--You’ve been writing songs continuously since “FREEDOM” went on sale. Will this album be a jumble of songs that you’ve been working on for the past several months?
Kj: No, no, nothing like that. Although we recorded the songs we wrote, we tossed them around to each other at first, like “How’s this one?” Once we all knew what direction we wanted to go with it, I moved forward. I wanted to know if there was a clear direction we wanted to aim for, and which we would pick.
--So what’s the whole story behind “MIXTURE?”
K: In March [of last year] we released “FREEDOM.” That April we wrote “FIRE SONG,” in May we wrote “SLASH,” then “SOCIABLE DESTRUCTION,” then “AMBITIOUS.” While we were writing good songs, our reactions to them were subdued, like “Hey, yeah, this is good.” The atmosphere in the studio was like “Okay, well, let’s do more then.” It was in this way that we were able to see the direction of the album.
Sakurai: “SLASH” came together really quickly, but it started with Kj throwing out the idea of aiming for the heart of a so-called “mixture sound,” music like with distortion guitar coming in. After that, we thought, “How can we enhance this for our listeners without using the distortion guitar?” We kept writing, and we emphasized the beat and the Latin elements. Then, all of a sudden, “SLASH” just sort of came together, and we were like “Whoa!” and we sure as hell didn’t hate it. We were like “This is awesome!” We’re using that song as the basis for the album.
--How did you create the songs that include featured artists?
K: We wrote them after deciding who we were going to have as the guest artist. When we decided to work with Takuma (10-FEET) and so wrote “SKY IS THE LIMIT.” Before we wrote “ROCK BAND,” we decided that we wanted to work with Satoshi (YAMAARASHI) and Ko-Ji Zero Three (GNz-WORLD/BIG MIC KILLERZ). “BEAT SURF” was the same way.
--Did you select the artists that you wanted to work with after seeing the direction that the album was taking?
K: No, we selected each for a different reason.
--That’s strange, there’s such a sense of unity to the album…
K: Yeah, I think there is too. But we really did have different reasons for choosing each artist. For example, it’s said that 10-FEET has a variety of styles including melodic hardcore and mixture rock, but in the end we selected them because we wanted the “10-FEET sound.” RIP SLYME and m-flo both originally come from a hip hop background, but when you listen to their music you think “Is this really hip hop?” That’s because RIP SLYME have the “RIP SLYME sound.” m-flo have the “m-flo sound.” They’re good at different things, and they have something unique. They have an alternative sound, and we decided that we wanted to work with people who weren’t just pigeonholing themselves.
--Which explains that sense of unity. The songs have individuality. On this album the voice quality that you keep returning to is high.
S: Yeah, everyone says that.
Atsushi: It almost seems like we wrote in call and response for each other, doesn’t it? (laugh)
K: Our aim is to present our mixture, but not to come back to the same place over and over. Because certainly if this career track didn’t exist, we couldn’t create things. The sound of mixture rock that doesn’t use any distortion is good for your body and your soul both, so it’s easy to stir up people’s feelings. We wanted to play with that idea and break it apart, which is when we created “FREEDOM.” We felt that “FREEDOM” was a big achievement. We wondered if it would be possible to create music that would still stir up just as many feelings without using any distortion at all. And so, since this is the next album after that, we feel like we don’t need to follow the “no distortion” rule anymore. We passed our time playing with it, feeling like we were out hunting again, and our one motivation was to show that being loud isn’t mainstream. People know how good mixture rock is, and we wanted to create an album in that style without breaking it apart or changing it.
--What do you see looking back on the year that you spent creating it?
S: In terms of the album, we tried a lot of musical styles, we increased our individual freedom, and as the drummer I entrusted a lot of the presentation to other people. That was really fun. I felt like a craftsman investing in my craft, and the actual work of creating the music was very interesting. While Dragon Ash makes the kind of music that I like, the actual creation of good music is a delicate balance, which is what made it worth doing.
Bots: I was in charge of “INTRO,” and what I created has a synergy with the album’s title that I think is good.
A: While we’re in the middle of creating an album like this one, everyone begins to face in the same direction and it allows us to show a side of Dragon Ash that’s never been seen before. It was fun and worth it to be able to hammer out our worldview.
Dri-V: We feel very deeply about our music, and we worked hard on it this year. We even record the sound of the dance steps, but each time we think of that, we realize that we don’t want to do the same thing over and over. We search for the sound in different directions, and we look for and learn from the beat, and as a result we were able to feel the depth of the sound.
Ikuzone: I was 30 when I joined Dragon Ash, and 31 when we debuted. We made great music back then – them in their teens and me at 30. My mindset toward music hasn’t fundamentally changed since then. I want to do everything. Kj’s songs are what direct to me. My attitude was open: the band did Latin-style music, and I thought that would be fun, and I came to see that it was cool. In the past year, Kj and the others have reached the age that I was when I joined the group and that makes me happy and proud. I kept thinking, “It’ll be cool when they’re all 45.” I waited, and now I feel like we can relate. (laugh)
Hiroki: I play my guitar at my house so that we can record once a month, but this time I distorted the sound on the fly while listening with headphones. It was just like back in the day when I would listen to the bands that I liked and play along with their songs. I did this every month, and it was fun so I felt like I’d accomplished something.
-- When you listen to the album, you can taste the impulse and impact of it. It’s not just a collection of songs we’ve heard before. You can feel the shock of each song as it plays.
K: It’s certainly different from what your ears are used to.
--Even the title, “MIXTURE,” doesn’t send a regular message, and both the heart and body are moved by the throbbing sound of it. I’m sure it’ll be like this in your next tour.
A: We want the bitchy feeling on the album to come through clearly. I think we conveyed it well. But make no mistake that that we want to hold a vibrant live, and because the message is so strong, it would be good if we can present it well.