This is it, folks! The end of the decade! Tied up with the gothical flowery and snow-white ribbon of a wonderful DIQ, and now we're ready for the countdown! Lots of things are happening in Buck-Tickistan, and we'll be writing all about them soon, but for now, we'd like to finish 2020 with this surprisingly candid and introspective latest FT interview with Mr. Sakurai, in which he delves into his creative process for writing the new single, and offers some excellent advice for starting the new decade. Given the extremely poor behavior of the fans at the last standing tour, his remark about "a live house tour where we can all have fun together" reads just a teeny, weeny little bit like a threat. That's our Acchan-chan, eh? Even rainbow pixie-dust unicorn kittens have fangs!
However, all of y'all Blog-Tickers have been exemplary in how to be awesome fans and keep the good vibes vibing. Thank you all for the support you gave us this year, even though we weren't able to blog much. It really meant the world to us. We saw some dark, dark times, but you were one of the lights that kept us going. But before we get cheesy, we'll just say that Mr. Sakurai's summary of his 2019 would be just as true about the 2019 we had. So we figured we'd use his words instead of ours:
"In the first year of Reiwa  I went through some tough times, but also found some unexpected happiness, so it was a year with many ups and downs. Next year, I'd like everyone to become happier. I don't want to keep it all inside myself, I'd like to send good energy out into the world. I'd like to have a little more fun next year. I want to go outside and have fun."
Buckle up and get ready to have an out-of-this-world 2020.
FT: So, did you spend some time relaxing over the summer, before moving into album production in the fall?
Sakurai: That's right. After "Locus Solus no Kemono-tachi" was over, I got to relax a little bit. Maybe I relaxed a bit too much (laughs). This year, we had the rescheduled lives starting from March, and then Makuhari, so I wanted to take some time out, so I asked for a vacation.
FT: You've been working nonstop for a few years now.
Sakurai: Because of the 30th anniversary, that's how it ended up. I think my body was crying for help.
FT: After No. 0, what direction are you thinking of going next with Buck-Tick?
Sakurai: Actually, I thought that first I should just make myself completely empty. It feels a little scary to go empty, but being in a little bit of crisis mode is more inspiring for me, so I thought it might be more inspiring for listeners. I was thinking vaguely along those lines.
FT: After you let yourself be empty, did you go out anywhere looking for inspiration?
Sakurai: Did I...? I went to the Klimt and Basquiat exhibits... but aside from going out, lots of things happened this year. Maybe I said this before, but a friend of mine from our debut days died, and while it might not have appeared on the surface that I was very active, on a personal level lots of things happened, and I had a lot of violent mood swings. While I felt like I should be getting out more, I just hid in my house.
FT: I see. So did you get demo tapes and start working on the album during this period?
Sakurai: That's right. When we decided to release a single, I had two songs, one from Imai that wasn't "Datenshi," and one from Hide. I thought, will these two songs really make a single? They're both very gentle. I wonder if this will work? The songs are excellent. But it was a pair of sweet ballads, so when I was asking myself, is this really what's expected of us? Imai sent me another song. That song was very rock, hard and edgy, so I thought it would work better. Because of the timing, we had to make the call based on the demo tapes. At that point, I hadn't yet thought about the lyrics at all.
FT: "Datenshi" isn't the sort of word you've used as a title in the past.
Sakurai: That's right. When I started working on it and thinking about the lyrics, it just popped into my head. It's a very simple word I've used many times before, but it feels brave and pure to me. I thought it was perfect for the content of the lyrics.
FT: What was your starting point for writing these lyrics?
Sakurai: My own simmering anger was part of it. Is it okay if I'm not like this? What should I do? What do I want to do? What am I guessing or assuming? Et cetera. I thought I would use writing as a way to move one step deeper in. I always consider things like, if I write this, will it hurt someone, or make someone upset? But I thought I should move one step deeper in.
FT: By that, do you mean one step deeper into yourself?
Sakurai: Yes, I'm talking about myself. The thing that hurts me most easily... how should I say it? I can express it the most persuasively because it's the theme that hits closest to home. I'm working on it so that I can accept it. So that when I listen to the song, it shoots me in the heart.
FT: Why so aggressive?
Sakurai: I write so I can fully become it. Without hesitating, without rejecting it, to just get through it. Because it's me. And there's that bad-boy element of rock, which I wanted to incorporate. I wanted something bad-boy, expressing sexuality, expressing cynicism and nihilism.
FT: You've used the phrase "love is an illusion" a number of times in the past.
Sakurai: Partly, I mean it. And partly, I wanted to say that I don't want it to be that way. I suppose you could say I'm trying to balance it out a little with a little bit of sweet fragrance.
FT: So, tell us about "Luna Park."
Sakurai: At first, the tempo was different, and the melody changed a little, so I had a lot of trouble with this one. It made me think vaguely of Chagall's paintings. It ended up as a bit of a fairy tale, but this song is platonic, with the ephemeral feel of a circus or traveling amusement park. I thought I would blend these themes in with the bright melody.
FT: I see. They're very cinematic lyrics.
Sakurai: It's like a little boy or little girl who are feeling excited to go to the circus or amusement park tomorrow, but the next day, the circus will have moved on. And they say "see you tomorrow" without knowing that. Fun things don't last forever. I was the kind of child who would think about those kinds of things in advance, but I thought I'd make a song to help people hold onto their dreams a little bit more. It's not one of those black and white films where the performers have a drink after the show, or one falls in love with a girl from the same circus troupe, but it definitely calls that old-film style to mind.
FT: I felt that I heard yet a new Buck-Tick.
Sakurai: I want to take on new challenges. I think the other members do as well.
FT: Did the recording go smoothly?
Sakurai: Yes, it did. I was still getting over being sick, but I was careful to at least not catch a cold. Our director Tanaka and engineer Hiruma helped me through it.
FT: So you sing "Datenshi" like a bad-boy, and "Luna Park" in a gentle voice.
Sakurai: This one's the bad brother, this one's the good brother. Excuse me, I meant old man.
FT: No, you can say brother (laughs). So, we'll be able to hear "Datenshi" early on the Day in Question 2019 tour?
Sakurai: We're planning on playing it, but it's a sort of rehearsal? It depends on how it comes together.
FT: What kind of tour will it be?
Sakurai: Well, we've played all kinds of songs, but somehow we end up playing songs we're used to playing, so we decided to fix that and choose songs we haven't played in a while.
FT: Did you choose any of the songs?
Sakurai: I chose "Flame."
FT: "Flame" was the top pick in last edition's questionnaire on "What Buck-Tick song would you most like to hear as an acoustic arrangement?"
Sakurai: Really, it was the top pick? Is that right. We won't be playing an acoustic version this time, but I'm glad I chose it. So "Narcissus" was number three... interesting! I hope we get a chance to play it some time.
FT: Did you choose the set list for this year's DIQ?
Sakurai: I usually put together most of the set list, but this time, Hide did it. Apparently he was busy and wasn't able to choose any songs, but then he made the whole set list out of nowhere and really surprised me (laughs). But we haven't started rehearsing yet, so I don't know how it will work out.
FT: And you'll be releasing a tribute album on the same day as the single. Did you listen to it?
Sakurai: I listened to all the songs that have been finished up to this point. This is tooting our own horn, but I really thought that Imai and Hide's songs and my lyrical world are good stuff. Having other people step into our world let me see it in a new way. It was very interesting and I felt touched. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone [who worked on the tribute album]. You each expressed your own individuality, and you brought out the best in our songs. I felt moved.
FT: When I heard Fujimaki Ryota's "Just One More Kiss," I thought again what a pure and innocent song it is.
Sakurai: That's right. I felt the same way (laughs). I thought wow, this is actually a good song, it makes me cry. Fujimaki's arrangement and vocals really brought that out. And Issay (of Der Zibet) was wonderful. Der Zibet were the first band to finish recording for us. What lovely senpai they are!
FT: You've already got a release and a tour planned for the first half of 2020, but what do you want for 2020 as a whole?
Sakurai: In the first year of Reiwa  I went through some tough times, but also found some unexpected happiness, so it was a year with many ups and downs. Next year, I'd like everyone to become happier. I don't want to keep it all inside myself, I'd like to send good energy out into the world. I'd like to have a little more fun next year. I want to go outside and have fun. I hope the tour will be an opportunity to make that happen.
FT: Do you have a final message for everyone?
Sakurai: Throw away your books and go out into the city (laughs). Or you could take your books out into the city. We'll be starting with a live house tour where everyone can have fun together, so let's make it a good year. Please, take care of your health, and be happy.
Leave us your New Year thoughts in the comments. And don't shake the champagne or it will pleasure itself all over your carpet!