This interview was originally published by “club Zy.” in Japanese. JROCK NEWS is partnering with club Zy. and Vijuttoke with the aim to popularize Japanese visual kei globally. Learn more about our partnership here.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, LM.C’s 2020 activities were largely saved for later this year. Many listeners may have been worried about the lack of any live-streamed concerts or music releases, however, the members of LM.C haven’t been affected by the shock of COVID-19 and become powerless at all. This seems due to the member’s clear thoughts and judgments.

We caught Aiji, who appeared on HAKUEI’s Live Nico Radio show “Izakaya Hakuei – Year-End Special”, and spoke with him about his thoughts and outlook from within the current COVID-19 situation.

Left to right: Vocalist maya and guitarist Aiji

“This goes for the mental aspect too, and as for my physical possessions, I’ve been decluttering.”

Today, I’d like to take a look back at 2020. Since March last year, musicians have been unable to conduct regular activities due to the impact of COVID-19. At the time, what kind of thoughts did you have?

Aiji: From March to May, LM.C was supposed to be touring, so it became a real problem for me. However, since there was nothing that we could do about it, we decided to watch over the situation at the time. We decided to postpone and cancel the tour, I thought that it could not be helped as musicians generally didn’t have any choice due to the situation.

However, because we manage LM.C ourselves, it was a real pain in terms of managing operations. Because we couldn’t conduct activities, sales weren’t steady. Nonetheless, at our core we’re not the type to get into a panic, so while we collected information in our own way, we wanted to judge for ourselves what we thought would be the best way to proceed.

You certainly grasped the situation in a calm manner. As well as having been active for a long time, I feel that you all having previously experienced the effects of the Tohoku earthquake on March 11, 2011, is a large factor of this as well.

Aiji: That might be the case. During the events of March 11, 2011, we had to restrain from doing any live events. We belonged to a music agency at the time, and while my thought process and stance then were different to how it is now, I do still feel the effects of having had that experience now.

However, the situation in March 2011 was quite different to what’s happening now. Big earthquakes occur quite often around the world, but this time it’s a virus, isn’t it? As well as that, the conditions are stranger than ever before. This worldwide pandemic caused by an unknown virus is a first-time experience for all humans alive right now, so I think that it’s unavoidable that there is no “correct” way to respond.

While I can’t say for sure, there are definitely some aspects that do make me start to believe in the conspiracy theories. Isn’t the media strange? They’re exaggerating the number of people testing positive, but not those who are actually infected. Those who tested positive but didn’t actually get sick are being counted among the new cases and reported on. Even NHK is doing the same. Ultimately, unreliable news is widespread. For that reason, I haven’t been watching TV since May.

Every TV station’s talk shows only cover anxiety-inducing news in order to drive up the ratings, which really makes me feel like Japan’s news media just sucks. I don’t even watch the news. I do still watch “Jounetsu Tairiku” and “Another Sky”, though, as I’ve been watching them for a long time. [Laughs]

They are both good programs, aren’t they? [Laughs] So, during the “STAY HOME” period, how did you pass the time?

Aiji: I did a lot of research on COVID-19. On top of that, I was reading a lot of blogs and comments from university professors and virology specialists that had opinions close to my own. Unlike TV, which gives a very one-sided stance on all news unilaterally, I think that the strength of researching online is being able to pick out the information yourself. However, because there’s such a large volume of information available online, it’s extremely important to check your sources to distinguish fake news from real news.

With that said, I’m taking a lot of care in that regard. During this pandemic, there are many anxiety-inducing articles going around, so for those that are passively consuming media, it could be mentally damaging. When I talked with my parents who only consume news from the TV and newspapers, I was surprised. Their thoughts had become extremely biased, right? I told them that watching TV is fine and all, but I think it’s better not to just accept everything without questioning it first. Also, to link back to the idea of being able to pick out the information yourself, but since the “STAY HOME” campaign started, I personally think the best way to proceed is by differentiating the necessary information from the unnecessary information.

This goes for the mental aspect too, and as for my physical possessions, I’ve been decluttering.

Because of COVID-19, many people are becoming more aware of the world around them, so in that sense, I get the feeling that there may have been a good side to this crisis as well.

Aiji: I think so. It’s great that some people have been able to reorganize their way of thinking because of COVID, but on the other hand, you have the type of people that got manipulated by the false information, grew anxious from it, and as a result, ended up with a lot of worries and they can’t go anywhere—or should I say, they can’t survive.

During the self-restraint period, I was always researching and studying COVID with this in mind, so I wasn’t really able to think about music as much.

It was the same during the events of March 2011, but this time around my mental health just diminished like that. In the face of such a large crisis, creating entertainment is no longer the most important thing for me. This time too, my “creating music” mode wasn’t really on, but instead, I wanted to really make sure that I understood and studied the facts.

It seems that some artists took advantage of the time in order to improve their playing, while some other artists also investigated COVID-19 as you did.

Aiji: You can pretty much divide it up like that. Those who won’t involve themselves with society and solemnly turn to their music. In my case, I’m in a position to make the final decisions, including company matters, so my underlying reasoning is that I don’t want to be influenced by incorrect information. So I was just researching COVID-19 and the global infection rates.

It seems that it was clear to you what you should do. For example, it’s not as if you completely stopped all of LM.C’s activities, as you also held livestreams, as well as, online meet and greet and signing events.

Aiji: When we were talking about doing whatever we could during COVID-19, we really didn’t want to do a so-called “livestream concert” with no audience. It doesn’t suit our style of performing. As we were looking for alternatives to an audience-less concert livestream, we decided to create a space where we could talk about things that we wouldn’t normally talk about. We started on YouTube, and gradually went on to using TwitCasting.

I think as LM.C, we are pretty open towards our fans. We try not to over-create an image of ourselves as characters, but instead show our real selves. Because of that, I don’t feel bad about these talking livestreams. We decided to make the best of the situation, and create a space where we would answer questions from fans. I think being able to do this in real-time with the fans is very important, and by setting up this space, I think it’d be great if we could help ease fans’ uneasiness and loneliness a little during this time.

I think that the fans are very happy about it. Moving forward, from October 30 to 31, a concert with a live audience, titled “LM.C Club Circuit ’20 -Halloween-” was held at Shirokane SELENE b2.

Aiji: Before that concert, on July 30, it was our vocalist maya’s birthday, so we celebrated together with the audience by holding a birthday concert event at Shibuya CLUB QUATTRO. We put a lot of care into making sure we had COVID-19 protective measures in place, and while thinking of how to make sure everything went smoothly, we decided to hold the event three times in one day so the crowd wouldn’t get too dense. At that concert, I experienced what it’s like to have a live audience during this crisis, and if we take proper measures and if the fans can attend after careful deliberation on their own part, then I thought that we might actually be able to perform live again.

In fact, there haven’t been any confirmed infections or cluster breakouts from concerts so far.

Aiji: Exactly. People that love music and bands have a high sense of responsibility. They are extremely well-behaved, and they always follow the rules we set. I get the feeling that it reflects the attitudes of the musicians.

We share the same sentiments. Talking with various musicians during this corona disaster, I realized again that there are many people who are persistently taking it seriously and taking good care of their fans.

Aiji: Of course, it’s different from person to person, but while it might not be appropriate to say, musicians who have been active for a long time are usually great people. Some say that fans are like a mirror that reflects the artist, but aren’t there a lot of fans that have a high sense of responsibility too?

Because of that, after the concert on July 30, we were able to hold the October concert without any worries. I thought that for sure nobody would get infected and after the concert, in November, we also held a fan club travel event which went smoothly as well.

“In the past, I only thought about live performances, but now I want to create songs that will be loved for a long time.”

The concert held in October, “LM.C Club Circuit ’20 -Halloween-”, was a Halloween-themed event, was it not?

Aiji: We didn’t really do events like that until recently. Sometimes while touring our schedule would land right on Halloween, and we would surprise fans with Halloween makeup and costumes, but this was our first time announcing the concept in advance. So I hope our fans enjoyed it.

There’s no doubt that they did. So, how was performing after such a long time?

Aiji: Since we can’t perform in our usual style, it did feel like a bit of a challenge. It’s not like I took it for granted, but without the cheers from the audience between songs, the energy isn’t really the same.

Because of that, I felt a bit confused that I had to feel differently from how I had previously. Isn’t the gap between songs quite important to create the flow of the concert? Because the drummer can gauge from the audience’s response the best time to count into the next song. During the concert, I felt unpleasantness and irritation from not being able to gauge the timing.

Because of the restrictions on admissions, there’s not as many people in the crowd, and because they can’t raise their voices, many artists compare it to their experience at an ”away while at home” event.

Aiji: It might be a bit like that. Even looking back on my own career, in the past, I’ve never experienced a concert where there are no voices, only silence, coming from the crowd, so it’s definitely been difficult.

In October, we performed twice each day for two days, so four concerts in total. Even then, I couldn’t get used to it until the end. I think we need a little more time for that.

It’s difficult for the audience members not to be able to cheer as well, and I can’t help but hope that this era of COVID-19 will end as soon as possible.

Aiji: For sure. It’s a new challenge to take on, as there’s never been a situation like this before now. After rain comes sunshine. In that sense, I think it’s a good thing to enjoy doing the things that can only be done during this time. For example, clapping to the point of injuring your hands isn’t something I’ve ever seen until now.

From an artist’s point of view, I think that a completely silent crowd is also something we’ve never experienced. I feel that we have no choice but to find a way to have fun with it despite the situation and make it a worthwhile experience.

Definitely. People are starting to figure out ways to liven up the concerts in situations where listeners can not use their voices, and how to support their favorite artists. Things like hitting two megaphones together, or bringing other ways of making noise that won’t bother other audience members.

Aiji: I see. Not just simply watching, but a more active approach. That’s hopeful, I think everyone just really wants to support their favorite artists. I’m very grateful to hear that.

Because the listeners’ feelings will take form, I think that a new form of live performance will exist soon. 2020 has been a year full of frustration and confusion for artists, but what kind of year would you like 2021 to be?

Aiji: So far, there haven’t been any specific decisions made regarding LM.C’s activities in 2021. Right now, we’re discussing various things and taking in everybody’s individual wishes. LM.C’s 15-year anniversary is this year, so we really want to deliver something better than ever before.

For the past year, LM.C haven’t had many public activities, so I think there were a lot of fans who felt lonely, but it seems like there’s nothing to worry about.

Aiji: There are a lot of things that we want to do, so don’t worry. LM.C has only two members, right? If we had five members, some might be impatient, while other members who can’t keep their spirits up might think of quitting… such circumstances might occur, but since there’s only two of us, me and maya aren’t worried about things like that.

We want to be more active this year compared to last, and I think that we can. Isn’t cheering up the public part of the culture of entertainment? I think that the excitement of the entertainment industry will help to cheer up those who are depressed, so I want to give it my all.

I’m looking forward to it. There are some artists that have said that what they want to express through their work has changed over the COVID-19 period, how do you feel about that?

Aiji: I haven’t changed at all. For me, LM.C doesn’t have a particular direction that we’re trying to go in. I feel strongly that we create music in order to enjoy it together with the fans time and time again. That’s our main foundation, and on top of that, we’ve been doing this for 14 years because of our tendency to adapt ourselves to the times and evolve. In that sense, in the last 2-3 years we have switched into a slightly different mode.

Recently, I feel like I’m returning to my roots a little and creating songs that I would have wanted to hear as a teenager. My major debut was in 1998, but at that time I was very concerned about what listeners thought, asking “What would they think about this”? I always wanted to suggest things like, “Haven’t they heard music like this before”?

And then, you implemented that.

Aiji: Back then, I had quite a few notable seniors around, and I made sure to never do anything that was the same as what they were doing. Because I knew that even if I did the same things as them, I wouldn’t be able to stand out. Recently, I’ve come to want to mix my feelings from back then with LM.C’s individuality. Generally speaking, I think LM.C’s music has the image of being very bright because we play in a major key and have a punk-ish vibe. We have songs with rapping, too.

However, right now I want to create something more mellow and give shape to things that I can only make now that I’m older. Now, I want to make something that fits the “LM.C standard”, something that can be sung for years to come. In the past, I only thought about live performances, but now I want to create songs that will be loved for a long time. When I thought about it like that, I realized that a lot of the artists I listened to as a student had a lot of great songs.

Specifically, do you mean the mainstream music of the 90s?

Aiji: That’s right. I still find myself singing the songs I liked back then to myself. I want to make songs like that now. In spring last year, I wanted to bring new songs to our tour, so I decided to sell a CD with three songs attached to the pamphlet. The tour ended up being canceled after all, but those three songs ended up being the first songs released after our previous album, and they were made with these feelings.

Right now, I want to write as many songs as possible in that vein. I don’t want to mass-produce a lot of songs, but to write the songs with a more active approach. I’d like to make songs that can change the life of the people that listened to it, and keep them company when they feel down on the uncertain days during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Powered by: club Zy. and Vijuttoke.

Original article:

Interviewer: Takayuki Murakami

Brought to you by the triple partnership between club Zy., JROCK NEWS, and Vijuttoke.

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