Interview with Tokami
Concluding the series of interviews with Starwave Records artists, JaME sat down for a leisurely talk with Tokami to discuss their hiatus and come back, thoughts about one another, feelings about going overseas and more.
The biggest event for Tokami this year must have been the hiatus and the subsequent re-starting of your activities. Could you tell us why you decided to go on a break?
Ichika: Lots of circumstances changed at once.
Shige: We needed a period for preparation. To be honest, we wanted to change so we wanted start as a new Tokami when we were provided with this period.
1000: We wanted to take some time out for preparations, but we also felt that if we continue like this and don’t enter a label, we will not be able to change anything. We were not sure if we would be entering the label for sure or not, so we decided to stop once, think over our ways of doing costumes and promotions, and create the right timing for re-starting our activities. We really wanted to announce “We will be back!” when we went on hiatus, but there was also talk of “Maybe we won’t be able to continue anymore.” We couldn’t make a good transition, so we went on an activity pause.
So what kind of preparations did you make in this period?
Tokami: Costumes. (laugh)
Agato: We created new songs, and since we joined Starwave Records, we once again came together and discussed what kind of direction Tokami should go in from now on.
1000: Our image as well. Up until now we have been active on our own, so it was fixed that “We are like this,” but we also wanted to receive opinions from the outside, like “Wouldn’t it be cool if you were seen in this way?” It was a period for us to take in many of such opinions.
How does the present Tokami differ from the Tokami before the break?
Agato: The big change is the back-up factor that we have now.
1000: We had a member change. (laughs)
Shige: There were parts in our activities that were ambiguous up until now that have been made clear. The way we perform at shows and such hasn’t really changed.
1000: Originally, we weren’t aiming at changing our stance towards music or the things we wanted to do. The point that changed is that we are now conscious of the way we are being seen.
Shige: Every time we play, we receive opinions and we implement them.
Tokami: Tokami wanted an adviser who would construct the route we could follow. Because we have this, we are able to move towards it. The scope of our activities has become wider.
1000: There are also tours and instores... Up until now we would decide such things by ourselves through whining, but now that we entered the label, such things get decided so rapidly. (laughs) Maybe you cannot see a big change from the outside, but it became easier for us.
K: You can maybe just see the fact that Shige’s hair became plain.
Tokami: And our artist photos went a level up. (laugh) From now on we will be gradually changing.
You also changed your band name from kanji to the roman alphabet...
Agato: Since we joined Starwave Records, our songs became available on iTunes and we have gained a step towards being able to expand our activities overseas, so we decided to change our transcription from kanji into alphabet to be able to further expand our activities globally.
1000: But because the yen is so expensive, we can’t go overseas. (laughs)
What’s the meaning of the cross in your name on the logo?
1000: Our content hasn’t changed. We are still the same people.
Agato: We took the “to” character from the kanji “tokami” that we used until now. We just succeeded the Tokami that existed until now.
After you joined the label, you were able to perform during label festivals such as the one today. How do you feel about it?
Ichika: It’s an honour. We weren’t under a label until now, but we now are able to participate in something, to be able to create an exciting environment together with our label mates... Before, it would always be an event that we alone would organize and such.
1000: It’s great that we now have someone we can compare ourselves to in our proximity.
Shige: Since we joined the label, the feeling of consciousness we have towards each other with other people has become stronger. It’s so much fun that I want to make songs with our label mates. (laughs)
You mentioned that your costumes changed. How was the collaboration with Ryonai of Suppurate System?
Tokami: It was really great!
Agato: He tied the accessories to what would suit a given member, and he brought out their personalities through them.
1000: It was interesting to see that Ryonai would create such an image for me. I am really honoured to have Ryonai make an eyepatch for me. But because I’m a drummer, it’s pretty difficult to play with just one eye. (laughs)
Ichika: There apparently is a drop of Ryonai’s blood in my accessory. It seems like there is a feeling of existence in it, and there apparently is Ryonai’s tooth in it as well. (laughs) Dracula’s tooth. People around me are saying “It’s so nice,” and I am really honoured.
A big happening this year for all of Japan was the Tohoku disaster, and it’s a date noted in your schedule as well. How did it affect you?
1000: My home is in Tohoku, so on the day of the earthquake I rushed back home like crazy. The roads were swept away by the waves, the traffic stopped everywhere, there were aftershocks, there was the nuclear plant accident. When I went to the seaside, there really were whole cities that had disappeared. I got the feeling of “Is it really ok to be playing in a band...?” The lives scheduled for March were all canceled, but we had a live organized by our band on April 2nd, and playing it, I still had the feeling of “Is it really ok to do it, I wonder,” and I also felt grateful to be able to do it. I think that people in Japan have forgotten real happiness, but through the disaster all the people realized this.
Ichika: We too played a charity live, but you could see that all events changed their names to charity events and everyone was thinking about it.
Shige: For example, when Tokami was collecting donations, there were people who would give us ten thousand yen and say “If it’s Tokami, I can trust that the money will reach the destination” although there are places like The Red Cross. It really made me think a lot.
Thank you. You are releasing Resurrection today. Please tell us a bit about it’s concept.
1000: It is “resurrection,” “come back.”
Shige: But even if we say that, the first song, Ruler of chaos, is actually a song that kills 1000. (laughs) The theme of each song is different, but the theme of the entire album is our theme, consistent with the title.
What influenced you when creating the songs for this release?
Shige: I was learning how to create songs on a PC when the earthquake happened and there was one song that I made at that time.
1000: I wanted to create seven songs inspired by the seven mortal sins in Christianity, but I could only write five, and only two were used, and then the lyrics changed so eventually the concept was completely gone. (laughs)
K: There was a song that I wrote with the feeling I had when listening to Southern All Stars. (laughs) A cross the hearts.
Ichika: Regarding the songs, we decided “let’s do this.” Since the topic was “come back” we would create the most suitable songs, chose the ones that were most complete and collect them with all members. That’s how the release was made.
1000: Up until now, we made mini-albums that would be centered around a concept. However, this time, we distanced ourselves a bit from this.
Could you tell us a bit about the lyrics of the mini-album?
Agato: When we went on hiatus, it was a time for me to think what I can do for the people around me with my singing. The pause was a period in which I was thinking whether it was ok for me to continue this way, whether it was ok to keep doing what I was doing and take it on to the new Tokami. I was conflicted and I felt lonely as a vocalist, and there were lyrics into which I put these feelings. I also tried to write lyrics about the loneliness and sense of isolation that you feel when an important to you person becomes ill and dies.
Shige: Also, depending on the song, there would be some where we would give a theme and lyrics would be built around it.
Agato: Since all of the members can make songs, I would ask the composers “What image did you have when writing this?” and I would take this as a base and build a story around it, so all the songs in this album have different stories and lyrics. They may be about me, about other people, or the may be imagined.
There is a song for which you have filmed a PV. Is it released anywhere?
Agato: It’s an extra you get when purchasing the CD at ZEAL LINK. You can also see just a bit of it on Tokami’s website.
How did the filming go?
1000: It was hard. Since I was filming, if you look closely, there are times when Agato is being shown where you notice that there is no one behind the drum set. (laughs)
The last time we talked to you was three years ago when Tokami experienced a member change that resulted in your current line up. You have probably gotten to know each other quite well. Could you tell us some interesting facts about one another that you have found out?
Agato: Recently, all of Shige’s meals consist of sweets. (laughs) He doesn’t eat food that is food-like.
1000: Just Black Thunder.
Agato: And Alfort and Blanchul (types of chocolate sweets).
Shige: Cause I can’t be bothered to eat meals. (laughs) Ichika had his belly button pierced.
Ichika: I think Agato gained weight. He got chubby and he also moved houses, but I suppose people overseas wouldn’t really care. (laughs)
Shige: Three years passed, but the flow was so natural that I don’t think the members have changed.
1000: Musically, we got to understand what we all carry very deeply, but we don’t really go out drinking together, so we don’t really know much about one another as people.
K: We don’t meet up with the other members in private to a surprising extent.
1000: When we go on tour, drinking all together is fun.
Agato: Because we don’t generally hang out together in private, when we go on tour and get the rare occasion to drink together and talk, it is fun.
Shige: The first day on tour with Tokami, it’s all good, then from the second day onwards it becomes a bit annoying. (laughs)
1000: Personally, I liked digital things up until now, but recently I came to like analog.
Shige: 1000 is currently abstaining from alcohol. (laughs) And I am personally abstaining from putting garlic into my ramen. (laughs)
Agato: In the three years we got to know each other's musical habits during recordings, such as the way of playing guitar or the way of singing.
Ichika: And K started smoking.
1000: Three years ago, I didn’t realize that K is made of steel and his body is so strong. He never catches a cold and if he falls off stage, he just stands up as if nothing happened. (laughs) When we all caught horrible colds and were coughing our lungs out, he also contracted it but he would only say “I don’t feel well” for a bit, and by the next day he would completely recover.
Shige: I’ve only seen K not feeling well twice.
Agato: But for the very rare cases when K catches a cold, if he does once a year, it’s a really bad case.
Shige: K’s dark face is amazing. (laughs)
Recently, you played a live in Osaka. Did anything interesting happen during the tour?
Agato: They sell chijimi and karaage, which are Korean pancakes and fried chicken dishes, at the live house. This was a first. (laughs)
Shige: It was our first tour where we only went to Osaka. We arrived in the morning, played and went back, so we didn’t do anything that would be Osaka-like.
1000: When I went to eat sushi alone, the guy sitting next to me was a yakuza, it was really scary. (laughs)
K: This tour, 1000 was surrounded by many weird things. (laughs)
Shige: When I went to a manga cafe in Doutonbori, there was a weird old man with a loudspeaker giving a speech, then passing by a food place were some strange guys having some nonsensical conversation, and when 1000 went by the same place there was police there, there were also some weird people in a car when we got into the bus to go back... Osaka was fun. (laughs)
Ichika: But I think we already got used to touring. Although the first tour in a night bus was a bit difficult.
1000: There were many scary and dangerous people in Osaka this time, so I thought “Oh my, Osaka is scary.” (laughs)
The last time we talked, you said that you wanted to concentrate on your domestic activities. After joining Starwave Records, you have been surrounded by bands who have overseas experiences. Are you thinking of expanding your activities overseas?
1000: If we could go, I want to go. We are aiming at a time when all members would be able to go overseas, and a time when the yen is cheap. (laughs)
Where would you want to go overseas?
K: Spain. That’s where I personally would like to go.
Tokami: Then Thailand, Libya, Cuba, Taiwan… There are some countries we wouldn’t like to go to at this very moment though. (laugh)
At our last interview, you said you wanted your songs to be released in karaoke, and this happened. What goals would you set this time?
Tokami: TV show appearances and such...
1000: But I think it would be great if we went overseas. From where can it be considered overseas?
K: I came here from Hokkaido and I already feel this is overseas. (laughs)
Ichika: If you go to Shinokubo (Tokyo’s Korea-town) that’s overseas already. (laughs)
1000: No, I want us to go all over the world.
Please tell us your plans from now on.
1000: We have plans for releases and tours. We will have a tour and play a slightly larger event at the end, and apart from that we are considering going overseas.
Please give a message to our readers.
1000: With fresh feelings, we have become members of a label where we among others see overseas prospects. Our songs that could only be heard in Japan so far are now available on iTunes, so please have a listen to them. Since we ship overseas as well, please check out our CDs too.
Ichika: Long time no see, it’s Ichika. Japan is currently giving it’s all on the way to recovery. Thank you for all the support that you have been sending from the different countries of the world. All that we can do is to hopefully make you feel better and brighter with our music. Please continue supporting us from now on.
Shige: Please cooperate with us so that we can go overseas sooner! (laughs)
K: From now on too with all members we will continue doing our best, so please support us.
Agato: With the new Tokami, we may have a chance to expand overseas, so please keep an eye on Tokami’s future activities.
JaME would like to thank Tokami and Kiwamu for making this interview possible, as well as Non-Non for help with the transcription.