Jrock legends Taiji and Shu of CLOUD NINE sat down with Jrock Revolution to talk about the past and what’s to come: their new song, possibly performing overseas, the upcoming X JAPAN reunion and more.



JRR (to Taiji): A number of your foreign fans asked me to tell you they were glad to find out that your leg is okay again.

Taiji: Thank you very much.

JRR (to both): May I ask if you had a look at the Jrock Revolution website?

Shu: Yes, I looked at it.

Taiji: Not yet.

Shu: It looks like a site that’s extremely supportive of Japanese bands.

JRR: Yes. Jrock Revolution is an organization that started at the end of last May in L.A. when several current Japanese visual kei bands performed there. Beyond that, we also want to introduce more bands to foreign fans who don’t know the local Japanese scene so well.

Shu: So you’ve already held an event overseas?

JRR: So far only once, but yes, at the Wiltern Theatre in L.A., an event that YOSHIKI planned. With nine bands altogether, like girugamesh and D’espairsRay.

Shu: Young visual kei groups… Visual kei bands have become so popular now in the U.S., it’s amazing.

JRR: Well, JRR isn’t limited to visual kei bands; we’d like to introduce other Japanese rock bands overseas as well. That’s the reason [we asked for this interview].

Shu: Thank you, and it’s our pleasure.

JRR: Since JRR is an overseas site for fans who aren’t all familiar with the complete Japanese rock scene, could you please give us a quick introduction to CLOUD NINE?

Shu: Originally Taiji and I founded [CLOUD NINE], but then, I don’t exactly remember when, but some time in 2000 or 2001, Taiji left. About six years ago.

Taiji: Is it six years already?

Shu: After that break up, we both did our own things, but then Maru, who was our bass until recently, left because he said he wanted to go to the U.S. Then Taiji said he’d help us out… and today’s our first live. We took care of six years in twenty seconds.

Taiji: (in English) Simple is best.

JRR: That’s something you’ve said often, as well as “Never say ‘can’t.’”

Taiji: Yeah.

JRR: Do you still [say that] now?

Taiji: Even now, yes. Well, after my accident, I went through a long rehabilitation. I had to have surgery, first for my ankle, then my hip. I couldn’t walk at all for a while. But, well, everybody around me was so supportive, so I decided I wanted to jog again some day. I was on crutches first, and eventually could walk without those. Then when I was wondering what was next… Everybody kept supporting me until I really could jog again. I’m surprised by it myself, it’s miraculous, it really feels like a miracle. That’s already something I can hardly believe and now, with Shu, it feels like destiny. I mean, it’s been so many years since then that we can play together again. I’m so glad about that, really.

Shu: It’s totally impressive that you made it through all that.

Taiji: (Agrees)

Shu: We’re on stage together again, as CLOUD NINE together again, for the first time after six and a half years. Last year, we performed together once in a different band, in Yokohama.

Taiji: Yeah.

JRR: What event was that at?

Shu: That was at an event at the Yokohama Arena Sound Hall. We were there but in different bands. I was with CLOUD NINE and Taiji was with “TAIJI with HEAVEN’S.”

Taiji: Yeah.

Shu: That time, Taiji’s band invited me as a guest player. That was [my first time] after six years back on the same stage [with him].

Taiji: That I’ve come to this point and that I can come back to this now—I think that’s because I’ve had the support of the CLOUD NINE fans, X’s fans, DTR’s, LOUDNESS’ and everybody’s.

JRR (to Taiji): Yes, I already saw that on your website, that was very moving. [CLOUD NINE] has an English language MySpace page, don’t you?

Shu: Yes.

JRR: Whose idea was that originally?

Shu: CLOUD NINE’s MySpace?

JRR: Yes.

Shu: Well, that’s really a very supportive fan of ours doing it for us. That’s not something we’re doing ourselves.

JRR: Oh, is that so?

Shu: Well, I have my own MySpace that I’m really taking care of myself, but as for the one for the band, a year or two ago we were doing a tour with a band from L.A., Pretty Boy Floyd, and someone who came to concerts really liked us and said they wanted to support CLOUD NINE and introduce us to overseas fans and so they started it for us. That fan is amazingly supportive and told us, “CLOUD NINE is too good to perform only in Japan, I really want to introduce you to people overseas.”

JRR: Well, all your overseas fans, including those on our site, want [you to play overseas] —oh, and an English version of your website.

Shu: Ah yes, well, [we should do that]. But for the moment, just MySpace, since there isn’t really anyone who really understands English [in CLOUD NINE]. (Laughs.)

Taiji: It’s still a fun thought despite that, isn’t it?

Shu: It is. Well, an overseas version would be nice. With this [interview] for a starting point.

JRR: Please.

Shu: Moving towards overseas.

Taiji: It would be great if CLOUD NINE could become more famous [overseas].

JRR: Have you thought of performing overseas?

Taiji: I really want to, I’ve said that before.

Shu: What should we do? Maybe first we’ll do today[’s live]. (Laughs.) Maybe when that’s over, we’ll be fighting again. (Laughs.)

JRR: If you fight again, please make up again, too. (Laughs.)

Taiji: One never knows, we might.

JRR: Please don’t say that!

Shu: It’s likely we’d be friends again the day after tomorrow or so.

JRR: Definitely, please.

Shu: We go back a long way together, since we were twenty or so. I’ve known Taiji before he joined X.

JRR: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers? If possible, in English please! (Laughs.)

Shu: Oh yes, we should. (Laughs.) OK, in English then. Uh, that’s for overseas, right?

JRR: Yes, for your fans worldwide.
Shu: Okay, I understand. I’m going to do it in English. Hi, everyone of the world, I’m Shu of CLOUD NINE. …Ah, that’s all Japanese. I’m going to say it in English again in a moment. Here’s Taiji.

Taiji: (in English) I’m Taiji. I love you, the CLOUD NINE, bass. Kore kara yoroshiku. (“It’s nice to meet you.”)

Shu: (in English) Hi, this is Shu from CLOUD NINE. I play guitar. Kore kara yoroshiku.

Taiji: (in English) Never say can’t.

JRR: Yeah.

Shu: That’s OK.

JRR: Thank you very much.

Shu: I’m so nervous when I have to use English. (Laughs.)

JRR: But you speak some, don’t you?

Shu: No, not at all. Just Japanese. I even have difficulties with Japanese. It’s really not good. (Laughs.)

Taiji: It isn’t. (Laughs.)

JRR: Overseas, fans are talking a lot about old bands like X JAPAN or LUNA SEA or BUCK-TICK becoming active again. How do you feel about those old bands coming back?

Shu: They talk about Japanese bands overseas?

JRR: With you yourselves back to “CLOUD NINE Origin” again, too, how do you feel about old groups coming back?

Shu: For me personally, it’s bands like LOUDNESS, which Taiji was in, who were the real pioneers. If people like us go over to the U.S., it’s LOUDNESS that people in bands over there talk about, too. Well, now there is LUNA SEA or Dir en Grey and so on, but I think those are different.

JRR: Dir en Grey is also much later.

Shu: Yes, LOUDNESS was very different from those. But, if you ask overseas fans these days if they know LOUDNESS, well, it’s a bit different, I guess because it’s a different generation now. But I feel that because LOUDNESS blood flows in our veins, because I’ve always admired LOUDNESS, I believe that [as opposed to the current visual kei mainstream], going on in that tradition would be a good thing, too. Well, that would be somewhat different from visual kei.

JRR: Well, visual kei and LOUDNESS are really very different, but LOUDNESS was after all the first Japanese band that got noticed overseas, played Madison Square Garden… They are definitely a large influence [on the Japanese rock scene].

Taiji: I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a member of LOUDNESS, too, but for me, there isn’t really any connection between LOUDNESS and visual kei. Sometimes I wonder why everything seems to be visual kei these days. Then again, the Japanese rock scene is rapidly evolving and changing, so I think we’ve finally come to such a point where [Japanese rock] can reach out to the whole world. And these days, with the internet, even normal studio-produced work can be spread easily, so it’s much easier now to introduce new or less known hard rock bands now. And there are still a great many that I’d like to introduce to your audience.

JRR: Whenever you feel like doing so, please feel free to contact us and introduce them to us.

Taiji: Yes, that’s an idea.

JRR: Also, if you are planning to do something with D.T.R. again—

Taiji: Yes, I do, I’m going to do something with D.T.R. again. I really I’ve come to feel I want to promote the Japanese hard rock scene more, little by little.

Shu: When Taiji was in X, he used to live and work overseas so he has really personal experience with the music scene over there, which is very different from Japan.

Taiji: Originally, rock came from America [to Japan], so based on that, when everybody [in Japan] was still only copying, when I was recording with X—I’m not quite sure how to say it—but, then, I felt that finally there was a band that could introduce such a great unique Japanese sound. I thought that was amazing. That after 10, 20 years the Japanese scene had finally changed, that made me happy.

JRR: If you don’t mind, would you tell us how you feel about X and the X JAPAN reunion?

Taiji: For me, on guitar, that’s HIDE, that’s PATA, I myself am not X JAPAN, I’m X

JRR: Well, X and X JAPAN is different for people like me, too.

Taiji: About that, how can I say this, inside myself, in my heart X is alive, so I guess that’s the reason I don’t really feel like thinking very much about the past. I want to make the most out of the present, live now, so, if X JAPAN is going to reunite, I really want them to give it their best.

JRR: I’m very grateful to hear you say this.

Taiji: … Go for it, X JAPAN.

JRR: If I may come back to the JRR site once more, what was your impression of the site? What do you think of that kind of approach to introduce Japanese rock overseas?

Shu: First of all, as Taiji already said earlier, it’s absolutely amazing that people overseas enthusiastically support Japanese bands; that they want to introduce them [outside Japan].

Taiji: It really is.

Shu: Well, up until now, for several decades, since we still were kids… uh, I guess we can do without old stories like that… (Laughs.)

JRR: Oh no, please go on. Personal talk is so much more interesting. (Laughs.)

Shu: Well, it was the opposite in Japan at that time. Critics were always telling us how great foreign bands were. That someone would introduce Japanese bands overseas like [JRR is] now, that would have been unthinkable then. [That it’s happening] is something to be very grateful for. It really makes things [like this interview] worthwhile doing for us.

Taiji: Yeah.

Shu: So, in that sense, I consider being interviewed by people from overseas a great privilege. (Laughs.)

Taiji: It’s really a privilege.

Shu: I really think so. And appearing in a music magazine or so overseas, for example, that’s great – things like this really make me want to move into that direction. And, as Taiji already said earlier, it’s really very moving that Japanese music has developed to the state it’s in now. And for ourselves, it’s our start today. (Laughs.)

JRR: If you’d have to start right now overseas, where would you like to perform first?

Taiji: Good question.

Shu: First I’d like to try L.A.

Taiji: L.A.? Sounds like an idea.

Shu; If you look at it, LOUDNESS music is strongly influenced by American [music]. We grew up listening to U.S. metal. With American bands’ big influence, I think I’d really try and see how people over there would welcome us. 

Taiji: It’s like Shu just said, but I’d like to go to Asia, too. There are plenty of places that haven’t been exposed [to this kind of music] yet. I think it would be challenging to introduce it there, then somehow, in a hungry spirit, to take on the whole world. Because for me, rock isn’t something you create, it’s something that’s there. I’d be grateful, to everyone, everywhere, who’d look forward to that.

JRR: Oh, there are people who are looking forward to that now already. Just come and you’ll see.

Shu: Well, before overseas, or even Asia, there’s actually still a lot of places I want to go inside Japan, with Taiji Sawada, to see what kind of reaction CLOUD NINE would get there.

Taiji: With CLOUD NINE having become this big, sounding as good as it does now, partly I feel it’ll be challenging to get the [current] CLOUD NINE fans to accept me, but I also very strongly feel that I’m back home where I belong. So, for our stage tonight, well, in just a bit more than two hours now, I really want to go all out performing today.

Shu: During our rehearsal, members from the other bands performing tonight were watching and it was really amusing to see their surprised faces. It felt like ‘we did it!’ Our former bass was watching, too—he really was staring. He felt like, ‘that’s that, we won our first challenge.’

Shu: It’s definitely a different band from, one, no, two weeks before, when we had our last gig. So I guess everybody will be surprised, maybe think everything has changed, but nothing has changed, because this is our origin.

JRR: Ah, yes. It says that on your MySpace profile, too.

Shu: This is how it’s used to be. This IS our origin. So when Taiji came back and came into the studio, it was very emotional. (Laughs.) And then that very low bass sensation—

JRR: They are calling you “savior” on the CLOUD NINE website. How does that feel?

Taiji: Savior… listening to its sound, to what Shu has created up to this moment, I just felt I couldn’t allow this band, CLOUD NINE, to be over, so when Maru left, it felt like this was a chance I’d been waiting for, because Shu really has created a sound I want to play. The truth is, at the moment I feel that I’m being given the privilege of being allowed to play it.

Taiji: It’s not exactly like in our first formation, but going back to the old style and developing [something new] from there, playing together again, being able to enjoy ourselves again, that’s amazing, something I feel very strongly about, though this isn’t really the place to get sentimental now.

Shu: We haven’t even started again yet. (Laughs.)

JRR: Just a little longer now… (Laughs.)

Shu: Yes. And that’s something I’m always talking about with Taiji. That is, up to now, in X and LOUDNESS and D.T.R. he’s always been playing bass under extremely high pressure, with huge responsibility. So, we are always telling each with, with CLOUD NINE, let’s just have more plain, good-old fun—but when it comes down to things, somehow it doesn’t work out that way. (Laughs.) Whenever we start [playing]—(Laughs.)

JRR: The pressure is back?

Shu: Yes. But [CLOUD NINE] is still a bit different.

Taiji: But then, you can’t give in to the pressure.

Shu: We’re doing it as people of the same generation [and background], and as friends.

Taiji: So the one band where I can just enjoy playing, that’s CLOUD NINE.

Shu: As a band we really enjoy ourselves – well, enjoy ourselves while doing our best.

Taiji: It’s important to enjoy [what you’re doing].

Shu: If sad things happen, pleasant things happen, too. Lots of things, things that you like, things that you don’t. I think it needs experiencing both to create something good.

Taiji: Shouldn’t you be talking about our upcoming schedule?

JRR: Please do.

Shu: Okay, well then, first of all, we’ll go on stage around 8 P.M. (Laughs.) Well, just nowis that what you want?—we’re doing this interview and then I guess we have to catch some food.

Taiji: Uh, not that kind of schedule. (Laughs.)

JRR: So really, what are your future plans [for CLOUD NINE]?

Shu: Future plans? There are lot of places still in Japan we’ve never been to. Places Taiji Sawada hasn’t been to yet. Those are the places I want to go to. Maybe because besides CLOUD NINE, I’m also Taiji Sawada’s fan and I want to introduce him to people waiting there.

Taiji: You were my fan? That’s amazing.

Shu: A total fan. I wanted to join your fan club. Only there isn’t any…

Taiji: Let’s make one. You can have number one. No, that’s really too much. (Laughs.)

Shu: I’m serious about that. People in or close to Tokyo might have a chance to see [him], but people from the country can’t come that easily [to Tokyo]. So I want to go there and bring them the sound of that bass.

JRR: Finish [that tour] with a concert in L.A.?

Shu: That sounds good to me.

Taiji: Sound good to me, too, the final concert in L.A.

Shu: I’ve been [over there] two years ago, for recording. Well, I think I’d want to play there if I’d go again.

Taiji: Yes, rock.

Shu: Well, with the beautiful weather we have today, that really is a bit like California. (Laughs.) And just like Japanese players are now making it in the US [baseball] Major League, why shouldn’t rockers do he same? I’d like to take up that challenge, well, after we’re done in Japan.

JRR: I think people will be looking forward to that, overseas as well [as in Japan].

Shu: That’s good to know.

Taiji: So let’s go.

Shu: We’ll have to get passports first – mine’s expired.

JRR: That shouldn’t be all that difficult, right?

Shu: Maybe they won’t let me in?

Taiji: Well, it’s not like going to some hot springs. (Laughs.) I don’t get into those, actually.

Shu: Though really, there’s recording first and regular lives to try. Maybe we’ll get criticized because we aren’t good enough yet, maybe we’ll make it.

Taiji: That’s the process to have to go through to grow.

Shu: Yes, repeat things as necessary. Well, we’re newcomers, a new band just starting today.

JRR: But you are “Origin.”

Shu: No, no, no. Not at all. Today, in a way, I really feel like a beginner.

Taiji: Let’s go for it.


Interview by Rika

Edited by Maria