”, whereby the time we went on tour, performed the new songs, took in some beautiful views, and made a good show, I thought it was a good tour and for the first time it felt complete. This time I feel particularly strongly about this. I can only guess at what kind of image I’ll be able to see by the time we’ve gotten to play the “MASS” songs live. In the album trailer, we’ve inserted this image of a concert because that’s how we imagine it will turn out in the very end. When we play “MASS” live for real, I think it will be completed as an album. So in saying that I don’t truly feel like we’ve completed the album.
While “MASS” will really shine live, there are a lot of songs that sound like they can grow even more when played live, so I’m looking forward to your next concert. However, are there any plans to hold a concert that you can announce at this point?
Aoi: No, there aren’t. We would like to do a concert. We have a strong desire within ourselves to hold a concert. We are keeping an eye on the situation, it’s not as if we are standing still. We are constantly looking for a place but the venues are either not being rented out, or everyone is scrambling over them, so it’s quite tricky. But we would like everyone to understand that we are trying to plan a concert. Well, I am a NEET though [laughs]. However, I want to ask if everyone still remembers the GazettE [laughs]?
We remember you. The fans are still waiting patiently.
Aoi: We are definitely going to perform live, so I want you to listen to “MASS” and connect with us until that time. I was joking earlier when I said, “I want to ask if you still remember us”, but a part of me honestly does wonder. Since the GazettE stopped reaching out, quite some time has passed, so I can’t just say something carefree like “just wait for us”. I feel really sorry.
But, we have been preparing this entire time and because we are making sure we can make an announcement as soon as the right time strikes, I’d like you to please give us a little more time. The moment we can perform live again, we promise you that we will show you the best the GazettE.
Powered by: club Zy.
Original article: https://www.club-zy.com/contents/426749
Interviewer: Takayuki Murakami (club Zy.)