Interview with [Champagne]

interview - 31.05.2013 10:01

Tokyo rockers [Champagne] speak to JaME before their first overseas gig.

It was a landmark day for [Champagne]: their dream to play in the UK had finally come true at a gig at The Pipeline bar in London on 15th May, presented by Japan Underground. Vocalist and band leader Kawakami Yoohei and bassist Isobe Hiroyuki took some time to talk to JaME and flex their rested English-speaking muscles. They were joined by guitarist Shirai Masaki and drummer Shoumura Satoyasu, and gave us a fascinating insight into their ambitions, the influence of Michael Jackson and a bizarre use of lemon juice.

Hello and welcome to London! This is your first time playing in the UK—how are you feeling about playing here?

Yoohei: Well we all grew up with music from the UK, like Oasis, Primal Scream, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles of course, so it was a strange feeling to not come here to play. So we decided to come here! We asked the manager, "Can we go to the UK, can we go to the UK?" for three years and it's a dream come true. We're really happy.
Hiroyuki: We've been wanting to play in the UK for the past 13 to 15 years. It's always been one of our biggest dreams to play in the UK. It's our pleasure to be here tonight.

Why London in particular?

Yoohei: Well, we could play in Manchester of course; we'd like to play in Liverpool maybe. We didn't have any reason. I thought it would be cool to play in London first.

Anywhere else you'd like to play sometime soon?

Yoohei: Oh yeah, Glastonbury maybe.
Hiroyuki: Of course. That's our final goal. In a way. It's not the final destination, but ...
Yoohei: To play as a headliner for Glastonbury is very difficult. It's very hard and maybe some people are gonna say it's stupid.
Hiroyuki: Dreams have to be big, you know.
Yoohei: That's what Noel Gallagher said. He's our teacher.

You've said that the band name was chosen because of the Oasis song Champagne Supernova. What sort of impact did they have on the band, and have any other Britpop or Britrock bands played a part?

Yoohei: Well I like their music of course, but I also like their attitude toward their audience and to the press. Even though we're not so like them, we're not ... bad! (laughs)
Hiroyuki: Yeah we're not like them actually! We don't take any drugs, as you can see!
Yoohei: I like their attitude, to be a rock star. Even though we can't be like them, they told us to be like us. As they sang on the song called Supersonic, "I need to be myself."
Hiroyuki: They told us how good it is to be number one. And ...
Yoohei: To be yourself.
Hiroyuki: Yeah.
Yoohei: And play rock and roll.

Yoohei grew up in Syria and Hiroyuki in America. Do you think the multicultural mix influences your music?

Yoohei: Well, there was only one television channel in Syria, and the channel broadcast nothing. I couldn't buy CDs and I couldn't listen to any music. One day satellite came to my house, and I could watch MTV and MCM. I don't really think Syrian music was a big influence on me but I listened to all the MTV music and that really influenced me, like Nirvana and Oasis.

Your upcoming album's called Me No Do Karate.—what's behind the title choice?

Yoohei: You knew that already! We decided like one week ago! When I was in Syria, everyone said to me "Hey, karate! Judo!" and I was like, "I don't do karate, I'm not Chinese. I don't do judo." But that sentence was really funny for me and it was in my mind for all these years, so I said what about this sentence "Me No Do Karate" and they said "Ok, that sounds fine." Of course it doesn't have any meaning!

So it doesn't reflect the content of the album?

Yoohei: No.
Hiroyuki: We're kind of a band like that. We don't reason out things, no reason is fine.
Yoohei: It sounds fun, sounds cool.

What inspired the writing on this latest album?

Yoohei: I had no inspiration because we had no time. We had really little time. All we got to do was make the music without thinking anything. The manager told us to "make music, make more songs like that!" (bangs on the table). Then the album came out. We didn't have any plans about what kind of album it would be.
Hiroyuki: It turned out fine.
Yoohei: Yeah it turned out fine of course. We never have any theme, and especially this one.

Yoohei, you like dancing like Michael Jackson!

Yoohei: I love it, yes.

Does his music also influence you?

Yoohei: I think his rhythm does—putting the words and drumming into very short terms. Oasis's music has rhythm which is long tone, like "tun-tun-taan" (imitates slow drums) and similar. But Michael Jackson is "ton-tuka-tuka ta-ton-tuka-tuka" (imitates a very fast, rhythmic beat). I like Oasis better as a band, and rock and roll. But I'm more into Michael Jackson's rhythm myself, and I love it.

So it's a mix of those styles?

Yoohei: Yes, I think so.
Hiroyuki: So his requirements to our drummer when making songs are pretty tough.
Yoohei: "Please make it sound more like Michael Jackson!"

(To Satoyasu) Does he give you a hard time?

Satoyasu: (laughs) Yes!
Yoohei: We get into fights all the time in recording. Of course we're friends and we like each other's rhythm. During the recording, you know, we fight.
Satoyasu: (In English) But ... the most exciting thing in my life is to make music with the band members.

Yoohei, you have a habit of squeezing lemon juice into your eye at the end of shooting music videos ... ?

Hiroyuki: (laughs)
Yoohei: Aah, that's not a habit!
Hiroyuki: Yeah, it is a habit! Let's say it is a habit. (laughs)
Yoohei: I just did it once, for that movie. But we do it often when we go and have a drink.
Hiroyuki: We've all done it before. You should try it once. It's pretty cool.
Yoohei: Of course it doesn't have any meaning!

Well because of that I've brought you a present ...

Yoohei: Oh really? I hope it's not something that's yellow—oh

It's a lemon! (presents lemon to Yoohei)

(All laugh)
Yoohei: Oh, thank you very much!

You guys have been on the main music scene for only a few years, but you've been together for much longer than that. What have been the highlights of the past decade for you?

Hiroyuki: Everything is a highlight.
Yoohei: We made our debut three years ago, and that was the most sensational thing in our history. And today of course we're playing in the UK.
Hiroyuki: Right. This is one of our history pages.

What's next on the agenda?

Yoohei: Well, we never have any plans except for Glastonbury. Maybe we can come back here, maybe next year. Or maybe we can go to France, and we can go to Taiwan or Korea. But our final goal is to be the headliner for Glastonbury. We don't have any plans. Well maybe our manager has a plan. We don't have plans!
Hiroyuki: Even though our dream is big, the band is all about taking it step by step. So I guess that's the only plan we have, taking steps.
Yoohei: (points to manager) That's his job! (laughs)

Finally, do you have a message for your fans?

Yoohei: (to Masaki) Do you have any message for the fans? He doesn't speak! (laughs)
Masaki: (In Japanese) I want to go all around the world, not just Japan. I'll be happy if all the people around the world have fun with us.

JaME would like to thank [Champagne], their manager Ikki Chida from UK.PROJECT and Tom Smith from Japan Underground for making this interview possible.
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