Extra Volume club Zy [Vol.1] Aoi (the GazettE)/Collaborative Translation
Translation by ROKKYUU Magazine in collaboration with club Zy.
Ayano Nishimura interviews AOI of the GazettE regarding the album DIVISION, his feelings about solo activities, friction in the band, and his journey with the GazettE leading to a recent desire to quit…
Photographs by Takehiro Suganuma / Interview by Ayano Nishimura
Part 1: Ten years since the GazettE formed. The new album DIVISION.
Zy: The new album, DIVISION, went on sale on August 29. It’s been almost ten months since the last release, TOXIC, so I was surprised to see all the songs on the new album are new! (First pressing 14 tracks. Regular edition 12 tracks.) First, could you tell us what triggered the creation of the new album?
Aoi: It was suggested by Ruki that we should put something out for the tenth anniversary of the GazettE being a band, which was this March. Whether that something would be an album or not wasn’t decided at first, but during talks over the New Year it felt like the songs fit into the flow from the last album, TOXIC.
Zy: And did you think anything like “I want the album to be like this,” or anything like that?
Aoi: Well, since this year is our tenth anniversary, I thought about being upfront about including both things that I did not have in myself, and music that I had created myself. During lives recently I’ve also been standing on stage more as myself and not just as Aoi of the Gazette.
Zy: The first pressing of the album is split into two discs – a rock disc and a digital disc, which is interesting. I was also surprised that the track listing on each edition is different. A minute detail!
Aoi: We thought having different track lists would make the tracks flow better. Since the first pressing is two discs, and the regular edition only one, we thought we would have different track lists.
Zy:: What song on the album do you think has the most feeling?
Aoi: “Ibitsu.” It depicts desire and the truth about humans. It has substance.
Zy: On the first pressing edition, the MV for that song is included on the DVD. How was it shooting the MV?
Aoi: We shot it at a studio, and centred it on a monochrome theme. The shoot was very tiring…
Zy: I noticed a look of sorrow on your face from that tiredness. [laughs]
Aoi: I’m sure you did!
Part 2: Looking to do some solo activities in search of sound
Zy: First, could you tell us about any challenges you had making the album?
Aoi: It was a continuation (from TOXIC), so it wasn’t very different.
Zy: That’s it? [laughs] Ok, then was there anything you, as Aoi, wanted to express?
Aoi: I thought a lot about wanting to change the sound. Before now, I haven’t really considered that. With TOXIC and DIVISION, they were like one album and had unity, but on the other hand, I wanted something stimulating and when I looked back that wasn’t the case. There was a conflict as to if I could offer something good or not.
Aoi: Yes. I wanted to pursue the GazettE’s music more deeply. I’m grateful, but we’re very busy constantly making albums, touring, and attending events. We’re not blessed with time to pursue music as the GazettE. I think since long ago we’ve had a sound that stands out, but each album was a stand-alone. Perhaps it’s because we were young, but there was no unity (between the albums). From Stacked Rubbish (2007) to DIM (2009), “gathering” the GazettE’s sound became important. It’s important to gather the sound but I also want to release albums that each have their own substance.
Zy: Is it difficult for the GazettE to do that?
Aoi: When I was a kid, whenever I heard the sound of a guitar in music, that particular artist’s face would come to mind. The GazettE doing that is difficult. I guess the perspective of the artist the GazettE is more important than ours individually.
Zy: Well then, is there no way for you to diverge and do solo activities alongside band activities?
Aoi: Perhaps, if the time comes.
Zy: You could do that which is difficult to do as a band by yourself. What kind of images do you have in mind?
Aoi: I wondered if female vocals might be good. It’s always Ruki singing, so I want to try the tones of a female voice. That’s about the only thing really.
Zy: Last Summer at your label’s event, you formed bon: cra-Z with Hiroto from Alice Nine and sang hide’s songs. I was really surprised to see you on vocals.
Aoi: Ah, yeah. I didn’t really want to sing but I had to in that situation. We can do what we want when we play for fun, but when you think about it, there are many restrictions to going commercially solo.
Zy: Of course. Have you talked about your feelings with the others? Perhaps each member has thought about going solo.
Aoi: We talked about it a little. The GazettE no longer completely understands the music that I think of but now is not the time for us to go our separate ways.
Part 3: ‘Distortion’ born in the band. “Composed of the perfect balance”
Zy: Earlier I heard from you that there were thoughts of going solo in your head, but in what way do you perceive your position in the GazettE as Aoi?
Aoi: Though I’m one of the members, I feel as if I’m pulling away from the band… I’m a member, but I think about what I should do and how I can contribute to the Gazette.
Zy: Of course you think of pulling away. You’re the oldest, for one, and in the interview you kindly allowed four years ago I feel you were the one most on edge and the one able to look at everyone objectively. But when I talk to you now, I feel like you’re pulling away. When a band continues for a long time, distortion is born in the band and artists continuing as ‘soloists’ in the midst of this happens to other bands. In this case, though, I think those involved, the GazettE, do not want to become a project.
Aoi: I think there’s some difference as to whose opinions are being emphasized in the band. It’s all centred on what Ruki created now, so Ruki’s statements are strong and it’s like what he thinks is becoming embodied in the other four of us. It’s important for us to preserve our world outlook as the artist the GazettE but it’s becoming a situation where we cannot hear opinions from outside of the band.
Zy: Ahh! Is this not the same Ruki that has been steadily pulling away until now? I said this before as well but it seems like you can really view people objectively. Perhaps that’s your role, Aoi? I think you’re an asset to the band.
Aoi: Yeah, but even if there are people who can see things objectively, I have to listen to them.
Zy: And what about the others, apart from Ruki?
Aoi: Hmm, Uruha, who works together with Ruki, is getting stronger. He’s probably getting more confident from his various experiences. His piercing strength is one of his good points but one of his bad points is that he pushes himself too much. I go along with Reita and Kai. I don’t have the confidence to assert my opinion but following is also important and we can’t have each and every personal sound…We’re really composed of the perfect balance.
Zy: There are various conflicts during recording, right? Conversations suddenly change completely. Are there times when you have afforded an award to yourself for working hard?
Aoi: A reward?? Like what? Perhaps the two guitars I’ve been making privately? They’ll be complete in Autumn, so I’m looking forward to that.
Zy: I don’t know when it will be but I’m looking forward to your songs when you debut solo in the future.
Part 4: Beginning guitar at primary school. 10 years since the GazettE formed; “I wanted to quit”
Zy: Finally, we’ll talk about what triggered you to start playing guitar. I’d also like you to look back over the last ten years with the GazettE. I heard you were influenced by your brother, who was in high school, to start playing guitar.
Aoi: That’s right. I was in primary school at the time so when I saw my brother playing guitar, he looked cool and I admired him. I had a lot of guitar heroes overseas, too. Until I started a band, I thought that my best future in a band lay in guitar. I think it’s still the same overseas but in Japan, it’s best to be the vocalist, isn’t it? So at first I was a bit unsure.
Zy: I read in an old interview that you wanted to play the introduction to X JAPAN’s “Kurenai.”
Aoi: That was probably when I was in my first year of middle school. I loved hide and I practiced to death. I wanted a guitar but I couldn’t tell my parents that so I would wake up at 4am and help deliver newspapers in the next town over. My hometown is in the country and doesn’t even have an arcade so until I started guitar, I would go swimming after school finished but after I got my guitar I played it every day. That was probably when I played the most.
Zy: And when did you form a band?
Aoi: I didn’t form a band properly at first, but when I was in my final year of middle school, or perhaps my first year of high school, I performed in the gymnasium and played ZIGGY’s “GLORIA” as my senior told me to.
Zy: Ah, that was really popular then, right? It was the theme song for some drama.
Aoi: Yeah. So, when it came time to go to high school, I said I wanted to go to a vocational school instead but I wasn’t allowed. I reluctantly went to high school. There was nobody doing music there so I quit playing then. At that time, all I did was surf.
Aoi: Yeah, and then I quit high school. While I was just killing time, there was this late night music programme on in the Tokai region which introduced bands that had played in Nagoya. I was really gloomy and thought about how much better those people were than me. Then I told my parents “I’m going to Tokyo” and went to Tokyo.
Zy: Your story jumps around too much. Your move to Tokyo is like Eikichi Yazawa’s.
Aoi: It was when I was twenty. I took my guitar and a change of clothes in a sports bag and came to Tokyo. Then I worked part time at Hotel Chinzanso. There was a record company nearby that only had the image of Enka. I would think brazen things like “I don’t want to enter that company!” [laughs]
Zy: [laughs] Of course. I’m familiar with them! [laughs]
Aoi: Then I formed a band with our old drummer and met Ruki and the others. At first, that band had no drummer because the old drummer pulled out so they didn’t know what to do. At that time, Ruki invited me, saying “We also don’t have a guitarist, so how about it?” At that time “Hito* ra*o (hitori radio – lone radio)” was also recruiting. I sent off the forms since I wasn’t in the GazettE then. I would have been “alone” too. [Laughs]
Zy: I’m surprised again but it was good that you met. You started out in Meguro at Rock May Kan and that led to Nippon Budokan and Tokyo Dome, and this March you had your tenth anniversary of the GazettE. Looking back, what has stuck with you the most?
Aoi: Actually, before the Makuhari show in March, I wanted to quit the GazettE. Things had broken down between the five of us and I thought we couldn’t continue. I was so against doing it I had to force myself. But when I came out on stage and I saw the faces of twenty thousand fans, I didn’t want to betray them. I felt that me quitting would take away the GazettE from the fans. We played “Shunsetsu no koro” and I gathered in the centre of the stage with Ruki, Reita, and Uruha at the end.
Zy: Yes, the four of you climbed up on the platform and gathered amongst fluttering pink and white confetti. The words ‘the GazettE’ were shining golden at Kai’s back.
Aoi: Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. I didn’t want to do it. Somehow it seemed superficial. I’m not good at fixing things only on the surface.
Zy: I’ve heard various stories. At that time you said, “There are these four, there’s me, then there’s the GazettE. With you all here, the GazettE gets bigger. Even if I thank you all, there’s no way for me to tell you how moved I am.” Remembering your tears after that makes me emotional.
Aoi: I think that the GazettE is a band with no special merits. That’s why I can’t (allow myself to) betray those who support us (regardless).
Zy: Do you think your bonds have grown deeper over these ten year? What do you want the GazettE as a five-some to achieve from now on?
Aoi: Making albums. After TOXIC, DIVISION was born. I aim to surpass that.
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