Zoom Japon 30

Zoom Japon 30

This interview was taken by Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki in collaboration with akfgfragments.com administration in 2013 and published in Zoom Japon #30.

Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki: It is your first European tour, how do you imagine the public?o
Masafumi Gotoh: I don’t know, I hope everybody won’t come wearing cosplay! (laughing) Otherwise, we will have to be dressed like this too! Japanese bands known in Europe indeed have a very extravagant look, men are wearing make-up. They are “idols”. But we are very simple!
Kensuke Kita: Yes and 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 was spent together! In the beginning, we did 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 which was previously released on an indie record (Under Flower Records). It was an exceptional circumstance. So we signed, stopped our jobs, because we were also working as employees in companies and we became freeters, part-time employees.

Akfgfragments: Your indies era lasted from 1999 to 2003. Did you have some difficulties producing yourselves?
Masafumi Gotoh: Yes, it wasn’t easy, because we didn’t know how to do so. Everything was handmade. I had a Mac and I promoted 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, and petrol. We were always broke after the shows or the sales, without loss or profit!

Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki: Some of your songs were used as opening for some anime, do you enjoy manga?
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 Hayao Miyazaki. We first composed those songs and then they were taken back for anime openings. It helps us a lot of course to make ourselves known. I like the ninja’s character, 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 from listening to occidental music, but we consider ourselves Asian. This is also a way to say that we can make good music in Asia and that there is no difference. But if we did the same song as 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 liked it, we would be really happy!

Akfgfragments: The band’s reputation is conveyed by Yusuke Nakamura’s very original illustrations. Have you known him for a long time?
Masafumi Gotoh: He is part of the Ajikan family. We have known him since we were still releasing indie albums. Now, we have been working together for more than 10 years. We discovered him because of a postcard. His very Japanese style made me immediately think that it could be an excellent way to spread our image abroad. It was a good feeling!

Alissa Descotes-Toyosaki: You founded the Nano Mugen Festival in 2003 which welcomes Asian and European bands, such as Weezer who went to 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 day. But the idea remains the same. It is about making young bands known on the small stage while inviting well-known bands on the main stage.

Akfgfragments: In March 2011, the Fukushima disaster shook Japan but also the entire world. What were you doing that day?
Masafumi Gotoh: We were rehearsing in Tokyo. The ground has quaked unimaginably. I did not think one second at the moment about the nuclear risk, the made-in-Japan technology couldn’t be questioned, and we were in complete confidence with what the media harped us on about. I returned to Shizuoka and when the explosions began, I asked the other members of the band to meet me there. I was pissed off. We couldn’t at least get a Geiger counter, we didn’t know what was exactly going on.
Kensuke Kita: I stayed locked tight at my place in Yokohama. It was a really dangerous atmosphere for the 13 million inhabitants of the region. But something prevented us from moving. I think we couldn’t believe it.

Akfgfragments: In July 2011, Gotoh became editor-in-chief and journalist. He releases the first issue of The Future Times. How was this initiative 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 what is going on, it’s a shame. Especially after such an accident. Imagine my kid asking me, ‘Dad, what do you think of nuclear?’, and I don’t know how to answer him. Artists who don’t express themselves on that matter are in the business and don’t want to compromise their sponsors. But we, Ajikan, don’t care about it. We are not here to do business. Even if we live from this today, if ever we were stopped being paid, we will always keep making music. And we will keep attacking 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 in Tokyo. I met a lot of musician friends. When the Oi Nuclear power station reactors were rebooted last July, it was amazing and comforting too.

Akfgfragments: By the way, you are with Ryuichi Sakamoto, the originator of the first anti-nuclear festival of Japan, the No Nukes Festival. Ajikan also performs more and more on stage supplied by solar energy. How does your public react?
Masafumi Gotoh: The public is still so numerous and all our fans ask us for ‘The Future Times’, even if it is not a magazine on music. Organising festivals under the anti-nuclear banner does not spoil our music at all, on the contrary, the energy is increased. And when we play with instruments and lights powered by solar energy, we inevitably turn towards the future. Note that the company Eco Live system, which has developed this technology, was elected the ‘Best new product of the Year 2011’ during the Live Design International fair in the US. It was very encouraging, and many Japanese artists are interested in this product. In Japan, to be green does not rhyme with being hippy!

Akfgfragments: Do you have any other projects?
Masafumi Gotoh: Yes, for example, we would like to translate ‘The Future Times’ into 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 foreign 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 the 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)

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Release date: 31 July 2024

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