Interview with 9GOATS BLACK OUT

interview - 05.07.2008 08:00

Right after they started, 9GOATS BLACK OUT attracted a lot of attention in Japan and overseas. JaME went to talk with the band in order to get to know them better.

9GOATS BLACK OUT has only been around for a few months, but from the very beginning they have been very popular and caused quite a stir amongst visual kei fans. Their first mini-album, devils in bedside, sold out on pre-orders weeks before its release date and received a lot of praise from various critics.

JaME had to find out more about this interesting band, so we sat down with the three members on a rainy day in March for a thorough, introspective and enlightening interview.


Could you introduce yourselves please?

ryo: I'm the vocalist of 9GOATS BLACK OUT, ryo.

utA: Yes. I'm the guitarist utA.

hati: I'm the bassist hati. Nice to see you.

Your name, 9GOATS BLACK OUT, is very interesting. How did you come up with this name?

ryo: Before making the band, I always wanted to one day use the name 9GOATS BLACK OUT. When we three members gathered and started to create music and work together, we needed a name, so I proposed this name and they agreed.

When did you think of the name?

ryo: I have two names: one is 9GOATS BLACK OUT, which is for my music activities, meaning "output," and another is 9GOATS BLACK ART which is for the design work I did before I started working with these members, when I didn’t work in the music scene.

Why did you choose the word "GOATS"? And how about the number "9"?

ryo: Because it has various meanings, and as I write lyrics I am very interested in the meanings that come from combinations of words. The words themselves are rather simple and don't have profound meanings. For Japanese people, "9," "GOATS," "BLACK" and "OUT" are very simple, but seem to have very profound meanings when put together. Then each word can be interpreted respectively, so that's why I chose them. To be honest, all of them have double meanings. My zodiac is the goat. And I chose my favorite words among many words; for example, "BLACK OUT" means "unconsciousness" too. That's why I chose this combination, and the members liked it as well.

Did you think that was good?

utA & hati: Yes. (laughs)

Does the band have a specific concept?

hati: We simply work for "what sounds in hearts" as our concept. Even when the countries are different, what we can send is the same, I think.

Do you mean both by "your sounds" and by "your lyrics"? Do you want to "catch people’s hearts"?

ryo: It's my interpretation, but I think of our music as a compound art. Art can be composed only by music itself, or sentences and lyrics themselves, but when they are compounded they produce more effects than we expect. For us as a band it's our natural vehicle to express ourselves.

hati and utA, there is very limited information available about you online. Could you tell us a little about how you got involved with ryo and how you decided to start a band together?

utA: When our vocalist's last band, GULLET, ended, we were in the same area, Niigata.

Are you from Niigata? I thought you were Nagoya kei.

hati: No, we are all purely Niigata people. (laughs)

So you played in Niigata?

hati: We knew each other, and I was in Galruda at that time. Once we played together in an event, and I just said hello to him at that time. It was when we asked ryo to design an album jacket for our former band that we really started to talk more.

ryo: Really?

hati: We knew that ryo did jacket designs and art work, and we thought his designs were very cool. So we asked him to design our album jacket, which was really the beginning of our communication with him. We didn't think about working together with him in a band at that time. After that our band disbanded, and we came to Tokyo saying "we'll do a band in Tokyo."

So you two came to Tokyo first?

utA: Yes. We two came here first. But when we got to Tokyo, we couldn't find a vocalist we wanted to work with. Then we thought of ryo, and we thought his lyrics and voice were ideal for what we wanted.

hati: But we were rejected at first. (laughs)

ryo: I said, "I don’t do bands." (laughs)

hati: He had the conviction that he would not do a band. (laughs)

ryo: Other than them, I received various invitations, and most of them were attractive and I was thankful, but I didn't want to do a band unless it matched what I was aspiring to do. So I used to say "I don't want to do a band." However, at that time we talked about many other things too, and I had on occasion heard their sound and talked with them about music, and gradually I got the feeling that the future these guys were carving out for themselves might be very important for me. So I started to think about creating something together, even though I was not sure what the results would be, so that's why we started the band.

Had the three of you played music together before?

ryo: Now we play together, but no, we hadn't.

Was it difficult or easy to get used to each other at in the beginning?

ryo: There was nothing but problems. (bursts out laughing)

hati: We were always late to the studio. There wasn't a drummer in the group. While we worked a long time to create music before recording it, it always took a long time to make it in the studio. (laughs)

ryo, it's been a while since you were active in the music scene, but now you're back stronger than ever. How has it been coming back and how have hati and utA affected your style of music?

ryo: I don't know whether I became stronger or not, but my stance towards my work in music is very much powered by a yearning to create music and move people's hearts, and that can't be shown in numbers. I know what I create has the power to change people's lives. Music touched me; that is the reason I started music, so I’m happy to give something back, although it can be quite difficult.

ryo, were you influenced by the other two members?

ryo: After we made this band, they listened to my opinions quite a lot. First, I proposed, "I want to do this, so why don't you do it like that?" and they challenge about 90% of my ideas. The result is our music now. I didn't decide to work with them because of their skills and musical ability, but more because of how they make their music. Their stance greatly influences my music style. We have different musical tastes, so their stance on what I'm going to release is very important for what we create now.

Does ryo make any impossible requests?

hati: No. On the contrary, we've learned many things and we've often been like "ah, it’s good, let’s try it." Now things are going well, our sound can be expressed clearly.

ryo, 9GOATS BLACK OUT is quite different from the type of music you used to make with your former bands. How did this happen and was there something particular that influenced this change of style?

ryo: I have two reasons. One is that as I compared the music I used to listen to when I did GULLET to what interested me during my years of hiatus before 9GOATS BLACK OUT, my interests in music and the points I wanted to express changed a lot. I grew interested in different musical styles, and I wanted to move the audience not so much with fast beats but with my voice and skills. This change was one of the reasons. And the style of the present 9GOATS BLACK OUT is different from that of GULLET and Galruda. In GULLET, there were five different personalities for each of the five members, and we created music trying to find our halfway points, so our band's style used to be a mix of colors. But the present style of 9GOATS BLACK OUT is like "I want to shape this kind of music and create music." I steer, they row, and we debate it thoroughly and then complete it. So the production process is totally different, that's why the texture of the music that reaches listeners is different as a result, I think.

devils in bedside sold out weeks before its official release date. Did you expect this huge demand, and how did you react when all the copies sold out?

All: We were surprised. (laughs)

hati: I was happy about that.

Didn't you expect it?

hati: No, we didn't. We didn't advertise, only on our website.

I think people were waiting for you.

ryo: Even so, I did not expect it. I didn't do any promotional activities. I was invited to sessions about once a year just for fun, so I wasn't involved with the music scene at all except for that. As you know, CD sales are decreasing now all over the world. People can get songs through the internet, which is good I think, but I heard that the creators of the music are losing a lot. Then we, a band that didn't belong to any scene really, suddenly announced "we made this CD" and started distributing them. We didn't have any idea how many CDs we should press. We said it would be nice to sell about 300 CDs. (laughs) So 1000 CDs should be enough including sample CDs to give different people the chance to listen to it. Then 500 orders came in the first day, and then over 1000 in the next ten days.

Amazing. Especially in the age of the internet.

ryo: Yeah, I am really thankful.

Did you put any music on your website?

ryo: We previewed three songs on our official website.

hati: I was happiest when I saw that a listener wrote, "I liked it when I listened to the track on your webpage" in the note of the order form.

Which were the three songs?

hati: They were the 1st song sink, the 3rd song Yasou -nocturne- and the 4th song Den lille Havfrue.

Did you do anything special to celebrate the occasion?

hati: We celebrated by eating Thai. (laughs)

Your music is very melancholic and gloomy, what is your inspiration for your creations?

hati: Everything. From my everyday life, the music I listen to, and my feelings at that time. utA mostly brings the original songs, but I don't intend them to be sad or dark.

utA, with your songs, how much do you shape them before you give them to the band?

utA: Sometimes I give them songs with the drums and bass sounds in, or guitar and rhythms, basically I release what I have inside me every day.

It sounds gloomy, doesn't it?

utA: Yes. I think that's my nature.

So you always have inspiration to create music?

utA: It's not like "I'll make music" and then the music comes, so I do it when it comes to me. Sometimes it's like "I can't make it now so I put in phrase one, then I'll go on later from there."

(To ryo)Then you put in the melodies and lyrics. Do you get inspiration from listening to the music?

ryo: They record temporary demos, then I ponder the melody disregarding the usual ways of making music, such as starting from an intro and working to the A melody. I disregard it, like I put in an interlude instead of a B melody. I put a melody in when it comes, when my feelings move. Most of the time what I complete becomes sad naturally. I don't aim to make them sad, or use minor scales, but I make them like "here I want to put in this kind of thing" or "I want it to progress like this." I don't know why, but it becomes sad naturally. About my inspiration, I imagine pictures. For example, this song is "a nocturnal sea" or "a deep forest." I feel the air from the image of the sounds somehow, and I make melodies. When the music and melodies match well, the lyrics come out naturally, like "I want it to progress this way." Most of the time, I don't forcibly draw inspiration from somewhere.

Do you stock words?

ryo: I don't note lyrics, so I don't stock at all.

As you said before, your way of making songs isn't the ordinary way at all.

ryo: In my former band, we used to make sounds as we played in jam sessions, like, at first, the original composer such as a bassist or a guitarist played the codes or "phrase one" of a song. Then we decided the tempo and rhythm phrases, and about when the first chorus of the song was achieved, the melodies were completed in me. As I sang and arranged them, the first chorus was roughly made. Then we did the composition of the song and worked out the details of the sounds and lyrics. Then finally, we finished it by deciding how the song should be concluded. We used to make songs like that. But now we make demos of original music, then I add my songs, then change the rhythm and codes, and arrange them until we can make it into a certain shape. Then I write lyrics, shave out the stories and put on the title. Finally the song is completed, which is how we do it now.

While listening to devils in bedside, it seems that you put in a lot of extra care in creating a special atmosphere, as if each song is a little world that pulls you in. Did you plan beforehand to make the atmosphere so intense - is it something that fits with your concept, or was this gradually developed while working on it?

hati: At first, we had a hard time as we were thinking, "Where is the sound of 9GOATS BLACK OUT?" We could see vague things, but it was hard to determine what that was. The first step took a long time.

Which song did you make fastest on this album?

hati: That would be Yasou-nocturne-.

Ah, I see. So which song was the hardest?

hati: It might be 690min? (laughs) 690min was killed by both utA and me (laughs), but after the melody and lyrics were put in, it became more like 9GOATS BLACK OUT.

Was it easy to determine the order of the songs in this album?

ryo: I swapped sink and float at the last moment. These songs are the comparison of the main theme of this work. I wavered about whether the sun rises in float and then sets with sink, or that it sets in sink and then rises with float, until we finished mixing. But besides that, the members agreed with how I wanted to develop the story, so I only wavered about the first and last song.

It is very connected when you listen to the album on repeat.

ryo: The sound in the introduction also makes you feel that. (laughs)

Every song on your album is original and creative and you obviously put a lot of thought and work into the songs. How did you create the album?

ryo: I think that not having a drummer played a big part. We were thinking about when we would announce ourselves, whether we should wait until we found a drummer to do our lives. We thought that maybe we would not be able to find a drummer for a long time, so we started to make our album, shaping our songs. So we made our recording environment through the internet server and through exchanging data to create our music.

You created music like that?

ryo: At first, none of us had suitable settings to start recording in. After we decided to make an album, we had to fix our equipment and material, so we bought Mac equipment, imported protocols, studied how to use them, used our common server, exchanged songs, and we were then able to create an environment where we could record our songs.

Your lyrics are deep and meaningful, but for those who don't understand Japanese, what are your lyrics about?

ryo: The lyrics of this album were about my father and utA's father; both became sick. My father got cancer of the esophagus, and his father got cancer of the pancreas, and when we put our songs together, my father had a big operation and his father died. These lyrics are about them, mainly. sink is about my father, and the title of 690min is the time from when my father entered the surgery room to when he came back. There are individual stories in each song, so I wrote like six stories, put together as a novelette. Not all of the parts connect perfectly or directly. However, if I was asked, "What did you want to make this album about?" I would say I made songs about "how he lost someone precious, how he felt, what he thought, what he felt sorrowful for, and what he decided to do from then on." I had an image like "a reaper waiting for the death of a terminal patient in a hospital room," so I used the title devils in bedside, imagining devils at people's bedsides, and put in the nuance of "be careful, they'll take away your precious ones!"

So you put in real stories.

ryo: With my lyrics, I only write about my real experiences. I do make them obscure by sugar-coating them or changing them to be read differently, but basically I write about my real stories.

The theme is heavy; such as people dying or parting from loved ones.

ryo: Originally my theme had been "how human feelings move," before I started this band. So as for love songs or pop songs, the most important thing for me was how the music and lyrics were expressed, rather than the songs themselves or the sales of the releases. I know that composing a story is one way, but I don't write about anything except what happens around me, although I may add a little to that.

Do you wish to entertain listeners with your music only, or do they carry some sort of message that you want to transmit to everyone?

ryo: I think both, whether you just like listening to our music or read how much we put the theme into our work. We made our work worthwhile for both people who want to enjoy only the musical side and those who want to enjoy reading why this music was made.

It might be different for each of the listeners to part from loved ones, such as family, lovers, and friends. I think people listen to the music thinking about their own loved ones.

ryo: As for the 4th song, I wrote it so it might be taken as a love song. Some listeners don't have those experiences like family members becoming sick, or having to part with a loved one because of death. But everyone has their own precious people such as lovers, brothers and friends, so I wrote in a way they can sympathize with.

You chose Danish for the fourth song on your album, Den lille Havfrue. Why did you choose Danish, and does this song refer to the mermaid statue in Denmark and its fairy tale, or does it have another meaning?

ryo: Yeah, it has a lot to do with that. (laughs) In the 4th song, I imagined pictures of a "nocturnal sea" and a "starry sky," and had sad images of "I lost my loved one" and "it's a fact that I will never see them again." When I wrote the melodies and lyrics, I brooded over the details of the lyrics, and I remembered a fairy tale of a mermaid and found that "it really seems like the end of the mermaid." I didn't know the Danish title at that time, but I thought if I put the Japanese title of Ningyohime, people would imagine the picture in a narrow sense, so when I examined how to send the theme of the tale and the sad fate of the story, I found the original title. I thought it matched very well, so the mermaid statue has a lot to do with it, as you said.

Are you generally interested in Scandinavian countries? If so, why?

ryo: I don't have detailed knowledge about Scandinavian countries, but I really like the image of Northern Europe we Japanese have. Niigata is like that. (laughs)

Is Niigata like Scandinavia in Japan? (laughs)

ryo: Niigata is located in the North, and the sea is cold in the winter. (laughs) We can sympathize with them quite a lot, I think. And I heard there was a Goth nation (a subset of German people that originally lived in Southern Sweden) in Scandinavia, which is the origin of the word Goth. I'm interested in them, because our band's name includes "Goats" and we pronounce it like "Goth" in Japanese, which is interesting. I want to go to Copenhagen to sightsee.

ryo, you not only make music, but you're also a designer. Can you tell us about what you design and where you get your ideas from, especially for the devils in bedside album cover? What are your influences?

ryo: Whenever I write lyrics and melodies, the images just come out, so I can't create the design of album jackets or bindings of lyric cards unless I understand the music and the story they tell. So my ideas come from the original themes of what I'm designing for. Sometimes I'm also influenced by various art fields, such as movies and books.

Where did you get the idea for the design of the album jacket for devils in bedside?

ryo: When we made the demo, there was a person who posted a photo on his website. As it was free public access, I used it when I made a CD-R for the members, and their reaction was very positive, so I used it. And this is our first work, so I used the goat of our band's name "9GOATS." Regarding the background picture and printing inside the album, I made them to match the theme.

Do you design photographs?

ryo: Yes, I do, but in addition to the design for this CD, I also drew the illustrations myself. When I was in GULLET, I used to draw the illustrations myself, scan them, and edit them using a PC.

So when you do work for something other than 9GOATS BLACK OUT, you listen to the music carefully and design from the images?

ryo: Yes. Concerning the design of CD jackets, I can't make good designs unless I listen to the songs or I hear from them what kind of work they plan to make.

Why did you decide to start your own label (dalli) as opposed to joining an existing one? What are the pros and cons of having your own label?

ryo: I think our music is not "music which directly affects the public." I do think about how there are audiences and there are listeners, and how sales affects our band's activities. However, I think that in a situation where more people listen to our music, it would be in a shallow and borad way rather than actually understanding what we do. I'd be afraid we might exhaust ourselves before we could establish the music of 9GOATS BLACK OUT. We would be consumed before we could establish our objective. So we thought we should work by ourselves, and we made our own label. But there were parts that we couldn't do by ourselves, so we went to Ms. Arakawa (zoisite) and asked her to help, saying, "We'll do what we can as much as possible, so please help us with what we can't do." (laughs) We thank her so much, and without her we wouldn't have had an opportunity like this.

When I was introduced to your work by Ms. Arakawa and listened to the music, I found it really good. I quickly told the JaME staff about you, but the staff already knew you. They knew because of the internet.

ryo: Really~~~? Thank you very much. That's another reason to start our own label. I think that we want to keep creating music that can reach an audience who really wants us without going through the media. I think that audiences have a good sense about what they like, and I believe in that.

You recently got a MySpace account. Do you feel like it's easier to get in touch with your fans through this, and was that the purpose when you made the account?

ryo: We aren't good at being friendly with fans. (laughs) As we don't have many approaches like press advertisement, flier distribution and appearing in the media. We registered at MySpace because it was an easy way for us to do what we wanted. After we registered, it was left for a long time. (laughs) But recently it started working well.

What do you mean it was left?

hati: I registered, but I didn't know how to use it well. (laughs)

But it's incredible that the access number is increasing day by day.

hati: Ah, thanks for that. We haven't sent messages or anything yet, but we got messages not only in Japan but also from overseas via MySpace, stuff like "I love to listen to your music." It encourages us a lot. I think there are many lyrics they can't understand well, but we are grateful when foreign listeners say "it’s good" just by listening to our music.

It's just as you said before, that you can move people's hearts and cross borders.

hati: So when we lose our way we get a lot of encouragement from that.

It hasn't been very long since you started the band, but already a lot of interest has been shown by overseas fans. Were you aware of this, and how do you feel about it?

utA: I'm conscious of that, of course, and I'm very happy. I know we have to do our lives in Japan first, but then we can go overseas; we want to go and send our music directly to them.

I'm wondering how you will recreate the musical world of your CD on stage.

utA: We're now working hard to be able to come up with something that will meet people's expectations.

The live might be different from the world of the CD.

ryo: I think so. I think the nuance of the feelings in the air will change a little bit, so we don't deny that and we will dare to play some songs a little differently.

hati: I'm excited too, and I want people to listen to our music more.

Did you expect such a response from overseas?

hati: Not to this extent. I thought some of the people who knew GULLET saw our HP and listened to our music. We received orders from overseas too, and I was glad to see comments like "I listened to your music on your homepage and bought it," as I thought we could make them understand only through listening to our music.

ryo: I thought about overseas a little bit. When I was with my former band, there were people who came from Taiwan, so I thought it was easier to appeal to Asian people, as they live nearer to us, but this time we received reactions from people in Northern Europe and America. I think now is the time when visual kei rock is really running high, but I hope we can create something that will remain forever. I’m thankful for the present situation around me now and I'm very happy.

Your music is not typical visual kei is it?

ryo: I don't care so much about which scene or record labels we belong to.

I think it's better not to determine those kinds of things. Once you belong to a record company, you have to make your work by a deadline, just like merchandise.

ryo: Usually artists want to be distinguished from others. I also used to be like that. Something like "others are doing this, so we’ll do other things." We sometimes feel choked, thinking too much about how we want to be original characters, different from others. Now I feel like if we do what we want to, our originality will come from there, so we don't think things like "we have to do lives" or "we have to release between these periods." We want to do our music when we can, at our own pace.

As for your looks, you don't seem like typical visual kei either, like your music doesn't seem like typical visual kei.

ryo: I think so. With this album, we released only our sound without our costumes, our make-up and our stage performance. We didn't know what reaction people would have when they listened to our songs, so we released them thinking, "we'll do what we want to." We're not conscious about that at all.

Can you tell us something about the future of 9GOATS BLACK OUT? What can fans expect?

ryo: If we can, we'll get a drummer, and we want to do lives. It's not determined yet, but I hope we'll achieve more in 2008. However, we haven't made plans like "we will do this by then." We are finished when we are satisfied with it, so we can't promise when that will be. But we want to release our new work sometime this year, if possible.

Please give a message to JaME readers.

utA: We'll continue to make our work within our concept of "what sounds in human hearts." I know there is a language barrier, but we'll break that and make music that gives you images and really stays in you. So please, continue to support us.

hati: We made album jackets not only linked to our sound but also to everything else, so I want you to feel various things from both our sound and visual materials, such as the album jacket, and we want to continue to make this kind of work.

ryo: We are doing 9GOATS BLACK OUT in a different way from existing bands, or my former band's activities. We are seeking our form now, so we can't promise JaME readers when our next work will be, or when we will do a live concert. However, we'll try to work hard and believe in ourselves, and make sure that we will be worth the wait.
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