Hizumi: Beyond Music
How far back does one have to travel to say ‘this is the beginning’? For anyone’s career, that could depend on what one is doing at this moment that defines where to look for the start. Today, HIZUMI is the sole designer and creative force behind his company, UMBRELLA. His products and accessories feel as though they are tailored for everyday people and for everyday life. Not only are his designs unique, his products are primarily utilitarian; and quite fashionable! A reflection of a sophisticated ideal that is easy for most to connect with. In that sense, let’s take a look at ‘the beginning’.
The end of an era
Perhaps one of the most curious questions people tend to have for HIZUMI is ‘do you look back?’ or worse, ‘what do you think when you look back?’. In the time during our Naka-Kon adventure, I’ve heard these questions posed to him in as many ways. Time and time again, explanations were laid out; but if we are to consider the question from the perspective of a person denied doing what they are passionate about, we can answer that question ourselves.
If HIZUMI could have continued singing, he most likely would not be a designer today. He’s admitted that it’s been stressful to know he can’t sing, yet he’s done his best to not dwell. “I always think about wanting to sing again,” he confessed at one point. “Right now, because I can’t, I want to put my thoughts and efforts into something else that I love, such as designing. If I dwell on the negative too much, it makes it difficult to move forward.”
Hearing this in as many iterations has an effect. Of course it would be difficult to be denied something that we love. If we could not continue on the path our hearts have set, how easy would it truly be to step into a different role? The long and short answer is that, for the time being, singing is not in HIZUMI’s future. But he still has a future and we should embrace that new path as positively and enthusiastically with him.
As many fans of D’espairsRay know, HIZUMI was the creative force behind the designs on their merch. With that experience and a passion for design as well, it was maybe only natural that he would explore options that continued to be a creative outlet. How did design become a focus for him?
One of the few things that many may not know is that HIZUMI is a self-taught graphic designer. “I didn’t take classes or anything like that. I was interested in designing, bought the software and learned on my own.” An interesting and ambitious endeavor considering the intricacy of some of his work. However, it’s not something he’s considered a handicap by any means.
“People who went to design school might view my art differently or strangely because I was self-taught,” he informed us. Yet he also feels like one of his strong points is that he didn’t go through the conventional paths to design and his designs might be more free because of that. An interesting note to all this: he designs on his Macbook, but not with a tablet.
Before the convention, he permitted three prints of his art to be displayed. They were eventually placed with our joint JRR and UMBRELLA booth and many visitors asked to purchase them; some from people who didn’t know of his past as a vocalist.
If you were to visit his site and enter the Museum, you’ll see the variety of styles that he’s capable of thus far. The three galleries are representative of the time and thought put into each piece. Some are metallic and fantastical. Others are otherworldly and somber. There is color and abstract. This is not the work produced as a mere hobby or to pass the time.
This was another question that I heard when an opportunity for questions arose; what’s the meaning behind ‘UMBRELLA’?. In our December interview with HIZUMI, we had asked that very question. His answer had been, “The meaning behind the name is “the existence of protecting ourselves from something cold”, although being “rain man” is also part of the reason.”
In a way, there’s not a truly mystical reason behind why he named his company UMBRELLA, but it is an interesting concept to provide cover for those who have purchased his products, be it a shirt, a bag or sunglasses. It suggests a philosophy without overtly spelling it out.
As to the meaning behind the name ‘rain man’, HIZUMI explained briefly, “in Japan, it’s not uncommon to blame things on people – in a good way. So sometimes when we [the band] were out and about, and if it rained, they would blame me.” Eventually, he came to embrace the name of ‘rain man’, and it’s something that he’s still teased about good naturedly to this day.
A most varied creative path
If you browse around the UMBRELLA website, you’ll find that it’s not simply products, accessories and fine art. There is a section that displays some of his photography and another that gives a peek at the design work he’s done for other bands. Let’s take a closer look at one part: photography. On his site, his photos are scenic and often nature in theme.
“I like to take scenic views instead of people because I can’t communicate the person perspective [as I can] with scenery.” He feels more comfortable working with scenic things, capturing moments in time as well as utilizing his photos as inspiration for his art.
This had bearing on a couple of instances throughout HIZUMI’s time at the convention.
During his Q&A panel, a fan asked if he had a story from trying to get a special photo. “Once, I went up to the mountains to take pictures. I took a really bad road and my motorcycle almost broke. [Ultimately] I didn’t even get an image from that trip. And wouldn’t try again the rest of my life.”
In some of his stories about photography, HIZUMI has admitted that conditions were not good or right to get photos and there have been times that he has made plans only to return without photos. On the other hand, he surely had some memorable adventures on the way and he’s always come back in one piece.
In the days before the convention, HIZUMI shot in a location called West Bottoms, a place just west of downtown that was said to be haunted. When asked if he’d been able to take photos in Kansas City, he mentioned that he had and he might use them toward future designs.
Not that too many ghostly things might arise… HIZUMI is one who is not really into supernatural or ghost hunting, he’d also explained. For a good reason; once, when they were at a certain venue, they took photos at the live. That time, in one of the photos, there was a smoke machine and smoke near the bassist and there seemed to be an image of a person in a military type uniform. They were so scared, they never performed at that live house again. From then on, they would be aware of that area, especially next to the bassist.
A designer for all occasions
Since the launch of UMBRELLA, HIZUMI has had the opportunity to work and collaborate artistically with a variety of artists. In his Design area on the UMBRELLA site, you can find samples of work for Alvino, D’erlanger and defspiral among others. When asked about his work with other bands and if he had a memorable time to share, he had this to say.
“Last year, around September or October, I created a design for a band called Pierrot. It was my senior’s [senpai] band, the ones that I look up to. I got to create designs for that band. In order to create those goods, I really put my life as a designer on the line and if the public that didn’t like them, then I would give up my design life. That’s how much heart and effort that I put into it.”
It’s clear to see that he has the same drive for design that he does with music. While he’s designed for many bands in Japan, one fan asked him who else he’d want to work with. “It would be awesome to do designs for American bands like Korn or Linkin Park. That would be very interesting to do. I really love those bands.”
For an artist of his caliber, HIZUMI has a world of possibilities ahead of him. Many of those paths support the industry he’s still involved in. For those who have been fans of his voice, explore the new visual voice that he’s sharing. If you aren’t able to easily get UMBRELLA merchandise, watch for options online.
So please, introduce yourself to the HIZUMI of today. Graphic designer, artist, digital artist, photographer and adventurer. Monster Hunter extraordinaire by his own admission, too. “For sure. I’m so good at it, I could probably teach you all a thing or two.”
Here’s where to find him today. If you’re in Japan or visiting, check out his Twitter for offline events. Follow his activities as they’re available in English on his Facebook Page.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hiz0302 (tweets 99.9% in Japanese)
UMBRELLA Twitter: https://twitter.com/umbrella_osx
UMBRELLA OHP: http://www.umbrella-h.com/
UMBRELLA Store: http://www.umbrella-h.com/store/
UMBRELLA FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Umbrella-Official/1531426770451512?ref=hl (it’s in English!)
December interview here at JRockRevolution.com: http://jrockrevolution.com/2014/12/webzine/hizumi-and-umbrella-5037