We’ve return once again to a new episode of the HAKUEI talks series on the popular niconico live show “Izakaya Hakuei”. After more than 40 episodes, this time, an opportunity opened up to meet KAMIJO, the vocalist of Versailles, who is also pursuing his solo career.
Today’s session centers around the theme “passionate talk between two charming adults”, in which KAMIJO and HAKUEI express their charm through their presence and vocals. They will look back on the year 2021 and talk about their expectations regarding what’s next in their future activities.
Are you two in touch with each other, privately?
KAMIJO: Actually no, we only met once before. HAKUEI held a birthday live at Shibuya AX about 10 years ago, and I’ve been invited to make a drop there with the cameraman Henmi. There, I was able to greet him backstage.
HAKUEI: That’s why we could say today is our first real meeting.
KAMIJO: Indeed. The support keyboard player in PENICILLIN was also the same person who was participating in my previous band LAREINE, in that way, I somehow felt close to them, personally speaking. But deep inside, HAKUEI remains my “ringletted senior” [laughs].
HAKUEI: Isn’t Yoshiki [X Japan’s drummer] the same? [Laughs]
KAMIJO: You’re right [laughs]. Yoshiki, but also the former vocalist Tetsu of MALICE MIZER, and HAKUEI are the “three ringletted masters”. HAKUEI is not only my senior in that aspect, he is also the one shining the most in the middle of the visual kei scene. Every cool thing in visual kei, he was the first to do it. We may think there are a lot of talented singers, but I think only a very few of them are truly magnificent. HAKUEI is one of them, he’s tall, and a person impossible to not admire.
One more thing, I love the world of the manga “KISSxxx” and HAKUEI stated he liked it as well. There are a lot of bands who have been influenced by the works of Kusumoto Maki [KISSxxx’s author]. Even in this field, HAKUEI is always one step ahead, so it eventually ends up like this in my mind: “Ah, HAKUEI is already doing that too…”. In that way, HAKUEI is a particular senior among the seniors.
HAKUEI: Wow, I feel… Embarrassed [laughs]. The image I have of KAMIJO is that since LAREINE. He is creating his vision of a medieval European world with pride and determination. It’s not so recent, but I remember that I was amazed when I saw his pictures of him riding a horse. He was genuinely cool. It made me realize that if we want to embrace this style, we have to go this far at least. I learned a lot through it.
KAMIJO: Thank you very much.
HAKUEI: These pictures weren’t edited right, you rode a real horse?
KAMIJO: I did. I rode a horse a few times actually [laughs]. There is that famous painting of Napoleon riding a horse, you know? I wanted to do photos in that style. We captured them for the revival of Versailles, but it was the same in the past when we joined Warner Music Japan. At that time, we simply asked “please let us ride horses”, and it came true.
HAKUEI: Riding horses and turning it into pictures, it’s simply amazing. It’s not something anyone can do. From the name itself, “Versailles”, to the promotional pictures of the band. I can tell KAMIJO is in pursuit of his ideal.
KAMIJO: I am honored.
I think that describing KAMIJO as a man pursuing his ideal is true.
Alright, shall we start talking from that point about today’s theme? This time, the theme is “Passionate talk between two charming adults” and…
HAKUEI: What? What are we going to talk about? Dirty things? [Laughs]
Not at all [laughs]! As the theme states, you are artists overflowing with charm and I think you’ve been told that a lot. How do you feel about it?
KAMIJO: In music, I think that charm is an essential thing. Especially with singing, breathing is a directly linked component that goes hand-in-hand with charm, so I sincerely think it’s a crucial element. When you want to send a message, if there is no charm in it… It happens, right? But at the same time, you can’t just aim for it, it won’t work. The ideal is to be able to naturally sing with charisma.
With that said, I assume your charm comes naturally?
KAMIJO: Yes. People often say to me that my way of singing is very elegant, and I’ve actually been nominated in a kind of “Sexy Rocker” ranking abroad [laughs]. I’ve been really surprised about this, because I didn’t force myself to sing in a voluptuous way, and I’m still not today.
But as I said earlier, having charm is something important. Whether man or woman, when it’s about moving the listener’s heart, charm is absolutely necessary. No matter if it’s a love song or a song about social problems, without charm the message won’t reach its target.
If I had to use another word, I’d say it’s about humanity. That humanity may be enjoyed by some people, but also perceived in a bad way by some other people, and I feel that maybe vocalists who are able to transmit these two feelings equally—in a balanced way—are described as charming singers.
HAKUEI: When I’m told that I’m charismatic, it would be weird of me to say “Yeah, it’s because I’m doing this in that way”. Elegance is not something you’re trying your best to exert on purpose, but something that emanates naturally. That’s why, if a person tells me they felt charmed, there’s nothing else I can say but “thank you”.
More than “a person”, I think a lot of people would say that to you.
HAKUEI: Do you think so? It actually tickles me when people tell this to me because I’m not particularly trying to do so, I’m simply doing my best to send a message and create songs to express it during shows. So if it results in songs closely linked to the notion of charm, then I’m glad I’m doing it that way.
You two are spontaneous beings, aren’t you?
HAKUEI: I guess we are. This discussion is actually making me think about something; my taste in terms of fashion tends to change frequently, but in the end, the things I tend to like all converge into a common theme of something slightly fetish-like. If I can’t feel that in an outfit, it just doesn’t feel right.
Even in my casual clothes, I want a little touch of that somewhere. My eyepatch is probably a representative element of that desire. As long as there is this one little detail in my everyday wear, I feel at peace. In that way, maybe some people would feel this matching point between fashion and my power of expression as something like “HAKUEI’s charm”… Probably.
I think so as well. You too KAMIJO, your charisma is not limited to your way of singing, but also emanates from your presence. What do you think of it?
KAMIJO: I am absolutely not purposely thinking about expressing my charm. I am someone who can’t overreach, so I just want to remain true to myself. I’m only trying to be me, so the reason why I am being told that I’m charming is a mystery to me.
Charm is the embodiment of one’s sense of aesthetics, so I think it’s fair to say that both of you are handsome on the inside. On that note, can you tell me about things that are important to you—as a person—or that you are particular about?
KAMIJO: First of all, I endeavor to know what is the best among all things. Whether it’s food or clothing, once I know what is good, I finally decide what I like. Instead of choosing solely based on my feelings, I try to learn a variety of things before making a decision.
For example, when I decided to add some elements of Latin music into my most recent song, I researched to a certain extent what real Latin music is like and then arranged it in my own way. I always enjoy doing that kind of preparation.
If you don’t prepare you’ll end up with something unpolished. I didn’t want to make Latin music, but I wanted to create music with a Latin feel to it. I think there’s a huge difference between making something of my own after doing proper research, and trying to make something with a Latin feel while being ignorant to its true essence.
I agree. Besides, when you seek out high-quality food, fashion, or luxury goods, it’s not just a question of knowing that what you will get is the best, but it’s also nice to choose something that aligns with your own tastes.
KAMIJO: Thank you. It’s not really about what is the best. Although I do some research, I don’t dig very deep. To use shopping as an example, if I decide to buy a fridge, at the very least I have to look up what features the latest ones have and what the market price for that class of appliance is. That’s the degree to which I research. Once I’ve done the research it’s up to me to decide whether it’s something that I want, or if I really need it. So that aspect comes out when I’m writing music.
HAKUEI, other than life itself, can you please explain what is important to you?
HAKUEI: What is important to me? I’ve truly never had a motto, as far as I’m aware. That being said, I do feel that I don’t want to betray anyone. I don’t want to betray anyone whether it’s a friend, someone I work with, or anyone—and of course, even the fans. I think it’s important to try your hardest to never betray anyone. I’ve always held this belief.
Now I understand why you are always surrounded by a lot of people, HAKUEI. And on top of that, you design jewelry, make picture books, run a ramen shop… You really seem the type of person to pursue many interests.
HAKUEI: I wonder. I’m not so sure about that myself [laughs]. To tell the truth, I didn’t intend on making jewelry, it happened by chance. I did an interview with a jewelry magazine and while talking with the writer over some sample magazines I gave my opinion on the jewelry in it. For the most part, I was a harsh critic, saying things like “It seems like everyone is doing skulls lately”. In the middle of all that there was one brand that I thought had good taste, so I said “I like this one” and the writer looked at the page and said, “I’m glad, because that’s my brand” [laughs].
KAMIJO: [Big laughter] Isn’t that thrilling? [Laughs]
HAKUEI: Very. It would have been bad if that person’s brand was one of the ones I spoke badly of [laughs]. So that’s where the opportunity arose. He gave me some samples and back then, I had a blog, so I wrote “I wear these every day” on it, and people reacted to it. The decision to collaborate naturally stemmed from that. The same thing happened with my restaurant. I made a picture book centered around food called “Natto Samurai” and received an award from “Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries” for contributing to the promotion of Japanese food.
So I went to the award ceremony in a suit and someone told me that they were really impressed with my activities. It turns out that they ran restaurants so they asked if we could collaborate. I thought “sounds interesting” [laughs]. And that’s how I ended up running a restaurant. I have a healthy amount of curiosity and when it comes to being drawn to something interesting, I’d rather try something and then regret it than not have tried at all.
That could also be considered one of HAKUEI’s life lessons.
KAMIJO, you said that you aren’t the type to dig deep but I think, when it comes to things that interest you, you are the type to dig deep?
KAMIJO: That’s right. There isn’t much that I am interested in, but when I do find something I throw myself into it completely.
I understand. After all, you taught yourself how to do full orchestral arrangements, didn’t you?
HAKUEI: Oh, really? That’s very impressive.
KAMIJO: Oh no, not at all. I just wanted to be able to conduct an orchestra while singing, like Joe Hisaishi [a composer who worked with Studio Ghibli]. After all, if you think about it, you can draw a line between musical arrangements for a band and for an orchestra. The guitar is violin and the bass is cello, something along those lines. If you transpose each instrument one by one, you can create an orchestra. Plus, it’s not as if I master it all myself. I get help from professionals to do it.
Nonetheless, instead of just hiring someone to do it for you, you decided to try your hand at it after all.
KAMIJO: I thought that even if I were to hire an arranger, it would be hard for me to communicate the type of sound I envisioned without having the knowledge to do so. I’ve always been this way. For example, when I made fliers, I sat next to the designer until morning and did the same when editing music videos.
I think this shows that you want to create something you feel fully satisfied with, while also not wanting to present something tacky to the fans. Which do you feel more strongly about?
KAMIJO: I think the feeling of not wanting to give the fans something tacky is stronger. That being said, that’s the same thing as waiting to release something until I’m fully satisfied with it.
HAKUEI: I understand that. I really don’t want to present something tacky to the fans too so I won’t compromise and will make something that I feel fully satisfied with. But that means that those two feelings overlap.
HAKUEI: Even so, it’s tricky. You’ll think you want to put certain words with a melody, but even if expressing it this way isn’t cool, the listeners might understand it better when put this way. That’s why it’s important not to get complacent, and express what you want while keeping a certain level of quality.
KAMIJO: I feel the same way. I also run into issues like that. Right now what I’m making doesn’t belong only to me, it belongs to the fans as well. What I mean by that is, what comes to mind when I think of the faces of each fan…is not my own sensibilities. It’s a vague feeling, but I think that my sensibilities and the value of Versailles are determined together with my fans.
HAKUEI: That’s right. Back when I started a band I didn’t think about that kind of thing at all. I thought that it would be fine as long as there was passion, impact, and a destructive force [laughs]. I think my foundation still lies in those feelings but last year, I looked up how many songs I had written and there were 508 of them in JASRAC’s record [a nonprofit Japanese organization that handles copyright and licensing]. The number has only gone up since then. Having made that many, there’s a lot to think about [laughs].
KAMIJO: 500 songs…that’s quite something.
That’s incredible. To sum up, what we’ve talked about so far, you both have a strong sense of self and conviction, but you also think about the fans’ feelings. That’s what gives you charm.
KAMIJO: I think I can afford to. I am able to believe in the fans. When I can believe in the fans, I feel like I can do whatever I like to a certain extent, and that gives me a sense of freedom. I think that’s a good thing.
To change the subject, what kind of a year was 2021 for you both?
KAMIJO: It ended up as a significant year for me. Up until now, I had never gotten close with the fans as much as I did this year. I was the type to say “Follow me!”. But with the pandemic in 2021, I realized the importance of my relationship with the fans and took action to work on that during the year.
Until now, I hadn’t really considered the fans’ feelings when writing lyrics, but during the pandemic, I missed meeting the fans and they also expressed the same about me. I came to the realization that we held the same feelings.
Therefore, I thought it might be possible to write a song with the fans as the protagonist, and although the result was that I became the protagonist, I was able to put out a song like that. That song is my solo release “Behind The Mask” which came out in July. I think that in the past, I had written songs with consideration for the fans’ feelings, but for a long time, I had forgotten that and I think rediscovering it is what made this a good year.
That’s quite a big accomplishment. When you heard the finished song, did it give you a different impression than usual?
KAMIJO: Because I wrote it during the pandemic I thought it sounded quite dark. But it is my job to leave behind a work like that, so I think what resulted was necessary.
HAKUEI: For me, 2021 was quite a rough year. First of all, in March, I fell off my bicycle and broke my shoulder and collarbone. Then in July, I had surgery to have my uvula removed. I was suffering from really bad rhinitis because of my allergies so I went to an ear, nose, and throat clinic and they told me that my uvula was very big. It was affecting the mucous membranes in that area and causing my respiratory tract to constrict, so we decided to remove it.
KAMIJO: After it was removed, did it affect your singing at all?
HAKUEI: Well, once it was out, I was able to breathe much better so it became easier to sing. After that, they cauterized the mucous membrane in my nose which made my nose clear up. Even though the surgery was a success, to top it all off, I had to get my appendix removed and rode in an ambulance for the first time in my life.
And on top of that, the pandemic has made everything harder.
HAKUEI: It was really hard. I had a fever so the hospital wouldn’t let me in and I was told I couldn’t be treated until I got the PCR test result, so I had to wait in the isolation ward for a really long time.
KAMIJO: While you were in pain?
HAKUEI: Yeah. I was in so much pain. Then I got peritonitis, so it wasn’t looking good. My fever got up to 40 degrees and my body was shaking so much that I couldn’t even hold things. So I got rid of some “unnecessary” parts and got my uvula and appendix removed. Got rid of a lot of dead weight this year [laughs].
KAMIJO: [Laughs heartily] Nonetheless, it’s quite remarkable that even though your body was going through a lot, your spirit didn’t break.
Indeed. It was a tough year, but can’t we say it was actually a “body maintenance year” with the music gods allowing HAKUEI to pursue his busy career in 2022? I feel like this year was a kind of message reminding you to be careful when riding your bicycle and take care of your bones.
HAKUEI: Perhaps that’s the case. When I fell off my bicycle and broke my bones, I actually decided to integrate this accident into the lyrics of one of PENICILLIN’s songs. The reason is to remind myself to slow down whenever I’m in a hurry on my bike. In a way, it’s possible this is a message from God telling me that if I’m not careful, bad things will happen.
That might be it. By the way, it seems that HAKUEI’s project The Brow Beat went major last year, in July.
HAKUEI: Yes. It’s a new start for The Brow Beat. We are currently composing songs and vocalist Ryuji and I are discussing a lot about the musical direction we should take. We actually want to become a band that looks tough and with a great fighting spirit, so we talk a lot about it [laughs].
KAMIJO: That’s awesome [laughs].
I agree [laughs]. It sounds like you both experienced a very different year.
Is there anything you’re drawn to as of recently?
KAMIJO: Personally, I’m into livestreaming equipment. The deep swamp of Blackmagic Design [a company that creates broadcasting and cinema hardware] is swallowing me [laughs].
I have made my home soundproof, put molding on my walls, and painted them so they look aged. I’ve mounted concert venue lights on the ceiling and several 6K cameras. It’s like I could record a music video at any time… [Laughs]
What? Are you serious?
KAMIJO: Yeah [laughs]. I started this casually in July 2020, and couldn’t stop since then. You know, I enjoy what can be controlled by pressing one single button. All by myself, I can control the auto-switching cameras, the video itself, on-screen text, the characters, and more. All this from one single Stream Deck [a programmable macro keypad]. You know, I’m not the kind of person who wants his future to depend on an unknown virus, so this is the result of me trying to build an environment where we can do shows with ease. Do you know what DMX512 is?
HAKUEI, Atsushi Kaie (interviewer): No idea.
KAMIJO: It’s a standard used to control lighting. MIDI signals are sent through the technicians’ Pro Tools [a music software] which directly impact lighting depending on the tracks…in short. [Laughs] I need to slightly brush up my DMX [Digital Multiplex, the lighting tool] skills and I’ll be good!
E-excuse me, you’re trying to say this is not a place you built so you can rent it to make a profit, it is your actual home?
KAMIJO: Exactly. That’s why I’m saying it’s my hobby [laughs].
HAKUEI: [Big laughter] Amazing [laughs].
To answer the initial question of what I’m recently fond of. I’m super close to a guitarist named tatsuo. I often had to work with him during the last 15 years for my solo career and for The Brow Beat. He has two children, a boy who is a fourth-grade elementary school student, and a girl in the second grade.
Last year, the young girl participated from time to time in the magazine “First-grade elementary school students” as a model, and declared that she wanted to become a YouTuber. Her older brother wants to become a YouTuber as well, but with the COVID-19 crisis, it became impossible to play outside or have fun with friends. Then tatsuo asked me “As a matter of fact, my children want to become YouTubers, do you have any ideas?”, and I thought I could try to help with this.
I talked with several people about this, and we finally created the channel “Kokyuu Umilon Channel”. The older brother is participating under the name “Kokyuu Steak”, and the young girl “Umilon”. We have a lot of fun together and when I go to tatsuo’s place, they are always like “Hey HAKUEI, I have something to tell you!”, so each of them takes me into their own room and tells me their story [laughs]. We are that close, and through Kokyuu Umilon Channel we did a barbecue and crab fishing, so I had to wake up early the next day after a show [laughs].
KAMIJO: Are you appearing in these videos?
HAKUEI: No, I don’t want people to see me helping them, so I’m simply giving indications. Sometimes you can see my hand while picking acorns, or you can see me from very far away playing catch with them. The success of the Kokyuu Umilon Channel is only due to the children’s efforts—even if I’m making vague appearances. We are getting along so well that they are very excited when I’m there. tatsuo told me that when I’m not there, they have no motivation at all, so I’m participating to boost them when they’re shooting. More than being fond of it, I actually do enjoy it.
It’s very typical of you to be involved behind the scenes, HAKUEI.
Alright, it seems that last year was the chance for HAKUEI to take care of his body, while KAMIJO opened a new door in his musical activities. We are very excited to discover what this new year has in store for us.
KAMIJO: This year  is Versailles’ 15th year anniversary, so please expect a lot from us. Also, the show I held in Zepp Diver City as a solo artist in July last year, was the first show in one year and nine months. It was recorded and started its sales on December 28, 2021. The release contains the whole performance, but also two music videos, a live music video collection with seven tracks, and a making-of. It’s available on Blu-ray and DVD, a live album version, and a photo pamphlet is also on sale—all released simultaneously. Please check them out.
HAKUEI: As for me, The Brow Beat will release a new album around April, and starts a tour in May. This year will also be PENICILLIN’s 30th year anniversary, with a few shows scheduled in January and February.
We formed PENICILLIN in February so we tend to do shows this month to celebrate. This time it’s our 30th year anniversary, so we will start with a commemorative show in February and for one year, organize various events for this special year. Please wait for it.
KAMIJO: 30 years… That’s outstanding. This year is Versailles’ 15th year anniversary and PENICILLIN’s 30th year anniversary. We can feel a history gap from it.
HAKUEI: Let’s do our best. And let’s have another interview in 15 years [laughs].
KAMIJO: Really? I’ll do my best so this can become true [laughs].
Powered by: club Zy. and Vijuttoke.
Interviewer: Atsushi Kaie (club Zy.)
Original article: https://www.club-zy.com/contents/485480