the GazettE has remained silent since the cancellation of the 18th-anniversary concert “18TH ANNIVERSARY DAY/6576” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, during this long break the band wasn’t resting. The proof of that is their new album “MASS” that was released on May 26. From listening to their latest release, packed full of the GazettE’s newest charm, you can feel that their passion for the band and for music hasn’t faded away.
We spoke with bassist Reita about the GazettE’s feelings from the other side of their silence, the new album “MASS”, and more.
Firstly, I’d like to ask about last year when the COVID-19 pandemic began. From the latter half 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?
Reita: Since February last year, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the country had been increasing. From that point, I thought it might be a bit of a problem for us, but I never imagined that we wouldn’t be able to perform live. We had conversations about it, like “Do you think it’ll still be dangerous in March?”, but deep down we thought it’d be ok, so we started rehearsals for the concert as well as other preparations like getting back into shape. Despite this, it ended up being canceled.
We didn’t have any meetings about whether we should or shouldn’t hold the concert, because there weren’t any other alternatives other than canceling it. I thought it might have been possible to force our way through it by closing our eyes to COVID-19, but in gathering a great number of people for a concert there’s a certain responsibility towards society, isn’t there? It’s for these reasons that we didn’t feel like we should perform.
I think you made the right choice. After March the situation was getting worse, in April the first state of emergency was declared, and society entered the “STAY HOME” period. What did you do during that time?
Reita: I did super STAY HOME [laughs]. The gym was closed so I really didn’t leave home. Aside from going to buy groceries, I didn’t go out at all. I worked on the new album and did whatever exercise I could at home. I played the bass quite a bit, so my days were either focused on bass or exercise. I hardly played video games and didn’t even watch a single movie.
Staying home for all of April was fine but around May or June, my mental health collapsed and there were times when I got depressed. Whenever I thought continuing like this would be bad, I got up at five and went running. Because there isn’t anyone around at that time, I figured I wouldn’t bother anyone and it would be safer. I think the change of pace helped me overcome it.
Within the artist community, some people experienced depression during the COVID-19 period and others, after thinking things through, chose to move away from music. I’m really relieved this didn’t happen to you.
Reita: I can understand how that feels, but personally, I don’t want to quit music. After all, the driving force to continue making music is doing live shows, right? I never expected to not be able to perform live for such a long period of time, and it’s been really tough because of that. But won’t we be able to perform again someday? For that sake, I’ll endure it.
For some of the fans of the GazettE, it’s as if time stopped at Yokohama Arena (September 23, 2019). So if, for example, you were able to go to a concert for the first time in two years, you would come alive again from there. In those two years, we’re getting older, but we don’t want to project that. Using that as motivation, I continue to play bass and stay in shape, and I don’t feel like I want to give up music at all.
This year I think the difference between those who spent the time in which activities couldn’t happen as usual diligently preparing for when things would reopen, and those who spent the time resting, will become clear.
Reita: I think it will. I think when concerts happen again, how that time was spent will become very clear. The next time we have a concert, we don’t just want to make it feel as if the blank year didn’t happen, we want to show how we’ve grown. We want to show that it wasn’t just a blank period of time. So throughout last year we maintained a sense of not wanting to neglect preparing for when that time would come, and that hasn’t changed.
I hope the day that we can see the evolved form of the GazettE isn’t too far away. Going back to last year, taking into account that the COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than expected, many artists started using online live streaming services around June. Did you talk as a group about doing something similar as well?
Reita: Among the members, we haven’t ever talked about doing a livestreamed concert. It seemed like there was an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t do one. Personally, the definition of a concert is that it consists of seeing the fans standing right in front of me. To perform without an audience, in my opinion, isn’t a concert.
There’s also the question of whether we can perform with our usual fervor when there’s nothing but a camera in front of us. Since we’re not just playing a music video, we’re streaming a live concert, but as we are charging money, we have to make people feel the same level of passion through the screen as we would if you were actually there with us.
However, if the fans aren’t in front of me and there’s just a camera there, I don’t feel confident that I would be able to show the same level of enthusiasm as always. For that reason, I don’t think we could hold a livestreamed concert after all.
I think the GazettE is capable of putting on a high quality performance even if it is livestreamed without an audience, but there is a certain uneasiness, isn’t there?
Reita: Yes, there is. I’ve been in a band for a long time but even now, the thing I really look forward to is concerts. I don’t think I would be able to get excited for a livestream concert without an audience. Those feelings would definitely come across through the screen and when that happens, that footage would remain forever. Because of that, in the future when we can go back to having concerts as usual, I think…I would feel relieved that we didn’t do it. That fear is quite present.
I don’t have any criticisms at all towards people who are doing streamed concerts. I think it’s amazing because they are doing their best to keep the fans from being lonely. However, it wasn’t really something that we were able to do.
While I do feel sad in that the GazettE won’t do any livestreamed concerts, I find your particularity towards the concerts with an audience very charming. There are also many artists that, instead of livestreamed concerts, have opted for online talk sessions, or videos or streams of them playing their instruments in their rooms instead. Is this also something that you didn’t do at all?
Reita: We haven’t done it. Because we’ve been completely silent, I think fans have been wondering what we’ve been up to, but we just don’t want to put out anything that’s less than our 100%. Otherwise, we will regret it later.
I understand that feeling. However, weren’t you worried that the fans might forget about the GazettE?
Reita: I was worried about that. I’m still worried and I don’t know how many people will listen to our new album. Even if we are able to hold a concert, I don’t know how many people will come. After a year of nothing, I think that many people’s passion will have cooled off. I’m worried about stuff like that but I think that when we hold a concert, it’s important to put on a show that can make people think “as expected this is a place I have to go back to”. Or rather, that’s all that we can do.
When people watch the GazettE’s concerts, the fact that during the period of silence the members were not resting, but instead striving to improve their skills, will be conveyed. I also think that when concerts start happening again, those who have temporarily lost interest will definitely come back again. Aside from that, you mentioned briefly that in 2020, the GazettE was working on a new album, right?
Reita: That’s right. Before the 18th anniversary concert scheduled for March last year, we started working on the new album little by little. Originally, we had talked about recording it in 2020 after the anniversary concert. That’s why we wrote our first song around the end of the year before last.
You started early. When you started writing the songs, did you have a vision or concept for the album?
Reita: No, for a while there wasn’t anything like that. It was something to fruition as the songs we chose for the album piled up. With the GazettE it’s always been that way. When we started working on “DOGMA” (August 26, 2015), RUKI brought in a picture to represent the album and had an image of it in his mind, but other than that the overall perspective of each album has come out during the song selection process. That’s how it went this time as well.
However, I am always looking towards our concerts, so it’s been clear to me for a while that we should produce songs that will shine when played live and that we can play even after that album’s tour. In that sense I think this album is similar to our previous album, “NINTH” (June 13, 2018).
So you ended up writing the songs first, then. You started full-scale production in spring of last year, but I imagine the band members weren’t able to get together until the summer. In the meantime did you use ZOOM to exchange ideas and musical arrangements, or discuss the selection of songs?
Reita: No, we didn’t. We actually only started using ZOOM recently. I think it was around January of this year.
What? Only that recently?
Reita: Yes [laughs]. Our staff set it up last spring, but nobody actually used it. When you’ve been in a band for a long time, you start to become a bit averse to using new things [laughs]. I’m also bad with technology in the first place. Since reaching the main part of the recording process, we’ve ended up using ZOOM a lot, but before that we used LINE. We would go back and forth on LINE saying things like “The rhythm goes like dan-dan-dadada, right”? [Laughs] As if anyone can understand that [laughs].
Once we implemented ZOOM, we were able to play our instruments through the computer, and going back and forth that way, we were like “Oh, this is way easier to use, huh” [laughs]. Looking back on it now, I think we really used LINE a lot [laughs].
I’m a little shocked by how late you started using ZOOM [laughs]. It seems that most bands have a member who likes to introduce new things and will lecture the other members until they adopt them. It seems that didn’t happen with the GazettE.
Reita: No, it didn’t. Uruha basically is that type of person, so when we were working on “NINTH” he told us that we could share projects using Pro Tools and invited all the members to use it. But in the end nobody did [laughs]. We finally started using it for this album and once you try it, it’s actually very useful because if you upload your project data, everyone can listen to it. Up until now, we would just send each other data using GigaFile. Once we became able to share our project data on Pro Tools, it got a lot more convenient. Although maybe we were a little slow [laughs].
Not at all, I think the fact that you came to implement it is a good thing. Back to the creation of “MASS”, at the start, were you composing the songs for the album while going back-and-forth on the messaging app LINE?
Reita: That’s right. From our list of candidate songs, “BLINDING HOPE” ended up making it to the album, so we started off by recording just “BLINDING HOPE”. But, at that point we didn’t have any songs other than “BLINDING HOPE” [laughs]. For the time being, we recorded “BLINDING HOPE”, decided on the direction we wanted our sound to go in, and then recorded the rest in August.
“BLINDING HOPE” is a heavy and emotional track that shows the freshness of the GazettE. When you first recorded the song, what were your feelings?
Reita: I bought a new bass around that time and thought that it would fit well with the song. It’s a bass from a Canadian brand called Dingwall, it’s a type that has fan frets. It’s a bass that has become quite popular in the metalcore scene recently. It wasn’t my original intention but the equipment ended up being very standard. The amp I used was an Ampeg simulator, other than that I just used a compact SansAmp (bass driver pedal). By recording in a simple manner like that, the base would turn out just as I had imagined, and I was able to see the direction I should take it in from there on out.
While the bass on “MASS” was very heavy, each phrase you played was clear, and I felt that the tone was also more refined. Getting the Dingwall bass seems to have been the right answer.
Reita: I think so too. The Dingwall that I bought has great balance, and I think it was the right choice. Also, about two months after recording “BLINDING HOPE”, just before mixing, I ended up re-recording the bass. For the recording in August, I played using the Dingwall with an Ampeg and a SansAmp setup, and passed it over to our engineer to mix, but a little before the mix, I bought another bass. This one is also a Dingwall, but it cost me around four times the price of the first one.
When I tried playing “BLINDING HOPE” with this bass, I thought “This one is definitely better”! Then I brought the actual Ampeg amplifier to my house, re-recorded, and passed back the reamped track. After that, we started the full-scale recording for “MASS”, so this time I used the more expensive Dingwall model as my main instrument.
There are people in the world who will buy the most expensive type without thinking too deeply about it but in terms of not suddenly buying a high end Dingwall model, I feel that you have a healthy sense of economy.
Reita: That’s because I’m just a regular guy [laughs]. Besides, there was a reason I bought a more expensive one afterward. I didn’t know much about Dingwall so I thought that for the time being, I should go to an instrument shop to try one out. Once I tried it out, as expected, it was a really good bass and I decided to buy it. After I bought it I did a bit of research and found out that they had a high end version, but it was the show model that was displayed in the 2020 NAMM Show. In other words, it’s one of a kind. I really wanted to try playing it but that bass was in Osaka, so because of Corona, I wasn’t able to go try it.
I felt it was risky to buy it without trying it out first but because it’s a show model I thought it would get sold quickly, so I checked it online every day. I couldn’t help but worry about it and I was about to record around 10 songs, so I decided to buy it, all or nothing. The point is that it’s online shopping so I thought “if it sounds weird, that would be so uncool” and I was really anxious while I was waiting for it to be delivered. It came about two days later and when I played it was a really good bass so I thought “ah, thank goodness…” [laughs].
I’m glad it was a good experience. Returning to “MASS”, the style of the sound births a unique taste by incorporating synthetic sequences while still projecting a feeling of rawness. What impressions do you have of this direction?
Reita: the GazettE has used sequencers in many of our songs for a long time now, and instead, it’s lately become a lot rarer to find songs of ours that don’t use them at all. We’ve definitely had phases that lean towards a more digital direction, and learnt the know-how involved in using sequencers. It seems as if mixing in sequencers has become part of the GazettE’s sound, so it doesn’t feel out of place to be part of the direction of “MASS”.
Supplementing the band’s sound and groove while maintaining it as the main focus, and exquisitely deepening the instrument’s world view with sequencing, certainly shows your know-how. That is to say, with this being your 10th album, there wasn’t any desire to go back to your roots and only present the band’s sound, right?
Reita: The five of us didn’t really realize it was our 10th album, so we didn’t talk about that at all. On the contrary, we didn’t really think about doing something new either. In other words, it’s neither a culmination of everything we’ve done before, nor a new challenge. My impression is that “MASS” is an album in which our current true selves are compacted in.
It is to say, an album that makes the listener feel new and fresh. Moving onwards, are there any songs on “MASS” that specifically give off a strong impression to you personally?
Reita: Maybe “MOMENT”. Isn’t the song acoustic guitar all the way through? I think it’s the first time Uruha and Aoi have both played acoustic for an entire song. The melody, while it has a trace of shadow, is very warm, and it’s not that the GazettE never had this kind of atmosphere before, but I think this is something new for us. With that said, “MOMENT” left the strongest impression on me.
When we were creating “MOMENT”, RUKI sent a demo and said “I made a ballad”, and we arranged it to be what you know it as now. The bass moves around a lot in the chorus, but when I sent the bassline that I came up with, RUKI spoke up to say he’d like the bassline to move around even more. I said “Ok, ok”, and as a result of thinking of more phrases, it ended up becoming a bassline that moves around quite a lot.
In a relaxed 6/8 time song like “MOMENT”, I think the bass is a major focal point. The bass in this song with a fluttering ambience is very pleasant.
Reita: Thank you very much. “MOMENT” was quite a difficult song to write. The other songs are heavy so it doesn’t fit with the flow of the album’s sound. I don’t have a good familiarity with the acoustic guitar, so it was quite difficult, but I grew surprisingly familiar with it when I warped the tone. By warping it, the bass produced multiple harmonies and the gap between the sounds got buried, while increasing the warmth of the instruments. That’s what I discovered in “MOMENT”.
But it’s not just in “MOMENT”, Reita’s bass always functions like a glue to the groove. In terms of something new, “ROLLIN’”, which combines hardness and Latin influence, is also an innovative track.
Reita: The working title for “ROLLIN’” was actually “Latin” [laughs]. For this one too, RUKI wrote the original melody, up to around one chorus. Then, I think it was around the time we mixed “BLINDING HOPE”. RUKI said “I brought the rest of the song” and “I added in a bass solo”, and I was like “Woah, for real”? [laughs]. Then, based on the tune, I ended up deciding to use a slap technique for the bass solo.
Certainly, this song is something new. As well as that, the song that took the longest amount of time to mix was this one. Isn’t it the song right after “BLINDING HOPE”? This time, we recorded “BLINDING HOPE” first, so after some time had passed and we had made more songs, we started to be able to hear it differently. You could say “ROLLIN” isn’t a straightforward song, and that’s why it took the longest amount of time to mix.
In addition to the hardness at its core, part of the charm of “MASS” is how it shows “the GazettE that draws you in”. I was strongly drawn in by “THE PALE”, a slow tune which mixes intensity and splendor with a synthetic coldness.
Reita: RUKI brought this song in, too. It was written fairly quickly. I think that RUKI felt like writing a song like this from the beginning. While “MASS” is a succession of heavy tracks, in the middle, the three songs “DAKU”, “THE PALE”, and “MOMENT” put an emphasis on the vocals, don’t they? “MOMENT” is an acoustic ballad, “DAKU” is on the dark side, and “THE PALE” goes in a straightforward direction. “THE PALE” certainly has a synthetic feel to it, but the bass is quite lively so it might be unclear whether it is warm, or cold and synthetic [laughs].
It’s not unclear [laughs]. the GazettE excels at fusing conflicting emotions, and “THE PALE” has its own unique charm. Well then, you have finished “MASS”, an album that certainly feels complete, but how do you feel now that you’ve finished it?
Reita: Our recording engineer lives in Osaka, so we did the mixing over ZOOM this time, and we ended up not sleeping in order to finish the last mix. In short, that’s how far the production schedule was pushed back. In the final stages of mixing, it was really tough, and we were thinking “will this really be over”? But I’m glad that we managed to finish it in time for the deadline.
This time, we didn’t make any compromises when recording, and really pushed ourselves with the mix. In terms of audio quality, I think that this is one step higher than “NINTH”, and I think that this might have become an album that people can listen to with confidence.
I agree. While this album is full of the GazettE’s charm, in a positive way, it’s easy to understand so I think both longtime fans, and people who will start listening to the GazettE from now on, can enjoy it.
Reita: I think it’s probably our easiest album to listen to because there aren’t any super intense songs. There are some dark songs, but no intense ones. The lyrics are in Japanese, the length of the songs are compact, and each song has a catchiness to it. I think that most of the older the GazettE songs were quite long, but they’ve been gradually getting shorter. To me it’s ideal if we can make a song short, but satisfying. Old punk songs were short, so anything over three minutes felt long. In that same sense, I think “MASS” is easy to listen to.
In fact, listeners right now seem to want compact, condensed music.
Reita: I also support that. If you can be satisfied even from a short concert, that’s ideal. Although I think that the GazettE has pretty long concerts, they’re shorter now compared to the past. If it can fit the trend of the times, then I think that would be a good thing.
Being able to feel the shift of generations while you have such a long career is a great strength. You mentioned earlier that you weren’t conscious of the fact when making “MASS”, but how do you feel about having made 10 albums together as the GazettE?
Reita: I don’t remember having any deep thoughts about it. Somehow, when we made the ninth album, “NINTH”, it felt more like the 10th. The sound effects we used at the time of producing “NINTH” are also picked from previous sound effects. Because that’s the flow we went with, this time “MASS” feels more like something we’ve made after revisiting our past. For that reason, it might not really feel like a “10th album”.
That’s just part of the checkpoint of getting to the 10th album, I think the fans feel that it’s reliable. When the GazettE formed, did you imagine making 10 albums?
Reita: No, I couldn’t imagine it. Of course I had a vague idea that I always wanted to be a part of this band. But I didn’t have a concrete image of how many years I wanted to continue for, or how many albums I wanted to make. But before I knew it, 19 years had passed and we were on our 10th album. My feeling on it now is “Ah…has it already been this long”?
That’s because the GazettE has been intensely active. You were silent last year, but you weren’t resting, because you were making an album behind the scenes.
Reita: That’s true. We were also making sure we were ready to get on stage at any time. However, doesn’t COVID-19 make it hard to judge the situation? Whenever I think that it’s subsiding, the number of infected people will increase and live concerts and events will be canceled or postponed over and over again. We really want to do a live concert, so we’ve been keeping in contact with concert venues the whole time, and maybe we’ll do it even in situations where the venue can only be at half capacity. If that happens, even if the audience is only 50% of the venue’s capacity, we have to perform at our 100%. In order to perform a concert like that, I always try to be prepared.
The fans need to wait patiently until you feel you can have a concert, even if there is a limit on the number of attendees.
Reita: Last year came and went without anything happening, but I think this year will be one in which people can experience the GazettE little by little. I think bands all around the world will start moving again, not just the GazettE. Even so, all we can say right now is that we want to hold a concert and that is really frustrating. We know that the fans will wait for us. We have seen a lot of messages on Twitter and such saying “I’m waiting”, or “I’m looking forward to the day I can see the GazettE live again, so I’m working hard”.
All I can say to the people who have waited for us as usual, is that my gratitude hasn’t wavered even during almost a year of silence. Once we are able to have concerts again, the best way to repay our fans is by exceeding all expectations, so I promise that we will put on a show that does just that. I think right now, everyone is fighting their anxieties and feeling the stress of being unable to know what the future will hold, but the day when we will be able to have concerts again will surely come, so let’s all do our best. I’m looking forward to moving past these hard times and being able to share wonderful experiences with everyone again.
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Original article: https://www.club-zy.com/contents/428657
Interviewer: Murakami Takayuki (club Zy.)