KESHIKI means ‘landscape’ in English and as one could comprehend from the band name, their endeavors to create songs that would bring visions of landscapes to whoever listens to their music. This band is well known in not only Japan, but all over the West Coast of the United States as well because of their formation in Los Angeles. It all began in the United States, and the way the members united to form KESHIKI was quite peculiar.
Vocalist Jun (ex-vocalist of hit band camino), moved to the United States to pursue his singing career and met bass player Kenta (ex-bassists of L.A. based band Breeze). Shortly after, Kenta met guitarist Yu and played a few jam sessions together which subsequently led to the two working with Jun on the KESHIKI project. Then, Yu invited his old friend Yushi to the United States to help work on the project in May 2007. Around the same time their drummer, Taka, was introduced to the members and officially joined the band, creating "KESHIKI."
The members of the band have a history of musical talent and experience under their belts. Vocalist, Jun was the former front man for the band camino in 2002, and performed at various anime cons in the United States. His breathtaking vocal style and melodic voice attracted many American fans during his camino days. After leaving camino in 2004, Jun decided to work on a solo project until he was invited by a friend to work on the KESHIKI project in L.A.
Yu, the main composer behind KESHIKI, developed his skills through majoring in music composition in college. Before venturing off to the United States he worked as an indie artist. Not only did he write music for bands, but he also contributed his works to independent movies and video games.
Former bassist from L.A. band Breeze, Kenta, lured his fans with his unique sense of music and charismatic looks.
Last and certainly not least, drummer Taka might be the newest member of the band, but he certainly isn’t a newbie in his musical career. Like Yu, Taka went to school for music. He attended music school before taking the offer to join KESHIKI in the United States. After two years of arduous musical training, he met the members of KESHIKI and decided to put his talent to the test.
As soon as the band added a new drummer, they performed their first live concert at an event called Jrock Extended Party and successfully gathered 300 audience members. KESHIKI continued gaining momentum and played at numerous venues afterwards, most recently at the famous Whisky a Go Go prior to their relocation to Japan.
The band’s activities are different from other bands; they played free concerts at senior citizen institutions and traveled to Palm Springs and carried out an unplanned concert to collect signatures for a petition. Thousands of people gathered in 2 to 3 days to attend their concert in Palm Springs.
KESHIKI’s renowned and unique way of promoting themselves attracts an audience of all ages.
The members write their songs together as a band. Mainly, Yu and Kenta come up with ideas for music composition and lyrics after repeated jam sessions in order to create unique melodic tracks.
Describe each other’s personalities.
Jun – tough & heartfelt
Yu – optimistic and honest.
Kenta – curious and cool.
Taka – friendly and pure.
When will KESHIKI be releasing an album?
KESHIKI: We will be releasing a new album this fall, and now we are in the process of recording and composing. It’s full of good songs and it has a lot of songs that are appropriate and represent the name "KESHIKI."
Since KESHIKI has a home base in L.A. as well, how often do you guys travel to and from Japan?
Jun: To an extent I can count the number of performances we did in Japan, but if we’re offered to do a performance, our style is that we’ll gladly stand on stage to perform. As for overseas, Los Angeles for example, this time we didn’t have a stage appearance as well as for Fanimecon. If an offer comes then we’ll perform type of thing. These 2 years we’ve endeavored ourselves to recording and making new songs.
Since the Fanimecon 2009 appearance ended up being cancelled due to the swine flu, did you guys get a chance to rest?
Jun: Yes it was an unusually and unfortunate event that happened, at that time we received a lot of messages from numerous fans expressing their sympathy [for the cancellation]. I did have a vacation, but I felt that I had a long way to go sort of speak.
Yu: Since it was so sudden, I guess you can say my heart wasn’t prepared to hear such a thing … many fans thought that it was unfortunate. Even during my vacation I made new songs. The next opportunity we’re given to perform in America I think we will show. Please look forward to it.
Kenta: Since we all were looking forward to it, I thought rather than calling it a vacation it was something I had to do. If we have a performance in America before the year is out, we want to see everyone’s face. We definitely want everyone to come to our performance.
Taka: Like the other members, rather than calling it a vacation I’m sorry I had to do so. Since it would’ve been my first event in San Francisco, next time if we have the opportunity I definitely want to go.
KESHIKI’s goal is to create peaceful music and melodic trance for fans, do you guys intend to show your fans your wild side sometime?
Jun: The songs we have now eradicate the image of the present KESHIKI. We plan to record them soon. We’re doing entirely different songs from the eloquent and calm type of music, there’s rowdiness in these songs.
Yu: There’s a fairly good heavy number of them, soon you will be able to hear them on MySpace. When referring to "KESHIKI" we have a gentle image that is within our deep interest to portray in these songs. When it’s completed we want everyone to hear it.
Kenta: Of course, we have a lot of songs now that have various styles, or perhaps I guess you can say that is the music of KESHIKI, but within the new songs it breaks down the content of the number of images.
Taka: KESHIKI’s gentleness is different from popish music, the drumming too is immensely fierce. When you listen, anyone can recognize the extent of wildness arranged and combined.
Mr. Yu, I’ve heard you’re recently composing for an indies movie as well as others. Which of the countless movies you’ve worked on left a strong impression?
Yu: Hmmm….which one? (laughs) After all I guess it would be the time I went to Los Angeles to compose. The film was called "Monopoly," because it was an action movie, making the atmosphere of the song and the actor’s image come together was really interesting to see after it was completed. Although the director was Japanese, all of the dialogue was in English, the actors too were wonderfully fresh new American actors. The fact that time strikes on, the exchange of each other’s opinions, and there’s also a part where there is a growth to adulthood. It leaves an extremely [memorable] impression.
So, as a band what drew you towards wanting to play melodic soft rock? What do you think about visual kei, have you ever considered that genre in the past or now?
KESHIKI: We had an influence from musicians throughout the world without limiting ourselves to just Japan and America. Screamo music, R&B, Hip-hop, etc. are popular now, so all of those elements are in KESHIKI’s music. Because each member being human had played different genres, I guess you can say that it was nature that we became so. Since visual kei represents Japanese culture, I think we take pride in that. Music itself is what KESHIKI likes and we’re happy to do just that. We have not done so in the past but, perhaps we may have [that representation of Japanese culture].
Oh I see. Who’s your favorite artist?
Jun: Hm, yeah. Rather than saying my favorite artists, choosing music that I feel has good quality. If it’s rock music, then I favor Nickleback. Of course R&B I like Brian McKnight and others. The artist I look up to is Stevie Wonder.
Yu: I like and look up to American rock artists like Dream Theater. As for recently, I like Funeral For A Friend. As for visual kei it would be X JAPAN.
Kenta: I like Finch, Funeral For A Friend, Saosin, The Used and Green Day. As for Japanese music I like listening to popish tunes.
What do you like to do on your time off? Like hobbies?
Jun: I have a lot of hobbies! Since I like driving, I go out by motorcycle and car. During those times, [I just drive] with no destination to go to and melodies suddenly float in my head. (laughs) I like sports too. Like snowboarding and I like doing things outdoors. I like dancing and also like things that involve moving. I really do have a lot of hobbies.
Yu: During my time off, I do a lot of going to places I’ve never been to alone. Like going alone to art exhibitions, parks, and [walking] along riverbanks. (laughs) My hobby is taking photographs.
Kenta: During my time off I often go see performances, read books, and practice playing instruments. The same as Jun, I like driving my motorcycle at random times. Since my house is close to Yu, I go eat dinner at his place.
Taka: For the foremost I like to rest my body during my time off. If I have time I practice the drums. Just improving and not loosing to anyone. (laughs) My hobbies are the same as Jun and Kenta with driving motorcycles.
I see. Driving is fun isn’t it? As for food…what is your favorite food?
Jun: Fried dumplings
Kenta: Nattou (fermented soybeans)
Taka: Kimchi with rice
What are some pros and cons when performing in Japan versus performing in America?
Jun: We’ve performed multiple events in America in the past, but for first impressions for the American fans they dance to the songs and there’s a lot of raging. During our first event the security guards were pushing down [on the fans] vigorously, it really surprised me. (laughs) Thanks to that it made things more enjoyable. On the contrary Japan is said to have a tendency to quietly watch performances, but the truth is that’s not the case. It’s about the same that everyone gets excited and it is really fun. Regardless of the country, I like them both.
Yu: My feelings are "America is motion, Japan is silence." However, there is no such difference. Doing activities in Japan is fun too, but American fans are really kind and friendly. I love [doing] events in America too. To say there are differences I think there almost aren’t any differences. Because a fan is a fan.
Kenta: Fans from whatever country are wonderful, to say there are differences there really aren’t any differences. Foreign fans leave a friendly impression. Even now I still remember when I was working in Los Angeles, fans were talking to get to know the band members better, and there were a lot of good people there. I want to perform again.
Taka: Since there were a lot of fans that went to Los Angeles who gathered from different countries and different areas, I felt Japan and the fans there are a little different. I don’t know exactly what the difference is, but [American fans] are friendly, and I guess it’s easy to talk to them about anything. But, with America and Japan, there isn’t [a huge] difference.
Have you ever been on the East Coast of America?
Jun: I’ve stepped foot onto the area several times due to concerts.
Yu: A few years ago I lived in Boston for a few months.
Do you like anime and manga? If so, what is your favorite?
Jun: Of course I like anime and manga! I like Dragonball Z. I like Dragonball too but I like DBZ the most. [Dragonball Z] has various individual storylines in it and it has characters with good individual personalities.
Yu: It would have to be Dragonball, compared to Dragonball GT and Z. Also, since I like BLEACH I’ve been reading the manga. I want to be Goku.
Kenta: Since I like Naruto and One Piece, I read the manga often. Although I do like Dragonball Z. Since I watched [Dragonball Z] on TV during my childhood.
Taka: I like Naruto, Bleach and One Piece. I read the books too. But after all I guess I like Dragonball. In our generation it was televised at real time.
I see. Since everyone is a Dragonball fan, have you seen the Hollywood production Dragonball: Evolution?
Jun: I haven’t seen it yet, but when I get a chance I think I might want to see it.
Yu: Yeah, I saw the previews for it. I felt a little uneasy about it, but I want to see it.
Kenta: I saw the previews for it too. However, I was surprised at how the manga world is coming to life.
Taka: I saw it in the movie theaters. The images [of the characters] and the original work was a little different, but in the end I enjoyed it.
Mr. Yu, Mr. Taka, since the two of you attended music school do you think it’s easier to compose music versus not attending music school and composing music?
KESHIKI: Sorry, but Mr. Yu is still a music school student.
Yu: When it comes to composing, if you study the basics of composing it can be something anyone can enjoy. Before going to music school I mostly studied on my own. While studying in music school I already have the essentials. I study the fundamentals of jazz, classic and other types. To answer your question about composing, I can’t give a definite answer on composing, to tell the truth composing was a trial and error. Every person has their own style of composing, and of course feelings are used in every part, either way I can’t say in one single word. Also, if I never went to music school I would have never met the other members, and would have been playing in a different band. I think I would have taken a different path.
Taka: Of course because I went to music school it had broadened my path to improvement. In order to maintain your talent I feel you have to keep improving it over and over again. But, like Yu said I can’t give a single answer of yes. When making rhythms it’s [more] that time than that the differences is complete. If I didn’t go to music school, I think the path I’m going now would be entirely different. Although I truly don’t regret it, because I’m really glad to have met my band members.
Mr. Jun, being an active major artist in Japan, what led you wanting to become a singer?
Jun: When I was a child I liked rhythm, so I often listened and danced to dance music and other types. Around the same time my parents influenced me to listen to the person I look up to then and even now, Stevie Wonder’s music. After that, when I became a high school student, occasionally I would go to karaoke with friends when I had the chance, and when I was singing everyone was surprised. Until then I didn’t even think I could sing. (laughs) After that arising to become a singer, to be a major artist, and now I feel I’m arriving [at that point].
With the exception of singing, have you played any instruments?
Jun: Another story about my childhood again, [when I was a child] I sang a song in front of my parents, but since I wasn’t good they were like "don’t sing anymore." (laughs) So, [My parents] recommended that I play the drums, but I never really practiced. (laughs)
Please assign each individual member a role, such as mother, father, brother or friend, etc.
KESHIKI: What do you mean? For example do you mean like Jun would be seen as the father of the band?
Yes, something like that.
KESHIKI: Jun is the father, Yu a brother, Kenta a brother and Taka a brother.
Our final question. Is there anything you would like to say to your foreign fans?
Jun: There’s a lot I would like to say but cannot put into words. We would like for not only KESHIKI fans, but all kinds of people to come to our performance. Not only [to go to a] performance for what suits your taste, but we want everyone to enjoy and share the love of [all types of] music’s wonders it has to offer. We’re really really happy to receive lots of messages from you all. We would like for people who are reading this interview that don’t know about KESHIKI and for fans who do know KESHIKI to listen to our music. Even with Fanimecon being cancelled, the messages given, we have encouragement. To return the favor we will go to America, so until that time comes please wait for us!
Yu: Since people are getting sick all over the world, we want various people to feel better through music. Bringing in an outlook of other countries without being confined to just Japan and America. Receiving messages from various places around the world, we will continue with feelings of "we will do our best tomorrow too." We will send out our new album this fall. With our sound being different from now, we want everyone to listen and receive that. Since we will go to perform, before we do so we will delude ourselves into something great. So take care everyone!
Kenta: It’s been 2 years since then, already 2 years, and I still completely remember the various feelings of excitement. The messages given from fans, the messages of knowing the new KESHIKI from fans, makes us happy. The chance of us performing an event will soon be publicly announced on our homepage! People who don’t know KESHIKI, we certainly want you to come to our performance. We think everyone will warmly be able to see how much we’ve grown.
Taka: Everyday encounters are the most treasured. So far we have helped various people. Together, we want to share the comfort and other wonderful things music has to offer. Performing in countries we don’t know, in lands we don’t know, thanks to all the fans. So, we can’t thank you enough [for all you’ve done for us]. After this, we will send out our new album, we certainly hope and want for you all to buy our new album.
Thank you very much for all of your cooperation.
KESHIKI: Thank you, it was a pleasure.
Article and Interview by: Yvonne
Edited by: Ali W.