FEST VAINQUEUR Exclusive Interview, GENERATION and More… [日本語あり]
FEST VAINQUEUR let their not-so-inner-geeks out in this first interview with ROKKYUU since adding two new personalities to their line-up. We chatted about their personal mania’s, crazy tour adventures, their Christmas spirit and the exciting things to come with their December 2012 onemans. Furthermore, the band gave us an in-depth view into their concept album GENERATION, giving some great advice as to what to listen for in each track.
69: Let’s start with your introductions and please tell us something you’re really into.
HAL: I’m vocalist HAL. Something I’m into…Natto. [Laughs]
HIRO: What kind of Natto?
HAL: I think (the natto) from Otafuku is the tastiest. [Laughs]
69: Is it something you began to eat recently?
HAL: Yeah. It’s not that I hated it but I never really used to eat it. Recently, though… It’s tasty after all and good for your health.
69: It’s said that people from Kansai don’t really eat natto, though.
HIRO: Yeah, one of us doesn’t eat it.
KAZI: I hate it.
GAKU: I love it!
KAZI: Lots of people really like it, though. Even in Kansai.
HIRO: It’s kinda split up between people who really love it and really hate it.
69: So. Natto mania it is.
HAL: Yep, natto mania.
GAKU: I’m the stage-left guitarist, GAKU. I know pretty much everything about “Fist of the North Star.”
HIRO: The anime.
KAZI: Is it a mania?
GAKU: Well it’s a small mania, I think. I’m just a little crazy about it. I have all the manga volumes, too and quite a few figures.
69: So you collect it! Is there a specific character you like?
GAKU: The one I like most is Holy Emperor Souther.
I’LL: I’m the stage-right guitarist, I’LL… Can I say more than one?
HAL: Just how many are there?
I’LL: Well there’s Evangelion and Gundam and Jojo and… Final Fantasy…
69: That’s very similar to my favorites, too.
I’LL: Great, can we make this the main topic, then?
69: If you have to choose, which would be your favorite?
I’LL: That might take me an hour to decide.
KAZI: So long!
GAKU: North Star?
I’LL: [Laughs] I never said any such thing.
HAL: Natto? [Laughs]
GAKU: Fist of Natto.
I’LL: I think it’s Eva. [Note: Neon Genesis Evangelion]
69: Evangenlion? What was the deciding criteria?
I’LL: Well, its length for one thing. I’ve been watching it since I was in elementary school. I have the longest history with it.
HIRO: I’m bassist HIRO. This isn’t really something that could be called a “mania” but of all the members I’m probably the most knowledgeable about food.
KAZI: Oh, that’s true! He knows more about food than anyone (in the band)!
HIRO: Well I don’t know all that much about it.
69: What’s your favorite food?
HIRO: I love yakiniku.
KAZI: On tour, you tend to want to eat something tasty, right? Something local or famous. Right away he’ll get on it and he always knows what’s tasty where we are.
69: That’s a skill you can really count on.
HIRO: I really like that kind of thing.
69: Do you research it before you go?
HIRO: Yeah, I go and check it out as soon as we get there. I ask around. Our fans send all that kind of info my way, too. Recently I’d hear all about this and that pudding in a moment.
KAZI: He was eating a lot of pudding. Not so much at the moment, though.
69: That much?
HIRO: I tried a lot of different types of pudding.
KAZI: You mastered it.
HIRO: If I made a diary of it all I could probably write a book. (The fans) gave me that much pudding for a while there.
KAZI: And in the meanwhile, he was researching pudding and even writing blogs with titles related to pudding, that was how much of a maniac he was. That was definitely pudding mania.
HIRO: Not even people knowledgeable about food know about pudding.
69: What was the tastiest pudding?
HIRO: There’s all sorts from really rich ones to light ones but the most well-known and with the best balance was from ‘Pastel.’
KAZI: I’m drummer KAZI. I’m really into anime. Rather than any particular one, I tend to check out what’s on this season. I’m more knowledgeable about what’s good at the moment that any other member. So that’s what I’m into but what I’m a bit of a maniac about is Godzilla.
GAKU: He’s incredible over Godzilla.
KAZI: I won’t lose to anyone where Godzilla is concerned.
GAKU: Just by looking at the face, he knows which one it is.
KAZI: Yeah, I do. For example, the second is fifty meters tall and weighs 200 tons.
69: They’re different?
KAZI: Yeah, their heights and weights are all different. There’s up to four Godzillas. I know everything about how the different works vary, too.
69: That’s definitely a mania. The most maniacal of all. [Laughs]
KAZI: I’m unbeatable in Godzilla. I watched every single one of them.
HIRO: Godzilla mania. Never even heard of that before.
69: So your new album is a concept album with half original songs and half cover songs. Where did the original idea come from?
HIRO: It wasn’t any one person’s idea.
KAZI: Well when our two newest members first joined and made our new line-up we felt strongly about wanting to make something together. Originally HAL, HIRO and I had been writing songs since our previous fourth member left and then when we became five members we decided it was time to put something out so we gathered those originals together. Amid that, everyone said they wanted to do copy songs so we did a few of those. It wasn’t like they were just straight copies, though, we turned them into covers together and put this together. I can’t remember who thought of it but the discussion got really passionate and since we went that far we decided to put a theme to it and decided to put them into the album. It just flowed like that and we all decided to make this.
HIRO: We wanted to do something fairly unique.
69: Could you each tell us about one of the original songs?
HAL: “Kiseki no Tsubasa” is the first song we wrote together since we became five members. It’s a song filled with our dreams as a band. While writing it the image of wings or feathers welled up very strongly. The meaning in the lyrics is that even when the future is a blank we can become one and forge on. It’s a very positive song.
GAKU: I want to talk about “Invisible.” Originally KAZI brought in the demo and we all finished it off but as a guitarist I’d like to talk about the guitar. Compared to “Kiseki no Tsubasa” which HAL just talked about there’s quite a loud component in the foreground. The guitar has really heavy riffs. I’LL and I have special technique of picking harmonics which is used a lot in this song.
KAZI: That “Piiii” sound.
KAZI: That “Piiii” sound heard in metal bands.
GAKU: We used that a lot in this song and I think if guitarists or people who like metal listen to it they’ll find it really interesting so I hope people will listen closely to that.
HAL: I think it’s in the running for the most or second-most hardcore song on the album.
GAKU: Yeah, but the bridge was really surprising but when it was brought in, that…
KAZI: Oh, the tempo changes, right?
GAKU: The tempo changes.
KAZI: I wrote it and thought “Genius, right?”
GAKU: Such praise. I hate to say it but I thought it was really cool.
HIRO: RYO from defspiral who helped us with the recording was like “This is reckless,” when I recorded my bass line.
GAKU: But at the end the song fades out but just when you think it’s over the phrase comes back in and the unexpectedness is really interesting. There’s a lot of that.
KAZI: Well then, I’ll take “Evil Disco.” I brought it for the demo stage. I’d always wanted to do a—not a festival atmosphere but—a song where everyone can really have fun. Among FEST VAINQUEUR’s members, we discussed a lot that it would be cool to make that kind of song. It’s not something you can just do straight away after thinking of it. Time passed until eventually we were able to make something we were satisfied with thanks to everyone’s help. First of all, it’s the kind of song that, for those listening, just hearing it can make you feel excited and though the word disco may be a little old that was the kind of image we had. Everyone shouting, everyone having fun, it really has a FEST VAINQUEUR-ness to it.
69: It’s a really wild song.
KAZI: Yeah, it’s a song that really shines live so of course we want people to listen to it but more than anything we want people to come and experience the fun live. While we were working on it, we really wanted some kind of voice at the beginning. The background sound was a real strong point of this song and we really wanted a girl’s voice there so with Leela’s help this time we were able to complete the song.
HIRO: “Σ-sigma-” is a song that was originally brought in as a demo not since we became five but from before around the time of our previous release. After becoming five, I thought maybe the arrangement might benefit so I brought it in and rather than “bringing it to life” per se, going from four to five with twin guitars turned out to be another type of arrangement. It’s one of the more up-tempo pieces of the five. The slight heaviness makes a good live song and the theme of the lyrics is aimed at the fans. Well, we didn’t target them but it turned out that way so listening to the CD is good, too but I think it’s a song where you can get a different perspective by watching it live.
69: So the live aspect is really important.
KAZI: That’s because it’s really interesting. It’s a song that has both violence and positivity. The chorus brings everyone together but the intro etc. are really heavy. Everyone shakes their fists and yells, “Oi! Oi!” and circular headbanging in the bridge where everyone goes wild together. That became a given. There’s a lot that can be done with this song.
HIRO: The fans are all doing it so when we look out at the audience it’s an incredible sight.
I’LL: Last is “GIFT.” For this song, whether of CD or live, I want everyone to listen very carefully to the lyrics and to all the parts. Turn the lights out…
KAZI: Light some candles!
I’LL: That’s the kind of feeling I want people to listen to it with. You can sit and curl up around your knees to listen to it.
KAZI: You’re pushing it that much?
HIRO: Let’s close our eyes…
I’LL: Rather than the most wild, this is the song I most want to be listened to. The guitar sound I put out is very different to the other four songs. It’s not heavy at all. There’s hardly any distortion. The whole song is played with a sweet sound and the two guitars often harmonize.
69: So, “Listen.”
69: Got it. So next up is the cover songs. Are they covers you were particularly influenced by? Why did you choose these particular songs?
KAZI: From the start when we began talking about doing covers, not straight copies as we said earlier, we didn’t want to just do vague covers. As referred to in the title, GENERATION, what we wanted was for everyone to know those artists who influenced us when we were really young. Along with that feeling that we wanted to play those songs ourselves and the two sentiments became one and we were able to do that. [To the band:] Can you remember which we decided on first?
GAKU: The one that was suggested earliest was Aerosmith.
KAZI: That was unexpected, though.
HIRO: Among those five songs—we decided to do five covers—and we had more or less decided on what type of songs they should be. In those guidelines, when we were very young, what had a hold, what was really popular, was Western music.
KAZI: We wanted to do one Western song or maybe a ballad.
HIRO: We had decided that and this song just fit perfectly.
69: Did you have some held with the pronunciation?
HAL: I’m not that good at English but I like Aerosmith so I’d listened to them back then, of course and I’ve always sung “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” at karaoke and tried to mimic the man himself. So I recorded while checking up on my pronunciation but I think it went ok.
69: If it’s a song you’re familiar with, you can relax and sing it, right?
HAL: Yeah, it was like “That was pretty good, right?” or “That seemed ok.” [Laughs] It was smooth.
69: The covers were all different types. For one, in “Atsukunare,” there’s a female vocalist.
HAL: Actually I had finished recording it by myself but it needed something more. I wanted something else.
HIRO: That came after.
HAL: Once the whole recording was done.
HIRO: So we made it like a duet. This time. It felt right.
69: So you made it a duet and added a female vocalist.
HAL: Right around that time—it’s not related at all but—Shoko Nakagawa had just covered “Pegasus Fantasy” as a duet and it was really cool and we thought making a duet arrangement like that would be interesting so we had a guest vocalist come in. The singer who sang it for us usually does really R&B stuff but we asked her to try and sing a bit more rock-like this time and she did a really great job of it.
69: “Goldfinger” is another song but were you aware of the original “Livin’ La Vida Loca?”
HIRO: When Gou Hiromi covered it back then I knew it was a cover.
KAZI: Me too. My friend happened to bring in the original. Was it Spanish?
69: By a latino.
KAZI: Right, so knowing that I had listened to other Western covers of it aside from Gou Hiromi’s so I was aware of it but back then, Gou Hiromi used to do his choreography on TV and it was really popular. Everyone must have done it at least once when they were a kid and talking about that, we got really excited and thought it could be fun to do that in our own style. So if we were going to do it, we decided to do it in a loud style typical to FEST VAINQUEUER.
GAKU: It’s pretty damn loud. I think we might have overdone it. [Laughs]
KAZI: It got red hot. The riffs.
HIRO: Really heavy.
69: What kind of reaction have you had from your fans in relation to the covers?
HIRO: For one thing, there’s not many people releasing something like this with five originals and five covers so in relation to blatantly including covers in out album we often hear “This arrangement of this song was really interesting.” “I listened to it all but this arrangement was really good.” To nominate one, “Romance” has been covered a lot to date but ours is completely different to any of them to the point it’s like something else even from the original. We really re-arranged it. We were told by someone from the radio station that biting the bullet like that was brilliant.
KAZI: “I’ve never heard a “Romance” this fast!” [Laughs] “But it was fun.”
HIRO: After all, our goal was to make covers not copies so we decided to clearly change it.
69: In your own style.
KAZI: Another that’s been said is great is “Kanojo no “Modern…”” which we had the opportunity to cover. On twitter…
GAKU: That’s right! I tweeted “We recently had the opportunity to cover you,”—back when only the preview version was available—“It’s only a preview but if you like, please listen,” at HISASHI from GLAY itself and added the link. The reply came extremely fast and just by his saying, “Cool, isn’t it?”… I started playing guitar because of GLAY and “Kanojo no “Modern…”” was the first song I ever copied, so…
69: It has a lot of meaning to you, then.
GAKU: It does.
69: And then you received that reply.
GAKU: I’m such a huge fan.
KAZI: Getting a reply from someone that important…
69: GLAY are really great people. Chisato often tweets with you guys, too.
KAZI: Also O-JIRO from PENICILLIN listened as well as Chisato. We’re really thrilled.
69: So GENERATION is your first release with two new guitarists onboard but what do you feel has changed in your music and atmosphere?
GAKU: Well it’s not just that having two guitars has deepened the sound—of course, having two guitars play the same part really thickens it but—putting those deeper parts aside, we go our separate ways and the guitar sound becomes more varied. That’s the kind of double-guitar approach we’re taking in a lot of songs. Instead of deepening the sound, the techniques from left and right are completely different in most songs and we want people to listen to that.
69: Do you three original members notice that in the sound?
HAL: Until now when we had just one guitarist, he would overlay track in the recording but of course the philosophy behind that was that one track was always just support or backing. Also, there was only that one main guitar phrase but with two, similar to what GAKU said, they both have different ideas and the variation in our music is really spreading, I think.
69: On tours etc., have you noticed any lifestyle changes with new members?
GAKU: For KAZI there’s the fact that there’s another smoker around, now.
KAZI: I was always the only smoker, always alone, so having a comrade makes me really happy. [Laughs]
GAKU: That would be me.
69: That’s a big thing for KAZI.
KAZI: Yeah, it’s huge.
KAZI: Basically, they’re both really original and fascinating characters so just going around on tour is really fun. GAKU just being GAKU, he stirs up a lot of chaos.
69: Let’s hear it! [Laughs]
KAZI: Getting locked out in the hotel, washing his clothes alone then spraying himself in the face with the shower and flooding himself out… He was so panicked.
GAKU: I figured if I just had to wash my costume I could keep on my clothes, hop into the bath and wash it by showering but the shower-head flailed about and I was completely soaked from head to toe.
KAZI: We were sharing a room and when I heard, “Gyahh!” I wondered what had happened and went to take a look. There he was standing there being completely soaked.
GAKU: In the moment, I forgot how to turn off the shower. I was completely turned upside-down and couldn’t do anything about it.
69: We’ll be looking forward to more chaotic stories. [Laughs] Stock up for next time.
GAKU: These things just kind of happen before I know it.
69: In December you have onemans in both Tokyo and then back in Osaka but this is the debut for your newer members in Tokyo, right?
KAZI: The first time in Tokyo.
HIRO: As a five member band it will be our first oneman in Tokyo.
69: Please give Tokyo’s fans a hint at what to look and listen for.
KAZI: Onemans are very different to events in that we can play for much longer so we can show off the variety in the performance of out members which I think is an important point. Especially for the four front-men. Since the new members joined in July, we’ve done a lot of shows. More than ten every month. With the oneman we held in Osaka, too, we’ve all put so much into it. We’re not just doing this because we’re energetic. We’ve been broadening the spectrum of all sorts of performances of team-work and solo work and I think this is something people can watch out for. I want everyone to fixate on that. Watch so closely you can’t move away.
HIRO: As for Tokyo, we’re playing a livehouse much bigger than with our previous line-up.
69: Shibuya O-WEST.
HIRO: Right. Last time we played Ikebukuro Black Hole and we’re jumping up to O-WEST for our first time with five members. There’s a lot to challenge. As we just said, for people who haven’t seen our five-man lineup except at events, I think there will be a lot they haven’t seen in us yet. With the long length of a oneman there’s emcees etc. where they can experience our characters. There will probably be a lot of people who don’t know our new members yet so I really want them to experience us at a oneman.
69: You’re doing a show on Christmas in Osaka with a lot of special plans. Could you tell us about them?
KAZI: For Christmas we’ll take polaroids and there will be special presents for fans who come in costume. There will be special polaroids hidden among the rest and cosplay polaroids. Since it’s Osaka there’s a lot of special items etc. that can’t be gotten elsewhere.
69: What kind of cosplay? Or is it still a secret?
GAKU: Let’s just say that for the last oneman which was around Halloween, HIRO was…
HIRO: I was a witch. I went with kind of a feminine costume.
KAZI: It’s really surprising. Normally he’d never do that.
HIRO: I wore a blond wig.
KAZI: It was all curly. Curly with a fringe.
HIRO: I was almost unrecognizable.
KAZI: It went beyond expectations.
I’LL: It was very real. Like a girl was there.
HIRO: That hat and wig were being sold together in a set so I put them on.
I’LL: I was a butler.
KAZI: It looked so good it was disturbing. Way too cool.
I’LL: Like a suit.
GAKU: Kind of like a tuxedo?
KAZI: The timing was perfect, just after his hairstyle image change. He’d always had extensions and he took them out and changed to this color and became a butler.
I’LL: I just thought it might work.
HAL: It was like something out of a different dimension.
KAZI: A foreign dimensioner.
GAKU: Apart from Japanese.
HAL: I was kind of a demon.
GAKU: Kind of like Dracula.
HAL: When we took polaroids I put fangs in. But I can’t sing with fangs.
KAZI: Of course for the live (you’d have to take them out). It looked good, though.
69: Christmas is nearly upon us. Do you have any memories from past Christmases?
KAZI: I’ve always done lives. Christmas is just another event. I like festivities so I really love it and I have a fun image of it but as a band, we’ve always done lives. Last year we got to do a two-man with an older band. It’s really about the live event for us.
69: Will you dress up as Santa or something??
KAZI: It’d be cool if we could do something. I’m usually cast as a reindeer or a tree or something, though. [Laughs]
69: Please share a Christmas message with ROKKYUU’s readers.
KAZI: Merry Christmas to everyone reading ROKKYUU Magazine! This year, FEST VAINQUEUR’s members don’t want to be alone on Christmas so we’re doing a Christmas live. So even though it’s Osaka, please. Please come and play with us. Let’s spend Christmas together. Please, please come play at our live.
GAKU: Merry Christmas, everyone. Christmas Eve, December 24, is a live so even though there’s an overwhelming image of couples and dates on Christmas, those with partners and those without, please come and spend a wonderful Christmas with FEST VAINQUEUR. You won’t regret it. Let’s make it a magical night.
HAL: Merry Christmas! Christmas is a precious, exciting day that only comes once a year but I hate to have nothing to do on Christmas so I really want to do a live and this Christmas we’re putting on a oneman in Osaka. This day we spend with that special person, we have chosen to spend with you so please come join us.
I’LL: Let’s end it on that wonderful note.
I’LL: Merry Christmas! I went to see a live on a Christmas date with KAZI in our date fantasy and it was super fun. It was just a fantasy but that’s what it would be like, I’m sure. We shared this fantasy together and it was really fun.
I’LL: The fantasy helped us to picture it clearly so I think it will be really fun. I’ll make it fun.
HIRO: This year on December 24, we arranged to do a oneman but as a band, doing a oneman on Christmas is a first for us. We’ve done lives but they were always events we appeared in and we weren’t able to do anything really Christmassy. It was really just that we did a live and happened to say “Merry Christmas” so this time it will be a Christmassy theme from start to finish. Last time we did a oneman on October 20. It was Halloween and several of our birthdays lined up so we celebrated then but this will be the Christmas version. We’re thinking about wearing Christmas costumes and all sorts. It will be our own unique, wonderful night so please, please come and join us.