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”. This time, Karyu (H.U.G, Luv PARADE, ex-D’espairsRay, Angelo) was invited for this 47th edition. Both musicians talk about their extensive careers that almost never allowed them to meet each other, which could explain why Karyu was so stressed before the interview (among other reasons).

Though, tongues got untied as soon as the conversation started, lively and light-hearted, unraveling numerous commonalities between the artists.

Enjoy the talk between these two optimistic men suited for the beginning of the New Year.

“It’s been two years and counting since being limited to only hearing applause from the audience, but I’d like to hear their voices again.” —Karyu

We heard from HIZUMI [former vocalist of D’espairsRay], who previously participated as a guest, that it seems like you HAKUEI, aren’t really in touch with D’espairsRay’s members.

HAKUEI: That’s true. I feel like today is the first time that Karyu and I are talking… No, it’s the first time we’re meeting each other.

Karyu: Actually, I had the chance to greet HAKUEI before during an event organized by Hoshiko, but he totally ignored me at that time [laughs].

HAKUEI: What, really? I have no memory of that…

If you have no memory of it, I guess that it means you didn’t ignore him, you simply didn’t notice him?

Karyu: Probably, he might not have heard me because I spoke too quietly.

HAKUEI: It’s possible, yes. Or maybe I’m slightly deaf…? [Laughs]

Karyu: No, I definitely think that I didn’t greet you properly. Leaving that aside, you walked next to me during this event and I was truly amazed by this “violent beauty” that emanated from you, the same vibes I felt today when we met, actually.

HAKUEI: No way! I rode my bicycle to come here today and ran out of breath [laughs]. This is not what I would call “beauty” [laughs].

Karyu: That’s not true. Having the chance to talk to you properly simply confirms the image of a “keen person” that I have of you, I can tell it from your way of speaking. Since the event I always had the impression that you were not the kind of person who would casually talk to anyone.

It’s only my opinion, but HAKUEI is not a cold-hearted person who would deliberately be blunt with someone.

HAKUEI: But I guess people see me as that kind of person. People usually don’t invite me, so I think I’m someone difficult to approach. That’s why I’m a “tender-hearted monster”, something like that [laughs]. Because I have a frightening look [laughs].

I wouldn’t say you have a frightening look [laughs]. HAKUEI, what image do you have of Karyu?

HAKUEI: I only know him through the media. You’re from the same generation as NIGHTMARE, aren’t you?

Karyu: Somehow yes, almost the same generation.

HAKUEI: Just as I thought. you look like you’re coming from that generation of visual kei bands. You are hmm… I feel like you are a great guitarist.

Karyu: Wow, and you’re a great liar [laughs].

HAKUEI: Huh… Sorry, I’m not very well informed [laughs].

Karyu: [Laughs]

It seems that today is a great opportunity for you to get to know each other. This interview [is conducted in November, 2022 but] will be published in January, 2023 [in Japan, and later internationally], so would you please give us your impression on the past year?

Karyu: Angelo entered into hiatus in January, and then I opened my fanclub in February. At the same time, the musician and manipulator Yokoyama Kazutoshi allowed me to participate in his birthday concert. Then we had a kind of jam session, and in parallel I restarted the session band Luv PARADE that I used to do during the D’espairsRay era. Luv PARADE essentially does covers, so we don’t have enough tracks to hold a one-man show. That’s why I held the “DEVIL’S PARTY 2022” event sponsored by Luv PARADE. It featured “Karyu’s session band” that is composed of manipulator Yokoyama, vocalist ryo (HOLLOGRAM, DALLE), and myself. From that point, we were able to make a few songs and become the band H.U.G, and now, here we are.

It means that you started moving toward your future right after Angelo entered into indefinite hiatus in January last year [2022], without taking any rest at all.

Karyu: I was convinced that this is something I had to do, and didn’t feel that I needed to rest at all. Sadly I lost my father around that time, so I thought it was definitely not a good time to rest, but rather, to move on. He passed away after the end of Angelo’s tour, so I feel like he was waiting for me. At that point, I thought that I needed to move forward whatever awaits me. Luv PARADE was an emergency solution for me. In H.U.G, we create new songs, but Luv PARADE was a quicker alternative as we essentially do covers so the band can perform immediately, that’s why it took this form.

HAKUEI: This is brilliant. You’re not only highly aware of the situation, but also able to adapt immediately to your environment. Your skills and presence are undeniable, that’s why it’s necessary to be in the right position, or you won’t be able to do new things even if you’re willing to. In that sense, I can tell that you’re coming from the elite because you’re reliable. What I’m saying may sound arrogant.

Karyu: Thank you. I used to be quite shy in the past but I’ve reached a point where it’s become normal. That’s why I feel like…I just have no choice but to do it.

I assume it must have been hard as a shy person, but I think it’s wonderful that you got this strong desire to move on.

HAKUEI: I sincerely think so, too. What kind of artists are you covering in Luv PARADE?

Karyu: Now we’re covering artists such as Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Björk.

HAKUEI: Björk! Björk?

Karyu: Yes [laughs]. A metal arrangement of her songs. So I think metal fans can enjoy them. In Luv PARADE, we choose songs that members are emotionally attached to, as well as songs we listened to a long time ago that could be interesting to cover. TAKA from defspiral is in charge of vocals, so we adjust the song to his vocal range, and arrange it in a metal style. By the way, Luv PARADE has its own YouTube channel, so you can have a glimpse of what we’re doing.

HyperBallad / björk covered by Luv PARADE

HAKUEI: I’ll check it. How about H.U.G, what kind of music are you doing?

Karyu: With H.U.G I’m currently doing whatever I want to experiment with, it’s like an adventure for me. It’s an environment that allows me to incorporate various elements. If I had to say it in a word, I would say it’s a “mixture”, something like that. Not the “mixture” that was popular during the 90s, but a mixture of different music genres.

HAKUEI: In other words, a hybrid music?

Karyu: Exactly, hybrid music. Fundamentally, it’s metal music played with a seven-string guitar, but we can incorporate hip-hop or rap elements into it. Maybe some songs can even be considered…ballads? [Laughs] I simply mix together things that I thought were interesting.

HAKUEI: Both Luv PARADE and H.U.G sound pretty intriguing.

Definitely. We can clearly feel your fighting spirit through the new sound you’re creating, especially right after Angelo’s hiatus.

Karyu: Is that so? I don’t feel like I’m fighting, but fundamentally I try to listen to trending sounds as much as possible. I’m the kind of person who can easily enjoy various music genres, and my taste in music tends to evolve as time passes, as well as my influences. That’s the reason I can naturally compose new music, I guess.

If people who create music are excited about it, then people who listen to it should be too.

Karyu: I hope that’s the case. Also, I had the chance to stand on stage in 2022 after a long time without performing, and I thought doing shows is so great. That would have been even better if people could cheer again. It’s been two years and counting since being limited to only hearing applause from the audience, but I’d like to hear their voices again. Some would say that they’re “just voices”, but I think that a cheering audience is an essential part of a show. I think it’s a good thing that I realized it through these two years, even if I learned it the hard way. That’s why I don’t feel bad waiting patiently for the day I’ll hear them again.

“Ryuji is 24 years younger than me, he could be my son.” —HAKUEI

How about you HAKUEI, what kind of year was 2022 for you?

HAKUEI: The year 2022 was full of music for me. The Brow Beat started a tour during spring, it was also PENICILLIN’s 30th anniversary that we celebrated with a different concept show, and we also released a new full album [“Paraizo” in November 2022] for the first time in a while. During the last years we didn’t release any singles, just a few mini-albums with six or seven tracks at best. Well, we don’t say “mini-albums” anymore, but that’s what we released. However, last year [2021] we finally created a proper album including 10 tracks, and just after that, a pamphlet CD [an independently produced release]. So yes, it was a year full of music.

HAKUEI, when we talked to you at the beginning of 2022, you told us that you were unhappy with the fact that the year looked very busy.

HAKUEI: Indeed [laughs]. But I immediately enjoyed it as soon as things started. The more I did, the more I wanted to continue, and go even further. The more I worked, the more I found things I wanted to do. This may sound pretentious, but I was surprised that many issues came up…it’s strange to say this, but I felt that I put a lot of effort into the music [laughs]. But I feel like I did music as hard as I could.

Karyu: By the way, Yokoyama, who I work with in H.U.G, is also the manipulator for The Brow Beat.

HAKUEI: Yes, he told me about it.

Karyu: That’s why he told me that I should have a look at what The Brow Beat is doing, because their sense of show is amazing and that I could learn from it. So I checked the band on YouTube, and indeed, I learned a lot.

HAKUEI: Really? I’m very happy to hear it.

Karyu, can you imagine yourself collaborating in a band with much younger people, just like HAKUEI does?

Karyu: Who knows?

HAKUEI: Ryuji is 24 years younger than me, he could be my son. I’m actually older than his mother [laughs].

Karyu: Is that so… No, I can’t really imagine it. I feel like I would have a hard time communicating with them. But when I look at videos of The Brow Beat, I don’t feel any age gap between you two, and I think it’s an incredible feat from you HAKUEI. You stand up to the youth.

HAKUEI: I think it’s all about the chemistry with your partner. I have a great affinity with Ryuji. If he were closer to an idol artist, that would probably not work. I can’t see anything beyond a father and son relationship between us… Something like that [laughs]. Ryuji quite enjoys old school rock music, so if he likes it, somehow we can feel it in his style. He’s that kind of person, and I’m happy about that.

Karyu: Strangely, it seems that Ryuji isn’t someone who steps back, for the better. It’s really cool that both of you can stand together side by side.

I totally agree. I know we talked about it a thousand times, but at the beginning, HAKUEI wasn’t planning on being a performing member for The Brow Beat.

Karyu: What, for real?

HAKUEI: Yes, there was a misunderstanding with Ryuji. I’ve been asked to produce the band, which I accepted. In the middle of the music creation process, Ryuji asked me, “So, when are you going to sing?” [laughs]. So I replied, “What?” [laughs].

Karyu: [Laughs] But I think that having two vocalists for this project was the good choice.

This combination created a unique style. Talking about The Brow Beat, you held a one-man show at Toyosu PIT on November 9 and 10. Can you tell us about your impressions about this event, as well as the audience’s reaction?

HAKUEI: For the first show, the audience was allowed to cheer, but we didn’t know it until the very last minute before it started. We went on stage and focused on our performance, and around the middle of it, Ryuji said something like “I need to change my clothes” and disappeared. I didn’t expect that at all [laughs]. I took the reins and started talking and I thought I had to inform the audience that it was ok to cheer, so I told them “by the way, today is fine to cheer”, and everyone reacted with “What!”, and then “Oh yeah!”, and I got goosebumps at that moment.

Karyu: I feel you.

HAKUEI: When I was informed about this backstage before the show, I wasn’t sure that the audience knew about it already, so I was confused. I understood that they didn’t know about this once I was on stage. At the moment when I told them it was fine to cheer, I was really moved that I could inform them about it. During the encore, the audience sang with us when we played the song “Suiren”. It’s a song with a part that we always sing together with fans. Because of the Coronavirus crisis preventing them from cheering, the other band members sing that part instead of the fans, so we never actually skipped it. Of course, people were looking forward to the day they could sing with us. Before the beginning of the song, I didn’t tell them “you can sing today”, it was something obvious for them and they of course did, I was very happy about it.

Karyu: Such a nice story. I have a show scheduled for December 17 at Akabane ReNY, but as you know, the number of people infected by the Coronavirus is rising again, so I still don’t know if they’ll be allowed to cheer. I hope they will. The organizers are the same people in charge of The Brow Beat’s events, so maybe they won’t inform us that the audience is allowed to cheer at the very last minute too [laughs].

HAKUEI: This is bad [laughs]. Earlier, you said that the fans’ voices are an essential part of a show, right? Back to the time when PENICILLIN was an indie band, our first hall show took place at Shibuya’s public hall. Before it, the biggest venue where we performed as a one-man show was at Meguro Rockmaykan. Anyway, what surprised me the most during this show wasn’t the size of the venue, but the fans’ voices. When the curtain rose, their cheering was louder than ever, and I clearly remember that I thought “so this is what 2000 people sound like”. This is how important the fans’ voices are to me.

Karyu: I sincerely think the same.

HAKUEI: Before the show, Hoshiko told me “First time performing in a hall, right? Now you absolutely need to look above you too”, that was his piece of advice to me.

Hoshiko: [Laughs]

HAKUEI: [Imitating Hoshiko’s voice] “HAKUEI, you performed at Rockmaykan at best before, but now when you play in halls, you have to sing while looking above you and far away”, that’s what he told me. I remembered his words during the performance and applied them. I am really thankful for what you [Hoshiko] did for me at that time.

Hoshiko: Don’t mention it [laughs].

HAKUEI: This piece of advice was extremely significant for me when performing, because I had the bad habit of looking just in front of me. Hoshiko’s words always resonates in my mind, and it helps me to look further. Even now, I particularly pay attention to where I’m looking, depending on the venue.

“I was also a shy person by nature, but I gradually changed with time.” —HAKUEI

It’s off-topic, but in 2022 PENICILLIN celebrated its 30th anniversary, and it hovers around the same period of Karyu’s 20th anniversary as a musician. I would like to ask you if your hobbies, your plans, or even your way of life changed during that lapse of time? Or on the contrary, if some things never really changed?

Karyu: Things I always love… Music, of course. I can’t imagine a life without music. It’s always here with me, especially during hard times. I can say without a doubt it saved me more than once, so this is something I can’t stop.

HAKUEI: I’m on the same line of thought too, of course, but outside music, I would say games. I brought with me this cardboard, it’s a Nintendo Switch, the Pokémon edition [laughs]. It’s a collaboration item, a Nintendo Switch designed after the latest Pokémon game, including the game itself as a set.

Karyu: Do you play Pokémon?

HAKUEI: This is actually my first time [laughs]. I love games since I was a kid, I don’t really have the time to play recently, but when new ones get released, I always want them. I participated in a lot of lotteries to get a PlayStation 5, which I eventually got after around 10 attempts, but I can only play for like 15 minutes [laughs]. I don’t know what to do with my Nintendo Switch Pokémon Edition, I don’t have time anyway, and I know that eventually, I probably won’t even touch it. During one of The Brow Beat shows, I told the audience I would buy it, so I did. When it comes to rare items, even consoles… I have the consoles too, for example I bought the Nintendo Switch Dragon Quest Edition. You know, there is now a new Nintendo Switch OLED model with a bigger screen than the previous liquid crystal regular model. I thought it was dope, so I looked for it everywhere and finally bought it.

Karyu: You did a great job getting this Pokémon edition.

HAKUEI: That was hell. It was released two days ago, and it disappeared from the surface of the earth in no time. It required blood, sweat, and tears to find it [laughs].

That’s intense [laughs]. Since what age did you get into games, HAKUEI?

HAKUEI: Since as a little kid. Even before the release of the NES, I got addicted to games when there was only the “Game & Watch” [Nintendo’s first handheld gaming console].

Karyu: If it comes to games, there is only one that I play, which is “Winning Eleven”. Now it’s known under the name “eFootball”, but this is the only game I’ve been playing for a long time. I used to like soccer, as such, I immediately got into it. I play it online with my friends from my hometown. This is the only thing I’ve always done outside music.

It appears that a lot of musicians enjoy games. Alright, I have another question. Are there things that you are considering stopping, or things that you know you need to stop, but for some reason, can’t?

HAKUEI: Stop buying games that I know I won’t play [laughs]. Just like my Nintendo Switch Pokémon Edition, I know I won’t use it… Things like that [laughs]. I was super excited when I bought it, though. When a new console is released, I can’t help wanting to buy it. Wasn’t it amazing when we received a new console when we were kids? I remember when I received my Super Nintendo. Now I’m old enough to buy them by myself, so I’m happy when I get one. I have plenty of consoles at home [laughs]. Although, the worst part is, I’m spending all my time playing “Tsum Tsum Land” [a cute puzzle game by Disney] on my smartphone [laughs].

Hmm… More than loving games, isn’t it actually something like a “fetish for video game consoles”?

HAKUEI: Indeed, that could be true. I own a PlayStation 5, and I also have a special PlayStation 4 which is the Metal Slime Edition [from the Dragon Quest series] [laughs]. However, I only opened it to see it [laughs]. I thought something like “Wow, looks so cool!”, and put it back in its box [laughs]. That’s pretty much it, so yes, maybe I have a thing for consoles [laughs].

Karyu: It’s something, indeed [laughs]. Well, for me… I don’t have any funny stories like HAKUEI [laughs]. The only thing coming to my mind is what I mentioned before, I should be less shy. I am very aware that this is something I need to fix, in a good way, that is. Because recently, I’m able to initiate conversations with people, although, going into this interview, I was a bit uncertain. I wondered if you would help me do the talking [laughs]. When we met, I realized it was going to be much easier than I thought, so I was really happy about it.

HAKUEI: I’m really sorry if I didn’t notice you in the past. I was also a shy person by nature, but I gradually changed with time. As you said, being shy is a problem, and so, I fixed it. What I can say is that for people like you and me, being among our kind as shy people, is easier [laughs].

Karyu: I think I understand your point.

HAKUEI: Yes, because shy people can’t penetrate my “A.T. Field” [a strong protection barrier, in reference to the anime Evangelion]. I think that sometimes we need an A.T. Field that doesn’t let people in. Two shy people may keep the perfect distance between each other, that’s why I think we can be good friends.

Karyu: I feel honored, and I’m very happy to hear that you have overcome that first step encountered by shy people, just like I’m trying to do [laughs].

I feel like you two are getting on well. Alright, this marks the end of this interview and of this year. What are you expecting from 2023?

HAKUEI: I already have some plans scheduled as I’m involved in both The Brow Beat and PENICILLIN. Next year [2023] is the year of PENICILLIN’s 30th anniversary, so I will give everything I have for it, and hopefully give an overview of what’s coming next.

Regarding The Brow Beat, it will be our 5th year of activity and I want to go crazier than before, whether through music compositions, or shows. After the show in November last year [2021], Ryuji and I had a feedback meeting, and came to the conclusion that the 2021 spring tour was pure madness. Like that time when we pretended that a random person had entered the stage, and the band members continued as if he wasn’t there [laughs].

Karyu: Was it planned?

HAKUEI: Actually yes. The reason for this is that in the music video of The Brow Beat’s song “Juusei”, it featured a somewhat boring salaryman played by the actor Masa. We called him up to come on stage. He suddenly appeared, acting as a DJ, livening up the audience before the show, and other random strange things, it was surreal [laughs].

After that, we said that we weren’t a joke band and decided to be more serious from that point. As such, we did things properly during our two shows at Toyosu PIT in November. However, after these two days, we talked again and said something like “after all, we need Masa, don’t you think?” [laughs].

That was a bit too far, though, so maybe our plans will change for next year [2023]. I don’t really know what’s going to happen, to be honest. As expected, the sense of show is something very important. That’s why I did unplanned things on the spur of the moment, and I think it’s fine to give a shot to rough ideas like that. I hope that people will look forward to what’s next.

The Brow Beat「銃声」【Official Music Video [Full Ver.] 】

Karyu: For this new year, I really want to attend one of HAKUEI’s shows. Also, since Angelo’s hiatus announcement last year [2021], I could only perform during two events and during the coupling show in December, thus, I want the upcoming year to be full of shows. I would like to create more songs to hold a one-man show as well, as I want to increase my opportunities to meet the people who support us directly.

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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