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.

This talk series with HAKUEI and a guest is linked to the highly popular niconico live radio show “Izakaya Hakuei”. As today’s guest, the man who debuted as the vocalist of D’espairsRay and who is now active in “NUL.”, HIZUMI.

A conversation packed with topics, expect to hear more about “the throat’s condition”—something that affected both of these two vocalists—and why the days in May’s Golden Week are holidays. This and much more.

“Even when I was using taxis, I brought a small whiteboard with me to write the destination on, I didn’t let out a peep.” —HAKUEI

When did you two first meet?

HIZUMI: It’s already been 10 years since we first met. I was drinking in Sangenjaya with Hoshiko, and HAKUEI was there too.

HAKUEI: Ah, was it in Sangenjaya? I knew we had met somewhere, but I had forgotten it was in Sangenjaya [laughs].

HIZUMI: It was Sangenjaya [laughs]. That was the first time we met, but a few years before that you were at Aiji’s (from LM.C and PIERROT) birthday event, weren’t you?

HAKUEI: I was, I was! Everyone was there, right?

HIZUMI: That’s right. However, we didn’t talk for long when we met in Sangenjaya and at the birthday event, I only said hello. So today is our first time really talking.

My first impression when I met HAKUEI was that he had a really strong aura. Even though I wanted to talk to him, it was hard. I’m the type to talk to people at our first meeting, but HAKUEI isn’t like that.

HAKUEI: People always tell me that I’m scary when we first meet, so I feel sorry for myself [laughs]. I’m like a kind-hearted monster [laughs].

HIZUMI: I dare say it’s because there isn’t much information about you in the open. HAKUEI never shows his usual self so he seems mysterious, and when you actually meet him, he is very tall and well-built. That’s why I think he seems unapproachable. Frankly, I’m still afraid [laughs].

HAKUEI: But that’s not true at all…

As HAKUEI is a fundamentally kind person, I hope that today’s talk can be an opportunity to become more acquainted with one another. HAKUEI, what impression do you have of HIZUMI?

HAKUEI: As I haven’t really associated with him personally, my only impression is from what I’ve seen in the media or in magazines. But as you all know, HIZUMI was in D’espairsRay.

Around the time we started PENICILLIN, Hoshiko had just come up with the term “visual kei” and began creating that category. Until a few years after PENICILLIN’s formation, there was no such term, instead, people called us “makeup kei” or “pojipan”. In the midst of that, bands like D’ERLANGER, ZI:KILL, and LUNA SEA began to be called visual kei and after we made our major debut in 1996, so did PENICILLIN.

However, in those days, people viewed visual kei with prejudice. Personally, I don’t mind being viewed that way, but I think most bands were rebelling against the idea that it was just about the flashiness. Sometimes we would go “Bang!” with the visual kei style, and other times we would go for a casual style.

As time passed and visual kei began to become more commonly known, the prejudice began to fall away and I suppose D’espairsRay was viewed as visual kei royalty at that time. In short, they were typical. They felt like royalty and gave the impression of a band that stayed consistent and persevered. Besides, I thought they were a band that felt very rock.

HIZUMI: I’m frankly happy to hear you say that. When I was in D’espairsRay I always felt that I wanted guys to think we were cool. So I’m very happy that you thought we felt like a rock band.

“We had to end things as D’espairsRay because of a problem with my throat, but actually, that hasn’t fully healed yet.” —HIZUMI

I thought D’espairsRay was a cool band, too. The name “HIZUMI” comes from the word for “distortion”, doesn’t it? That’s really awesome.

HAKUEI: That’s pretty cool. There’s even distortion in your name [laughs]. That’s how your voice was too. [Laughs]

HIZUMI: [Laughs] Right at the beginning, I couldn’t shout at all. But, at some point, it became a strength. I’m glad that I grew into my name [laughs].

You could say you had some foresight when you were thinking of your name [laughs]. Unfortunately, D’espairsRay ended its activities in 2011, but right now you’re active with the band “NUL.”.

HIZUMI: We had to end things as D’espairsRay because of a problem with my throat, but actually, that hasn’t fully healed yet.

HAKUEI: What, really?

HIZUMI: Yes. I can’t produce those long, high tones I used a lot when I was in D’espairsRay well anymore. As such, I try to stay away from them when writing melodies these days and it seems to be working.

When I first started having problems with my throat, I spent a long time thinking about what I could do in the future. Singing didn’t make me feel any better. I built up a lot of stress and there was even a point where I hated singing. Because of that, I stepped away from it for a while but, because that period existed, now the feeling that I want to sing is growing. I want to do what’s possible for me now… like, to try singing in a different way or testing out different singing techniques. It’s really enjoyable.

Did you have any trouble with your voice before, HAKUEI?

HAKUEI: I did. I think it was around six years ago? It had been over 20 years since I started singing with PENICILLIN, and after listening to my voice from then, I noticed that I couldn’t draw my falsetto out for as long as I used to anymore. And I just thought, “oh that’s something that happens as you keep singing”. Of course, your voice is going to deteriorate but our engineer, Sousuke Watanabe—who also helped out bands we got along well with, like Golden Bomber—mentioned that it was similar to the symptoms that Kiryuin Shou had.

Shou actually had surgery on his vocal cords. I think it was for nodes? And so, Sousuke suggested I go to the same hospital as Shou, which I did, and I received a diagnosis and underwent surgery for nodes on my vocal cords.

Post-surgery was totally different. It felt like my voice came out so easily. So much so, I want to have it done again [laughs].

HIZUMI: Are you serious? [Laughs]

HAKUEI: No really. So, you have vocal cords on the left and right, and both of mine were quite badly affected. But it would have been dangerous to remove everything in one go, so they just took care of the worst of it on one side. So, eventually, I want to have the other side done too… is what I meant.

But the condition of my voice right now is pretty good, and if I have the surgery, I can’t speak for two whole weeks. That alone is pretty tough, but it also takes at least one month to be able to sing again. That’s why, if I did go through with it again, my schedule would be completely unmanageable for a while. Even though I want to go through the surgery again, my schedule doesn’t really allow it right now.

HIZUMI: Did you have to communicate by writing things down while you couldn’t talk?

HAKUEI: Yeah. I followed the doctor’s advice as best I could, and I only used my voice twice over the whole two weeks.

HIZUMI: But you still spoke twice [laughs].

HAKUEI: Once was “Ouch!” when I bumped into something, and the other was after a particularly hectic schedule was sent to me and I let slip “Really?”. [Laughs]

HIZUMI: Neither of those could be avoided [laughs].

HAKUEI: Right? [Laughs] Even when I was using taxis, I brought a small whiteboard with me to write the destination on, I didn’t let out a peep.

“I want to prove through NUL. that even low voices can be cool too. That’s why I don’t feel at a disadvantage at all.” —HIZUMI

I can definitely feel how determined you are. Also, I’m truly happy to hear that you, HIZUMI, are able to enjoy singing through the search for a new style despite being unable to use your voice as you did before.

HIZUMI: But it took years before reaching that point, way too long if you ask me.

HAKUEI: Do you know the cause of this problem?

HIZUMI: It’s probably an autonomic nervous system-related problem. It’s not a nodule or something like that. Even if it was a nodule, I’m the type of person who would recover very quickly from these things.

I was examined so many times by doctors, but I’ve always been told that my vocal cords were in perfect condition without anything out of the ordinary. However, when it comes to singing, it results in something unusual. There is a disorder called dystonia, and it’s probably what affects me.

HAKUEI: Wouldn’t taking some rest be the best solution here?

HIZUMI: Actually no, even resting for a while will probably not cure me. I will most likely improve my state if I can find a way to make my body move more in harmony with my mind. If dystonia fully occurs, the body will move on its own, independently from my own will. When I try to produce high tones, I suddenly run out of power and my voice suddenly breaks.

HAKUEI: An autonomic nervous system-related problem then… It must be tough.

HIZUMI: But as I said earlier, I think about melodies based on what I’m able to produce with my current abilities, and I perform them if I judge that they are physically suitable for me. Thanks to this process, I am able to enjoy singing without stress.

HAKUEI: When you think about it, a singing voice doesn’t necessarily need to produce high tones anyway.

HIZUMI: That’s what I think too. I think that high-pitched voices tend to be popular recently, but somewhere inside me, I want to prove through NUL. that even low voices can be cool too. That’s why I don’t feel at a disadvantage at all.

HAKUEI: I think that it is worth seizing opportunities—to look for a different appeal. Maybe one day through this mindset, you’ll suddenly find yourself producing those high tones again?

HIZUMI: Indeed, that could be possible.

HAKUEI: I feel like it will turn out that way. That’s why I would like you to keep singing stress-free.

“Most people who fish do it as a hobby, but I do it so I can actually serve them on plates. The motive is quite different. That’s also why I don’t catch fish that I can’t eat [laughs], I only catch the edible ones.” —HIZUMI


On a different note, the month of May also means Golden Week. Let me ask you what your idea of a perfect day would be?

HIZUMI: Personally, I would leave my smartphone at home and go fishing [laughs]. I just want to cut off all connections for a moment and focus entirely on fishing. When you have your smartphone on you, doesn’t it eventually absorb all of your attention in the end? I really hate that.

HAKUEI: I definitely understand that feeling. Have you been into fishing for a long time?

HIZUMI: I actually started fishing a few years ago. Back when I started eating more fish, I wanted to increase the variety of delicious fish in my diet, as such, fishing became a natural extension of my craving.

In short, I am fishing for nutritional reasons [laughs]. Most people who fish do it as a hobby, but I do it so I can actually serve them on plates. The motive is quite different. That’s also why I don’t catch fish that I can’t eat [laughs], I only catch the edible ones. I prepare them personally and eat them.

HAKUEI: That’s amazing. Do you usually catch a lot of them?

HIZUMI: When I’m in luck, yes. During the winter holidays last year, I decided to get horse mackerel, so I went to Tateyama to fish some. I was able to catch more than 30.

HAKUEI, Atsushi Kaie (interviewer): Wow! Good job [laughs].

HIZUMI: Preparing all of them at home was a pain [laughs].

HAKUEI: You could open a business [laughs].

HIZUMI: I guess so, yes [laughs]. But seriously, it was really delicious. As expected, nothing can beat freshly caught horse mackerel.

HAKUEI: Indeed. I’m jealous…

Fishing is such a nice hobby. Well, it’s a bit more than just a hobby for HIZUMI though [laughs].

HIZUMI: [Big laughter] But you know, I tend to forget to sleep when I’m focused on something. Usually, when you go fishing, you go there by car, right? I am always extremely sleepy when I drive back home on the highway, so I need to be very careful… [laughs].

HAKUEI: This is actually not good at all [laughs].

As for my perfect day off… I just hate being overwhelmed with work, so during days off I just want to stay at home and relax. Or take a plane and fly far away to another country. I love being inside a plane.

HIZUMI: What? Do you enjoy being on a plane?

HAKUEI: Yes. So even when going abroad, it’s no fun at all to go to South Korea because you arrive there in no time [laughs]. But when you go to Paris for example, it takes about 12 hours to get there. During this downtime, no one is able to contact you, and you too are not able to reach anyone else. You’re just sitting there, drinking champagne, reading manga… That kind of thing. This is what I call bliss.

“During a day off, I was at home and drank way too much. I started drinking from lunch until the next morning.” —HAKUEI

Aren’t you a little bit stressed when taking the plane, isn’t it somehow uncomfortable?

HAKUEI: Not at all. Think about it, the risks of having an accident when you’re walking in the street are definitely much higher than when you’re taking a plane. Planes are the safest mode of transportation, so I feel absolutely no fear at all. It’s safe, and you’re isolated from the rest of the world, so for me, it’s the most ideal environment ever.

Obviously, I’m also slightly excited at the idea of reaching my destination, but when I arrive there, all I want is to take the plane again to go somewhere else [laughs].

HIZUMI: So, you just want to take the plane so you can do nothing? [Laughs]

HAKUEI: Yeah [laughs]. Actually, just staying in my bed at home and doing nothing is fine too, but it sounded like a boring answer so I talked about planes, just in case [laughs].

Although, when I’m at home, I have to prepare meals, do the laundry, and so on. On a plane, you just have to press a button and someone will bring you whatever you want. You only have to leave your seat if you want to go to the toilet, I think it’s really awesome.

I see. How about a cruise on a luxury ship? You can stay there for a very long time.

HAKUEI: It sounds great, as long as I don’t get seasick, this might be perfect.

I’m a homebody by nature, I love staying at home and watching movies or playing games, so staying forever in a cabin would probably not bother me. Being able to do what you love the way you like it without anyone complaining sounds like paradise to me.

But in that case, you would probably not fully enjoy the luxury ship?

HIZUMI: What’s the point of riding such a boat then [laughs].

[Everybody laughs]

You two are sharing the same idea of escaping the monotonous daily routine during what could be your perfect day off. But here’s another question. How would you spend it if it was a whole month, putting aside money?

HAKUEI: I would go abroad, to a warm place. Even though I don’t really go to beaches for swims, I would still like to go to a southern island. To a place where I can live wearing T-shirts and shorts, for example, Hawaii.

Despite having been to Hawaii a few times before, the wow factor hasn’t left me yet. Every time I’m like “Wow, what a nice place!”, and this hits me the moment I get out of the airport.

When I’m in Japan, I just want to shut myself at home, but on a southern island or some similar places, I usually go out for a walk. It’s particularly pleasant at night, so I randomly go to a bar or a club, or make a reservation at a restaurant for a nice meal. I suddenly become very proactive.

Also, I went to Hawaii once privately for the New Year, and I accidentally met friends there who just happened to travel at the same time. It’s actually very exciting to meet acquaintances abroad by pure coincidence. It reminds me of how I met Acid Black Cherry when I went to Guam. They went there for a fan club trip or something. We, tatsuo, and the others went to the private beach of the hotel, drinking champagne and all, and we’ve been told that they were staying at the hotel next to ours. And they actually came to the beach too [laughs]. We were looking at the five of them walking towards us from over there, “They’re here! They’re here!” we said [laughs].

HIZUMI: I’ve never been to Hawaii, but now that I’ve heard you talking about it, I really want to go there once. If I could spend an entire month freely, I’d like to go to an overwater cottage. Wait, where was it again?

HAKUEI: The Maldives or something?

HIZUMI: Yes! The Maldives! Since the cottage is built over water, you can jump in the sea just after getting out of bed, isn’t it wonderful? I really want to go…

HAKUEI: I have friends who went to the Maldives for their honeymoon, they said it was amazing.

The Maldives sounds like a good choice, indeed. Surrounded by the sea, absorbed by fishing, right?

HIZUMI: I’m not sure? Just like I said, I fish in order to eat, but I wonder how it is abroad. Are there any delicious fish? In Japan, there are lodges where you can fish for 24 hours.

HAKUEI, Atsushi Kaie (interviewer): Huh, what? What do you mean?

HIZUMI: There is the sea behind your room, and you can fish from your window [laughs]. I think it’s in Wakayama, or in some places around there. I’m very interested, I really want to go there. That’s why if I want to live in a place surrounded by the sea, then I’d choose the Maldives, but if I want to focus on fishing, then I’d go to Wakayama [laughs].

“Needless to say, I arrived there in dogeza, knees on the ground, apologizing.” —HAKUEI

It’s really nice to see that you precisely know what you would like to do if you could take time off. From a different perspective, do you have any stories about holidays you were really excited about but turned into nightmares?

HIZUMI: I wouldn’t say it was a nightmare, but once I spent one day preparing everything for a fishing session planned for the next day, like the fishing lures. I intentionally woke up early the next day but I ended up returning without catching a single fish [laughs]. It actually happens quite often. It drives me crazy [laughs].

HAKUEI: Even just one would be enough as a little reward! [Laughs]

As for my horror story, it was around 15 or 16 years ago. During a day off, I was at home and drank way too much. I started drinking from lunch until the next morning. We had a collaboration with [the karaoke equipment company] DAM on that day. At the location, they prepared a huge room for karaoke and there was also a stage where we were supposed to perform. A few dozen of PENNICILIN’s fan club members came, and we had to shoot the music video of one of our new songs with them. When I woke up, it was already the time of the event.

HIZUMI, Atsushi Kaie (interviewer): What!

HIZUMI: Didn’t your manager come to your place?

HAKUEI: No, he didn’t. When I woke up, I noticed all the missed calls and messages, all I could think was “This is really bad!” [laughs]. If I remember well, I think the starting time was pushed by one hour and a half because of me. Needless to say, I arrived there in dogeza, knees on the ground, apologizing [laughs].

HIZUMI, Atsushi Kaie (interviewer): [Big laughter]

HIZUMI: But I feel like it’s ok if it’s you. If it were me, I would have a hard time [laughs]. Everyone would look at me with disgust [laughs].

HAKUEI: No no no! This is absolutely unforgivable, seriously. I was very regretful and properly apologized.

Drinking from noon to the next morning, that is really something [laughs]! People need refreshing holidays to refill their energy, so I really hope that you two can have relaxing days off. To conclude this talk, would you mind sharing any upcoming major activities that we can look forward to?

HIZUMI: From my side, NUL. is currently in the middle of creating the second album which is scheduled for this summer. Actually, before I arrived here today, I was still working on the lyrics.

You can expect the album to be a little different as we’re trying not to emphasize the vocals over other elements as much. Of course, there will still be vocals, but compared to our previous album where everything is built around them, we are now trying to increase the show-oriented elements in our compositions.

Melodies follow an impactful rhythm, and some melodies aren’t even what we can define as graceful, so the lyrics writing is very challenging [laughs]. However, I really think it’s going to turn out well, so please look forward to it.

We are also considering doing a tour after the release of the album. With many shows scheduled, I think this is going to be a nice summer.

HAKUEI: As for me, The Brow Beat will be touring from May 6 to June 4 in Japan. I am extremely grateful to people who are planning to come to see us, especially in times like these [where the coronavirus disease is still in effect], so I really want to provide them energy. I want to excite them and put smiles on their faces so they can go back home stronger than ever. I’ll do my best to strike you guys with full force for each of the shows, so please expect a lot from us.

Powered by: club Zy. and Vijuttoke.

Interviewer: Atsushi Kaie (club Zy.)

Original article:

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

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