Best Hit AKG
This is a song-by-song commentary for a compilation album Best Hit AKG released in 2012.
Yuko Honma: Haruka Kanata, from the mini-album Houkai Amplifier, released 25 November 2002.
Masafumi Gotoh: There may have been times when I had to be emotional to keep living. On the one hand, there is the frustration of not getting recognition, and on the other hand, there is a feeling of wanting to fight it out in the live venues. For this message to come across in the song, the energy must be direct. This is because I felt the spirit of the times strongly; a nervous way of going about things.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: This is a song from right after I joined. At the time, Asian Kung-Fu Generation didn’t have any up-tempo songs. I wanted to add the flavour that came from my background in Punk and Hard Rock, and I felt that this was the meaning and mission for my joining the band.
Takahiro Yamada: I think about how rugged sounding the intro no matter how many times I hear the song. I think that how the beat changes towards the end was excellent considering how little we knew back then. The band was formed, and Ijichi joined. A lot of new beginnings took place then for AKG, but I feel that this song was our real start. I’m sure that many people ‘met’ us through this song as well.
Yuko Honma: Mirai no Kakera, a single released on 6 August 2003.
Masafumi Gotoh: This is a song that was created out of the emotional excitement that band members were enjoying, without aim or a call for attention. The chord progression is simply the bottom four strings on a guitar, from lowest; E, A, D, and G. When we sang on top of this progression it sounded cool, so we thought that this would be fun.
Takahiro Yamada: The song is huge. I mean the sound packs some volume within itself, and the emotional parts of the band are embedded in it. This may have been better in terms of an initial impulse. The song got longer and longer because we were creating it impulsively. (laughs)
Kiyoshi Ijichi: This was a time in which each individual’s style and the style of the band as a whole were formed. It was our flavour. For us, Haruka Kanata was an invention. I think the song was promoted because it symbolised this invention and the flavour of this band as a whole.
Kensuke Kita: I felt that the way Gotch sang and his voice was really good. I’m not talking about how he can hit high notes, but his voice has changed over the years. In this song his voice was fresh, and he also sounded desperate. I like that.
Yuko Honma: Understand, from the album Kimi Tsunagi Five M, released 19 November 2003.
Takahiro Yamada: I don’t feel like this song is out of place here, even though it’s not a single. On the contrary, the existence of this song takes the lead, so to speak. We got great reactions when we started playing the song live. Now it has become an indispensable song. As I remember, Understand was a song we ended up making and recording together with Jihei Tansaku. It fascinates me that these two opposite songs were written at the same time.
Kensuke Kita: I like the melody we used for the bridge. This leads me to believe that Gotch did create excellent melodies from the start. The guitar riff is simple so even kids can easily copy it.
Masafumi Gotoh: I think that’s something that makes the song special; that middle school or high school students can cover the song. It’s important that everyone can sing the song, and songs that are so complex that you can’t cover them don’t last long. With these conditions, this is a song that we can never write like this again. It’s not easy to come up with a song that will be celebrated no matter how many times we play it, and that song is power pop.
Yuko Honma: Kimi to Iu Hana, a single released on 16 October 2003.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: It was so difficult for me to perform the bass drum with the 4-beat and the emphasis on the hi-hat. That was the first time our director had yelled at me, ‘You’re awful!’ I’m grateful as this experience is the beginning of my current style of drumming, but it was difficult. On the other hand, I wanted to put everything I had into the song. At that time there weren’t any bands in Japan that did it and we thought it would be fun so we spearheaded the idea. Now it feels like this 4-beat and the strength of the 8-beat that we used in Rewrite has become our patent. That’s how I see it, purely for reasons of my own.
Masafumi Gotoh: That was an innovation. We all thought, ‘This is great!’ when we made this song. The combination of the bass drum with the 4-beat and the hi-hat later led to Loop&Loop. I haven’t mentioned much about the lyrics yet because I’m a bit embarrassed that all the songs up to this point have been love songs. This and Mirai no Kakera. I think I felt at that point that I could have sung love songs if I wanted to. Does that surprise you? Well, the person who wrote the songs says so. (laughs)
Yuko Honma: Rewrite, a single released on 4 August 2004
Masafumi Gotoh: We wrote this song when we were inspired by the anger over the introduction of copy control discs (CCCD). We wrote and discarded many versions, wondering what this apparition meant and wanting it to be an illusion. I was honestly surprised that this song, which I was sarcastic about, would sell so well. (laughs) We didn’t intend to make this song a single at first. That’s why it’s such a mysterious song. We didn’t choose it, it was chosen and it spread.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: The song is featured in Fullmetal Alchemist and thanks to that, we’ve become more famous worldwide because this animation ignited Japanese anime culture. But for me, it hasn’t changed at all since then. Songs are said to mature as they are played live countless times, but I feel like this song hasn’t changed a bit. There are times when we musically express it differently at live events, but the potential of the song is so overwhelming that it all ends up being focused on the chorus. This is our anthem because everyone gets more energetic as soon as we play the song. This is the song where the listener’s reaction doesn’t change.
Yuko Honma: Kimi no Machi Made, a single released on 23 September 2004.
Masafumi Gotoh: This song is like a superalloy robot that we created with all of the special moves we had at the time, to make a pop song (laughter). This was the fruit of our efforts at the time. Our ‘Ajikan style’. We may have been able to put our style out with no shame in Kimi no Machi Made and Rewrite because before these we felt like we one-upped everybody by having two experimental songs, Siren and Loop&Loop. In other words, I wanted to make Sol-Fa a pop album for a wide audience, and I wanted it to be the best we could make using the methods we had accumulated until then. Of course, I wanted to show the world what Ajikan was all about too. To do this, all I have to do is make things that are advanced, right?
Kensuke Kita: This song is pop as well, but I like the light feeling like the weight is being lifted off of your shoulders that hits you from the beginning of the song. It’s a bit different from Understand and Kimi to Iu Hana. What I felt once again this time was that Ajikan has a lot of songs with good intros. I think this is a simple, yet well-made intro as well.
Yuko Honma: Loop&Loop, a single released on 19 May 2004.
Kensuke Kita: This was a time when all four of us felt that we had made an amazing song, back when we didn’t have our current studio and were using the local studio. We felt like we should keep this for the next release (laughter). It was a song we intentionally left out of Kimi Tsunagi, so we were confident that we had a great song in stock for later.
Masafumi Gotoh: We thought that if we put it in Kimi Tsunagi it would just sell too much. We wanted to be ‘emo’ at the time, and we felt that if we were going to break out it should be the second album. We wanted to make Morning Glory for our second album. Putting all things aside, Loop&Loop is a song that will always have a big impact on my career as a songwriter. It’s just purely a good song whether or not it’s pop. I think that this is individuality. It was epoch-making and an invention. Something nobody else can ever write or compose, and something I wouldn’t be able to do again. It was one of my first breakthroughs, following Haruka Kanata, Siren, and Kimi to Iu Hana.
Yuko Honma: Blackout, from the album Asian Kung-Fu Generation presents, ‘Nano Mugen Compilation’ released 8 June 2005.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: In the beginning, I misheard Gotoh’s phrase at the top of the song, and hit an offbeat. He said, ‘It’s off, but it sounds better’. Then, mysteriously, we went on to change the beat back halfway through the song (laughter). Back then, we were saying that it was a ‘good mistake’, but that was a time that we would use any mistakes as long as they made the song more interesting. We were hoping for more mistakes.
Masafumi Gotoh: I think it opened new doors for us. It was a time when we became more aware of rhythm, and Ijichi and I started going into the studio with just the two of us. I felt like Blackout was a great song, but it didn’t resonate too well with the rest of the world (laughter). I thought to myself, ‘Expression is a timing device, so if people understand it a few years from now, that’s OK. Right now, there’s no reason to make an instantly energising song.’ That’s where we enter Fanclub.
Takahiro Yamada: I think how the chorus begins is great. It’s responsibly pop, so I think the whole song is effective as a pop song.
Yuko Honma: Blue Train, a single released 30 November 2005.
Kensuke Kita: This is the first song for which my name was credited for the composition. I like the chord in the intro. I wanted to use that chord. It was Gotoh’s idea for the guitars in the intro to go back and forth.
Masafumi Gotoh: The band had a lot of worries at this time. We had used all of our stock with Sol-Fa and felt the pressure that we had to find a new way to keep the band going. To add to the problems, during the time we were making Fanclub, my mental health was going down the tube. This is a song that Kensuke came up with the idea for, and it was like a light that spread into a song. The image we had was XTC’s Black Sea. At this point, we made Blue Train and Gekkou, and I finally felt like we were leading to an album.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: This was a song in which, as a drummer, my stock went up. It didn’t require much technical skill, but I started in a marching band, and thanks to that the beat I struck was praised by everybody. Although I may sometimes think this is not the case, the song serves as a business card for the drummer, Kiyoshi Ijichi.
Yuko Honma: Aru Machi no Gunjou, a single released 29 November 2006.
Kensuke Kita: This is a song that was created in a period when Ajikan were gradually changing and transitioning from Fanclub to World World World. I wanted to put it in the next album, and I think it’s a satisfactory song for me, partly because we completely trashed a song we were working on right before this one. It’s a song I love. In the song order for World World World, it would fall after World World and Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu, but I wanted to be particular about it and had them put the songs in the order.
Masafumi Gotoh: We analysed Fanclub, and this was at a time when we were moving in a progressive direction. We kept on saying complicated things, ‘Let’s make a 40-minute song’. That’s around the time the talk of a movie came to us, and we made this song. Aru Machi no Gunjou may be the product of my wanting to create a complicated musical piece, therefore escalating my feelings to the point where I was about to break. That’s why this song was made, and I began to feel relaxed after this.
Yuko Honma: After Dark, a single released on 7 November 2007.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: It felt like we finally got to the end of a long tunnel. It felt like something had passed through. We passed Fanclub, and got to World World World, so the speed of the song was different from the initial impact from our starting days. At the end of the day, we are cynical. We won’t come at you in a straight way. If we just had normal choruses, it would be straightforward, and sound cool, and the rhythm section is like drum and bass, and some parts are just disturbing and would leave you restless. (laughs) But we understand this as we make our songs. I felt like at last we have become able to do this collectively as a band.
Takahiro Yamada: We became able to make cool, pop-sounding, and compact songs even when we were trying to do something difficult. The lyrics are positive too.
Masafumi Gotoh: I think this may be the last song we made for World World World. It’s pretty wide open. There is an intent to make colourful what we cut right out of Fanclub.
Yuko Honma: Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu, a single released on 6 February 2008.
Masafumi Gotoh: This is a song we made as we went around summer festivals. Korogaru Iwa means a rock that rolls. It’s rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not ‘Ishi (stone)’! Around the same time, I went to Korea for the first time and noticed something. I never thought that my music would go overseas. Then, we were invited to a rock festival in Korea, and 5,000 people were singing Rewrite. I wondered what the heck was going on, and at the same time, I was emotionally moved. I also felt sad, because I assumed I wouldn’t see these people ever again. I wondered if this was the way life was going to be if it just accumulated like this, where it would lead, and what was waiting for me in the future. I put a lot of these feelings in this song. I used spoken language for the first time in my lyrics, and this brought me closer to my writing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a song I spoke so much about.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: That’s why I want everybody to receive Gotoh’s message. We will support that message with our sounds.
Yuko Honma: Mustang, from the mini-album Mada Minu Ashita ni, released on 11 June 2008.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: It’s rare for a chorus that I thought up to be used. The melody was altered a bit, but I was still happy. So, I felt I could write, and started writing songs, but was severely criticised and quit. (laughs)
Takahiro Yamada: I wanted an indifferent-sounding song with a mid-tempo beat, and brought some ideas with me. That’s where Gotch put that simple intro on top. I like the sadness that it brings about in me.
Masafumi Gotoh: I like the bridge. The part at the end of the chorus where it goes, ‘Woo… Nakusu nanika wo’, it strikes a chord in me. It’s the most romantic song, including lyrics. It was a song while reading the manga Solanin, and I’m singing about losing our young people. For example, the part about the band club synchronised me from the past with me in the present. That’s why it became sort of a reminiscent song. It’s strange how this ends up being the closing song for the movie ‘Solanin’ as Mustang (mix for Meiko).
Yuko Honma: Fujisawa Loser, a single released on 15 October 2008.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: Gotoh kept emailing me that he wanted to do something fun and that he wanted to do something as he pleased. So I hardly gave a thought and we camped out and made this song in a studio in Fujisawa.
Masafumi Gotoh: I think it was kind of a reward for me to be allowed to make this song. Everybody was exhausted from World World World and Mana Minu Ashita ni, but I felt like World World World and Surf Bungaku Kamakura are twins. We needed both something elaborate and woven together and something more primitive. The amazing thing about this album is that we gave songs their names as we made them. When we finished this song, it sounded like the first song, and we were in Fujisawa, hence Fujisawa Loser. The JR train runs there. On platform 3 there is only JR. The protagonist is watching a train headed for Tokyo from the Tokaido line platform. Someone who quit going to work from Fujisawa, and rode the Enoden to go on a journey.
Yuko Honma: Shinseiki no Love Song, a single released on 2 December 2009.
Kiyoshi Ijichi: We learned how to create a demo through Surf Bungaku Kamakura, and that’s the direction we continued in. I tried sampling on my PC at home linked to equipment to record my guitar and put it in reverse, stuff like that. I felt like we had something when the demo for this song was complete. I thought this would change something. I think this is a true breakthrough since I wanted to make a song that would change the times, and hit those born in the 200’s hard. I felt from around this song that I shouldn’t just follow Gotoh, but that I should put my ego up front and keep clashing. We did get into a lot of fights. This is a new style that we created this way, and I think Ajikan’s new handiwork was created at this time. This is the first time that we combined multiple drum takes. We changed drum sets in the second half, and the recording took an entire day. It went well with what Goto was trying to do, and the mood was good.
Yuko Honma: Solanin, a single released on 31 March 2010.
Kensuke Kita: We had the original lyrics by Inio Asao, but there were no restrictions to keep the song as it was. We were even allowed to write new lyrics. Gotch wanted to draw from how people liked the original, so he decided to make a song to the lyrics and did it wonderfully. It became a great song. I can’t say enough about him.
Takahiro Yamada: My first impression when Gotch brought the song was that ‘everybody’s going to fall in love with this’. I was able to rediscover the underlying strength of this band because we were able to incorporate this kind of catchy vibe quite easily. On the other hand, I also thought it was what they expected from Ajikan.
Masafumi Gotoh: Changing the words would be the same as saying the original doesn’t need to exist, and I didn’t want to write an imaginary song. The only thing I changed was the order of the chorus. There was one line in the original (although it wasn’t in the chorus), ‘Tatoe Yurui Shiawasega’, that I thought was crucial in holding the song together.
Yuko Honma: Marching Band, a single released on 30 November 2011.
Kensuke Kita: With the effects of the disaster that hit in March, our tour was cancelled and we couldn’t meet up much either. Of course, we couldn’t make music properly. When we met with just the four of us in April to play our instruments, it was fun again. Musically, rather than showing what Magic Disk would become later, although we made the song much later, we wrote this song with the sounds we wanted to hear and the feeling we had at the time.
Masafumi Gotoh: The boy is a metaphor for myself, and the girl a metaphor for the young generation. I wanted to look back at myself and send encouragement to my young, innocent feelings. I’m in my mid-30s and whether I like it or not, those emotions well up. The ‘Hikare, Kotoba yo’ in the chorus represents me and what words I spell out or just shoot out. I think that whether it’s music or a painting, all expressions of feelings are language, even if words are not involved. The words one speaks will lead the way for their path. Whatever the word, if it is beautiful it will make that person and the whole world around that person beautiful. That’s why I wanted a strong and beautiful word.