Interview with SUGIZO

interview - 31.10.2008 12:00

Taking a time out to talk with us as Juno Reactor finished the US leg of their tour, JaME met up with the ever-busy SUGIZO.

After going to Mexico, electronica trance group Juno Reactor returned to the US for the first time in seven years, this time with several new additions to the group, including legendary guitarist SUGIZO. As the US leg of their tour wrapped up, SUGIZO took some time out of his hectic schedule to chat, in English, with JaME.

Thank you for meeting with us! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

SUGIZO: Me? Introduce? You know me! (laughs) I'm SUGIZO from Japan. I am a composer and guitarist. Luna Sea was my first musical activity, then I went solo and now I have so many projects; for example S.K.I.N. and X JAPAN, and of course Juno Reactor. I am a musical critic. A music junkie. I am addicted to music, music makes me happy. Usually, I am swimming in a musical ocean.

How has the tour been?

SUGIZO: The tour... It's been a crazy hard schedule (laughs) but so perfect. Of course I've gotten to meet so many American fans and have seen so many nice places. For example, Aspen was so beautiful. Denver was also beautiful, and I really wanted to go to San Francisco for a long time. Every place I go is very, very important to me. Mexico was so wonderful too, and Chihuahua's festival was huge! This tour has been the hardest tour of my musical life.

Can you tell us a bit about Juno Reactor?

SUGIZO: I was a huge fan of Juno Reactor over ten years ago and I really respected all the members. Ben is a great composer and conductor for Juno Reactor. I really respect him musically. We have four great African performers. They are great in everything they do. Mabi is over 60 years old, but his group is so real and youthful. Every time they play, I get a lot of inspiration from them. It's a big honor for me. I mean, I really wanted a black brother when I was a teenager. I really like Miles Davis, a black musician from Queens, New York. I really like that kind of music. Juno Reactor is a very important group for music. I mean, music has no border, music can go anywhere, you know? Makes the world one, gives it unity. For that, I think Juno Reactor is the most important group. I am Japanese, we have four performers, Amapondo, from Africa, drummer Greg is American, Ben and Tamsyn are from the United Kingdom and there's another great performer, Ghetto Priest. He came from Jamaica. It's so interesting.

How did you get involved with Juno Reactor?

SUGIZO: At first, I talked to Ben and Juno Reactor's Japan agent maybe over three years ago. I really wanted to work with Juno Reactor. Do you know my mix album for "Spirituarise"?


SUGIZO: That remix is Juno's work. That was our first contact. The next time I met Ben was in Tokyo for a Japanese magazine interview. It was such a great feeling. At that time, Amapondo joined Juno Reactor in Japan for a huge trance music festival. Before me as guitarist, they had Steve Stevens. Do you know Steve Stevens?


SUGIZO: No?! You don't know?! (surprised) Steve Stevens is a huge, famous, American guitarist from the 80's! You know Billy Idol?


SUGIZO: He's the guitarist! Steve Stevens, I think, is very original. At first he was guitarist for the band, but I think maybe they had a complicated relationship and Ben needed another guitarist. I think I am very good for Juno Reactor. I mean, of course I come from rock; Japanese rock- Jrock; but I really love psychedelic music and trance music. I can imagine and see what I should play for psychedelic music. It's very natural for me and free, so comfortable.

You've played in America several times now, each with a different project. What kind of differences have you encountered?

SUGIZO: This time is so very different. This tour has a tight schedule with the bare minimums. We don't have staff or technicians- it's very minimum. We tend to our gear on our own and at the end of the night are expected to clean up all our equipment. With big projects, for example, Luna Sea and S.K.I.N., we have so many staff members, but I think this schedule is very important for my musical career and experience. I think I'm so lucky, usually almost all older musicians can't do that, you know, get this life experience. I think I am so lucky. This music is kind of like my roots. Twenty years ago when we started Luna Sea, of course we were so young and did many things, but this... it's fantastic, really.

Many artists refer to you as an inspiration and influence to them. How does that make you feel?

SUGIZO: (Thinks) I don't know... of course it's a very big honor, a very, very big honor for me, but I didn't know I was any kind of influence until a few years ago. It's... it's a very big honor for me (laughs).

Early in your solo career, you were in the movie "Soundtrack" directed by Ken Nakai, as well as composed the soundtrack. Could you tell us about that experience?

SUGIZO: I thought it was great! The director, he's a genius. And crazy (laughs). He's very curious. Ken Nakai needed my music before filming the movie. Usually for the music, we can see the completed film, but for Nakai that was impossible! It was such a strange experience, but it was so nice. I think a few songs from "Soundtrack" are my best works, like Synchronicity. A few of those songs are very important to me now, that work is very fantastic.

Would you ever want to work with a movie again?

SUGIZO: Of course I would! If a director wants me, of course!

In March you played at the X JAPAN reunion lives. What kind of impact did that leave on you?

SUGIZO: Well... X JAPAN is definitely so abnormal (laughs). X JAPAN is not a normal band (laughs). X JAPAN is a huge project; it's so difficult and complicated, but musically beautiful. At first, I didn't want to play that music, it was too heavy for me. Of course hide was like my brother. I thought no one could do that position, but maybe Yoshiki thought that "maybe SUGIZO can do that."

Should we expect to see you onstage at the upcoming X JAPAN shows?

SUGIZO: Yes, maybe! (smiles)

Recently you released a best of album, Cosmoscape. How did you choose the songs for this?

SUGIZO: Those songs are my most natural side. Basically, my identity is a composer. Music is the most important tool for my communication and spirituality. Cosmoscape is my most natural side and my spiritual center. Those songs reflect that.

What is the definition of "cosmoscape" for you?

SUGIZO: I have done so many different lives. Luna Sea is very Japanese rock, Juno Reactor is very psychedelic tribal trance. I have so many projects because music is my most natural spiritual part. "Cosmoscape" is kind of like my center, my core.

You have very strong political views, especially those regarding American government.

SUGIZO: Yes, I do.

So if you were able to be our President, what would be the first things you'd change?

SUGIZO: (Laughs) Ahh, basically this question... it's so many things for me (laughs). I just think young American people are very important for the world's future, you know. Truthfully, American people have such a big influence, but American government and American politicians, I think, are almost evil (laughs). I mean, this election is a very big opportunity and very important. I really like Senator Obama. He wants to eliminate nuclear weapons- it's very strange- but I think I would vote for him.

I really don't care for Republicans now. McCain is... I don't believe in war, he is a war hero, right? I don't like Palin either. She killed so many animals like a hunter. American people have so much power to change.

Lastly, please give a message to your fans.

SUGIZO: Now, we are living in the 21st century. We must change. We made so many mistakes in the 20th century, but we can change. American people can change and must change to achieve peace, no borders, no race, no religion. I think American people are very important. Not Japanese, just young American people, have the chance for change.

Thank you!

SUGIZO: Thank you very much!

JaME would like to thank Einsof Marketing, Juno Reactor and especially SUGIZO for making this interview possible. Photographs by Kathy Chee from Fundy Photographics.
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