FT 094 Interview with Sakurai Atsushi

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 [2019] 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 [2019] 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!


DIQ Ticket, Androgynous Angels, DIQ Goods, Cayce's Christmas and other stories

Hey, kids. First off, an announcement: despite all that hard-scrabble heartache trying to wangle non-existent tickets to this year's The Day in Question 2019, somehow we ended up with an extra ticket to the DIQ show on December 29th in Yoyogi, Tokyo. If you're interested, send us an email!


Second, the jacket art for Datenshi has been released, and in fact, there are two whole jacket arts to see! First is this original drawing by Uno Aquirax for the limited edition:

Second is this eerily effeminate soft-focus photo of Mr. Sakurai for the regular edition:

The images mirror each other than that both Mr. Sakurai and the girl in Uno Aquirax's work are holding similar poses, hand raised, fingers curled expressively. Sakurai's dark eyeliner and lipstick also echo the face of Uno Aquirax's lady. Aquirax's drawing is obscure - though that's probably no more to be expected. What is that shape in the foreground? Is it some kind of stylized rendition of a map of Japan? What's the photo in the background? Is it Mount Fuji or somewhere else? As in much of Aquirax's work, the nature imagery is strong, conjuring images of pagan rites or animal medicine. The girl holds a flower that might be a higanbana, which on closer inspection reveals itself to be made of devil faces. A tree sprouts from her head, as if she's some kind of earth goddess. She has both a man's leg (devoid of garters but we're pretty sure we know who's leg that is) and a bird's leg - is this Inter Raptor back again? 

Meanwhile, the photo of Sakurai seems like an overt reference to both "Dress" and "Heaven" - the feminine make-up and misty lens call to mind the looking-glass gender-bending of the "Dress" music video, while the overall white color scheme mirrors the cover of "Heaven" while making it clear that this time, it's after the fall - black hair, black lips, no all-white innocence anymore. In addition, Buck-Tick's home page has this mysterious new title graphic, in which the band members embrace empty white cutouts:

What does it mean? Sakurai has been working with the idea of duality and non-duality for a long time, and on the topic of "Satan," he stated in one of the Rock & Read interviews that he wasn't interested in any subject that couldn't be seen from more than one perspective. This theme appears in many songs - "Cabaret," "Melancholia," "Mudai," "Bishuu Love" - but "Dress" may be the song in which Sakurai explored it most fully - a love song to his inner woman, his reflection, his looking-glass self. The twin soul idea was the central theme of Shiina Ringo's "Elopers," but now it seems that in visuals, at least, all the Buck-Tick members are joining in to explore this theme. Who is the other half, the other self? Where can she be found? There's no question that the Divine Feminine is denied and repudiated in society today. Without restoring balance between masculine and feminine energies, how can we heal the problems we've inflicted on the natural world (that Uno Aquirax draws so beautifully) and in human society? If Buck-Tick are speaking up for balance, it's a message everyone should listen to.


And third, on a completely different topic, the tour goods for The Day in Question 2019.

Ugly rubber bands that cost a whole 500 yen each!

Cute little band member charms that cost a whole 500 yen each and you can't choose the band member (random draw, yo) and what they didn't tell you is that that Acchan-chan ones don't actually exist, they just pretend they do to get the fangirls to spend moar moar MOAR moneyzzz hoping against hope that they can snag a Ken-doll smooth round plastic Acchan-chan to stick down their underpanties! Tough luck, suckers!

Trading cards that cost a whole 1000 yen for one pack, that's 200 yen per small laminated piece of paper. But who are we to judge? These are memories in the making!

This absolutely beautiful tour towel featuring a black-and-white graphic of a cosmos flower. And it's 100% cotton and made in Japan. 2000 yen.

This ridiculous fake-leather coffee cup holder for the Starbucks-addicted among y'all! 2500 yen.

This year's guitar pick set, a bit uninspired, but Hide's making the most out of that 66-6-16 birthday of his! 666, Number of the Beast? Nu-uh, more like number of the Sexy Beast!!! #SexyBeastHide Another 2500 yen.

The tour pamphlet, featuring another lovely cosmos flower graphic. What will we find inside? Fake candles? Photoshopped wrinkles? Faux-fur mumus? Ball-jointed-doll makeouts? For 3500 yen, you can be the one to find out!

A very expensive "multi-case" featuring a vaguely zebra-striped Buck-Tick logo print. If you have 4800 yen you'd like to throw away.

A very expensive spotted tote bag. Nice, but maybe not bestial enough? Where are the feathers, the horns, the pink eyeshadow? 5500 yen.

The tour t-shirt, complete with tour dates on the back and the band members pictured as flowers on the front. We have to say, this is one of their best tour t-shirt designs in recent memory. Simple, elegant, black and white, no bullshit, no extraneous ugly colors, and no graphics depicting the band members as unappetizing forkfuls of food. It even comes in four sizes: small, medium, large, and extra large. 3800 yen.

What is the point of this other t-shirt? Nothing about this is original or interesting in any way. And it costs 1700 yen more than the other t-shirt just because it has a tiny useless pocket over the left nipple. What about that poor cold right nipple, eh? 5500 yen. If you want a pocket for your right nipple you have to pay extra.

An 8-bit Christmas t-shirt that only comes in sizes medium and large, because thankfully, Buck-Tick understand that small people hate Christmas. 4500 yen, because Christmas celebrates the Birth of the God of Capitalism and everyone should spend, spend, spend.

Oh wow, kids, here it is! The first-ever hoodie Buck-Tick have ever made that's actually cool looking! Took twenty years or more, but zomg, those years paid off! It looks great! Look at that red-lined hood! Those simple, elegant, black and white graphics of pretty flowers, devoid of extraneous ugly colors! Why did you have to appear in the year when Cayce's broke and can't buy you, eh? 9500 yen, for people who've been saving for twenty years for this bittersweet moment. If anyone wants to buy us this one for Christmas, we'll wrap it around our cold lil' shoulders and sing you a Christmas carol Acchan-chan style and love you forevermore. (What carol would he sing? "In the Bleak Midwinter"? "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella"? "The Holly and the Ivy"? Leave your vote in the comments!)

And finally, for those of you who are still old-fashioned enough that you enjoy the anachronistic thrill of paper notebooks, the obligatory Buck-Tick agenda, 2020. God we love these. They have about 5000% as much personality as a smart phone and they don't even need to be charged in a wall socket. Plus, everyone in the know knows that 2020 is the year when the aliens make contact with earth. You'll want a hard copy record of the events to come, and Buck-Tick is here to help (what they're not telling you is that they ARE the aliens... they've been hiding in plain sight this whole time... why did you think Imai was so weird? "Buck-Tick Agenda," oh yes, oh yes they have an Agenda... oh shit, we weren't supposed to say that! We blew it! If you don't see us posting, assume the FBI swallowed us whole and say a prayer for our souls. Or, y'know, call Agent Mulder.)


And now, what you really want... the band member produced goods!

First up, a t-shirt with an angsty photo of Acchan-chan, and Acchan-chan's angsty-looking initials! T-shirt: 500 yen. Acchan-chan mojo: 6000 yen. That's awfully cheap for Acchan-chan mojo, kids. Snap it up while you can and you'll have the neighborhood cats all over you screaming for love till you're nothing but a dried-up drained husk lying lifeless in the street.

Second, the Hoshino Hidehiko Conservative Japanese Middle Aged Lady Approved Boring Colors Collection. It's a well-known fact that "fine upstanding citizens" in Japan shrink and shy from ever wearing any color that could be considered cool, stylish, funky, sexy, or God forbid, fun. Serious People wear beige. Serious People wear charcoal grey. Serious People wear brown. And if they're feeling eDgY, they wear navy blue. Because black is a scary color for scary, bad people who like scary, bad things like rock-n-roll bands, evil guitars and leopard-spotted hellcats. Serious People eschew graphic prints for something sensible. Take your pick: stripes or polkadots? Could be whimsical, but not in Serious People Colors (tm). Show them how grown up you are this Christmas. Show them that even Muji is too fashion-forward for you. Show them you choose Old Man Hide's for all your "fashion" needs.

Boring Color Towels, 1800 yen (boring colors cost more to dye than fun colors!)

Boring Color Sex Toy Case Cosmetics Case, 3500 yen. (Do people who wear colors this boring even bother with makeup? And we know they don't use *gasp* sex toys. Clutch your pearls now!)

(We are sorry, Hide. We still love you. But these colors are really, really boring.)

But! As if in defiance to the Boring Colors, we have the A-Fucking-Dorable Cute AF Serious Bear Lolita Edition goods!

A DIQ Christmas stocking with Serious Bear's lil' head poking out? 2000 yen, but that's a small price for the joy this will bring you.

Or what about a floral-print Serious Bear coffee mug, complete with a Serious Bear figurine head to keep your coffee as warm as your warmed-up heart? Awwww. 3800 yen is nothing for this level of good cheer.

But if this feels a wee bit too childish for your old-man self, why not try Yagami Toll's Old Man Collection?

Reading glasses, complete with case, for your failing eyes. Collaboration with ZoffDeca. Comes in a choice of black or purple leopard print. No boring colors here! 10000 yen for brand-name cachet.

And a super-cool Buck-Tick logo digest tissue case, so you can cart around enough tissues to wipe your winter cold runny nose in style. 3500 yen.

Everyone knows that the best part of winter is sleeping. It's cold and snowy outside. It's dark all day. So why leave your futon? But if you always felt that the one thing missing in that fluffy, comfy, warm futon of yours was a little bit of trashy Imai style in Certified Definitely Not Boring Colors, wow, has Imai got just the thing for you: the Evil GTR Sleepwear Collection, Sleep With Imai Sleep Imai Style 2019.

Zomg! Imai-print pajamas! And then come in a men's and a lady's version! You can die, sleep, perchance to dream happy! 9500 yen, but this is a steal. These will be collectors' items. Get a pair for you and one for your honey-bun to wear while you listen to Buck-Tick in bed!

And while you're at it, get the Imai-print bedroom slippers to match, so your little toeses won't be cold when you have to get up to pee after drinking too much tea! 3800 yen.

And finally... last but not least... this incredibly beautiful object that hardly looks as though it came from Planet Earth. We haven't cried this hard over tour goods since the GothyGoth Scarf of 2017, a whole two years ago (that's a long fucking time! Kids go from bundles of cells to pooping, puking bundles of mayhem in two years!!!) It looks like it came from the same collection as the GothyGoth Scarf 2017... a collection we might title, "The Inside of Cayce's Sadly Yearning, Horticulturally Enthusiastic Gothical Soul (or what's left of it after several Seasons in Hell)." That butterfly, kids! The butterfly of the soul, of transformation. Black for mystery and magic, red for blood and passion. Butterfly as mask, symbol of the transformation from persona and roleplayed ego-self to the truth of the inner self, or higher-self, everted into that crazy, out-of-control, out-of-season flower garden Mr. Sakurai loves to sing about. Roses for love, poppies for dreams, red lilies for sacrifice, alstromeria for survival, devotion, and never giving up, pink peonies for the Divine Feminine. We could write a whole paper on this bag. Surely the only objects appropriate to carry in the hallows of this bag are power crystals, tarot cards, Ollivander ebony-and-unicorn-hair magic wands, red lipstick, Buck-Tick perfume, purikura of your beloved, special brownies, Shinto good-luck charms, seashells from Okinawa, miniature bottles of wine, sex toys, 45 rpm vinyl records, extremely tiny yet playable guitars, and pictures of your cats. How is this only 3800 yen? 

As always, we're willing to line up for goods for our readers far and wide who can't make it to Japan this year, or help you order them through the B-T web shop, so if you want to order any of these items through us, just send us an email and we will do our best to get you what you crave.