Interview Exclusive

Interview with ARKTA

10/04/2024 2024-04-10 02:00:00 JaME Author: Nana, Marcela

Interview with ARKTA

Rock duo ARKTA spoke to JaME about their first EP, "From Where the City Lights Burn", their musical influences, and their plans for the future.

© Monica Castaloni
The alternative rock duo ARKTA is made up of two members: vocalist and lyricist Tak and vocalist, guitarist and composer kenken. Hailing from Los Angeles, Tak is the announcer for New Japan Pro-Wrestling and is also part of the band Quietude. kenken is from Tokyo and is a former member of the metalcore band DELHEZI. The duo take a firmly DIY approach to their music, handling the recording, mixing and mastering of all of their work themselves.

Following the release of their first EP, From Where the City Lights Burn, JaME had the chance to ask the duo about their history in music, the concept of the new release, their influences, and their plans for the future.

Could you introduce yourselves to our readers who may not be familiar with your music?

ARKTA: We are a hybrid rock duo composed of vocalist Tak from LA and vocalist/producer kenken from Tokyo. Drawing from backgrounds in nu-metal and emo, we intricately weave "stories" into our songs, blending intense screams with emotionally beautiful melodies. Our musical inspiration springs not only from our personal experiences but also from anime, manga, and video games. Our music focuses on themes such as "the highs and lows of life" and "perspectives on life and death.”

ARKTA started in 2020, during the pandemic, and the members live in different countries. Can you tell us a bit about how the band came together? Did you know each other from previous projects?

ARKTA: The project began when we worked on the character ending songs for the video game "Slow Damage," released by NITRO CHiRAL in 2021. While we were both active in different bands, kenken approached Tak to join as a screamer for the project, which led to the formation of ARKTA. Since we live in different countries, most of our music production is done remotely online.

We first met in 2011 when kenken, then a supporting guitarist for Another Story, came to LA for a show. We became friends, and since then, we've traveled between Japan and the U.S. multiple times.

In projects like DELHEZI, kenken mainly played the guitar. How is it working as a vocalist in ARKTA?

kenken: Yes, I usually play guitar in other bands, but I've also played and programmed instruments like bass and piano for quite some time. Plus, I used to be a composer in my previous bands before ARKTA.

I've always wanted to express my music with "my voice as an instrument," so I decided to challenge myself as a vocalist in ARKTA. Singing has always been a passion of mine, so being part of ARKTA is super exciting. I feel like it's given me a whole new way to express myself and expand my musical horizons.

But it's not without its challenges. Most of ARKTA's songs are in English, and since it's not my first language, I struggle with pronunciation. Luckily, Tak, who's bilingual, has been helping me with that. Also, I had zero experience as a vocalist on stage before, so I'm still not completely satisfied with my performances. But I'm working hard daily to improve for better live shows.

During the pandemic, Tak also became an announcer for New Japan Pro-Wrestling. What is your relationship with sports, and how did the opportunity come about? What are the similarities and differences between entertaining the audience as an announcer and as a musician?

Tak: Someone I knew shared a video of me with the CEO of New Japan Pro-Wrestling in the United States because they were looking for a Japanese-speaking ring announcer based in LA. Since I was simply a fan, it was quite surreal when they reached out to me.

Since I'm used to screaming on stage for my band, being a ring announcer in wrestling wasn't a problem for me.

The main difference between being a vocalist on stage and a ring announcer is who you're performing for. On stage, I entertain the crowds directly, but as a ring announcer, I make sure the wrestlers shine and get the crowd fired up. This experience has given me a lot of new firepower.

"From where the city lights burn" is the duo's first EP. What can you tell us about the concept of this release?

ARKTA: The title of the EP, From Where the City Lights Burn, represents our home cities of LA and Tokyo. We chose this name, hoping the lights from these two cities would reach the entire world.

The concept throughout the EP is "the fragility of living in the present reality." Each song sings about "the beauty and preciousness of things that are ambiguous and fragile." While some songs focus on unrequited love and eternal farewells, emotions such as a thirst for life, longing, and feelings for the friends you share your life with are also scattered throughout these five songs.

Since this is our first EP as ARKTA, these five songs serve as our self-introduction.

In April, you will be performing with the band ACME in Tokyo. How did this collaboration come about, and what are your expectations?

ARKTA: Tak made a connection when he played with his American band, Quietude, during ACME's US tour. With Tak's upcoming visit to Japan in April to promote the EP release already planned, we discovered that one of the ACME members would be hosting a birthday event during Tak's stay, so fortunately, we were invited to perform as their opening act.

This will be ARKTA's second performance in Japan. StellarStairs, another project of kenken's, who contributed to the third track of the EP, The End, will provide the band music for our show. As ARKTA is a vocal duo, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to perform with a band.

What are your musical influences (Japanese and international)?

ARKTA: ARKTA's music is deeply rooted in Linkin Park's influence. While we draw from the sounds of 2000s nu-metal and emo bands like Slipknot and Story of the Year, we also find inspiration in more recent bands such as Memphis May Fire, Bad Omens, and Bring Me the Horizon.

Both of us have strong ties to the visual kei scene, with bands like DIR EN GREY, X JAPAN, and LUNA SEA shaping our musical beginnings. Additionally, we're heavily influenced by Japanese "loud rock" culture, such as Pay money To my Pain and coldrain.

Do you often interact with the international audience on social media?

ARKTA: Yes, we post on social media in both English and Japanese. X is mainly for Japanese fans, but Instagram has followers from many different countries. We always check and share fan posts, so please share and talk about ARKTA on your social media! We occasionally do live streaming on X Spaces and TwitCasting (a Japanese streaming platform). We are also thinking of doing Instagram Lives in the future.

What are ARKTA's future goals?

ARKTA: One of ARKTA's goals is to be involved with "Gundam" series with our music. Tak and kenken are both huge "Gundam" fans. In fact, The Lily and The Last Day were inspired by characters from "Gundam" series. To achieve this goal, we'll continue to write emotionally compelling songs that resonate with many and strive to deliver passionate live performances.

Please share a message with our readers.

ARKTA: We believe many JaME readers are passionate about Japanese music and culture, and we're no exception. As ARKTA, we've been deeply influenced by Japanese culture from both within and beyond, and it's a huge part of our music.

ARKTA is just starting out as a band. But we're determined to keep sharing our music, filled with our emotions and messages, with the world. Let's meet in your city sometime. From LA to Tokyo, we're ready to light up the world.

JaME would like to thank ARKTA and JUS Management for this interview opportunity.

ARKTA's debut EP From Where the City Lights Burn is available for download and streaming on various music platforms here.

In addition, Tak and kenken kindly recorded a comment video for JaME's 20th anniversary celebrations, which you can watch below.

 Download or stream "From Where the City Lights Burn"

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