ROCKSTAR Taste of Chaos has LAUNCHED! And with it comes the beginning for a standout visual band for the new era, the Underneath.
You’ve checked out their MySpace and official site. You’ve sampled all of their debut album MOON FLOWER and watched them in their first PV for GEKKOH on our JSHOCK Media Page. But if you weren’t there in Denver tonight as they blew the crowd away, you may still be wondering who these guys are and what they’re all about.
To help you get to know a band who wants to get to know YOU, we sat down with them for an interview of epic length! It’s a three-parter with the Underneath.
And we’re getting more—we’ll be hearing from the Underneath throughout RTOC. So get started on your Underneath education, and look forward to more in days to come.
the Underneath INTERVIEW
JRR: First of all, please start off by introducing yourselves.
TAKA: I’m TAKA, the vocalist.
MASATO: MASATO on guitar.
MASAKI: MASAKI on drums.
TAL: TAL on guitar.
RYO: I’m RYO on bass.
JRR: We’d like to start by asking why you chose “the Underneath” to be the name of your new band.
TAKA: There isn’t really a meaning to the name of the band; we just like how it sounds.
JRR: Because it sounds cool?
TAKA: Because it sounds cool. Is that an okay answer? (Laughs.) It also looks cool.
JRR: From a previous interview we had with you, you said that your live experience at the Knitting Factory [in L.A.] inspired you to change the way you create your music and approach the audience. Could you tell us more about what made you feel this way?
TAKA: First of all, it was our very first overseas performance. We’ve always listened to Western music and liked the style, sometimes incorporating elements into our own music. When we actually went overseas—well, MASATO wasn’t able to go to the live last time—but the rest of us, when we got there and performed, we each felt that it is important for us to present our own Japanese style and nationality.
JRR: As TRANSTIC NERVE, you have a large following of fans in Japan. What were your feelings when you wrote the messages to your fans [on the TRANSTIC NERVE website], stating that you will be starting over as a new band?
TAKA: To tell you the truth, after being TRANSTIC NERVE for ten years, we felt that this is a good chance for a new start. Even if we continued another ten years of activities [as TRANSTIC NERVE], something like this would have come eventually. We made the announcement, determined to take this on. For fans who’ve been supporting us, we haven’t quite announced exactly what will happen from now on, so we are very concerned about the fans’ reactions. But we’ve thought this over thoroughly, and now all we see is the future.
(Ed. Note: Interview was conducted when official announcements about The Underneath were very limited.)
JRR: Could each of the members tell us something about the member next to you?* *Sitting arrangement: (counter-clockwise) TAKA, RYO, TAL, MASAKI, MASATO
TAKA: Okay; this is our bassist, RYO.
TAKA: He’s small in size, but he has a big heart. (Laughs.) He’s the bassist, but he also handles all the sound programming and other engineering work, has excellent sense, and is an indispensable member of our band.
RYO: TAL, well, in private life we’ve been friends for a long time, so we know each other very well. As a guitarist, he shows great performance on stage and I think that’s a very attractive point about him.
TAL: I’ll introduce MASAKI, our drummer. Our music uses a lot of sound programming, so I think it’s really impressive that he is able to cater his drum skills accordingly; there’s no better drummer than him for our band.
MASAKI: MASATO is very quiet. Sometimes I wonder what he’s thinking about. He handles most of the design work, and I think that’s one of his strengths.
MASATO: Thank you. (Laughs.) TAKA and I have known each other for the longest time in this band; he’s actually my senpai (senior at school). We’re also good friends… I can say anything, right? (Laughs.) What should I say… I think he’s a very charismatic vocalist, whether in the previous band we had or in this current band. I thought, I wouldn’t want anyone else besides him to be our vocalist. He’s a very trustworthy member of our band.
JRR: So you all get along really well with each other?
ALL: Yeah, we all get along quite well.
JRR: Do you ever have any arguments?
TAL: When it comes to music, we do have disagreements now and then; after we talk it out, we usually go back to being buddies right away. We do speak our minds when it comes to music.
JRR: That’s a nice relationship to have.
Going back to the topic of music: When you began playing ten years ago as TRANSTIC NERVE, the Japanese rock scene was in a very different place. We’d like to hear what inspires you, and what troubles you, about the music scene today.
TAKA: When we started the band ten years ago, there was a band boom (meaning being in a band was a popular thing to do), or it was near the end of the boom. There was a lot of interest in bands—a lot of people would actually go to live houses to watch shows. Compared to then, the number of young Japanese people who are interested in rock music or rock bands has decreased.
TAL: Ten years ago, it felt like a lot of bands looked up to overseas bands and almost imitated them. Now, I think it’s great that the bands are putting uniquely Japanese melodies into their music, as well as fashions that are uniquely Japanese.
JRR: In fact, because of the strong Japanese imagery and unique music, some Western bands are starting to be influenced by Japanese rock music.
TAL: We’ve heard a little about that.
MASAKI: What TAL said is pretty much true. It was very different ten years ago. Nowadays, the quality of the music has definitely improved. The only bad thing is, this was probably not as common back then, but generally bands now don’t continue for very long; it’s almost more like a trend. I think that’s not good at all. But for bands who have lasted till now, the quality has improved greatly and I think that’s how we’ve been able to influence some of the overseas bands.
MASATO: Yes, and since the trend’s been changing, the music’s been changing, I think the time for rock will come again; like a revival? Maybe not exactly… but, either way, it doesn’t have anything to do with us.
JRR: Nothing to do with…?
MASATO: Oh, I meant that the trend won’t impact us at all. So if the trend—maybe that’s not the right word—but if rock becomes big again, I think it’ll be interesting.
RYO: I feel the same way.
JRR: In your official profile, you are defined as a visual band. How do you define visual kei, and what do you think of the visual scene today?
RYO: Well, visual kei isn’t a genre of music; it’s used to categorize the bands that show their unique characteristics with their costumes and makeup, though sometimes the music doesn’t necessarily fit the image. Either way, it’s used to describe such bands that show their individualism through their appearance. I think the visual kei now is very thorough, costumes and such.
TAKA: Generally, the base of visual kei is mostly metal. You don’t really see a punk band that is visual kei.
RYO: Yeah, it’s not a punk thing. I think it still belongs more or less to metal rock.
TAKA: X was the pioneer in Japanese visual kei metal rock.
JRR: What about LUNA SEA?
TAKA: LUNA SEA is a little different, but fundamentally the melody is still uniquely Japanese visual kei style. So was their fashion.
JRR: With the Underneath, you are starting this band by participating in one of the biggest rock music tours, The Rockstar Taste of Chaos Tour. As Jrock continues to spread overseas, what would you like to see happen in 2008, especially with you participating in this cultural exchange by spending so much time performing overseas?
TAKA: It will be our first time doing lives as the Underneath and facing the audience as the Underneath. Since we haven’t yet performed as the Underneath, we will be expanding and exploring the band throughout the tour. That’s one of the things we’d like to achieve through this experience in addition to introducing our new band. We would also like to show performances that will not be beat by the other bands on the tour.
JRR: Do you know much about the two other bands, MUCC and D’espairsRay?
TAKA: No, we’ve never met them.
JRR: Have you listened to their music?
TAL: Since there will be a total of three Japanese bands playing, it’d be great if we could leave the audience with a good Jrock experience.
MASAKI: I feel the same way. We will be doing our first live on this tour. It’ll be a first-time experience for us. In addition, we’ve never done such a long tour with consecutive lives one day after the other, so I think we will grow a lot as a band. I am very excited about the fact that we will be able to do this, especially in a foreign environment.
JRR: As you go around North America touring with RTOC, is there anything you’d like to do, along with performing, to reach out to the fans and get them more interested in your new band?
TAKA: Yes, we will have an English website with music clips, and also we will be doing interviews like this one so the fans can know more about us.
TAL: We also have a MySpace page.
JRR: Who is the best at English?
JRR: Do you plan on learning English?
TAKA: Yes, we plan to do so, bit by bit.
RYO: It’d be nice to be able to use conversational English.
JRR: While you are touring, you will probably come in contact with a lot of the American bands and it’ll probably be a good opportunity for you to practice.
TAKA: Yeah, we’d like to do that and learn pronunciations.
JRR: Speaking of the American bands on the tour, are there any songs that you would love to see them perform live, or is any particular band that you’re looking forward to meeting?
TAL: Band-wise, we’d like to see ATREYU. We aren’t sure of the song titles.
MASATO: I listened to some CD recently and it happened to have their song in it. I liked it, but don’t remember the title of the song. But I look forward to seeing their performance.
JRR: The tour will visit many cities, so you will probably be busy traveling and not have much time, but is there anything you’d really like to do on your off-time?
RYO: I’m not even quite sure if we will get any time off. (Laughs.)
TAL: Maybe one day or something like that.
RYO: Most of the places we’ll be going for the first time, so…
TAKA: Probably just anywhere that has a lot of people so we can actually feel being in a foreign land.
TAL: Last time when we went to L.A., I was in a house and I just sat there and thought of nothing and relaxed. Even that alone was enjoyable for me.
JRR: Is there anything memorable or fun during your last trip to L.A.? (Interviewer looks at MASATO.)
TAKA/RYO: He didn’t go last time! (Laughs.)
JRR: So this will be MASATO’s first time?
MASATO: Yeah, I was injured last time so I couldn’t go.
JRR: What happened?
MASATO: I got hurt on my chin…
JRR: Did you have a fight with someone?
MASATO: I had a fight with the floor.
RYO: He lost to alcohol. (Laughs.)
JRR: Really? (Laughs.) Do you all like to drink?
RYO: Yes, we do drink. We’d like to drink with the other bands, too.
JRR: American bands drink a lot, too.
TAKA: It’ll be bad. Japanese sake. (Laughs.)
JRR: Do you have much time to go drinking in Japan?
RYO: We do go.
JRR: All five of you together?
RYO: When we tour around the country.
TAL: We’re gonna have a Christmas party tomorrow at his place. (Points to MASATO.)
(Ed. Note: This interview was conducted on December 24, 2007.)
JRR: Please don’t fight with the floor this time.
MASATO: You can save me before that happens. (Laughs.)
JRR: What did you eat last time when you came to L.A.?
TAL: I wanted to eat the real McDonald’s hamburger [but didn’t get to]. We had hot dogs.
RYO: It was a chili dog.
TAL: Oh, yeah.
RYO: We also went to Korea Town and had Korean BBQ.
TAL: And also went to a sushi restaurant.
RYO: Yeah, we had Japanese food there and we also went to China Town.
JRR: How long were you there for?
TAL: One week.
JRR: When you will be touring with RTOC, do you know if they will cater/deliver the food to you or will you have time to go out and get food?
TAKA: We have no idea.
TAL: But we will definitely bring soy sauce!!
RYO: Mayonnaise, too! (Laughs.) But we’re guessing that we’ll probably end up having to eat junk food everyday. Probably it’ll turn out that way.
(Ed. Note: Japanese mayonnaise is different from American-style mayo; it’s lighter and creamier.)
JRR: American junk food is very different. But we hope you will get to eat nice, decent food.
RYO: You “hope” so? (Laughs.) You should say: “Yes, they will bring good food!” (Laughs.)
JRR: Yeah, but we’re not in charge of that, unfortunately. (Laughs.)
RYO: Yeah, that’s true, we know. (Laughs.)