Interview Exclusive

Interview with G.L.A.M.S

04/03/2020 2020-03-04 11:00:00 JaME Author: Lucy C.H.

Interview with G.L.A.M.S

Mikaru and the members of G.L.A.M.S talk new album, artistic fluidity and the man behind the (stage) mask.


© Vanessa Le Pennec
On a chilly Saturday night in central Paris, JaME met up with Mikaru, frontman of G.L.A.M.S and a multi-talented Japanese artist and musician who splits his time between his music and his activities as a painter and a jeweler. No stranger to the French capital, Mikaru held his first painting exhibition at the Mister LO Gallery back in 2014, a gem of a creative hub in Rue Rodier, just a few yards away from Paris’ most notorious bohemian landmark, the Moulin Rouge.

By the time he began working on G.L.A.M.S almost seven years ago, Mikaru was far from a newcomer to the music scene, having previously been a part of Dio - Distraught Overlord -, a visual rock band that attained considerable success in Japan and one of the first in the scene to take the leap and perform overseas in the early 2000s. After the breakup of Dio, Mikaru, who had remained in good terms with his band members, teamed up with drummer Syu to start BLACK LINE, a heavy rock band that kept some of the classic elements from their visual rock days, all the while evolving into a sleeker, more malleable project that would lay the foundations for his current ventures. It was also around that time that he met and hired guitarist Yudai, another free spirit with a unique approach to music who enthusiastically accepted his invitation to be a part of G.L.A.M.S.

Mikaru’s artistic vision might seem bleak for the uninitiated. In his fine art repertoire one can find multiple pieces that cast darker undertones on the seemingly energetic and spry showman. Created with a blend of oil and acrylics, his paintings, like his music, fluctuate between genres as the artist nonchalantly gravitates between realism and abstraction, blazing colours and crepuscular shades, European art brut and figurative depictions inspired by his native Japan. A lifelong fan of Victorian aesthetics and vampire folklore, as a jeweler Mikaru likes to flaunt his distinctive, equally dark style. His pieces, all handmade, often mix delicately engraved noble metals, precious stones and classic romantic themes.

Yet bleak does no justice to the lively, jovial character that greets us with a charming smile at the L’International’s lounge bar, surrounded by guitarist Yudai, drummer Syu and bassist Tetsuto. Offstage, Mikaru is a mild-mannered, ageless man dressed in a casual, smart black outfit, impeccably styled with his very own jewelry creations. Like the rest of the band, he has a somewhat mysterious, inscrutable allure, but after we exchange a few words, we catch a glimpse of his surprisingly easy-going true nature. In perfect English and with a touch of humour, Mikaru and his band lightheartedly chatted with us about their latest album, TWILIGHT AFTER THE RAIN, their impressions of Europe, their frontman’s latest artistic ventures and their understanding of music as a broader concept.


You have been coming to France every year since 2014, is France a special place to you?

Mikaru: Absolutely, yes. I’ve been coming here every year for a quite a while now, it’s a very special place for me. It was actually here in Paris that I started G.L.A.M.S back then, I held a painting exhibition in Montmartre. I remember my fans from year to year, I remember their singing, their faces, the way they cheer us on during songs, it’s a real joy to meet them every year.

Tetsuto
: And you people have macarons, I love those!

Syu: And French wine, French beef… those are delicious.

Mikaru: Oh, just yesterday we ate this awesome French steak with mushroom sauce in Tours, I loved it! (laughs)

You have just announced the release of your fourth album, TWILIGHT AFTER THE RAIN. Why did you choose this title, does this have a personal meaning to you?

Mikaru: Actually, I only decided on the title after everything was completed. I listened to all five songs and I thought up images I could associate with them. It was then that I started to visualise this concept - twilight after the rain. The sky turning dark after rainfall, but it’s a good kind of dark. Some songs are really sad, then we have some that are exciting, the silver lining after a storm.


And what is the concept behind TWILIGHT AFTER THE RAIN? What was your inspiration, or what emotions did you want to convey?

Mikaru: Well, it’s not easy to put it down in words, every time, we strive to bring something new to the table... (hesitates)

Syu: He’s very deep in thought!

Mikaru: Indeed! In this album, every song is different from the rest. You’ve got rock, R&B, ballads, jazz. Every song has its own universe.

Pretty much like in EVER-CHANGING, every song had a world of its own.

Mikaru: Indeed, we like to experiment with a broader concept of music. I don’t like categories - jazz, rock, et cetera. They make it sound like music is a small world. And it isn’t. Music is one very broad concept, without partitions. I decide my own limits when creating a record, I don’t stick with a one-dimensional view of who I am as a musician.

You mention your limits, do you want to expand on that idea?

Mikaru: Well, when it comes to creating some form of art, I always try to make it 100% me. It has to be absolutely personal. And as a musician, I feel like I transcend the borders of metal, hard rock, J-rock, all these words can be just words, if you want to see things like that. I like to push my own limits into unexplored territory, I’ll even go from the 100% to 1000%, if I have to, as long as the final product is true to the message I wanted to convey, as long as it is true to who I am.

Speaking of Mikaru, the artist, I think the title you picked for your previous album reflected who you are quite well. You are ever-changing. We have met many times before, and every time you show us a different side of you, a different face. Is Mikaru ever-changing?

Mikaru: Yes, I am! I look for something new every day. I would even say my songs are like movies. One song, one different movie, a different leitmotiv, different costumes, but the same director.

Visually, it’s very striking! In your videos, we often see you play different characters: an androgynous vampire-like creature, a jazzman, a rockstar… but who is the real Mikaru?

Mikaru: Ah, I’m still looking for him! Please find me behind Mikaru.

Syu: (In Japanese) Oh, please keep looking! (laughs)


When we met a few years back, you said that you chose Europe as the place to launch G.L.A.M.S (which at first was a fine art project) because you thought that perhaps Europeans would understand you as an artist in a way that Japanese audiences wouldn’t. After many years of playing overseas, do you still feel that way?

Mikaru: Actually, I think I might have chosen Paris [as the birthplace of G.L.A.M.S] for a more straightforward reason - Paris is the city of art, so it was my natural choice. Do I still think Japanese and European audiences perceive my art differently? I’m not sure, I think people’s understanding of it is actually quite similar, whether they be Japanese or Westerners. But if I do another art exhibition, I’m positive I’ll go for a European gallery again.

Tetsuto: From a musician’s standpoint, I find that Japanese and European audiences are not that different, actually. Both start out very shy at first, when they’re new to the situation, they’re cautious, they don’t know how to react just yet. Then, as we move forward, they become more open, they get into the music, they get in the mood, they let their hair down.

Yudai: Interestingly, I find that in Japan people have a slightly different view on music - they like to label things with genres. Rock, metal, pop, visual kei… You will find many people that say they only like this or that genre. That’s now how I view music, though. I see music as a whole. Just music. In that sense, foreign audiences tend to be more open-minded, more fluid in their tastes.

And one must not forget that G.L.A.M.S is first and foremost an art project that expands way beyond the borders of music. Are you still painting and creating jewelry, Mikaru?

Mikaru: Oh yes, of course I am. When I first started G.L.A.M.S, I actually saw it as a fine art project. I held my first exhibition here in Paris, and I presented myself as a visual artist. From there, I began expanding my art to jewelry and art as well. Painting is a very time-consuming activity, though. Last year I held a small exhibition in the Netherlands with eight paintings in Dordrecht, and I’m still making new art. Lately, I dropped the habit of drawing a bit since I was focusing on TWILIGHT AFTER THE RAIN, but I plan on diving right back into it as soon as we wrap up the tour.

Syu: Painting really is something very important to him, but it takes time, jewelry as well. It involves a lot of drawing, experimenting, it takes up a lot of creative space… At first he really saw G.L.A.M.Sas a fine art-oriented project, his really is a very interesting story. Painting, jewelry and music were separate things in his view, before he felt like he needed to bring both worlds together, music and fine art.

Mikaru: That’s right. But I really want to start working on a new exhibition. I might come back to Paris soon to show you my new work!

Please do that, we would absolutely love to have you back! Last but not least, do you want to leave a message to your European fans?

Tetsuto: Bassist Tetsuto here. I’m really thankful that you guys have been looking forward to seeing us play here in Europe. Personally, I’m also really excited to play here in Paris once again!

Yudai: This is guitarist Yudai. This new album is a really interesting one, you’ve got five new songs that are all very different. Please give it a listen, and thank you so much!

Syu: Hey there, this is drummer Syu. I’ve been coming back to Europe every year for a while now, and it’s something that brings me so much joy in my life. I really want to keep coming back, let’s all dance and party together tonight!

Mikaru: (in French) Bonsoir Paris! I’m back, thanks to you. Tonight… please leave your windows open. And your clothes. Because tonight… I will go to your bed to bite your neck and drink your blood. Please, wait for me...

JaME would like to thank Mikaru, Syu, Yudai, Tetsuto and tour promoter Uknight for this interview opportunity.


G.L.A.M.S is currently in the middle of a European tour. The full list of dates is available on our event schedule further down the page and on the project's official website, and you can buy tickets here.

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