Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki: It is your first European tour, how do you imagine the public?
Masafumi Gotoh: I don’t know, I hope everybody won’t come wearing a cosplay! (laughing) Otherwise, we will have to be dressed like this too! It is true that Japanese bands known in Europe have a very extravagant look, men are wearing make-up. They are “idols”. But us, we are very simple!
Kensuke Kita: Yes and furthermore, we are ojisan, old men! (laughing)
Akfgfragments: Can you tell us how everything began?
Masafumi Gotoh: We met each other at the university at Yokohama, 17 years ago, and we never split up, that is to say half of our life spent together! At the beginning, we made some little concerts in front of almost nobody for 4 years. Then we were done with our university years. At this moment, we decided to commit ourselves deeply. We raised the number of concerts performed in Tokyo, then we were invited to play at parties. In 2003, Ki/oon Records contacted us for releasing again the album Houkai Amplifier that was previously released on an indies records (Under Flower Records) It was an exceptional circumstance. So we signed, stopped our jobs, because we were also working as employee in companies and we became freeters, part-time employees
Akfgfragments: Your indies era started from 1999 to 2003. Did you have some difficulties to produce yourselves?
Masafumi Gotoh: Yes, it wasn’t easy, because we didn’t really know how to do so. Everything was handmade. I had a Mac and I did the promotion on the Web.
Kensuke Kita: Because I didn’t know how to use all of this, I did the ironing of the T-shirts.
Masafumi Gotoh: Everything was expensive, the parking for the car, gas. We were always broke after the shows or the sells, without loss or profit!
Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki: Some of your songs were used as opening for some animes, do you enjoy yourself mangas?
Masafumi Gotoh: Honestly, we aren’t good at it and with our ages, it is difficult to be on it. Our references turn mostly around MIYAZAKI Hayao. We composed first those songs and then they were taken back for anime opening. It helps us a lot of course to make ourselves known. I like the ninja’s character that is Naruto. Ninjas are unique. They are the Japanese equivalent of James Bond!
Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki: The name of Asian Kung-Fu Generation evokes Asia. That’s quite original right?
Masafumi Gotoh: Yes, it doesn’t prevent us to listen to occidental music, but us, we consider ourselves as Asian. This is also a way to say that we can make good music in Asia, that there is no difference. But if we did the same song like an American band, this is probably the American that people will listen to and not us! I listen to quite a lot of Korean bands and also traditional music such as Indonesian gamelan. But to put Japanese melodies on rock music it gives a particular style. If the European public like it, we would be really happy!
Akfgfragments: The band reputation is conveyed by the very original NAKAMURA Yusuke’s illustrations. Do you know him for long time?
Masafumi Gotoh: He is part of the Ajikan family. We have known him when we were still releasing indies albums. Now, we are working together for more than 10 years. Actually, we discovered him because of a post card. His style very Japanese made me immediately think that it could be an excellent way to spread our image including abroad. It was a good feeling!
Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki: You have founded the Nano Mugen Festival in 2003 who welcome Asian and European bands, such as Weezer who went play there in 2012.
Masafumi Gotoh: That is correct. At first, I thought it would be funny to do a party with 2 stages, at the beginning it was at Shinjuku in a live house, then it increased a lot with around 12000 spectators each days. But the idea remains the same. It is a about making young bands known on the small stage while inviting well known bands on the main stage.
Akfgfragments: On March 2011, the Fukushima disaster has shaken Japan but also the entire world. What were you doing this day?
Masafumi Gotoh: We were rehearsing at Tokyo. The ground has quaked in a unimaginable way. I did not think one second at the moment to the nuclear risk, the made in Japan technology couldn’t be questioned, we were in complete confidence with what the media harped us on about. Me, I returned to Shizuoka and when the explosions have begun, I asked to the other members of the band to meet me there. I was really pissed off. We couldn’t at least get Geiger counter, we didn’t know what was exactly going on.
Kensuke Kita: I stayed locked tight at my place at Yokohama. It was a really a dangerous atmosphere for the 13 million inhabitant of the region. But something prevented us from moving. I think we couldn’t believe it.
Akfgfragments: On July 2011, Gotoh became redactor-in-chief and journalist. He releases the first issue of The Future Times. How this initiative was seen by the other members of the band?
Masafumi Gotoh: Without any problem. We are adults endowed with reason! It is common to start doing things like this. If we don’t understand to what is going on, it’s the shame. Especially after such accident. Imagine that my kid asking me “Dad, what do you think of the nuclear?” and that I don’t know what to answer to him. Artists who don’t express themselves on that matter are in the business and don’t want to compromise their sponsors. But us, Ajikan, we don’t care about it. We are not here for doing business. Even is we live from this today, if ever we were stopped being pay, we will always keep making music. And we will keep to attack nuclear power. Have you seen what is going on at Fukushima!
Kensuke Kita: Me too, I went for the first time in my life to an anti-nuclear demonstration at Tokyo. I met there a lot of musician friends. It was when the Oi Nuclear power station reactors were rebooted last July, it was amazing and comforting too.
Akfgfragments: By the way, you are with SAKAMOTO Ryûichi the originator of the first anti nuclear festival of Japan, the No Nukes Festival. Ajikan also more and more perform on stage supplied by solar energy. How do your public react?
Masafumi Gotoh: The public is still so numerous and all our fans ask us The Future Times, even if it is not a magazine on music. To organizing festivals under the anti-nuclear banner do not spoil at all our music, at the contrary, the energy is increased. And when we play with instruments and lights powered by solar energy, we are inevitably turn towards the future. Note that the company Eco live system, who has developed this technology elected “Best new product of the year 2011” during the faire Live Design International at the US. It was very encouraging, and many Japanese artists are interested of this product. In Japan, to be green does not rhyme with being hippy or babacool!
Akfgfragments: Do you have any other projects?
Masafumi Gotoh: Yes, for example we would like to translate The Future Times in English. Tsuge, the magazine’s illustrator , also was a member of Ajikan in the very beginning, and had a career in design. There is no coincidence! I am glad to know that abroad fans are sensitive to the magazine’s design even if they may not understand its content.
Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki: Are you planning to do some tourism between two dates of your concerts in Europe?
Masafumi Gotoh: Unfortunately we will be performing every day except on the last day in Germany. If I find the time, I would like to write an article about renewable energy for The Future Times. It is a category in which German people are leaders. Regarding France, I hope there won’t be too many strikes when we will be there! As far as I know, French people would certainly have a lot to teach to Japanese people in that matter. (laughing)