Translated by Erin Grace
“The band is more ‘compact’ this way, and we want our themes to be the things that we think deeply about.”
--With “eee-P!!!” you’ve completed your first album as a three-member group.
Hayashi: It’s an even more interesting album than I thought it would be. I’ve been doing POLYSICS for 14 years - March marks year 15 - and this album is really packed with the kind of inspiration that I had in the early days.
--Since this is your first album as a three-member group, did you get the sense that you were spreading yourselves too thin?
H: Ah hah hah. I think that every album! (laugh) It’s not so much that we thought, “Well, what do we do now that there’s only three of us?” but... We didn’t go overboard either. Instead, our tour after the release of “eee-P!!!” was a shot in the arm for us, and we started to wonder what it would be like if we tried doing the music that we really wanted to do. The feeling was very strong.
--I see. So even in this new album, the band’s style isn’t fragmented. The sound is broad, the rhythm is robust, and the groove is outstanding! It’s not that you just changed your equipment; I could also feel the change in your style.
H: I’ve come to a conclusion about the band’s style since we explored it in “eee-P!!!” What I’ve discovered is that the band is more ‘compact’ this way, and that we want our themes to be the things that we think deeply about.. And the one that can do that for us is Alex Newport. When we were working on “eee-P!!!” he just mixed for us, handling the album recording from the very start, and I think he really broadened our potential. He was right on the mark. This time, the recording was very time intensive.
--Now now (laugh), you always say that. Compared to other bands, POLYSICS’ activity cycle tends to be surprisingly fast. (laugh) I mean, about this time last year you had your live in the Budoukan, and since then you’ve taken a break, had your revival as a three-member band, had another tour, recorded, and now you have a new album.
H: No (laugh), this time, it really did take us a long time to settle on the sound. We were of course very careful about pre-processing, and we didn’t cross the limits of the album. This time we didn’t process the music after we recorded; instead from the very beginning we figured out how we wanted to get to the “image” of the sound. We also got a clear idea of Alex’s vision, and then did jam sessions over and over until we got it just right. When we’d think, “No, it’s still not right,” we’d re-tune the drum, we’d re-position the mic. It was a pain in the ass, but the sound coming out the speakers was incredible and we couldn’t get enough of it. We were totally pumped.
--It’s rare for Americans to spend Christmas or New Year overseas. Especially for work. (laugh) It seems like Alex must really think POLYSICS is something special.
H: He does. It was great. He asked to come and we said that we thought we could get some good stuff done if he did. To that extent, this album is different from the others before it.
“This song showed us the way to the songs we want to play”
--While you were writing, did you ever get the sense that the music was new even to you? Or a feeling like you were “powering up” the regular POLYSICS sound?
H: There was a lot that was new: the atmosphere in the band as well as the things we were working on. Alex said, “I’m aiming for something that has no tie to our time. I want to make something that you could hear in 2080.” That’s what I was aiming for too, so our vision was consistent. Although my roots are in New Wave, I still listened to rock even before then, and I went through the band boom. Fumi was into garage punk and 60s- and 70s-era music from the UK, Yano was mixture rock and metal... POLYSICS is a band that’s formed by three people that listen to all kinds of music, so we’re not just some band that “likes 80s technopop.” And we’re not just getting by on the current popularity of electronic music. (laugh) So we don’t just want to write the most bleeding edge music of 2011. More than that, we want to write music that won’t fade 20 or 30 years from now.
--If you were trying to write the most bleeding edge music of 2011, “Let’s Dabadaba” wouldn’t fit the bill. (laugh) It’s not so much the sound as the feeling of the language.
H: Ah hah hah hah. That’s oldies from the 60s... I think there’s even a riff from “Land of 1000 Dances” [the Walker Brothers’ cover of which became a big hit in Japan]. The “Laaa la la la laaa, la la la laa la la laa la la laa, la la la laaa” line. Most people don’t remember anything about the song except that part, right? And that’s the kind of song I wanted to write. (laugh) I did away with the typical “A Melody to B Melody to Hook” format, and wrote a dance song POLYSICS style.
--The song also includes a 120 fans singing the chorus in a public recording.
H: That was awesome. We didn’t really edit it, they were just all right on. At first we tried a test with only the band and the staffers singing, and it was terrible (laugh). Our voices were scattered all over and we were really worried about whether it would work, but all at once the pitch and rythm just came together. (laugh) Just as you’d expect, it was a bunch of “POLYSICK people,” and we were really touched that they helped us.
--You also use that word in the album title: “Heavy POLYSICK.” What does that mean?
H: Hah hah hah. It’s someone who gets emotional and cranky when they don’t listen to POLYSICS, and who goes to our lives as medicine. (laugh) Isn’t the first song, “Heavy POLYSICK,” it would work for that, right?
--Those sound effects are already an old stand-by at the openings of your lives.
H: This is what I came up with when I decided that I wanted to create sound effects that would help listeners imagine what it’s like to be in a POLYSICS live. “POLYSICK” was originally a word that was created by a designer to add to the t-shirts that we sold on our 2004 American tour. We remembered the word when we were writing music to give a sense of POLYSICS. It fit perfectly. This song showed us the way to the songs we wanted to play. Once we had this theme, we knew what other kinds of songs would be good for the album.
--Is the title at all related to Devo’s album “Oh, No! It’s DEVO!” [5th album, released 1982]?
"It took three days before we finally had the perfect 'Oh! No!'"
H: No, this is a different “Oh! No!” When we first talked about the album, we wanted to work out every single sound perfectly. We started work on “Much Love Oh! No!” and Alex and I found that we pronounced “love” differently, so I did a lot of pronunciation practice with him. At the same time, Yano worked on the “Oh! No!” part, and you’d think he’d have been done pretty quickly, but that didn’t happen. (laugh) That day, after recording, Yano kept practicing the pronunciation of “Oh! No!” that Alex had recorded for us. Then the next day, when he tried it out, Alex said, “That’s pretty good. But it needs more of an ‘Oh no!’ feeling. Courser!” So Yano started practicing again. (laugh) It took three days before we finally had the perfect “Oh! No!” And I think that this phrase became a symbol for our determination not to compromise on any part of the sound. When I saw how determined Yano was and how hard he was working on it, I thought “Oh! No!” should go into the title. At first we were planning on “Heavy Polysick” or “It’s Heavy Polysick.” It wasn’t until later that we realized that Devo had a very similar title, but we just thought, “Meh, what the hell. We like it.” (laugh)
--Ah, so that’s how it was. (laugh) I wonder how Yano felt after saying “Oh! No!” for three days straight.
H: He was even saying it in his sleep. Hah hah hah hah hah.
--You’re definitely thorough, and the full breadth of POLYSICS’ humor is vividly displayed in songs like “Let’s Dabadaba,” “Subliminal CHA-CHA-CHA,” “Digital Dancing Zombie,” and “Much Love Oh! No!”
H: Yeah. It’s not just in one song - I think that atmosphere spans the entire album. I think “Let’s Dabadaba” symbolizes it. Especially with the entire music industry in such a tough situation and strange information flitting about everywhere. I don’t like it, but there are a lot of people that are swayed by trends. I mean, if someone says “This album sucks!” people have a tendency to get sucked in by the desire to conform and will say “Yeah, it is!” even if they don’t really think that. So it’s easy to feel like everything is one-sided. I don’t think that kind of thing is healthy and it makes me uneasy. So I think that doing some “dabadaba” in this kind of strained world helps take the edge off. (laugh) I think the humor was always there, but hasn’t come out until now.
--It’s awesome that you were able to get 80 people wearing the POLYSICS visors packed into a picture for the jacket.
H: That was my idea, but I’ve been wanting to do a jacket picture of various people becoming POLYSICS for a long time. They were people from the record company, the management office... All staff, but the feeling is sort of like “These are the people who had the courage to become POLYSICS.” (laugh) Each was framed with a posed look, like pictures from an American yearbook. It was a pretty good idea, if I do say so myself.