When magic happens. Interview with Hikaru (DER ZIBET)

Hukaru (DER ZIBET)
Hukaru (DER ZIBET)

— You have a unique guitar sound that cannot be mistaken. Who did you have in mind when you just started to play? Who would you call your teacher?

— Thank you. Since the sound is entirely mine, I want it to be special. As for my guitar style, it was influenced by Jimmy Page (LED ZEPPELIN) in the first place.

— We know that you won NHK contest of young guitarists in your younger years. This probably required a diligent practice. What was your family attitude towards your interest in music?

— That is a good research work you made, but in fact, this was Young Film Festival in KANSAI.
The festival of 8-mm films. The first year my work got the third prize, the second year I won, the third year I was second. Though I liked making independent films, I did not have the feeling that it should be my way.

— How much do you think the person is influenced by the music he listened in childhood?

— Doesn’t it follow you the entire life on some subconscious level? The very first single I bought was Gilbert Bécaud 「パリは霧に濡れて」(La Maison sous Les Arbres). I loved film music, French pop. These are still my favorite genres.

— How did you imagine rock-n-roll when you were a teenager and how did this view change after you started the career in this industry?

— I was strongly influenced by blues, that’s why I didn’t like rock-n-roll much when I was a teenager.
In 1982, I debuted in rockabilly band Be Bops, which imitated Gene Vincent, so I learned roots of country- and rock-n-roll styles. And this became an advantage.

—  How differs the sound you achieved with DER ZIBET from the sound you imagined when you just began?

— Since we started playing, we always wanted it to be original, so I suppose our current sound was predetermined.

— In your opinion, in the japanese music industry, to what extent can a producer define a band’s sound? Did anything change to you, when you became a producer yourself?

— This probably depends on each particular band, but a producer’s influence — be it positive or negative — inevitably appears in sound. In DER ZIBET’s early days, I learned recording techniques and ways of arranging lyrics by virtue of our producer’s support. Though my own experience as a producer was complicated, it was worth it. It is great joy when you get even more than you imagined.

— Who brought the idea to record album Garden in London? What did this trip to London mean to you in terms of professional skills? Was there something in overseas recording studios that one couldn’t find it Japan?

— This was Kenji Kisaki’s idea, the producer we had been working together back then. He believed that recording in London would help us to gain artistic skills rather than technical ones.

— During your career your band changed different statuses — DER ZIBET had contracts both with major and indie labels. What are the differences? What advantages does each status give? Did you have in mind to return to the major label when the band resumed its activity?

—  In 80-s, 90-s Japanese major labels had money and possibility to pay bands enough. Compared to those times — when being on major label meant to be big — the recording process nowadays is less expensive and it is easier to achieve the sound I want. And though I do not have an intention of getting back to major label’s limitations, I accept the possibility of making a contract for one album.

— DER ZIBET was not active for quite a long period, after which the members reunited. Did anything change in the process of creating music?

— Mahito (keyboard) joined us again — he was a member initially, but left the band soon after the debut — so I think now we have a wider approach to composing music. At the same time, after the reunion we discuss lyrics and arrangements more thoroughly with Issay (vocal), so our way of making music is more maniac now.

— You composed several songs for Sawada Kenji (沢田研二). How did you start working together?

— Our producer, Kenji Kisaki, whom I mentioned above, was also producing Kenji Sawada-san. He liked the song that I wrote and he introduced me.

— By the beginning of the 90-s you had managed to work with different musicians – on the support, as a composer and as a producer. Moreover, at the very same time, you were working for your own, quite a successful band. And the music you did was versatile. Is there any genre you like the most?

— Rock. Though I do not really like hard rock and heavy metal. I also like techno, hip-hop, and electronic music.

— One can find references to LED ZEPPELIN in many of your projects, but you seem to never have used blues in DER ZIBET music. Why?

— This is simple – Issay does not have an interest in blues (^_^)

— In different projects, you had a chance to play on different stages– from small venues to big stadiums (as a support guitarist for Sawada Kenji and at Lollapalooza with PUGS. What do you like more, small venues or big stage? What are the advantages of each?

— It was only with Koji Kikkawa and Yoshiyuki Osawa that I played for a large audience as a support musician. As for Kenji-san, I only took part in the recording. American tour with PUGS and our performance at Lollapalooza were an amazing experience. When you are a support musician, the sound is created for a particular artist, so working in your own band is way more interesting.

— All DER ZIBET albums are conceptual. What comes first – the idea of an album, or the music defines the idea as you start writing melodies?

— That depends on the song, but the most precious thing is when magic happens. We like getting surprised.

— Did your experience of writing soundtracks influence your current work in DER ZIBET?

— This influence became obvious after we started working together again. There are more and more instrumental compositions, so the experience of writing soundtracks obviously works. Besides, I always loved film music, so it also had its impact.

— Why the band did not release any live records with materials from 90-s except for Live Mania? Judging by live records from 80-s, one can unmistakably tell the difference between the studio arrangement and the additionally developed live sound.

— This is true. The only live record we released in the 90-s is Live Mania. I don’t know why (^_^) I like live performances for them letting us to vary arrangements. Now we have more compositions which arrangement changes drasticly in acoustic performance.

— Are not you planning to reissue your old concert videos?

— This is complicated because we do not own rights for those videos. But we do have a plan of releasing a double album with songs from our major era, so I hope the rights issue will become clearer.

— Speaking of your music, is there anything you would like to catch up, anything you did not manage to do in the past and would like to do in future?

— After our reunion we developed a rather intensive activity with DER ZIBET to our own surprise; we are constantly writing songs in different styles and we would like to go on with it. I do not have a feeling of leaving something in the past. I very much treasure the fact that despite not being issued on a major label, my music is interesting to people living far from Japan. I would like to continue writing music which is interesting to others.

Translated by Natalie Merkulova