It’s Part 2 of our long interview with the Underneath! With a nice long window of time with this new band, we got to cover all kinds of ground. Read about strong point and weak points, musical recommendations, pets, anime favorites, and more. And the Underneath gives us a special lesson on Japanese proverbs! Continued from Part 1.
JRR: How was America the same or different from your cultural expectations?
TAKA: Something that we noticed that was very different was the audience’s reaction. It seems that American audiences really enjoy themselves during live performances. Even during a slight interval in a song, they show their excitement.
JRR: We’ve heard that from other bands as well. Why do you think there is a difference between the Japanese and American audiences?
TAKA: In Japan, I guess people are more aware of how the others look at them, and they don’t want to stand out too much in order to maintain that harmony. I think people in Japan look at the others around them to decide how they should act. In America, I think people are more used to expressing their feelings, and that it’s just normal to do so. It’s a cultural habit, I think.
JRR: What do you think of the proverb: “Deru kugi wa utareru” (Translation: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”)?
TAKA: Basically, it goes back to what I was saying: that people decide how they should act by seeing other people’s actions. I think the tendency to be uniform is not a very good thing about the Japanese. It’s essentially programmed into people, so their personalities can be easily predicted and controlled. I think it’s derived from our country’s military history. Everyone wears uniforms to schools, there are rules prohibiting certain haircuts, we carry the same school bag, etc. We grew up that way and were taught to stick to it. Some people even feel most comfortable when they conform to their surroundings. I don’t think that’s very good.
RYO: I agree with him. So, for example, we’re gonna go do this tour in America, right? I think it’d be great if some kids become influenced by us and decide that they want to be able to express themselves, just like we will be.
TAL: Where we’re from originally—Osaka—the people there are surprisingly similar to Americans, I think, because people are better at expressing their feelings. That’s why I don’t feel the effect of that particular proverb so much. (Laughs.)
RYO: I think you have a point there. (Laughs.)
TAL: But we still admire that point about American culture. I think slowly we will eventually get there, Japan—as a whole—in the future. Rock music in Japan is still relatively young. So, in general, there are certain things that we are not so sure of. Rock is still a minor thing here and only so many people listen to it, so I hope it’ll grow and appeal to more people. We will work hard to save the world of rock!
JRR: Since you mentioned Osaka, could you teach us some Osaka slang?
RYO: “Nandeyanen!” (Translation: “What the heck?”)
JRR: Are there any other words in Osaka-ben that you’d like to teach the American fans?
(Ed. Note: The slang/dialect of the city of Osaka specifically is called “Osaka-ben.”)
TAKA: “Sukiyanen” (Translation: “I love you”). “Meccha sukiyanen” (Translation: “I love you a lot/very much”). “Meccha” means very.
TAL: A lot of the American artists who come to do lives in Japan say they like Osaka better than Tokyo.
TAKA: Hmm… other words…
TAL: Maybe something rock-ish? Say something rock-ish in Kansai-ben. (Laughs.)
(Ed. Note: Kansai is the western region of Japan where the cities of Osaka and Kyoto are located. Kansai-ben is the general dialect for this area though there are city-specific dialects too, like Osaka-ben and Kyo-kotoba.)
TAKA: “Shibakuzo!” (Various meanings: “I’ll kick your butt,” “we’ll rock you,” “let’s go,” or “let’s do something.”)
JRR: What’s your favorite English word?
TAL: “I have no money!” Just kidding. (Laughs.)
TAKA: Hmm. I find those words that have no direct translations in Japanese interesting. For example…I just can’t think of anything. (Laughs.) Well, like the phrase: “Let’s make some noise!” In Japanese, there’s no such expression, so I find it interesting.
JRR: Most American fans do not understand Japanese, so when they listen to Japanese music they pay more attention to the music than the lyrics. Are there any songs in particular that you would like the fans to try to understand the meaning of the lyrics?
TAKA: Well, the songs we have made so far talk about the inner and dark side of people’s hearts—transience, hopelessness, etc.—feelings derived from those things and how we break away from them. Right now, that’s the theme to most of our songs: surges of emotion and awakening.
JRR: Have you ever tried to look up the meanings of the English songs that you like?
TAKA: Yeah, for the artists or songs that we like. Sometimes the CD would come with Japanese translation of the lyrics, other times I’d look up words in the dictionary. But we start by listening to the music first and, once we get the feel of the music, we then check the meaning of the lyrics. In the past, we’d checked meanings to words like “never mind.” (Laughs.)
JRR: So are those your favorite English words?
TAKA: (Laughs.) No, not really.
TAL: You’re continuing with the earlier question? (Laughs.)
RYO: If someone says I’m “cool,” it’d make me happy. Simple words like that have good meanings.
JRR: We understand that you are all Nine Inch Nails fans. Did you know about the online game for the YEAR ZERO album?
TAKA: You mean the contest?
JRR: It’s a new concept called an “Alternate Reality Game.” It uses the internet and gathers a number of websites together to create an alternative world for players to explore and discover clues. So instead of playing on a game console, you search on those websites to find answers.
TAKA: Oh, yeah. We know about that.
JRR: So we know you listen to Western rock. A lot of the Japanese rock fans only listen to Japanese rock, so could you recommend a few Western rock artists, as well as Japanese artists, to the overseas fans?
RYO: The Japanese band that we recommend would be the Underneath! (Laughs.) As for Western bands…
TAL: It’s kind of weird recommending overseas bands to overseas fans. (Laughs.) I guess it’d be Orgy and My Chemical Romance.
TAKA: They also wear makeup, so it’s probably the most similar to visual kei.
TAL: And maybe Marilyn Manson?
RYO: Personally, I also like Ministry.
TAL: Pitch Shifter
JRR: Going back to the topic of RTOC, a lot of the audience will be going there to see the American bands that are playing and probably have never heard of Jrock. What would you like to do in particular to reach out to that audience?
TAKA: Maybe we can cover an English song. Since there will be a language barrier and our music might not be what they are used to hearing, we will try our best, with all our hearts, to present our best performance. I think, through, that we will be able to reach out to them. We will put out performance levels equal to what we have always done in Japan.
JRR: What do you consider to be your strong points and weak points?
TAL: I think my strong point is definitely my performance, and my weak point is that I sweat easily. (Laughs.) It’s not good because it ruins the makeup.
RYO: I think my strong point is also my performance skills, and my weak point is that, because I’m so small, audiences in the back have trouble seeing me. (Laughs.)
JRR: There was a Japanese band where the vocalist would stand on a box when taking pictures due to being so short, and end up two heads taller than the other band members.
RYO: Me, too! (Laughs.)
JRR: How tall are you?
RYO: 163 centimeters.
(Ed. Note: Approximately 5 foot 4 ½ inches.)
MASATO: I’ve learned [to play] the piano since I was little, so I have good ears. (Laughs.)
JRR: What about your weak point?
MASATO: I don’t really have any… (Laughs.) After I fell last time, I became perfect.
MASAKI: Hmm… I can’t think of anything interesting to say. Well, I have confidence in my drumming. We will be performing at large venues, where most people won’t understand the meanings to our songs, but I believe I can reach the audiences with my drumming. As for a weak point… hmm…
TAL: He gets mad fast. (Laughs.) So we’re worried for the other bands that might end up on the same bus as us. (Laughs.)
JRR: What about you, TAKA? And what is your favorite English word?
TAKA: Are we still on that question? (Laughs.) First of all, my strong point, well, since we will be touring overseas with RTOC, I would like to be able to show the delicate sensibility that is unique to the Japanese. My weak point is that my mood can get quite extreme. My favorite word, well, we put a slogan on the t-shirts that we sold during the TRANSTIC NERVE period that said: “No Pain, No Gain.” I like the concept that you have to do whatever it takes—even if you have to suffer—to get something in return. This also would apply to our upcoming tour with RTOC. Even though it will be a trial, we hope to learn a lot through this trip.
JRR: Could you each teach us a Japanese proverb?
TAKA: “Nou no aru taka wa tsume kakusu.” (Translation: “The eagle with real strength hides its talons.”) Basically it means that someone with real abilities and talents does not show it until necessary.
RYO: That’s what I had in mind, too! What a cool explanation you gave. (Laughs.) I’ll go with “Saru mo ki kara ochiru.” (Translation: “Even the monkey can fall from the tree.”) This is a quite common one. It means that even if something is good at what it does, it can make a big mistake if not careful. So people should not let their abilities blind their eyes.
TAL: Now it’s my turn?
RYO: Yeah, it’s better to say it early before the others snatch it! (Laughs.)
TAL: Okay… “Hayaoki wa sanmon no toku.” (Translation: “One who wakes up early gains.”)
TAL: It’s better to make preparations early on.
MASAKI: I can’t think of anything else… This is similar to what RYO just said, “Koubou mo fude no ayamari” (Translation: “Even the calligraphy expert can make a wrong stroke.”), and another one, “Kappa no kawanagare.” (Translation: “Even the water sprite can drown.”) Both mean that even if you are really good at something, you could still make a mistake if you take it lightly.
MASATO: “Kougeki wa saidai no bougyou.” (Translation: “Offense is the best defense.”)
JRR: Who is your favorite anime or manga character, and why?
TAL: I like Luffy (One Piece).
TAKA: I like Tetsuo from Akira because, although he feels inferior to Kaneda, he still likes Kaneda for who he is and follows him. I find that personality amiable.
RYO: I like Char Aznable from Gundam. He’s cool, cunning, and crafty, yet is a lonely person. You know you can advance in life if you follow that guy, yet—in the end—you are still all by yourself. There’s some sorrow to that.
JRR: What about Luffy?
TAL: Hmm… I think I actually like Zoro better.
JRR: You kind of look like Zorro.
TAL: I think One Piece is a comic that can be enjoyed by children and adults at the same time. I like most of the characters in it.
MASATO: I like Light Yagami from Death Note. He’s a wicked, scheming, smart guy.
MASAKI: I liked Devil Man when I was little. I thought he looked really cool. I saw it on TV when I was younger, but understood it much more later on. It’s quite grotesque. I like SLAM DUNK, too.
JRR: What about DRAGON BALL? Who is your favorite character from it?
RYO: I like Tao Bai Bai; he’s a minor character that only came out at the beginning of the story. He’s Tsuru Sennin’s brother.
MASAKI: I like Puaru… the raccoon? Cat? The thing that follows Yamcha around.
RYO: Yajiroube is cool, too. Any more minor charactors?
TAL: Uranai baba? Kame Sennin’s sister.
RYO: Mr. Popo.
TAL: Kami-sama. Also ARARE-chan from DR. SLUMP.
JRR: Do you know about the DRAGON BALL movie that is coming out?
TAKA: Yeah… acted by real people right?
RYO: We also heard that HOKUTO NO KEN (Fist of the North Star) was going to be made into a movie, too… Wasn’t it already made? The punching action seems really, really slow. (Laughs.) Looks like he’s just doing it normally.
JRR: Did you know that Japanese animation and manga are very popular in America now?
TAL: Yes, we know.
JRR: If you could be an animal, which animal would you like to be?
TAKA: I’d like to be a cat. I like cats.
JRR: Do you have a cat right now?
TAKA: No, but I used to.
TAL: I want to be a deep sea fish.
TAL: I don’t really care which type in particular; I just think that they look interesting and out of this world.
MASAKI: I’d like to be a bird.
JRR: So you could fly?
JRR: Are you okay with airplanes?
RYO: I’d like to be a dog ‘cause I want to be owned by someone.
I said that because I want to be loved.
JRR: What kind of dog would you prefer to be
RYO: Small kind.
MASATO: I want to be a cat, too.
JRR: You have cat eyes.
MASATO: Yeah… I feel that I can communicate with cats.
TAL: People say he looks like a lizard.
MASATO: Lizards are okay, too. Anything’s fine. (Laughs.)
JRR: Does any one of you have a pet now?
RYO: I have a toy poodle.
TAL: I have a French bulldog.
MASAKI: I have a Cavalier dog.
MASATO: I have tropical fish. Plus a ton of others.
RYO: He has a rabbit, too. His place is almost like an animal kingdom.
JRR: Are you an animal lover?
MASATO: Yeah. I also like reptiles; I want a snake.
JRR: Who will take care of your pets when you go overseas?
RYO: Pet hotel.
MASAKI: My parents.
MASATO: I’ll bring them all! (Laughs.) Two months is a long time…
To Be Continued in Part 3