the GazettE’s tour “LIVE TOUR MASS” began in May 2022, and will hold its final performance ‘the GazettE LIVE TOUR 2022-2023 MASS “THE FINAL”’ on July 15, 2023, at the Nippon Budokan.
Unable to tour at the time of album MASS’ release due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the band was finally able to perform live in front of an audience one year after release by splitting the tour into three parts. Each tour with a different approach, showing that their passion towards performing has not changed a bit.
We sat down with RUKI as he prepared for the final performance and looked back on this tour.
First of all, what was it that made you decide to tour one year after the release of MASS (May 2021) instead of at the time of release?
During the pandemic, there were a lot of artists who released music but had to abandon tours, but for us, we didn’t even consider releasing music and not touring.
Rather, we all agreed that we wouldn’t tour until COVID-19 restrictions had eased off for us to perform live again. At the time, there were frequent clusters of outbreaks, and if one of our shows caused one, we wouldn’t have been okay knowing it was our fault. We made our fans wait, but we wanted to do a proper tour. And so, as per government regulations, we waited until it was permissible to put on a concert safely, and that ended up being a year after release. Since we had decided that we would tour for this album, this ended up being the natural progression of events.
You really hold warm feelings for your fans. The members of the GazettE have said before that “an album is only really complete after the tour is done”, so it’s not surprising that was your stance.
Yes. MASS was created with taking it on tour in mind. We had no idea when the audience would be at liberty to raise their voices at our shows, so we created songs that could be enjoyed live even with these regulations on crowd cheering in place. There was no way we could close this chapter without performing live.
Speaking of that, I imagine you were all feeling fairly restless until you were able to decide when to tour.
We were. It had been like that since the start of the pandemic, but more than not being able to perform, the thought of not being able to perform truly as ourselves was more unbearable. The way the entertainment industry works changed a lot at the time. There were a lot of livestreams without a physical audience. However, it’s a pretty big thing to perform something for the first time in front of actual fans, so we really didn’t want to do an audienceless show. Even if they couldn’t use their voices, we wanted to wait until we could perform for them in person.
Holding off on playing live until both the band and the fans can enjoy it truly cements the GazettE as a live band.
I’m really happy that you think of it that way. There were plenty of artists who still kept working all throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, and I’m sure there were many reasons for those who did. Some of them probably wanted to help make things more enjoyable for fans who were stuck at home, or those who thought it was necessary to keep posting while their band wasn’t able to work. I’m sure everyone has different thoughts on the matter, but when it came down to making the decision for us, we thought about how we would feel were we fans in this situation. We thought that there was just a certain something that couldn’t be conveyed properly via a livestream. For us, anyway.
So, we felt that we couldn’t do a streamed concert. We didn’t see the point in doing something that wasn’t “complete”. Compared to a regular live performance, it would be clearly missing the same impact, and we also worried that people who would be watching us for the first time in a while would be disappointed. That isn’t saying anything bad about the people who chose to do livestreams. Don’t get me wrong. That’s just how it was for us.
Another member of the GazettE mentioned that the thought of a livestream had never crossed his mind.
Yes. If the staff mentioned doing a livestream, we would basically shut that conversation down [laughs]. Thinking about it from a financial perspective, it’s only natural that they would consider it. We also knew it wasn’t the best idea to do nothing for two whole years. But for us, a livestream was never on the table. We’re nothing but grateful to the staff who understood our feelings on the matter, and to the fans who waited that entire time for us. Truly, we’re very thankful.
I think part of why you were able to go through with that was because of what the GazettE had built over the last 20 years. Now, let’s talk about “LIVE TOUR MASS”, starting with ‘the GazettE LIVE TOUR2022 -MASS- / PHASE 01-COUNT “DECEM“‘ 13-stop hall tour, which began in May 2022.
Before we started this tour, we put on three “demo” shows, so to speak, between September and December 2021, and then our anniversary show [which was held at Yoyogi Gymnasium on March 10, 2022, titled “20th ANNIVERSARY-HERESY-”]… And then we went on tour. So this time round, I knew that it would be a tour, but it didn’t feel like one until we actually got started.
After doing one-off shows for a while, I felt grateful to be touring. Not that I had forgotten what it felt like, but the feeling was stronger than before. There was the feeling of being so happy to be able to tour and that each show was special in its own right. I thought it was quite meaningful even to just be able to feel those feelings.
Did that sense of touring return straight away?
No, it didn’t. It had been over two years since we had put on a full show, so there was obviously a gap. More than the physical effort, I mean on the mental front. Putting on a live performance is a different beast to rehearsal, so no matter how much you rehearse, there are some things that you just won’t capture until the show. In order for bands to grow, I think it’s absolutely necessary for them to tour. We ourselves grew as a result of touring, and being able to do so again really solidified that feeling that nothing else will lead to as much growth. So for any band, touring is incredibly important.
I feel the same. How did it feel looking at the audience from the stage?
Before we began this tour, there was a lottery to join an online event for fans who purchased the CD, but the strongest feeling was that they wanted to see us live. Being unable to perform as a result of the pandemic was a scenario nobody could have imagined, and I feel that the fans were very curious as to how things would be from here on out. On top of that, they had also spent all that time without live shows. As a result, I really wanted to help them release all that pent-up frustration.
I was lucky enough to see the first show of “PHASE 01”. Seeing the fans so happy made me glad that you were touring again. On top of this, I felt that the album MASS really shines live, which is something I’ve felt since your 2021 shows.
When we were making MASS, we were dreaming of playing live again. We always put a great deal of care into the world-view of our music. However, this time, we also considered how we would perform it, and how we could let the fans enjoy themselves even if they couldn’t use their voices—this was more at the front of our minds. The approach to production was a little different from usual, and our strongest feeling was on the kinds of performances we wanted to give. I think we were able to make those feelings a reality.
The album is packed with songs that combine an aggressive sound with emotional vocals, and they really strike the soul when you hear them live.
Thank you [laughs]. We made this album in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, so there wasn’t much more that we wanted to say. I only wrote about what I was feeling at the time, so I think it turned into something a little easier to understand.
Following “PHASE 01”, ‘the GazettE LIVE TOUR2022 -MASS- / PHASE 02-“The Unknown”‘ which began in October 2022 put the songs from MASS at the center and built around it with other tracks from the GazettE’s history. This made for a very conceptual tour, where each show felt like a different world.
As MASS is our 10th album, we did what you could say is a continuation of our career, starting from the artwork. In the same way, we also wanted to go on a tour that would show everyone, “this is how we ended up here”. This kind of thing was only really achievable in one-off performances. It was during our 20th anniversary, so it was good timing. We had no idea what kind of reaction we would get, so when we decided to give this a go, we knew it was going to be interesting.
It was incredibly enjoyable.
Thank you, we received a lot of feedback along the same lines. We played many shows that we worked really hard to produce, not at huge venues but at the slightly smaller concert halls, so we were slightly unsure about how they’d perform financially. But, if the audience enjoyed the shows, we’d be happy. We also had a lot of fun.
Rather than feeling like we were revisiting songs we hadn’t played in a while, we kind of let ourselves feel what we felt when we originally made those songs… well, not really, but we put ourselves in that frame of mind. It wasn’t “MASS + old songs”. We let those feelings come back album by album, which made things very interesting.
I didn’t get the sense that they were shows intended to reflect on the past, but to really drive home what the GazettE is today.
We hoped people who enjoy our older music would fall in love with our newer songs through these shows. There were a lot of layers to it, and it was really worth doing, as it led to discoveries for ourselves. Some older songs led us to realize, “oh, this is probably how we wanted to play the parts back then”, for example. While thinking about how we would play something now, we’d still find charm in the rough way that we used to do things.
Also, we used to tour a lot, so of course after playing certain songs for a while, we’d get tired of them. But playing them again after giving them a rest for several years made us feel like reintroducing them to our live repertoire again. I feel like we really got a lot out of this tour, and it ended up being very successful.
As a result of the constant change and forward motion, all of the GazettE’s albums are high quality, which results in high quality live performances. Looking back over your past albums, were there any that proved to be a challenge for you?
I wonder… There weren’t any that were particularly challenging. This was a tour that couldn’t be redone. Even if something hadn’t worked out one day, there’s no way we’d be able to tackle it again [laughs]. We went full force, every single time. Our mindset was to have zero regrets going in, and I think we made it through without having any second thoughts.
Yes, it was kind of a special tour, wasn’t it? As an aside, as singers get further into their careers, sometimes they find reaching those high notes more difficult, and end up lowering the key or changing the melody, for example. Have you encountered anything like this?
I can sing higher now than before, you know.
Yes. So, our older songs are actually easier. There aren’t really any high parts in those songs. My skills were limited when I was younger, so my range was lower, but I’ve grown since then. On this tour, our newer songs were more difficult for me. I still have a long way to go, I guess.
It’s amazing that your voice hasn’t weakened at all. The fans must be incredibly happy to hear you sing the same melodies from the CDs live.
There aren’t any high melodies from older songs that we’ve made lower, and conversely, there aren’t any low parts that we’ve changed either. I’m the type who’ll go all-in when it comes to going back to those old songs, so I didn’t feel like they were difficult to sing at all.
You’re really something. To sum up “PHASE 02”, I felt that this was a tour that showed the GazettE truly has a wealth of ideas and the power to realize them.
A wealth of ideas, huh?
Really. It was your first tour in two years, even if you toured off two versions of the setlist, I don’t think anyone would complain. But you didn’t–I was surprised at how quickly you changed up the content.
Yes, I’ve heard there are lots of artists who don’t really change their setlists up. But, unless you try a lot of different things, you’ll never know, right?For the members with instruments, it’s not so easy to move things around, even if you’re just switching between setlist patterns A and B, for example. We also have a synth programmer. So, we try to leave a bit of breathing room for everyone, but sometimes we can only say “sorry, things might change part way through” [laughs]. Some things you just won’t know until you try.
We have around three core versions of the setlist, and from there, we’ll change things around or add other songs. After three shows, how the set ought to be shaped begins to make itself clear.
Based on what we learn, we then think about which order of songs works best or mix the different versions together. From there, we refine it even further for the tour finale, creating a fourth pattern, which takes all the best parts.
It’s not that playing the same setlist every time would get tedious for us, or that the changes are for the fans who come to multiple shows on the tour, but rather because we’re on the search for the best live experience. It’s fine if you just tour off one setlist, though. But we can’t help but feel “no, this would be a better show”, and give it a try.
Trying different things and seeing what works is one of the true thrills of going on tour, so I hope you continue to do so for a long time. Before you embarked on “PHASE 02”, you held the fan club limited “HERESY LIMITED LIVE 2022 -HETERODOXY-” and, a first in the GazettE history, the “20TH ANNIVERSARY FC MEETING -Itansoukai-” in Tokyo and Osaka.
For the fan club show, we didn’t plan to play anything from “PHASE 02”, so we put in things that we don’t play very often. It was a bit more of a show for true fanatics than the 20th anniversary show at Yoyogi. We packed them full of things we couldn’t do at Yoyogi. Probably too much [laughs]. You could say it was a “single-less” show, where we played some of our rarer but still popular hits. There are parts of the GazettE that you can’t see if you’re only looking at the singles, so the feeling was almost like opening an old vault.
It was a rare show indeed, I’m sure the fans were ecstatic.
We showed off things that we don’t usually, so I think they were happy. We also did a talk event. It was our first time doing one of these. It was quite fun for us, but I wonder how it was for the fans.
They weren’t able to speak during the event, so we didn’t hear any reactions at all. I was a little worried if they were having fun or not [laughs]. I think we held the event at quite a difficult time, but as it was our 20th anniversary, we really wanted to do something for them. We’re thinking about doing another one once it’s okay to shout again.
After “PHASE 2” finished on December 21, 2022, I was quite surprised that ‘the GazettE LIVE TOUR2023 -MASS- / PHASE 03 “LAST MILE“’ was a tour held entirely in smaller, more local venues.
It’s quite unusual for an artist who typically holds concerts in large halls or arenas to tour smaller venues.
We like those smaller venues. Well, we like them and hall venues too. It’s actually quite hard for us to choose at this stage in our careers. Our roots are in smaller venues, so we’d like to get a little emotional at those places, you know? [Laughs] Simply put, we hadn’t played at any for quite some time, so we also wanted to do something different.
The area around the stage is much different from that of a hall and the audience is closer too.
I didn’t really feel that they were closer. I also don’t really care how small the stage is. Our origins are in small venues, and we’ve performed in them a lot in the past. We also try to make our hall performances feel just as intimate, so we don’t really feel that different.
We have no reservations about performing in these more local places. You feel that the stages have less space than those in halls, sure. REITA and URUHA, who I sensed were behind me, said my movements scared them. I move without looking behind me like we’re on a wider stage, so I definitely trod on their feet and stuff [laughs].
I… I see [laughs]. But, it’s impressive that even on a smaller stage, it wasn’t cramped.
We want to be the kind of band that can play anywhere on any stage, and as we were moving down in size from halls for this tour, we kind of felt like we had to make the venue seem smaller… We want people to see how much we’ve grown, after all.
I think for fans now, being able to see the GazettE in a smaller venue was a huge gift.
I wonder. We actually had some complaints.
What? Complaints? What kind?
The day of our 21st anniversary, we held a show at FUKUOKA DRUM LOGOS of Fukuoka. There were a lot of people who couldn’t attend, which we felt bad about. We felt that this kind of situation is what makes performing at smaller venues harder for us these days. As a musician, you want people to see you perform, whether it’s one person or many, so knowing that there were people who couldn’t attend makes us sad.
We never had to think about this kind of thing before. But now, we’re sorry to hear it. It made us think about whether we can perform at these venues just because we want to.
You could always perform at the same venue for five days or something. Before the pandemic, shows would mainly be held on weekends or national holidays, but the GazettE consistently played on weekdays too. I had always respected that.
We didn’t really have a choice [laughs]. But I think this time, we managed to squeeze in a few more weekend dates. For a tour with over 20 something dates, we’d only have one or two weekend shows before.
As a result, I think there are a lot of fans out there who think, “ah, the GazettE is playing somewhere today. I’ll do my best, too”, while you’re on tour.
I’ve heard quite a few comments like that. Some have said it’s really encouraging for them, and others have said that they feel uneasy when we’re not touring, that kind of thing.
One of our goals is to become part of everyday life for our fans. People used to just go to shows because, of course, they did, but now that’s not so much the case. During that time, there are certainly people who have found other hobbies. So we want to make our shows feel just like they always have for those people who come to see us.
Instead of narrowing down to just weekends and holidays as the fans had lived through two years without concerts anyway, it’s impressive that you all decided to perform on weekdays too. When they’re done with school or work, they have your shows to look forward to.
I’d be really happy if that’s the case. On top of that, one more thing we’ve learned is that we need to finish our shows at a time when the trains are still running and everyone can get home. We also hadn’t considered this before.
Remember how we used to really extend the length of Kanto Dogeza Kumiai? [Laughs] We didn’t care when we ended the song, and how we just wouldn’t let people leave. But times have changed. Whenever I’ve been to someone else’s show, for example, it’s pretty worrying not knowing what time it’s going to end [laughs]. I think our fans are the same.
the GazettE really is something, to be able to keep that in mind and play weekday shows. Lastly, let’s talk about the closing for “LIVE TOUR MASS”, ‘the GazettE LIVE TOUR2022-2023 MASS “THE FINAL“’ at the Nippon Budokan.
We played there for our 13th anniversary, so this will be the first time since then. It’s very difficult to be able to snag a date at the Nippon Budokan, since so many artists apply. We thought about playing there again many times, but were unable to.
When we were planning this tour, we wanted to hold the finale at the Budokan. We had no idea if we’d be able to secure the venue, but if we were going to do it, we wanted it to be there. It’s kind of a miracle we managed. It must have been fate.
I really feel that the GazettE is truly blessed. RUKI, you have a special connection with the Nippon Budokan, don’t you?
Yes, I do. We’ve performed at the Nippon Budokan many times before, but it’s a sacred place, don’t you think? Being able to perform at a place like that makes me genuinely happy. Even just the name itself, “Nippon Budokan”, sends a shiver through you.
It certainly does. What kind of show are you hoping to put on at the Nippon Budokan this time?
It’s the tour finale, so we have to show the culmination of our efforts so far. On top of that, there are things that we wanted to do at hall venues, like stage dressing, production, etc.
For those who come to see the tour finale, you’ll see all the elements that we wanted to achieve at a hall show. You might think we’re idiots for having thought about doing these at smaller halls [laughs]. A big part of it is also that we’re playing at the Budokan for the first time in a while. The Nippon Budokan really is wonderful. I’d be very happy if you’d come to see the GazettE as we perform beneath the Hinomaru flag.
Powered by: club Zy. and Vijuttoke.
Interviewer: Murakami Takayuki (club Zy.)
Original article: https://www.club-zy.com/contents/643995