With over fifteen albums and twenty years under their belt, the band BUCK-TICK is the epitome of the word dedicated. A combination of Atsushi Sakurai’s sultry voice, the low powerful throb of U-ta’s bass, Hisashi Imai and Hide Hoshino’s two decades of skill on the guitar, and Toll Yagami’s enigmatic drumming habits blend together to create a sound that has yet to fail. Constantly having stuck to the top of Japan’s Oricon music charts over their duration, BUCK-TICK’s career is about as about as vibrant as their name – "BUCK-TICK" is play on the word "bakuchiku", meaning firecracker – a firework in the music industry.
A wispy fall morning in Gunma prefecture in the year of 1983, marked the first day of Higuchi "U-ta" Yutaka’s eventual history with BUCK-TICK. Generally being an early riser, U-ta always seemed to arrive at school an hour prior to the start of class. It was his first year in high school, so being invited to the local tobacco shop by an upperclassman to hang out with the "cool" kids was bound to be a promising situation. The shop, which was conveniently fitted directly across from the train station, was called Imai Shoten as it was run by Hisashi Imai’s family. Though U-ta initially accused Imai of having a difficult demeanor, the two found a common ground in their love for music. Ideas took flight when the boredom of high school life took a toll and soon the makeshift plans for a band were being formed. Word spread quickly, and in a flash nearly half of Fujioka High School had heard of the future band. Driven by the appeal of the cool tobacco shop aura and the draw of a commotion caused by the start of a band, new faces began to show up among the shop’s early morning occupants. This was when Imai and U-ta discovered potential bandmates, and the birth of a new band was official.
The original lineup between 1983 and 1985 was only missing Toll Yagami, U-ta’s older brother, who wasn’t recruited until late 1985. Atsushi Sakurai was in his place on drums and Araki, a long time childhood friend of Imai, was placed on vocals. Launching off under the name of Hinan Go-Go, the band made their debut playing cover songs of the band The Stalin at various small time festivals. When Imai wrote the first original song, the band began to take a new direction. The end of 1984 came with it the historic name change from Hinan Go-Go to the BUCK-TICK we know today. The name change to their firecracker nomer was meant to make an impact on audiences, to be difficult to shrug off – "a "big bang" so to speak. The word was an obvious and perfect ideal.
Wielding handmade tickets for a ridiculously cheap price, BUCK-TICK made their first live appearance outside of festival help, on August 4th, 1985. With this concert was a new beginning, but it was also a farewell. For the band’s current vocalist, Araki, this would be one of his last concerts. It was evident with BUCK-TICK’s continuously evolving music that Araki’s voice didn’t mesh. Fortunately Araki agreed, and left the band with no quarrel soon after his final concert in November. Sakurai begged Imai to switch him from drums to vocalist, nearly bowling Imai over with his request. Who could say ‘no’ to Sakurai? The band now without a drummer, U-ta’s elder brother Toll Yagami was approached. His most recent band SP had just broken up, and with his previous experience on the drums he instantly became the most qualified candidate. After many strained discussions, Toll finally accepted the position. From that point on, the lineup has consistently remained the same to this date.
After a move to Tokyo, multiple concerts, and brief magazine publicity; 1986 was met with an enthusiastic Kazuyo Sawaki to manage them, and a record deal with Taiyo Records. That was short lived though when BUCK-TICK’s fame rose quickly in the indie market, and in 1987 they were signed to their first major label. Victor Entertainment proved a good fit as they kept true to the bands’ contract, and found interesting ways to continuously promote BUCK-TICK. One unique way ended up with Victor Entertainment sending out postcards to the fans when a gig rolled around, each one featuring a mini comic strip of "the band from outer space come to take over the music scene". Sporting hand drawn pictures of the band in their thick makeup, dangerously tall hairstyles, and lady-esque clothing style, the comics were absolute perfection for attention grabbing.
A steady flow of television and radio appearances, magazine articles, several meet-and-greets, and three albums that included extensive tours slowly began to eat away at BUCK-TICK’s sanity and integrity. This was blatantly obvious when in mid 1989, Imai was arrested for the possession of illegal drugs. Despite this outrageously large hurdle and a six-month hiatus, the band came twisting back in a tornado-esque onslaught. It seemed as if Imai’s incident only served to strengthen the bond and determination within the band and in December of ’89 they booked their first concert at the Tokyo Dome. Holding a staggering 50,000 people, the concert successfully sold out. Many of the bands Fish-Tank members, their fan club, feared it may be the last BT concert ever. Thankfully, they were wrong.
Cramming in 51 dates on their Aku no Hana tour in 1990, BUCK-TICK decided they needed to be seen at every prefecture possible. It easily made up for the previous year; when the stage was revealed it was seen sporting a ten foot tall devil mounted onto a massive building akin to the Tower of Babylon. The set was exaggerated even more with ridiculously large spikes protruding from the ground that spun around at various points during the lives. Almost immediately following the tour came handfuls of more concerts, including one of the most extravagant, which was called "A Midsummer Night’s Dream". Having little to do with Shakespeare’s vision, the concert came with one all on its own. Decked out in the dominating structure of an Egyptian tomb and splashed with a parade of colors, the concert was like no other. The following years only served to prove that BUCK-TICK’s eye-catching live sets were no phase or façade, and in turn continuously drew in larger crowds. They seemed to put as much effort into their lives as they did in their music.
With at least one album per year, multiple singles, commercial, magazine, television appearances and several tours in between; the 90s went by at break neck speed for BUCK-TICK. Every day, and nearly ever hour, was filled with something. The pace at which the band was going became evident when Sakurai’s health drastically declined, and he was hospitalized in ’96. Even though it was a difficult affair the band continued on just as gracefully, and the start of 1997 brought on a monumental change. After nearly ten years with Victor Records, the ties were cut and the band changed labels twice by the year 2000. They finally settled down with the BMG/Funhouse label. BUCK-TICK had decided it was time to take the bull by the horns, demanding to have even more leeway in how things were conducted. It should also be noted that in 1998, BUCK-TICK enjoyed their first anime opening theme song, "Gessekai", which perfectly set the mood for the series Night Walker. 2005 later saw "Dress (Bloody Trinity Mix)" as the opening theme to the series Trinity Blood.
The start of the new millennia came and passed as BUCK-TICK had their first live appearance outside of Japan at the Soyo Rock Festival 2001 in Seoul, Korea. As BUCK-TICK’s fame continued to grow, band members began to appear in a variety of collaborations, including more international activities with albums that sold in both the United States and the UK. The middle of 2001 pushed this farther when Sakurai and Hisashi joined with Raymond Watts from Pig and KMFDM to create their first side project called Schwein. Also in this year, the annual Day in Question concerts were born, a special occasion where one may hear any song in their whole discography. Propelling forward into 2004, BUCK-TICK branched out even more excessively into other projects. Sakurai went into a fairly extensive solo career throughout the year, releasing two singles and one album. He also went on tour, and even starred in the short film Longinus. Hisashi’s band Lucy released their first album on June 9th, Wild Wise Apes became U-ta’s project, and Toll managed to start up his own addition to the solo scene. BUCK-TICK somehow was still able to release a live album that year, and included a few shows smashed into their schedule towards the end. 2005 was testimony to BUCK-TICK’s fabulous career when Parade – Respective Tracks of BUCK-TICK was let loose on the public. Consisting of several notable artists, from Kiyoharu to Abingdon Boys School, it covered a range of songs from the band’s discography. Their inspiration, Michiro Endou of The Stalin, even made an appearance on the filthy track, "Sasayaki". BUCK-TICK had officially reached the peak of stardom.
Blasting through the years BUCK-TICK’s adventure through history has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Shifting through genres as if children in a candy store, BUCK-TICK have gone from the bubbly sounds of pop to the buzz of electronic cyberpunk to lustful velvety goth to the smooth style of hard rock and back again. Their new flavor? "Simple". With the release of their most recent singles, HEAVEN in 2008 and GALAXY in the start of 2009, it’s evident that this band has no thoughts of stopping. An approaching 16th album scheduled for February 2009 called momento mori brings in the next era of music for BUCK-TICK, and will be accompanied by another drawn-out tour and more exceptionally crafted stage sets. A band that seems to evolve faster than the blink of an eye, BUCK-TICK’s style has flourished and matured into something that is easily appreciated. Fans often compare them to a bottle of wine which ages so beautifully. Possibly continuing into another several decades, Toll said it best when he claimed BUCK-TICK "will keep working until someone dies". It seems by now that this band may very well be immortal.
Written by: Molly
Edited by: Hikari