“Don’t look at the negative, look at the positive...”
--First of all, congratulations on your first appearance on “Kohaku [Uta Gassen]” last year. What did you think of it?
Ito Chiaki: We’ve been singing in front of fans since our debut, so we expected that it would be very powerful, but the feeling on “Kohaku” was totally different. (laugh) After we finished singing, we had this weird sensation like we hadn’t sung yet at all.
Urata Naoya: Since I was a kid, I’ve always watched “Kohaku” on New Year’s Eve, and this is where I’ve wanted to perform ever since we debuted. To tell you the truth, when it was decided that we’d perform on “Kohaku,” it was so unreal for me that I couldn’t even be happy about it. I just thought, “How can I be so nonplussed about this?” It was like I’d blanked out. (laugh)
--Your new album is “Buzz Communication.” What’s the meaning you’re trying to convey?
U: Right now the spread of the internet is incredible, and with the click of a button you can find anything. And because we’ve created this, we should be using it to communicate with all kinds of people. With the title “Buzz Communication,” we’re tyring to say “Don’t look at what we’ve achieved as being negative, but rather as positive.”
--It’s become so common for people to share music online, though, I’d have thought that you’d find that negative.
U: Being able to buy things or have a conversation with someone with just the click of a button can be negative if you say it’s negative. But since I’ve had the internet I’ve gotten messages from people that I’ve never met and from countries that I’ve never visited. I think it’s awesome that I can learn about things now that I would never have known existed.
I: There are a lot of people who have gotten messages from people overseas who worked hard to write a message in Japanese. That’s a powerful thing, and more than the negatives, we should be focusing on the positive aspect of this new technology.
--Who of AAA is the most “connected?”
U: I’d say Hidaka.
I: Yeah. But all of us are inquisitive people, so we’re pretty connected even among ourselves.
--All the songs on this album were provided by Komuro Tetsuya. Do you find that it has a different feeling compared with your previous work?
U: Artists who have worked with him the past have thought so, but I don’t think there are a lot of albums out there that are written by a single person. Until now we’d chosen and executed particular concepts for our work, but I think this time we’ve created an especially distinctive album.
--Tell me about the theme behind “Daiji na Koto.” It was the song used in most of the advertising for the album.
U: The idea is that people live their lives without noticing the things they need. We have a lot of songs that are about pushing people, telling them not to give up. Compared to that, this song is more about pushing people away from negativity, and I think it’s easier to convey.
--What impression did you have when you first listened to it?
I: The first time we heard it, it was just the melody, but I thought that it was pretty good. I was especially moved when listening to the A-melody. I tend to get choked up when I hear the word “eternity,” so I was really drawn in by the lyrics in the hook.
--What of yourselves did you put into the song?
U: There’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since I began trying to get into the music industry, which is that I needed to do away with my pride. I needed to remove pride and put the real, honest me forward during my songs and performances. I decided that I shouldn’t obsess over my singing voice, and I began to think about wanting to sing in a different way. Rather than “Why’d the artist sing like this?” I’d think “The voice suits the song.” I wanted to change to see things in a different light.
I: As my mother always says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That goes for hurting people, as well as for working hard for them. I hold it in my heart, that “you get what you give,” and it makes everything a challenge.
“I think it’s important that we establish a connection with our listeners...”
--You also performed “Aitai Ryuu” on “Kohaku.” This song was a turning point for AAA, wasn’t it?
U: It was. “Aitai Ryuu” and “Dream After Dream ~Yume Kara Sameta Yume~” were released together on a double A-side single, but the plan was for “Dream After Dream” to become the main song. But about two weeks before the single went on sale, all of us - the group members, the staff, everyone - realized that “Aitai Ryuu” would become the main song. When we were recording, it was the song that Komuro wrote for us, and it has a different feeling from what we’ve done up to now. It’s a song with real emotion, and when we perform it I feel like I’m coming closer to the image of an artist.
--Anyone who’s been in love will understand the lyrics.
I: Yeah. We sung this when I was 23, and I thought, “I’m at the age where singing this song isn’t a stretch.” We use words like “cell phone” and “putting my feelings into words, then erasing them.” They feel very real, don’t they? Becoming weaker or stronger because of the other person, and for girls finding it easy to bear your skin (laugh); those are the kinds of things that go through your mind.
--In the lyrics it says “How long did it take me just to say that I miss you?” What are the two of you like when you begin to fall in love with someone?
U: I’m the kind of person best described by the line “You make me weak.” (laugh) As I fall in love I start to break down, until there’s nothing left. (laugh)
I: I’m the kind of person who, if the one I love complains about any little thing, I tell them “Oh, you’re alright.” But if I’m depressed and they send me an email, I say, “Leave me alone. I’m depressed.” And if it’s all happening through MySpace, both can happen at the same time. (laugh)
--Bright, encouraging songs like “PARADISE” and “STEP” are generally considered typical AAA songs. What do you think about that?
U: Songs like that - telling people to keep trying, using simple but powerful words to help push people forward - are of course important to our style, but it feels like it puts a wall between us and our listeners. People are always telling us that we’re great and cool and encouraging, but I think it’s important that we establish a connection with our listeners, that we tell them that we’re trying our best too, and that we also have our hurts and our joys. In “STEP” there’s a line that says “Put your best foot forward,” but I want to perform songs that have more of a message like “If we can do it, you can do it.”
--“Day by day” is the final song on the album. Why did you choose to put it at the end?
U: During the process of deciding that “accel.” and “PARADISE” would be the first and second tracks, it spontaneously came up that we should make “Day by day” the final track. The album opens with a very human sentiment, in the middle we develop different stories, and at the end we close with that human sentiment again with “Day by day.” It’s the song that sums up the album.
--The special edition of this album was released with three discs: the CD and two DVDs. These DVDs are very important to your group, aren’t they?
U: That’s right. We have a live DVD included with the album. It’s a DVD of the limited anniversary live that we held for purchasers of the “Aitai Ryuu” single. We thought that since this was our fifth anniversary live, we should perform the songs in the order that they were released. That’s how they are on the DVD, too.
I: At the live we performed the songs in chronological order, and even though we didn’t change the melodies at all they seemed to connect one to another. It was an interesting live, and even the fans thought it was really nostalgic. It’s really worth it to buy the version that comes with the DVD.
--What kind of people do you want to listen to this album?
U: This is an album that overflows with human kindness. I want everyone to listen to it, regardless of whether they’re a man or woman, regardless of how old they are.
I: The title is “Buzz Communication,” so people will think that they want to take a listen, then they’ll recommend it to their friends, and the line of communication keeps going. I want this album to be a bridge to connect people.
“Each person has a different purpose, and I think that’s one of our best weapons...”
--Many of the members have a solo career as well, correct?
U: Yes. Of course, I just love to sing, and I get to sing whether I’m working with AAA or on my own, so either is just as good for me.
--But presumably some of the other members are more driven toward their solo careers.
I: Of course. For Urata, when he released his solo album, he said “Wow, only my name is on it!” (laugh) But to be honest, seeing your name on a CD is a crazy feeling, and it’s also strange to think that five years have already passed since our debut.
--Are you interested in pursuing a solo career, Ito?
I: I like make-up and fashion, so I’m thinking more of doing that.
--Are you interested in trying your hand at writing lyrics?
U: It’s normal for artists to try, so I’ve been wanting to. I was able to write for my solo album, but even more than wanting to sing for mysef, I want to write lyrics for someone else. When I write for myself I’m always trying to seem cool. Maybe if I wrote for someone else I’d be able to put down my thoughts honestly.
I: I’m embarrassed even saying anything (laugh), but when we debuted I wrote a lot and posted it on my blog. Even now I write at least a little every day, and I think that that could eventually become lyrics.
U: You’ll have to show me this blog! (laugh)
--AAA divides up singing parts for the songs, but how do you decide who will sing what?
U: Most of the time we decide by talking to the director about the image we want to convey and the balance we want to achieve with the song. Men and women have different strengths. On “Makenai Kokoro” the women do the main singing, and I think they have the right kind of strength for the song. Each person has a different purpose, and I think that’s one of our best weapons.
--Tell us about each of the members. What kind of person is Urata?
I: I think Urata and I might be related. The day before yesterday my mom was staying at my house, and she said, “You know, Chiaki, I think you and Naoya might be related. You’re uncle’s father’s former name was Urata.” He’s a leader that can speak frankly about his intentions, and is willing to understand what’s important to me. (laugh)
--And what about Ito?
U: Chiaki has a lot of self-confidence, and she’s a girls-girl, but of all the group members she’s the most meek. She has things she wants to do with her life, and she’s progressing toward them in the best way possible.
--How about Nishijima [Takahiro]?
I: Nishi’s like a little kid. When you call for him, he says “What? What?” and just comes running happily up. But once in a while when the tension starts to mount and things get crazy, he’ll whine and get sulky. (laugh)
U: He’s like a little brother that needs a big sister. (laugh) All the girls older than him say “Oh, I wish you were my little brother!” But all the guys older than him don’t want him to be their little brother. (laugh)
--And what’s Uno [Misako] like?
I: She’s like a noblewoman, and she’s always making fun of all the rest of us. But when she’s alone, she seems kind of lonely.
U: She’s strong-seeming. She knows the difference between having confidence and not having it, and in some ways she’s the easiest of us to understand.
--Tell me about Hidaka [Mitsuhiro].
I: You’d have to see for yourself. (laugh)
U: Yeah. His real character is showing a different character. For example, if he were at home studying for a test, he’d tell you “Yeah, I’m not really studying.” (laugh) He doesn’t want to seem like he’s trying.
--And how about Atae [Shinjiro]?
I: He’s been changing lately. I think he’s really growing up.
U: Wasn’t he 16 when we debuted? We’d all feel sorry for him when he’d say something weird. Going from 16 to 22, he’s got the most varied experience. Doing this career during that age, you can’t have the “normal” experiences that regular people have, but on the other hand you also get experiences that regular people don’t, so it’s easy to feel lost.
I: You’ll express your opinion without even thinking about what’s going on around you, and you’ll be up front about what you like. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you’re honest. (laugh)
U: He’s a kid. He’s useless. (laugh)
I: He’s a Kyuushuu guy. [One track minded, strong, drinker.]
U: With things that he likes, it’s like he’s biting while wagging his tail, but he just ignores the things he doesn’t like. He the essence of a “Kyuushuu guy.” (laugh)
--Finally, what message would you like to pass to our readers?
U: If AAA songs are encouraging and put words to the feelings that everyone experiences, you’re sure to find something that you can relate to if you listen to our music.
I: Our lyrics are encouraging and express the feelings of both men and women, so if you read them you’ll find something that applies to you. It would make us very happy for you to have fun looking through our lyrics.