Extra Volume club Zy [Vol.9] R-Shitei/Collaborative Translation


by Amy, posted July 27, 2014

Translation by ROKKYUU Magazine in collaboration with club Zy.

Ayano Nishimura interviews R-Shitei regarding their motto “I am Menhera,” their desire to get even with those who criticize them, the deepening of their bonds, and their fighting stance and Summer mentality…

Source/Original Japanese:

Photographs by Takehiro Suganuma / Interview by Ayano Nishimura

Zy: First, tell me about the new single.
Mamo: Ok. “I am menhera” is also our concept. In the past, we’ve sold goods that had the words “I am menhera” on them, such as towels and mirrors. It became our own brand. Song writing began with me thinking about the brand becoming established and deciding to try (to write) a song (with the same concept.) I felt like we were making a song that represented us.

Zy: What is the meaning of “I am menhera”?
Mamo: “I am mental health” [Laughs] I was thinking about how I am sick… kind of sick, and how all humans are sick when I came up with those words.

Zy: Everyone is sick?
Nanahoshi: Yes. They tend to brood over things.

Zy: You said people brooding over things but there’s someone brooding here, too, right Kaede? [Laughs]
Kaede: Yeah, if you say that worrying is a sickness, then I’m sick.
Z: I’m sick, too.
Hirotaka: I’m not sick.

Zy: Oh! There’s one person who isn’t sick. Are you the one leading the others along?
Hirotaka: No, I’m not. I’m leaving them behind..

Zy: And you, Mamo?
Mamo: I’m sick… I suppose. It depends on the day.

Zy: Why did you decide to make those words and that song representative of you?
Mamo: We have more pessimistic songs than positive ones, so I thought it was perfect.

Zy: Why do you have more pessimistic songs?
Mamo: There are a lot of artists who say #do your best!” so I’ll leave that kind of thing to those who specialize in it.

Zy: Specialize in it? [Laughs]
Mamo: Yeah. We move in a different direction.
Kaede: [Laughs] We specialize in negativity.
Mamo: I think that’s more realistic.

Zy: Of course. Because people aren’t strong all the time, right?
Mamo: Exactly. I think it’s humane. More humane than saying “Do your best, do your best.”

Zy: And the fans, do they send those kind of sentiments to you? That they have been encouraged?
Mamo: Yes, I see that kind of thing in letters I receive a lot. Not that we tell people to do their best but I see things like “I was saved by R-shitei’s songs. I can empathize with them. I can live because R-shitei’s songs exist.” When I see those kinds of things, I feel like people aren’t looking for hope or something like that; they want someone to share the same pain that they feel.

Zy: Were you like that when you were younger?
Mamo: When I was younger… I was the opposite. I was positive. I feel like I became more negative after I stopped being a student. You see various and vulgar things once you grow up.

Zy: I’d be overwhelmed if somebody told me that, though.
Kaede: You empathize with such views though, right? [Laughs]

Zy: Yeah. In the lyrics for “I am menhera,” the words “social non-conformist” appear. That hit me. I was originally a newspaper reporter but I wasn’t able to enter an organization, so I was independent.
Mamo: Why couldn’t you enter?

Zy: Because I was a social non-conformist. [Laughs]
Mamo: [Laughs]

Zy: It’s a strong word, “social non-conformist” but that’s what makes it hit you so hard and makes you think things like, “Are there any decent people?” Actually, I think those who think they themselves are decent are the most dangerous.
Kaede: I don’t know if I’m a social non-conformist but I wonder if that’s the case when you’re in a band. It’s not an average life. If I was looking at things from the perspective of somebody not in a band, considering that visual kei tends to be considered unique and parts of it are hard to explain, then I’d probably say I am a social non-conformist.

Zy: Yeah, I mean, what is a non-conformist?
Z: We’re all non-conformists. Everyone is.

Zy: Everyone?
Z: Yeah. For example, if I was a manager, and said that what I was doing was right, then I’m doing what I want, right? People like that are probably proper in society but if we look at the big picture, there are cases of people not being able to conform. So I guess everyone is a non-conformist. Everyone is selfish.
Nanahoshi: So, those not doing what they want are conformists? Those doing what they want are non-conformists.
Mamo: It seems that way.
Z: I think we can leave it there.
Nanahoshi: What is this, philosophy??? [Laughs]
Z: Yes. That’s all for today.
Hirotaka: To finish, I think that everyone in this scene is a non-conformist. If I was told to be a company employee in a job unrelated to music, I don’t think I could do it. [Laughs]

Expressing what could not be said; “I am menhera.” Getting even with those who say “What are you doing at your age?”

Zy: We previously talked about the meaning of the word “social non-conformist” which appears in the lyrics of “I am menhera.” We concluded with the shocking fact that those in bands are all social non-conformists. Let’s consider the lyrics in greater detail. Which part did you want to communicate the most?
Mamo: Overall, the protagonist’s personality is twisted. It’s distorted but I think that everybody likes that—they just can’t say so and so it’s as if I’m saying it for them.

Zy: So it’s not just themselves and their social non-conformity that is detached from society. There’s a part that says “Nevertheless, I can’t die.” What is the protagonist thinking?
Mamo: That’s (a) difficult (question). It’s deep.
Nanahoshi: “To not be able to die” surely means that they want to conform.

Zy: Even though they do not crave conformity, they’re aware of it somewhere (inside themselves), right?
Nanahoshi: But they hate that about themselves.

Zy: Yeah. Yeah, they hate their weak selves.
Nanahoshi: In the end, it’s non-conformity.
Mamo: [Laughs]

Zy: Though they’ve found what they want to do, once they’re alone, they regress once more into non-conformity. That’s tough. Everyone, what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Kaede: The number one thing would be growing old in R-Shitei and making our mark on the world. Being accepted… Even if we’re not accepted, I think being known is proof that I lived.
Mamo: If you think about this the usual way, it would be entering society and properly getting a job and if you look at things from the perspective of society; bands, music, and chasing dreams, those things are often thought to be crappy, right? But I’ve decided to do those things and I want to succeed—with the band.
Nanahoshi: Things I want to leave behind in my life… Hmm, I wonder… I guess I want to open up a hole in the boring music industry. I want us to be guys who had an impact.

Zy: Ah, I think R-Shitei has a broad range though. The three songs this time, “I am menhera,” “Mr. Strangeman,” and “Last Rain” are all different—even down to the singing styles. That was so amazing that I wondered if all of them had been sung by the same person.
Mamo: Right, right.

Zy: Huh? Did you just agree with me? [Laughs]
Mamo: Yes. [Laughs]
Zy: We got off track there. Hirotaka, what would you like to leave behind?
Hirotaka: There are two phrases that I hate. The first is “Whichever way is ok” and the other is “What are you doing at your age?” I also really hate the people who say those kinds of things. I wanna kill ‘em!
All: [Laugh]

Zy: That’s extreme. Maybe you could just hit them? Shut them up or something?
Hirotaka: Yeah. Shut them up.
Mamo: Killing people isn’t good. [Laughs]
Hirotaka: I don’t wanna get even with such people, I just want to beat them into silence.
Z: This isn’t something to leave behind but I want to die smiling. As long as you’re doing what you want to do it’s ok if you clash over something or whatever.

Zy: The lyrics, the tone of voice, and the words used are all extreme but you’re straightforward and unwavering. Killing and so forth. I’m surprised! [Laughs]
Mamo: [Laughs] But the lyrics are also usually pretty extreme. It doesn’t mean “I am menhera” is particularly extreme, because there are more intense songs than that. Relatively speaking, it’s soft.

The trigger for beginning music. Bonds thickening after moving to Tokyo. “I want to fulfill the youngest child, Mamo’s, dreams.”

Zy: Let’s move away from the songs a little. Everyone, tell me what triggered your aspirations for music.
Kaede: The reason I started playing guitar was because my classmate played. I saw some MV, thought it was cool, and decided (to go into music). I was taught about visual kei by that same classmate and he invited me to be in a band with him. [Laughs] I played at a live house when I graduated from high school. At first, we were pretty obscure and I couldn’t see a future in it. As the number of people watching grew bit by bit, I began to picture taking on Tokyo, playing bigger venues, and doing nationwide tours.
Z: I thought Tomoyasu Hotei (ex-Boøwy) was cool. I really wanted to play guitar. That’s where it started for me.
Hirotaka: When I was in fifth grade of elementary school, I saw X JAPAN on Music Station’s ranking. I started playing guitar then and admired hide. I got the same guitar as him. I started playing drums after I graduated from high school. I thought it looked fun when I saw it and ended up giving it a try. I felt like I was in control and it was fun. The only thing I think is a shame is that I’m not at the front (of the stage).
Mamo: It’d be nice if you were at the front with your drum set.

Zy: Like YOSHIKI [Laughs] Totally upstaging Mamo…
Hirotaka: Yeah! [Laughs] I always wanted to be at the front. It’d be nice to move the drums forward if the layout were bigger.

Zy: I’m looking forward to that. What was your motivation for getting into music, Nanahoshi?
Nanahoshi: I heard the introduction to “BELOVED” by GLAY when I was in middle school. I wanted to play it. I got a gut guitar and that was when I began playing.

Zy: That’s great that you wanted to play. Did it feel good to play?
Nanahoshi: N… no. I wasn’t able to play it because it was too difficult. [Laughs]

Zy: And you, Mamo?
Mamo: What was it I wonder? I guess it’s because I was tired of things. I was into games, manga, and club activities back then. I’m of a fickle nature so I soon get tired of things and my interests rapidly change but with music I got into it and didn’t get sick of it—even now.

Zy: What triggered the formation of R-Shitei?
Mamo: Originally, everyone had different bands in Kyūshū and by coincidence, the timing of those bands splitting overlapped. So the five coolest guys in Kyūshū banded together and began R-Shitei.

Zy: Are there things you feel you can do because it’s the five of you? Or things you felt you might destroy because it’s the five of you?
Mamo: At first, I didn’t think that at all. When we first started I felt like, “Can we get on with it like this?”

Zy: And now?
Mamo: Now the members know what I want to do, so it’s easy.
Kaede: Since I think I know what Mamo wants, every time we release something or do a live, we try to answer to those aspirations. Since there’s a response to that, I feel that we will be able to accomplish even more.

Zy: Your bond must be growing stronger, then. How about you, Z? Was there a moment you thought the five of you had made it?
Z: After we came to Tokyo, I guess. I began to think various things after that. I sometimes thought of Tokyo as a challenge but I was encouraged by that idea so I never got enthusiastic and thought, “We’ve made it!”… We’ve been playing a long time but I think it’s great that, even now, I’m moving ahead with the others.
Hirotaka: I really felt that we five could overcome things… but I never felt like we’d made it. Of course, we couldn’t go on if somebody left the band. Yet because we’re like a family, maybe that’s why I’ve never felt like “We’ve made it!”
Nanahoshi: Every day, I think about how others probably couldn’t perform the schedules we do and be in such good condition. I’m proud of myself.

Zy: You’ve done well!—you say. [Laughs] Hirotaka, you said the band is like a family. Who’s the lively one? Who’s the leader?
Z: Basically, Mamo is the leader and the other members are under pressure from him. After all, it’s important for bands to have a strong vocalist so because Mamo lets us know what he wants to do, I feel like we four can support him.

Zy: Then, Mamo, if this were a family, you’d be the father?
Mamo: No, a kid, right? Maybe the youngest. Everyone granting the youngest child’s dreams…
Z: It’s difficult to imagine us as a family. [Laughs]
Mamo: I’m the youngest child. If this were the manga Sazae-san, then I’d be Tara.
Hirotaka: Tara’s not the youngest. He’s the oldest son. [Laughs]

Zy: Nanahoshi?
Nanahoshi: I’d be Tama.

Hirotaka: I’d be Masuo.

Zy: Why is everyone from Sazae-san?
Hirotaka: Just when we had a live (around early June) there was news of the hair on Mr. Namihei’s bronze statue being taking out, right?
Mamo: We had an MC about it.
Z: He pretended that I was “our Naihei-san” so it’s continued since then.

Zy: I see. So there’s no Sazae-san, right?
Z: It’s true! [Laughs] Even though it’s about her. [Laughs] Please take her role.

Zy: Huh? [Laughs] Ok, I’ll go get a perm, then. [Laughs]

Not wanting to fit into a box and not losing an offensive stance. Lives continue this Summer and the thing they want is a Summer romance?

Zy: Please tell me about the theme of your activities. Have the five of you decided on a goal?
Mamo: We want to do what nobody wants to do. Things nobody wants to touch on.

Zy: You leave saying “Do your best” to others, right? [Laughs]
Mamo: Yes. We want to dare to venture into themes that ordinary people don’t want to.

Zy: Touching on things you want to shut away and the parts you want to avert your eyes from is delicate but will the listener feel a stronger, deeper sensation of it reaching their heart?
Mamo: Hmm, there’s a lot of criticism, too, but, for example; earthquakes. It’s almost taboo to talk about those. It’s like an unspoken rule… I want to break those rules. I feel like that’s closer to what we’re conveying.
Kaede: An offensive stance is essential to R-Shitei. Our songs, our stage subject… We don’t kill the power. Even the way we have photos taken, it’s important to us five not to be fit into a box.

Zy: Is there something you want to try now?
Mamo: We’re getting into other genres. I’ve been in a visual kei band this whole time. I’d like to try a twoman show with a band from another genre or something. Yeah, something like that. Do I have the confidence inside me for that? I’m getting there little by little.

Zy: Does anyone spring to mind?
Mamo: Maybe something totally different, like an idol. [Laughs] They have strong characters and their movements and time in the spotlight is all decided, too, so they’re kind of like visual kei bands, I guess.
Nanahoshi: I want to take part in a Summer festival. I wonder how much of an impression e could leave on the audience?
Hirotaka: Maybe FUNKY MONKEY BABYS or that kind of hip-hop style. I’d like to share the stage with a band like that. The way the crowd snap their hands when swirling their towels and the excitement of the fans is pretty close to visual kei, I think.
Z: Sambomaster. He wears his guitar high. I’ll do that too.
Kaede: Hmm, it’d be nice to play one time with those I’d admired long ago.

Zy: You’d be side by side with SUGIZO (LUNA SEA), right?
Kaede: I think he’d laugh. [Laughs] But compared to when I started, I’m getting closer to (his level). Perhaps only by a little. There are parts of my playing where I can see that. I’ll do my best.

Zy: This Summer, there’s a performance where you can meet many bands: “Stylish wave circuit ’12 Summer campaign” which begins August 14. The final is at CLUB CITTA in Kawasaki, right?
Kaede: It’s nothing but lives every year. Lives, lives, lives—that’s all!

Zy: Give it your best! Will you get some time off to explore the local areas?
Kaede: No. If there are festivals around the time of the lives, I want to go. When I have a holiday, I want to do stuff outdoors. Previously, we invited other bands out to hang out, so…
Z: Yeah. If there’s a holiday, I want to hold a barbeque. Well, I don’t want to prepare it. [Laughs] I want to experience that atmosphere.
Hirotaka: It’s bad for my constitution if I’m in the sun, so it’s a total no-go for me. I want to go to a pool—one that flows. The sea’s salty and I hate the feel of seaweed so I want to go to a pool.
Mamo: I’m not good with heat so I don’t want to do anything… I want to love. Please write a “Summer romance!” [Laughs]

Visit club Zy  for further interviews and other exclusive content.

Amy happened across Dir en grey on a used computer and became enamored by the aesthetics and androgyny of visual kei. Amy studied Japanese at university, including a year studying abroad in Tokyo. Interests include anime and manga, reading, learning languages, playing guitar, and holding on to the futile dream of one day meeting Johnny Depp. Amy hopes to bring the overseas fans closer to the bands they love by translating material related to them.

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