Interview with Matsuoka Mitsuru from SOPHIA at V-ROCK FESTIVAL
JaME interviewed the vocalist of SOPHIA at V-ROCK FESTIVAL where he revealed the band's deep determination to enjoy the present and their dream to continue playing overseas as well as in Japan.
This is your first interview with JaME, so let’s start with a self introduction.
Matsuoka: I’m the vocalist of a Japanese rock band called SOPHIA. My name is Matsuoka Mitsuru. In addition to being a vocalist, I’m also an actor and I really like making all sorts of creative works, so I’m into a lot of things.
For example, what kind of creative works?
Matsuoka: For example, SOPHIA’s CD cover designs and photography. Also, in the past I was into writing novels.
Really? What kind of novel?
Matsuoka: It’s hard to say in one word. It’s all over the place… Well, it’s kind of like a mystery but it’s my autobiography.
This year’s Budokan concert has been released on DVD with the title 1st Live Album DVD. Why did you choose this title despite having released DVDs in the past?
Matsuoka: Since last year, we went on a break and then began anew this year. So with the intention of starting over again this year, we decided to treat this as our first DVD (since re-grouping).
What’s the highlight of the DVD?
Matsuoka: Well as I said in my MC, our keyboardist was suffering of very bad cancer but he made a miraculous comeback. At that time we realized that we had taken for granted that we would live forever, that we would always perform together as SOPHIA, but that’s not the case. This moment – this interview included – our performance just now – and Budokan, too, we may not be able to do this any more. We may never meet again. There are a lot of “maybe”s. I’m very happy you’ve all come to Japan at a time like this but of course there have been things like the earthquake and many natural disasters throughout the world. Nobody knows what’s coming tomorrow. But what we do know is that we’re meeting like this right now. We’re talking now. I don’t want to leave behind any regrets now. That’s what was packed into the live when we re-grouped at Budokan.
SOPHIA was formed seventeen years ago, but back then, what did you imagine SOPHIA would be like seventeen years later?
Matsuoka: The way visual rock bands thought back then… Well there were many thought patterns but a big one was “destruction.” To break, to crush… Anything was ok. Like la vie en rose. That’s how we felt so we didn’t think about the future at all. On the one hand that was beautiful, but we can’t think that way now. Everything is precious.
So do you feel that the biggest difference between visual kei in the past and now is that way of thinking?
Matsuoka: I don’t really feel any difference. If there was, I think it would be the method of composition. In our time there were no computers. Well there were, but they weren’t really used. Now it’s really “easy making” but… it's hard. Because it's so easy, everyone’s doing it, so hanging in there is tough.
SOPHIA is a band looked up to by many younger visual kei bands. Do you have any advice to those younger bands?
Matsuoka: I don’t really have much advice to give. On the other hand, I want to know more about them. I want to sponsor their creativity, the creativity of the young generation. Also there are things I can gain from them, things they understand because they’re young. As artists I think there’s a lot that we can exchange.
Do you often watch the younger bands?
Matsuoka: I don’t get much of a chance but I want to.
Twice this year your songs have been covered on the CRUSH albums by the visual kei bands Doremidan and Annie’s Black. What do you think of them?
Matsuoka: I think it must have been really difficult to rearrange them! But it sounds like them – like the image they hold of SOPHIA. I don’t have any problems with the covers at all. They’re very cool.
SOPHIA recently covered a song as well, Hymne à l'Amour by Edith Piaf, but if you could do another cover, what would you like to do?
Matsuoka: Actually, I cover a lot of older Japanese artists like BOOWY the “King of Japanese bands” or Checkers, Hideki Saijou, Kai Yoshihiko, Kondou Masahiko from Johnny's. There’s a lot that I’ve done and a lot I want to do from now on.
What do you most want to do?
Matsuoka: There’s so many I can’t choose, but I’ll definitely do another so I’ll announce it then.
We’ll look forward to it. SOPHIA went to America in 2010. How was that?
Matsuoka: Anime Expo? It was a lot of fun. NOKIA Theatre is a legend, the Hall of Fame for rock. I liked Michael Jackson and I knew that before he died, he skipped rehearsal for his last world tour to perform there so I was honored to stand on that stage, and the people who gathered there were American anime otaku who knew nothing about SOPHIA at all. “Huh? Who’s that?” They didn’t have a clue. Everybody said “Who’s that? Japanese rock? I don’t like it.”
Did that sentiment change?
Matsuoka: Ahhh. The moment I sang, everyone suddenly asked: “What’s that band? What are they called?” “Wow! They’re so good!” I was extremely happy.
Having just watched you perform, I can believe you have that kind of power.
Matsuoka: It was fun. Really fun.
So rewinding a little, is there an overseas artist you would like to cover?
Matsuoka: Someone I want to cover? Hmmm…
You look very happy thinking about that.
Matsuoka: There are so many but I think someday I’d like to cover David Bowie.
If you are able to perform overseas again, where would you most like to go?
Matsuoka: Right now? Taiwan. Taiwanese people were extremely supportive and sent a lot of love to Japan after the earthquake in Tohoku. I want to respond to that. I want to say thank you. Well, Japanese artists have been going, but I want to go, too. We’ve been before but I want to go now to say thank you.
What’s on the cards for SOPHIA now?
Matsuoka: Of course we’ll continue to perform in Japan, but as I just said, we want to go overseas. We want to pass all sorts of messages to people overseas. It doesn’t have to be a big live, or good business, we just want to go overseas. There’s a lot of value. Just like you were raised in a different environment, we just happened to be brought up in Japan. By chance, people from Osaka, Tokyo and Nagoya became SOPHIA but there’s a possibility to meet all sorts of people. So through music, even if there’s a wall of words, music will be understood. That’s what I believe.
Lastly, a message for JaME’s readers, please.
Matsuoka: I think the people reading this are already people who have an interest in Japanese visual kei and the interesting music of this new era, but there’s still much, much more of interest in Japan so please continue to “check it. Don’t miss me.”