Exclusive interview with Ra:IN

interview - 02.17.2006 07:00

JaME spoke with PATA and michiaki about the origin of Ra:IN, their songs, their performance in Paris and of course PATA's former band: X-JAPAN.

While I was waiting with the manager of Ra:IN in a café in Aoyama, the cameraman and his assistant soon appeared. The manager said that PATA and michiaki would be late due to a traffic jam. Unfortunately, Tetsu, the drummer of Ra:IN, was working and could not come to the interview. We chatted whilst waiting for their arrival.

Could you please introduce yourselves to foreign fans?
PATA: I'm PATA, the guitarist of Ra:IN.
michiaki: I'm michiaki, the bassist. Nice to meet you!

You did a great job on the Summer of Love Tour 2005 that started in July! You had a live in the hide museum on the final day, on September 9th. How was it?
PATA: We really enjoyed it!

Was the live exciting?
PATA: Many people came to see us, and it was a really good live.

michiaki, what do you think about it?
michiaki: After returning from Paris, we finally resolved the complicated management problems, allowing us to start another tour, Summer of Love Tour 2005, after an interval of two years. We hadn’t done lives often, as we had paid more attention to our work overseas. During the tour, we remembered our original intentions of going to the live houses that we had visited in our first tour, soon after forming Ra:IN. We got really great reactions and it really motivated us. The final live was held in the hide Museum.

It seems dramatic!
michiaki: We increased our tension and confidence during the tour, and it was its highest at the final live.

Were you emotional about playing your final live in the hide Museum?
michiaki: Yes! In the last of the encore, we played hide's song Flame together with guest vocalist Mr. Uesugi and keyboardist D.I.E. In that moment, the audience were moved to tears, and we also became emotional and nervous thinking 'we can’t play here anymore!' But we got a grip on ourselves, and then we played another encore. I think the message to keep hide's memory alive but to move on reached the audience.

I heard that many fans from overseas came to see your live. Were they the fans that saw your live in Paris, and wanted to see your live once again in Japan?
PATA: Yes! There were some fans that came to see the live in Paris. And some fans from Hong Kong, and from Taiwan. I was so happy that they came out of their way to Japan.

It was an impressive live! Among the European fans, there were many messages in BBS trying to stop the closing of the hide Museum. Then, more people paid attention to the live.
PATA: I think fans are very quick in getting information. There had been some talk about closing hide Museum for some time.

Could you tell me about your band name? Ra:IN was named by Kabe Masayoshi and debuted in 2002, wasn’t it?
michiaki: Mr. Kabe is from Yokohama, the same as me, and we have been playing together in a band named ZZK. He is half French and half Japanese, also known by the name Louise Louis Kabe (ex Johnny, Louis & Char), which is perhaps his better-known name. When we started our band, we asked him about our band name.

PATA, how did you meet each other? Had you known one another during your music career?
PATA: We knew each other before forming Ra:IN.
michiaki: It's a small world, the Japanese rock scene. During our long-term music career, we often met in various places.

Had you played together in some recordings or some live sessions?
PATA: Well, we have drunk alcohol together! (laugh) We met occasionally in live houses, sometimes in after work parties, and in our friends' bars. Most of the time, we were drinking together.

Who first suggested making the rock band, 'Ra:IN'?
michiaki: I did. Well, at that time, most of my work was in studios and live sessions. Of course, I love that work but I wanted to make a three piece rock band that could be the core my music career! We happened to meet by chance, and hit it off playing together!
PATA: It was really by accident! (laugh) At the same time and place we chanced to be together, forming Ra:IN, each of us played different instruments. Little did I imagine that we would actually play so soon.

Is it unusual not to have a vocalist, isn't it?
michiaki: I wanted to play as a trio since we started. Well, I thought one of us could sing, for example, PATA (laugh).
PATA: I don't think so!(laugh)

Is there any talk of a vocalist joining the group?
PATA: Yes, from around us. (laugh)

PATA, How do you feel about the idea?
PATA: I don’t mind so much. If there is a really nice person, they might be welcome, but maybe not. It seems difficult. It feels cosy to be trio, and I don't really need a vocalist now.
michiaki: I had no hesitation playing instrumental music. During the first year of our debut we played 100 lives with great energy! During that period, we tried and experienced many things, making the basic style of the present Ra:IN. Our style is not common, and some people say that we would be more popular having a vocalist. But I think it's dangerous to have a vocalist, because most of our fans from Shanghai, Taiwan, Paris and in Japan, accept our present style. I don't think we should change our style while we are still evolving.

Could you explain the music of Ra:IN to fans who haven't listened to it yet?
PATA: We are a loud and heavy hard rock trio, and our genre is instrumental music which is not common anywhere. We basically focus our concentration on our lives, so we are happy when people come to them.

I listened to the album The Line. Did you name the album after the band name Ra:IN?
michiaki: Mr. Kabe named our band 'Line' at first. The pronunciation is also 'Line', not 'Rain'. That’s why there are three lines at the top of Ra:IN’s logo on the album jacket. There are many lines running everywhere in this world, such as the internet, MIDI, code, cable, and frontier, borderline, horizon, fortune line, and so on, which we can link together even when we are far from each other. I'm accepting the meaning of the 'Line' like this.
PATA: We arranged the 'Line' with our associated designer (Ken Sakaguchi) to the meaning of 'Ra:IN', 'short for Rock and Inspiration!'. We want to give some inspiration to our listeners. We used the 'Line' named by Mr. Kabe as the title of our 1st album, and the 'Ra:IN' and the 'Line' are living together.

This album inspires various images. Did you create this album imaging song by song? For example, how did you make the song KAI?
michiaki: KAI is the first song which we made for the main image of Ra:IN. I gave its sound to PATA, and he made its melody.

When and how do the songs enter your mind?
PATA: Well, they usually come when I’m relaxing at home.

Could you tell me your impressions about the Paris live?
michiaki: At first, when I got an offer to perform in Paris live, I was surprised. ‘Why?’ and wondering ‘What kind of people will come?’. After we arrived in Paris, and many fans came to the autograph session in the Hard Rock Café the day before the live, that was when we had the 1st response. Later, I found that X-JAPAN, which PATA used to belong to, is famous in Europe, and that visual rock bands are popular in France. Well, we are not a visual rock band. (laugh)

Really? X-JAPAN is very popular among Japanese bands!
PATA: I didn’t know about it until then.(laugh)

Overseas fans of Japanese music know them well because they check their favourite musician’s websites often. They sometimes know the musicians’ names, who are not so famous even in Japan. The Internet is great! Mostly musicians don’t know much information. Was there any difference in the audience’s reaction to Japan?
michiaki: The moment we stood on the stage, there was a great reaction, which made playing easier.
PATA: I didn’t feel a big difference from Japan. Above all, I was very happy getting such an enthusiastic welcome.

I saw the set list of the Paris live. Did you make it mixing the songs from the album The Line and old or new songs?
michiaki: Half were new songs which were supposed to be in 2nd album, and half were from the 1st album.

Did you play those new songs in your national live tour?
michiaki: Yes, we did. We have always played new songs in lives to watch the audience’s reaction, and then change the arrangement.

Was the set list of the live fixed immediately?
michiaki: Before we went to Paris, we hadn’t been playing lives for almost half a year.
PATA: So we had one last minute live before we left Japan.
michiaki: It would be no good unless we got back our feeling of lives before we left to Paris! (laugh) We took on one live and made the basic set list. And then we arranged it for Paris.

How long did you take to prepare for the live?
michiaki: We didn’t do anything but one live in Japan and playing in the studio for several days.

Like for several weeks?
PATA: For several days, (laugh) or I think about one week. Surprisingly, we received the schedule for Paris just two or three days before we were to go there.

Really!?
michiaki, PATA: We didn’t know any of the details.
PATA: We were just whisked away. (laugh)

Were there any communication or technical troubles?
michiaki: Well, there were some tiny troubles everywhere, even in Japan, and I know that nothing is perfect. I’m always trying not to be so nervous. There were no prominent troubles, including leasing the equipment. The organizer, 'Paris Visual Prod' was very nice to us. About communications, we hadn’t heard about our schedule because of a problem on Japanese side. It sometimes happens that we don’t communicate well, even though we all speak Japanese. (laugh)
PATA: In Taiwan, we had various problems. (laugh) It was a little interesting. But I want to go to Taiwan again. There was no trouble in Paris.
michiaki: Both in Taiwan and Shanghai, we were puzzled sometimes, but that has become good memories now. Once the live started and many people welcomed us warmly, we were OK! I might say a few troubles make it fun. We can say that now because of our excellent staff.

What was your impression of Paris? Did you go sightseeing?
PATA: michiaki and I went around looking at the instrument shops with a French man who we met in Paris. He guided us, and at night he invited us to his house serving us wine. It tasted very good! On the last day, we went to see the Eiffel Tower for short time... We seemed like bumpkins! (laugh)
michiaki: I have French and Japanese friends who have been living in Paris. They invited me out every day and I really enjoyed it.

Will you release a DVD of the Paris live?
michiaki: We are currently trying to solve the problems of different technical systems between Japan and Europe. We’ll release the DVD, after these problems are fixed and we are happy with it.
PATA: We haven’t watched the DVD yet, so I can’t decide now, but if we are all satisfied with it, we do want to release it.

Is this DVD supposed to be released only in Japan? Or overseas too?
michiaki: Of course, we will release it overseas too, if it’s possible.

Do you have any Japanese artists on your mind?
PATA: The musicians who are my competitors in business are all on my mind. (laugh)

Do you have any musicians you want to play with?
michiaki: I’m inspired and sympathized by listening to other artist’s music. We can make positive growth by such relationships, playing together and inspiring each other. I don’t care about who I play with, so everyone is welcome for new encounters and discoveries.

PATA, you debuted as a guitarist of the famous Japanese rock band X-JAPAN in 1989. How was your live at that time?
PATA: I was busy but quite normal. I woke up in the morning, drinking alcohol, and I drunk alcohol again that night. (laugh)

You did your solo activities in the same period of X-JAPAN, releasing two solo albums and doing a national tour. Did you express a different music style from X-JAPAN?
PATA: Yes. It would be useless if I played the same style as X-JAPAN! I enjoyed playing with my favourite musicians, such as Tim Borgert who used to play with Jeff Beck, Ozzy Osbourne, and Tommy Aldridge, a member of White Snake.

So was your music actually totally different?
PATA: It must be hard rock, but I would rather say the music was near to the present Ra:IN than X-JAPAN.

Were there any impressive memories with hide during his solo live tour?
PATA: I can’t remember well... D.I.E was scolded, but it’s not worth saying. (laugh) I enjoyed it and have a lot of memories.

You started the project of P.A.F after X-JAPAN broke up. Could you tell me about the activities of P.A.F.?
PATA: P.A.F was a hard rock band with a vocalist, and released two albums. I met Tetsu, who is now a member of Ra:IN, during the second album of P.A.F, and I thought 'Oh! He is great at the drums!'

So it was fate? (laugh)
PATA: Well, I’m not sure if it was fate or not (laugh), but he was a very good drummer, as you know. At that time, michiaki and Tetsu belonged to the same office, and I knew them, so I started to meet them more often around the time of P.A.F. period.

You formed Dope Headz in 2000, releasing two maxi singles and two albums, and doing a live tour. Dope Headz played at the 'GLOBAL ROCK FESTIVAL' in Korea in 2002, and performed in front of 20,000 people as a Japanese representative rock band. How was that?
PATA: It was so interesting because I hadn't played on such a big stage for a long time.

Did you have enthusiasm as a Japanese representative rock band?
PATA: Well, there were some bands including hide’s band (Actually hide had already gone, so the other members played along with hide on the video screen.) and mine. There was RIZE at the music festival too. It was fun, but awfully cold at the time!

Was it in winter?
PATA: Around October, but terribly cold! I caught a bad cold there!

How was the reaction of the Korean fans?
PATA: It was so enthusiastic.

Was Japanese hard rock accepted?
PATA: Yes, I think so.

Have you made your past dreams come true? Do you have anything which you haven’t done yet?
PATA: If I don't have anything which I haven't done yet, I'm dying now.(laugh) It’s like 'I'm satisfied with everything! I'll drop dead.' (laugh) I have still many things to do, so I’m living now.

Do you have many things which you want to do in your mind?
PATA: Yes, but not clearly. I’m not satisfied with everything.

michiaki, you played with many artists as a session musician. Who is the artist that impresses you the most?
michiaki: Johnny Thunders (ex. New York Dolls) is the most impressive artist for me. We drank with each other and played session together. I was sorry for him, when he called me I wasn't at home, several months before his death.
PATA: Johnny seemed bad and drunk.(laugh) Now I remember I happened to see the live of Sylvain Sylvain (another guitarist of New York Dolls) in a small live house, when I walked around in New York. It was so cool!

Where did you play with Johnny Thunders?
michiaki: In a club house in Tokyo. And Renny K of Patty Smith band is also impressive. I fell for the song Gloria with his improvisation.

Michiaki, you are doing various work, such as producing and arranging. What’s the most impressive work?
michiaki: I joined the tribute album of Nino Rota who is the master piece of Italian screen music represented by Federico Fellini. It’s a very good album producing one song an artist, which includes Coba (aAccordionist), Yasuaki Shimizu, Toshinori Kondo and so on. I thank the producer very much who choose me and gave a chance to express my different side. I'm very pleased that I could work in a different atmosphere from the band.

Was there any confusion?
michiaki: Not at all. I really like this kind of work.

Your music is difficult to put in a genre. It is not only rock but also screen music and trans music. I think you regard the music as one of your artistic expressions. What do you think about it? Are you interested in arranging and producing music, rather than playing bass?
michiaki: I don't care about the tools, such as guitar, bass, keyboard etc. if I can express myself. I play bass just because I have been playing bass from when I was young, and I react faster with this than other instruments. Basically I arrange the sound both in the recording and in the lives. I rather think of myself as a producer. But once I stand on the stage, I try to enjoy playing my bass.

Do you bring new sound into your music more and more?
michiaki: Yes, I do.

Were you playing bass from a young age?
michiaki: I was in a musical environment from my childhood.

PATA, how old were you when you started playing guitar?
PATA: Around the time I was a pupil, I think... or around junior high school.

From the beginning, did you devote yourself to playing guitar?
PATA: I wouldn't say such strong words. (laugh) At around high school, soon after I started guitar, I wanted to work more on the repair or the production of guitars. When I came around, I'm playing guitar somehow. (laugh)

So do you repair your guitar well?
PATA: In my youth, I used to repair it. Since I started playing guitar, I don’t touch it anymore. (laugh) Now I don’t know anything about the guitar, so I leave everything to others. (laugh)

Do you have any messages in the music of Ra:IN?
PATA: I hope the listeners feel cool, and sense whatever they like.
michiaki: Basically we are a live band. So I hope the audiences feel something. We get our energy from them as they do from us; we are 'lifeblood' to each other.

Do you have any plans after this?
PATA: First, we'll finish the recording of our second album, which we will release in March 2006. We also want to release the DVD or live CD of Live in Paris, AT LAST hide Museum! We haven't seen it yet, so I'm not sure we can use it. And we'll start the live tour in March 2006.

Have you finished all the songs, and started recording already?
michiaki: Yes! We have been recording since Autumn 2004. There was a long interval, so we recorded again, and made a new song in the live!

Will the second album be different from the present Ra:IN that we know?
michiaki: Not totally different, but there are some new tastes in it.
PATA: Well, perhaps it will be changed. If there is no change, it means we didn't advance at all. (laugh)

I hope your experiences from the Paris live will help to develop your new songs. Please give us a message to your foreign fans.
PATA: I really hope to see you again. We’ll see you!
michiaki: I hope we can understand, believe, and love each other through the music, beyond countries, surroundings and languages. That’s our message. We are ready to go anywhere in the world. So see you again!


Special thanks to PLANET LOVE for arranging the interview, and to HIDEO CANNO for offering Ra:IN's photograph.
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