Interview with SHIN at HYPER JAPAN, London

interview - 02.09.2017 10:01

Solo rock star SHIN speaks about inspirations, difficult choices and favourite anime at London's HYPER JAPAN Festival.

SHIN, now officially comfortable with calling himself a solo musician, is touring alongside THE SIXTH LIE in Europe and kicking things off here in London at the HYPER JAPAN Festival.

He took time away from the busy schedule of the festival to speak with JaME about the difficulties and highlights from his time with ViViD and continuing as a solo rock singer. Read on to find out what inspires SHIN to create his unique sound and how he is enjoying his time in the UK!

You're here in Europe touring with THE SIXTH LIE. How did that come about?

SHIN: We were labelmates to begin with and all of us were really inspired by western music. We also wanted to create music that would reach out not just to Japanese people but to people abroad, and we were always talking about how it would be great to be able to perform abroad, then this came about so we were very happy. 

Are you surprised by the level of interest in Japanese music around the world?

SHIN: I think it's great that Japanese culture has become more widespread and known by more people. I feel really proud as a Japanese person. I wouldn't really say it's pride, but it makes me feel happy that things are turning out this way and also, at the same time, it makes me want to learn more about other cultures as well. 

On your first album Good Morning Dreamer, one of your songs is called Jack the Ripper - why did you choose to name this song after the infamous serial killer?

SHIN: Well, to start, I was in a band previously and after the band finished I had about two years for myself to figure out what I wanted to do. Also, I was talking to people such as agents to kind of try to find a way to transform from a band member to a singer. I have this idea about what I'd like to achieve, but transforming from a band member to a solo singer isn't an easy transformation, and so people told me to compromise here and there, but then I found things that I could not compromise on and I had my own goal that I really wanted to achieve. So, while I was going through this process of facing my dream ... it was a painful period that made me feel as if I was being murdered by my own dream and ambition. That is why I gave the song that title.

Your Twitter handle is "@white_judas", and it seems to be a running theme with your fanclub. Can you tell us more about what that is about?

SHIN: There was a festival, an event like HYPER JAPAN but in Japan, and I was invited to perform as a secret guest singer after the band finished. I was willing to do that, however, I wanted to keep it a secret because I hadn't quite got to where I wanted to be at the time, so I had this name "white judas" as a kind of a fake name ... a temporary name ... until I became ready to come out with my own name and songs. Now, the music is more guitar rock, but back then I was making music that was more ambient that would be more suited maybe to London (laughs) or something like that! So that name belonged to that music, and it is really important to me because if I say that "I am One", white judas was zero. It was before anything was started. 

You said earlier that you are coming to tour Europe because you like western music. Are there any bands here or in Europe that have influenced you?

SHIN: Avril Lavigne! (laughs) Nickleback ... There are so many! (more laughter) Movie music ... from “Rocky” (laughs). I'm influenced by that kind of music. 

Many artists who are targeting the overseas market have collaborated with foreign artists for new songs. If you could collaborate with a UK or American musician, who would choose? Why them?

SHIN: I'm not quite there yet! ... (thinks) ... who it would be? Bon Jovi! (laughs)

That's a good choice!

SHIN: Thank you!

What was it that made you want to start singing in the beginning? Were there any musicians that originally inspired you?

SHIN: I became a musician because I had no other choice. I wasn't interested in anything else. It was only recently that I came to realise that I was going to be a musician. I really am not interested in anything but music. In terms of influences ... It’s "Rocky" (laughs) and Sylvester Stallone...and as for musicians (thinks), who would that be? If I am to name Japanese musicians, it would be CHEMISTRY, who are a duo. Those guys!

Why did you decide to make the move to become a solo musician, and has there been anything particularly challenging about the transition from a band to a solo artist?

SHIN: I became a solo artist because when I started to make music I realised by being solo I would be able to express myself 120%, and I'm really happy that I'm now in an environment where I am able to do that directly. I can send my message, my approach, directly to my audience, but I always strive to look for what I really want, what I truly want to do. 
What I mean by that is, in order to create one song, I would write 100 songs and I would choose the one that truly is what I want to do. That process is quite daunting but, at the same, it is rewarding when I truly get it.

Many bands and artists have a ritual or process they go through before they go on stage. Do you have one?

SHIN: I avoid talking because it wears down my voice. I pretend that I'm asleep (laughs).

When you were speaking about your influences, by "Rocky" do you mean the movies with Sylvester Stallone? What kind of movies influence you when you're writing your music?

SHIN: Yes, by “Rocky” I meant the Sylvester Stallone movie (laughs). I also like “Shawshank Redemption”! (laughs) I was very touched, very moved, by "Shawshank Redemption" because its story is full of hope. There’s so much hope in it.

So it's more the emotion behind the movie?

SHIN: Of course there are movies where I particularly like the music and those where I like the stories, but overall any movies that move me are important.

We know you have also sung anime songs with your previous band ViViD - do you have a favourite anime yourself, or one that you would like to sing for?

SHIN: There are many animation series I would love to sing for. I love animation a lot. I enjoy watching “Pokemon” (laughs). “Yu-Gi-Oh”. “Kamen Rider” ... after 2000's “Kamen Rider” series!

What kind of animation series would you like to sing for?

SHIN: Anything is fine if there is an offer, but I would like to sing for an animation that is touching.

What type of animation series would suit your musical style?

SHIN: A cool and stylish one (laughs). Like “BLEACH” (laughs).

What can the general public, who have never seen you perform before, expect from your performances?

SHIN: Yesterday’s show was really like what you just asked me now, I'm sure that most of the audience didn't really know me, so it was interesting to see the response that I got from the audience is slightly different. Things that they do in Japan — for example, when I say "Oy oy oy!" people will respond "Oy oy oy!" back in Japan, but yesterday they didn't. The crowd just went along with it, but then they looked like they were truly enjoying themselves, so that was really encouraging, but also I think for those haven't seen my performances I could say that I could alter my performance in order for anybody to enjoy it, which would allow me to be more flexible and free.

You mentioned in your comment video that when you went to France it was everything that you imagined it to it the same for England?

SHIN: England is more beautiful than I imagined. I really like beautiful things, and I find the architecture here really beautiful. I could enjoy watching scenery like this forever. Yesterday I was going around and taking lots of pictures, and it's really, really pretty ... I'd like to move here when I get older.

Are there any funny or interesting stories you have from touring?

SHIN: There was this guy that I went on tour with — he wasn't a band member, but he was smoking from a shisha pipe and he was actually smoking marijuana, so I was a bit shocked by that!

Apart from this tour you are doing in Europe, what else are you planning?

SHIN: After the EU tour, I have my first solo tour in Japan, so I'm hoping to get as much inspiration as I can from here and hopefully that will help me grow as a musician for when I come back.

In April, along with releasing Jack the Ripper, you also released Dirty Harry. Could you tell us more about that song and what the themes are or what the title is referring to?

SHIN: “Dirty Harry” comes from “Dirty Harry Syndrome”, and I don't know if you guys are familiar with the term, but it's actually a mental disease of a young police officer who abuses his power in order to achieve his way of justice, and even though it could be wrong, he just forces his justice on people...

We see that kind of justice a lot in our society. So, the message is to really reflect and face ourselves before we selfishly enforce our own justice onto others. I used to follow the wrong sort of justice myself, and it made me sad as a consequence when I was younger. So, the song is inspired by my determination to be true to my own conscience during my life as a musician. I do not want to enforce the wrong kind of justice on others, I want to be true to my faith.

Could you leave a message for our readers?

SHIN: I am really happy for this opportunity and to be able to perform abroad, but I am sure that there are so many people who still don't know me. I would like to carry on growing as a musician so that next time I come back I'll be an even better musician. I am looking forward to seeing you again next time. I put my life on the line for my musical career, so please continue to support me!

JaME would like to thank SHIN and HYPER JAPAN for this interview opportunity.
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