MMN Interview (Part 2): ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION―‘We never imagined our music would reach the other side of the globe’
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION’s (AKFG/Ajikan) upcoming ninth studio album Home Town is their first in three-and-a-half years, and it’s truly a fantastic record. It’s interweaves elements of 90’s power pop and alternative rock―genres which the members have come to be influenced by―while still being firmly in tune with today’s trends. The masterpiece mobilises a musical battalion of distinguished names such as Rivers Cuomo of American rock band Weezer and yet still is in every way a quintessentially AKFG record. The key to understanding this can be found in the changes to their music production environment. We spoke to the four members about the backstory of creating Home Town which they described as having been “so much fun” and about their connection to the rest of the world as having travelled around the world.
Interview & Text: Ato “DA” Daishi
Translation: Joshua Kitosi-Isanga
＜This is part two of the interview. Click here for part one.＞
――The First Press edition of your new album comes with a DVD of your tour in South America. You’re perceived as going to South America a lot.
Kita: And yet we’ve been twice, in 2015 and last year.
――What made you want to tour in South America?
Goto: At the beginning we were invited to events like Japan Expo in Chile, so we decided to continue with that line of things and go on tour. We went to Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. We were surprised at how many fans we have in South America. It was fun, and a really wonderful experience. We want to try going to many more countries.
――How about an Asia tour?
Goto: Certainly, we want to go. Asian pop music seems rife these days. The younger generation [of musicians] especially, they work and interact without borders. A recent example is in one of Hikaru Utada’s songs where she was joined by an Asian rapper. I’m performing together with a songwriter called Phum Viphurit from Thailand in December too. But Asia is a region where bands can come and go easily and I think it will become more interesting in the future, so it’d be nice if us old guys can join in too.
――What are South American fans like? I’ve seen concerts from other [Japanese] artists in Mexico City before, and the fans leave a strong and enthusiastic impression.
Goto: They’re really amazing, just wonderful. They chant like soccer fans and sing all the verses.
Kita: They’re at it even before the concert starts.
――So much so that you’re surprised at how excited they are right from the get-go?
Goto: Exactly. Like, they’ll be singing our songs two hours before the show starts, and again for another whole two hours when we come on (laughs). Japanese people don’t express their emotions in that way very easily so I’d like them to join in too. This is something I thought when we travelled around the world, but I was shocked to find out Japanese people are the quietest. Any country we go to everyone is so energetic, but when we perform at a festival in Japan afterwards, I think, “We’re headlining, and yet are we not popular?” That’s how quiet they are. Japanese people are too shy, so we’ve got to change that.
――Do the songs that people enjoy differ from country to country?
Goto: They do. When we go to Europe it’s songs like Siren which is multilayered and played in minor key. The songs that sounds like British rock are received well, but our less-known songs not so much. Though they’re well-received in South America.
――Is there anything that’s stuck with you from your overseas tours?
Goto: We were really nervous and moved when we first went to South Korea. Asian history is complicated, so we were a little tense at first. I had the silly thought in my head that there were lots of Korean people who hated Japanese people. But it wasn’t like that at all when we stepped on stage. They gave us a huge welcome. Even backstage after the show, Korean bands came up to us excitedly, and we got to exchange CDs with them. We were deeply moved by those exchanges and said to ourselves, “Ah, there’s plenty of things we’re able to do. It will be nice if we can continue connecting and getting along with everyone like this.” The bands we were acquainted with during that time are still our friends today. No matter how busy they are with work they will come to play when we go over there. It’s still a really vivid memory that’s stayed with me.
―Did you ever envision yourselves touring the world when you formed the band?
Goto: We had that mindset surprisingly early on. Our band name ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, for example. We felt we would stand out better when performing around the world if they thought of us as an Asian band. Also, when we debuted, our song Haruta Kanata was used as the opening theme for the anime Naruto. It was a time when there was still a strong air that questioned a rock band performing an anime song. But we all said to each other that by doing it together with a show like Naruto, our song would travel across the ocean and be shared throughout the world. That’s why from then on we purposely incorporated Asian melodies and it’s something we’re still conscious of. And it’s proven true that the people of the world enjoy those kind of melodies.
――You spoke about there being a time when there was a strong air of criticism towards rock bands doing anime songs. The fact that you were genuinely able to have that mindset back then is amazing.
Goto: Since forming the band we’ve wanted to go overseas, so we’re overjoyed by the fact it’s becoming a reality. Saying that though, I’m really shocked because I never thought we would reach the other side of the globe (laughs). Even now I still can’t believe we’ve performed in Peru. Chile too, I was so moved. I was like, “It’s that Chile, the long and narrow country!”
――All things considered, at the end of more than 20 years, it’s a dream to be able to make music with musicians you have looked up to since your early days.
Goto: It really is strange. I’m getting used to this situation and it scares me. But the musicians in the West are all humans just like us. So we won’t stiffen up, we’ll keep calm, and in doing so we’ll be happy if we can continue connecting with bands around the world.
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION 「Memories of the Ruins」 MV
Release Date: December 5, 2018
First Press Limited Edition (2 CDs+DVD): ¥4,600 (+Tax) *PlayPASS compatible
Regular Edition (CD-Only): ¥2,913 (+Tax) *First press edition is PlayPASS compatible
*Limited Edition DVD features “ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION America Tour Documentary Pt.2 (Latin America)”
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION Official Website: www.asiankung-fu.com
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