We’re not obsessive about our lyrics
--I’d also like to ask some questions about your lyrics. In “The Beginning,” you start out singing everything in English, but then you suddenly insert Japanese lyrics into the middle of the B-melody. I was really surprised.
T: Really? Thank you.
--The balance between the Japanese and English is just perfect.
T: We thought it would be fine even if all the lyrics were in English, but that would have had a slightly different feeling to it. And of course I’m Japanese, so I don’t have perfect pronunciation like a native English-speaker, so more than anything I thought about what English words I could say.
--How important did you originally think the lyrics would be?
T: We’re not really that obsessive about our lyrics. I don’t think at all about whether I’m saying something good. I don’t have any talent for writing lyrics.
T: I always say the same thing, ever since we first started the band.
--I think your lyrics are good.
--And they’re a little weird. (laugh)
T: (laugh) I hear that a lot.
--A lot of popular rock bands have a cool signature phrase or a powerful saying that they usually use in their lyrics. But your lyrics tend to use words that people would use in conversation. They feel authentic.
T: I guess so.
--Is that how you feel about it?
T: No, like... I don’t have that sense of it at all. I’m jealous of the people who can write lyrics that pierce with a single word. There are a lot of lyricists who can do it, but I have no idea how.
--How do you write your lyrics?
T: Usually I try to think of something that’ll work with the melody. I don’t really think about writing “good” lyrics. If there’s something on my mind, I just add it to the song. I really don’t write good lyrics. I don’t really write that well at all. (laugh)
--A lot of people say that the lyrics just come to them...
T: Not me. (laugh)
As the vocalist, I want to sing my own words
--But, just like your vocal work, the lyrics still pose a bit of problem for you, right? Doing something that doesn’t attain the same quality as your past work would be bad.
--They don’t pose a problem? (laugh)
T: I don’t know. I mean, I want to write lyrics that are comprehensible when people read them, since I myself am an idiot. (laugh) I don’t really understand a lot difficult words, and I want to speak as politely as I can. I just write what I can understand.
--On this single you have a song called “Ketsuraku Automation.” It has a line that goes something like “Jibun wo kasane awasete mitari nanka shichattari shite” [“I try eclipsing myself and doing something”].
T: (laugh) I couldn’t help that one. The melody for that section already existed. I wanted it to be “Jibun wo kasanete mitari shite” [“I try piling on myself”], but it didn’t work with the melody, so I thought, “Well, I’ll just add more syllables.” So it’s not really “lyrics writing...”
--But you took something you wanted to convey and put it down in words.
T: That’s true. But rather than seeking to “convey” something, more often than not I simply write down the feelings that I’m having at that moment.
--But ONE OK ROCK’s lyrics are often passed around. The lyrics themselves, more than the melodies or performances, are the most powerful, resonant lyrics there are.
T: I’m glad that you say so.
--You don’t get that reaction from fans?
T: No, well... We don’t often have people telling us things like our lyrics “saved” them. (laugh)
T: We don’t really get people saying “These lyrics changes my life.” More often than not we get “ONE OK ROCK always makes me happy,” and that’s what I prefer.
--So lyrics really aren’t your strong point?
T: Not really. I think I just write because I’m the vocalist. It’s just that, since it’s my voice communicating with the audience, I have to use my own words. If I ever quit being a vocalist and play guitar instead, I probably won’t write the lyrics.
Melodies are no trouble at all
--How are the melodies? Do you have as little trouble with them as you do with lyrics?
T: Yeah, melodies are no trouble at all.
--It’s amazing you can say that with such finality. (laugh)
T: I think that’s my only “signature move.” I can always come up with a song. Even when Toru [guitar] makes a demo, I try different melodies on it until he likes something.
--Are you thinking about what your voice is capable of while you’re creating melodies?
T: No, I don’t think about that. My ideas expand more when I’m not thinking about my voice or the way I’ll sing a melody. Recently I’ve been daring to try things that don’t seem like they’d suit me.
--That’s a surprise. Listening to “The Beginning,” I thought that there aren’t many others who could sing it, and I felt like it had to have been created specifically based on your voice and style.
--It felt like a singer-selected melody.
T: That could be true. I like Western music, so I think of foreign singers when I create the melodies. For example, I’ll think about singing like Nickleback. That’s how I write the melodies.
--Like you’re offering a song to the artists you want to be like?
T: Yeah, that would make me really happy.
--I see. You don’t create a strategy around your voice or style, and instead come at the music from a high-level point of view. So when you sing, that must be when you run into trouble.
T: Hey, that’s probably true! (laugh)
We want to climb impossibly high mountains
--You must have your own personal reaction to this single. Like the point where you knew it would work for the band.
T: Yes, I’m glad we made it. And...How do I say it? One day people will say “ONE OK ROCK isn’t as good as it used to be, huh?”
--Like when the next generation comes along?
T: Like, the groups who the older generations say are awesome... I don’t think all of them are that good. So someday we’ll probably be in the opposite position we are now. The next generation will have raised the bar on Japanese music, and they’ll take the Japanese music world away from us. And because of that, I want to keep making music that I think is cool. There’s no point to making music that appeals to the market but that we think sucks. That’s my sense of it.
--So you’re thinking about how to create music without any regrets.
T: I’ve been thinking about that a ton lately. (laugh) Um... Our time is short. Because of age and physical fitness, we probably won’t be able to do performances like we do now once we pass 30.
T: Of course, I’m sure there are cool things that you can’t really do until you’re that age, but what we’re dreaming of now aren’t the sorts of things you can do in your 50s and 60s. We’re thinking about how we can top the high level that we’ve already established, and how to get back down.
--Are you already worried about that? (laugh)
T: No, I mean that I want to be able to come down from the impossibly high summit that I climb. If I only have an hour to climb the mountain, then I spend 30 minutes going up and 30 minutes coming back. But rather than climbing the mountain a regular person can climb in half an hour, I want to climb a distant mountain and return. I want us to go to overwhelming places as a band.
We want to convey our vivid emotions
--But even so, ONE OK ROCK is doing fine.
T: No, I feel like we still have more to do. I want to do more overseas.
--You’re pretty hard on yourself. (laugh)
T: It’s because I’ve always been an idiot. There are some people whose attitude changes very quickly. I think there are bands like that. We can be like that, too: we see a possibility, and we and the people around us think, “Well, that’s probably not possible.” But we also think to ourselves, “But someway we’ll be able to do it.”
--You mean things like holding a live at a bigger venue?
T: Yeah. But at the same time, size isn’t everything. We want to perform at a big venue, but there are more important things.
T: Like conveying our vivid emotions to the audience. We’re always thinking about how we can do that.
--But it’s harder to convey your emotions clearly to every person in the audience when you’re performing in a large venue.
T: I think the other band members don’t really want to perform at large venues for that exact reason. They’re like, “It’s too big,” and “The acoustics suck,” and “We couldn’t get anything across in here.” But I want to take down a big venue. It’s true that the acoustics suck and it’s hard to convey your music to the audience, but I think it’s the kind of thing that you have to just jump into headfirst. So I want us to play in bigger and bigger places.
--Like Tokyo Dome?
T: Yes, we want to try and get our music across to people at Tokyo Dome.
--And so you’re starting your live house tour in September.
T: That’s right. We created this single for the tour. We want these three songs to be the central focus. We want our fans to come to the tour, listen to the music, and have a great time.