NICO Touches the Walls "Sudden Death Game" Exclusive Interview Translation

Original: Excite
Translator: Erin Grace

--“Sudden Death Game” takes the bands edginess to a new level; it’s a new kind of song.  The riffs come to an end in a cool way.  How long have you been working on it?

Mitsumura: We actually came up with the intro in May or June of last year at the end of a retreat.  We were inspired by some drumming Tsushima did, and from there we gradually layered the guitar over it.  But we played around with just the intro for half a year. (laugh)  At first we weren’t even going to put it on a single, and we thought we’d just write it for fun, and thought up a lot of weird parts for the arrangement.

--And when did it come to its current form?

M: We came up with the hook around March or April of this year.  While at first it seemed like post-rock, we thought about creating it with a “human electronic” feeling, but the melody kept getting harder and harder.  So when we went to our retreat this year, I really felt that Black Sabbath was a boon to us.  We’d only listened to “Paranoid,” the second album, and I thought that we’d created a great song for sure.

--So you went from post-rock to Black Sabbath.

M: Yeah, it went to 70’s metal really fast. (laugh)  But we liked what we were hearing, too, and we became completely absorbed in it to the exclusion of all else, like we were going numb.

--So you originally started writing the song from Tsushima’s drumming, right?

Tsushima: I don’t remember how it started out very well, but that’s how it seems. (laugh)  The intro we wrote had a cool atmosphere to it, and even though we thought about building on it, we couldn’t really move forward from there.  Last year was too soon.  So we put it to bed for awhile, and when we came back to it and began to work on the arrangement, it turned out to be a really hard rock song.  When we’re performing it, I can’t contain myself.  I feel like I can’t go against my instincts, and I slip into a mood like, “Let’s do this!” I drum as fast as I can, fighting with myself.

--It’s a song where the stillness and motion evolve.  Was that kind of rhythmic arrangement difficult?

Sakakura: The drum is really violent during the hook.  Still, to a certain extent, during the session where we decided on the chord progression, you could clearly distinguish the baseline from the drums, and we were able to immediately establish the foundation of the song.  The hook starts with Tsushima’s riff, and from there we’re just carried away by the song.

Furumura: When we began to arrange it, you could feel the speed at which it was changing as we made suggestions, and together with the speed that the song was forming, it was like we were in a frenzy.  For the guitars, although you can sense a certain coldness from the intro to the “A” [before the hook], the hook is fierce.  Even though the guitar solos are long, they’re feverish.

--With the title “Sudden Death Game” and phrases like “nou kara shinkei he” [“from the brain to the nerves”], you create a very unique worldview.  Where does it come from?

M: When we were first working with a mock-up of the song, the hook was nothing more than us singing the phrase “Come on baby” back and forth to each other.  Since the feeling was really very “Black Sabbath” at that point, we didn’t go for “sex, drugs, rock n’ roll.” Instead, it was more, “Dump your girl to this song!” (laugh)  Of course, with no lyrics but “Come on baby,” you’d be bound to chase away even the girls you want to draw in.  So we started rhyming.  From there, the thing that really grabbed us was the phrase “sudden death game.” We found ourselves in a “sudden death” scenario.

--What scenario was that?

M: One time we got really sucked into “Mario Kart” for the Wii, and we played night after night after night to unlock the hidden characters and tracks. (laugh)  But we had to get the lyrics done really soon.  We wanted to just get through the races as fast as we could, but somehow we couldn’t quit playing.  We were down to the wire.  Images began to bubble to the surface in our minds, and like the “gears” and “mufflers” in the lyrics, phrases related to racing began to appear.  It was all related to our final result.

--The phrase “nou kara shinkei he”  [“from the brain to the nerves”], like so many of the lyrics, perfectly captures the image of “following your instincts” that this song gives, giving thoughts to the brain and instinct to the nerves. Did you listen to your instincts as you went forward with the lyrics?

T: Yeah.  It’s not like we’d never trusted our instincts before – more like this time it came to life intact.  For me, there’s no difference between the process of recording a song and performing it live.  For both, exceeding your own limitations is the theme of the day.  Its fun to have the sense that a song is cool because it you can feel yourself pushing your boundaries.  We get that feeling from each other, and also give it to each other.  That’s the kind of song this is.

M: Until last year, we just kept doing what we knew we were good at, just wrote about a small set of scenarios.  That is, we were a band that didn’t really let go to make room for instinct to kick in.  That’s when we created the album “Aurora.”  We felt a sense of achievement about it, but soon enough we had to face up to the fact that it was all rock.  In this song, we express the feeling that, where we’re at now, it’s easy to rock.

--On the other hand, the B-side track “Naku no ha Yamete” uses lyricism to present a sentimental image.

M: We thought we’d be able to prove ourselves with a ballad.  But when we performed this song with Nagasaki (6/5, LIVEHOUSE DRUM BE-7), we had to deal with it differently from any other ballad we’d written to this point. Till then, all our ballads had been heavy songs, so when we performed them the entire live house seemed to freeze.  But this time the audience was really excited.  We became aware that, up until then, we didn’t have a ballad that people could sway back and forth to, getting a good feeling from listening to it. We weren’t proving ourselves; it was a new situation for us.  Because of that, we really felt that this song had to be on the single.

--It’s true.  Compared to previous ballads, this one is very light and easy to listen to.

M: Even in the sections that we cut, it didn’t have a grand scale and was just a casual song.  It had been awhile since we were able to capture that.

S: In my world, when I’m feeling a little sentimental, when I feel a little like I want to cry, I want to listen to this song, all alone.  Even when we perform live, “Sudden Death Game” gives you an image of us totally rocking out, but we want the people who listen to this song to have their own, individual feelings about it.

--Another interesting thing about this single is that there are four instrumental versions of “Sudden Death Game,” in each of which a different member plays the song alone.  Is this something that you want kids in bands to play together?

M: It is.  It’s been a long time since we worked so hard on studio rehearsal, and we just thought, “Well, the real pleasure of being in a band is in crap like this.”  We thought sharing that with the listeners would be interesting.  We of course want kids in bands to play it, but I think it’s interesting even for people that don’t play music.  We could hardly perform without the bass, for example, but we came to understand that when the rest of the band isn’t there, each of us supports the foundation of everything in a song.  Each part of the song became precious in its own right.  Even for people who don’t play in a band, we think they’ll be able to see what the music consists of and appreciate these tracks for how special they are.

--Finally, please give us some words for the kids that listen to this song and decide to play it.

T: The rhythm is established from the very first drum beat you hear, and you keep going from there, beat after beat.  There’s no need to copy it exactly as I played it; I want you to do even better than me!  The tempo to this song is 170 beats per minute (bpm), but while we were practicing, before we recorded it, we were playing between 180 and 190 bpm.  I almost couldn’t play as low as 170.  But if you can get over 200 bpm, let me know! (laugh)

M: There will probably be a lot of people that will be able to perform the song, so be sure to put a video up on the internet! (laugh)

S: I think the bass part in this song is really fun.  There are parts that are like a traditional bass line, parts where it follows the drums, and parts where you play freely.  Please listen to track six, “-Sakakura Bass,” and try performing it.

F: On the live DVD, we hooked up the guitar to a Marshall amp.  I definitely recommend using a Marshall amp while you’re playing this song – it gives the song a good quality.  Also, if you play the solo with the same level of passion, the sound will be warped.  But when I tried to play like Dire Straits’s Mark Knopfler (lead guitar), the sound was good.  Think about playing it all-out, with sticky fingers, hard and fast like gun.  Any guitarist who’s going to try this song should really check out Mark Knopfler.